No compelling case for city public health department, report finds

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

A consulting firm hired by the city to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a city public health department in Santa Clarita did “not find a compelling case to change the basic structure of public health regulation” in Santa Clarita, according to a 17-page report published Friday as part of the Santa Clarita City Council’s Tuesday meeting agenda. 

Management Partners, the city’s consultant, cited cost, complexities and doubt about the local control the city would gain by establishing its own public health agency. 

“(The) California Department of Public Health has statewide authority during times of emergency, such as the most recent COVID-19 Pandemic,” the report found. “Meaning, during these times, local or county regulations are superseded by the State.” 

The city has contracted with Los Angeles County Public Health since the city’s incorporation. The county agency has a budget of $1.2 billion with nearly half coming from the state and federal governments and other governmental agencies, according to the report. 

The report’s analysis of California’s three only city-operated public health departments in Long Beach, Pasadena and Berkeley estimated that a Santa Clarita public health department would have ongoing operating costs between $23.8 and $29.8 million not including startup costs. 

The report estimated first year costs would exceed $100 million. The city’s current fiscal year budget anticipated appropriations of just under $220 million. 

Council members have been presented with four options, including establishing a city public health department, partnering with neighboring cities to create a regional public health agency, pursuing a hybrid model between the city and county and remaining with county and lobbying for greater local input.   

The City Council, which will discuss the report’s findings Tuesday, requested in September last year that the city explores creating a city public health department after county restrictions caused disruptions to the economy. 

The public can watch the discussion at the city’s website. 

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