Additional funding for local public health grants could help provide the resources and flexibility needed to improve the lives of Minnesotans through prevention-based, community-specific initiatives.
“The field of public health is about investing in prevention, which can sometimes take a backseat to the issue of the day,” Graham Briggs, Olmsted County Public Health director and a representative of the Local Public Health Association of Minnesota, told the House Health Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday.
It was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill. There is no Senate companion.
The current General Fund base for local public health grants is almost $21.67 million annually, according to nonpartisan House fiscal staff.
This provides funding for community health boards across the state to perform a range of activities that include:
“Unfortunately, over the last 15 years, we have witnessed a slow crumbling of our local public health infrastructure,” Briggs said.
Most community health boards are largely funded by local levies, but receive federal and state funding as well. Cuts and a failure to keep up with inflation have hampered these boards’ ability to perform their work and keep up with state mandates, much less address emerging problems, Wolgamott said.
“Flexible funding is crucial,” as many state mandates are not well supported by other grants, Briggs said.
Existing law determines the grant amount awarded to each community health board and requires at least a 75% local match.
Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal) questioned the helpfulness of this requirement, pointing out that communities in the most need of additional funding are likely the ones to have the most trouble securing a large local match.
As has been seen when communities rely on local levies for education funding, disparities can be reinforced when some communities can afford to provide generous local funding, while others cannot, said Rep. Liz Reyer (DFL-Eagan).
“Looking at statewide funding is a good step,” she said.