Undermining the Board of Health

On May 1st, a Friday, several hundred protestors led by soon-to-be-former State Rep. Matt Shea marched through Spokane to the County Courthouse. They were protesting Governor Inslee’s stay-home order as “unconstitutional.” Their motto: “Freedom is the Cure.” Spacing was shoulder-to-shoulder, masks were rare and MAGA hats aplenty. Speakers were mostly familiar members of the Matt Shea circle: Gabe Blomgren of Covenant Church; Joey Gibson, founder of the Portland-based, far-right group Patriot Prayer; Caleb Collier, former City of Spokane Valley city councilman; and the Rev. Matthew Cummings, a right-wing pastor associated with the Marble Community Fellowship in Stevens County. 

Buried in that May 2 Spokesman article (linked above) was a photo of a speaker who was otherwise unmentioned in that first article: Jason Kinley, a doctor of naturopathy. Dr. Kinley, speaking to the closely packed crowd at the courthouse, “launched into a minuteslong polemic deriding stay-home orders and widely accepted public health guidelines offered at the state, local and national level.” That was according to the Spokesman’s followup article on May 17th. Speaking without a mask to mostly unmasked protesters, Dr. Kinley expressed doubts about the effectiveness of masks in reducing the spread of Covid-19. 

He told the crowd that there exists “no widely accepted treatment” for viruses. That is false. There are thoroughly tested, proven, and useful drug treatments for AIDS, herpes, and influenza, all diseases caused by viruses. 

His statements in support of the use of hydroxychloroquine and high-dose vitamin C for Covid-19 launched him into the realm of quackery. There is scant evidence, much less a series of double-blind, controlled studies, that supports the efficacy of either treatment. Hydroxychloroquine use in Covid-19 patients is associated with an excess risk of death from cardiac arrhythmia while showing no conclusive benefit. Dr. Kinley has not read, does not comprehend, and/or simply dismisses multiple studies presenting clear evidence. 

Dr. Kinley’s counterfactual presentation of medical science was his to make, except for this: Jason Kinley spoke as a “medical professional” from an appointed position on the Spokane Regional Health District’s Board of Health (SRHD BOH).

The Spokane Regional Health District Board of Health is an intergovernmental group encompassing Spokane County (the territory of the “Regional Health District”). The Board of Health holds a monthly meeting that is open to the public. The mission statement of the Board reads, “As a leader and partner in public health, we protect, improve and promote the health and well-being of all people through evidence-based practices.” Jason Kinley rejected evidence-based practice and directly undermined the mission statement of the Board on which he sits. How did Jason Kinley come to sit on the Board of Health? 

The only members of the twelve member Board of Health with any training in a health profession are Dr. Kinley, with a 2016 degree in naturopathy and Andrea Frostad, with a degree in Dental Hygiene. Both are appointed “members-at-large.”

To meet the Board, click here. Of the twelve members, nine are elected officials from Spokane county, city, and village governments. Three members are “members-at-large.” The Board appoints an Administrator, aka the Director of the Health District, and a District Health Officer, who reports to the Administrator. The District Health Officer, currently Dr. Bob Lutz, is the only person associated with Board who, according to the Bylaws, “shall be a qualified physician trained and experienced in Public Health. 

Each of the three members-at-large sits on the Board as an appointee put forward by one of the three County Commissioners, each from that Commissioner’s District within Spokane County. (map of the districts). Jason Kinley was appointed to the Board by Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns. Commissioner Kerns hails from District 1, the northeast part of the County. 

According to Kerns, Jason Kinley was the only applicant for the District 1 member-at-large position that opened up this year with the resignation of Donald Condon, M.D., a local family physician with 40 years experience in medicine. What does having only one applicant say about the advertising of the position and about community awareness and willingness to participate? One must suppose that those paying enough attention to know to apply might have a political agenda. (The Board of Health has been the target of the local and vocal anti-vaccination community for the last several years, a group also with allies in Shea circles.)

While the rest of the citizenry is paying little attention, a small, but growing, group of motivated folk, many of them allied with Matt Shea are organizing, paying attention, and joining local government. 

It is time for the rest of us to pay attention. The Spokane Regional Health District Board of Health holds an electronic meeting tomorrow, Thursday, May 28, at 12:30PM. You can watch the live proceedings at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKT9hLJM5J0&feature=youtu.be  Visit the SRHD BOH website at https://srhd.org/programs-and-services/board-of-health/bohabout. Learn about and recognize the members and administrators. This is your city, county, and village collaborative government at work. 

Have an opinion about current goings-on after reading the Spokesman article? Written comment received prior to tomorrow, Thursday, May 28 at 10:00 a.m. will be included in the agenda packet and will become part of the official meeting record. Submit written comments at public_comment@srhd.org.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Bylaws of an organization, any organization, tend to be checked only when a problem or a crisis arises. Then the Bylaws take on significance. The Bylaws of the SRHD BOH can be read here. I am unable to find a specified procedure for removing a member-at-large from the Board. Article III, 3. specifies a four year term for these non-elected members-at-large. It does not specify the details of geographic distribution or details of the appointment process. The Bylaws only state that the three at-large citizen members are “appointed by Board of County Commissioners.” Perhaps that Board has rules governing the at-large BOH appointment procedures. If not, then the District and Commissioner specific appointment process is a matter of custom.

P.P.S. It will be interesting to see what happens when the election and make-up of the Spokane County Commissioners is reorganized by Washington State law in the next year or two (pending the result of a court challenge to the re-organization filed by the Spokane County Commissioners themselves).

P.P.P.S. It takes some sleuthing to figure this out, but the “Regional Health District” of the Spokane “Regional Health District” is, geographically, simply Spokane County. It is one of 34 local public health agencies serving Washington State’s 39 counties. The confusing name is probably meant to avoid suggesting that the governance is purely through the three Spokane County Commissioners, when, in fact, the Board is made up of elected officials from cities and towns within the County in addition to the County Commissioners.

P.P.P.P.S It turns out there are a number of Boards in Spokane County that are formed by an amalgam of elected officials from various local governments. The Spokane Transit Authority, which I wrote about, is a governing board of similar (but different) composition to the SRHD BOH. More of your government at work–mostly unnoticed by the citizenry.