Preliminary Guide to Environmental Sources
Current Functions. The Department of Health is responsible for safeguarding the health of New York State's residents. The department has direct authority over all health care institutions in the State covered by the Public Health Law, including hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatment centers, and many home-care providers. To protect the welfare of patients, the State certifies all health care institutions and sets standards governing nearly every aspect of health-facility operation. The department administers programs to monitor the cost of health care services. In carrying out these mandates, the department develops reimbursement methods and sets the rate each health facility will be paid for services to patients covered by Medicaid. It also audits health care facility costs and fees and reviews the financial implications of health-facility construction and expansion. Finally, the department is responsible for statewide planning to assure that State health care resources are efficiently allocated.
The department is responsible for preserving the health of New York State's residents through education, research, and prevention of accidents and diseases. Programs administered by the department range from prenatal care and teen counseling to monitoring the purity of drinking water and assessing the health threat of toxic contaminants. Research is another major function of the department. Clinical, laboratory, and epidemiological studies are focused on such public health problems as birth defects, health staffing needs, and cancer. Other research efforts aim to improve laboratory testing methods.
The department monitors skilled health professionals throughout the State and identifies underserved areas for training support programs. It also oversees the medical conduct of physicians and takes disciplinary action against individuals who violate medical professional law.
The Department of Health is responsible for maintaining records of every birth, death, marriage, and divorce that occurs in the State, and for operation of an adoption registry. The department operates three health institutions: Roswell Park Center Institute in Buffalo, a cancer care and research facility; the Veterans Home in Oxford, a residential long-term-care facility; and Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, a medical rehabilitation and research facility.
Organizational History. In the colonial and early statehood periods, public health issues were handled by localities, if addressed at all. On a few occasions, the legislature was involved in establishing quarantine regulations, particularly for New York City. In 1832, the legislature required all port cities, villages, and villages along the State canal system to appoint health officers and establish health boards. A more general public health law was passed in 1850, requiring all towns, villages, and cities (except the cities of New York and Brooklyn) to set up health boards and designate public health officers. These officials were responsible for regulating local sanitary conditions and providing for the control and prevention of contagious diseases.
A State Board of Health was created in 1880 (Chapter 322) to undertake a variety of health-related activities, including researching diseases and their causes; promoting public health; supervising the registration of vital statistics; and investigating the effect of localities, employment, and other conditions on public health. These responsibilities were strengthened and expanded in 1885 (Chapter 270) as the State board was mandated to report on the incidence of certain infectious or epidemic diseases, to investigate complaints of health threats made by citizens, and to issue orders or regulations on health issues and impose penalties for violations.
In 1901 (Chapter 24), the State Board of Health was replaced by a Department of Health, headed by a commissioner appointed by the governor. In addition to assuming the duties of the State Board of Health, the department was responsible for inspecting public structures and works, hearing complaints regarding health problems stemming from canal water overflow, and exercising the powers of a local board of health in communities where none existed. A Public Health Council, consisting of the commissioner of health and six gubernatorial appointees, was established in 1913 (Chapter 559). It was charged with establishing and maintaining the Sanitary Code, which dealt with any matter affecting the security of life or health, and the preservation and improvement of public health.
The Department of Health was continued following the 1925-26 constitutional reorganization of State government, with the addition of jurisdiction over the Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases (later renamed Roswell Park Memorial Institute), which had been established in 1911 for the study and treatment of cancer and allied diseases. In addition, the department was given responsibility for establishing and maintaining hospitals for specific diseases. As a result, in 1931 the department assumed responsibility from the Department of Social Welfare for the supervision of the Raybrook Hospital for Treatment of Incipient Pulmonary Tuberculosis (established in 1900 and closed in 1970), and the Women's Relief Corps Home, transferred from the Department of Social Services in 1971. The Department of Health also operated the Kidney Disease Institute (established 1965), the Birth Defects Institute (established in 1966), and the Burns Care Institute (established 1970).
In 1960, a State Hospital Review and Planning Council, consisting of 31 members appointed by the governor, was established to cooperate with regional hospital councils in reviewing applications for the construction of new hospital facilities and insuring that hospital services are adequate in all areas of the State. This council was directed to make reports and recommendations to the commissioner of health, the Public Health Council, and the Health Planning Committee. The latter was an interdepartmental body created by Executive Order in 1975 to advise the governor on health policy matters, and was dissolved in 1985.
When the Department of Environmental Conservation was created in 1970, it assumed from the Department of Health the primary responsibility for monitoring and regulating water and air pollution and waste management. The Department of Health remains responsible for assessing the health consequences of such contaminants.
In 1977 the Department of Health was reorganized into two major offices: the Office of Health Systems Management and the Office of Public Health. The Office of Health Systems Management was assigned all regulatory activities including the delivery of health care by institutions and individual providers. The Office of Public Health assumed responsibility for all traditional public health activities including research, disease control, and coordination of local public health activities.
The AIDS Institute was established in 1983 within the department to develop public policy and administer State-funded research, education, and support services related to AIDS. The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law was created in 1984 to evaluate ethical, legal, and public-policy implications stemming from major advances in medical science and technology.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
|General Agency-level Records|
|11460||Sewage treatment works construction planning grants
files, ca. 1942-1963.
15 cu. ft.
|Executive Deputy Commissioner|
|B1214||Subject files, 1974-1987.
69 cu. ft.
|Bureau of Communicable Disease Control|
|13855||Director's subject files, 1908-1982, bulk 1975-1982.
14 cu. ft.
|Bureau of Communications Production
- Photography Unit
|B1629||Photographs of laboratory research activities, 1917-1984.
.1 cu. ft. (14 photographs)
|12205||Survey of discharges by businesses into State waterways,
2 cu. ft.
|BOARD OF HEALTH|
1 cu. ft.