Independence restores city health department amid COVID-19 pandemic

Stock Independence City Hall 3
Posted at 5:24 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 18:24:41-05

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Two years after eliminating a standalone health department, the city of Independence announced Monday that the Independence Health Department has once again been recognized by the state of Missouri.

During a city restructuring in 2018, Independence eliminated its health department “to eliminate redundant services found in the Jackson County Health Department” in the name of civic efficiency.

“We are constantly looking at options to provide our citizens efficient and effective services,” Mayor Eileen Weir said in a statement announcing the change. “None of us saw a health emergency of this scale on the horizon in 2018, but we have learned that we need more resources in our area to support the citizens we serve. We will work closely with our partners at the State and Jackson County and the City of Independence Advisory Board of Health to resume Health Department functions for the City of Independence.”

The city received word last week from the state all the necessary steps to restart the health department had been approved.

Independence is the fifth largest city in Missouri and second largest in Jackson County behind Kansas City, Missouri, which also has a health department independent from the county.

“The year 2020 has shown all of us the importance of public health and we have been working diligently with our State of Missouri partners to take steps to re-establish the standalone Health Department for the City of Independence,” Weir said

Independence will seek grant funding and “are working with state and federal leaders” to secure additional money for services.

“We have begun the process to reform services needed to provide for the health of our citizens and businesses within the Department,” Heinen said. “We will work closely with the Board of Health and the Incident Command Team to provide further guidance to our citizens throughout this ongoing public health emergency.”

Weir announced that Christina Heinen, who has served as acting health director since the 2018 reorganization, will remain on staff in that role. She’s also spearheaded Independence’s COVID-19 response since March.