INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana ranks near the bottom of the list in several public health categories.
Governor Eric Holcomb wants to invest $240 million into public health across the state. He and the Indiana Department of Health say that would allow local health departments to tailor programming to their needs.
"When it comes to public health, we are really dealing a lot with the opioid crisis and also just keeping on top of the demands of Marion County," Madison Weintraut, the Assistant Administrator of Infectious Disease and Safe Syringe Access and Support at the Marion County Public Health Department, said. "Obviously we are the largest in the state and even though we have the most robust local health department, it's also incredibly challenging just to keep up. "
Marion County isn't the only county struggling to keep up. Health departments across the state have a hard time meeting the demands of the communities they serve. The state says it comes down to funding.
"If you were to think about all 50 states as a car out on the race track ranking 46th or 47th or 49th, we'd be in the 16th or 17th row, " Holcomb said.
According to the state, Indiana is 45th in the country for state government public health funding, and that has a trickle down effect.
The state says data proves that more funding will help curb these health issues.
"Currently because people have to have many hats, we have one or two employees in some health departments that have to kind of be the jack of all trades and they are not the master of anything sometimes," Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana State Health Commissioner, said.
As a way of encouraging the General Assembly to go on along with Governor Holcomb's funding plan, public health professionals from across the state came to the statehouse on Thursday to show their support. This investment is something the governor says the state can afford and that it needs to invest in if it wants to keep attracting more companies.
"It's foundational to our tax code and regulatory environment," Holcomb said. "If you don't have the human capital — the fuel clocking in — then it makes it harder or they will look somewhere else. This is not a one size fits all, this is not a mandate or worse — unfunded mandate. This is the state coming in to say 'how can we help you improve?'"
Holcomb wants to add this investment in public health to the state's budget, which will need approval from lawmakers.
So far, leaders in the house and senate are skeptical about the price tag.
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