By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver
[DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO] Douglas County's health board decided to reduce staffing for the new health department during an April 22 workshop.
Douglas County dropped out of the Tri-County Health Department last year over opposition to the department's mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As he noted during an April 20 work session with the county commissioners, county health department Executive Director Michael Hill explained that the positions and services listed in a draft staffing plan could easily change.
"I don't really have a dog in this fight, what you tell me to do or not, that's what I'll do," he said.
Hill's staffing plan called for up to 40 positions and services. The board of health — including commissioners Lora Thomas and George Teal — directed Hill to review and eliminate some jobs.
Vital records, WIC priorities
One of Hill's top priorities was to staff and offer vital records services by June 1. Thomas agreed with the emphasis, noting Tri-County had stopped offering county residents access to birth and death certificates.
Hill advocated for the department to offer Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services, paid for by the federal government.
He noted that that would involve hiring 1-3 low-cost WIC educators and contracting with other organizations for positions like a registered dietitian and WIC coordinator.
"I think this is an important service to have in our county," Hill said. "Ideally, we'd have primary services (in Castle Rock) with satellite offices elsewhere and if we can get our hands on a van, we can offer mobile services" to rural areas of the county.
Hill added he hoped WIC recipients would spend their electronic benefits cards in the county so it receives some tax revenue.
The board also discussed integrating mental health services with the health department and county mental health initiative services.
"If we already have parts of that taken care of by the mental health initiative, do we take those under the health department umbrella or some other integration?" Teal asked.
Hill said the county could address those issues on a case-by-case basis.
"We'd meet with the health initiative folks and decide, 'you got this, I'm out,'" he added. "I’m not proposing we hire psychologists and start offering mental health counseling. We want to participate with whatever other programs are out there."
"But we have to keep the faith of our commitment of no gaps in health services we made" when the county dropped out of Tri-County, Teal said.
Proper context for health data
Board president Doug Benevento advised Hill to carefully consider how the new department presents health data to the public.
"Make sure you provide information in context, so people understand the risks," he said. "There are risks to getting immunizations, so you really need to explain the risks and benefits of things like that."
Hill will present a revised staffing plan to the board at its May 12 meeting. Teal noted the county could start offering some health services to county residents in 6-9 months.