LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — At the first in-person Lexington-Fayette County Health Department Board of Health meeting in two years, two members of the community were named Public Health Heroes.
The Board of Health gives the Dr. Rice C. Leach Public Health Hero award every year to people who are dedicated to improving the health of the people of Lexington.
Battalion Chief Marc Bramlage of the Lexington Fire Department and Dr. Sharon Walsh of the University of Kentucky's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research received the award this year, due to their efforts in Covid-19 vaccinations and in fighting the opioid epidemic.
As director of the Center of Drug and Alcohol Research, the Board of Health said Dr. Walsh created new pathways to expand treatment for opioid addiction and has helped distribute more than 4,600 units of naloxone.
At the event Monday evening, Walsh said there is still a lot of work to be done in overcoming the stigma of opioid addiction.
"That stigma can be a real barrier. Sometimes it can be hard to talk to your friends, family, relatives, your employers. We need to continue to work on breaking down those types of barriers," she said. "There's always hope. As long as you're still living, you can always enter into remission and hopefully pursue a long-term recovery."
Bramlage, the battalion chief for Emergency Medical Services, helped first responders navigate the pandemic and helped teams from the fire department and health department work together to increase Covid-19 vaccination efforts. He said he saw those efforts as simply part of his job.
"You take care of the people that live here and we have the flexibility to do that. We have creative people that can solve problems and this was one of those type of situations," he said.
The award is named after Dr. Rice C. Leach, a former Commissioner of Health who was also a public health physician for more than 50 years.