AURORA | A month after Douglas County voted to leave the Tri-County Health Department, Adams County has signaled its intention to do so as well, ending the possibility of the partnership continuing on in some form.
In a Tuesday afternoon news release, the Adams County Board of Commissioners announced that it will bring forward a resolution at its next meeting on Oct. 26 to leave Tri-County and form its own health department beginning in January of 2023.
“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,” board chair Eva Henry said in the release.
“Douglas County’s decisions left us no choice but to reevaluate the future of public health services in Adams County,” Henry said. “As a result, Adams County must determine the best option to move ahead for a health board and services provided to residents.”
The release said that there will be “no disruption in services” for Adams County residents during the transition, and that over the next year the county will work with partners that depend on health department services to chart the best course forward.
Arapahoe County’s commissioners said in a news release that they were disappointed by the decision.
“The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners is saddened that our neighboring counties have chosen to end the productive 55-year partnership with the Tri-County Health Department,” the statement from the board said. “Arapahoe County residents will continue to receive all existing Tri-County public health services uninterrupted during the transition. 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 Board intends to do what it can to support the many dedicated employees of Tri-County Health throughout this process.”
The longevity of the department has been in jeopardy since last year, as Douglas County commissioners and Tri-County board members clashed with representatives from the other two counties over the implementation of pandemic safety measures.
Douglas County initially announced plans to withdraw last fall before reaching an agreement to remain through at least 2022. In September, Douglas County commissioners officially voted to withdraw after a contentious set of meetings in August over whether the health department should impose a mask mandate in schools.
Parts of Aurora exist in all three counties, and city officials have lobbied to try and keep the partnership intact.
Mayor Mike Coffman previously told The Sentinel that the breakup of Tri-County would be “just awful” for Aurora.
Many of Tri-County’s largest facilities are in Arapahoe County, which could make the split easier for it than the other two counties. But as Tri-County director Dr. John Douglas told The Sentinel in September, the state has never seen a breakup of a health department this large before.
“Certainly what we are doing would be unprecedented, and unprecedented always brings uncertainty and unexpected issues,” he said.