MAPC Releases Statement on Municipal Public Health in ARPA Spending Bills
For immediate release: November 13, 2021
BOSTON—The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) today released the following statement on the Legislature’s pending ARPA bills related to municipal public health funding and policy reform.
“MAPC urges the Legislature to adopt reforms that will guarantee common public health standards and workforce credentials, incentivize cross-municipal collaboration, create a uniform set of data standards and reporting, and train staff to make these reforms effective and meaningful, in every municipality.
“Despite the dedication of local health staff and volunteers, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the inequities of our municipally-based public health system — and this will continue to put the entire state at risk. Unlike most states, Massachusetts does not have a county or regional system for public health. Instead, we have more local health departments than any other state in the nation, though we rank 13th for population size and 44th by land area.
“MAPC acknowledges and recognizes the tremendous investments the House and Senate have dedicated to local and regional public health in their respective versions of ARPA spending bills. This is a true testament to the Legislature’s attention to municipal and regional challenges that we have all witnessed over the past 20 months dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now, MAPC strongly encourages the Legislature to fund local and regional public health at the full $250.9 million, and to include language adopted by the Senate, which includes common-sense changes that will better prepare Massachusetts’ public health infrastructure for future health crises.
“Senate language is based on legislation filed in the House this session by Representatives Denise Garlick and Hannah Kane (H.2329-SAPHE 2.0). Coupling the reforms in SAPHE 2.0 with $250.9 million would more fully advance critical efforts to modernize our local and regional public health systems.
“City and town health departments will be better able to meet their other duties, from food inspections to enforcement of safe housing and surveillance of current and emerging diseases. Local and regional health departments will also be better positioned to respond to increasing mental and behavioral health concerns, including substance use disorder support.
“We urge the Legislature to adopt both the Senate funding level as well as the SAPHE 2.0 language.”