Office of the Director

History

1920s

DeKalb County Health Department forms in 1924. Staff consists of the health officer, a school nurse, a maternal health nurse and a clerk. The department is located in an old house on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Decatur. The department later moves to two rooms in the Decatur Bank building. Health officers were Warren A Harrison, M.D. (1924-1925) and Rufus J. Evans, M.D. (1925-1950). Board chairs are W. T. McCurdy, M.D. (1924-1928) and J. E. Flowers, M.D. (1928-1952).

1930s

A nurse and sanitary engineer are added to the staff. The county purchases a home on Clairemont Avenue in Decatur to house the health department. Scott Candler, commissioner of roads and revenue, joins the Board of Health and becomes a force for change.

1940s

The county health department becomes responsible for the City of Decatur, which previously had its own health officer. Dental and venereal disease services are added. The health department moves to a newly constructed building on Herring Street in Decatur. Staff consists of a health officer, six nurses, two sanitarians and one clerk.

1950s

A new health department facility in Decatur is completed. A nurse is placed in the Scottdale Mill and Grady Memorial Hospital establishes a clinic at the health department. DeKalb County becomes the first county in Georgia with a fluoridated public water supply. DeKalb County Health Department assumes responsibility for the Atlanta-in-DeKalb area when the Atlanta and Fulton County health departments merge. Expansion includes a mobile chest x-ray unit, school health program, cardiac nursing services, dental services and rabies control. Staff now includes a psychiatric social worker, four rabies control officers, 20 nurses and a health educator. New health centers are established in Doraville, Lithonia, Brookhaven, Lynwood Park, Scottdale, Stone Mountain and Tucker. The health department also opens a new dog pound and hires a pound master. The health officer is Thomas O. Vinson, M.D. (1950-1975) and the board chair is Rufus J. Evans, M.D. (1952-1969).

1960s

Health centers in the Southwest DeKalb (McAfee Road) and South DeKalb areas are opened. The Board of Health is responsible for: the dog pound, housing codes, milk regulations, insect and rodent control, mental health and mental retardation services, and public health nursing. DeKalb has a new main health center on Winn Way and eight outlying centers. The health Department has 136 employees. Staff conducts classes on radiological monitoring; attendees are certified as proficient in detecting radiological fallout in case of a nuclear attack. Water pollution begins to become a concern.

1970s

A health center opens in the East Lake Meadows neighborhood. Drug problems and the need for rehabilitation services are noted. The health director is Gunar N. Bohan, M.D., M.P.H. (1976-1988) and board chair is Jack Hamilton (1970-1984).

1980s

The McAfee and East Lake Meadows health centers close. J. Frederick Agel becomes chair of the Board of Health (1984). Following Dr. Bohan’s death, R. Derril Gay, Ph.D., deputy director, serves as acting director. In 1989, Paul J. Wiesner, M.D., becomes district health director.

1990s

The Eleanor L. Richardson Health Center opens on Winn Way. In 1992, DeKalb County residents pass a $29 million bond referendum to improve health facilities. The DeKalb Community Service Board is created by a 1994 state law to provide the mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse services previously offered by the Board of Health. In 1997, the East DeKalb Health Center opens in Lithonia, housing both Board of Health and Community Service Board programs. The old Tucker, Stone Mountain and Lithonia health centers close. In 1998, the North DeKalb Health Center opens in Chamblee, also offering both Board of Health and Community Service Board services. The old Brookhaven and Doraville health centers are closed.

2000s

Major renovation of the T. O. Vinson Health Center on Winn Wayand DeKalb-Atlanta Human Services Center, housing the Kirkwood Health Center, is completed.