CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — The Tri-County Health Department will soon be down to two counties.
“I’d like to make a motion to approve the board,” said Douglas County commissioner George Teal at a Tuesday meeting. “Creating the Board of County Health for Douglas County, Colorado.”
The motion carried on a 3-0 vote and with that, Douglas County commissioners took the extraordinary second step of breaking away from Tri-County Health after more than half a century by creating the county’s own public health department.
“Douglas County is not the small, little county of 5,000 that it was in the mid-60’s,” Teal said. “Tri-County has had a focus on Adams and Arapahoe counties. We were along for the ride, but it wasn’t really our plan.”
The move Tuesday is one everyone saw coming, accelerated by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, including masks in public schools, lockdowns and other pandemic-exacerbated issues.
“We’ve seen an increase in domestic violence, suicide, addiction and abuse,” said a caller during the meeting. “Our children and families are lonely and sad and hurting, and I think Douglas County needs their own public health commission.”
“Tri-County Health not only is not accountable, but won’t even listen to us,” said another caller during the virtual and in-person meeting on Tuesday.
But opponents argue this split is fueled by politics and will cost the county millions.
Lloyd Guthrie calls it a cultural shift of challenging science and common sense.
“We are concerned those kinds of scientific basis for decision making might not continue under the new plan,” Guthrie said.
The new board will be comprised of five members, including two members of the current Tri-County board and two members of the current commissioner’s court, as well as the former director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“There will be continuity of services,” said board chair Abe Laydon.
The commissioners acknowledge it will take a lot of work, but promised Douglas County residents a seamless transition.
“We’re getting data that will be useful for us to shape the services that we define,” Teal said. “In Douglas County, we pride ourselves on doing things better. We’re going to do better than what we currently have.”