When Governor Eric Holcomb announced his plan for the state budget, I could not believe my eyes. The Governor decided to invest in public health, public safety, and public education. This is an historic moment in this state’s history. Since his announcement earlier this year, we have seen some invigorating news and now know the road map for public health investment.
In Porter County, we have the opportunity to increase our County Health Departments budget in 2024 and 2025 by millions of dollars. To be exact, we could increase the 2024 budget by $1.7 million and $2.4 million and in 2025 by $3.4-$4.5 million. There are core services that must be funded with this money and limits exist how much can be spent on certain other core services. Great examples of these core services are communicable disease prevention and control, chronic disease prevention and reduction, maternal and child health, and emergency preparedness.
What’s needed to acquire these funds for Porter County? Our County Health Department needs to involve local community partners to develop a plan and budget for the use of the funds meeting the necessary requirements, the budget needs to pass County Council approval, and most importantly, we need the three County Commissioners to vote to opt-into the funding by September 1, 2023. Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, has already committed to voting for this funding.
So, why am I writing this op-ed? Our public health is in danger in Porter County. The two Republican Porter County Commissioners — Barb Regnitz and Jim Biggs — are ready to sideline this investment because of their ignorant medical views. Despite being hospitalized himself with COVID and working for a company that made money from COVID testing, Biggs doesn’t seem to understand COVID. He has saddled up to Regnitz with her COVID conspiracy beliefs and anti-vaccine views. Biggs also signed onto her appointments to our County Health Board who are unabashed COVID deniers. The newly appointed members’ first goal has been to try to remove COVID vaccinations from the Health Department.
When we invest in public healthcare, communities are healthier, and people live better and longer. We all benefit. Study after study has proven this, but it is most recently relevant with states that expanded Medicaid enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. The key here — this money is from our state’s budget surplus. New taxes are NOT being levied to create this investment. Instead of putting our state’s surplus of tax revenue under a mattress, our Governor has decided to invest in public health.
As a physician who has treated hundreds of COVID patients and unfortunately has had to sign too many death certificates due to COVID, I plead that you contact County Commissioners Jim Biggs and Barbara Regnitz. Ask them to vote with Commissioner Blaney in a bipartisan fashion in favor of our community’s public health. We cannot allow for failed partisan rhetoric to hurt residents of Porter County. The vast majority of Porter County, as well as America, understand science and trust the medical community. Embrace science, welcome public health investment; reject idiocracy and conspiracy theories.
Michael Mirochna is a Family Medicine physician in Porter County and Chair of the Valparaiso Democratic Committee.