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STATEHOUSE — Indiana’s life expectancy is falling, says state health commissioner Dr. Kris Box.

“It has been decreasing since 2010 and it’s nearly two years below the national average, ranking us 40th in the nation,” Dr. Box said to the State Senate Health committee on Wednesday. “This decline is in our working age Hoosiers, ages 25 to 64.”

A bill being discussed in that committee would provide additional state funding to county health departments that opt into the program. Among other things, the bill is also intended to stomp out political influence within health departments.

Some skeptics of the bill testified to the committee as well. One of those skeptics is Amy Drake, who is a St. Joseph County commissioner. She fears that the bill will allow the state to exercise more control of local health departments.

“In the wake of COVID, we really fear more centralization,” Drake said. “We didn’t trust a lot of the decisions the state made. We still don’t and we don’t want mandates to become part of the opt-in.”

“If you can just get away from the feelings, get away from the history and just read the bill, there is nothing in there that says that,” said the bill’s author State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso). “It’s all about the concerns the public has had in the past. I can understand that, but we need to et beyond it.”

Charbonneau said that if a county does not want to be a part of the funding program they don’t have to be.

The Senate Health Committee approved the measure unanimously but at least three members said they want to see language clarifying what state leaders can and cannot do if counties decide to opt into the additional funding.