Jefferson County, Colo. – Following a year of pandemic response, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is proud and excited to make two important announcements regarding the efforts made by our community and health department since March 2020. The first is to celebrate the 2020 class of Public Health Champions.
Every year, for National Public Health Week, April 5-11, JCPH recognizes community partners who have made significant contributions to public health, even if it’s not their day-to-day job. On the heels of National Public Health Week, the efforts of this year’s seven awardees were significant and have made Jefferson County is a safer and healthier place to live, work, play and grow for all of us.
“This year’s cohort of Public Health Champions were instrumental in our community making it this far through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Dawn Comstock, Executive Director at JCPH. “At JCPH and among our partners, we’ve always known the importance of public health in our community, but never before has it been seen on such a grand scale. The amazing groups and individuals we are recognizing this year stepped up to the plate at a time where Jeffco was in need, and without them, we would not be in as positive a place as we are now.”
The 2020 Public Health Champions were honored for their contributions at a virtual ceremony on April 15, 2021. We invite you to watch a video detailing the impressive efforts of this year’s Champions.
MICHAEL DOBBS, DEPUTY COUNTY MANAGER, JEFFERSON COUNTY
Michael has been integral in many aspects of the county’s COVID-19 response. He stepped in to partner with public health on several testing sites, ensuring their success by offering knowledge, equipment and “people power” at every turn. For example, early in the pandemic it was very difficult for most people to access a COVID-19 test and even more so for individuals who face additional disparities in accessing healthcare services. The smooth and inclusive operations of Jefferson County testing sites was imperative to make sure everyone in the county who needed a COVID-19 test could get one. Michael assisted in the planning and implementation of the first mass testing site in Jefferson County, which was located at the Jeffco Fairgrounds, and made sure that everyone felt welcome in that space. This has continued into his work supporting the county’s vaccination efforts. Michael was also integral in setting up meal distribution for those in need in our community, an effort that has been especially important to people and families who have been disparately affected by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Michael is a bright spot in our long response to the COVID-19 pandemic — he never gives up on difficult situations and is resourceful, empathetic and kind. He is always ready with a (masked) smile and a joke, or to produce hot chocolate to warm up someone’s day.
ARVADA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, REPRESENTED BY CHIEF DAVE MITCHELL
As soon as COVID-19 vaccine became available in Jeffco, Chief Dave Mitchell and the Arvada Fire Protection District partnered with JCPH to host a drive-through mass vaccination Point of Dispensing (POD) site at their training facilities. This partnership was built long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, with more than a decade of bioterrorism planning in coordination with JCPH’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Team as well as an ongoing collaboration with the JCPH clinic for the Shots for Tots & Teens vaccination program. Because of this strong relationship, we were able to quickly stand up the COVID-19 vaccination site together — and scale up vaccine distribution — to rapidly get vaccine to high-risk priority populations including healthcare workers and first responders, older adults, homebound populations, frontline essential workers and others. The Arvada Fire team provided their facilities, maintenance, staff and a variety of other resources to help keep the vaccine site running smoothly and efficiently. The Arvada POD quickly became a national model for how to implement a community vaccination site and offers learnings for any future public health responses.
CONECTANDO COMMUNITY NAVIGATORS
Conectando is a community-led network of Latino families and organizations working together with the vision of creating a society where families have the tools and power to raise their children to be healthy and happy, direct the creation of community services and be valued as the experts in the health, education and wellbeing of their families. Conectando Community Navigators have supported Latinx Spanish-speaking community members throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, from providing reliable information in the early phases, to improving access to testing, to helping the community access food and other resources. For example, early on Conectando Community Navigators realized that community members desperately needed one-on-one support to navigate the enormous amount of COVID-19 resources, services and communications coming from different agencies and organizations. As a solution, the group launched the Community Navigators Warmline. Additionally, Conectando Community Navigators helped stand up a bilingual testing site in partnership with JCPH, distributed healthy food and supplies to families, provided cash assistance and rent support and much more. Today, their work continues in an effort to help Latino families access COVID-19 vaccine.
