Audrain County Health Department director Craig Brace reflects on a busy year

By Erik Richardson, Correspondent
Posted 12/1/21

You know those scenes in old westerns, where the guy in the white hat has to ride up and jump onto the stagecoach to keep it from crashing? It is hard not to feel the similarity to Craig Brace …

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Audrain County Health Department director Craig Brace reflects on a busy year

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You know those scenes in old westerns, where the guy in the white hat has to ride up and jump onto the stagecoach to keep it from crashing? It is hard not to feel the similarity to Craig Brace stepping in as the new director of the Audrain County Health Department last November at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a man whose personal mission statement focuses on God and service to others, he might shy away from the comparison to the white-hatted hero, but he’s certainly faced his share of challenges in recent months.

Managing and growing a public health department is a challenge and adventure even in the best of times. On top of that, Brace needed to quickly harness all the available resources he could, and establish trust with city councils, civic organizations, area businesses, and the county commissioners in order to slow the spread of the virus. The fact that he was able to do that, and do it well, is reflected nowhere so well as the January vaccination clinic at the Mexico airport.

When the Missouri State Department of Health and Senior Services tasked him with organizing the second mass vaccination, he managed in four days to rally 26 area agencies to help coordinate, and the event vaccinated over 1,600 people. That was just one part of the multi-layered strategy that the ACHD has helped implement. In the process, Brace has built strong relationships with the board of health.

“He has done so much to give to the staff when they are constantly being called on to give so much,” Dr. Kathleen Weaver said. “It is so wonderful to have that positive energy.

At a time when health departments around the country are commonly seeing staff turnover rates from five percent to as high as 25 percent, ACHD has had zero percent turnover.

As he looks to the year ahead, Brace hopes to carry forward—and grow—some of the momentum he and his team have been able to create. He wants to keep winning the battle against misinformation and malignant social media. In the larger picture, he has a vision of client-first care that grew out of the values he learned as one of four boys growing up pumping gas and taking care of customers at their dad’s gas station in Wellsville. 

For him, client-first care is reflected across a wide range of support and services to the community, from his creation of a full-time position of coordinator of health promotion, to parenting and weight-loss workshops, to growing the educational outreach to the schools. If there is one larger goal he has for the department, and the team that he is so delighted to have working with him, it is to “change the public perception regarding who can access services at the health department.” With programs that include lab services, breast-feeding education for new mothers, food safety training, and a dozen other things.

“We’re not just WIC, infectious disease management and immunizations,” Brace explains.”Yes, we provide those valuable services, but we are much, much more.”

To learn more about all the different programs and services, visit myACHD.org

 

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