The Douglas County Health Department is poised to provide services, have a facility, and hire staff as the agency prepares to completely separate from the Tri-County Health Department more late this year.
The Douglas County Board of Health approved a list of services the agency will provide at a May 12 meeting.
Some of the services included are COVID-19 response, public health emergency preparedness, restaurant inspections, vaccinations, and sexual health services.
During an April 22 working session for the health board, Director of Public Health Mike Hill presented the list of services provided by Tri-County with information on what is expected by the health department of the state as well as recommendations for the services he believes the new health department should provide.
“There are certain things that I think are worth doing because they are important to public health, the state expects us to do them and I think our population is getting better. 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 council has chosen not to use are things that the county does not use or are already completed by other local agencies.
Other Tri-County services that will not be immediately 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 whether the health department will propose them.
When the DCHD was formed, one of the council’s first decisions was to contract with Tri-County to provide all public health services through the end of 2022.
The agency will provide vital records as a first service, starting June 1. The county also plans to take over emergency preparedness and disease surveillance on July 1. Environmental Health and Community Health are scheduled to begin in September.
The health department may add or remove services in the future, Hill said.
Staff and finances
The health department has also moved forward with the hiring of about eight employees, including an administrative assistant, an assistant director for environmental health and an epidemiologist among others.
During a working session on April 19, Hill presented the commissioners with a possible organization chart, including a full staff of about 35 people and 2 contractors. Those staff are expected to cost about $3.5 million to $4 million a year, Hill said.
The department was to finalize the organizational chart after approving the services the department will provide.
The health department is also required by law to hire a physician as a medical director because its director of public health is not a physician. Hill said in an email that he plans to start hiring a part-time medical director for about five hours a month in July and that there is currently an interim doctor in the position.
Hill said he believes the Department of Health can continue to operate with its public health budget of about $2.5 million, with 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 the grants that will be available in July.
For physical space, the agency began moving into an 8,200 square foot facility in Castle Rock partially used by Tri-County currently. The agency also 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 start talking to health department policy commissioners, he said.
In April, the board of health decided to appeal a judge’s decision to block the health department from enforcing its public health order banning mask requirements in the county.
The health department issued this order in October as the first and only public health order. Two months later, two Douglas County businesses filed a lawsuit against the health department, claiming the ordinance and the entire health department were illegal.
A judge granted the companies’ request for a preliminary injunction on March 4.
The department’s notice of appeal was filed April 11 and challenges notions raised in the original case, including the legality of Douglas County’s separation from Tri-County.