Secretary Cohen, Leadership Celebrate NCDHHS Employees at Virtual Team Recognition Awards Event

Employees from across NCDHHS were honored with the annual NCDHHS Team Recognition Awards in a virtual event on March 25. The awards recognized NCDHHS teams who have gone above and beyond to further our mission and demonstrated the NCDHHS values during 2020.

Employees from across NCDHHS were honored with the annual NCDHHS Team Recognition Awards in a virtual event on March 25. The awards recognized NCDHHS teams who have gone above and beyond to further our mission and demonstrated the NCDHHS values during 2020.

Secretary Mandy Cohen kicked off the event by thanking NCDHHS staff for living out the seven NCDHHS values in the face of tremendous challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“I am really excited for the opportunity to recognize the incredible teams across the department who have demonstrated and lived our values, and have done it incredibly well in the face of incredible challenges over the last year,” said Secretary Cohen.

Secretary Cohen recognized the long and hard year and the fact that employees have been through a lot both professionally and personally.

“Many of us have experienced the loss of life, of family, of friends, and members of our own DHHS team at the hands of this very cruel virus,” she stated.

Before the celebratory awards event got started, Secretary Cohen asked that all staff take a moment of silence to remember the nearly 12,000 people across North Carolina who we have lost to COVID-19.

After the moment of silence, Secretary Cohen kicked off the celebratory portion of the event, and outlined some of the amazing accomplishments of the NCDHHS team throughout 2020.

Congratulations to the following teams for their extraordinary work and for living the NCDHHS values inside and outside of the office.

People-Focused Awards: Teams who have been truly committed to the people we serve, delivering value and making a positive impact on the lives and communities they affect.

  • COVID-19 Response Leadership Team and the Testing Workstream Team, Division of Public Health. This team has completed over 6.2 million COVID-19 tests and has accomplished this feat with an astounding turnaround time of 3.3 days from the day the specimen is collected to the day the results are reported to DHHS. The team led operations to develop a COVID-19 testing plan and strategies to assist local health departments and communities in providing easy access and free testing to anyone that needed it, but especially individuals classified as being at higher risk and members of historically marginalized populations.
  • Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) Team, Information Technology Division and the Division of- Social Services. P-EBT provides a food benefit to the families of nearly 900,000 children who receive free and reduced lunch. This program has provided critical help feeding children since schools closed in March due to COVID-19. In total, this program will provide more than $300 million to families to help buy food for their children.
  • COVID-19 Resources for Places of Worship and Faith Communities Team, Multiple NCDHHS Divisions. This team reached out to faith leaders across the state to offer resources to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This team of volunteers had meaningful conversations with over 200 faith leaders.


Belonging Awards: Teams who have intentionally promoted an inclusive, equitable workplace that reflects the communities we serve, where everyone feels a sense of belonging, and our diverse backgrounds and experiences are valued and recognized as strengths. This new value was added in 2020.

  • Team Media, Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DSDHH). Thanks to this team, American Sign Language (ASL) and Communication Access Real Time Translation (CART) users in North Carolina have been included in live televised COVID-19 conferences/briefings from the earliest days of the pandemic. When the governor addresses North Carolina via live televised press conferences, this team coordinates to ensure our citizens have equal access to the vital information shared by our state’s health and policy experts.
  • Workgroup for Transgender Issues, Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities (DSOHF). This workgroup produced policy and guidelines that will provide a solid foundation for DSOHF facilities for patients/residents and employees who are transgender or have a non-binary gender identity. These guidelines will ensure that all individuals are consistently treated with respect and dignity and that their individuality is valued.
  • Safe Space Event - Expression Quilt – Conversation Circles Team, Central Regional Hospital (CRH). This team created a safe space for employees in the Tulip Mall cafeteria on June 4 and 5 in response to the many emotions that people were feeling related to the protests and the loss of Black lives at the hands of police brutality and racial injustice. The intention of this space was to give employees a place to gather, talk, listen, share personal stories, and support each other. The recipient of this award, April Parker, was also the recipient of the 2021 John R. Larkins Awards for her work, which was announced at this year’s State Employee’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Program. The award recognizes commitment to justice and equality in the workplace and in the community


Teamwork Awards: Teams who have been committed to working toward our one team goal/mission: To improve the health, safety and well-being of all North Carolinians.

  • DHHS COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Team, Multiple NCDHHS Divisions. This team sourced and purchased over 139 million PPE items and has supplied PPE to every county in the state. In addition to meeting the PPE needs of health care, the team has work together to make over 24 million face coverings available to communities in need, especially historically marginalized populations.
  • Hope4NC Team, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMHDDSAS). This team developed and implemented two critical statewide resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hope4NC Helpline is a resource that connects North Carolinians to mental health support that helps them cope and build resilience during times of crisis. The Hope4Healers Helpline is a new initiative that provides mental health support for health care professionals, emergency medical specialists, first responders, other staff who work in health care settings, child care professionals and educators throughout the state, as well as their families, all of whom are experiencing stress from being on the front lines of the state’s COVID-19 response.
  • Disaster Response Team, Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center. As COVID-19 concern intensified at the beginning of 2020, this team planned for a negative air pressure unit for up to six COVID-19 positive individuals and an 18-bed isolation unit for exposed, or potentially exposed, residents. In less than one day, they also moved all 18 employees to their new offices, with connectivity, including phone, computer, and printing capability.


