Representative Steven Howitt supports bill promoting regional collaboration on public health services
Boston – State Representative Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk is supporting legislation to improve the delivery of public health services through enhanced collaboration between local boards of health and regional health districts.
House Bill 4503, An Act relative to strengthening the local and regional public health system, would make additional training, professional development, and financial resources available to ensure that public health services are delivered more efficiently and effectively across Massachusetts. The bill was engrossed by the House of Representatives on a vote of 148-0 on February 26.
Under the bill, a new State Action for Public Health Excellence Program will be established within the Department of Public Health (DPH) to enhance the delivery of public health services at the local and regional levels. The bill specifies that these services will include, but not be limited to, communicable disease control; chronic disease and injury prevention; environmental public health; maternal, child and family health; and access to and linkage with clinical care.
The bill also creates a competitive grant program, known as the State Action for Public Health Excellence Grant Program, to supplement existing state, local, private and federal funding for local boards of health and regional health districts. The grants will be used to support more regional, inter-municipal collaboration.
In addition, the bill requires DPH to provide employees of boards of health and regional health districts with access to public health educational training opportunities, free of charge, at least four times a year. DPH will also work in consultation with the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health to establish a set of minimum standards for foundational public health services for the Commonwealth, including local public health services and workforce standards.
House Bill 4503 is a redraft of House Bill 1935, which was filed by Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), who has served as a member of the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health since its creation in 2016. Her hometown of Shrewsbury successfully implemented a regionalized public health model partnership with the City of Worcester and other neighboring towns several years ago.
House Bill 4503 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.