August 6, 2014

Starting in January after the Affordable Care Act took hold, workers in the Multnomah County Health Department started signing people up for health insurance. They signed people up in the libraries and in health centers. They enrolled people at community fairs, at doctor visits and as they left the county jail. The team worked after hours and on the weekends, crisscrossing the county from downtown Portland to Gresham to North Portland, talking people through the application and the costs.

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, the Oregon Primary Care Association honored the County’s 29 eligibility specialists for their extraordinary efforts.

“Our staff went all out,’’said Chair Deborah Kafoury said at the ceremony at the Old Town Recovery Clinic in Portland. “Today 15,000 people have health insurance as a result of their work.’’

Chair Deborah Kafoury congratulates award winners.
Chair kafoury congratulates award winner Jorge Cerda-Zavala

The Oregon Primary Care Association also presented U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer the 2014 Distinguished Community Health Advocate Award. The award, given on behalf of the National Association of Community Health Centers, recognizes the Congressman’s outstanding advocacy and work for community health centers.
But the Congressman, a former County Commissioner, drove the credit back to the County, which he called “a role model” that should be emulated on the federal level.

“I’m hopeful that we will continue to be a model here in Oregon,” he said.

John Hummell presents U.S. Rep. Blumenauer with award
John Hummell of the Oregon Primary Care Association presents U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer with an award for his distinguished work supporting community health centers.

More than 40 people attended the event including County Commissioners Loretta Smith and Diane McKeel, and Health Department Director Joanne Fuller.

The room burst into applause when eligibility specialists Rosamaria Rosales, Walter Hufragio, MaryAnn Armas, Jorge Cerda-Zavala, Tasha Brooks and Amaury Sarmiento accepted the 2014 Distinguished Community Health Advocate Award on behalf of their fellow eligibility specialists. The specialists were recognized for their efforts in providing group enrollments for health insurance, as well as reaching out to communities to help them become insured.

Harold Odhiambo, chair of the Community Health Council, the consumer- majority Board for the Health Department’s health centers, described the change he had seen in clinics, where he works as a medical interpreter.

“These people come to these clinics with a laundry list of problems that they’ve been holding onto,” he said.  Health insurance went on to describe how having health insurance helps to alleviate that burden.

Those honored for their work were: Amaury Sarmiento, April Kramer, Aviel Forester, Belma Orozco, Byron Meighan, Christopher Pizzuto, Crystal Barabin, Dana Nguyen, Emma Neumann, Jessica Fatu, Jorge Cerda Zavala, Lilliana Barrera, Linh Ha, Luda Tolokovoy, Marshall Beatty, Rosa Maria Rosales, Stephanie Duong, Tasha Brooks, Trisa Kelly, Walter Hufragio, Melissa Hendricks, Tosha Calhoun and from Corrections Health: Bayo Arigbon, Bernadino DeLaTorre, Dina Miller, Emily Abrahms, MaryAnn Armas, Wayne Naillon, Malinda Flowers and Celia Rendon.