Local Health Authorities

Texas municipal court personnel have spent nearly a year in some form of modified operations since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold around the world. Courts planning to commence in-person proceedings must first submit an operating plan (and a plan for recertification) to the Regional Presiding Judge. Presiding judges of a municipal court must, as part of the operating plan creation, consult with the local public health authority.

Interacting with the local health authority is a new endeavor for many municipal courts, and many court personnel have wondered about who their local health authority is and what they do.

Here are three things you should know about local health authorities:

What (or Who) are Health Authorities in Texas?

The Health and Safety Code defines a health authority as a physician appointed under the provisions of Chapter 121, to administer state and local laws relating to public health within an appointing body’s jurisdiction. A health authority must be a competent physician with a reputable professional standing who is legally qualified to practice medicine in Texas and must be a resident.

Appointment of Health Authorities in Texas

Health Authorities are appointed for a two-year term of office and are considered an officer of the state when performing duties to implement and enforce laws that protect the public’s health. Health authorities can be appointed by commissioners courts, governing bodies of municipalities, local health department directors who are not physicians, or public health district directors who are not physicians. A newly appointed health authority must immediately file copies of three forms with the Regional Medical Director of their DSHS Health Service Region: Statement of Appointed/Elected Officer (often called the anti-bribery oath); Oath of Office; and Certificate of Appointment.

How Do I Find Who My Local Health Authority Is?

Hopefully, this can be answered quickly by checking with your city manager, city secretary, or city council. If you have a local health department, it should have the information, as well. Finally, you can always check with your DSHS Health Service Region Office, where appointment forms should be on file.

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