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Consultant: York County should have a health department — and here's how to go about it

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County should begin transitioning the York City Health Bureau into a countywide health department, according to a report commissioned by the county commissioners. 

"The COVID-19 Pandemic has revealed that a public health system is an essential element of modern and thriving communities," reads the report, which was released Friday on the county website. "Based on the data analysis and funding considerations, a county health department is feasible for York County. 

A countywide health department has been a topic of discussion for years, and in 2020 the county commissioners hired Health Management Associates to create a feasibility study.

The plan proposes building a countywide department from the current York City Bureau of Health.

"A 21st century county health department would provide the opportunity to strengthen and expand the existing public health foundation built by York City and better coordinate county wide assets thereby increasing their overall value to the community," the report states.

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The plan suggests creating the department in three phases. The first focuses on bolstering resources to ensure an appropriate COVID-19 response, the second phase would create the health department and the third phase would expand both services and funds used.

Based on the results of the study, the executive summary recommends five steps toward the creation of a health department:

  • Identifying someone to serve as interim York County health leadership to direct, coordinate and manage the activities required to establish a health department.
  • Beginning by implementing a plan to reduce the burden of COVID-19 on county residents and businesses. 
  • Apply for a certificate of approval by the State Secretary of Health, establish a Board of Health and begin transitioning the City Bureau of Health as well as establish a three-year county health department budget.
  • Map existing data infrastructure and create a plan to connect and expand that infrastructure to understand and target health needs.
  • Begin a community engaged and structured planning process and center health equity to combat disparities and focus on geographies defined as high need.

Among the financial resources the summary identifies is state funding under Act 315, which authorizes state grants to counties and certain municipalities with established departments of health that provide public health programs in the areas of administrative and supportive services, personal health services and environmental health services.

"By investing in the recommendations in this study, York County can bridge the current divided structure of public health services among the City and the County resulting in greater well-being for every York County resident," the summary reads.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.