Douglas County’s new Board of Health met for the first time Sept. 30 and discussed its leadership positions, the upcoming search for an executive director and the county’s new arrangement with …
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Douglas County’s new Board of Health met for the first time Sept. 30 and discussed its leadership positions, the upcoming search for an executive director and the county’s new arrangement with Tri-County Health Department.
It was the latest step in a long-running process of Douglas County distancing itself from Tri-County Health in the wake of disagreements over COVID-safety rules.
The new Douglas County Board of Health is made up of two county commissioners — Lora Thomas and George Teal — as well as Dr. Linda Fielding, Doug Benevento and Kim Muramoto.
Fielding and Muramoto previously represented Douglas County on Tri-County’s Board of Health and Benevento serves on the county’s public health advisory committee. Muramoto was not able to attend the meeting, so Kevin Bracken, a Castle Rock Town Council member and briefly a brief member of the Tri-County Board of Health, stood in for her.
Benevento, an attorney who once served as the head of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, was selected by the board as its president. Thomas was chosen as the vice president of the board and Teal was voted as the secretary.
The county commissioners appointed the health board members during a Sept. 14 meeting.
Board members began the process of hiring an executive director for the new health department by directing county employees to consult with a staffing agency for a national candidate search.
During the meeting, the board’s legal counsel, Chris Pratt, spoke about the recent agreement reached between the new health department and Tri-County. Under that contract, Tri-County will continue to provide all its services to Douglas County until at least 2022 but the new board of health will oversee countywide public health orders.
Services that will continue include restaurant inspections, nutrition counseling, maternal and child health services and disease control, among others.
The agreement was approved by Douglas County commissioners during a Sept. 28 work session. The county will continue to pay its proportional share of the cost of Tri-County services, according to the agreement. In 2021, the county paid $2.5 million for services, according to a spokesperson.
The contract states that Tri-County could continue services for Douglas County into future years as well.
Under the cost agreement, the county will also be required to pay a “proportional share” of any expenses if Tri-County dissolves in 2022 or 2023. That includes costs from layoffs, unemployment, temporary employees and others. Outside of those costs, the county will be required to pay up to $360,000 in any expenses associated with its withdrawal.
Tri-County will still be able to enforce site-specific public health orders in Douglas County, such as restaurant closures for noncompliance with health standards, Pratt said. Several members of the public complained about this ability during public comment, saying it was a loophole for Tri-County to still implement things like mask mandates for specific schools.
Tri-County also serves Adams and Arapahoe counties.
While the first meeting of the new board already dissolved any existing public health orders from Tri-County, the board took the added step of voting not to continue a mask mandate for all schools.
The board plans to meet again Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. and is set to discuss a possible new public health order that would allow parents to opt their children out of wearing masks and would limit quarantines.
Meetings can be watched virtually or in-person and are recorded for later viewing. More information is available online at www.douglas.co.us/board-of-health.
Douglas County commissioners voted on Sept. 7 to form their own health department after Tri-County’s Board of Health decided to no longer allow any entities to opt out of public health orders and put in place a mask mandate for all students.
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