On May 7, County employees filled the board room of Multnomah County headquarters to celebrate the winners of the 2019 Employee Recognition Awards.
Over the course of the year, 80 nominations encompassing 600 employees came rolling in. County employees from across the organization and even members of the public took time out of their schedules to nominate County public servants in the areas of Superior Public Service, Outstanding Team Achievement, Employee Innovation, Diversity/Cultural Competency, and Sustainability. Ultimately, the winners from each category were then selected by a peer-led selection committee.
This year — and every year since its inception in — the County Employee Recognition Awards ceremony has coincided with National Public Service Recognition Week. The annual observance honors federal, state, county and local government employees across the nation.
“I’m proud of our diverse and dynamic workforce,” said Chair Deborah Kafoury as she kicked off Tuesday’s festivities. “We’re working to ensure that every employee in every department feels, valued, acknowledged and appreciated.”
Superior Public Service to Internal Customers honor was awarded to Mary Wallace, Program Supervisor at the Health Department with Corrections Mental Health Services.
Wallace stepped into a work unit that had been facing some challenges and, after investing her time, effort and creative thinking, she made some welcome changes. She ensured the team was fully staffed for the first time in a while. Then, once workloads were balanced, she was able to focus on helping team members be more strategic in their work, and thus more successful with their clients.
Wallace helped improve the relationship between her unit and corrections staff by increasing communication and even established a mental health space for clients in the jails.
The Superior Public Service to External Customers Award was presented to Jenny Greenberg by Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson.
Greenberg saw an unmet need at the County’s Aging, Disabilities, and Veterans Services Division (ADVSD) — and spearheaded the Sexual Health Pilot at the Mid-County Office. Jenny realized that HIV and sexually transmitted infections are growing in the senior population, as well as among people with disabilities. She approached Mid-County management about providing free condoms and literature on preventing the transmittable disease, as well as information for folks who need to get tested.
“According to her supervisor, Jenny did all this work while keeping up with her fantastic work as a case manager eligibility specialists,” Commissioner Vega Pederson explained to ceremony attendees. “Her work did not suffer while she embarked on this new pilot project.”
Greenberg’s project is now in full swing and will be considered for all the offices throughout the County’s Aging, Disabilities and Veterans Services Division’s service delivery areas.
The second award presented by Commissioner Vega Pederson was the Employee Innovation Award which was given to the Health Department’s Madison Student Health Center Behavioral Health/Mental Health Hybrid Project Team.
Madison Student Health Center is piloting an innovative hybrid model this year, where one provider offers both behavioral health (brief, short-term treatment) and traditional mental health (longer visits, long-term treatment) services. In other primary care clinics, the services are divided among multiple providers.
This year, all students who visit the Madison Student Health Center will have same-day access to behavioral health services, as well as the ability to enroll in long-term mental health services. This hybrid model allows more students to be seen by fewer providers and gives students a greater choice over their level of care.
While presenting the team with their award, Commissioner Vega Pederson said that before the pilot was launched, students had to fill out an hour’s worth of paper before being seen for the first time. Now they can get services immediately.
“The data shows more students are being seen and they have more choice over the length of treatment,” said Vega Pederson.
The 2019 Diversity & Cultural Competency Award was presented to Lead Programming Librarian Lyndsey Runyan by Commissioner Susheel Jayapal.
Since 2017, patrons of the Multnomah County Library have been requesting Drag Queen Storytime. After Lyndsey Runyan started her new position as Lead Programming Librarian in January 2018, she worked to make that request a reality. Lyndsey reached out to drag queens in the community and created a format for the storytime program. Then, that fall, the Library was proud to host six Drag Queen Storytime events, including a bilingual storytime in Spanish and English. Geared for children 2 to 6 years old, each storytime features a guest who reads stories about inclusion and diversity, sings songs, and leads a dance party.
“The program encourages children to look beyond gender stereotypes, fosters empathy and creativity, celebrates differences and creates a safe place to ask questions,” said Commissioner Jayapal as she presented Runyan with the award. “Lyndsey is now a resource for other libraries interested in hosting their own Drag Queen Storytime.”
