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Alexandria is pushing for an independent health department

Alexandria Health Department at 4480 King Street

Alexandria is gunning for authority to run its own health department.

Every year, Alexandria sends representatives to Richmond to plead its case to the General Assembly. With the city under the yoke of the Dillon Rule — which says that local government can only exercise powers expressly granted by the state — often times those legislative priorities focus on areas where the city wants a little more wiggle room.

This year, as part of the ongoing Covid recovery efforts, the city is hoping for more authority to establish its own health department. There is an Alexandria Health Department, but it’s one of 33 health districts that are part of the state’s health department. Health department leadership is chosen by the state and answers to state leadership. Neighboring Fairfax and Arlington both have independent health departments.

“[Alexandria supports] legislation to provide the City of Alexandria with the authority to establish a locally administered health department, under contract with the Virginia Department of Health,” the draft legislative package says, “and ensure the City’s investment in its public health system is focused on and responsive to the needs of all Alexandrians.”

Other recovery priorities include increasing investment in workforce development initiatives to help workers acquire skills to fill childcare and healthcare jobs — both critically in need in Alexandria. The legislative package cites the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, Virginia Jobs Investment Program and the G3 community college grant program as state-funded programs that benefit Alexandria’s workforce training.

Lastly, in pandemic recovery, the legislative package says investment is needed in programs to help recover from Covid-related learning loss.

“[Alexandria supports investing] in programs to mitigate and recover from COVID-19 related learning loss among Virginia students,” the legislative package says, “especially among students with higher level, more specialized needs, including special education students, English language learners, and students living in economically disadvantaged households.”

The legislative package is scheduled for review at the City Council meeting on Saturday, Dec. 17.

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