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Posted: Thursday, March 13th 2014 at 8:30am

GPHA honors three NE Georgians

By Staff
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The Georgia Public Health Association honored three northeast Georgia residents the annual GPHA meeting in Atlanta Tuesday.

Awards are given for outstanding work in various areas of public health. This year awards went to the following individuals in the 13-county area of District 2 Public Health:

JP Banks (Hall County) – Behavioral Healthcare Worker of the Year

JP Banks, Director of the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County was presented the Behavioral Healthcare Worker of the Year award. His work with the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County has been highly effective in raising awareness about substance abuse, increasing community involvement and educating youth about the dangers of drug and alcohol use.

Banks’ work with the coalition also helped recognize a serious public health threat, misusing and abusing prescription drugs. Misuse or abuse of prescription drugs can lead to serious health consequences for individuals as well as a financial burden for the community.

Additionally, Banks directed the development of the coalition’s website, was instrumental in scheduling community drug take-back events, secured drug drop-boxes in multiple locations in the county, and has worked with students in the school systems to raise awareness about substance abuse through an annual video contest and “red-carpet” event.

“I was genuinely surprised and am indeed honored to have been presented with the Georgia Behavioral Healthcare Worker of The Year award,” Banks said. “In my position as director of the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County I am privileged to work with many agencies and individuals; it is truly a collaborative effort to prevent substance abuse in the county.”

Dr. Richard Weber (District 2 Public Health) – Georgia Dental Award of Merit

Dr. Richard Weber, District 2 Public Health Dental Program Director, was awarded the Georgia Dental Award of Merit for outstanding services and contributions to the Georgia Dental Public Health Program. Dr. Weber has served the state of Georgia in outstanding fashion for many years, both as a Public Health Dentist and as the Dental Director in District 2.

In the latter capacity he manages a dental program covering the northeast corner of the state and employing 8 dentists and 13 dental support staff. He also provides direct services to children throughout the district, and it is not unusual to have parents go out of their way to bring their children to whatever county he is working in. Dr. Weber is a visible presence in the health departments and community, interfacing with and educating school systems, Head Starts, Boards of Health, and staff about the dental needs of children and the Dental Program.

The District 2 Dental Program provides a comprehensive, safety net dental home for children without private sector dental access. Under Dr. Weber's direction the program provided over 10,000 dental care visits to children in need in fiscal year 2013, with over 26,500 dental services being performed, including application of 3868 sealants and 8445 fluoride treatments.

Dr. Weber continually and strongly emphasizes that education of the children and their caregivers, both English- and Spanish-speaking, is the most important aspect of the District 2 Dental Program. He is a vocal champion for the goal of stabilizing populations by impacting oral health generationally, an approach that has transformed whole families and communities.

Diedre Howell, RN (Rabun County) – The Ruth B. Freeman Public Health Nursing Award

Diedre Howell, RN, BSN, MPA, Rabun County Nurse Manager, was awarded the Ruth B. Freeman Public Health Nursing Award. This award honors a public health nurse who has provided excellence in population health practice in the state of Georgia. Howell, on behalf of the Rabun County Health Department, secured a grant to provide additional funding to develop and maintain operational infrastructure. In addition, she researched and entered into an agreement with Needy Meds to improve access to affordable medications for the community. The Needy Meds program, Community Access to Medication Program (CAMP), improved the ability of the population of Rabun County to obtain necessary medications that were beyond the capability of the Health Department to supply.

Howell developed and coordinated the 1st Annual Back to School Blitz held on Saturday, July 2, 2013, at the Health Department. Fifteen local organizations and agencies agreed to have a booth with a fun kids' activity at the event.

She then enlisted two major sponsors, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs to provide 200 packets of school supplies to children who got their Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services (GRITS) records reviewed. The Blitz organized the community to provide basic public health services in a more collaborative, efficient and user-friendly manner. This resulted in 172 children having their vaccination records reviewed; 30 vaccinations were given to children; 4 Hearing Vision and Dental screenings were conducted; 29 families received a new car seat and car seat safety check; 14 different agencies/organizations had a tent/booth outside; and 100 sack lunches were provided by Summer Food to kids in attendance.

Dr. David Westfall, Health Director, District 2 Public Health said, “These three individuals were nominated and selected for the awards because of their outstanding work and dedication to public health. We are privileged as an agency to have each of them working here in our 13-county area. More importantly, our communities are fortunate to have such caring individuals living and working among them.”

Georgia Public Health Association (GPHA) is a non-profit organization organized for the purpose of promoting the public and personal health of Georgia residents. GPHA is the largest group of public health professionals in the Southeast.

District 2 Public Health is one of 18 public health districts in the state of Georgia. District 2 Public Health serves the following 13 counties: Banks, Dawson, Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, and White.

For more information:

Georgia Public Health Association,

District 2 Public Health

Drug Free Coalition of Hall County. Contact JP Banks at 770-534-1080 x277 or

Needy Meds or the CAMP program

Associated Categories: Local/State News

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