By Edwin Folven, 2/21/2013
Organization is pushing for 2014 ballot measure
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) launched a petition drive Monday calling for a ballot measure in the June 2014 statewide election that would require the city of Los Angeles to establish a public health department.
AHF president Michael Weinstein said the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS), with which the city of Los Angeles currently contracts, is mired in bureaucracy and no longer represents the best interests of residents. He cited a lack of support in establishing a countywide system to enforce the requirement that condoms be used in adult films — a measure that was approved by voters last November — and said a city of Los Angeles health department would be able to provide healthcare services more directly. Currently only three cities in L.A. County — Long Beach, Pasadena and Vernon — operate their own health departments. The other 85 cities within the county contract with DHS.
“A lack of professional leadership and accountability in the Los Angeles County Public Health Department has led to rampant cronyism and a repeated refusal to adhere to standing state and federal laws,” Weinstein said. “As members of the AHF team, we fight everyday to provide treatment, prevention and advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Now, we must unite to ensure the foundation upon which our and other heath providers’ work is done — the government-supported public health system in our founding region — is solid and free of corruption.”
With a population of approximately 3.8 million, the city of Los Angeles should have its own health department, Weinstein said. He acknowledged that it might be difficult for the city to fund the creation of a health department in a period of budget struggles, but it would benefit the city in the long term. He added that it could be paid for using fees and grants currently received by the county, although he did not have a specific estimate for the cost.
“We haven’t had a large-scale killer epidemic, and we have become somewhat complacent,” Weinstein added. “We feel the way the county operates puts the people of the city of Los Angeles at risk.”
Weinstein also claimed the DHS awards contracts to social service providers without competitive bidding, which limits opportunities for some agencies to expand. The county is also taking a long time to determine how to enforce Measure B — the condoms in adult films initiative — which is disappointing, Weinstein said.
“I think in terms of enforcing those laws, [having a city health department] couldn’t be any worse. What’s happened on that issue is indicative of the problem,” he said. “There are several more important things at stake here than that industry. We are talking about four million people.”
Joel Bellman, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, said the supervisor declined to comment on the issue. DHS spokesman Allen Soloman also declined to comment, but forwarded a statement issued by DHS.
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health strongly rejects the false accusations and mischaracterizations made by AIDS Healthcare Foundation in its recent public statements and legal petitions. The department strongly supports the work of its staff, the quality of its services and outreach provided to the community to enforce, promote and protect the public’s health. [DHS] continues every day to protect health, prevent disease, and promote the health and well being for everyone in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health provides public health services and enforces all state and local public health laws within the eighty-five of the eighty-eight cities in Los Angeles County it contracts with, including to the city of Los Angeles. The public health services provided to residents of these cities include restaurant inspection, communicable disease control, maternal and child health services, immunizations, chronic disease prevention, emergency preparedness and disease surveillance. [DHS] does not receive compensation from the 85 municipalities for these contracted services.”
The announcement came three days after AHF joined with State Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Los Angeles) to author statewide legislation that would require condom use in adult films.
That legislation will take several months to work its way through committees, but Weinstein said a broader law would protect more workers in adult films and would address the issue of producers moving outside of L.A. County. No date has been set for enforcement to begin on Measure B.