The Tri-County Health Department is set to lose a second member next year, with Adams County on Tuesday announcing that it will vote on a resolution next week declaring its intention to depart a health agency that until last month served 1.5 million people across a broad sweep of the metro area.
The news follows the decision in September by Douglas County to break away from Tri-County over disagreements it had with the agency about COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions, like mask mandates in schools.
The announcement likely means the end of the Tri-County Health Department, at least under that name. The agency has been in existence since 1948.
“Douglas County’s decisions left us no choice but to reevaluate the future of public health services in Adams County,” Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry said in a news release. “As a result, Adams County must determine the best option to move ahead for a health board and services provided to residents.”
Adams County commissioners plan to vote on a resolution on Oct. 26 that will provide notice to Tri-County that it will leave the agency by the end of 2022.
“Starting January 2023, Adams County will have its own health department structure in place,” the release said. “There will be no disruption of services to Adams County residents during this transition.”
That will leave Arapahoe County as the sole remaining member of the Tri-County Health Department, though by default, it’s likely the county won’t be long for the agency either. On Tuesday, Arapahoe County issued a statement saying it was “saddened” by its neighboring counties’ exits from Tri-County but hinted that it would do the same.
“We have already begun to explore future options to continue delivering quality public health services and will begin developing the necessary transition plans as we form our own public health department,” the county’s statement read.
Tri-County late Tuesday expressed disappointment but said it planned to continue providing “accredited services to the residents of Adams County until the end of 2022” and working with Arapahoe County “to develop a transition plan to assure continued delivery of high-quality services to our residents.”
While Douglas County raced to establish its own public health agency within a matter of weeks of announcing its own departure from Tri-County, Henry told The Denver Post on Tuesday afternoon that Adams County “will still be following all health orders from Tri-County” through the end of next year.
She said the county’s contract with Tri-County requires that it give a year’s notice before leaving.
“During this transition, the focus will always remain the health and well-being of our residents,” Henry said in the release. “This new structure gives us an opportunity to focus on the specific needs of our residents and invest dollars in the areas that need it most.”
Adams County’s announcement comes just a week after a report issued by a consulting firm projected that forming separate public health agencies would cost Adams and Arapahoe counties millions more dollars per year to operate than the $3.8 million and $4.8 million they currently contribute respectively to Tri-County for services annually.
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