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Counties to discuss future of San Juan Basin Public Health

Archuleta County’s desire to leave casts uncertainty on district
Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, said a meeting Tuesday will help clarify the future of the health district.

A joint meeting to discuss the future of San Juan Basin Public Health has been scheduled for Tuesday, at which time two county governments – Archuleta and La Plata – will meet with the health department to try to resolve differences.

In recent weeks, it has come to light that two of three Archuleta County commissioners have expressed interest in dropping out of SJBPH, casting uncertainty on the future of the health district.

SJBPH serves both Archuleta and La Plata counties. If Archuleta County leaves, it will likely force La Plata County to have to form its own health district.

Archuleta County commissioners have been at odds with some of the decision-making and regulations set out by SJBPH in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioners Ronnie Maez and Alvin Schaaf have called for more local control and directed county staff members to set up a task force to explore creating their own district, according to reports in the Pagosa Springs Sun. Maez has also reportedly expressed concerns about the health district’s new septic regulations.

Commissioner Steve Wadley told The Durango Herald last week he is against leaving SJBPH.

Archuleta County’s task force has yet to establish, according to this week’s edition of the Sun.

SJBPH’s Board of Directors has called for a joint meeting with Archuleta and La Plata county commissioners to get on the same page and forge a path forward.

That meeting has been set for 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“I think the meeting is to help everyone understand what each county wants and expects from the district and how they see that going forward,” said board president Ann Bruzzese.

Bruzzese said she wants to hear from Archuleta County.

“I understand why people would be concerned about the future (of SJBPH), especially in a pandemic,” she said. “But I would first of all would like to hear from county commissioners before formulating any opinions.”

Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH, said the meeting will start with an overview of where the health district is at as an organization. Then, the floor will be opened to county commissioners.

“We’re inviting them to open the dialogue,” she said. “So we can plan and prepare for future steps that would need to happen if that’s what they so choose (leaving SJBPH).”

Colorado law mandates that counties have local health districts.

SJBPH was formed 70 years ago to serve both Southwest Colorado counties. Archuleta County contributes about $130,000 a year, and La Plata County contributes about $545,000 a year to the department’s $6.1 million budget.

If Archuleta County decided to leave, state law also requires at least a yearlong transition.

The joint meeting is open to the public. Those who want to listen in can call (346) 248-7799 and use Meeting ID #811-2908-5203 and password 336506. A link to join the meeting via Zoom is located on SJBPH’s website at www.sjbpublichealth.org.


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