BY FREDA MIKLIN
In a recent telephone town hall, the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) provided an update on its progress in creating a new county health department to take the place of Tri-County Health Department (TCHD).
BOCC President Nancy Jackson explained that TCHD has served Arapahoe and Adams Counties since 1948 and Douglas County since 1966. After Douglas County exited last year, followed by Adams County, it was clear that Arapahoe County needed to form its own department. TCHD will serve all the residents of Arapahoe County through the end of 2022. The new Arapahoe County Health Department is expected to go live in the first quarter of 2023.
Commissioner Nancy Sharpe told listeners that a public health department focuses on core public health services, such as communicable disease control, emergency preparedness and response, maternal and child health, reproductive and sexual health, behavioral health, immunizations and environmental health. Environmental health includes consumer protection and environmental protection, including water quality. Behavioral health includes the treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues.
Commissioner Bill Holen shared that the goals of public health in Arapahoe County are to provide high quality, meaningful public health service to Arapahoe County residents, deliver services in a cost-effective and innovative manner, and minimize customer inconvenience.
Commissioner Carrie Warren-Gully told listeners that core services that will be offered by Arapahoe County health include communicable disease control, access to vital records, a review of child fatality cases, and immunizations for school-aged children. She said that BOCC’s plan is to build a health department within the county government, but, “We will contract services where we determine it makes better sense to do so.”
Commissioner Jeff Baker said, “Determining who will lead our health department is an important priority. We will have a five-person county health board. The founding board will include two county commissioners.” He continued, “We know it is very important that the board reflects the diversity of Arapahoe County. A public health director will be hired by the board of the health department and that person does not need to be a physician. We could have a manager who is skilled in that field as well as a medical officer who is a physician.”
Baker continued, “Securing adequate funding to perform our core services is important. We will use general funds, as well as federal and state funds. We hope to use grants as well. There are weekly surveys residents can take on www.arapahoegov.com/healthsurvey through the end of 2022. (Residents of Cherry Hills Village receive that survey to complete from their city government automatically f they are signed up for notifications.) You can also sign up for e-newsletter at www.arapahoegov.com/health for future events.
When a caller asked BOCC President Nancy Jackson if the new Arapahoe County Health Department would hire people from TCHD, she said, “TCHD has excellent staff members, including nurses and specialty providers. It will be up to the new board of health to hire staff. We hope that members of TCHD will choose to work with us in our new department.”
A resident wanted to know what the cost of services provided by the new Arapahoe County Health Department will be compared to what they cost from TCHD. The answer given was that the county is fiscally responsible and plans to provide services in the most efficient and effective way possible.