Interesting semi-merger of public health departments for a city and county: RIchmond and Henrico County
Virginia is a very interesting state jurisdictionally, because cities are considered separate legal entities from counties, even if a city functions as a county seat. Among other ramifications, that means cross-subsidization of cities by counties isn't possible, often cities have school systems separate from counties, and agencies in other states that are typically county serving, like a public health agency, are duplicated.
Richmond is the state capital of Virginia and legally separate from neighboring counties including Henrico and Chesterfield. This creates problems for all kinds of services, especially transit.
But Richmond and Henrico County are aiming to have their public health agencies work more closely together.
They aren't merging the departments into a unified entity.
Instead, they have each appointed Dr. Danny Avula to be the director, and aim to create a single executive team to coordinate and manage the two different departments ("Richmond and Henrico launch collaboration on public health," Richmond Times-Dispatch). From the article:
Dr. Danny Avula, a pediatrician, has served as the director of the Richmond Health Department since 2016 and has been acting director of the Henrico County Health Department since last year. This collaboration makes his leadership over both departments official.In the early 2000s and again after the recession, there was more of this kind of activity, mergers of agencies across city, township, and/or county borders, to cut costs, such as with library systems or fire and emergency services.
“The reality is that public health issues don’t just stop at jurisdictional lines,” Avula said. “These issues we’re dealing with ... aren’t things that one locality can solve on our own. We really need to develop more thoughtful regional strategies.”
Some states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey (under former Governor Chris Christie) aimed to force mergers of various small districts, especially schools, into larger districts.
A now old report by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County found that Pennsylvania has amongst the most fragmented structure of local government in the nation.
-- LITTLE BOXES” – LIMITED HORIZONS A STUDY OF FRAGMENTED LOCAL GOVERNANCE IN PENNSYLVANIA: ITS SCOPE, CONSEQUENCES, AND REFORMS