Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Commissioners Express Views on Potential County Health Department

In response to questioning from Newslanc at their weekly meeting, Wednesday, the County commissioners shared their inclinations and reservations with regard to the proposal to establish a County health department.

Craig Lehman, the Lone Democratic Commissioner on the 3-member board has gone on the record in support of such a department.

Lehman and other supporters have said of the proposed agency that it would be very helpful in coordinating health services, particularly during emergencies.

But Republican Commissioners Dennis Stuckey and Scott Martin have expressed reservations and concerns.

"I still have questions that need answered," said Martin, adding that he is continuing to research the issue.

"I want to see if this can be set up in a way that... prohibits unnecessary growth," he said, cautioning that he does not want to see the department grow from a public health department to a "public health care agency."

"Sometimes we create government programs and they last a long time and continue to grow and grow and grow," Martin warned.

Lehman said, "If the budgetary issues can be resolved, I hope that we can continue to have a serious conversation about this."

Lehman added that he is optimistic that "with a budgetary perspective... we can avoid the exponential growth we've seen in some other counties."

Chester, Philadelphia, Allegheny, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties have Departments of Public Health. Neighboring York County is also considering such a proposal.

Commissioner Stuckey was not available for comment and was not present at Wednesday's meeting because he is traveling with the Agriculture Preserve Board.