Stewardship Awards: Teams who have been effective stewards of resources and time to create a positive impact for those we serve.

  • DHHS Division of Budget and Analysis. This team provided on-target support in obtaining approvals for new hires to meet the unique hiring and staffing needs brought on by the pandemic. This team showed their dedication to North Carolinians through their responsibility of good stewardship over state funds, maintaining an open and trusting environment for collaboration, and commitment in working toward one team goal to improve the health, safety and well-being of all North Carolinians.
  • Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Adaptive Equipment Departments, Caswell Developmental Center. This team produced over 2,500 cloth masks to supply each employee at Caswell Developmental Center with two masks. Masks were also made available for all residents of the facility. The team helped to identify the storage for masks, space for decontamination, and a rotation system for approximately 4,500 masks used at the facility. They also developed guidelines for oversight and monitoring of masking stations. 
  • Emergency Solutions Grant Team, Division of Aging and Adult Services. This team distributed approximately $7.5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds under very tight deadlines. Staff provided assistance to their customers, including guidebooks, training, and technical assistance.


Proactive Communication Awards: Teams who maintain an open and trusting environment for collaboration and continuous improvement with team members, stakeholders, and the people we serve.

  • Count On Me NC Team, Division of Public Health. This team expertly collaborated with the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, North Carolina State University, and other stakeholders to create a new training and informational program for businesses across North Carolina and ensured higher executive order compliance with those businesses. The training program focused on best practices that businesses can implement to reduce the risk for and spread of COVID-19 while safely serving their patrons.
  • Child Development Collaborative Communication Team, Division of Child Development and Early Education. Beginning the morning of March 16, 2020, this team began to have constant contact with licensed child care providers. In addition to completing daily surveys with providers, they began to compile questions regarding everything from subsidies, supplies, and health and safety guidance in controlling and preventing COVID-19. The team spoke with parents who were concerned about sending their children to child care and gave options available to parents in need of child care.
  • NC Justice & Health Workgroup, Divisions of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, Public Health, and State-Operated Healthcare Facilities. The NC Justice & Health Workgroup is an innovative cross-agency state workgroup that represent expertise in justice, mental health, substance use, social medicine, and injury prevention, and brings a multidisciplinary perspective to key justice-involved health issues. The workgroup created an open and trusting environment to foster and facilitate dialogue around difficult conversations related to the opioid crisis.


Joy Awards: Teams who have brought joy and balance at work, so we all bring our A-game when serving the people of North Carolina.

  • Recreation Therapy and Special Events (RT and SE) Departments, Caswell Developmental Center. This team rolled out a scavenger hunt that engaged both staff and residents in looking for large, painted Easter eggs all over campus. It not only got people outside and engaged in activities, but the activity stimulated the senses, and brought joy during an uncertain time. They also implemented “Roadside Recreation” where the departments traveled to courtyards across campus to provide a variety of socially-distanced activities that promoted overall healthy lifestyles, movement and fun.
  • Wellness Committee, Central Regional Hospital. The 16 members on this committee regularly collaborate as a team to execute joyful employee events that reach all shifts within the hospital and at the Whitaker School. Some examples include wellness events and monthly food trucks.
  • Care Management for High-Risk Pregnancies' (CMHRP) Program, Division of Public Health. This team has demonstrated joy with weekly employee check-ins, changing their in-person new hire orientation trainings to two-day, virtual trainings; and hosting live webinars for local health department CMHRP supervisors that focus on resilience and ways to increase their happiness.


Transparency Awards: Teams who share expertise, information and honest feedback within the department, with stakeholders and the community, and ask for help when needed.

  • DHHS COVID-19 Data Visualization Team, Division of Public Health and the Secretary’s Office. An urgent need for resources brought together a team of willing employees who wanted to support the pandemic effort. This was a collaborative effort by DHHS’ Information Technology Division (ITD), Data Office and multiple divisions to provide transparent COVID-19 data to the public.
  • Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and the Injury and Violence Prevention Branch (IVPB) Team, Division of Public Health. This team engaged in an honest assessment of our state’s ability to understand and quickly respond to violent and overdose deaths. OCME and IVPB both committed to improving data sharing. The team’s current work includes revamping the suspected overdose report.
  • Aging and Disability Resource Team, Division of Aging and Adult Services. This team demonstrated teamwork and transparency through efforts to secure and implement the Administration for Community Living (ACL) grant received in April 2020. The team developed ways to access services virtually, provided transitional support to those most at risk for COVID-19 (nursing home-to-home); addressed social isolation; and developed and/or enhanced innovative services or service structures.

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