Saturday, December 4, 2021

Aurora finds itself in the middle as the Three County Health Department is slowly crumbling after more than 70 years.

When the Three County Health Department falls apart, Aurora finds itself in the rubble – a city of nearly 400,000 people spanning three counties that have made up Colorado’s largest public health agency for decades.

And that led this diverse, fast-growing city east of Denver to start thinking about how it would deliver public health services – vaccinations, restaurant inspections, infectious disease control – to its residents after Triumph County fell apart forever. probably by the end next year.

The city has several options: contracting to provide services with each of the counties that were once part of County Three (Douglas, Arapaho, and Adams), creating its own city health department, or pursuing the difficult and ambitious journey of transforming itself into 65 County of Colorado.

“This could be a major factor in pushing the City of Aurora to become a city and county government,” said Mayor Mike Coffman.

Creating your own county instead of sailing the amorphous golden mean in favor of three county governments is an idea that has been discussed many times in Aurora, but has not received enough support to move forward. Coffman said his city’s need for reliable public health services may be a necessary push to move from concept to reality, “as the responsibility for setting up local health departments lies at the county level.”

To form her own county, Aurora will need to change the city’s charter and then get the state’s voters to approve of its formation. Brumfield, which was divided into four different counties, was the last Colorado county to be formed in 2001, and voters approved its formation three years earlier.

But any discussion about public health services in Aurora is at a very early stage, given that the disintegration of the County Three Department of Health began less than two months ago, when Douglas County seceded to form its own public health agency after it appeared to overlap with Tri-County COVID-19 Policy.

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Adams County announced last week that it will repeat Douglas County’s move, and an official vote is scheduled for Tuesday to notify Triumph County of its intention to go its own way in late 2022. Arapaho County did not say what it would do. on this occasion, almost certainly the default will also be forced to go alone.

Tri-County has been around since 1948 and served 1.5 million people in the metro area until last month.

There is still time to figure everything out. Tri-County has been contracted to provide services in all three counties until the end of next year. But Glen Mays, professor of health policy at the Colorado School of Public Health, said Aurora “needs to have active discussions” with the three counties about her unique needs.

“As the most diverse city in Colorado and one of the most demographically diverse cities in the United States, Aurora faces some important challenges as to whether the three counties can fully and equitably meet the health needs of their populations,” Mays said. “I think about the more than 160 languages ​​spoken by the people of Aurora, the many cultures and norms, the unique working conditions and businesses, the environmental hazards and risks, the large areas of the city with insufficient medical care, the problems of law enforcement and its health. effects within the city “.

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Immunizations and Vaccines Offered at the Three County Health Department on Friday, October 22, 2021.

If the three new public health agencies in Douglas, Adams and Arapaho counties are largely responsive to their county’s population and demographics, he said, “it would pose a challenge for Aurora in terms of unequal protection,” depending on whether which part of the city the residents live in. live.

Collaborating with individual health departments “will clearly create transitional challenges for Aurora,” Three County Spokeswoman Becky O’Guin said, but this is not an unprecedented situation. Look at Westminster, she said, which is spread over two counties and served by Three County in Adams County and Jefferson County Public Health on its west side.

“(They) figured out how to navigate such a landscape,” O’Guin said.

There was little friction in the provision of public health services in the city of 116,000, according to Westminster spokesman Ryan Hegreness.

“It has always been that way for us,” he said.

Due to the pandemic, the city has had to work a little harder to get its messages across to residents when it comes to various COVID policies, such as camouflaging or limiting bandwidth in buildings between the two counties, Hegreness said. But there is also collaboration across the county, with coordinated testing sites and vaccination clinics.

“In addition, both agencies have a physical presence in Westminster, holding street events among the homeless,” he said. “The Tribunal District has a strong focus on drug-related harm reduction and COVID screening. JCPH focuses on overall health assessment, including screening for COVID, and distribution of hygiene items. ”

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