A bill to improve inequities in the state’s health care system, which were revealed during the pandemic, is ready for the Senate floor.
The bill’s goal is to improve access and quality of health care for minority populations.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill Monday. That was the bill’s last assigned committee.
The bill would require the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) to gather and analyze data to improve health education information coming from the office. OMHHE would also have to update the information on its website at least once a year.
The bill connects the effort from the local level up to the national level by requiring county health departments to appoint a designated liaison with the state’s OMHHE and by requiring the state’s OMHHE to appoint a designated liaison with the federal OMHHE.
St. Petersburg Sen. Darryl Rouson sponsors the bill. He said the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that OMHEE was not doing enough to reach underserved communities. Rouson wants the office to be more effective.
“This gives more substantive work to the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity,” Rouson said.
The Department of Health, which houses OMHHE, estimates the provisions in the bill would cost the state $5.7 million annually. The changes would create 11 new positions. The office currently has five full-time staff positions.
House companion legislation (HB 183) is ready for the floor.
If signed into law, the bill would take place July 1.
The Legislature established the Office of Minority Health in 2004 within the Department of Health to coordinate services and training to address health needs in minority and underrepresented populations. In 2016, the Legislature renamed it the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.
A major function of the OMHHE is distributing Closing the Gap grants, which are meant to stimulate the development of community and neighborhood-based projects that improve health outcomes among racial and ethnic populations.