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The Spokane Board of Health is going to look different in the new year, and Thursday is the deadline to apply for a seat

Dec. 8, 2021 Updated Thu., Dec. 9, 2021 at 2:30 p.m.

Spokane Regional Health District Building.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane Regional Health District Building. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Arielle Dreher and Colin Tiernan The Spokesman-Review

If you want to be on the local board of health now that community members are a required part of its makeup, Thursday is the last day to apply for a seat.

It’s the deadline for community members who want to apply to serve on the Spokane Regional Health District Board of Health for two-year terms.

The Spokane County Commissioners have decided to change the Board of Health composition ahead of the deadline for new legislation that mandates community representation equal to the number of elected officials on the board.

Last week, the Spokane Board of Health voted to keep Commissioner Mary Kuney in her role as interim president of the board while it forms the rest of the board, ideally before Jan. 1.

Current board members who serve as community representatives, Jason Kinley and Andrea Frostad, have been invited to reapply.

State law requires at least three community members from different backgrounds sit on the Board of Health come July 2022.

The three seats are:

  • Public health or medical provider representative: This person must be employed or practicing public health or medicine and could be an epidemiologist, community health worker, hospital employee, a current or retired in good standing physician, nurse, dentist, naturopath or pharmacist.
  • Consumer of public health: This person must have faced significant health inequities and used programs like the supplemental nutrition assistance program and funds for women, infant and children (SNAP, WIC), home visits or treatment services. This person cannot be an elected official or have any fiduciary obligations to a health agency or facility.
  • Community-based organization representative: a person who works for community-based organizations, nonprofits, active or reserve armed service members, business community or organizations regulated by environmental public health.

As of Tuesday, 13 people had applied since commissioners announced they were looking for community members in mid-November.

The county commissioners want the new board in place by Dec. 31. They will be conducting interviews on Tuesday. The deadline to apply is Thursday evening, Kuney said at a meeting earlier this week. There is an application to download on the county’s website.

Millwood Mayor Kevin Freeman is the only current board member, besides the commissioners, who is slated to serve on the new board in 2022. Last month, the Spokane County commissioners voted to eliminate city representation for Spokane and Spokane Valley from the board.

Freeman said he was kept on the board into the new year, not because small city representation would be preserved, but because he is more of a placeholder position for an elected official on the board.

Freeman, vice chair of the Spokane Board of Health, led the budget-writing process this year, which he feels was another reason he was asked to stay on the board. If a city official had been in his role, they likely would have stayed on, he said.

When the number of county commissioners expands to five in 2023, the makeup of the board will likely change again. Freeman said he will likely just be a one-year placeholder until then.

The American Indian Health Commission will need to appoint a designated board member to the Spokane Board of Health by mid-2022. With Freeman on the board, there will be a balanced number of elected officials and community members on the board in the new year.

Commissioners said they wanted a new board in place in time to begin work early on the budget for 2023

.

House Bill 1152, which led the county commissioners to restructure their board, directs the Washington State Board of Health to adopt rules regarding the selection and appointment process for nonelected members of a health board.

This process is ongoing, and those rules will not be effective until July 1, 2022.

The board will be downsized in the new year from 12 to eight, much to the chagrin of Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, who authored the legislation following the firing of Dr. Bob Lutz as Spokane County health officer. Riccelli and others criticized Lutz’s dismissal as a political move.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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