Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless and Dr. Van S. Breeding of Whitesburg are named Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has named two new Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions: Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless for her leadership in enacting a stronger city smoking ban, and Dr. Van Breeding of Whitesburg for leadership in fighting the substance-use crisis in Eastern Kentucky.

Before being elected mayor in 2016, Harless worked with several community organizations to strengthen Paducah's existing smoke-free laws to include vaping of e-cigarettes, according to Michael Muscarella, executive director of ambulatory services at Baptist Health Paducah, who nominated her for the award.
"She was instrumental in helping us communicate our message to the city council and the public to gain support. Our coalitions could not have done this without Mayor Harless' wisdom and keen sense of timing," Muscarella wrote.

Harless is also the CEO and co-founder of PreventScripts, a company that promotes automated preventive medicine, through daily tracking, to help people maintain healthy habits.

"A strong leader like Mayor Harless can bring committed organizations together to transform community health," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation. "She understands the importance of collaboration and her guiding influence with local health coalitions and agencies was key in focusing their efforts and transitioning Paducah to a comprehensive smoke-free community."

Dona Rains, director of community outreach at Baptist Health Paducah and a member of the foundation's board of directors, also endorsed Harless for the award, noting her efforts to improve the region's health and education. Rains highlighted Harless' work to develop the Purchase Area Health Connections nonprofit, which the release says has been awarded $1 million in grants, used in part for programs to decrease hospital readmission in high-risk patients.

"She is a prime example of Paducah pride: returning home to put her advance public health education and knowledge to work for the betterment of her fellow citizens," Rains said. Harless has a B.S. from Vanderbilt University and a master's in public health from Boston University, according to the news release.

Since moving to Paducah in 2009, Harless has served as a grant writer and development manager for Heartland CARES and executive director at St. Nicholas Family Free Clinic. She has also served on the boards of Child Watch, Paducah Day Nursery, and Project AIDS Orphan. She was a co-facilitator of the United Way's Impact Poverty Task Force "Getting Ahead" program. She was the president of the Paducah Rotary Club's Rotaract in 2013 and most recently graduated from the Delta Regional Authority Leadership institute and Leadership Kentucky.

Frances J. Feltner, director of the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health, nominated Breeding for the Policy Champion award in part for spearheading the creation of Help End Addiction For Life this year.

"HEAL is a nonprofit consortium of federal, state and local agencies, both public and private, that have combined resources to work on addiction prevention, education, treatment and recovery," says a separate news release.

HEAL has helped establish a syringe-exchange program at the Letcher County Health Department, and a partnership with Addiction Recover Care connects addicts to peer-support specialists. Since its inception, the program has provided services for 130 patients in the region, the release says.

"Dr. Breeding cares deeply about the well-being of people as is evident in his work as a physician and with the community," said Feltner, who is also a member of the foundation's Community Advisory Council. HEAL "is already making an impact. Health care agencies are coordinating efforts, more treatment is available, and overdoses are down."

Chandler said, "This is the kind of progress that can be made when committed organizations come together, share resources and collaborate to solve a community problem. Dr. Breeding's leadership in launching and energizing HEAL is exactly what the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Award was created to recognize and promote. He is making a difference in Letcher County and he is an example to his colleagues throughout the state."

Breeding is also known for supporting nutrition programs to combat diabetes and his efforts to increase screenings for colon cancer. He is director of clinical affairs at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp. and is affiliated with the Whitesburg ARH Hospital; he is a native of Letcher County and graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

Breeding and Harless are now eligible for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion of the Year award, which comes with a $5,000 grant from the foundation to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner's choice. The winner of that award will be announced Sept. 24 at the foundation's Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum in Lexington.

Nominations for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Award are accepted at any time. A nomination must also be supported by a member of the foundation's board or Community Advisory Council; details are on the foundation's website.

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