Black and white exterior of Legislative chambers of Washington State with inscription and pillars.

Tracking Public Health Authority Changes from 2021 & 2022 Legislative Sessions

By Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research

COVID-19 called for quick, decisive action by public health authorities to support communities and prevent infections. Since the pandemic began, legislators around the country have been acting to change the way authorities may respond to future public health emergencies — expanding or limiting officials’ authority to act in an emergency, changing who has authority to act, and the actions they may have the authority to take.

New research by the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, in collaboration with the Association for State and Territorial Health Officials and the Network for Public Health Law, capture details of legislation that addresses emergency health authority introduced between January 1, 2021, and May 20, 2022, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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empty desk.

Author Q&A: Hilary Wething on US Paid Sick Leave Policy Impacts

By Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research

Hilary Wething, PhD, is an assistant professor of public policy and a Jackman-McCourtney Early Career Professor at Penn State University. Her research examines the relationship between economic volatility and labor market policy, household decision-making, and social safety-net programs.

Dr. Wething’s research published in the Journal of Public Health Policy investigates the impact of the generosity, inclusion, and autonomy of state paid sick leave laws on influenza-like-illness (ILI) rates and its components using data from the Centers for Disease Control and CPHLR’s data on state-level paid sick leave statues.

We asked Dr. Wething a few questions about this work.

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Bill of Health - American currency (50, 100, 20) on a wooden table next to pills and spilling bottle of pharmaceuticals

Many Hospitals Receiving Discounted Drugs May Not Offer Patients Pharmaceutical Assistance

By Amy Cook, JD, Jonathan Larsen, JD, MPP, and Sabrina Ruchelli, JD

Section 340B of the Public Health Service Act requires that pharmaceutical manufacturers give discounts on specified outpatient drugs to certain covered entities who typically serve low-income or otherwise underserved patients, including hospitals and clinics.

However, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), there are no measures built into the program to assure that 340B program discounts are being used to support care for low-income populations, let alone to improve access to medicines discounted through the program.

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Serving trays with delicious food on table. Concept of school lunch.

New Data Reveal Sparse Protections for Students Who Cannot Pay for Meals at School

By Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research

As a federal program to serve meals to all U.S. public school students during the COVID-19 pandemic ends on June 30, the consequences of unpaid school meal debt will resurface for the millions of students nationwide facing food insecurity.

New data released on LawAtlas.org capture details of state unpaid school meal policies and reveals sparse and variable protections for students who cannot pay for meals at school.

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Police car.

New Data Highlights Complexity of Good Samaritan Overdose Law Landscape

By David Momjian

Since 1999, over 800,000 people have died from a drug overdose in the United States, with more than half of those deaths (500,000) resulting from opioid overdose.

Additionally, all 50 states have experienced a spike in overdose deaths in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 12-month period ending in May 2020, 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States; the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.

To combat the rising death toll from drug overdoses, 47 state legislatures and the District of Columbia have passed Good Samaritan laws (GSLs) to protect bystanders from criminal prosecution if they call for medical assistance during a drug overdose. Bystanders to a drug overdose are often worried that by calling for help, they could be arrested for drug possession or evicted by the police, who often arrive first at the scene of a 911 call, even if it is a medical emergency.

A new dataset built by the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and funded by Vital Strategies, covers the evolution of GSLs in the United States from January 1, 2007, to June 1, 2021.

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Houses.

New Data on Eviction Laws Opens Doors for Evaluation

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an eviction crisis in the United States. Estimates suggest landlords across the country file 3.7 million eviction cases each year — leaving considerable impacts on health and well-being in their wake. 

The eviction process is regulated by a patchwork of state/territory and local laws and court rules that govern the judicial process, but little is known about the ways in which these laws affect the likelihood of evictions.  

new database, launched by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in partnership with the Center for Public Health Law Research, captures the entire eviction legal process, from pre-filing to post-judgment, in different communities around the country.  

The data provide early insights, including: 

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America divided concept, american flag on cracked background.

COVID-19 Unmasks Issues Around Public Health Preemption

By Jessica Amoroso and Sarah Winston

States across the U.S. are using preemption to stifle local authority aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, resulting in confusion and a fragmented response.

Historically, local governments have played an important role in providing direct and indirect services to their communities, as they have a heightened awareness of their needs compared to state governments. This has proven especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, as city and municipal initiatives often have been the initial access point for virus-related services.

But state preemption is increasingly being used as a legal tool to prevent cities and municipalities from legislating on issues of importance to public health.

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Houses.

Author Q&A: State Preemption of Inclusionary Zoning Policies and Health Outcomes

Courtnee E. Melton-Fant, PhD

Historically, federal and state governments have been primarily responsible for increasing and maintaining the supply of affordable housing. But as budgets decrease, the burden has fallen more and more to local governments. Inclusionary zoning policies, which seek to reverse the negative, exclusionary effects of conventional zoning, are one tool local governments can use to increase affordable housing stock.

Courtnee Melton-Fant, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Memphis School of Public Health, recently published research in Housing Policy Debate that explores the growing trend of preemption as it relates to these inclusionary zoning policies.

Dr. Melton-Fant’s research used policy surveillance data produced by the Center for Public Health Law Research with the National League of Cities to examine the relationship between state preemption of inclusionary zoning policies and health outcomes among different demographic groups — particularly among people of color.

We asked Dr. Melton-Fant a few questions about her work.

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stethoscope on computer keyboard

How Traditional Health Records Bolster Structural Racism

By Adrian Gropper, MD

As the U.S. reckons with centuries of structural racism, an important step toward making health care more equitable will require transferring control of health records to patients and patient groups.

The Black Lives Matter movement calls upon us to review racism in all aspects of social policy, from law enforcement to health. Statistics show that Black Americans are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19. The reasons for these disparities are not entirely clear. Every obstacle to data collection makes it that much harder to find a rational solution, thereby increasing the death toll.

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Preemption, Paid Leave, and the Health of America

As the United States continues its response to a seemingly inevitable coronavirus epidemic, experts in law and public health are stressing the importance of supportive social safety nets to ensure an equitable and fair response to the virus’s spread.

If you are one of the nearly two million Americans who works for minimum wage, for much of the service industry, or in the contingent labor force, a situation that forces you to stay home from work – because of illness, or government- or self-imposed quarantine or social distancing measures – could create dire financial circumstances and inhibit measures to mitigate the impact of an infectious disease like COVID-19.

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