Every county in Northwest Indiana, as well as most counties in the state, has agreed to accept a substantial amount of state support to expand their public health programs and services. This is made possible by Senate Enrolled Act 4 (2023), sponsored by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, which established Health First Indiana. The purpose of this initiative is to strengthen local public health infrastructure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 25,000 Hoosiers since 2020. Republican-controlled General Assembly and Gov. Eric Holcomb have provided $75 million for local public health in 2024 and an additional $150 million in 2025 through House Enrolled Act 1001 (2023).
In comparison, previous GOP state budgets allocated only $6.9 million for local public health across the state. In exchange for the increased funds, counties must use the money exclusively for essential public health services such as disease prevention, tobacco cessation, maternal and child health, chronic illness reduction, sexually transmitted infection testing, childhood lead screening, health education, and access to vaccinations. Moreover, county health departments are required to track how each dollar is spent, report the results regularly to the state, local elected officials, and the general public, and maintain local government funding for public health services at least at the same level as before the additional state funding.
According to records, several counties in Northwest Indiana have chosen to participate in Health First Indiana. Lake County will receive approximately $6 million in 2024 and around $12 million in 2025. Porter County is in line to receive about $1.8 million and $4 million in those respective years. LaPorte County will be awarded $1.4 million and $3 million, Newton County will receive up to $156,000 and $400,000, and Jasper County will get $333,000 and $750,000. These figures represent a significant increase compared to this year’s state-provided local public health funding.
Governor Holcomb expressed satisfaction that 86 counties have chosen to participate in Health First Indiana. He is optimistic that the additional support for public health, community partnerships, and innovative health programs will reverse the negative health indicators affecting Hoosiers. The records also indicate that six counties have opted out of the program, namely Crawford, Fountain, Harrison, Johnson, Wells, and Whitley.
In addition to the public health funding, it is worth noting the Northwest Indiana legislative delegation for 2023. The delegation includes State Representatives Carolyn Jackson, Earl Harris Jr., Ragen Hatcher, Ed Soliday, Pat Boy, Chuck Moseley, Mike Aylesworth, Mike Andrade, Vernon Smith, Hal Slager, Kendell Culp, Julie Olthoff, Jim Pressel, and State Senators Dan Dernulc, Lonnie Randolph, Eddie Melton, Rodney Pol Jr., Ed Charbonneau, Rick Niemeyer, and Mike Bohacek.