Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announces ‘Public Health Commission’

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:14 PM EDT
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WNDU) - The pandemic provided a stress test for Indiana’s public health system.

Now the Holcomb administration is preparing to address some of the weaknesses that were revealed.

The governor today signed an executive order that creates a 15-member commission that will look for ways to improve the system’s structure, funding, and operations.

“We have 94 different health departments around the state of Indiana. Obviously, that accents different approaches, different resource levels. There’s very little standardization,” said Governor Eric Holcomb, (R) Indiana, during a morning news conference.

“We have some departments that have hundreds of staff members, while smaller counties may be lucky to have three to six full time members, and some, many of those are part time,” added Indiana Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D.

The commission will conduct its review through a lens of equity so that an individual’s access to health services doesn’t depend on where they live.

“It’s really important to look at how public health services are delivered to our children across the state,” Kris Box said. “Do all children have access to getting their immunizations? Do all children have access to having investigation and follow up of lead exposure and other things that can ultimately make significant differences in their lives.”

The commission is scheduled to issue its report in September of 2022 so recommended changes could go before state lawmakers as they work on the next state budget in 2023.

Meantime, the administration is still responding to COVID 19 emergencies.

About the time the demand for testing skyrocketed, the state was reducing the testing services it offers. “Which we know has resulted in some prolonged waits and frustration,” Kris Box stated.

The governor said wait times were as high as two to three hours.

Kris Box blamed the situation on Indiana kids heading back to school, saying that the week that ended July 25 the state had about 1,500 people between the ages of 0 to 19 test positive for COVID 19. Two weeks later, on August 8, that number had climbed to 4,200. “Kids that are symptomatic and their parents are concerned and want them tested. Kids who have been sent home because they had a headache or a stomachache and in order to get back into school, they need to be able to have a negative test.”

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