OLYMPIA – A bill to strengthen and significantly improve Washington’s foundational public health system passed the Washington House of Representatives today with a bipartisan vote. Originally requested by Gov. Jay Inslee, House Bill 1152 creates Regional Shared Service Centers to coordinate public health between local health jurisdictions, at minimum would double the state’s investment in state public health funding, and works to remove politics from public health decisions by requiring non-elected members to balance elected officials on public health boards.
“Everyone in Washington State, no matter what community they live in, should be able to rely on a public health system that is able to provide a standard level of service,” said Riccelli. “Like public safety there is a foundational level of public health delivery that must exist everywhere for services to work. A strong public health system is only possible with intentional investments. We want to see a public health system that is state supported, regionally coordinated, and locally implemented.”
The sweeping bill has changed substantially thanks to the input of stakeholders from across the state. The policy goal is to ensure that services are delivered efficiently, equitably, effectively, and in ways that make the best use of technology, science, expertise, and leveraged resources. To do that the bill proposes creating four Regional Comprehensive Public Health District Centers to coordinate shared public health resources; creates a Public Health Advisory Board within the Department of Health; and requires that local health boards are balanced between elected officials and non-elected members who are either medical or public health professionals or community members with lived experience.
“We saw in places like Spokane, Yakima and Tacoma what happens when our public health is infected by politics” Riccelli said. “Including people with a diversity of expertise and lived experience in our public health decision-making process will lead to healthier outcomes for our communities.”
The bill now heads to the Senate.