Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure Thursday to improve inequities in the state’s health care system.
The Governor approved a bill (HB 183) lawmakers hope will make the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity more effective. That office is responsible for implementing the Closing the Gap grant program, which funds community and neighborhood-based projects to help reach minorities.
The measure would require the office to gather and analyze data to improve health education information coming from the office. It 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 Office of Minority Health and by requiring the state’s office to appoint a designated liaison with the federal Office of Minority Health.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, the St. Petersburg Democrat who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, has said the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the office was not doing enough to reach underserved communities.
Ocoee Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown filed the House version.
Florida’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, signed earlier this month, includes $9.2 million in funding for the Office of Minority Health. Those funds will be used for the Closing the Gap grant program, which are meant to stimulate the development of community and neighborhood-based projects that improve health outcomes among racial and ethnic populations. The funds will also be used to implement programs and practices that increase health equity, including increased access to quality health care services for minorities.
The $9.2 million total is a $4.4 million increase from the current year’s investment. That includes funds for four full time employees and 15 temporary workers.
Lawmakers 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.
The bill will take effect July 1. That coincides with the next fiscal year.