Council agrees to have formal discussion into possibly forming local health department

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

Santa Clarita City Council members agreed Tuesday to formally schedule a discussion regarding the possible formation of a city-run health department. 

After a brief conversation during their regular meeting, council members decided to agendize the matter to have a conversation at their upcoming meeting Sept. 22 or in early October, when they’ll look into whether they would direct city staff to research its plausibility. 

Mayor Cameron Smyth initiated the conversation before his fellow council members after sharing last week a city need to “create greater autonomy for the future.” 

“As you know, last week I made mention of bringing this forward to the council and agendizing a discussion of asking the city staff and city manager to look at research of what creating our own city’s health department would look like,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not naive to the potential costs and the expanded bureaucracy, but I think it’s time for us to at least look at what Pasadena has, or other cities.” 

Cost is what council members Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste cautioned last week ahead of the introduction, but they agreed Tuesday that a formal discussion would be the correct direction. 

“There’s a lot of unintended consequences here; domestic abuse has gone sky-high,” said Weste, supporting the discussion. “It’s going to be critical now for children that normally would have problems are now locked into (their) homes. They can’t go out and can’t go to school. This is terrifying for them and we’re having depression and all kinds of issues health-wise.” 

Should the creation of a public health department ensue, Santa Clarita would join four other cities across California — Berkeley, Long Beach, Pasadena and Vernon — with their own departments. 

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