Maplewood is making some updates to its public health operations. The TC decided on Tuesday to change the Board of Health, which is currently under the Community Resources Department, to its own Department of Health. During its discussion period, the TC also voted to combine the Maplewood Public Health Division with South Orange’s Health Department for a limited time, to assist with vaccine distribution. Both decisions come as a result of the pandemic.
On the creation of the Department of Health, Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis told The Village Green that “the pandemic has taught us many lessons.” According to Dafis, “one of those was that health and wellness intersect [with] all departments and services and that health and wellness should be at the core of all of our decisions, policies, laws, regulations, and township services.”
Dafis added that “Certainly, our new Public Health Officer Davenport understands this more than anyone and has already taken on leading us in that direction.” The ordinance to create the Department of Health also “codifies the authority of the health officer and the health department on behalf of the board of health to enforce health and sanitary regulations as per state law.”
The mutual aid agreement with South Orange’s Health Department, which the South Orange Board of Trustees intends to pass at its January 25 meeting, is another measure taken in response to COVID-19. Township Attorney Roger Desiderio explained that it will allow “the respective health officers, the Township Health Officer and the Village Health Officer…to share health resources with the other, for the betterment of the Maplewood-South Orange community.”
The agreement is strictly for the purposes of COVID response and vaccine distribution, and will have a set end date. If the sharing should become disproportionate, the two towns will reconcile it. “The intent is only if there are excess services that we can provide or South Orange can provide, and there is a need for the other community, then the two health departments will in fact work together in that regard,” said Desiderio. He also mentioned that Township Health Officer Candice Davenport has supported and was recommending the measure.
Dafis explained that the move “would engage us in sharing resources and covering each other in the remaining months of the pandemic (which has now turned into the vaccination effort). We’re one community and we have partnered with South Orange throughout the pandemic. We want to ensure continuity of operations and consistency in providing care to our residents during a global pandemic.”
Both measures passed unanimously. The TC will adopt the mutual aid agreement with South Orange as a resolution on the consent agenda at its next meeting.