Douglas County will now receive some of its COVID-19 services from a company based in Castle Pines after the county commissioners approved a $1.5 million contract today.
The action came after the Tri-County Health Department halted its COVID-related services to Douglas County in the wake of an order by the county's new board of health allowing people to opt out of mask-wearing requirements.
The company, Jogan Health Solutions, will provide contact tracing and other epidemiological services to deter the spread of the disease, according to the contract.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will fully reimburse the county for these expenses, according to the county.
“I’m very optimistic and very excited about this opportunity to bring Jogan on board to provide a critical health service at this time with the new Douglas County Health Department,” Commissioner George Teal said in the meeting.
Douglas County formed its own health department earlier this fall after months of disagreements with Tri-County Health Department about COVID-19 services in the county.
In its second meeting, the Douglas County Health Department’s Board of Health -- two members of which are also county commissioners -- approved an order that allowed anyone to opt themselves or their children out of mask mandates in the county, including those in the public school system. It also limited quarantines in the school district.
The Douglas County School District had previously required masks for all, even after the new health department was formed.
Emails obtained by Colorado Community Media through a public records request show that before the county's opt-out order was approved Oct. 8, Tri-County told the new Dougco health board that these measures would make it difficult for Tri-County to continue providing COVID-related services.
“Removing nearly all mitigation measures to control COVID-19 transmission in schools is greatly concerning and with decades of public health experiences and expertise, TCHD cannot support this action,” Jennifer Ludwig, the deputy director for Tri-County, wrote to the county board of health president, Doug Benevento, according to the records obtained by CCM.
But the county issued the order anyway. After it was put in place, the school district, along with nine district families, sued the health department saying that the order violated civil rights of students with disabilities.
As a result, a federal judge temporarily halted the public health order, and then on Monday extended the block another two weeks.
In that hearing, the health board’s legal counsel said that the board was considering rescinding the public health order this week without explaining why.
In the election that ended Tuesday, a new Douglas County school board majority was elected that is seen as less supportive of mask requirements than the previous board.
Tri-County Health Department continues to provide all other public health services but halted their COVID-19 work as a result of the county’s public health order.
Dr. John Douglas, the head of Tri-County, said the agency has worked with Jogan Health Solutions on vaccines in several settings and “have been very impressed” with the company’s work.
Jogan Health Solutions was formed in January 2021, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s database. Douglas County contracted with them beginning in May for a drive-through vaccine clinics at the fairgrounds.
Some of the services the company will conduct includes case investigations, outbreak reporting for non-state-run facilities, analysis of cases and contact tracing. The staff working for the county will include two epidemiologists, one project manager, five case investigators and 15 contact tracers, according to the contract.
Under the contract, Jogan’s work will begin Nov. 22 and will expire at the end of 2022.
The company describes itself as providing “turn-key vaccinations, testing, monoclonal antibody and surge medical staffing programs in multiple states,” according to its website.
The website also lists four other associated companies outside of Jogan Health Solutions, including Jogan Traffic, Jogan Security and Jogan 5G. Each of these was created in the past two years, according to the secretary of state’s office.
During public comment at today's meeting, one resident raised concerns about the county spending more money to build a new health department than to have remained with Tri-County.
In response, Commissioner Lora Thomas said Douglas County will have additional costs up front.
“We're going to be running two parallel health departments, we're setting up our own and continuing with Tri-County Health, so there are going to be additional costs up front,” she said. “I stand by my statement that in the end, this is not going to cost us additional funds once we get this set up and running because of the federal and state grants that support Tri-County Health that will be able to support the efforts in Douglas County.”
Commissioner Abe Laydon emphasized that these services will be completely reimbursed by the state and that the county actually plans to reduce taxes.
“We intend to tax no one for this,” he said. “There will be no increase in taxes.”
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