The Roundup -

Richland County Health Department Administrator Retires


March 18, 2020 | View PDF

Judith Lapan (middle left) accepts the Distinguished Service Award from Jacklyn Damm (far left) and Molly Brodhead and Kathy Helmuth (middle right and far right) in October 2019. (Photo submitted)

On January 31, Judy LaPan ended a chapter of her career in public health, after 22 years of service as Administrator of the Richland County Health Department.

LaPan began at the Department in 1998, during a time where most rural health departments had few full-time staff, if any. Recognizing the need for and value of public health services, LaPan broadened the scope of the Health Department, moving from mainly individualized services to population-based programs, including disease surveillance, preparedness and prevention.

LaPan worked to establish the Richland County Health Department as both a leader in public health, and a leader in the community. Innovative and forward-thinking, LaPan spearheaded the Communities in Action process, which builds the capacity of our community through cross-sector collaboration, and secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds to bring programming, staff, and AmeriCorps members to address community needs.

Throughout her career, LaPan maintained a leadership position in local and state public health. LaPan served as chairperson of Montana Public Health System Improvement Task Force for seven years, where she led the development of the Montana Public Health Training Institute and updated public health statutes. LaPan was also a founding member of the Association of Montana Public Health Officials.

One of LaPan's most proud accomplishments was achieving the Department's Accreditation status through the Public Health Accreditation Board in 2018. Richland County was the smallest county in Montana, both population-wise and number of staff, to achieve the status.

Recognized for her extensive contribution to public health through collaboration, leadership, advocacy and policy work across the state of Montana, LaPan received numerous awards throughout her career. Recent awards include the 2018 JSEC Employer of Choice Award; Montana Public Health Association's highest award, the Distinguished Service Award in 2019; and the Partners in Progress Award from the Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce in 2019.

Perhaps LaPan's greatest contribution to public health was the countless number of staff, interns, students, AmeriCorps members and community partners that served under her leadership, and the countless community members who have benefited from the programs and services LaPan developed and secured to meet the needs in Richland County. In the 2018 JSEC Employer of Choice Award nomination, LaPan's staff wrote, "Our Department is like a second family to many of us-we work together, grow together, and move public health initiatives forward to ensure a community where the public can thrive. An organization is only as strong as its leadership, and we truly have a top-notch leader, who is innovative, supportive and nurturing. We are honored to serve under the leadership of Judy LaPan."

The second chapter of LaPan's career in public health includes serving as Vice Chair of the Montana Healthcare Foundation Board, where she continues to lead efforts to improve the health of Montanans and ensure the provision of essential public health services throughout Montana. She has served as a Trustee since 2013.

Aside from serving on the Healthcare Foundation Board, LaPan is enjoying travelling to visit her two boys, Matthew in Seattle, and Mark in New York, and her mother in Florida, and spending time with her husband, Michael.


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