Frustrated With Handling Of Pandemic, 7 Counties Look To Form Regional Health Department

Outside of Allegheny, all other counties in our area rely solely on the state Health Department when it comes to pandemic efforts. KDKA's Nicole Ford reports on the first regional health department meeting and other efforts to take local control.

Video Transcript

- Outside of Allegheny, all other counties in our area rely solely on the state health department when it comes to pandemic efforts. Nicole Ford is live in Washington County now with details on today's first regional health department meeting, and other efforts to take some local control. Nicole.

NICOLE FORD: [INAUDIBLE] Washington County commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan tells me her job is to change things for her residents. But when it comes to COVID-19, local leaders don't have that authority. So seven counties are making the first step to make a change to help the public.

DIANA IREY VAUGHAN: We had huge issues with trying to find out where COVID-positive cases were at in our county.

NICOLE FORD: The frustrations for local county commissioners date back to spring 2020, and continue until this year.

DIANA IREY VAUGHAN: Vaccination process has been very frustrating for all of our constituents. It's been frustrating for every county. It's been frustrating for every entity that's hoping to receive vaccines.

NICOLE FORD: On Tuesday, for the first time, leaders from Washington, Greene, Fayette, Westmoreland, Beaver, Butler, and Lawrence counties met virtually to discuss a change. The goal is to create a regional health department to have more control locally.

DIANA IREY VAUGHAN: This would be a new approach. We don't know what the state will help to fund any aspect, so we have a little bit of research to do.

NICOLE FORD: With that information in hand, then the counties will decide the next step. It could mean moving forward with its own department or lobbying the state to make changes for the future.

KEVIN BOOZEL: Taking a look at this overall, there's an interest in something better, right? Like, we're not sure exactly what direction that takes us.

NICOLE FORD: Butler County commissioner Kevin Boozel says this meeting is a good first step, even if the end result is getting a better line of communication with the state.

KEVIN BOOZEL: But boy, wouldn't it be nice if we had somebody from the DOH [INAUDIBLE] that could be a part of that with us and kind of feed us the information, rather than me going to the state myself and getting that information, and someone else going and getting something else from another secretary or something.

NICOLE FORD: Overall, these leaders are searching for better coordination and communication, which starts with today's conversation. Now, if a regional health department is the route they go, it could be more than two years before we'd see something on the ground here. Reporting live in Washington County tonight, Nicole Ford, KDKA News.