Homeless program official gets public health award
Annette Evans, Washington County's homeless program coordinator, has won a county award recognizing her contributions to public health.
Others honored Tuesday, April 3, were the Hillsboro School Board chairwoman, Hillsboro Water Department and fire science students at Banks High School.
The 16th annual ceremony took place at the Washington County Conference Center in Hillsboro during National Public Health Week.
Seventeen other nominees for the four awards were honored.
"We have all accomplished something that's important — a very healthy county," said Andy Duyck, county board chairman.
Washington County led Oregon in health outcomes, and was second in health factors, in a 2018 report compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Evans has worked for the county since 2005, and has been homeless program coordinator for a decade within the Housing Services Department.
The employee award was created in 2014 to honor a county worker who has contributed to public health. Until now, that award has gone to someone within the Health and Human Services Department.
"She has worked to build bridges between housing and health-care sectors, for housing is a platform that improves the quality of life for our county's most vulnerable population," said Bryan Robb, a county housing and community development specialist, who nominated her.
Evans oversees about $4 million annually in various grants and works to develop permanent housing, especially for people with physical and mental disabilities and those recovering from addictions.
Evans said credit goes to elected officials, staff and community volunteers.
"Each of us in this room is a vehicle for social change for the benefit of our entire community," she said. "Each of us represents the community fabric of service."
Other award winners
Three of the four awards went to people and groups in western Washington County:
• The Public Health Ambassador Award went to Chairwoman Lisa Allen of the Hillsboro School Board, which voted 6-0 earlier this year to allow the school-based health center at Century High School to provide access to contraceptive services.
The Tigard-Tualatin School Board followed suit with its two school-based health centers.
Allen was in the minority — all three were women — when the four men then on the Hillsboro School Board voted down a proposed change in 2016.
"She has been leading the charge and making an impact for more than three years," said Lacey Beaty, program director for school-based health centers at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center.
"Most importantly, she has kept the conversation alive with the community and the school district… Her advocacy for comprehensive reproductive health has brought awareness to the benefit of affordable and accessible health care at the school-based health center, and the good it provides to students, especially those most vulnerable."
In accepting the award, Allen gave credit to the others who stood with her in 2016. They were Kim Strelchun, who is still on the board, and Janeen Sollman, who was elected to the Oregon House later in 2016. (Four new members joined the board in 2017, and one more this year.)
"It just really means I was the person who was the most annoyingly persistent," Allen said as the audience laughed.
• The Hillsboro Water Department received the Partners in Public Health Award, which goes to an organization or business. In 2016 it developed free lead-testing kits for use by households, nonprofits and licensed child care facilities; the latter group must now test and submit results by Sept. 30.
Jon Kawaguchi, the county's environmental health program manager, said the dangers of lead exposure are known — but they have taken on new urgency with discoveries in Flint, Mich., in 2015, and Portland and other Oregon school districts in 2016.
"This program makes it possible for customers who feel they are at risk for exposure, especially customers who may not have funds, knowledge or the ability to test water," he said.
Accepting on behalf of Hillsboro was Jessica Dorsey, water quality program manager.
"We felt it was important to be able to offer this tool to our customers so that they can get the knowledge they need to make informed decisions," she said.
• The Emerging Public Health Leader Award went to fire science students at Banks High School. The program is run by Banks Fire District, which has had a similar course at Century High School since 2006.
"We look at the program as being more than just learning about fire and emergency medical services," Chief Rodney Linz said. "We look at the choices our students make in leaving high school."
First-year student Paul Lepschat said it has prompted interest in a career in emergency medical services. "It's such an eye-opening experience to join," he said.
Madison Hedlund said the program has personal and social benefits.
"Being in the second-year program, I have learned so many things that I feel so much safer in certain situations, and if there is some kind of emergency, I will know exactly what to do," she said.