Arapahoe County on Tuesday became the third and final county to announce that it will break away from the Tri-County Health Department, ending a nearly 75-year relationship it has had with a public health department that just a few months ago served 1.5 million people in the metro area.
After hearing an hour’s worth of testimony from members of the public imploring them to get out from under Tri-County’s mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions, the county commissioners voted to depart the beleaguered agency at the end of 2022 and form a standalone health department.
Douglas County was the first to pull out of Tri-County in September after the conservative county butted heads with the agency over its mask mandate in schools. That started a slow unwinding of Tri-County as its two remaining member counties had to scramble to figure how to deal with Douglas County’s departure.Tri-
Adams County followed suit in October, announcing that it would remain under Tri-County’s jurisdiction through the end of 2022 before forming its own public health department.
In a news release issued shortly after Tuesday morning’s vote, Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Jackson praised Tri-County “for the first-class health programs and services the agency has provided to millions of residents over the course of our partnership.”
“While many residents were unaware of the scope of a health department’s duties prior to COVID, over many decades TCHD’s employees have shown a deep commitment to providing these services,” she said. “They are a first-rate example of how public health services should be modeled and we will continue to work with them over the coming months to find a workable solution for all involved parties and stakeholders.”
The county even held out the prospect in its resolution that it could partner with Tri-County “as a legal entity in some form
other than a multi-county district public health agency” past 2022. But it didn’t provide details as to what that might look like,
The tone in the hearing room Tuesday was far less friendly, with residents during public comment condemning Tri-County’s COVID-19 public health orders and calling for Arapahoe County to cut its ties with the agency. Several speakers even called for the resignation of Tri-County Executive Director Dr. John Douglas.
Tri-County did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
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