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NC Association of Local Health Directors Honors Health Director of the Year, Legislator of the Year and Partner Organization for Contributions to Improving Public Health


On Wednesday, January 18, 2017, the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors honored Chris Dobbins of Gaston County as Health Director of the Year, State Representative Josh Dobson of McDowell County as Legislator of the Year, and the NC Harm Reduction Coalition with the 2017 Public Health Partners Award for their efforts to reduce the harmful consequences associated with drug use and other high risk activities, including the establishment of the Syringe Exchange Program.

“We are pleased to recognize these leaders for their service to the people of North Carolina,” said Jim Bruckner, President of the NC Association of Local Health Directors.  “They are the true heroes of the public health community.”

The awards were given at the NCALHD annual meeting awards luncheon in Raleigh. The awards luncheon was held in conjunction with the State Health Director’s meeting, also in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Health Director of the Year Award was created by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and is implemented through the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors, an affiliate of the NCACC and is given to an individual for outstanding leadership in both public health in North Carolina and for leadership and involvement in local community and civic activities.

Dobbins was chosen as 2017 Health Director of the Year for his leadership and commitment to the health and wellbeing of the residents of Gaston County. Dobbins lead the consolidation of the Gaston County Health Department and the Department of Social Services in 2013 with the goal of improved access to services for clients who utilize the services of both departments.  This combined department has received state accreditation and reaccreditation three times under Dobbins leadership.

Recognized also for his positive impact on the community, Dobbins has helped lead the Gaston Community Healthcare Commission’s efforts to reduce opioid abuse; the County’s teen pregnancy prevention work and the restructuring of the local Community Child Protection and Child Fatality Prevention Teams. Dobbins was also a key figure in providing community education during coals ash events in Gaston County, by hosting “town hall” events and going door-to-door in effected areas to discuss citizen concerns and possible solutions.

Dobbins received special acclaim for his leadership and mentoring of health department staff and his commitment to involving the community in collaboration on all decision making.   Writing in support of Dobbins nomination, Steve Eaton of Gaston County wrote of Dobbins, “His compassion for his staff and community is inspiring. His extensive service on state and local boards reflects his commitment to being part of the solution. His vision for growth through collective community effort is evidenced in the many collaborative initiatives he has either developed or restructured in a way that allows and encourages progress.”

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to have received this award and so grateful to the Association and my colleagues across the state for this recognition.  It is absolutely a reflection of the hard work of our dedicated staff, the support of our county leadership and elected officials, and the amazing community of Gaston County where we have been able to make great strides in public health,” said Chris Dobbins on his award.

Dobbins was nominated for the Health Director of the Year Award by staff at the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services.


The 2016 Public Health Partners Award was presented to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC).   This award was created to recognize organizations, businesses and professional associations that have made significant contributions to the advancement and promotion of public health in North Carolina.

NCHRC is the state’s only comprehensive harm reduction program and engages in grassroots advocacy, resource development, coalition building and direct services for people impacted by drug use, sex work, overdose, immigrations status, sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis. The Coalition also provides resources and support to law enforcement, public health and provider communities. Harm reduction refers to a range of public health policies designed to reduce the harmful consequences of high risk behaviors.

NCHRC was recognized for its work with local health departments across the state in providing resources such as affordable Naloxone (to reverse opioid overdose), harm reduction training and “boots-on-the ground” support to those most in need of intervention opportunities. As an example of its work, the Coalition’s nomination cited its partnership with Granville Vance Public Health called VIBRANT which saw the distribution of more than 1200 Naloxone kits across Vance County and more than 100 reversals. Granville Vance Health Director said, “Lives are being saved and chances for recovery are being made available because of the work of NCHRC.”

In addition, NCHRC was recognized for its most recent public policy efforts. The Coalition lead successful efforts to pass HB 972 in the 2015 legislative session which allowed the establishment of local Syringe Exchange Programs. The goal of these local programs is to reduce the spread of hepatitis, HIV and other infections, as well as to reduce the injuries to law enforcement from needle sticks and limit the dangers of improper needle disposal.

“The staff at NCHRC worked tirelessly with local law enforcement, public health officials and legislators to get this bill passed,” said Buck Wilson, Cumberland County Health Director. “Multiple local health departments and communities have benefited from working with the talented, dedicated and capable staff at NCHRC,” he said.

The 2016 Legislator of the Year Award was given to State Representative Josh Dobson of McDowell County (District 85).  The Award was created to recognize legislators who have made significant contributions to the advancement and promotion of public health in North Carolina.

Dobson, who served as an appropriations committee chair overseeing health and human services issues was recognized for his long standing support of public health issues and local public health in particular.  Dobson championed last year’s efforts to bring a substantial increase in funding to local public health departments across the state and continues to make funding at the local level a top priority.  Dobson was commended for his openness and willingness to work on a variety of public health issues including infant mortality reduction and teen pregnancy prevention. As a county commissioner, Dobson served on the McDowell County Board of Health. “Josh Dobson is one of the most ethical and genuine persons I know. He is an honest and committed legislator and his door is always open to discuss important public health concerns and ideas,” said Lynette Tolson, Executive Director of the NC Association of Local Health Directors.  “We are truly thankful for his support,” she said.