The Douglas County Health Department is on its way to providing services, having a facility and hiring staff as the agency prepares to fully separate from Tri-County Health Department later this year.
The Douglas County Board of Health approved a list of services the agency will provide during a May 12 meeting.
Some of the services included are COVID-19 response, public health emergency preparedness, restaurant inspections, immunizations and sexual health services.
During an April 22 work session for the board of health, Public Health Director Mike Hill presented the list of services provided by Tri-County with information about what is expected by the state health department along with recommendations for services he believes the new health department should provide.
“There are certain things that I just think are worth doing because they’re important for public health, the state expects us to do them and I think our population expects us to do them,” Hill said.
The health department will provide 33 of the 60 services provided by Tri-County. Most of the services the board opted not to use are things the county doesn’t use or are already being completed by other local agencies.
Other Tri-County services that won’t immediately be available from DCHD include recreational water inspections, community nutrition and workplace wellness. Each of these categories, Hill said, requires further research before the board decides if the health department will offer them.
When the DCHD was formed, one of the first decisions by the board was to contract with Tri-County to provide all public health services until the end of 2022.
The agency will provide vital records as their first service, beginning June 1. The county is also planning to take over emergency preparedness and disease surveillance July 1. Environmental health and community health are set to begin in September.
The health department may add or remove any services going forward, Hill said.
The health department has also moved forward with hiring about eight employees, including an administrative assistant, an assistant director for environmental health and an epidemiologist among others.
During an April 19 work session, Hill presented a possible organizational chart to the commissioners, including a full staff of about 35 people and 2 contractors. That staff is expected to cost about $3.5 to $4 million per year, Hill said.
The department was set to finalize the organizational chart after approving the services the department will provide.
The health department is also required by statute to hire a physician as a medical director because their public health director is not a doctor. Hill said in an email that he plans to begin hiring for a part-time medical director for about five hours per month in July and that there is an interim doctor in the position now.
Hill said he believes the health department can continue to operate on its roughly $2.5 million public health budget with the funds coming from fees and grants.
So far, the health department appears to have secured about $1.2 million in grants, according to a memo prepared for the board. The health department will know more about what grants will be available in July.
For a physical space, the agency has begun to move into a 8,200 square-foot facility in Castle Rock partially used by Tri-County currently. The agency also has plans to take over the Tri-County office, located inside the county Department of Motor Vehicles building in Lone Tree, sometime after Oct. 1.
Next, Hill plans to begin talking with the commissioners about the health department’s policies, he said.
In April, the board of health decided to file an appeal of a judge’s decision to stop the health department from enforcing its public health order banning mask requirements in the county.
The health department enacted that order in October as their first and only public health order. Two months later, two Douglas County businesses filed a lawsuit against the health department, claiming the order and the entire health department are unlawful.
A judge granted the businesses request for a preliminary injunction March 4.
The department’s notice of appeal was filed April 11 and challenges notions brought in the original case, including the legality of Douglas County’s split from Tri-County.
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