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Family Counseling Service of NNY hires permanent director

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WATERTOWN — As Family Counseling Service of Northern New York has evolved, so has the career path there for Jennifer L. Meagher.

She was named late last month as the permanent executive director of the nonprofit agency. She had served as interim director since December, after part-time Executive Director Collene D. Alexander resigned.

“It was a pretty natural progression,” Mrs. Meagher said. “I have a specific interest in health care, and one of my goals was to take a leadership-type role in a health care organization.”

She joined Family Counseling Service 8 years ago as the agency’s business manager. Job duties expanded, and a few years ago she was given the title of operations director. Now, her executive director role is combined with the operations director position, saving the nonprofit money, she said.

Mrs. Meagher said fiscal responsibility is one of the many components the agency is working on to remain sustainable. Many suggestions for improvement came from an operational assessment conducted earlier this year by Samaritan Medical Center. The final assessment included recommendations such as combining administrative positions, shrinking office space and revising therapists’ schedules to accommodate more appointments and revenue from that.

“I believe there’s going to be some interaction with Samaritan just to monitor progress,” Mrs. Meagher said.

Throughout the past few years, Family Counseling Service has struggled financially. Reducing agency expenses will help alleviate that financial pressure, Mrs. Meagher said. One way that is being accomplished is by decreasing the number of offices the agency rents on the fifth floor of the former HSBC building, 120 Washington St. Family Counseling Service added the space in 2011, but Mrs. Meagher said the agency has plenty of space without it. That move will save the agency $1,000 per month.

Mrs. Meagher and the agency’s board of directors have helped Family Counseling Service re-establish a relationship with the United Way of Northern New York. The United Way defunded the agency, to the tune of $49,000, earlier in 2013, because of the belief that the organization lacked a viable financial plan. Toward the end of 2013, the United Way gave the agency $15,000 as it worked through its sustainability plan.

Through all of the agency’s ups and downs, Mrs. Meagher said, she has remained committed to it because she believes in its mission: to provide affordable, quality behavioral health services to community members.

“It’s a great organization to work for and very rewarding,” she said. “In a lot of cases, we’ve helped bring families back together.”

Meanwhile, she expects to graduate with a master’s degree in health care administration from Utica College later this year. She holds bachelor’s degrees in business administration and humanities from Clarkson University, Potsdam. Mrs. Meagher also is a graduate of the Jefferson Leadership Institute’s Class of 2011.

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