Once and Future Public Health Department, Part One – Pagosa Daily Post News Events and Videos for Pagosa Springs Colorado

Under Colorado law, each county must have its own local public health agency or participate in a district public health agency. La Plata County and Archuleta County currently participate in a district public health agency called the San Juan Basin Public Health (“SJBPH”) …

Resolution from 2022-24

At their respective meetings on Tuesday, November 15, the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners and the La Plata Board of County Commissioners each voted to approve an orderly dissolution of the San Juan Basin Public Health District, which had been jointly operating for nearly 75 years. serving two counties. years.

The different discussions in the two different meetings presented an interesting difference, as we will hear in this editorial.

The La Plata Board of County Commissioners met at 10 a.m. on November 15, and had only a few decision items on their agenda.

  1. R-2022-24: Consideration of Joint Resolution No. 2022-24 Establishing the Planned and Orderly Dissolution of the San Juan Basin Public Health District
  2. To consider an intergovernmental agreement establishing a planned and orderly process for the dissolution of San Juan Basin Public Health and to facilitate a smooth transition of public health services to the counties.

Discussion of Resolution 2022-24 began approximately 5 minutes into the La Plata County meeting, and lasted approximately 22 minutes, beginning with a staff report by County Manager Chuck Stevens. Mr. Stevens began like this:

“Okay, so it’s been a little trip. So, let’s take it slow…”

Although both countries have supported and enjoyed SJBPH’s services “for decades”, some “philosophical differences” appeared during the COVID crisis, Mr Stevens said with regard to public health.

During the COVID crisis, in particular, two county boards found themselves with differing opinions on emergency public health policies such as business closures, wearing masks, quarantining, testing and vaccinations.

But other “philosophical differences” also existed before COVID.

“Our communities are very different,” Mr. Stevens continued. “The response to the pandemic may have exposed some of those differences, and in the fall of 2021, Archuleta County commissioners will convene to take a look at the public health district, to determine its viability and Archuleta’s willingness to remain. Appointed an inquiry committee to provide information about Within the Public Health District.

“While the Archuleta commissioners never took formal action on the report that came out of that investigation, it also caused the La Plata County commissioners to take a look at our role in San Juan Basin Public Health, and the Public Health District meeting was here in La Plata. The needs of your residents, your constituents in the county – or was there any way, better…”

Certainly, both the communities are “different”. Especially, perhaps, politically. All three La Plata commissioners are Democrats, for example, and all three Archuleta commissioners are Republicans.

The county seat of La Plata County is the city of Durango, which has a population of approximately 19,000. Durango is home to Fort Lewis College with an enrollment of approximately 3,500. The county’s median age is 36 years.

The county seat of Archuleta County is Pagosa Springs, which has a population of approximately 1,600, with no higher education options. The average age of the county is 50 years.

Although home prices and rental rates are similar in both communities (with Durango being slightly higher) wages differ. The average weekly wage in Archuleta County is $845. The median weekly wage in La Plata County is approximately $1,200.

We’ll hear another 20 minutes of discussion at the La Plata commissioners meeting tomorrow, and consider what this change will cost each county.

But first, hear from the Archuleta commissioners at their afternoon meeting on Nov. 15.

The discussion went on for a full 2 ​​minutes.

The only concrete comment came from Commissioner Warren Brown.

“I know there are some people in our community who are upset about how things ended. However, this is where we are. And I believe, if we can jointly work on this between the two countries, If we do, it will be more beneficial to our community members in the end result, rather than antagonize us. Thank you.”

Commissioners Ronnie Mays and Alvin Schaaf agreed, and the vote to disband the public health district was approved. (As also happened in Durango four hours earlier.)

In fact, there was nothing more to say about the issue. Archuleta BOCC initiated an investigation in August, 2021 to ascertain the feasibility of dissolving SJBPJH. Apparently, that investigation — and some of the political activity during the COVID crisis — sparked concern and hurt feelings at the SJBPH offices in Durango, and even caused SJBPH employees to fear for their own safety. Here is a quote dated June 7, 2022, issued by the governing body for the district – the seven-member health board:

At a meeting scheduled for April 28, 2022, the San Juan Basin Board of Health recommended the dissolution of the Public Health District. That recommendation now goes, through this report, to both sets of county commissioners to take action on. Each board of county commissioners can determine whether it wishes to take this recommendation and vote to dissolve the district. Importantly, a county’s decision constitutes a dissolution …

To move forward as a united county district, major changes will need to be made to mend relationships, protect the safety of SJBPH employees and the Board of Health at all times, and rekindle a partnership of trust…

…Public questions about funding for desired and unwanted regulatory actions of public health, along with a lack of support for district directives and programs, have undermined the perception of the public health infrastructure in both countries. Personnel who work tirelessly to protect the health of district communities feel disheartened and dejected…

You can download that letter here.

The political activity in SJBPH that raised concerns included a series of protest meetings between January and March, 2021 at the private home of SJBPH Executive Director Lianne Jolan, although I believe most of the protesters were La Plata County residents.

The Board of Health letter concluded with a statement that “SJBPH staff and the Board of Health are committed to assisting both counties in a seamless transition.”

We know that most Colorado counties operate their own independent public health agencies – and, in some cases, separate environmental health agencies as well – but what we don’t yet know is that this dissociation What a loss to Archuleta County taxpayers.

Read Part Two… Tomorrow…

bill hudson

Bill Hudson started sharing his opinion in Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 and can’t seem to break the habit. He claims that in Pagosa Springs, opinions are like pickup trucks: Everyone has one.

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