KREX reporter Michael Loggerwell’s story about Mesa County’s new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Health Department- Part 1
KREX-TV News recently did a two-part series about the Mesa County Commissioners’ new, post-Jeff Kuhr Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that more tightly regulates the County’s relationship with the Public Health Department (MCPHD), and how it differs from the old 2012 agreement in important ways that could negatively affect public health and safety in the county.
The new, more restrictive agreement created a far more bureaucratic system that gives county commissioners carte blanche to veto anything members of the Mesa County Board of Public Health might want to discuss at their meetings. It also gives the commissioners final say over all MCPHD’s contracts and grants — basically all of the agency’s funding — even though the County contributes a mere 4.2% of MCPHD’s $11.3 million budget.
In Part 1 of the series, KREX reporter Michael Loggerwell interviews Commissioner Cody Davis, who says the new IGA is “not much different” from the previous agreement put in place back in 2012.
The new IGA is very different from the old one
But then Loggerwell also interviews several public health experts who disagree with Davis, saying the new IGA gives the commissioners far more control over the health department than was intended under the Public Health Act of 2008.
In Part 2 of the series (below), these experts weigh in on why the new IGA goes too far and how it can negatively impact the Health Department’s ability to react quickly in response to public health threats:
This kind of heavy-handed control over health departments…
“…can not just potentially slow down necessary, rapid action that’s needed during … a public heath threat to the community, but it also undermines the actual expertise of people that have been trained to do public health…”
said Lori Freeman, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
It’s not just hypothetical, either, Freeman pointed out. In Ottowa County, Michigan, the commissioners de-funded their health department and fired it’s director. “It’s a retaliation measure,” Freeman said, for steps the health department took during the Covid pandemic to keep people safe.
Mark Johnson, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Jefferson County Department of Public Health says what the Mesa County Commissioners have done to our health department is “unfortunate.”
It remains to be seen if the Mesa County Commissioners will now use their new, excessive power over MCPHD to retaliate against the agency, hinder its response to future pandemics and epidemics, or attempt to exert their own personal, political or religious beliefs on the agency, but citizens now must be extra vigilant for such incursions, especially since the new president of the Board of Public Health, Stephen D. Daniels, is an anti-vax, anti-immigrant, anti-gay extremist, and Commissioner Janet Rowland (who had herself placed on the Board of Health to gain more control over the agency), promoted conspiracy theories and spread disinformation about Covid during the pandemic when she ran for commissioner in 2020.