New York State’s Department of Health has been accused of allegedly working in tandem with a dubious non-profit organization known as Health Research Inc (HRI). HRI reportedly shares close ties with the Department of Health, with the Commissioner of the Department serving as the president of the non-profit. The non-profit organization received over $1 billion in funding in the past fiscal year.
Assemblyman Ron Kim has repeatedly spoken out against the relationship between the two entities and the fact that HRI does not subject itself to financial scrutiny from any authority.
“I want to draw your attention to a little-known nonprofit, Health Research Inc., that operates parallel to the Department of Health. Incorporated in 1953, HRI started as a state-government contractor,” he wrote in an opinion piece published on March 29th for the NY Post.
“Ballooning to 2,000 employees, it now overlaps with the Department of Health and receives $800 million from taxpayers every year. It has tremendous power, and its president, the DOH commissioner, even draws extra income from HRI. HRI does not answer to lawmakers, and its budget is not subject to approval or review by our Legislature,” he continued.
Assemblyman Kim recently lambasted the situation once more. He questioned the manner in which the two entities, more so how HRI could not be subpoenaed, and face questions regarding its operation on taxpayer funds.
According to the NY Post, in 2021, Empire Center for Public Policy made an attempt to get ahold of HRI’s fiscal records to determine how much their employees were being paid. The non-profit reportedly resisted revealing the information. However, HRI eventually provided the records for the fiscal period between 2018 and 2020. The records shared were allegedly incomplete. However, after further investigation, the Empire Center for Public Policy discovered that the Commissioner of the Department of Health at that time, Howard Zucker, was receiving his salary of $210,000 from the DOH while also receiving $75,000 from HRI. Historically, the Commissioner of the Department of Health has always received extra income from HRI.
According to the NY Post, the previous Health Department Commissioner, Mary Bassett, refused the payment from HRI, while it is not clear if the current Acting Commissioner James McDonald receives it.
In the March 2021 fiscal year, HRI secured $710 million in revenue from state and federal grants. In the 2022 fiscal year, HRI spent $1.3 billion while about $820 million of that money was provided by state and federal grants. Records from 2020 show that, at that time, a sizable portion of the Department of Health’s workforce, approximately 2,200, was marked as HRI employees.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health addressed the relationship between the two entities. “For decades, HRI has helped the Department of Health promote the health and welfare of New Yorkers by supporting core public health functions, which today include everything from wastewater detection and biomonitoring to disease prevention and emergency preparedness,” the spokesperson said.
The relationship between the two entities raises questions regarding transparency, conflict of interest, and their autonomy.