County commissioners feeling left out propose creating regional health department

County commissioners feeling left out propose creating regional health department

BUTLER, Pa. — County commissioners feeling left out as though they didn’t get a seat at the table when the COVID-19 pandemic began are proposing creating a regional health department. They’re not happy with the decisions the state Department of Health is making in terms of COVID-19 testing and the vaccine rollout.

“We have all had communication issues related to the state health department,” said Butler County Commissioner Leslie Osche.

Leaders from seven counties are talking about creating a new agency:

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  • Washington County
  • Beaver County
  • Butler County
  • Fayette County
  • Westmoreland County
  • Greene County
  • Lawrence County

“We would be able to have more local control where we would be able to make decisions closest to the local level,” said Butler County Commissioner Kim Geyer.

Washington County Commissioner Diana Vaughan kickstarted the idea and organized the first formal meeting Tuesday.

“The first step we decided to take as a seven-county group is to find out from the state what components the Department of Health we would be required to take under a regional umbrella,” Vaughan said.

She said the group doesn’t expect to strictly adhere to everything the state department recommends, including restaurant safety or environmental issues.

“The second step is each county is going back and compiling their own list of all of the issues with the state health department throughout the pandemic,” Vaughan said.

The discussion is still in its very early stages. If the state replies and requires too much, Vaughan said some or all of the counties may drop out. If that happens, county leaders said they may end up taking their concerns and frustrations to state health officials.

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