On April 28, the board governing San Juan Basin Public Health recommended that the agency dissolve – a move prompted by months of conflict instigated by the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners (BoCC).
The future of the public health agency, founded in 1948, now rests in the hands of the Archuleta and La Plata County commissioners.
Archuleta County Democrats have strong reservations about withdrawing from SJBPH. A “go it alone” approach could have severe public health and financial impacts for the taxpayers of Archuleta County. Archuleta County contributes $19.94 per capita to SJBPH and receives $93 in return. How does the Archuleta BoCC plan to close that $73.06 gap? That is an annual shortfall of a minimum of $1,00,7497 (based on 2021 population estimates) just to keep the same level of service as SJBPH.
Archuleta County is required by state law to provide health services to its citizens. If the county goes it alone on public health, can it meet those mandates effectively and without requiring a tax increase? The commissioners already established a fact-finding committee on public health and received that committee’s report in March. What did the committee find? We urge the commissioners to make the report available to the public online so that citizens can understand why the Archuleta BoCC created this costly dispute.
If the commissioners are determined to withdraw from SJBPH, we believe the process should be transparent. Before final decisions are made, the Archuleta BoCC should explain:
- How will the county fund public health expenditures? What new taxes will be imposed to make up the $1 million plus deficit?
- What kind of hiring will be required? How difficult will it be to fill those positions and provide facilities in the current economic climate?
- Will the new health department commit to following state recommended infectious disease control?
- Archuleta came through the pandemic with below average COVID cases and deaths so why does the BoCC want to walk away from success?
Finally, taxpayers should be able to see clearly whether dissolving San Juan Basin Public Health is truly in their best interests.