Bill Would Bar Public Health Department Accreditation

Feb 15, 2013

A Kansas Senate committee will hear testimony Monday on a bill that would prohibit public health agencies from pursuing accreditation.

The bill was introduced by Wichita Sen. Michael O’Donnell. The freshman Republican has not yet explained the rationale for the bill.

Michelle Ponce, who heads the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments, says accreditation is a voluntary process to implement and monitor quality improvement.

“We’re really baffled by this bill, to be quite honest," she says.

"We hadn’t heard any concerns voiced from legislators about public health accreditation. In fact, most of the conversations that we’ve had really have been at that local level, between our health department directors and the county commissioners."

Ponce says they are not really sure what Sen. O'Donnell's concerns with public health accreditation are.

The language of the bill itself refers to public health as the sole responsibility of state and local government, and alludes to accreditation as violating that control.

But, says Ponce, local health departments are not a state function.

“Our public health departments are agencies of county government, and by statute they’re governed by the board of county commissioners," she says. "So ultimately we feel very strongly that the decision of whether to seek accreditation or not should be made at that level."

The Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare will hear testimony on the bill at 1:30 pm Monday.