Mercer County Commissioner concerned about new bill limiting powers of local health departments

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PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — A bill that would take power from local health departments is making its way through the West Virginia Senate.

Senate Bill 12, if passed, would give county commissioners oversight of health policy instead of local health boards. This, Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett, said is detrimental to public health.

“Local boards of health are protected under statute to implement good strong health policies. If you put that ownership back on county commissions, then that same protections and those policies don’t exist anymore,” Puckett said.

He said those protections save the county money by not going into litigation with every decision made. But without them, Puckett said the county will be footing the bill.

After two decades of fighting for public health, Puckett said selecting a board of health directors is better for the overall health of the public.

“Basically whatever the county board of health says is the way that the policy is going to be written in that particular county. If this goes through, this would allow additional oversight by county commissions that could possibly override that,” said Puckett.

Puckett said there are many reasons to keep public health in the hands of those chosen for the job.
He said the board of health is hand picked and the best people are chosen for the positions.
Puckett said the state of West Virginia should be working together to create healthy counties instead of dividing them.

“This is not a republican or democrat issue. This is a human rights issue. This is something that we should be doing for the protection of everyone no matter what party you’re from. No matter anything that you do, you should be protecting your public,” said Puckett.

We reached out to the Senator Mike Maroney, who is heading SB12. He was unavailable for comment.

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