It was a full house for the 2016 Employee Awards.
The annual celebration, which coincides with Public Service Recognition Week, honors the dedication and innovation of a select group of Multnomah County employees.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioners Jules Bailey, Loretta Smith, Judy Shiprack and Diane McKeel were on-hand to present awards to the winners, who were chosen from among more than 91 nominations, representing 400 employees.
This year’s Sustainability Award recipient is the Department of Community Justice’s Londer Learning Center staff. The Londer Learning Center is a place where adults on parole or probation work to earn their GED. Recently, the Londer Learning Center staff incorporated a 10-week curriculum teaching students about the impacts climate change has on people and communities. The program was such a success that the curriculum was shared with teachers across Oregon.
Cheyenne Tuller, who spoke on behalf of the Londer Learning Center team, said oftentimes students are not excited about the things they have to learn as part of earning their GED like decimals or presidents. But learning about climate change really captured the attention of many of the students.
“The students loved it,” said Tuller. “They were all over it. They were like ‘I’m gonna take this home and show this to my spouse [and] to my kids.’”
The Londer Learning Center team is:
Diversity and Cultural Competency Award
This year’s Diversity and Cultural Competency Award recipient is Charmaine Kinney of the Multnomah County Health Department. As described by Commissioner Smith, Kinney is “a fierce advocate” for the Native community and communities of color. She has played an essential role in launching the Future Generations Collaborative, a program that promotes healthy pregnancies among members of the Native community. Kinney has also raised awareness about the concerns of vulnerable populations through her work on the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Advisory Council, a group that makes recommendations to the adult system of care for the county’s Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Upon accepting her award the crowd erupted in enthusiastic applause in support of Kinney.
“You brought your own fan club!” joked Commissioner Smith.
Outstanding Team Achievement Award
The Outstanding Team Achievement award was awarded to the Health Department’s Forensic Diversion Program. Their implementation of new tools helps Mental Health and Addiction Services Division better serve community members with severe mental health challenges.
In fact, the use of these tools helped the county and the state save at least $1.7 million by diverting people experiencing mental health crises to community-based treatment instead of jail or hospital beds.
“Their processes ensure that treatment plans address the whole person,” said Commissioner Shiprack as she presented the award to the team. “Providing assistance in areas that are critical to recovery and stabilization, such as obtaining identification, benefits, housing, food, transportation and clothing.”
The Forensic Diversion Program team is:
Katie Lentz Cecil
Superior Public Service to Internal Customers Award
The Superior Public Service to Internal Customers Award was given to the Department of County Humans Services’ Medicare Modernization Act Specialist Team.
The team is responsible for providing training to case managers for Aging, Disabilities and Veterans Services on how to counsel their clients on choices around Medicare and Medicaid.
The Medicare Modernization Act Specialist Team “decided to take a lecture/all-staff-meeting style training and make it more sustainable and efficient,” Commissioner Shiprack explained to the awards ceremony audience.
The team created interactive videos of the training, available anytime and anywhere to case managers. Now, case managers can view the training as soon as they are hired, instead of having to wait for the annual training date. Even seasoned case managers can handily access the video training whenever they have a question or need a refresher.
Medicare Modernization Act Specialist Team is:
Employee Innovation Award
The Employee Innovation Award was given to Tatyana Gannotskiy and Daniel McKay of the Department of County Human Services. Gannotskiy and McKay were recognized for creating a centralized database to track payments for cost of care for Medicaid services.
Before their solution, there was no way to consistently collect and track money coming in. Up to 100 clients per month were receiving Aging and Disability Services care at the county without making their required payments. This lack of process lead to the loss of tens of thousands of dollars each month.
Gannotskiy and McKay changed all that.
“Together, they addressed an ongoing issue,” said Commissioner Bailey, “allowing the program to be better stewards of limited resources.”
Upon accepting their award and thanking all involved in the project, Gannotskiy joked:
“This feels like the Oscars. I’d like to thank the Academy.”
