LITTLETON, Colo. — The third and final member of Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) declared its intention to leave after the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday morning.
According to the resolution, Arapahoe County will withdraw from the public health agency effective Dec. 31, 2022.
Arapahoe County said in a release that residents will continue to receive all public health services from TCHD until a replacement health department and a new board of health are approved and established.
"Until a new single-county health department is established, TCHD will maintain its longstanding statutory authority to issue public health orders and ensure compliance with public health regulations in Arapahoe County, such as those for childcare centers, restaurants and pools," the statement says.
Arapahoe joins Douglas and Adams counties by contracting TCHD's services through the end of next year while evaluating options for providing public health services.
According to Arapahoe County, the resolution's approval was a necessary step towards the establishment of a single-county health department.
The departure of Douglas and Adams county earlier this year made it necessary for Arapahoe County to explore future options and develop a transition plan to maintain the level of public health care provided by TCHD during their 55-year partnership, the statement said.
One option includes continuing with TCHD after Dec. 31, 2022 as a legal entity in some form other than a multi-county district public health agency, so that TCHD can continue to exist and provide services to one or more counties, according to the resolution.
The Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners plans to consult with residents, businesses, municipalities and nonprofit partners including TCHD before making a final decision.
More information about the public health department process and future updates can be found on Arapahoe County's website.
“Arapahoe County is indebted to the TCHD staff for the first-class health programs and services the agency has provided to millions of residents over the course of our partnership,” said Arapahoe County Board Chair Commissioner Nancy Jackson. “While many residents were unaware of the scope of a health department’s duties prior to COVID, over many decades TCHD’s employees have shown a deep commitment to providing these services. They are a first-rate example of how public health services should be modeled and we will continue to work with them over the coming months to find a workable solution for all involved parties and stakeholders.”
“We certainly understand Arapahoe County’s decision to give formal notice of their intention to exit our partnership," TCHD said in a statement. "We look forward to the opportunity over the next year to share what a continued relationship with a “new” health department serving our counties would look like, including potential financial and operational benefits. For the present, TCHD’s top priority will be our employees and providing excellent public health services for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties as we consider options for the future”
At the end of the meeting, commissioners shared a few comments about the desicion, some voiced their continued opposition to mandates, while others said the push to vaccinate people needs to continue.
Commissioner Jackson acknowledged that the issues surrounding mandates and a new health department is contentious both in the public, and at times, among themselves.
"My hope is that even though we have disagreement here on our board that we can continue to have civil conversations and that we can honor each other's differences," she said. "I know that we are working with with consultants. I know that we're working with experts. And I know that our main goal is to do the best for our communities."
TCHD will continue to provide core services to Douglas County as it moves to separate and form its own health department.
As part of an intergovernmental agreement signed by the two sides on Sept. 25, TCHD will provide those services through the end of 2022.
Douglas County COVID-19 services began transitioning on Nov. 22 from TCHD to Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) according to an amended Intergovernmental Agreement signed in November.
During the transition, TCHD and DCHD are continuing to proactively coordinate to ensure the continuation of COVID-19 services, including coordination with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
DCHD is not providing COVID-19 services directly but instead contracting them out to Jogan Health Solutions (JHS), area health and medical consulting provider.
JHS is taking over services including:
- Case investigation
- Contact tracing
- Isolation and quarantine guidance
- Outbreak services
- Case management for individuals in isolation or quarantine
In October, the Adams County Board of Commissioners brought forward a resolution to provide notice of the decision to leave the department, according to a statement.
“Douglas County’s decisions left us no choice but to re-evaluate the future of public health services in Adams County,” said Adams County Commissioner and Board Chair Eva Henry in a news release. “As a result, Adams County must determine the best option to move ahead for a health board and services provided to residents.”
Adams County said per its legal obligation, it will remain part of TCHD through December 2022.
"Starting January 2023, Adams County will have its own health department structure in place," the county said in the release. "There will be no disruption of services to Adams County residents during this transition."
TCHD Executive Director Dr. John Douglas said he needs to keep his staff of 400, including some employees who may not have work after 2022 when current contracts with all three counties are set to expire. He also has to fill any open jobs that may seem lame duck.
"You know, I'm already hearing the anecdotes of, 'You know I'd love to work for Tri-County, but I'm not going to interview for that job I applied for because it's too uncertain,'" Douglas told 9NEWS.
He does not plan to overwork current staff, but he may have to pivot to continue functioning for the one and a half million people Tri-County still serves.
"We'll probably have to judicially trim back services. Well, what does that mean? Well, it means a clinic that was open five days a week, maybe it's only three days," Douglas said.
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