LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless has been named a Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky for her leadership toward enacting a stronger smoke-free ordinance in the city. The award recognizes individuals and organizations working to improve the health of Kentuckians through policy change.
Harless is now eligible for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion of the Year award, which comes with a $5,000 grant from the Foundation to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner’s choice. The winner of that award will be announced on Sept. 24 at the Foundation’s Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum in Lexington.
Harless worked with several organizations to strengthen Paducah’s existing smoke-free law for years before she was elected mayor, according to Michael Muscarella, executive director of ambulatory services at Baptist Health Paducah, who nominated Harless for the award. He said Harless worked with Healthy McCracken County, the Purchase Area Health Connections and McCracken County Agency on Substance Abuse and Prevention.
“Working with her before she became mayor, she guided our coalitions to gain the most current data on smoking ordinances to help our group draft an improved smoking ordinance to reduce the risk of secondhand smoke and to include vaping and e-cigarettes,” Muscarella wrote. “She was instrumental in helping us communicate our message to the City Council and the public to gain support. Our coalitions could not have done this without Mayor Harless’ wisdom and keen sense of timing.”
“Mayor Harless is a change agent for improved policies to protect the public from secondhand smoke,” said Dona Rains, director of community outreach at Baptist Health Paducah and a member of the Foundation’s board of directors. Rains endorsed Harless for the award. “She also has been a keystone in other efforts to improve regional health and education.”
Rains highlighted Harless’ work to develop the Purchase Area Health Connections (PAHC) nonprofit organization, which has obtained $1 million in grants. PAHC has used the funds, in part, to help high-risk patients at the region’s hospitals avoid having to be readmitted once they are discharged. The grants enable community health workers to interact with hospital case managers and patients to assist with the transition home from hospital discharge. They then help the patients at home identify any barriers to maintaining their recovery that would force a hospital readmission.
“She is a prime example of Paducah pride – returning home to put her advance public health education and knowledge to work for the betterment of her fellow citizens,” Rains said.
Harless, elected mayor in November 2016, is CEO and co-founder of PreventScripts. Before returning to Paducah in 2009, she served as the program director of Rocketown, a faith-based youth outreach facility in Nashville, a research assistant at Harvard University serving in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and a knowledge manager at Management Sciences for Health in Washington, D.C. In Paducah, she has served as a grant writer and development manager for Heartland CARES and executive director at St. Nicholas Family Free Clinic. She has a B.S. from Vanderbilt University and a master’s in public health from Boston University. She has served on the boards of Child Watch, Paducah Day Nursery, and Project AIDS Orphan. She was a co-facilitator or the United Way’s Impact Poverty Task Force “Getting Ahead” program. She also served as president of Rotaract in 2013 and most recently graduated from the Delta Regional Authority Leadership institute and Leadership Kentucky.
“A strong leader like Mayor Harless can bring committed organizations together to transform community health,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “She understands the importance of collaboration and her guiding influence with local health coalitions and agencies was key in focusing their efforts and transitioning Paducah to a comprehensive smoke-free community.”
Nominations for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Award are accepted at any time and must be supported by at least one letter of endorsement from a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors or Community Advisory Council. See additional details about the award on the Foundation’s website.