Douglas County is on track to remain with Tri-County Health Department after the agency’s board of health approved a policy change for enacting countywide public health orders in a Nov. 6 meeting.
The new policy, approved by eight of the nine members of the board, has three key changes:
• The three counties' elected officials will now be consulted before any orders are put in place.
• County commissioners will have the ability to opt out of any orders that may impact them.
• If Tri-County must put an emergency health order in place, the health department’s executive director will brief and consult commissioners as soon as possible following the order.
This decision comes months after Douglas County’s board of commissioners announced it planned to leave Tri-County, one day after the agency implemented a mask mandate for the county.
At the time, commissioners said they were looking into forming their own health department, but a few weeks after the announcement, the county began talks with Tri-County about how they could remain together.
Since then, Douglas County and Tri-County have been in negotiations about a possible policy change that would allow counties more power in public health decisions.
All of the board members voted to approve the proposal except board president Rosanna Reyes, of Adams County, who abstained from the vote. Rosanna and one other board member expressed frustration with the change in policy.
“I have to say how disappointed I am that we are where we are today,” said Jullie Mullica, an Adams County board member. “This policy change is completely unnecessary.”
Mullica went on to say that she believes Douglas County commissioners' threats to leave Tri-County are “completely irresponsible.”
“With a heavy heart I will support this policy because I want to save the lives of members of my community,” she said. “Our leadership has spent too much time focusing over the past couple months trying to solve the political concerns of Douglas County commissioners.”
In October, Douglas County commissioners said they would withdraw their intention to leave Tri-County if this proposal was approved.
"Douglas County is willing to remain in the current three-county district relationship at a minimum through at least the end of 2022 while we collectively continue to examine our partnership,” according to a statement from the board at that time.
Douglas County commissioners did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision.
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