Posted on June 3, 2021

House Passes Bill Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis in Connecticut

Jenna Carlesso, CT Mirror, June 1, 2021

The state House gave final passage Tuesday to a sweeping measure that declares racism a public health crisis in Connecticut and would trigger a deeper exploration of the effects racism has on public health.

The 114-33 vote caps a year of pleas from advocates and activists to adopt the declaration at the state level. Twenty-one Connecticut municipalities have already declared racism a health crisis and are taking steps to fight it.

As early as last summer, advocates had called on Gov. Ned Lamont to issue a declaration, though the governor said any changes he made through executive order would be limited in duration. Proponents have also implored the legislature to address the matter.

“This is an important step to redress the health inequities that are impacting people of color in Connecticut. This is the start of systemic change and not symbolic change,” said Tekisha Dwan Everette, executive director of the nonprofit Health Equity Solutions, which has been pressing for the declaration at the state level and tracking communities that adopt it. {snip}

The bill approved Tuesday requires better data collection on race and ethnicity in health care, mandates that hospitals conduct implicit bias training for employees who provide direct care to pregnant or postpartum women, requires that the public health commissioner study the development of a recruitment and retention program for state health care workers who are people of color and directs the health department to explore whether to create a certification process for doulas.

The measure also establishes a “gun intervention and prevention” advisory committee to consult with community groups, victim service providers, researchers and others and to identify strategies for reducing gun violence. {snip}

The proposal received overwhelming support among Democrats but divided Republicans, with 22 voting for it and 32 voting against it. Only one Democrat, Rep. Kerry Wood of Rocky Hill, voted in opposition.


Under the bill, a commission on racial equity in public health would be formed to examine the impact of racism “on vulnerable populations within diverse groups … including on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, including, but not limited to, Black American descendants of slavery.” {snip}


“Racism is deeply embedded throughout our systems, policies and culture,” said Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford. “While the national and international protests in response to the murders of – just to name two of many – George Floyd and Breonna Taylor initially spurred declarations throughout this country and even here in the state of Connecticut, racism has been a public health crisis since the founding of this country; not just last week, and not just throughout the summer of 2020.”

Several Republicans took issue with the bill. Some disagreed with the underlying premise that racism is a public health crisis. Others opposed small sections of the measure, including one that states the commission on racial equity should issue recommendations in a litany of areas, such as “the impact of zoning restrictions on the creation of housing disparities and these disparities’ impact on public health.”


An amendment seeking to strip language about zoning from the bill failed.

Rep. Kimberly Fiorello, a Greenwich Republican, argued against the proposal’s central premise that racism exists in Connecticut.

“I’m very concerned about this bill that comes out straightforwardly saying that all of us – everyone here, our whole state – has to accept as fact that racism, which is to judge people by their skin color, by their ethnicity, that that is blatantly happening everywhere in public health in this state,” she said. “You’re asking us to accept something that is not true. {snip}”