Routt County public health director resigns suddenly
Kari Ladrow, Routt County director of public health, announced unexpectedly Monday she would be resigning her position — effective July 24 — in order to lead the Moffat County Public Health Department.
“I am excited to continue to serve the Moffat County community as the director, which I have been doing for two years now — first at Northwest Colorado Health as the public health director and then as part of the shared partnership with Routt County,” Ladrow said in an emailed statement. “My family and I will continue to be active and involved members of Routt County in the fight against COVID-19, and I am proud of the work that we, as a community, have accomplished so far. As a resident of our wonderful community, I look forward to Routt County executing on obtaining the adequate staffing resources to safely manage the pandemic. ”
Ladrow has been leading both county departments since June 2019 after the state of Colorado informed the governments of Routt and Moffat counties that they needed to run their own health department as opposed to contracting out the role to Northwest Colorado Health, as was the previous arrangement.
Ladrow has been dividing her time between locations, spending 60% of her time in Routt County and 40% in Moffat County. She was a Routt County employee, contracted to Moffat.
Ladrow previously served as public health director for Northwest Colorado Health.
“I would like to express my gratitude to Kari Ladrow for her outstanding service to Routt County,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said in a news release. “In just over a year, she built, almost from scratch, our public health department and developed it into the robust system it is now. Routt County citizens now have a public health department that will not only help us work through the COVID-19 pandemic but will serve our community for years to come,”
“We’re thankful to Kari for putting the public health department together, most especially during the trying time of a pandemic,” said Commissioner Doug Monger in the release.
The need for Routt County and Moffat County to each have their own public health director has long been evident, said Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton.
“Running a public health department in two counties is probably somewhat unreasonable in normal times. It is certainly unreasonable in a pandemic, and Kari made that clear.” Melton said. “We understood, and we’ve been working to resolve that as quickly as we could.”
The two counties had agreed to terminate the shared arrangement at the end of August. And it was primarily on Ladrow’s input that the county commissioners realized the arrangement wasn’t working, Melton said.
Before the pandemic, Routt County had two full-time equivalent employees — Ladrow, working part-time, a part-time administrative assistant and a full-time public health nurse.
After the pandemic started, the county made the assistant full time and contracted with a traveling nursing company. The county also is in the process of trying to hire an epidemiologist and a health educator.
“We are moving as quickly as we can to staff up,” Melton said.
Those two positions were advertised in Monday’s edition of Steamboat Pilot & Today, along with a contact tracer position at $23.50 an hour.
The county received approximately $1.5 million in allocated COVID-19-related funding from the state and federal governments. It is all provided on a reimbursement basis, Melton said.
Dividing her time between two counties, Ladrow has been working 70 to 80 hours per week.
“Kari has done a wonderful job managing a very challenging situation over the past year — building a brand-new department and then managing a pandemic,” Melton said in the release.
In adding staff to the department, Melton said the county is working to balance long-terms needs with short-term needs, and they were taking those recommendations from Ladrow .
“There are at least some permanent long-term needs that were only exacerbated by the pandemic,” Melton said. “In order to have a full public health department, you can’t do it with just two full-time employees. We all appreciate it is not enough.”
Melton said Monday’s news was a surprise, and the expectation had been that, in September, Ladrow would stay with Routt County and leave Moffat County.
“We are working quickly to figure out what can be done,” Melton said. “It’s possible we will have an interim solution. We certainly will not let bureaucracy get in the way of what is necessary to provide continuity for the community.”
Melton said the top qualifications she would look for in a new candidate would be strong expertise in public health, strong management skills and a dedication to the community. The salary range is from $92,735 to $125,449.
Melton said the position was not posted as of Monday afternoon, but it is a top priority.
“These things happen,” Melton said. “It’s really unfortunate and a challenging time to have this kind of staff turnover, but we will figure it out.”
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Moffat County is requesting a move to the less-restrictive Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors in the COVID-19 dial from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.