Four DHHS Employees Honored with Governor’s Awards for Excellence

From left to right: DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen; Governor’s Awards for Excellence recipients Mindy Jane Coleman, Steven C. King, Martha Swindell Brown and Dr. Susan M. Kansagra; Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities Director Helen Wolstenholme, Cherry Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dale Armstrong and Assistant Secretary for Public Health Mark Benton.

Nov. 7, 2019 – Four DHHS employees were recently honored with 2019 Governor's Awards for Excellence: Mindy Jane Coleman of Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Center; Steven C. King of Broughton Hospital; Martha Swindell Brown of Cherry Hospital; and Dr. Susan M. Kansagra of the Division of Public Health.

The four received their awards Oct. 29 at a ceremony at the Museum of History in Raleigh. The Governor’s Awards for Excellence is the highest honor state employee may receive for dedicated service to the state and the people of North Carolina.

DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen presented the awards to the DHHS employees and was joined on stage by Noelle Talley, deputy chief of staff for Governor Roy Cooper; Bob Brinson, chairman of the State Employees Credit Union Foundation; and Barbara Gibson, director of the Office of State Human Resources.

Here’s a look at the DHHS honorees and a brief description of their achievements.

Mindy Jane Coleman, the Creative Expressive Arts Therapist at Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, was honored for Customer Service. She was cited for enhancing the quality of life for residents experiencing a wide range of disabilities. Her efforts go beyond group activities, creating a network of support by staff and community members to nurture residents. She draws on her training to create engaging activities using a variety of artistic outlets for residents.

Dr. Susan M. Kansagra, Chief of the Division of Public Health’s Chronic Disease and Injury Section, was honored for Outstanding Community Service. She was the driving force behind the state’s Opioid Action Plan, launched in 2017. Backed by more than $31 million in federal funds, these efforts have reduced overdose deaths and overdose emergency room visits by 20% in North Carolina and dispensing of opioids declined by nearly the same amount. DHHS data show that 2018 was the state’s first ‘breakthrough year’ after a decade of increasing overdoses.

Martha Swindell Brown, a chaplain at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro since 2015, was honored for Human Relations. She offers spiritual and religious care to patients at the hospital. In particular, she prepared patients for the move in 2016 to a new facility by helping them overcome anxiety or grief related to the move, using her skills as a filmmaker to provide videos to help them better understand challenging situations. She constantly looks for ways to improve her care for patients and has introduced faith-based music and dance representing a wide scope of spiritual practices.

Steven C. King, the Maintenance Construction Supervisor at Broughton Hospital in Morganton, was honored for Efficiency and Innovation. As part of his work he minimizes hazards for vulnerable patients at high risk for self-harm. His innovative efforts to adapt door hardware to minimize patient risk have saved the hospital thousands of dollars. He also developed a system for moving 600-pound medical beds that protects the beds from an estimated $14,000 in repair costs, which also reduces potential injuries to hospital workers. His innovations and redesign of doors saved the hospital about $70,000 and will be used in other facilities, expanding the savings.

Read more about the achievements and efforts of all four DHHS award winners.

The Governor's Awards for Excellence program acknowledges and expresses appreciation for outstanding accomplishments that do not fall entirely within the scope of normal duties but are in the nature of a major contribution reflecting credit on the person and state service. The meritorious service or accomplishment is so singularly outstanding that special recognition is justified. Employees are nominated for the recognition by other state employees – coworkers, supervisors and subordinates. DHHS provides award recipients three days of special leave.

WATCH: Learn more about the 2019 award winners and their work.

A list of other DHHS employees nominated for the Governor’s Awards for Excellence this year can be found here The nominees receive one day of special leave.