That’s the credo that Leslie Horton, director of Yavapai County Community Health Services, makes public whenever she has the chance.
“I see my obligation as assuring that public health services are effectively and efficiently delivered throughout Yavapai County,” said Horton, who earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Northern Arizona University in public health administration.
The 38-year-old Alaska native has been a county employee since 2002, when she accepted a health intern position. She rapidly moved into the executive administrative ranks. Slightly more than a year ago, she was selected unanimously by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors to replace retiring Director Stephen Tullos. Prior to that, she had been the county health education section manager for eight years. She served three years as the public information officer, and two years as assistant health director.
Horton says she is delighted with the professionalism of the people around her and how serious health concerns are addressed. “All the issues we face – social, legal, service centers, ongoing medical issues – every one of these is being looked at intensely by our exceptionally dedicated professional staff. That, for me, is gratifying.”
A growing problem Horton sees in the county is the number of overdose deaths caused by the use of opioids or other drugs. “Most people are unaware, but Yavapai County has a higher per capita death rate because of overdoses of drugs than most other counties in Arizona. As a county, state and nation, we simply must address and mediate that health issue. We work closely with our many medical, social agency and legal partners to mitigate that serious problem.”
The department recently conducted a Community Health Assessment, wherein it collected more than 1,000 surveys. Focus groups will begin meeting this summer and fall “…to help us in our pursuit of programming to serve the public health needs of the more than 240,000 population of this huge rural county.”
Currently, County Health Services has office locations in Cottonwood, Chino Valley, Prescott Valley and Prescott and addresses behavioral health, dental care, family planning and medical services including pediatrics and well-woman checks. County Health Services partners with Yavapai Regional Medical Center, too, in providing mobile health services.
Horton’s position occurred during a transition that separated the public health and the clinical divisions of county health services. The Clinical Health Center is coordinated by Sharon Richman. All services, however, remain housed in the same building complex at 1090 Commerce Drive, just west of Willow Creek Drive at the northeastern edge of Prescott.
As part of the transition, Horton was charged with responsibility for the federally-funded Women, Infant and Children (WIC) care program for new families. She believes the new administrative system allows broader and better defined delivery of health-related services. Recently, she was assigned supervisory responsibility for the Medical Examiner’s Office.
The mother of two, Jackson, 9, and Lila, 6, Horton and her husband, Kevin, an engineer with a local firm, try to separate their professional from their personal lives. They spend their family time hiking, biking, and in many other outdoor activities.
What’s the most memorable advice you ever received and from whom?
“My mom told me many years ago, ‘Never settle.’”
What character trait do you admire the most in your associates?
“Passion and enthusiasm for their work. For those who have worked in the same job for many years but still come to work looking for ways to improve, for striving for excellence, and who show passion about serving others, I have nothing but admiration.”
If you had a million dollars to give away, where would it go?
“To local schools. Our children are the future. We need well-supported schools and teachers to provide them with the best opportunities they can have for success.”
What is your biggest family tradition?
“Every summer, we take our boat to Lake Powell. As a family, we hike the huge sand dunes and then run and tumble down as fast as we can. When my kids were small, I carried them up the dune so they wouldn’t miss out on the fun.”
Name something that made you laugh hard and loud recently.
“I laugh loud and hard every day. I have many reasons to be happy. But the other day, my nine-year-old son put things in perspective. I had left a bite of food on my dinner plate. He looked at it and then me and said, ‘Mom, leaving one bite of food on your plate is like running a marathon and quitting three feet before the finish line.’” QCBN
By Ray Newton, QCBN
Photo by Ray Newton