Sunday, October 1, 2017

Dr. Hiram Polk quits as state health commissioner, citing unspecified disagreements over spending new funds

Dr. Hiram Polk
Dr. Hiram Polk of Louisville says he quit his job as state health commissioner "amid a dispute over spending agency money," Deborah Yetter reports for The Courier-Journal.

"There was some disagreement at the middle-management level about how to best spend some new funds in public health," Polk told Yetter in a brief interview Friday, declining to elaborate.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services was recently awarded a $10 million federal grant to integrate primary care and behavioral health care in two regions of the state, as part of an effort to combat the state's opioid epidemic, which Polk has said consumed the plurality of his time. A cabinet spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.

Polk, 81, was named commissioner of the cabinet's Department for Public Health in June 2016 after a long career as a renowned surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Louisville.

He had been known for being frank if not blunt, and a few months later he told the Friedell Committee for Health, a health-advocacy group, that they needed to find a way to get Gov. Matt Bevin to modify his policy against a statewide ban on smoking in public places. Kentucky has the nation's highest smoking rate.

Health Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson said in an email to employees, "After serving for more than one year as commissioner of the Department for Public Health, Dr. Hiram Polk has chosen to resign. His drive, determination and commitment to advancing public health is second to none. We thank him for his service and wish him well."

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