FATHER TIM GAINES, OUR LADY OF THE PINES CATHOLIC CHURCH
Early on, JCPH noticed the mountain regions of Jefferson County had less access to COVID-19 testing and were in need of consistent testing options. When asked by JCPH, Father Tim eagerly agreed to host a COVID-19 testing site to bring access to testing to Conifer, and quickly provided a facility, warm indoor spaces, logistical support and equipment to the JCPH COVID-19 testing team. In addition to bringing reliable testing to the mountains, Father Tim and Our Lady of the Pines worked with JCPH to adapt a walk-up only testing model into a successful drive-through site, keeping residents and staff as safe as possible throughout the COVID-19 testing process. Whether it was greeting residents, shoveling snow, directing traffic or answering questions, Father Tim was personally on-site to ensure testing operations were successful and that his community was well cared for. His work continues as a strong advocate for COVID-19 vaccines.
KAREN THOMAS & JOEL DASH, MILE HI CHURCH
During Summer 2020, there were very few options for free, accessible community testing in Jefferson County and even fewer for members of our communities who primarily speak Spanish. Mile Hi Church, with efforts led by Karen and Joel, eagerly stepped up to host a community testing site at their churchyard to increase testing access for our Latino community. This location was central, familiar and easily accessible to community members. Karen, Joel and Mile Hi Church provided their facilities, on-site support and security to ensure that the testing site was successful — and their impact was felt by hundreds of families in Jefferson County. In addition to supporting the testing site, Mile Hi Church enabled JCPH and Conectando Navigators to incorporate food distribution at the location, to make sure no one went home without the resources needed to quarantine after testing. Karen and Joel were highly responsive, collaborative and extremely helpful in making the partnership with JCPH a success. Their efforts supported residents at a time when they needed it most.
HUNGER FREE GOLDEN COALITION, REPRESENTED BY BETHANY THOMAS
Hunger Free Golden is a community collaborative with a common focus of identifying and addressing the challenges many members of the community face in providing for their food needs. COVID-19 amplified and exposed health disparities across Jefferson County, particularly when it comes to food and nutrition security for residents. In fact, Hunger Free Colorado found that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2 in 5 Coloradans have experienced food insecurity (Hunger Free Colorado, 2021). In Golden alone, food assistance providers have seen an average increase of nearly 40% in families or individuals accessing services, and local food banks and pantries were often unable to meet the rapidly increasing demand as community needs escalated. Hunger Free Golden tackled this challenge head-on with innovative solutions. For example, the Coalition sought out grant funding to ensure residents have access to locally grown, fresh and nutritious food, while also investing in the local economy by ensuring farmers are supported and paid fairly for the food they produce. Overcoming these barriers at a time of unprecedented need speaks volumes to the strength of this Coalition and their dedication to serving the residents of Golden and Jefferson County. Hunger Free Golden, in partnership with the City of Golden, is a model for other municipalities across the state as they demonstrate the importance of municipal level programs to build a resilient food system.
KELSEY HALL, ASSISTANT COUNTY ATTORNEY, JEFFERSON COUNTY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelsey has supported JCPH’s efforts to develop and issue effective local Public Health Orders, which have been critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community and businesses. Additionally, she has worked closely with JCPH leadership, the JCPH Enforcement Team and partners to interpret federal and state public health policies to ensure they were implemented as intended at the county level. Despite new and changing policies and high-pressure response situations, Kelsey is always energetic, focused and committed to providing the most up-to-date public health information and guidance. Kelsey’s efforts have helped the county protect the health of our residents and visitors as well as our local economy.
The second announcement from JCPH is the release of our 2020 Report to the Community. This document, available on our website, is an important tool for community members, local businesses and organizations, media partners and more to retrace the efforts taken by JCPH during 2020 in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 Report to the Community theme, United Against COVID-19, focuses on the actions taken by Jefferson County emergency response staff, including those around contact tracing, testing, vaccine distribution, supporting the business community, providing mental wellness resources and support, outreach to vulnerable populations in our community and more. The front and back cover of the report feature “selfies” of JCPH employees, since surviving the pandemic would not have been possible without their hard work and dedication. The report also features letters from department leadership, an “Impact by the Numbers” section, messages of gratitude, department overviews, a financial report and a comprehensive COVID-19 timeline.
“We are thankful to our community for all their hard work thus far in the COVID-19 response — because of it, we are approaching recovery stages. At this pivotal moment, JCPH encourages our community to join us in reflecting on how far we’ve come in the last 14 months,” Dr. Comstock said. “We hope the 2020 Report to the Community helps serve as a reminder that Jeffco is resilient and when we come together, we can overcome even the most immense hardships.”
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth