PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEMS

By Bob Katzen

The House 153-0, Senate 39-0, approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill that would accelerate improvements to local and regional public health systems across the state to address disparities in public health services by requiring the Department of Public Health to enshrine a set of standards for foundational public health services. The measure creates minimum public health standards for every city and town; incentivizes municipalities to share services; creates a uniform data collection and dedicates state funding to support local boards of health and health departments.

“With the passage of this legislation, a person’s zip code will no longer determine the public health protections that they are afforded and local public health officials will have the resources they need to do their jobs,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton).

“All residents should be able to expect high-quality public health services regardless of where they live,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “This legislation puts into practice the lessons learned during the pandemic by increasing support for local boards of public health and ensuring that all communities in the commonwealth are well prepared to respond to public health challenges.”

“The Legislature has focused on public health in a comprehensive, deliberative process since 2015 with the establishment of a special commission,” said House sponsor Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham). “The Special Commission’s 2019 report exposed the fractures in local public health, and the covid public health crisis only magnified those inequities. The bill provides the tools and direction to move local and regional public health forward.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill).

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

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