Jefferson County, CO — Each year during National Public Health Week, April 3-9, 2017, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) honors some of the people who work to prevent illness and promote health in our communities. While they may not have made public health their profession, the work they do, partnerships they provide and their enthusiasm for making health a priority in Jefferson County makes them the 2016 Public Health Champions.
This year, all the honorees share a common trait: heroism. They are everyday superheroes, like police and firefighters. They provide childcare for low-income families, believe housing should be affordable and healthy and make food safety a top priority. They are business owners that believe in providing a Thanksgiving meal to those in need.
An award ceremony hosted by JCPH, the Jefferson County Board of Health and the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners will be held for these heroes — these champions — 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, 2017 in the Lookout Mountain Room of the Jefferson County Courts and Administration site, 100 Jefferson County Parkway, Golden, CO 80419.
JCPH is pleased to announce the following 2016 Public Health Champions:
Ensuring Safe and Healthy Childcare for Homeless and Low-Income Families
Susan Dunn — Director, Renaissance Children’s Center
Renaissance Children’s Center (RCC) in Lakewood is one of the few childcare centers in Jefferson County that primarily serves low-income and homeless families. Susan Dunn, director of RCC, is a Public Health Champion for her work to create a safe, stable and healthy environment for children who may otherwise not have one.
Research shows that chronic exposure to stressors like food and housing insecurities can have a profoundly negative impact on a child’s overall growth and development. Under Dunn’s leadership, RCC strives to buffer these troubles. Dunn and her staff recognize that sound, appropriate nutrition, and opportunities for physical activity in early childhood are key factors in determining lifelong health outcomes.
Staff and parents converted the grassy area in front of the center into a community garden, which supplies produce for the children’s snack and lunch. The children can take extra produce to share with family. The community-wide “5210 Jeffco” posters — which recommend five fruits and vegetables daily, two or fewer hours of screen time, at least one hour of physical activity and zero sugary beverages— are hung at RCC to educate both parents and children.
The RCC staff also teaches life skills, manners and problem solving, as these children are more susceptible to learning disabilities, mental illness and other health issues. RCC works in partnership with public health organizations throughout the metro area, including JCPH, Culture of Wellness in Preschools and Go Farm.
Assuring the Safe Dispensing of Medication in a Public Health Emergency and Increasing Access to Immunizations for Children and Teens
Arvada Fire Protection District’s EMS Chief Dave Mitchell, EMS Captain Robert Putfark and Firefighter/Paramedic Andrew Higgins
Arvada Fire Protection District partnered with JCPH on two important projects in 2016.
Emergency Medical Services Chief Dave Mitchell worked with the JCPH Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) program to ensure the county is prepared to address and provide medication dispensing in a disaster. Arvada Fire became a dispensing partner and volunteered to test a new process by the EPR program. In just six weeks, Arvada Fire met with JCPH EPR many times, found resources to staff an internal dispensing site and offered to become a site for the community to receive medications in an emergency. These plans were tested during an exercise called Operation Bubble Blast. Without Arvada Fire, this important emergency preparedness activity could not have happened.
In addition to becoming a partner in preparedness, the Fire Protection District partnered with JCPH for a Shots for Tots and Teens program. Firefighter and paramedic Andrew Higgins approached JCPH with the idea in late 2015.
Emergency Medical Services Captain Robert Putfark, along with Mitchell and Higgins, engaged in more than six months of planning for the clinics. Along with public health nurses, they provided immunization training to all paramedics, several of whom were at each clinic. Arvada Fire also contributed funds for equipment and prizes for children.
The firefighters’ and paramedics’ interactions with families were amazing to watch. Anxious children going into the immunization area came out smiling. They made getting immunized a fun and rewarding experience for children, all while supporting their preventive health care. In four clinics held in 2016, nearly 80 clients received about 200 immunizations.
Throughout both projects, Arvada Fire and these Public Health Champions demonstrated superb attitude, flexibility and community spirit.
