Comment on Tri-County’s executive director on the breakup of Colorado’s largest health department

Tri-County’s executive director on the breakup of Colorado’s largest health department

Dr. John Douglas The executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, Dr. John Douglas, has been relatively quiet as the public health agency he has led for more than eight years — far and away Colorado’s largest — has come apart over the past few weeks. The unraveling began last month when Douglas County said it would break away to form its own public health agency after disagreeing with Tri-County’s mask mandate for staff and students in schools. It continued this week with Adams County’s announcement that it, too, planned to form its own health department starting in 2023. Douglas, 69, who has spent nearly 40 years working with infectious diseases in public health, including a stint with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, sat down with The Denver Post on Thursday for a one-on-one Zoom interview about what he thinks he did right and wrong, the raw deal he said his staff got, and his thoughts about how a health agency that has provided services for 73 years for up to 1.5 million people came apart in a matter of weeks. This interview has been edited for clarity and space. Denver Post: Where do you want to start, doctor? Douglas: The mantra of public health has always been we do our best when nobody knows what we’re doing — because things don’t happen.


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