Following the Diversity & Cultural Competency Award, Commissioner Lori Stegmann ushered Deputy District Attorney Anna Fuller and her infant son, Peter to the front of the Multnomah County board room to collect the Sustainability Award.
In her position in the Neighborhood and Strategic Prosecution Unit, Fuller saw a systemic issue that made it increasingly challenging for community members to overcome court-imposed fines and fees. In many circumstances, court fines and fees can add unexpected hardships for individuals attempting to exit the criminal justice system. Fuller helped create Legal Services Day, wherein people with court-imposed fines and fees can participate in community service and/or treatment to have their debts cleared.
“In 2018 the total number of community service and/or treatment hours is calculated at over 20,000,” explained Commissioner Stegmann. “And the total amount of fines and fees that were exchanged was over $1.5 million...Anna because of your efforts to address social and economic inequities for vulnerable populations we award you — and Peter— the Sustainability Award.”
Commissioner Stegmann also presented the Outstanding Team Achievement Award to the Book is a Bridge Team.
Thanks to the outstanding effort from a new cross-County collaboration among the Multnomah County Library, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of County Assets’ facilities team, incarcerated adults at Inverness Jail who have young children are engaging in multiple services to better communicate with, and receive support from their families. Incarcerated adults are participating in one or more early literacy and adult education programs designed to enhance family success upon release.
The “Book is a Bridge Team” created a family-centered waiting room, filled with books and places to read together so that parents and children can connect while reading together and develop a life-long connection to reading and neighborhood libraries.
“I have to say this is a team achievement award and this is about getting the right people in the room to make the right choices and the right decisions,” said Lieutenant Steve Alexander with Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. “The Library and DCA [Department of County Assets] were outstanding partners in this and without all of us and each of our individual partners' expertise, this wouldn’t have happened.”
The Committee’s Choice Award was presented to the Bridge Mental Health Training Team.
This team identified the need to provide County Bridge staff with mental health training to assist them in responding safely and appropriately to people who are attempting suicide on County bridges. Staff from the Bridge Shop worked with mental health staff from the Health Department to implement a training program for everyone who works on our bridges. They also created plans to help employees who experience their own trauma receive the support they need at or after work.
“I’ve heard some truly incredible stories about bridge staff supporting individuals in crisis,” said Commissioner Meieran as she presented the team with their award. “Bridge staff are an important, unsung part of our frontline mental health safety net.”
As the team collected their award, Mental Health and Addictions Services Manager Leticia Sainz urged audience members to sign up for mental health first aid training.
“If you’re inspired by what these bridge operators are doing, I highly encourage you to take a class to be able to help out folks in our community,” said Sainz.
“We believe that prevention is everyone’s job. It’s Mental Health Month and you’re more likely to encounter someone who is having thoughts of suicide than are about ready to experience a heart attack. And I know a lot of y’all know CPR. Let’s get trained. Let’s start asking questions. Let’s start being courageous in the way Bridge Operators are.”
The final award of the afternoon was presented by Chair Kafoury to the Multco Align team. This group was selected as the 2019 Chair’s Excellence Award.
The Multco Align team transformed the way Multnomah County does business, moving all major County functions from a decades-old software system onto a new cloud-based system. The team tackled business processes spanning the organization including Human Resources, Finance, Procurement/Contracting, Facilities Asset Management, and Information Technology.
The Multco Align team implemented and integrated four enterprise-wide systems to provide a streamlined, effective, and modern cloud-based system. Over 20 months, the group of staff analyzed, designed, configured, tested, and deployed systems that have fundamentally changed how our organization runs its essential operations. The core team of about 60 staff, drawing on the expertise of hundreds of County employees, has accomplished a transformative project that’s bigger and more ambitious than anything Multnomah County has seen in decades.
Surrounded by members of the Multco Align team, project manager Jacob Farkas thanked the various work groups for their respective contributions to the effort.
“All told, the people that worked on this effort racked up over 160,000 hours over a 20-month span to get this program complete,” said Farkas. “This group is good at getting things done.”