On Thursday, Sept. 1, the Adams County Board of Health appointed Dr. Kelly Weidenbach as the first Executive Director of the newly formed Adams County Health Department (ACHD). She had been serving as the Transition Director since February of this year.
This Executive Director appointment from Adams County's first Board of Health is the latest concrete step on a path toward the dissolution of the state's largest local public health agency, Tri-County Health Department (TCHD), which for more than 50 years delivered health services to Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties.
“Continuity of services continues to be a priority between now and the end of the year. Tri-County was a top functioning health department in the nation, and we want to continue that legacy,” said Weidenbach.
The Board of Health will be tasked with readying the county's health department to take over for TCHD on Jan. 1, 2023. As that deadline nears, the department's new board expressed optimism that it is on track to provide high-priority services to the county's population of 520,000 by the beginning of next year. Most of the department's budget will come from federal and state funds,
while the rest will be covered by the county and private entities. Some resources may be used from the county's allocation of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a federal COVID-19 stimulus package.
The newly minted Adams County Board of Health sees it as a new opportunity to address long-neglected inequities in public health. “I think this gives us an opportunity to look more specifically at the needs of our diverse population here in Adams,” said Board of Health
President Dr. Sheela Mahnke.
Adams County is a minority majority — about 51% of its population — and its demographics have faced compounding issues the new health department plans to address.
“One of our top priorities as the county’s first health department is to achieve health equity. We often talk about raising the voices of communities and populations that may have been historically undervalued, underrepresented, and who experience adverse or disproportionate outcomes,” said Weidenbach. “We will also be really looking around recovery from te COVID-19 pandemic - looking at places where the community may have lost traction on important health issues such as mental health, substance abuse, and physical and mental well-being.”
Nearly one in four residents in Adams County reported they were in poor mental health. Suicide rates are 10% higher in Adams County than the national average. Additionally, nearly 80% of individuals who have a mental illness are not receiving care here in Colorado.
“Mental and behavioral health is certainly a focus for our Board of Commissioners. So we'll look at how we foster and build capacity within the new health department to address any barriers for improving mental health in the community,” said Weidenbach.
Adams County Public Health will provide a range of clinical services at a discount or no cost to the community: immunizations that provide protection from disease, chronic disease prevention, WIC, and enrollment that provides free food to women and their children who may not be able to afford groceries, nurse home visits for families, increased testing availability for monkeypox in the coming months, as well as sexual health, family planning, and STI treatment and testing.
Adams County’s vision for its new health department is guided by public health industry best practices and by a vision for having the social determinants of health and equity as a foundation to our health department’s structure and activities. The new ACHD aims to deliver programs and services to enhance the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.