Topeka Health department officials from across Kansas packed a hearing Monday to oppose a bill introduced by a freshman senator that would have put the brakes on public health accreditation efforts.
After less than 30 minutes of testimony, including opposition from Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, said his concerns had been addressed and he didn’t want his bill to advance.
“I would be good with not working this bill,” O’Donnell said.
Dan Partridge, director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, was among the officials who spoke against Senate Bill 160.
After the hearing, Partridge said he appreciated the opportunity to speak about the value of public health, but added, “I would say I don’t see a lot of winners because all of this took time and money that could have been spent in better ways.”
O’Donnell defended his efforts.
“I just asked for a hearing,” he said. “It’s part of the legislative process. I feel comfortable with allowing accreditation to move forward.”
The bill would have prohibited state and local health departments from seeking national public health accreditation. In addition, under the bill, standards, duties and responsibilities of health departments would have been determined by the Legislature or a combination of the Legislature and local health governing boards.
Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau spoke in favor of the bill, saying he feared the federal government was trying to take over local health departments.
The Kansas Policy Institute testified that the prohibition on accreditation was needed to prevent the federal government from establishing mandates and requirements through grants gained by accreditation.
But several local health departments, including the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, are in various stages of seeking public health accreditation through a board that is made up of the Centers for Disease Control and various national public health organizations.
Representatives of those health departments and Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Robert Moser said the accreditation process helps improve health care and assess local health concerns.