The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) today called on State Lawmakers to renew their commitment to public health issues with a special report that addresses the role that counties play in promoting public health in communities across the state.
"Too often, our Local Health Departments (LHDs) are taken for granted, under-appreciated, and in the past few years, underfunded," said NYSAC President William E. Cherry, the Schoharie County Treasurer. "This report shines some light on the critical public health programs that our county LHDs provide at the local level."
LHDs are the front line of defense for diseases like influenza, Ebola, and the Zika Virus. They work closely with the New York State Department of Health to encourage healthy behavior, protect New Yorkers from communicable diseases, prepare of weather-related and environmental for emergencies, and develop community health assessments.
The report highlights the disparity of state funding for counties that deliver core health services. The State Budget includes funding through Public Health Law, Article 6 - known as Article 6 funding - which provides full or partial reimbursement for mandated public health services that are delivered at the local level.
"The Article 6 funding cuts imposed in 2010 during the Great Recession significantly compromised our ability to deliver these critical public health programs," said Linda Wagner, executive director of the NYS Association of County Health Officials. "Those mandates are still there, and they are very important to the general health of our communities, but none of the funding has been restored."
With the release of this report, NYSAC is also calling on state leaders to increase Article 6 funding in the 2016-17 State Budget to offset the state funding cuts to local health departments in 2010. Specifically, NYSAC calls on the state to:
End administrative actions that will result in further erosion of state aid to LHDs,
Reimburse counties for 100% of any new state mandated activities required of LHDs,
Requiring NYSDOH to provide one-year advance notice to municipalities of administrative limitations on state aid, and
Provide 100% reimbursement of expenses due to emergency declarations in the first year of such declarations, using funds appropriated in the current or subsequent year.
"Local health departments (LHDs) are at the forefront of New York State's public health issues, serving as the first line of defense against all new and potentially wide-spread public health crises. We need to make sure that they have all the resources they need to keep New Yorkers in good health," said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.
The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving the counties of New York State. Organized in 1925, NYSAC's mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties. www.nysac.org