Superior Public Service to External Customers Award
The first of two Superior Public Service to External Customers Awards was given to Mandy Tuthill of the Multnomah County Library.
Tuthill was recognized for her goal of reaching out to every first grader in Multnomah County and introducing them to their library. Tuthill connected with educators across the county to give first graders an invitation to come visit the library and receive a free book to keep all their own.
When it was all said and done, more than 8,000 Multnomah County first graders received an invitation to their library and a voucher for a free book. Of those, 860 used the invitation to come visit the library. Fifty of those were first time library visitors.
Commissioner Jules Bailey, who presented the award, said Tuthill should be congratulated “for her continued efforts to bring new readers into the library” and for her efforts “to introduce young minds to the joy of reading.”
Superior Public Service to External Customers Award
The second of two Superior Public Service to External Customers Awards was given to Jerry Hunter from the Office of Sustainability. Hunter works as an urban agriculturalist and spends many of his workdays on county-owned farmland in Troutdale.
In the last year alone Hunter’s accomplishments include: growing more than 17,000 lbs of fresh produce for families in need; working with the Department of Community Justice to secure more than 2,700 hours of restorative labor at the farm from men and women on parole or probation; and providing fresh produce (picked the very same day) for cooking demonstrations at the Health Department’s Rockwood Community Health Center.
“I can’t tell you how much it’s been a blessing to be able share gardening skills and life skills with the people who come in contact with the farm,” said Hunter upon his accepting his award.
Meanwhile, members of the Office of Sustainability stood up during the ceremony, holding up five pieces of paper to spell out “J-E-R-R-Y,” in support of their colleague.
Committee’s Choice Award
The Committee's Choice Award-- selected by the Employee Nomination Committee -- was given to Carlos Galeana of the Multnomah County Library. Galeana works as a regional technology coordinator for East County out of the Gresham Library where he helps library patrons become more comfortable with a wide range of technology platforms.
Commissioner McKeel, who presented Galeana with his award said that whether it’s helping someone use an iPad for the first time or “return to reading via audiobook after losing eyesight,” patrons feel more confident in their own ability to use technology as a result of working with Galeana.
During his award acceptance speech, Galeana spoke about working with a patron whose husband recently passed away.
"When he passed away that knowledge of computer skills went,” said Galeana. “She had an iPad, she had a computer and she didn’t really know what to do with these things. We met several times since then and she has gone from being at a beginner level with computers to almost advanced.
“Now she has the confidence to be a student again and become a bookkeeper and learn QuickBooks on her own.”
Chair’s Excellence Award
When news broke of high levels of heavy metals in the air around neighborhoods in Portland, the Air Quality Responders team sprung into action, holding several town halls for concerned community members to voice their concerns and frustrations.
Chair Kafoury, who selected the winner of this award, said the county’s environmental health team “helped people living near the Bullseye and Oroboros glass factories at the center of the toxic hot spots get answers to their questions.”
“It’s not easy to work on an issue like this one,” continued Kafoury. “Where parents are terrified for the health of their children and they feel like government has ignored them -- or worse, lied to them.”
Environmental Health Director Jae Douglas, who spoke on behalf of the Air Quality Responders said that it was the team’s “technical capacity, engagement response and leadership capacity” that allowed it to respond to the community’s air quality crisis.
She also stressed the importance of connecting with residents in order to address such a controversial issue.
“We’ve had to have the relationships and the trust of the community that we’ve cultivated and continue to nourish.”
The Air Quality Responders team is:
- Rachael Banks
- Christina Brown
- Jae Douglas
- Joanne Fuller
- Amy Gredler
- Brendon Haggerty
- Andrea Hamberg
- Matt Hoffman
- Kevin Kitamura
- Uei Lei
- Dr. Paul Lewis
- Loreen Nichols
- Consuelo Saragoza
- Tricia Tillman
- Dr. Jennifer Vines
- Julie Sullivan Springhetti
- Randy Cox
- Mark Baker
- Andrea Coghlan
- Kate Willson