National Public Health Week: MACo Initiative to Protect Health Officers Receives Final Hearing

Today, the Maryland House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee heard Senate Bill 956 – Criminal Law – Threats to Public Officials, a MACo initiative protecting our county health officers from threats and harassment while on the job.

SB 956 was heard just as the American Public Health Association begins its celebration of National Public Health Week recognizing the work of public health officials. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Ron Watson (Prince George’s County), provided testimony in support during the Senate Judicial Proceedings’ hearing on March 16th, whereas Brandon Holmes, a legislative aide to Senator Watson, provided testimony during today’s proceedings. He noted:

Since the coronavirus pandemic began two years ago, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) reports more than 300 public health department leaders have left their posts. In Maryland, seven county health officers have departed. At every level of government, threats have been cited as a reason for leaving.

MACo heard similar claims of threats and harassment from members of its affiliate, the Maryland Association of County Health Officers (MACHO). Frequently, county health officers have experienced threats and harassment at their homes, forcing a difficult choice between personal and familial safety and returning to work. Attrition among our local health officers means local health departments must operate without direction, impacting critical services for Marylanders including everything from restaurant inspections to the tracking of acute communicable diseases. Mr. Holmes’s testimony proved timely as both the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in celebration of National Public Health Week, officially recognized the importance of public health and workers in this field:

MACo continues to monitor the progress of Senate Bill 956, which pending a favorable vote in the House Judiciary Committee will be set for passage.

More on MACo’s Advocacy:

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2022 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.
Learn more about MACo’s 2022 Legislative Initiatives.
Read more General Assembly News on MACo’s Conduit Street blog.