Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick today said funding for public health in Nevada is the lowest in the country. He used that message to push for more funding — through a proposed public health fund — during the current legislative session.
“While I’m proud of our efforts to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, there were many areas in which proper or even average funding for public health would have made our community better prepared as well as our health district,” he said.
One example was maintaining COVID-19 data at the start of the pandemic, which was done with an Excel spreadsheet.
“Our staffing levels are well below what is needed,” he added. “Our data collection and reporting systems are out of date. Our ability to take on the many public health needs in our community is restricted due to lack of funding and how these funds have to be spent.”
Dick briefed legislators this week and will be back again tomorrow to advocate for Senate Bill 118. That bill targets all state health districts and would include $5 per capita for local health districts.
“Our lack of adequate public health capacity, staffing and infrastructure was harshly revealed during the pandemic,” Dick said. “This funding would be roughly $5 per capita, would allow health districts and the state to be in a better position to address public health needs in an equitable and transparent way.”
Dick said funding is necessary to develop data platforms.
“With the funding under the public health funds, our staffing would be flexible and our staff can be dedicated to the areas that our community needs those investments rather than mandated through the categorical funding that we receive now under federal grants or with a very limited funding that we receive from the state,” he said.
While the Democratic-led legislature is likely to approve the bill, it will ultimately need Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s support.
Dick also updated the news media on COVID-19. The coronavirus disease continues to cycle through the community. Nearly 30 people are hospitalized with the virus. Those who don’t get COVID vaccines are at a significantly greater risk of being hospitalized and dying.
RSV and flu cases are at normal levels.
CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to include the the source of funds for the health district as correcting that the fund is for all health districts in the state, not just Washoe County as originally reported.