Senate Committee Continues Hearings on Racism as a Public Health Crisis

[June 24, 2020]

The Ohio Senate Health, Human Services & Medicaid Committee met June 24 for several hours, spending a majority of their time taking testimony on SCR 14, which would declare racism a public health crisis in Ohio.

The OOA submitted written testimony in support of the resolution, noting OOA policy encourages osteopathic medical institutions to engage in expert facilitated, evidence-based dialogue in cultural competency and the physician’s role in eliminating racial health care disparities in medical treatment. The letter reads, in part:

Comprehensive wellness—in body, mind, and spirit—can only be fully achieved if personal safety is guaranteed for all people. Entirely too often this safety is not ensured. Discriminatory surveillance and policing are often exacerbated by excessive force. This must stop. Every single person deserves respect, equality, and justice. As a country, we are falling short.

Committee Chair Dave Burke (R-Marysville) said he plans to hold a third hearing before putting the resolution to a committee vote.

Co-Chair Steve Huffman, MD (R-Tipp City), attended the hearing but did not speak or ask questions of the witnesses. Huffman, an emergency medicine physician, was fired by his TeamHealth employer earlier this month after he made inflammatory remarks during the resolution’s first hearing. He apologized soon after that hearing for his comment that implied Black Americans might be contracting COVID-19 at higher rates because of a lack of hygiene and social distancing.

While the Ohio Senate considers SCR 14, the Ohio House of Representatives has not taken up HCR 31, which also declares racism a public health crisis. Both resolutions were introduced amid protests across the state following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody, May 25.

Columbus and Franklin County have already passed their own resolutions declaring racism a public health crisis. Other local government officials in Cleveland, Dayton, Akron, and Summit County are considering similar action.

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