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California: AIDS Group Pushes for Measure to Form City Health Department in L.A.

May 13, 2013

On May 10, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) announced that they had gathered approximately 70,000 signatures, 50,000 of which they believed were valid, to qualify for a ballot measure that would allow Los Angeles residents to vote on whether the city should have its own public health department separate from the county department. Those favoring this proposed measure think voters should decide the issue, which would probably take place in June 2014.

Michael Weinstein, AHF president, said in a statement, "We are heartened that...residents of the City of Los Angeles agree that this issue should be brought before the voters to decide whether or not to create a separate and independent City of Los Angeles Public Health Department." Weinstein has criticized the county's health department in the past, saying it does a poor job of disease control and is too large a department. Recently, AHF objected strongly to the county's handling of a few meningitis cases, which resulted in public health concerns.

However, many county and city officials are concerned that having a separate city department may result in fewer services for residents. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana noted in March that Los Angeles does not have the expertise, money, or facilities to enforce public health laws. Santana declared, "It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the city to get in the business of healthcare. The city is simply not in a position to take this on."

At one time, Los Angeles had its own health department but disbanded it in the 1960s. Residents currently rely on county services. The county department is charged with reducing chronic illnesses, working to avoid infectious disease outbreaks, and maintaining the city's and the county's food and water safety. The county health department also oversees emergency preparedness for the county's 10 million residents.

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Excerpted from:
Los Angeles Times
05.10.2013; Ari Bloomekatz

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