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County health coalition hires staff coordinator

The coalition is a broad-based community partnership working to improve the health and quality of life of people in the community. Membership includes a cross representation of services and agencies all with the common goal to advise county commissioners and address health issues and disparities in Polk County.

The Polk County Wellness Coalition recently was given a &dquo;community of excellence award&dquo; by the Governor&squo;s Task Force for Healthy Carolinians. Noted accomplishments were the coalition&squo;s work on mental health and substance abuse issues, helping to create a dental clinic, developing a community weight loss program and helping St. Luke&squo;s Hospital go smoke free.

To further the coalition&squo;s goals, Lester brings more than 22 years of professional experience in healthcare management.

She has worked in the mental health field and has experience in grant writing and system design. Most recently, she served as the program director for Community Health Network, a program of Partnership for Health in Hendersonville.

While there, she created a system of healthcare access for the uninsured of three western N.C. counties that became a model for the region and the state. She also created a network of primary care providers who provided affordable care for the uninsured and created a community pharmacy that became a pharmacy safety net for the mentally ill of Henderson County.

Lester also managed a federal grant in excess of $1.2 million and obtained additional funding in the amount of $500,000 to sustain the Community Health Network.

Lester has also served as executive director of a $12 million community mental health center, quality improvement director and mental health project manager.&bsp;

Lester received a bachelor&squo;s of science degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois, and her masters of science in counseling and human systems from Florida State University. She is licensed as a Professional Counselor in N.C. and is a National Certified Counselor.

&dquo;I appreciate the opportunity and the challenge of serving as coordinator of the Polk County Wellness Coalition,&dquo; Lester said.

For more information about the Polk County Wellness Coalition, call Lester at 899-WELL (9355).