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County commissioner concerned about changes in how health boards are appointed

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:43 PM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - An appointed member of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Board sees its role as approving regulations based on science.

“We sit there as a health department and listen to the experts,” says Wood County Commission President Blair Couch. “Typically, regulations flow from the CDC to the state health department down to us to follow through on.”

But a local state senator who supports changes in the way those boards operate says there’s been criticism from residents who say there’s not enough public input on what regulations health boards are approving.

“There’s been criticism that unelected officials are making the rules,” says Republican Sen. Donna Boley of Pleasants County. “This simply lets the county commission approve the rules the health department makes.”

Senate Bill 12 allows local elected officials to sign off on regulations local health boards approve. Couch says these days, health boards are more concerned with COVID-19 and, like the health department, administering vaccines than making policy. He says, while most West Virginia counties have local boards, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is a regional health organization.

“Our health department is made up of 6 counties and one municipality. So every rule or regulation we would make would have to be approved by 6 county commissions and a city council. That will make enforcement of any rule or regulation difficult.”

Couch also believes indoor smoking bans approved by local health boards-as the MOVHD did in the mid-2000′s, have been met with opposition from businesses wanting to allow smoking in their establishments.

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