BY FREDA MIKLIN – GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On April 14, the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners sent a letter firing Marsha Jaroch, a nurse practitioner who had been a Douglas County representative on the Tri-County Public Health Department (TCHD) board since 2015 and was supposed to serve until 2025. The letter said that Jaroch was being terminated due to statements contained in a letter to the editor penned by Jaroch and Paulette Joswick to a neighborhood newspaper in Highlands Ranch on October 21, 2020. That letter to the editor, entitled “Support Tri-County,” said that it cost Douglas County $7 per resident for TCHD’s services and it was estimated that a standalone health department for Douglas County would cost “in the neighborhood of $40” for each of its 370,000 residents (a difference of $12.2 million). Jaroch and Joswick urged Douglas County residents to “let your voices be heard in support of remaining in partnership with this outstanding organization (TCHD) on Nov. 3 and beyond.” Four months later, in February 2021, Joswick, a retired nurse, resigned her position on TCHD representing Douglas County, which she had held since 2007, citing “mounting stress” resulting from both the COVID-19 pandemic and “negative attention from some in the community,” leading to a situation where “My family felt that the stress of remaining on the board was affecting my health.” In the letter firing Jaroch, commissioners were reported to have said, “While this (letter to the editor) alone was an abuse of your appointed position, the political rhetoric you elected to use under your appointed position was extremely divisive and intended to create distrust for the elected officials who appointed you, and who answer to the citizens you suggest you are representing.”
In what seems like a very long time ago, March 2020, six Republican state lawmakers from the Douglas County area urged the three county commissioners, in writing and in public, to “terminate whatever contract exists between Douglas County and Tri-County Health Department (TCHD)…and align Douglas County with El Paso County Health or…create a new health agency…” over COVID-19 restrictions announced by TCHD. A few days later, Governor Polis issued an executive order with similar restrictions, making TCHD’s directive moot. Still, on July 9, 2020, the Board of Douglas County Commissioners, consisting of Roger Partridge, Lora Thomas, and Abe Laydon, all Republicans, began the process of severing ties with TCHD, after TCHD imposed additional COVID-19-related restrictions.
Republican George Teal replaced Roger Partridge, who was term-limited, on the board of county commissioners in the November 3 election. A week after the November election, Douglas County announced that it would remain with TCHD until at least December 31, 2022.
Four months later, in March 2021, Governor Polis announced that the state would soon be turning over nearly all rulemaking authority around COVID-19 to local health departments, prompting TCHD to issue a public health order on April 9 outlining its plans for Arapahoe, Douglas, and Adams Counties, to go into effect April 16. That drew a unanimous resolution on April 13 from Thomas, Laydon, and Teal that the Board of Douglas County Commissioners “hereby ‘opts out’ of the public health order issued by TCHD,” because, among other reasons, “continued focus on case positivity in the post-vaccination era of the pandemic for vulnerable populations is an inherently flawed public policy when positive cases among those that are highly unlikely to die or be hospitalized, also will not asymptomatically transmit the virus to the vulnerable who have now been vaccinated,” and, “mental health fall-out from a year of lockdown has just begun and will continue unless government allows its citizens to return to some semblance of normalcy.”