Agency and Individual Awards, Accolades and Recognition


Regional Recovery Council receives national recognition for pandemic recovery program innovation 

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) recognized the Regional Recovery Council (RRC) with Honorable Mention status for the 2021 Innovative Practice Award, noting the high level of program innovation to meet the needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Launched in April 2020, the RRC was formed to help businesses recover from the pandemic as quickly and safely as possible. The RRC is spearheaded by Susan Wheelan, director of El Paso County Public Health and Dirk Draper, president & CEO of the Chamber & EDC. The RRC represents multiple sectors including economic development, health care, industry, tourism, education, county and municipal government, non-profit, philanthropy, and community development.  

The collective insight and strategic input of the RRC's non-traditional partnerships has been beneficial in helping our economy reopen as safely and quickly as possible. This national recognition of the RRC is a testament to the importance of cross-sector partnerships in optimizing community health, which is essential for a thriving economy. As an Honorable Mention practice, the Regional Recovery Council application will be featured in NACCHO’s Innovative Practice Database for other local health departments to review and replicate. 

Photos shows EPCPH Director Susan Wheelan holds the agency's national reaccreditation award.
EPCPH Director Susan Wheelan holding the agency's national reaccreditation award.



In late 2020, El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) became the first local public health agency in Colorado to achieve national reaccreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). This designation extends EPCPH’s accreditation status for another five years. Of the nation’s 3,000 health departments, only a fraction have successfully completed the rigorous process. EPCPH is one of only 40 health departments nationwide that has been awarded reaccreditation.  

During the reaccreditation process, EPCPH received high marks in several different areas, including recognition as a leader with a robust local community presence. PHAB officials also noted the demonstration of strong multi-sector collaborations and partnerships, in addition to the innovative use of data and metrics through the Thriving Colorado Dashboard. EPCPH was recognized for an excellent culture of quality improvement.  

2020 Distinguished Budget Presentation 

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) presented El Paso County Public Health with an award for the 2020 Distinguished Budget Presentation. GFOA notes that this award is a testament to local government’s commitment to preparing a high-quality budget which reflects GFOA’s best practices and guidelines established by the National Advisory Council and State and Local Budgeting. Receiving this award signifies that our agency has met GFOA’s criteria for transparent, effective financial statements. It is a very rigorous process, and these awards demonstrate our agency’s commitment to accountability and excellence in financial reporting. 

Image of badge for Certificate of Achievement in financial Reporting

Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the Fiscal Year 2019 

In 2020, GFOA also presented El Paso County Public Health with the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the fiscal year 2019. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. 

Photo shows Dr. Leon Kelly, Dr. Robin Johnson, and EPCPH Director Susan Wheelan with their Spirit of the Springs Awards.
Dr. Leon Kelly, Dr. Robin Johnson, and EPCPH Director Susan Wheelan with their Spirit of the Springs Awards.

Spirit of the Springs 

Image shows EPCPH Director Susan Wheelan with her PPUW Most Valuable Player Award.
EPCPH Director Susan Wheelan with her PPUW Most Valuable Player Award.

In September 2020, Mayor Suthers recognized leaders from El Paso County Public Health with a Spirit of the Springs Celebration Award for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Suthers presented awards to Susan Wheelan, Dr. Robin Johnson, and Dr. Leon Kelly for their collective effort to protect, inform and educate the community.  

Pikes Peak United Way’s Most Valuable Player Award 

In July 2020, Pikes Peak United Way presented their Most Valuable Player Award to Director Wheelan, noting how she led masterfully through the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to her work on teen suicide prevention and youth substance abuse prevention in El Paso County.  

Colorado Springs Business Journal Women of Influence 

Director Wheelan was named one of the Colorado Springs Business Journal’s 2020 Women of Influence. Among the attributes noted in the recognition were Director Wheelan’s skill in bringing together diverse partners to create a broader community impact through collaboration. 

Image shows Fadi Youkhana
Fadi Youkhana

National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) – Advocate of the Year Award 

NAMI recognized Fadi Youkhana, epidemiologist for EPCPH with the Advocate of the year award. Amid the public health demands created by COVID-19, Fadi set aside time to partner with NAMI on in-depth research about co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in the local community. He and the EPCPH team worked with NAMI to conduct 30 interviews and more than 50 surveys, results from which will help us better understand and support many of those who are served by NAMI. Amid the pandemic, Fadi was still able to champion the core public health work in mental health and substance use, which is one of the top priorities in EPCPH’s 2018-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan.  

Pikes Peak Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – Peak PRo Excellence in PR Award 

The Pikes Peak Chapter of PRSA recognized Michelle Hewitt, public health information officer for EPCPH with the Peak PRo Excellence in PR Award. Michelle was recognized for her leadership and excellence in communications during the COVID-19 crisis. Her colleagues and peers noted her calm, decisive and forward-thinking approach in leading the regional Joint Information Center and providing the community and media with timely, credible, and accurate information. 


2019 County Innovation Award  

El Paso County Public Health’s communicable disease program received the County’s 2019 Innovation Award for their efforts on the hepatitis A outbreak. In their forward-thinking and cross-sector approach, the team partnered with homeless respite care to lower readmission rates and reduce transmission of hepatitis A during a person-to-person outbreak associated with homelessness and substance use. These innovative and multi-sector partnerships laid a strong foundation to build upon for the later response to COVID-19.