Community Health Advisory Board to resume meetings

A county health official announced the board’s upcoming return in a meeting May 18.

The Island County Community Health Advisory Board will begin meeting again in June after a six-month hiatus.

Public Health Director Keith Higman announced the advisory board’s, or CHAB’s, return in a county Board of Health meeting May 18.

CHAB members unilaterally decided to take a hiatus in January, citing staffing difficulties and the unavailability of some board members as the primary reasons. Not all county officials were happy about the decision.

“I was frustrated, and still am frustrated, that during the pandemic, we were not getting the type of feedback we needed,” Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson said of CHAB’s decision to pause operations with the parallel health threats of COVID-19 and systemic racism still raging.

She added that CHAB made its decision internally without going through proper authorization channels.

“I’m not clear on why they couldn’t meet, and I’m not supportive of the fact that they stopped,” she said.

Theresa Sanders, director of Assessment and Healthy Communities in Public Health, said many CHAB members were “heavily involved in vaccination efforts” on Whidbey Island and did not have the capacity to meet with the initial push ongoing. Now that things have slowed down on the vaccination front, CHAB members have the time and energy to resume board duties.

Despite frustrations, Johnson said she’s happy and excited for the advisory board to return to its important role and expects members will continue the investigation of systemic inequities in the county’s public health system that the Board of Health had tasked them with before they took their pause.

She also said she intends to ask CHAB to perform a review of the county’s pandemic response.

CHAB chair Mary Anderson did not respond to a South Whidbey Record request for comment.