SDA Honors Carol Plock from the Health District of Northern Larimer County

The Health District of Northern Larimer County on Bristlecone Drive. Photo by Theresa Rose

Megan Lippard | Special District Association of Colorado

Carol Plock, Executive Director of the Health District of Northern Larimer County, has been named the winner of the Special District Association of Colorado’s 2021 Manager of the Year Award.

The Special District Association of Colorado (SDA) presents this award annually to a special district manager or fire chief who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, dedication, and service to their district. This year’s awards were presented at the SDA Annual Awards Luncheon as part of the SDA Annual Conference which was held September 14-16 in Keystone, Colorado.

Ms. Plock has served as the Executive Director of the Health District for 27 years. Under Ms. Plock’s leadership, the Health District has grown from Ms. Plock and two employees to over 125 employees, and it is now looked to not only for its high quality and often ground-breaking services but also for leadership and critical information on the state of healthcare in the community.

The Health District currently provides a range of diverse health services, including often unique approaches to dental care, mental health, access to health insurance, and community organization around those complex health issues that no one group can solve alone. When the Health District transitioned from its historic role as a hospital operator to a provider of diverse community health services, Ms. Plock helped ensure the agency would always be responding to current unmet community needs by engaging in a continual process of outcome improvement. Under her stewardship, the Health District has conducted a triennial community health assessment to guide program development, a process which includes discussion sessions with local stakeholders and one of the largest ongoing health surveys for a community of its size. Over the years, Health District services have been created, modified, and even eliminated as a result of community health assessment results, program evaluation findings, and ongoing conversations with partners about changing local needs.

As unmet needs have been identified, Ms. Plock has spearheaded a number of successful collaborative grant applications, as well as community partnerships and alliances, the majority of which have resulted in sustainable programming. Since 1999, the work of one such partnership, the Mental Health and Substance Use Alliance of Larimer County, has resulted in members pooling resources and influence to create a range of new services across the community, and in the dedication of millions of dollars to improve access to behavioral health care across Larimer County. In addition, Ms. Plock has positioned the Health District to be a flexible resource for the community in times of need as has happened during several local crises over the past 25 years.

These disasters have included historic and deadly flooding in 1997, where she deployed the agency’s mobile health unit to administer tetanus shots, and in 2009 when she as entered into a partnership with the local health department to organize mass vaccination clinics for H1N1 and later, meningitis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Plock worked closely with community partners and Health District staff to identify needs and existing resources for people experiencing homelessness, and then assigned Health District staff to work with local partners to provide isolation, recovery, and quarantine (IRQ) services to those individuals. Throughout these crises, Ms. Plock was adept in identifying unmet needs where the Health District could contribute and creating strong relationships with other community leaders.

Ms. Plock has boundless faith in the power of cooperative problem solving, both among staff and local stakeholders. She doesn’t easily conclude that something can’t be done, only that a way to do it has not yet been found. Ann Terry, SDA’s Executive Director, was thrilled to recognize the exceptional work of Ms. Plock.

“Carol is a very deserving winner of this award, and we are pleased for the opportunity to honor her and the extraordinary contributions she has made to her district.”

The Special District Association of Colorado (SDA) is a statewide membership organization created in 1975 to serve the interests of the special district form of local government in Colorado. Special districts fill a vital role in providing many of the basic services and public needs of the people of Colorado, including fire and rescue services; water and wastewater treatment and delivery; parks and recreation amenities; hospitals; libraries; and cemeteries. SDA has 2,325 district members and close to 265 associate members.

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