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Public Health director feels pinch from federal shutdown

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A veteran of the Department of Public Health and Social Services has been tapped to lead the agency. And with many federal programs falling under her scope, Linda Unpingco-Denorcey was faced with difficulties the first week on the job.

Moving on up within the department she's worked with for 28 years. Unpingco-Denorcey was appointed director of the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

"The first week has been quite a challenge as you know right now, the federal government is undergoing a temporary partial shutdown," she said,

The partial shutdown worried island residents on SNAP. As reported nearly one-third of the island or 53,000 individuals benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Unpingco-Denorcey announced those benefits for February can come early if residents renew by Jan. 20.

Federal money also goes to farmers and The Women, Infant, and Children initiative. She says the 40 WIC employees, will not lose pay, just yet.

"We are okay as far as until March," she confirmed. "Right now they're still employed because we have the funding to support them in this point of time."

Federal funding is just one of her priorities. Another, ensuring the medicinal marijuana program approved by voters four years ago is up and running, which includes a $1 million laboratory to ensure quality control.

"We really need to monitor it to make certain it adheres to really stringent rules that is the reason we have to explore those rules and make certain we have the resources to get that started," she said.

As reported, at least five residents have received cards for homegrown cultivation. Denorcey is now reviewing the details of that program.

"That is what my role is in this department to make certain it does go through," she said.

Other plans are to make it easy for patients to apply to multiple assistant programs.

"The mission is we really want to focus on prevention, so that our patients all their needs are addressed so they don't have to go to the emergency room," she said.

And while directors are settling into their new positions, like at the Department of Public Health, they still await confirmation from the legislature.

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