National PBS Broadcast Features Health Department Breakup

 Consolidated from PBS and the Durango Telegraph

The PBS News Hour featured a segment on the breakup of San Juan Basin Public Health as part of a story on health director turnover in Colorado. Fast forward to the 35-minute mark

As shown below, the story shows pictures of protesters outside the home of the SJBPH director, and intimidation tactics used during the COVID shutdown.

SJBPH Protesters

Protesters in Archuleta County were the first to propose breaking up SJBPH. After months of controversy, the SJBPH board and La Plata and Archuleta county Boards of County Commissioners (BoCCs) voted to disolve the district and to set up separate health departments.

"People in Archuleta County came to meetings with guns on their hips," SJBPH Vice President Shere Byrd explained to the News Hour. "It was just an untenable situation."

 CO Public Health

Health directors have been forced out across Colorado

Kayla Marler, Former Director, Fremont County, Colorado, Public Health and Environment, was fired after she proposed adding family planning to the public health department. "The people that are impacted are the residents," she adid. "There is no room for politics to be in public health."

That's not how proponents of the breakup see it.

“You have to understand, this is a Republican county, and many people did not like SJBPH coming over here trying to enforce Democratic views,” LaVonda Bass, a Pogosa Springs resident and member of a group advising the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners, told the Durango Telegraph in September. “That was a major issue.”

The SJBPH, Archuleta County Commission and La Plata County Commission voted in 2022 to disband the 70-year-old health district. The decision was reaffirmed this year by the three boards after unsuccessful pleas to keep SJBPH intact.

The Archuleta County BoCC has set aside $1 million to set up its own health department.


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