Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
Dr. Assaad Sayah, Co-Chair
Michael Curry, Co-Chair
Health Equity Task Force
Dear Dr. Sayah, Mr. Curry, and Distinguished Members of the Health Equity Task Force,
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to share our comments with the Health Equity Task Force (“Task Force”) in hopes they may be incorporated into your final recommendations to the General Court as prescribed by Chapter 93 of the Acts of 2020.
When the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health finalized its report in June of 2019, entitled “Blueprint for Public Health Excellence: Recommendations for Improved Effectiveness and Efficiency of Local Public Health Protections” (“Blueprint”), one of the key findings was that most local boards of health were unable to keep up with a growing list of duties. Of course, this finding was pre-pandemic. Their duties and importance have now grown exponentially. However, support from the Department of Public Health has remained stagnant. The Task Force should identify ways the Department of Public Health and other state agencies can partner with and support local boards of health, including but not limited to, facilitating increased data sharing between and amongst municipalities, increased training, and increased technical assistance.
The Task Force should be extremely wary of recommending that any additional burdens be placed on local boards of health without a dedicated state funding source. Local health budgets vary widely by municipality, and are subject to the competing demands of other municipal departments and funding needs. Because Proposition 2½ caps local revenues, cities and towns cannot absorb new funding mandates without reducing other expenditures on essential public safety, education or other critical services.
The Commonwealth has now reached a pivotal juncture in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that a study on the vaccine distribution be included within the Task Force’s recommendations; however, with the report due early March that would be impossible. It is also clear from various health studies that some of the symptoms and health effects of COVID-19 have the ability to be long lasting. We are not yet to a point where we should feel confident in providing final recommendations that may address how this pandemic affected underserved or underrepresented populations in the Commonwealth. The MMA would recommend a long-term independent agency be set up to study and provide an after-action report. This agency should engage relevant stakeholders, including municipalities, in their review of the public health impacts of the pandemic as they relate to equity so we can be better prepared for future pandemics.
The MMA looks forward to working closely with the Task Force in the further review and development of any final recommendations. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Brittney Franklin at (617) 426-7272 at any time.
Thank you very much.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO