The largest division of the new Douglas County Health Department is officially open and operational.
The milestone comes nearly a year after county officials voted to leave the Tri-County Health Department over disagreements over COVID-19 policies. Adams and Arapahoe counties later decided to leave the decades-old partnership as well, and now the department will be shutting down services at the end of the year.
“This is an important milestone for us,” said Dr. Michael Hill, executive director of the Douglas County Health Department.
Six months into her new role, Hill has a lot on her plate. On Thursday, he focused on launching the department’s new environmental health division, one of the biggest lifters from Tri-County Health’s departure.
“We are now 85% of a comprehensive health service,” Hill said. “Most of the hiring process is behind us, setting up the new data system, working with Tri-County to move their data into the new system so we don’t lose any history. It’s been an improvement major over the past few months.”
Now, inspections of food establishments, body art facilities, child care centers and even septic systems will be handled by the county. Eventually, they will also take over WIC services and health education programs, which Tri-County is still offering amid the transition.
According to Hill, Douglas County will have a lean department modeled after what the community and its leaders want. Part of that is a new “partner” mentality.
“Our whole approach to this health department is to help people live happier, healthier, longer lives, not to force them to do this, not to do things so that people feel bad, but to make sure people understand what they could do to live longer, healthier lives,” Hill said.
In addition to a change in approach, there will also be a change in the services offered to residents. Unlike Tri-County, the Douglas County Health Department will not offer clinical services, such as vaccines and family planning. Instead, the ministry will outsource these services to a yet to be announced partner.
“Douglas County residents are very light users of Tri-County clinical services here in the county, so there won’t be many people affected,” Hill said. “There will be a great place to go.”
The final transition of services from Tri-County Health to Douglas County is expected in mid-December.
In order to address any questions or concerns from the community, the Douglas County Health Department will host a live town hall on September 20 at 6 p.m. You can watch at douglas.co.us/townhall or call via 833-380-0668.