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People rarely notice their local public health departments—at least, until a pandemic comes along. That was the case for the Tri-County Health Department, which had served Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties since 1948 but dissolved at the end of 2022 after its mask mandates caused fissures between leaders of the three local governments. It will be replaced by new, individual agencies for each county. What does that mean for residents? The departments will have to staff up quickly. Glen Mays, professor and chair of the Department of Health Systems, Management & Policy at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz, expects the agencies to prioritize hiring for programs that generate revenue, such as licensing and inspections. What might suffer are functions that don’t make money, including data collection: surveying citizens, monitoring medical records, and tracking emergency department visits in the hope of catching emerging threats. You know, like COVID-19, whose arrival in the United States was first recognized by Seattle public health officials. “But that’s also how we detect even routine things like foodborne disease outbreaks—if we have an E. coli outbreak,” Mays says. “[Data collection] is the brain of the agency that helps us figure out what’s going on, health-wise, in the community.” For Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas, the hope is that three heads will eventually be better than one.