GALION — A provision in the state budget bill may force smaller Ohio cities to close their health departments and join their county health district.
A section of Ohio House Bill 110 would require cities “with a population less than 50,000 served by a board of health of a city health district to complete a study evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of merging with the general health district that includes the city for the administration of health affairs in the merged general health district.”
According to the provision, “if the study indicates that a merger is advisable,” the city would be required “to enter into a contract with the district advisory council for the general health district that includes the city for the administration of health affairs in the merged general health district, unless the applicable district advisory council for the general health district delays the merger for good cause.”
The provision states that $6 million would be earmarked for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Auditor of State to conduct the studies.
The Ohio House of Representatives has already passed the measure. It is now being considered in the state Senate.
Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary said the proposal is another example of state government overreach and would be detrimental to communities like Galion. He expressed concerns about the manner in which the studies would be conducted.
“Over the past 10 years, I think those of us who are dedicated to public service in Ohio in particular, have seen the erosion of home rule,” O’Leary said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “I’ve got issues with the organization of that committee (ODH and state auditor) and I sure as heck hope it’s not a foregone conclusion. … We don’t even know how they’re doing this study. I think it’ll be a desktop review. If I thought ODH was going to come up here and talk to people, talk to our patients, our constituents, get a feel for the lack of transportation. Forget COVID, (the Galion City Health Department) does a lot of vaccinations that are required by schools. (The health department is) vital to the community, that’s why we kept them.”
O’Leary further stated that “it’s a bad time for probably what will turn out to be a bad idea.”
Galion City Council approved a resolution opposing the provision in H.B. 110. The resolution reads in part, “… the proposal is likely the first step in an effort by the State of Ohio to abolish the local City of Galion Health Department so as to give greater control and authority to a centralized government in Columbus without regards to local needs.”
The resolution further states, “… the City of Galion strenuously objects to any effort by the State of Ohio to abolish the local city health department, and moves that any effort to study the feasibility of dissolving the same or otherwise abolish it be immediately stricken from any State Budget proposals.”
Statewide, about 20 health districts would be affected by the provision.
The Senate Finance Committee conducted its first hearing on H.B. 110 on Tuesday.
O’Leary was scheduled to meet with Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, on Wednesday to discuss the issue. The mayor said the Galion City Health Department is the lone city health district in the 26th Senate District.