Tuesday, the Madera County Board of Supervisors approved a letter to the California Legislature urging for approval of the Public Health Equity and Readiness Opportunity (HERO) Initiative.
The HERO Initiative would seek to bolster public health recruitment and retention with the workforce pipeline.
Along with the request to approve the initiative, the letter also urges the legislature to approve Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to invest $300 million in public health infrastructure.
“Madera County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) serves as the first line of defense against all public health threats for Madera County. We depend on a highly skilled and specialized workforce that is often stretched far too thin. Even before the pandemic, MCDPH faced significant workforce challenges,” the letter reads.
“The lengthy civil service recruitment process, highly competitive salaries among comparable employers, and limited capacity of training programs in the Central Valley make clinical and professional positions difficult to fill and retain. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges as public health workers have grappled with burnout and harassment and are now being recruited by other sectors.”
Newsom’s proposal for a $300 million investment would be a continuation of the agreement made with the legislature last year to provide $100 million to the state and $200 million to local health departments.
Under the HERO Initiative, the state would invest close to $200 million in public health recruitment and workforce training.
Public health recruitment and retention stipends would be the most expensive of the investments, coming in at $120 million over a three-year period.
It would provide stipends for positions that local health departments deem hard to recruit and retain, such as epidemiologists, public health laboratory directors, health officers and infectious disease specialists.
There would also be $10 million set aside for rural counties in the Central Valley.
Another investment through the HERO Initiative includes $12.8 million to establish the Public Health Workforce Career Ladder Education and Development Program to provide education and training for existing employees within the public health workforce.
The California Public Health Pathways Training Corp would see a $24 million investment to expand the already existing program that provides a workforce pathway for early-career public health professionals from diverse backgrounds and disproportionately affected communities to conduct communicable disease prevention and control, community engagement and emergency response activities at local health department sites.