It is anticipated that the 2018 session of the Indiana General Assembly will significantly increase public health funding. Governor Eric Holcomb announced the funding as part of his 2023 Next Level Agenda. A state-wide group has been meeting for the past year to develop the plan, which includes increasing funding for local health departments from $7 million per year to $100 million in the first year of the budget and more than $200 million in the second.
As per The Washington Times Herald, the superintendent of the Daviess County Health Department, Kellie Streeter, explains that the governor’s proposal is the result of extensive effort and the recognition that many Hoosiers are not healthy.
“About a year ago, the governor launched his public health commission, and over the past year, that panel has combed the state, county by county, to determine how we might become a healthier state,” said Streeter. “Public health funding was approximately 40th in the nation. We are renowned for being overweight.
We smoke. This commission undertook extensive work and reported back to the governor on the county’s needs and elected officials’ opinions. They submitted a substantial request to the governor through the legislature, requesting that state health departments receive consistent funding. Local departments struggled to stay afloat in a fight for grant-based support, according to Streeter, because the state of health funds provided only a few million dollars.
Streeter stated, “We have worked on a shoestring for many decades with inconsistent grant financing, and the only way to provide the core services for good health is to fund it similarly to how they fund education, transportation, and economic development.” “The governor and many of our legislators saw that the best way to accomplish this was to include it in the budget.”
The commission’s recommendation for a substantial funding increase for public health did not surprise officials, they said. It was rather unexpected that the state would increase its annual budget from $7 million to between $100 million and $200 million.
“Over the past year, I have served on committees and participated in the development of this issue.” “I anticipated this,” said Streeter. “It is not surprising. Since the outbreak, the governor’s top focus has been to invest in public health. Local health departments are finally being recognized as a resource for more than just vaccines, which is quite surprising.
But also for pregnant women, infectious disease patients, and others with urgent health difficulties. In addition, for screening children and emergency preparedness. We provide more services than people understand, and we do not have enough personnel to handle the demand.” The COVID epidemic demonstrated to Indiana’s public health and health departments what local health officials could and should do.
“Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the majority of disasters, first responders are recognized as crucial people. We had to perform contact tracing and tracking. We were tasked with addressing every aspect of the pandemic. We were the test site and supplied the majority of the vaccination,” explained Streeter.
“It revealed both our strengths and our weaknesses. There is insufficient lead testing for youngsters. Still, our fetal and newborn mortality rates are greater than they should be. We must do more in this regard. There are still pregnant ladies who smoke. There are issues with dental health that require resolution. The list is more than a mile long.” The state may provide additional funds, but the health departments have made it clear that their operations must be determined locally.
In these commission meetings, Streeter said, “We’ve told the state, ‘You can support us as you see fit, but choices about what we do must be made locally.’ Every county is distinct. The Health Department in Daviess County does not see the same patients or provide the same services as Vanderburgh County. You cannot impose your standards on us. We are unique.” Streeter stated, “We have an Amish community, whereas other communities do not.” “There are core services, which comprise the majority of what we now offer.
There are certain augmented services, but they are not beyond our ability or what we should be able to accomplish. And the legislative request makes it quite clear that it will be based on local facts. It will not be a matter of the government issuing directives.” The first stage, according to Daviess County officials, will be reaching out to the community.
“We have learned that we must do a better job of establishing ties within our community. Our community consists of people with low to moderate incomes. We have a population of immigrants in our community.” “We want to create trust and relationships with these communities so that we can provide them with better services,” said Streeter.
“Community outreach to our special populations, entry into the schools, and communication with our other partners will be at the center of our efforts. Sometimes you just have to go to the people, and I believe that over the next several years, we will focus on community outreach so that people are aware of what services are available and where to obtain them.”
According to Streeter, the funds will assist health departments in making Indiana a healthier place to live. “In Indiana, public health is the cornerstone of everything.” She stated that the economy could not grow without access to health care and a healthy lifestyle. “I believe teaching people that a healthy lifestyle and providing services that provide a foundation for everyone, including expectant women, safe food, well inspections, and septic inspections, will make Indiana better at its core.”