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Joey Marie Horton named permanent executive director of health clinic

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At the young age of 28, Joey Marie Horton reached the highlight of her career last week when she was named permanent executive director of the North Country Family Health Center.

Mrs. Horton said she’s worked up to such a position, after having received her master’s degree of business administration in health services management at SUNY IT and held various positions throughout community, state and national health-related organizations.

“I’m feeling well-prepared for this role,” she said. “This is professionally where I’ve wanted to go. I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do this at this age. I feel very honored to be in this role.”

Prior to the center’s Board of Directors and temporary operator Samaritan Medical Center’s Feb. 10 appointment to the agency’s top post, Mrs. Horton had served as the health center’s interim director since October. She succeeded former director Daniel A. Wasneechak, who resigned from the health center’s top position Oct. 25, after just two months on the job while the agency had experienced financial turmoil.

The Northern New York native said it was important to maintain a professional career around the communities she grew up in. Having lived in Alexandria Bay and graduated from Alexandria Central in 2003, Mrs. Horton said she considers herself a “river rat” who deeply cares about the community’s health.

“I’ve always had an interest in health care from a very young age,” she said.

Her interest in health care eventually expanded into the administration side, and by the time she was working toward her master’s degree, she had mentored under health center cofounder and past executive director Janice L. Charles.

Mrs. Horton most recently worked for the North Country Healthcare Providers Educational and Research Fund Inc. as part of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization office. She was also the FDRHPO deputy director.

In the past, she served as the North Country Family Health Center’s school-based health program coordinator, when the agency was known as the North Country Children’s Clinic, and she was co-executive director of the state Coalition for School-Based Health Centers.

With her health center role, she will also become an FDRHPO board member.

Proud of the work the health center has accomplished since her leadership throughout the past few months, Mrs. Horton said there are still many hurdles to jump over before the agency is financially solvent, hopefully by 2015.

With the help of Samaritan Medical Center and the state Department of Health, the North Country Family Health Center will work through its plan for recovery, which includes improving revenue by outsourcing billing, reducing no-show rates, increasing reimbursement rates, decreasing expenses by reducing staff by a net of 13 positions and restructuring operations, restructuring and reducing debt by paying off unsecured debt and refinancing a $1.1 million mortgage, and improving information technology by subcontracting to improve the efficiency of the center’s electronic medical records program.

In a prepared statement, Board Vice President Brian Dykeman said Mrs. Horton has “done an outstanding job moving the health center toward sustainability and long-term financial stability.”

“The board has been especially impressed by her ability to listen, analyze and make forward-thinking decisions,” he said in the statement. “Her competencies and steady leadership makes her an ideal candidate to continue at the agency’s helm.”

Mrs. Horton said she has the health center’s many partners, staff and her mentor Samaritan CEO Thomas H. Carman to thank for her success at the health center thus far. She said the job at the health center was the only one she considered throughout the past year.

Outside of her executive director role, she is a board member of the School-Based Health Alliance and the Greater Watertown Jaycees, and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

She lives on Wellesley Island with her husband, Hunter, and son, Greyson, 1.

The North Country Family Health Center is based at 238 Arsenal St., but there are several program and clinic locations throughout Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Franklin counties.

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