Tuesday was the first regional health department meeting as the counties also look at other efforts to take local control.By Nicole Ford

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) – Local control is a point of contention throughout the pandemic as most counties in our area answer to the state health department.

“We had huge issues trying to find out where COVID cases were even at in our county,” said Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan.

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The frustrations for local county commissioners date back to spring 2020 and continue until this year.

“The vaccination process has been very frustrating for all of our constituents. It’s been frustrating for every county, it’s been frustrating for every entity hoping to receive vaccine,” Irey Vaughan said.

On Tuesday, for the first time, leaders from Washington, Greene, Fayette, Westmoreland, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties met virtually to discuss a change. The goal is to create a regional health department to have more control locally.

“This would be a new approach. We don’t know if the state will fund any aspect so we have a little bit of research to do,” Irey Vaughan said.

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With that information in hand, the counties will decide the next step. It could mean moving forward with its own department or lobbying the state to make changes for the future.

“Taking a look at this overall, there is an interest for something better, right? We aren’t sure what direction that takes us,” said Butler County Commissioner Kevin Boozel.

Boozel said this meeting is a good first step even if the end result is getting a better line of communication with the state.

“Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to have somebody from the DOH as a liaison that could be part of the conversation rather than me going to the state to get the information from someone and someone getting something else from another secretary or something,” Boozel said.

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If the group decides to go the regional health department route, it could be more than two years before the public would see it on the ground.