As of January 1st, 2023, San Juan Basin Public Health will close its doors (metaphorically), and La Plata and Archuleta counties will take over providing public health services to their communities. La Plata Public Health Department has been working over the past year to develop the new department, staff the offices, and ensure the continuation of public health in La Plata County. While essential services like health insurance assistance, emergency clinic services, and wastewater testing will continue uninterrupted, other services will see a slight “pause” while La Plata County Health Department officially takes over in the first couple of weeks of 2024. By Hannah Robertson This story is sponsored by Sky Ute Casino and Kroegers Ace Hardware
After nearly 40 years of serving La Plata and Archuleta Counties, San Juan Basin Public Health Department will be closing its doors on December 31st, 2023, enabling each county to take control of public health services for their communities. For La Plata County, all public health services will be provided from January on through the La Plata County Public Health Department. You're watching the Local NEWS Network, brought to you by Sky Ute Casino and Kroegers Ace Hardware. I'm Hannah Robertson. The transition process began in early 2023 with the first hires for La Plata County Public Health happening in April. Part of the statute for dissolving the San Juan Basin Public Health included the year long process to begin the county health departments.
We, of course, wanted to make sure we hired the best, most qualified individuals, so we were really diligent about the interviewing and the selection process. I'm happy to say that of the 45 employees that we've hired so far, all but six are former San Juan Basin staff, so we know that we're going to be hitting the ground running with very qualified individuals who have shown themselves to be very dedicated to our community and to public health.
Public health departments provide many integral services in their communities. Community health, in the form of immunization clinics, sexual health clinics, maternal and baby health, WIC support, and other services provided by San Juan Basin Public Health will continue to be supported by the county health departments. One of the other services La Plata County Public Health will be taking over is the environmental health programs.
Environmental health consists largely of onsite wastewater regulation, so we issue permits for folks to get their septic systems installed. We issue licenses for installers, and make sure that anybody who is an installer or a cleaner has been through education, and knows how to do their jobs, and make sure that systems are installed safely and functionally. And then there is the retail food element of the environmental health program. So that's restaurant inspections and, you know, helping make sure that retail food operators, if they run into any problems, help them solve them to make sure that food safety is being delivered to customers.
While the handoff between San Juan Basin Public Health and the two county-based health departments on paper looks to be happening overnight, La Plata County Public Health plans to put a pause on most services the first week of January with a staggered start to other services throughout the month. Emergency clinic services, vital records, water and wastewater operator compliance testing, and health insurance assistance will remain available throughout the transition period. Appointments and regular services will resume January 8th, and appointments for regular sexual health and immunization clinics will resume January 23rd. Food licensing renewals will extend into 2024 to accommodate for the transition period.
Once we're back kind of up and running and delivering public health services, our thinking, and hope, and intention is that the public is going to see very little difference in service delivery. We're going to be in the same building. Like I said, the vast majority of the program staff will be the same, so people will experience very little change in what they are accustomed to. All of the programs and services that we provide are coming over from San Juan Basin. We aren't cutting any programs. There will be very little difference in how the public receives public health services.
Information for La Plata County Public Health Department is available on the La Plata County website under the departments tab. You can also follow La Plata County on social media for updates. Until December 31st, San Juan Basin Public Health's website will be available for scheduling 2023 and 2024 appointments, information, and other services. Sign up for the Health Department newsletter for more information about the transition and upcoming 2024 services. Find more information about this and other stories at durangolocal.news. Thank you for watching this edition of the Local NEWS Network.