CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — In a 2-1 vote, the Centre County Commissioners approve funding a study to determine the need for a county-wide health department.
They said a health department would have a board of medical professionals leading public health initiatives and education, based on the needs of the county.
“I think there are things that health departments across the state in Pennsylvania do that we should look at, and whether or not that would benefit the community, or whether or not that’ll be a detriment to the community,” said Commissioner Michael Pipe. “That’s really what we’re looking at: does this improve, overall, the quality of life in Centre County?”
The commissioners said a health department could speak directly to the community when unique situations arise. For example, West Nile Virus appearing in mosquitoes locally.
The survey is a $12,000 investment, split between Centre County Government and the Borough of State College.
“At the end of this, you’ll have a document from which you can pull data that hopefullly would inform a decision on whether or not you’d like to pursue further discussion about a formalized local health office here in Centre County,” said Margaret Gray, administrator for Centre County Government.
The commissioners say there’s no obligation to initiate a health department after the survey and it’s an exploratory opportunity.
“I’m fearful of the bureaucracy it creates, the legacy cost,” said Commissioner Steve Dershem, who voted against the survey. “To me, I don’t see value in it. I just don’t think we’re there yet.”
They agree it would be a unique addition to the Centre area.
“I will say, we would be the most rural community in Pennsylvania with a health office, with a county health office,” said Commissioner Pipe.
“I am interested to see how the health department could help some of the more rural portions of Centre County,” said Commissioner Mark Higgins.