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Public health system transformation clears legislature, heads to governor

Indiana Republican Senator Ed Charbonneau stands on the Senate floor. Charbonneau is a White man with white hair, wearing a suit.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) authored the bill that he said is a "paradigm shift" for public health in Indiana.

A “paradigm shift” for public health in Indiana crossed the finish line at the Statehouse Thursday.

The legislation, SB 4, is the result of two years of work by the governor’s Public Health Commission to explore how to better deliver services through local health departments.

Sen. Ed Charbonneau’s (R-Valparaiso) bill creates a list of about two dozen core services those departments must provide if they want access to dramatically increased funding from the state.

That list of services is broad. It includes everything from sanitary and food inspections to immunizations to HIV testing to preventative care for diabetes and obesity.

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Providing all that care is vital, Charbonneau said, in a state with some of the worst health metrics in the country.

“It’s never going to change," Charbonneau said. "We’re never going to bend that curve until we start treating people, preventing them from getting sick.”

Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) emphasized that the initiative is voluntary – county commissioners must vote to take the money and provide the services.

Becker said her county leaders are excited to do so.

“Because they think it will allow them to do more work and better work in lots of areas – for maternal health as well as infant mortality,” Becker said.

The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk, where he’s expected to sign it.

Funding for the measure is in the state budget. Lawmakers have allocated $225 million over the next two years, far short of what the Holcomb administration said is needed.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.