A bill that would provide funding increases to local public health departments passed the Indiana Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services last week, but its unanimous approval belies the reception it received. received from some Hoosiers.
For more than an hour on February 2, state residents testified against Senate Bill 4, a priority bill for Gov. Eric Holcomb and Senate Republican leaders. The comments “consisted mostly of misinformation about vaccines and disparaging the senators for introducing the ‘tyrannical’ bill that allowed ‘child abuse’ and a ‘state takeover’ of local health departments. “, reports the Indiana Capital Chronicle.
Opposition to the public health funding proposal comes as no surprise to DeKalb County Commissioners Chairman Bill Hartman. He heard the same concerns from some of his constituents.
“It all started with the Governor’s Public Health Commission. And I know that, among some citizens, there are big red flags about this health commission that he appointed without going through the legislature,” Hartman, a Republican, told the Journal Gazette.
IN AUGUST 2021Holcomb created the Governor’s Commission on Public Health and tasked its 15 members with examining the strengths and weaknesses of Indiana’s public health system and making recommendations for improvement.
The commission submitted a lengthy report to Holcomb last August. He advocated launching a health workforce plan to ease staffing shortages, increase access to state data for local health departments, and establish a strategic stockpile of equipment, as well as increase health spending. public health by about 65%.
Indiana ranks 48th among states in public health funding, spending about $55 per Hoosier or $36 less than the national average of $91 per person. The commission sought to fill the funding gap of $36 per resident at a cost of approximately $243 million per year.
Asking for less than the commission’s original suggestion, Holcomb is asking for $120 million for fiscal year 2024 and an additional $227 million in 2025 for statewide public health services.
Under the proposal, counties that voluntarily accept increased funding must meet higher quality standards to better address Indiana’s public health challenges.
“To qualify for funding, local health departments must provide or ensure the provision of a newly developed set of core public health services, which include services currently required under Indiana law and several new services,” according to Mindy Waldron, Allen County Health Department. administrator and member of the Governor’s Public Health Commission.
LOCAL HEALTH SERVICES would be required to provide maternal and child health services, SB 4 says. Counties that decide to take the funding will report health metrics to the state Department of Health for publication.
There are no costs associated with SB 4 yet, so it has been forwarded to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further discussion. That suits Commissioner Hartman. He said he needed more information before DeKalb County could make the decision to accept the proposed additional public health funding.
“We need to read the fine print of this bill first, because we’re just not sure. We don’t think we would likely need that money to continue the services we provide,” Hartman said. “We can eventually withdraw. I do not know yet. It’s not a sure thing, anyway.
Public health services protect Hoosiers’ most precious asset: their well-being. They serve by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing, and responding to infectious diseases, but they need the proper funding to accomplish these tasks.
If SB 4 ends up on Governor Holcomb’s desk, he should sign it. And let’s hope a majority of counties recognize the dire need for robust public health services and agree to funding to improve the lives of residents.
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, February 11