St. Louis County Board presents Public Health Achievement Awards

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Public Health & Human Services Dept. • 320 West Second Street, Suite 605 • Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 726-2096 •

Linnea Mirsch




December 1, 2020

CONTACT: Dana Kazel, Communications Manager

218-725-5049 (office) • 218-591-2219 (cell)


St. Louis County Board presents Public Health Achievement Awards

In the midst of the largest public health challenge in recent memory, the St. Louis County Board took time to present its annual Public Health Achievement Awards. The awards recognize and celebrate the contributions of individuals and organizations for supporting community health separate from the current pandemic.


During today's Board meeting, Commissioners recognized three community partners that each serve a particular public health need:


Rachel Doherty and Barbara Hinsz are honored for managing the Mesabi East Environmental Education Center (ME3C) in Aurora. Following the closure of the community's only grocery store, Doherty and Hinsz worked with the ISD 2711 school district to purchase a shuttered greenhouse and open ME3C. The Center has been able to provide fresh, local food for school lunches and the school salad bar, as well as educate students about sustainability, agriculture, hydroponics, microgreens, and more. Through a school gardening program, students are learning about environmental responsibility and receive hands-on training and job skills. The Center also provides intergenerational gardening opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. 


Dr. Jennifer Jones and Dr. Jordan Blessing are honored for their work to assist County Child Protection Workers for advocating for changes at their hospitals to improve response in cases of alleged child abuse and maltreatment. Dr. Jones is a physician at Essentia Health and Dr. Blessing is a physician at St. Luke's. Together they have identified gaps that have resulted in better preparedness and education across the health care system. Through their commitment, they've embedded child protection awareness into the community of medicine in Duluth, and have overcome barriers to improve health outcomes for St. Louis County children and families.


The South St. Louis County Veterans Treatment Court is recognized for the work it is doing to help veterans in the program and create pathways to healthier lives and supportive communities. The court works with more than 15 different government, criminal justice, and community organizations to provide wrap-around service and care. Partners come together to provide a coordinated response that expedites the process providing individual case plans that are sensitive to the individual. 


"Over the past year, the value of a strong public health system has been at the forefront of our country, state and local communities in leading the pandemic response," said St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook. "The St. Louis County public health team has been working in innovative ways with established partners and many new community partners.  Over this last year, we have needed to re-prioritize many of our divisions’ activities in order to have the appropriate capacity to respond. So it’s a special day when we are able to recognize individuals and organizations that make up the fabric of the public health system." 


The Public Health Achievement Awards are typically given out as part of National Public Health Week in April. This year's awards were delayed because of the pandemic, but St. Louis County Public Health still wanted to honor these partners, and highlight the broad role of its Public Health nurses and educators and the importance of the many partners they work with to improve the health of both individuals and larger groups as they seek to create community- or system-wide change.

The role of Public Health nurses and educators is continually changing as they identify needs
and work to help both individuals one-on-one, and larger groups to create community- or systemwide change. Many of these efforts focus on the broad goal of ensuring that all people have equal opportunity to be healthy. Likewise, much of the work done by Public Health employees is in partnership with other community agencies and professionals.

St. Louis County Public Health is a division of the Public Health and Human Services Department. Public Health nurses, nutritionists and other staff work through a variety of programs
to help pregnant moms deliver healthy babies, and at-risk families to give young children a better
chance at positive development. They also help elderly clients maintain independent living, and
work with community partners to address factors - such as environment, income and education
level, lifestyle and genetics - that affect health and well being. Public Health also plays a key role
in disaster preparedness planning. To learn more, call (218) 725-5210 or visit




Rachel Dougherty and Barbara Hinsz

Rachel Doherty and Barbara Hinsz of the Mesabi East Environmental Education Center (ME3C) in Aurora

Dr. Jennifer Jones

Dr. Jennifer Jones

Dr Jordan Blessing

Dr.Jordan Blessing

Veterans Court

A file photo courtesy of the South St. Louis County Veterans Treatment Court shows a ruck march uinvolving several members of the team.