San Juan County to create own public health district
San Juan County will leave the Southeastern Utah Health District on December 31 and open its own public health district.
While the new district will be Utah’s thirteenth, and smallest, public health district, the district will face the challenge of meeting a very diverse range of need.
Funding for the district will come primarily from the State of Utah on a per-capita basis. The total revenue from the state is estimated to be about $400,000 per year, plus the annual $75,000 contribution from San Juan County.
“The county doesn’t expect that it will be inexpensive,” said San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, “but the benefits to county residents will be huge.”
In addition to the state and county funding, officials are hopeful to find additional funding sources.
“There are huge untapped resources out there,” said Lyman, who added that the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain tribes have populations with large and possibly unmet public health needs.
For several decades, the county has been part of a four-county coalition that created the Southeastern Utah Health District. The district has included San Juan, Grand, Emery and Carbon counties and is headquartered in Price.
County officials have been concerned that the range of services offered by the district has continued to decrease. Services offered by the district are “almost nonexistent, as it is,” said Lyman.
For example, Lyman said that the public health office in Monticello has gone from a full service office to being open only two days a month.
The district office in Blanding is currently open four days a week.
Southeastern Utah Health District officials have expressed concern about San Juan County leaving the coalition. Funding the far-flung district now will be based upon the population of the remaining three counties.
Officials state that San Juan County is making progress on the process of finding a five-member board and hiring an executive director. Names mentioned for possible inclusion on the board include Carla Sorrell, Sue Morrell, Dorothy Padilla, Commissioner Lyman, and Gary Suttlemyre.
Lyman said the new board and director will develop a plan for the new district. He mentioned the new district is likely to pursue grant funding for out-reach services. In addition, Lyman said the new district may consider moving the Monticello office to San Juan Hospital, where it could be open 40 hours a week.