By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver
[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] Douglas County's new public health department will provide 33 public health services after approval by the county board of health Thursday.
In 2020, the county decided to drop out of the Tri-County Health Department over opposition to the department's mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public Health Executive Director Michael Hill told the board the department would phase in services beginning with vital records on June 1.
The county will charge fees set by the state for copies of records such as birth and death certificates: $20 for the first copies and $13 for each additional copy ordered at the same time. Part of each fee goes to the state to offset the cost of the vital records system, Hill added.
"I believe these fees will more than cover the cost of our services," he said.
Commissioner Lora Thomas praised Hill for resuming vital records services discontinued by Tri-County.
"I didn't realize they'd done that and made our citizens travel for these documents," she said.
As a former county coroner, Thomas noted people need birth and death certificates in a timely fashion.
"And it's not just Douglas County records they're looking for," she added. "If someone is born anywhere else in Colorado, they can get copies of their birth certificates in Douglas County."
Hill noted in his written report that the county took possession of Tri-County's Castle Rock office for vital records services.
The health board approved the services at an April 22 work session. Hill said the health department will study a few other essential services and may add them to the county's list in early 2023.
Hill said the fledgling department would soon post a list of services and its current financial status on the county website.
State funding growing
In his written report to the board, Hill noted that the department met with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment staff to discuss redirecting state and federal pass-through funds from the soon-to-be defunct Tri-County department. So far, Hill wrote that over $1.2 million seems to be headed to the county starting in July, the start of the state's fiscal year.
He added total funding would likely be higher since some programs have not finalized numbers and some funding schedules do not start on July 1.
Hill said he was "very confident" he would not exceed the $2.5 million the county had paid Tri-County in recent years once the local department is fully operational.
"I look at that as a funding ceiling, not a floor," he added.
Facilities, hiring progressing
Along with Adams and Arapahoe counties, Hill started discussions on what happens to the equipment, supplies and other assets of Tri-County when it ceases operations at the end of the year.
A draft intergovernmental agreement describes transitioning county staff this summer into Tri-County's 410 Wilcox St. Castle Rock location. Later, the department will add a satellite location in Lone Tree.
Recent new staff hires include a finance and grants manager, administrative assistant to the director, assistant director for environmental health, records clerks and epidemiology staff. Staffing will continue to grow as funding is secured.
Once a community health contractor(s) is chosen, a search will begin for a permanent medical officer, Hill said.
The only public comment at the meeting came from Dan Stein of Castle Rock, who said he had applied for a position in the department.
"I thought I'd show up and find out what this is all about," Stein explained. "I like what I heard."