Family Counseling Services is pleased to announce that Dr. Keith L. Harden has been appointed Medical Director for the agency. Dr. Harden joined the staff in June 2016 and quickly became a valued member of the medical team and agency staff.
“We are very excited that Dr. Harden will bring both his medical and leadership skills to the agency as our new Medical Director,” said CEO Lisa Hoeschele. “We are fortunate to have someone of his caliber serve in this key position.”
Director of Medical Services and Compliance Paula Currie was instrumental in recruiting Dr. Harden. “He once told me that he was drawn to outpatient addiction medicine as he wants to be part of helping people before they end up in his ER where he may not have a chance to save them,” she shared.
Recently, we had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Harden about his background, career and his work at Family Counseling Services.
What led you to pursue a career in medicine?
The love of math and sciences and encouragement and prayers from my mom, family, friends and teachers. Also…following in the steps of my army veteran dad who was a medic in the Vietnam War.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Making true impacts on people’s lives, health and outcomes. Health is invaluable; health or well-being is spiritual, physical, mental and social.
You were raised in Georgia and interestingly spent some time working at the Daytona Speedway, how did that come about?
I was raised in Newnan, Georgia. I went to West Georgia College in Carrollton, Georgia then to Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. I went to residency at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, where I was able to moonlight work as an in-field care center doctor at Daytona Speedway for over 9 years. Sadly, I was working at the track that February day we lost Dale Earnhardt Sr. during the fatal crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
As someone who grew up in the south, how did you end up in Central New York?
I had an employment opportunity with a dear friend and colleague. Surprisingly, I love the beautiful snow and all winter activities like ice fishing, hockey, ice skating, sledding, etc. However, I dread the cold temperature itself or having to drive when the roads are bad. Late spring, summer, and early fall are gorgeous here in central NY. Within 5 hours, you can travel to many great locations including Boston, New York City, Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario, Finger Lakes, Toronto, Ottawa, 1000 Islands, Cooperstown, Poconos, Philadelphia, etc.
Why did you decide to join the FCS staff?
It was a new job opportunity. With an educational background in chemical dependency, I was referred to the agency by a retiring colleague Dr. Barbara Edlund; I used to work with her at Oneida Healthcare Emergency Department where I’ve worked for the past 15 years. With over 20 plus years in the medical field, I’ve seen so many negative outcomes in those who are mentally ill and chemically dependent including suicides, homicides and opioid/heroin overdose deaths. At this point in my medical career, I want to contribute more than ever to help achieve positive outcomes for our clients.
What excites you about your new position at FCS?
As medical director, I will now work full time as a member of an excellent professional team that is making a difference in our communities here in Central New York. The agency’s Director of Medical Services and Compliance Paula Currie recruited me to FCS and has been one of the most sincere, professional, influential and enthusiastic colleagues I’ve known in my career. She is always on the forward edge of what is best for our clients. That is exciting.
What are some of the greatest challenges facing the community and the agency?
The biggest challenge is trying to save lives when we are in an epidemic of drug use and drug deaths. I’ve seen too many people die young and prematurely. We need resources including money to expand our services and reach whomever needs help. Access to services is crucial. We must continue offering professional counseling for chemical dependency, family & marriage, LGBTQ, mental health, preventative services, school based, and youth.
Where would you like to help lead the agency?
We are excited about offering primary care as a new service for our clients. We are currently expanding services to Morrisville and will be offering additional services in Binghamton.
As Family Counseling Services completes the merger with Family & Children’s Society, expands services across Central NY and the Southern Tier, and addresses the challenges posed by Medicaid managed care and value based payments, we are confident that Dr. Harden will play a pivotal role in our continued success in meeting the needs of the communities we serve.