Arapahoe County makes official it’s also leaving Tri-County Health Department


AURORA |  The Tri-County Health Department, which has overseen public health in Arapahoe, Douglas and Adams counties for over seven decades, will seemingly be no more as commissioners in Arapahoe County formally voted Tuesday to leave the agency.

The departure will be official Dec. 31, 2022. In the meantime, like Adams County, Arapahoe residents will still be governed by the department and its health orders, such as the active mask mandate.

“Arapahoe County is indebted to the TCHD staff for the first-class health programs and services the agency has provided to millions of residents over the course of our partnership,” Arapahoe County Board Chair Commissioner Nancy Jackson  said in a statement following the vote. “While many residents were unaware of the scope of a health department’s duties prior to COVID, over many decades TCHD’s employees have shown a deep commitment to providing these services. They are a first-rate example of how public health services should be modeled and we will continue to work with them over the coming months to find a workable solution for all involved parties and stakeholders.”   

It’s so far unclear what the cost of creating its own department will be for Arapahoe County, but the resolution didn’t rule out Arapahoe County partnering with the department past 2022. It’s also uncertain what role TCHD will play in regional health moving forward.

Citing political differences, which have rocked the health department since the beginning of the pandemic, Douglas County first declared that it would break with Tri-County in July 2020 after the board of health imposed a mask mandate across the three counties to curb the spread of COVID-19. It rescinded its intent to withdraw after the passage of the opt out policy, but in January it signaled that it intended to establish its own health department starting in 2023.

Adams County commissioners decided 3-2 to abandon the agency in August.

“The reason why three of us took that very hard vote was to push Tri-County to do the right thing and be a health department and actually issue health orders and mandates instead of putting it in the political arena and into the laps of commissioners,” Commissioner Eva Henry told the Sentinel this fall. “ … They needed to be pushed. If we had just gone along with the orders nothing would have happened, and we would still have the opt-out.”

Details about Arapahoe County’s departure are minimal.

The timeline allows Arapahoe County officials to “explore its future options and develop a transition plan to form its own single-county public health department that will deliver the quality public health services the County has received during the 55-year partnership with TCHD,” a news release said following the vote. 

Aurora, which sits in all three counties, is now set to be governed by three separate health agencies. That’s something local leaders hoped to avoid, going so far as to passing a resolution requesting county lawmakers keep the three-county framework.

Tri-County was originally established in 1948 as an organ serving Adams, Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties, which at the time boasted modest populations of about 40,000, 50,000 and 55,000, respectively, according to U.S. Census data. Each of those counties now play host to more than half a million people each. 

Jefferson left the collective in 1958 — setting the precedent for a Colorado county leaving an existing health department — only to be replaced by Douglas County eight years later. 

Until the departures, TCHD oversaw health for nearly 1.5 million people in the Denver metroplex.

— CARINA JULIG contributed to this story

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Aurora needs it’s own health department

1 year ago

It’s a natural trail of events. Aurora covers three counties and becomes a hassle when Adams, Arapaho and Douglas has to build their own health departments.

Tri County has no where to go so Aurora drafts Tri County as their own Department of Health eliminating the need of counties. Hopefully Tri County has a break even budget already.

Who loses?

1 year ago

Oh for crying out loud. Do they really think that anyone is buying their finger-pointing and accusations against TriCounty? We all know that Douglas County, with its group of all Republican commissioners, started the dominoes falling when they stomped their feet and chose to fall all in on the Republican political playbook concerning the coronavirus. It’s certainly obvious that even with some of the best doctors and scientists available within the 3-county area, too many commissioners are choosing party over public safety.

With Aurora in 3 separate counties, unfortunately, I see chaos ahead. With people like Steve Sundberg now an Aurora city councilman, I fear greatly for the people in Aurora.

Hey Steve, your past comment (” . . . if the vaccines work so well, why the mask mandate again?”) is truly one of the most willfully ignorant comments about the coronavirus and vaccines that I’ve read in a while. You need to make sure you’ve had several learning sessions with doctors, epidemiologists, microbiologists and public health experts sooner rather than later Steve. Sheesh.

When you have people like Aurora councilman Republican Kevin Hougen, president and CEO of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce saying things like
” . . . the new mask order for Arapahoe and Adams counties complicates matters for his 800 member businesses,” it really doesn’t inspire any faith that he gets it.

Hey Kevin, you’re supposed to be looking out for the needs and public health of all the people in Aurora. All the people are at stake here Kevin. Including seniors, primary immunodeficient kids, transplant patients, medically high-risk people, etc. People whose lives are compromised and complicated by the selfishness of those who willingly spread their germs.

Before the City Council takes any more steps, they need to educate themselves and have some more conversations. With the experts. And with the people like me that voted and care what happens.