Local Counties To Meet About Creating Regional Health Department

A proposal to create a regional health department is finally gaining momentum. KDKA's Nicole Ford reports.

Video Transcript

STACY SMITH: A proposal to create a regional health department is finally gaining some momentum. A meeting set for tomorrow could bring new ideas to the table to try to start the process.

Nicole Ford is live now in Washington County with what we know so far. Nicole?

NICOLE FORD: Stacy, we first told you about taking a regional approach to a health department last summer. Since that idea by Beaver County commissioners, it's grown to include seven counties and Washington's taking the charge.

It's a facility that made headlines. Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center to date reported 379 positive COVID-19 resident cases, one of which is Jodi Gill's dad.

JODI GILL: When everything was happening last spring, I called everybody. And every single person basically punted me away and said, "Well, it's up to the state because we don't have our own health department."

NICOLE FORD: Now county leaders are looking to do just that, create a health department. On Tuesday, representatives from Washington, Butler, Beaver Fayette, Greene, Westmoreland, and Lawrence Counties will meet to discuss a regionalised approach.

DANIEL CAMP: All the counties involved in this has seen different issues with dealing with our Pennsylvania's Department of Health, and we are finally able to come to fruition and have this meeting.

NICOLE FORD: This meeting, nearly a year in the making, could establish a task force to find out what a regional health department could do.

DANIEL CAMP: You could take on air quality. You could take on licensing and permitting. You could take on inspection. So that's one of the things. There's so many different-- there's a variety of different things that a health department can do. This meeting, we're going to hopefully discuss what our vision for each county.

NICOLE FORD: While the idea is to bring more control locally to help in situations like Brighton, Gill tells me she's concerned there are too many counties involved with different priorities.

JODI GILL: It's better than nothing. I think a smaller number would yield possibly more success. Where would it be located? If it's in a county that's not even close to us, it's going to be even further away and likely less responsive.

NICOLE FORD: This is just the first step, an information gathering period, as not all counties have fully committed to the proposal.

Commissioner Camp tells me the reason why each county can't just create its own department is the cost. Even with all seven counties on board, there will be a financial burden to each of those county commissioners.

Reporting in Washington County tonight, Nicole Ford, KDKA News.