Reducing the Toll of Tobacco in Our Communities through Smoke-Free Housing Policies
Jefferson County Housing Authority’s Henry Wehrdt, Senior Asset Manager, and Leslie Ross, Housing Program Specialist
On February 1, 2016, subsidized housing property Green Ridge Meadows became smoke and vapor-free. On November 1, 2016, seven more Jefferson County Housing Authority (JCHA) properties did the same. Henry Wehrdt, senior asset manager at JCHA, and Leslie Ross, JCHA housing program specialist, are Public Health Champions for their work to protect the more than 1,200 residents at these properties from the dangers of secondhand smoke and aerosolized emissions from vaporizing devices, like e-cigarettes.
Wehrdt and Ross worked closely with JCPH’s Tobacco Prevention Initiative to design a resident-engaged process to transition properties to being smoke and vapor-free. Their commitment to supporting all residents in having smoke-free environments is matched by their compassion for the challenges these policies create for people who have smoked for many years and for whom housing insecurity is already a concern.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that prohibiting smoking in subsidized housing can yield annual cost savings of nearly $500 million, with the greatest majority of the savings going toward reducing health care expenses related to smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. This data has helped many housing providers make their buildings and properties smoke-free, many without much concern that residents who can’t or don’t comply will be evicted.
This wasn’t the case with Wehrdt and Ross at the Jefferson County Housing Authority. They are very familiar with the impact of homelessness, as they serve some of our county’s poorest. They understand the conflicting dilemmas of residents with limited mobility or serious mental illness who have smoked for many years in their apartments, just as they understand the struggles of a family with an asthmatic child or parent with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who suffers because of a neighbor’s smoking. Their primary goal was to find a way to implement a smoke-free policy that supports the people who smoke, helps protect everyone’s health and improves community cohesion and housing stability — and make eviction a last resort.
Ross and Wehrdt recently attended a resident celebration event, where both residents who do and don’t smoke spoke about the successes of the process and identified opportunities for improvement. According to a post-policy survey, more than 13 percent of the residents who smoke or vape (and took the survey) have quit since the policy went into effect November 1.
Advocating for the Health and Safety of People who Inject Drugs in the County
Lakewood Police Department — Chief of Police Daniel McCasky, Commander Pat Heffner, Commander Rob Buchan, Sergeant Marc DiRezza, Agent Aaron Lowe, Division Chief Steve Rickels, Commander Randy McNitt and Commander Mike Maestas
In an effort to decrease HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C transmission and to better address the needs of people who inject drugs, JCPH started the Points West Syringe Access Program in February 2016. The program allows people who inject drugs to exchange used syringes for new, sterile ones, and provides new injection equipment, low-cost HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C testing and education, as well as referrals to other services and more.
The Lakewood Police Department’s Chief of Police Daniel McCasky, Commander Pat Heffner, Commander Rob Buchan, Sergeant Marc DiRezza, Agent Aaron Lowe, Division Chief Steve Rickels, Commander Randy McNitt and Commander Mike Maestas are 2016 Public Health Champions for embracing this important cause from the beginning and always being the first to volunteer to help.
Lakewood Police was the first Jefferson County law enforcement agency to carry Points West cards to hand out to those in need of services and the first to train officers on responding to a suspected opiod overdose and equip officers with naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an opiod overdose. In late 2016, officers were able to reverse several overdoses in the field.
These champions also helped to create three educational videos — two for officer training and one as a Public Service Annoucement for Points West. Chief McCasky and officers helped design and star in the videos, which are now being widely shared and used among law enforcement and public health agencies in the metro area.
The Lakewood Police Department is a strong advocate for Points West and continues to find ways to partner with JCPH in addressing the complex needs of people who inject drugs and promoting public health.
