West Covina moves quickly to create its own Public Health Department: other cities to follow

Back in February 2021, the City Council of West Covina took the first step in a move to create its own Public Health department by a vote of 4-1 to terminate Health Officer Services provided by the County of Los Angeles Department Public Health, according to the February 23rd City Council’s Special Meeting agenda.[1]  Citizens and businesses of the community became frustrated and felt that the county’s public health department’s “one-size-fits all” approach were neither appropriate nor aligned with West Covina’s COVID-19 data.  In an article by the Los Angeles Time, the City of West Covina alleged, “the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has failed its residents and harmed its businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city’s 4-1 vote is the first of many steps in this process.  The plan is to fully terminate county’s services by July 1, 2021.  According to an article in the Pasadena Star-News, the City Council also has until July 1st to “present its plan to establish and maintain a health department to the state for approval” (Haddock, 2021).   The Pasadena-Star News also explains that back in April the City Council had approved a pay scale for the health director and listed the function and services the public health department will provide (Haddock, 2021).

During the rise in cases and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, frightened people would tune in to either  watch or listen to the press conferences by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer; meanwhile, two cities, Long Beach and Pasadena, “received special mentions”, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Those are the only cities to have their own public health department and were able to create their own guidelines and mandates.  As residents noticed L.A. County would impose mandates stricter than California’s executive orders, it raised the question as to why their city did not have a public health department as well, especially since they felt the response to the pandemic should be localized. [2]  Other cities considering creating their own Public Health department include: Beverly Hills, Azusa, Claremont, Diamond Bar, Lancaster, Palmdale, San Dimas, Santa Clarita, Walnut and Whittier. [3]

While many cities within Los Angeles County have cut public health funding from their budget to save money.  This forced Los Angele County’s Department of Public Health to assume those responsibilities and oversite of their public health functions.  This pandemic revealed the need for cities to invest more in public health to provide a more tailored approach to the needs of their local community and avoid the “one-size-fits-all” approach imposed by Los Angeles County officials.

Works Cited

Haddock, T. (2021, May 21). City Council votes for its own health department: July 1 deadline looms to present plan for state OK. Pasadena Star-News, p. A1.

[1] 295_AGENDApacket__02-23-21_0610_295.pdf (destinyhosted.com)

[2] Heightened focus on health departments has some LA County cities wanting to create their own – Daily News

[3] Heightened focus on health departments has some LA County cities wanting to create their own – Daily News

Author: Edmund J. Martinez, MBA, MPH, PMP