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The Department of Health was created in 1910 (Chapter 560, Acts of 1910). It assumed functions held by the Board of Health which had been created in 1874 to advise the legislature and local officials. The board offered lectures, collected information on public health, and responded to requests for help from local authorities, but had no power to mitigate nuisances or enforce public health laws (Chapter 200, Laws of 1874). The board was reorganized in 1880 and empowered to establish local boards and to deal with emergencies. Increased public interest in the need for state health care services led to the creation of the state Department of Health in 1910, with expanded oversight through the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, Bureau of Bacteriology, Bureau of Chemistry, Bureau of Sanitary Engineering, and Bureau of Vital Statistics. Early attempts to establish a state system of vital records registration included seventeenth century legislation requiring county court and church registration of births, marriages, and deaths. In 1865, legislation was passed directing clerks of the county circuit courts and Baltimore City Court of Common Pleas to maintain birth and death record books, and individuals and institutions involved with births, deaths, and burials were required to file information with the clerks, who then filed copies with the Secretary of the Senate. Unfortunately, few citizens or institutions complied with the law. In 1898, vital records legislation was passed creating a uniform system of registration for the state. The secretary of the Board of Health was named state registrar of vital statistics, working with local registrars and serving as a central location for filing original birth and death certificates. Baltimore City had established its own program to register births and deaths within its health department earlier in 1875. The city was permitted to maintain its own system until July 1, 1972, when the Division of Vital Records assumed responsiblity for registration. In 1910, the General Assembly reorganized the state Board of Health by renaming it the Department of Health and establishing five bureaus within it, including the Bureau of Vital Statistics. In 1951, the bureau was renamed the Divison of Vital Records, and in 1969, state health and mental hygiene agencies were merged into the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Currently, all births, deaths, marriages, and divorces that occur in the state are registered with the Division of Vital Records. The division maintains birth and death records for Baltimore City from January 1, 1875, and for the twenty-three counties from August 1898. It also has marriage certificates from 1951, and divorce decrees from 1961. The activities of the Department of Health were combined with those of the Department of Mental Hygiene in 1961 with the creation of the Board of Health and Mental Hygiene (Chapter 841, Acts of 1961). The board assumed responsibility for the health interests of Marylanders, state facilities for care of chronically ill, mentally ill, mentally retarded, and tuberculous persons, and medical care programs for the indigent. The two departments continued to administer programs and facilities as directed by the board. Executive reorganization in 1969 resulted in the creation of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which superseded both the board and the departments. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene encompasses programs and facilities of its predecessor agencies, medical professional licensing boards, the Comprehensive Health Planning Agency, and numerous advisory boards. The department is responsible for dealing with epidemiological hazards to health such as communicable diseases, and organization of efforts to prevent or control their impact. The department also purchases or provides direct care services, including residential and outpatient care for the mentally ill, mentally retarded, chronically ill, impaired elderly, and persons with addictive conditions. See also: Board of Examiners in Optometry. MSA SH79. Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. MSA SH81. Board of Health. MSA SH82. Board of Health and Mental Hygiene. MSA SH234. Board of Mental Hygiene. MSA SH39. Board of Undertakers. MSA SH80. Commissioner of Mental Hygiene. MSA SH235. Commisioners for Erecting a Hospital for the Insane. MSA SH27. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. MSA SH108. Department of Mental Hygiene. MSA SH40. Maryland Hospital. MSA SH26. Maryland Hospital for the Insane. MSA SH29. Spring Grove State Hospital. MSA SH28. State Lunacy Commission. MSA SH31.

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