Bill Seeks To Upgrade N.H.'s Ability To Respond To Public Health Incidents

Feb 5, 2019

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

An effort to fund new public health positions like a state toxicologist and a water quality analyst went before a Senate committee Tuesday.

The idea for the positions comes from the recommendations of two legislative commissions. One was set up to investigate a pediatric cancer cluster on the Seacoast. The other investigated environmentally triggered diseases more broadly.

Democratic Senator Tom Sherman from Rye is the bill's sponsor.

"Both commissions actually came to essentially the same conclusion," said Sherman, "and that was that the resources of the Department of Health and Human Services were not adequate."

Sherman argued the positions are needed to respond to issues like water contamination that could pose serious public health risks.

"Remember we have ongoing exposures and contaminations in several communities right now, and being able to do that robust study - we just don't have the capacity," said Sherman.

But some members of the Senate Finance Committee were skeptical, arguing that the state health department had been able to respond to those incidents with their existing staff.

The five proposed positions would come at a cost of about $1.3 million per year.