Governor Taps Leader of New State Public Health Department
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Monday announced the appointment of Mark Horton to direct the new Department of Public Health, set to begin operations in July, the Sacramento Bee reports. Horton since 2005 has served as California's public health officer (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 4/3).
The governor last year signed legislation (SB 162) to create the Department of Public Health and reorganize the Department of Health Services (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 4/2). DHS will continue to oversee Medi-Cal and other state insurance programs.
The new public health department will focus on decreasing disease rates and public health emergency preparedness in the event of bioterrorist attacks, flu outbreaks or other emergencies.
Senate confirmation is required for the position. Compensation is $220,000 annually.
The state has been criticized for financing the new department's administrators and support staff by further decreasing the salaries of scientists and medical personnel that have faced budget cuts in recent years.
Lawmakers at budget hearings also have questioned state expenditures related to the department, including $800,000 to renovate an existing suite of offices for Horton and about $150,000 in consulting fees to external firms that are assisting with the transition (Sacramento Bee, 4/3).
Horton on Monday launched a new public health emergency preparedness Web site. Horton said the site "gives Californians the information they need to get ready before the next earthquake, fire, flood or other emergency strikes."
The new site provides information for families, businesses, schools and health care providers (Sacramento Business Journal, 4/2).