County health officer announces resignation

Christopher Frank

Christopher Frank

PORT ANGELES — Dr. Christopher Frank will step down as Clallam County health officer Aug. 3, he announced last week.

Frank, who became Clallam County health officer in 2015, told the Board of Health on Tuesday that he is moving back to Michigan because his wife, Jennifer Richards, has a “professional opportunity” in their home state.

“I am very bummed because I enjoy working here a lot,” Frank told the Clallam County health board.

“But she had to follow me around for a long time, so it was hard for me to say no when she wanted to pursue something.”

“We’ve loved it here,” Frank added. “And my wife loved it here too. She’s also sad. This is a good opportunity that she wanted to take when she has the chance.”

Frank and his family moved to Port Angeles in 2010.

He worked as a primary care physician at North Olympic Heathcare Network, splitting time between NOHN and the Health and Human Services Department after his appointment as a 24-hour-per-week county health officer.

“I’ll help as much as you would like, or as little as you would like, in the recruitment of the next person,” Frank told the Board of Health.

“Certainly, I’ll work right up ’til the end.”

Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias asked Frank to work with the Human Resources Department to circulate a job description to the Board of Health.

“I think that would be a great next step,” Ozias said.

Frank said he gave 2½-month’s notice to provide the county adequate time to find his successor. His contract requires a 30-day notice.

“I’m hopeful that there will be some good candidates,” Frank said.

“My guess is that you’ll either get some good candidates right out of the gate, or if for some reason that doesn’t work out, then it will be a struggle.”

In a Wednesday interview, Frank said Clallam County has made “dramatic strides” in the opioid epidemic by increasing access to evidence-based treatments for those with opioid use disorder.

“I think a lot of our clinics and hospital systems deserve a lot of credit for that, because that was something that was really missing here,” Frank said.

During Frank’s tenure as health officer, Clallam County became the first county in the state to make fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses a reportable condition.

That data has provided insight about the scope of the epidemic and allowed health care workers to provide needed services for high-risk individuals, Frank said.

While Clallam County still has one of the highest opioid-related death rates in the state, health officials are “starting to make some progress in this area,” Frank said.

In 2017, Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Frank as the local jurisdiction representative on the 10-member Washington State Board of Health.

Looking ahead, Frank said affordable housing and poverty issues will become be “front and center” for the next Clallam County health officer.

“That came out as one of the top three priorities in our recent community of health assessment and improvement plans,” Frank said in a telephone interview.

“Obviously, the recent concerns about the financial stability of Serenity House [of Clallam County] have made this even more of a pressing issue.”

Serenity House officials have said they might have to close some shelters this summer unless they can find more funding.

“I think the other issue that communities like Clallam County are going to have to really address is around education,” Frank added.

“Clearly, Washington has a fundamentally unfair way of paying for schools, but communities need to make sure that their kids are ready and willing to pursue a post-secondary education. … Life is only going to get more difficult for people who don’t have a post-secondary education.”

Frank earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and medical degree from John Hopkins University.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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