DENVER – The Tri-County Health Department will continue to provide most public health services to Douglas County residents through 2022 despite commissioners’ move to withdraw from the department and form a Douglas County health department.
Douglas County commissioners and the TCHD signed an agreement Tuesday as Douglas County acknowledged it still needs the health department’s services as it works to set up its own public health department.
Among the services to Douglas County residents the TCHD will still provide are environmental health services, WIC, vital records, clinical services, nursing home visitation programs, mental health and suicide prevention services, tobacco and nicotine control and prevention, substance abuse prevention, maternal and child health, disease control and investigation, emergency preparedness and response, public health communication and outreach, and data and informatics, according to the agreement.
Douglas County will also no longer have any of its appointees on the TCHD Board of Health, per the agreement, and the TCHD will be able to operate without input from the Douglas County Board of Health.
“This agreement benefits all parties, but mainly ensures there is no gap in services for the residents of Douglas County,” said Tri-County Health Department Executive Director Dr. John Douglas in a statement. “It also allows TCHD employees to focus on service delivery without distraction and provides some stability.”
Earlier this month, Douglas County commissioners agreed to leave the TCHD, which the county has been part of since 1966, over their displeasure with a mask requirement implemented by the TCHD as well as other COVID-19 restriction measures.
The move by Douglas County earlier this month had been months in the making but was exacerbated by the most recent decisions by the TCHD, which also oversees public health in Adams and Arapahoe counties.
The resolution passed earlier this month cited a letter commissioners sent to TCHD in July of last year, informing the agency of Douglas County’s intent to leave the department because of the board's displeasure with mask mandates and stay-at-home orders during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in November of last year, commissioners ultimately agreed to stay with TCHD at least through December 31, 2022.
The agreement signed on Tuesday says the move was made because Douglas County is still in the process of organizing its new health department and that the TCHD would continue to provide the services already provided to Douglas County residents through the end of next “unless or until another arrangement is mutually agreed upon in writing.”
The county will have to pay for all services and costs associated with its withdrawal from the health department and will have to pay its share of the cost of maintaining the TCHD based on a population-based formula. It would also have to pay for its proportional share should the TCHD be dissolved in 2022 or 2023, according to the agreement, which has been under discussion with other county commissioners in Adams and Arapahoe counties.
“We recognize that there are costs associated with the departure from TCHD and this ensure that each party pays their fair share,” Douglas County commissioners said in a written statement. “We also acknowledge that TCHD is a leader in public health services and we want to ensure that Douglas County residents continue to have excellent public health services well into the future.”