DougCo discusses spending $4 million to run new health department

Mike McKibbin

By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver

[DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO] The first look at how a Douglas County Health Department would be staffed calls for potentially hiring more than 40 employees and spending up to $4 million.

The county commissioners discussed a draft staffing plan with county health department Executive Director Michael Hill at a Tuesday work session.

The county decided to drop out of the Tri-County Health Department in 2020 over opposition to the department's mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hill said the ultimate size of the county department is undetermined.

"Some are the staffing positions I know I need, some of them are required by state statutes," he added.

To date, Hill listed filled positions of public health executive director, emergency preparedness and disease surveillance manager, emergency preparedness response planner and finance and grant manager.

He's accepting applications for five other positions, with three more planned to post in June and 11 others in July and August. Hill proposes adding contracted positions for medical officer and community health.

Hill hopes to work out space-sharing arrangements with Tri-County to house county health staff.

Funds available to cover department costs

Hill said the county budget department estimated his proposed staffing plan would cost between $3.5 million to $4 million. Douglas County previously paid $2.5 million as part of the Tri-County department.

That leaves the county with $1 million to $1.5 million to pay from the general fund, program fees and grant money for the county department’s staff, Hill said.

"I have a pretty good feeling of how much we will get from the state and a couple of the fees programs can more than pay for themselves" at rates set by the state, he added.
A draft staffing plan for the Douglas County Health Department.Douglas County

Hill's draft staffing plan calls for the county to offer vital records such as death and birth certificates by June 1. Emergency preparedness and disease surveillance would begin on July 1, followed by environmental health and community health around September.

The positions and services Hill listed include state-mandated priorities, priorities of local communities and some that Hill recommends.

"I think there's a very good chance we will get our own (Women Infants and Children) program with federal funds," he said.

Hill added the county could contract with another county's WIC director to run its program.

"I see WIC as an important program for our community," he said. "I can't see any reason we wouldn't want to do that."

Commissioners on board

Commissioner Lora Thomas noted when the county decided to opt out of the Tri-County department, "people said the county wouldn't offer any services. No, we will absolutely offer what's required, and we have a very robust health initiative."

"There's a fine line to have the state consider you a health department so you can get health department funding," Hill said. "There are a lot of stuff Tri-County offers but I'm not sure why. But if we drop a lot of those services, our citizens might feel the county does nothing."

"I think we should do what's needed and things that are important to our community," Commissioner George Teal said. "Don't do the rest."

Hill added the county health department should offer valuable services, "but I'm not trying to take over anything that's already in place. I'm not going to build an empire, even if I can."

Commissioner Abe Laydon said Hill's plan meets the county's goal of offering residents "exceptional public health services with no gaps and this does that well."

Hill said a Friday work session with the county board of health would further discuss the services and staff numbers the county department could include.

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Mike McKibbin is an independent journalist on Colorado's Front Range and covers Douglas County for NewsBreak.

Denver, CO

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