County honors public health advocates and partners at annual awards event

L to R: Commissioner Jaramillo, Commissioner Augerot, Shawn Collins, Commissioner Schuster
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shawn Collins, Program Manager, Housing Opportunities Action Council, is the 2018 recipient of the Sheldon Wagner Public Health Service Award. Collins was honored at Tuesday night’s annual Public Health Awards & Recognition Event, commemorating National Public Health Week.

The Benton County Health Department awards the Sheldon Wagner Public Health Service Award to acknowledge someone whose work embodies the spirit of compassion, dedication, achievement and commitment to improving public health. Since becoming Program Manager of the Housing Opportunities Action Council in 2016, Shawn Collins has emerged as a key community leader in addressing homelessness and housing instability in Benton County. 

As project manager, Collins has worked to expand the capacity of the Housing Opportunities Action Council to better coordinate the diverse efforts of service providers including the implementation of a new governance structure. In addition, he worked closely with the Health Department’s Healthy Communities program to implement an 18-month community assessment and engagement process to update to the Ten Year Plan to Overcome Homelessness and Barriers to Housing.

Now that the update planning process has concluded, Shawn is overseeing Phase I of the implementation which includes convening workgroups aligned with the top three keystone priority areas (Housing Supply & Messaging, Mental Health, and Care Coordination) to develop and implement work plans with defined timelines.

Of additional note is Shawn’s tireless efforts in 2017 to solidify the location of the men’s cold weather shelter and convene the volunteers that played a role in getting the facility ready. Close to 50 men experiencing homelessness in our community would not have had access to a safe, stable, and warm shelter this season without his tenaciousness in securing this site.  

The Sheldon Wagner Public Health Service Award was established in 2008 by the Benton County Public Health Planning and Advisory Committee and is named for Dr. Sheldon “Shag” Wagner, who served this area for many decades as a physician and passionate public health advocate.

Benton County Community Development Director Greg Verret received the Roger Irvin Health in all Policies Award. Sean McGuire, Benton County Sustainability Coordinator, accepted the award on Greg’s behalf.

During his tenure, Greg has been a leader in fostering county-wide, cross-sector collaboration and working to convene partners from the diverse sectors that shape the environments in which Benton County residents live, work, learn and play. 

He has advocated in support of "upstream" prevention to promote cross-department planning and collaboration. He has welcomed public health’s involvement in the work of his department and conversely has been a champion for shaping authentic engagement of stakeholders through the County’s Community Health Improvement Planning (CHIP). Greg’s leadership demonstrates that healthy public policy has become the new normal when doing business throughout Benton County government. 

The Roger Irvin Health in all Policies Award is named after former Public Works Director Roger Irvin who served the county for 35 years and collaborated on projects for the good of community health. The award was created to recognize a county employee who demonstrated commitment to integrating social, economic, and environmental goals to promote health, equity, and sustainability for our county. 2018 marks the third year this honor has been awarded.

In addition to the recognition and awards portion of the program, Peter Banwarth, Health Department Epidemiologist, gave a presentation about the priorities identified in the 2013-2017 CHIP, and Dr. Bruce Thomson, Benton County Medical Officer, presented “100 Years of Disease Prevention: 1918 Pandemic Flu to 2018 Meningococcal Outbreak.”

The Benton County Board of Commissioners convened as the Board of Health endorsing the work of the 2018-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and called on all residents, governments, and health-related organizations in Benton County to work cooperatively and collaboratively toward the CHIP goals.

For more information about the Benton County Health Department, visit

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L to R: Commissioner Jaramillo, Commissioner Augerot, Shawn Collins, Commissioner Schuster
Shawn Collins
L to R: Commissioner Jaramillo, Commissioner Augerot, Sean McGuire (accepting on behalf of Greg Verret), Commissioner Schuster
Greg Verret