Supporting Local Food Access and Increasing Food Security
GoFarm — award accepted by Eileen Regan, founder and CEO, Kim Massey, program manager of GoFarm to Seniors, and Anna Schott, program manager of GoFarm to Families
GoFarm is a 2016 Public Health Champion for its work to increase the supply of healthy food available from local sources at an affordable price. GoFarm, based in Golden, operates a Local Food Share program. The organization provides assistance to beginning local farmers and connects them to a local market of consumers. Community members can purchase local produce and egg shares for weekly pick-up and know their food was grown locally and sustainably.
The Local Food Share program supports GoFarm’s grant-funded outreach programs, GoFarm to Families and GoFarm to Seniors, both implemented in 2016. GoFarm to Families supports healthy eating for young children and their families through education and by increasing access and affordability of fresh produce. During the growing season, families at participating preschools can purchase low-cost produce boxes filled with fresh, local fruits and vegetables. The boxes also include family-friendly recipes and information about where the produce was grown.
GoFarm to Seniors focuses on increasing access to healthy food by providing one-on-one, mobile application assistance for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) enrollment. GoFarm to Seniors also partners with community organizations to increase SNAP eligibility awareness, and promotes healthy eating through cooking demonstrations and food distribution events.
In 2016, GoFarm’s second year of operation, the Local Food Share program supplied more than 150 shareholders local produce. More than 1,100 produce boxes were sold to families at four Jefferson County preschools and more than 100 produce boxes were distributed and eight cooking demonstrations were provided to the residents of two affordable senior housing complexes in Golden. In addition, more than 80 Jeffco seniors were screened for SNAP eligibility in 2016.
GoFarm accepts SNAP benefits for all of its programs and is a Double Up Food Bucks partner, meaning SNAP customers benefits go twice as far. GoFarm works with community partners such as: Centura Health, Colorado School of Mines, Hunger Free Golden, the Healthy Jeffco Food Policy Council, Health in Early Childhood Collaborative, Jeffco Conservation District and, Jeffco CSU Extension Office.
Assuring Food Safety
Casa Bonita’s General Manager Mike Mason, Assistant General Manager Peer Osby and Store Manager Rob Hall
Casa Bonita has a dedicated staff of employees that are innovative, conscientious and diligent in assuring they serve food that is safe for public consumption. The managers have been there for many years and continually think of new ways to promote safe food and solve issues that arise.
Management ensures that every two years, every employee in the establishment takes the Online Food Safety Course from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website. This includes the food handlers, servers, maintenance staff, office employees and management.
They have also developed an internal communication system using cell phones that informs all of the employees of observed violations and an efficient system for correcting the violation immediately. They have shared this system with other restaurants so they can also be more compliant with the Colorado Retail Food Service Regulation. This has led to collaboration with other restaurants to problem solve food safety issues that arise on a day-to-day basis.
Casa Bonita has been active in attending the JCPH Food Safety Forum for the last five years to learn more about food safety and to share ideas with other attendees. They also participated on the Advisory Committee that helped JCPH launch the Jefferson County Excellence in Food Safety Course, which has has been offered by JCPH’s Environmental Health Services for the last 23 years.
Casa Bonita is a progressive restaurant that is proud to promote food safety and give guests the most pleasant experience possible. They care about their staff and the public, and it shows in how well they perform on their food safety inspections.
Providing Happiness and Thanksgiving for Jefferson County WIC Families
White Fence Farm’s Volunteer, Liz Breuer, and Owners, Craig Caldwell and Tom Piercy
Approximately 24 percent of households with children in Colorado struggle to afford enough food for themselves and their families. White Fence Farm, a homestyle-cooking family restaurant, farmhouse and entertainment facility, generously fed more than 100 of the Jefferson County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants for free on Thanksgiving Day in 2016.
Owners Craig Caldwell and Tom Piercy jumped on the opportunity to help families in need when Liz Breuer, a volunteer, suggested the gift of a free Thanksgiving meal for WIC participants. Liz knew that the WIC Program serves families who sometimes struggle to have enough food in their homes, especially during the holidays. She contacted JCPH’s WIC clinics and made it happen. WIC participants were very grateful for White Fence Farm’s kindness and for the delicious meal they received.