Legislative Update: Senate Bill 118 to fund public health heard and passed out of Committee unanimously

Feb 18, 2023

Feb. 17, 2023. Reno/Sparks, Nev. – Yesterday, Senate Bill (SB) 118 was introduced by Committee Chair Senator Fabian Doñate, Megan Comlossy, Associate Director, Center of Public Health Excellence at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the local Health Districts, to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. This bill would create a fund called the Public Health Improvement Fund.

Watch Senate Committee on Health and Human Services hearing.

District Health Officer Kevin Dick, alongside leadership from Central Nevada Health District and Southern Nevada Health District provided regional information about the benefits of the Public Health Improvement Fund, and the importance of flexible non-categorical funding that could be used to address community public health needs and priorities.

Currently, any money that Washoe County Health District receives from the State is categorical, meaning money can only be used for a specific purpose or service, making it very difficult to address community needs or health emergencies. Nevada is currently tied for the lowest state investment in public health.  The proposed Public Health Improvement Fund could bring the State up to 44th or 45th in the nation.

If the Bill is passed, the fund would allocate local health authorities approximately $5 per capita to be utilized to address local priorities and needs in the community. The bill also requires the annual report on how the money was spent and what was achieved, ensuring accountability, and giving local health authorities flexibility to use the funds as determined by the District Boards of Health.

“We were pleased that yesterday the Committee clearly understood the need to provide this funding to support public health and acted decisively and unanimously to move the bill forward. We will continue to work to ensure that the legislature as a whole understands that need and makes that funding a reality by delivering this bill for the Governor’s signature.”  said District Health Officer Kevin Dick. “We know our workforce isn’t adequate to serve a community of our size and this funding would allow us to address that deficiency and enable us to better address health inequities that were so tragically exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Bill was heard and passed out of Committee unanimously and will be referred to Senate Finance to discuss funding allocation for the $30 million dollars over the biennium.

This Bill came as a BDR from the Interim Health and Humans Services Committee in 2022 and received support from the Washoe County District Board of Health, UNR, NSHE, Carson City Health and Human Services, Nevada Association of Counties, Nevada Rural Hospital Partners, Renown Health, local citizens, and others.  There was no opposition to the bill.

The Washoe County Health District is nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board and has jurisdiction over all public health matters in Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County through the policy-making Washoe County District Board of Health. The District consists of five divisions: Administrative Health Services, Air Quality Management, Community and Clinical Health Services, Environmental Health Services and Epidemiology & Public Health Preparedness. More info can be found here