Denver’s Department of Environmental Health could get a new moniker in order to clear up confusion about the agency’s role. The department also would pick up some additional board members under the proposal, which would have to go before voters in November.
Officials say the agency’s name has sometimes been misleading to the public, so they want to rename it the Department of Public Health and Environment.
“It does not adequately convey the public health responsibilities of the department,” officials wrote in an executive summary of the department name. “Through conversations with partners including (Denver Health and Hospital Authority) DHHA, we have determined it is in the City’s best interest to update the department name to better reflect the duties.”
A department name change requires an amendment to the city charter, which needs voter approval. The proposal unanimously passed the city’s Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee Wednesday and will now move to the City Council before it can go on the ballot.
The department’s board, which develops rules and regulations, would grow from five to nine members under the proposal. Officials say it would bring more diverse expertise and experience to a board that is increasingly considering more complex, broader issues like marijuana and syringe exchanges.
In 1996, a change in state law triggered a split of health agencies creating Denver Environmental Health and the Denver Health and Hospital Authority.
Denver Health began managing public health services like medical investigation of disease and immunization clinics while Denver Environmental Health handled regulatory health issues like food safety inspections, animal control and the coroner’s office.