DENVER — Three counties are days away from operating their own independent health departments.
“I have been part of TCHD for nine of its 70+ years. They have been unforgettable ones for me, really representing the zenith of my career in public health,” said TCHD executive director, Dr. John Douglas. “Leading TCHD has allowed me to work with an amazing range of talented colleagues — our staff, our departmental leadership team, our Board of Health and our many innovative and extremely devoted partners in our communities. It also allowed me to work on an amazing array of issues important to the health of our residents.”
The last day of TCHD's regular business hours will be Friday.
To reach the new health departments:
The move to withdraw, initiated by Douglas County and soon followed by Adams County, came after disagreements over mask mandates and vaccinations during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the three counties pulling out of the decades-old agreement to combine resources at TCHD, it will cost money to create new departments from scratch. The cost will be borne by taxpayers, but how the three counties form their departments will determine how much.
Douglas County, the first to pull out of the health triumvirate, said its public health system will save taxpayers money. Previously, it wrote a check to Tri-County Health for about $2.8 million per year. The new Douglas County Health Department director said taxpayers will be on the hook for $2 million next year, or $800,000 less.
The Arapahoe County public health program will provide essentially the same services offered by Tri-County, its new director said. Creating a new department in Arapahoe County will cost taxpayers more, a spokesperson said. Instead of the $5.2 million Arapahoe sent Tri-County this year, it plans to spend $6 million next year.
In Adams County, the budget allocations were harder to nail down. Previously, it paid Tri-County Health $4 million per year. An October budget presentation outlined a $10 million gap between operating expenses and revenue, with plans for more staff in mental health, equity, harm reduction and more.
The three counties will provide public health services through their own individually operated health departments beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
This story includes previous reporting from Cole Sullivan.
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