FARMINGTON — The Davis County Board of Health plans to add its voice to the growing ranks of dissenting groups that oppose the implementation of voluntary national accreditation standards for local health departments.

Recently, the health board voted to oppose accreditation, which is supported by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Association of Local Boards of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lewis Garrett, director of the Davis County Health Department, said he's not opposed to having standards for health departments but such standards need to be tailored to specific areas.

Garrett said a one-size-fits-all approach likely wouldn't be appropriate for the 12 local health departments in Utah, which vary widely in size and jurisdiction.

Besides, Garrett said, Utah's local health departments already have good standards to which they are held.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation began awarding grants to states to begin implementing accreditation programs in 2005, but Garrett told the Davis health board that underwriting from the foundation will likely go away, causing the cost of accreditation to shift to organizations being accredited.

"The process is quite expensive," Garrett said.

Hospitals seeking accreditation often pay $10,000 or more to ensure they're reaching certain standards, Garrett said.

There's also the cost of the pre-investigation team, flying team members in, putting them up and feeding them, followed by the cost of flying in the accreditation team with its accompanying expense.

"We don't like to see services take a back burner to getting a seal of approval," Garrett said.

In Utah, most funding for local health comes from residents in the service area through property taxes. Federal grants are a significant source of revenue as well, but they are often designated for specific services.

The Utah Association of Local Health Officers has also voted to oppose accreditation, as have various other health boards in Utah.

The Bear River Board of Health recently approved a letter urging other health boards in the state to fight accreditation.

"It has been our experience that accreditation has not served a useful purpose in other public agencies and instead would become another bureaucratic layer, which is ineffective in increasing the quality of the public health delivery system," the letter states.

The Bear River board is concerned that the accreditation will become self-perpetuating, suppress local initiatives and require too many resources.


E-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com