Gov. Ralph Northam has submitted an amendment to state legislation that would allow Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park to operate their own public health department.
Northam amended a bill this week intended to allow Loudoun County to form its own health department to also include Prince William County. The Virginia General Assembly will need to vote and adopt the amendment at its April 7 veto session.
Only two jurisdictions in Northern Virginia – Arlington and Fairfax County – currently have their own health departments. The rest rely on state-run health districts for their public health needs.
Prince William Health District has faced some criticism during the pandemic from local elected officials frustrated by the slow pace of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. It was also recently revealed that the Prince William Health District had the most vacant positions amid the pandemic of any in the region.
As a result, Supervisor Margaret Franklin, D-Woodbridge, directed county staff in October 2020 to begin looking into replacing the county’s state-run health district with a locally run health department. The move has more recently received support from at-large Chair Ann Wheeler (D) and Supervisor Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan.
“This is an important step forward in helping Prince William County take greater care of our residents. Creating our own health department will ensure that Prince William County residents have the necessary resources to access health care services,” Franklin said in a Thursday press release.
If the General Assembly approves the amendment, Franklin said County Executive Chris Martino will then come to the board with recommendations on how to move forward, including a timeframe and estimated costs.
“We're not expecting a cheap price tag, which I would expect for something this big,” Franklin said.