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Governor’s Public Health Commission issues final report with $240M price tag, following system study

Three members of the commission sit behind tables with runners that have "Indiana Department of Health" written across them and the logo. Behind the speakers is a backdrop with the same logo. Dr. Kris Box wears white at the far left. Former Senator Luke Kenley is in the middle with a baseball cap on. And former health commssion Dr. Judith Monroe sits at the far right.
Violet Comber-Wilen
/
IPB News
The Governor’s Public Health Commission on Thursday recommended more than $240 million for improvements for Indiana’s public health system. From left to right, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box, former state Sen. Luke Kenley and former health commissioner Dr. Judith Monroe present at the news conference Thursday.

The Governor’s Public Health Commission on Thursday recommended more than $240 million for improvements for Indiana’s public health system.

The report focused on six key areas: workforce; funding; governance; services and infrastructure; emergency preparedness; childhood and adolescence health; and data and analytics.

Former Indiana Sen. Luke Kenley said public health can be improved if all levels of the public health system connect with each other – and elected officials.

“We needed to have sort of a true partnership arrangement,” he said. “We needed to have the state department of health, we needed to have the regional delivery system, the local health departments, but we needed to get the local, county elected officials involved.”

The commission’s final report comes as lawmakers prepare for the 2023 budget session, where legislators will create the state’s two-year budget.

Kenley said the nearly quarter of a million dollars in additional funding is necessary to improve Indiana’s life expectancy and overall quality of life.

“I think that’s what you’ve got to do in order to get this program developed,” Kenley said. “You know, I kept multiplying that number out myself a number of times, trying to make it be smaller, but I couldn’t do that.”

READ MORE: Indiana Department of Health awards $35 million to address critical health challenges

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One topic of interest for the group was emergency medical services – and the lack thereof – in many areas of Indiana.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said these systems are important, as Indiana’s leading cause of death is trauma and injury.

That EMS group that picks you up, how quickly they get to you, how trained they are to stabilize you, and get you to a hospital makes a difference between your life, and your death, and your permanent disability,” she said.

Committee members also said they observed a lack of coordination between state, regional and local emergency departments.

Other recommendations brought up include a need for more school nurses, improved access to required school screenings and enhanced recruitment training to prevent employee shortages in the public health workforce.

The commission was created in August 2021 by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Its initial focus was on improving Indiana’s health measures – as they consistently rank one of the worst for health measures including smoking rate, obesity and funding for public health.

It has provided various recommendations since its creation – previous recommendations by the committee include making funding more accessible for local health departments and increasing state funding for Indiana’s public health system.

Contact reporter Violet at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.