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Aurora caught in the middle as Tri-County Health Department slowly crumbles after 70-plus years

Posted at 9:56 AM, Oct 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-24 11:56:09-04

As the Tri-County Health Department breaks apart, Aurora finds itself standing amidst the wreckage — a city of nearly 400,000 straddling the three counties that for decades constituted Colorado’s largest public health agency.

And that has this diverse, fast-growing city east of Denver starting to look at how it will provide public health services — inoculations, restaurant inspections, contagious disease control — to its residents once Tri-County dissolves for good, likely by the end of next year.

The city has several ways it could go: contracting for service from each of the counties that once were part of Tri-County (Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams), standing up its own city public health department or pursuing the arduous and ambitious route of transforming itself into Colorado’s 65th county.

“This could be a major factor in pushing the city of Aurora into becoming a city and a county form of government,” Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said.

Forming its own county, instead of floating in an amorphous middle ground beholden to three county governments, is an idea that has been discussed numerous times in Aurora but never gained sufficient traction to move forward. Coffman said his city’s need for reliable public health services could be the necessary nudge to move the concept from talk to reality, “since the responsibility for establishing local health departments is at the county level.”

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