125 Worth Street in 2013
|Jurisdiction||New York City|
|Headquarters||42-09 28th St, Long Island City, NY 11101|
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is the department of the government of New York City responsible for public health along with issuing birth certificates, dog licenses, and conducting restaurant inspection and enforcement. The New York City Board of Health is part of the department. Its regulations are compiled in title 24 of the New York City Rules (the New York City Health Code). Since September 1, 2018, the commissioner has been Dr. Oxiris Barbot.
The department was initially set up as the New York City Board of Health, which held its first meeting in 1805 to combat an outbreak of yellow fever. In 1866, the New York State legislature enacted a bill establishing the Metropolitan Board of Health, consisting of the four Police Commissioners, four Health Commissioners appointed by the Governor, and the Health Officer for the Port of New York. In 1870 the legislature replaced the Board of Health with the Department of Health, with additional responsibilities including street cleaning and sanitary permits.
As a result of its consolidation with the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services, it was renamed the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on July 29, 2002.
In October, 2017, public health and animal rights activists in New York City launched a campaign to compel Health Commissioner Mary Bassett to enforce seven public health codes violated during Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice that takes place before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. From October 2017 to May 2018, the activists disrupted four of her public speaking engagements and staged four protests in the lobby of the NYC Department of Health (DOH). The activists allege that Commissioner Bassett is turning a blind eye to the health code violations because the ultra-Orthodox Jews who practice the ritual represent a powerful voting bloc. During Kaporos, an estimated 60,000 six-week old chickens are intensively confined in crates without food or water for up to several days before being ritually slaughtered. Activists claim that many die of starvation, thirst and exposure before the ritual takes place, but there is no evidence of this. While activists claim the birds are discarded after slaughter, they are typically used for food and often donated to the poor.  A toxicology reported submitted to the court as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the DOH states that the ritual poses a risk to public health in the neighborhoods where it takes place. While Commissioner Bassett has not publicly acknowledged the toxicology report or the activists’ claims about the health code violations, she has issued a public statement asserting that “there remains no evidence that the use of chickens for Kaporos poses a significant risk to human health.”
The New York City Board of Health is part of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and consists of the commissioner of the department, the chairperson of the department's Mental Hygiene Advisory Board, and nine other members appointed by the mayor.