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Public health worker honored for pandemic efforts

Phillips named Jackson County employee of the month
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Tanya Phillips, health promotion and preparedness manager for Jackson County Public Health, is the Jackson County Employee of the Month.

Tanya Phillips usually works behind the scenes to help keep people safe from everything from hepatitis infection to wildfire smoke.

She’s the health promotion and preparedness manager for Jackson County Public Health.

Phillips was thrust into a more visible role during the COVID-19 pandemic when she also became the public information officer for Jackson County Public Health — sending out press releases, appearing on camera, fielding calls and mounting social media campaigns to keep people informed.

When COVID-19 vaccines rolled out, Phillips added county immunization manager to her list of duties. She helped organize and run a massive vaccination effort at The Expo that reduced the risk of severe illness and death for thousands of residents.

“Tanya’s most impressive work began at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020,” said Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer during a recent meeting where she was recognized as the county’s employee of the month for July.

Dyer said Phillips put in long hours, including on weekends and evenings, to get her regular work done while also ensuring that residents could access COVID-19 vaccines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for us all, and Tanya was able to handle the challenge with grace and dignity, representing the county in the best ways possible,” Dyer said.

Phillips started working for Jackson County in 2011. She’s helped lead prevention efforts related to problem gambling and drug, alcohol and tobacco use.

She created Jackson County’s syringe exchange harm reduction program, which helps prevent the spread of hepatitis, HIV and other blood-borne illnesses among people who inject drugs and the general population.

The program takes in used needles and gives out sterile needles to those dealing with addiction. People can also pick up opioid overdose antidote kits and safer sex supplies, and get referrals for drug and alcohol treatment, shelter, medical care and mental health services.

Research shows syringe exchange programs don’t increase drug use. They do reduce the spread of disease and the number of needles disposed of improperly in the community. Such programs can be an important avenue for people to enter addiction treatment when they’re ready.

Phillips has also helped on efforts to inform the public and protect people from the effects of smoke when wildfires rage.

“She is really someone who leads by example. I appreciate that about her, and she certainly has made a difference during these last few years and during her time here with the county,” Jackson County Health and Human Services Director Stacy Brubaker said about Phillips.

Phillips said she couldn’t do her job without her co-workers.

“I enjoy working for Jackson County and having the opportunity to serve my community,” she said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.