County honors public health advocates and partners at annual awards event

Blue banner with Awards and Honors wreath around the Benton County logo.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The City of Corvallis Police Department, Community Livability Unit is the 2019 recipient of the Sheldon Wagner Public Health Service Award. The Corvallis Police Department Community Livability team, including Sergeant Joel Goodwin, Officer James Dodge, Officer Trevor Anderson, Officer Luke Thomas, Officer Josh Zessin and Officer Dale Raybould, accepted the award 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 persons whose work embodies the spirit of compassion, dedication, achievement and commitment to improving public health. In 2015, the Community Livability Unit collaborated with Benton County Public Health and Oregon State University to achieve a common goal of reducing over-intoxication and high-risk drinking in the community through an educational campaign.

Through focus groups, OSU students indicated that the primary deterrent for high-risk drinking was that they did not want to embarrass themselves or be so impaired that their friends had to take care of them. They also indicated that they were unfamiliar with Corvallis laws around alcohol. As a result, the campaign materials included a focus on harm reduction health messaging and information on laws in Corvallis related to alcohol. Evaluation of the campaign showed that the materials increased knowledge of laws around drinking and awareness of the importance of knowing limits when drinking.

The Community Livability Unit is responsible for establishing relationships within the community, providing crime prevention, education, and enforcement functions. These uniformed patrol officers work in collaboration with other units within the police department, community groups, and Oregon State University to provide a safe and secure environment for all community members. The unit undertakes these responsibilities by partnering with community groups to accomplish a variety of programs and projects. Benton County Public Health is incredibly grateful to the commitment from the Corvallis Police Department and Community Livability Unit to reduce high-risk drinking and improve the health of those in Benton County.

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.

Recently retired Benton County Special Transportation Coordinator Lee Lazaro received the Roger Irvin Health in all Policies Award.

During his time as the Special Transportation Coordinator, Lee showed outstanding leadership in fostering collaboration between Benton County departments, the City of Corvallis, and area transportation partner agencies in order to provide transportation services to our most vulnerable populations. He understands that access to affordable, convenient transportation plays a critical role in people’s health and the health of a community. 

Lee was a strong advocate for starting the 99 Express that connected rural Benton County communities to larger cities (Junction City and Corvallis) to ensure rural communities had access to basic services like shopping for food or other basic needs. He arranged Dial-A-Bus Services for Benton County Transportation System Planning public meetings in rural areas to ensure those over the age of 60 and people with disabilities were able to participate. Lee also advocated for a Benton County Health Department Health Policy Specialist to sit on the Special Transportation Advisory Committee to better incorporate health and equity considerations into the Benton County transportation service system.  

Lee’s legacy and commitment to advocating for those most in need in our community will be felt throughout Benton County for years to come.

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. 2019 marks the fourth year this honor has been awarded.

New Health Administrator Dawn Emerick was welcomed to the department, and retired Health Administrator, Mitch Anderson, received a special appreciation honor. In addition to the recognition and awards portion of the program, “Innovations in Public Health: Harm Reduction and Outreach” was presented by Peter Banwarth, Health Department Epidemiologist; Blue Valentine, Harm Reduction Team Member; Dr. Sugat Patel, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Infectious Disease; and Dr. Bruce Thomson, Benton County Health Officer.

The Benton County Board of Commissioners convened as the Board of Health and adopted the 2018-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and called on all community members, 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 www.co.benton.or.us/health.