Garfield County names new public health director

April 15, 2013

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – Garfield County Commissioners appointed a new public health director, Yvonne Long, Monday, April 15, 2013. Long already is working to take over county health department operations from retiring director Mary Meisner. The appointment is effective May 3. As she steps into the new position, while Garfield County Public Health is actively working to contain the spread of pertussis, or whooping cough in Garfield County, Long is ready for the challenge.

“We still only have four confirmed cases in Garfield County, due to measures being taken to stem the spread of this highly contagious disease,” said Long. “Local doctors are prescribing preventive antibiotics to those who have been in contact with the affected individuals, and we have had good support from the community, as families have reached out to us to update their immunizations. Children need to have vaccinations on a childhood immunization schedule, and doctors recommend adults who have not had shots with a pertussis component in more than five years have a TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis) for best protection. We are encouraged to see that these measures are helping.”

Garfield County Commissioners unanimously appointed Yvonne in their meeting Monday, April 15, upon recommendation by Garfield County Manager Andrew Gorgey. “We had a strong applicant pool from both within and from outside the county,” said Gorgey. “Educationally, Yvonne has a degree in nursing from what is now Colorado Mesa University, and graduated magna cum laude. She has a commitment to public health as a career, and has extensive experience as an EMT, a nurse, and a nurse manager. She knows not only health care needs in our community, but also has health care leadership and banking experience. She is a good fit.”

Long has worked as Garfield County Public Health Nurse Manager for Garfield County for eight years, and has worked in the county’s health department for more than 14 years. Long does not see a need to make any immediate changes to the health department’s operations of a staff of 29 people.

“We have a strong public health team here now, and we will continue to evaluate our community and develop programs around those needs to make it the healthiest place we can,” said Long. Her job as nurse manager gave her many years of supervisory experience within the public health department. Long will help advise and support the LiveWell coalition as it develops a healthier Garfield County community under a grant Meisner had sought, and that was awarded recently by LiveWell Colorado.

Emergency preparedness is Long’s career focus, as she has trained for 13 years on the subject. “Being ready for emergencies is an ongoing process. I began getting more involved in this training before the year 2000 when the Y2K concerns were strong. Then, as things advanced on the world scene to bioterrorism with anthrax and other agents, I trained on those. Now, we have moved to all hazards training as communities have been affected by huge storms, and we know here we might face needs for those types of events, as well as mudslides, and of course, wildfires.”

Long works closely with Garfield County Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt on planning and preparedness measures. The Garfield County Public Health Department has a Project Public Health Readiness plan in place, and staff is trained to implement the plan. The plan is nationally accredited through the National Association of City and County Health Officials. This extensive document includes features such as communicable disease and outbreak responses, community containment, mass fatality, continuity of operations plans and mutual aid agreements. It also has a connection to the strategic national stockpile of medical supplies for emergencies across the United States. Long has received 900 level emergency management course training through the Emergency Management Institute nationally.

Long has lived in Garfield County for 23 years, and serves on the Rifle Fire Protection District Board of Directors. She was an emergency medical technician for eight years. She earned a Bachelor of Nursing degree at Mesa State College, and took many prerequisite classes at Colorado Mountain College. Long also worked in banking and information technology positions before moving into a medical career, and will benefit from this experience in the administrative management of her new position.

Radio editors: Please note that Yvonne’s name is pronounced “Y”-vawn, with the Y pronounced like the name of the letter Y – not like the phonetic sound it makes.