HAMLET — Former Richmond County Health Director Dr. Tommy Jarrell was honored Saturday, April 2 as the Richmond Community College Foundation’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year.
The award was presented at the Foundation’s annual Gala — which had originally been scheduled for Valentine’s Day — at Cole Auditorium.
The delay, as per the times, was due to a rise in COVID-19 cases attributed to the Omicron variant.
It was seemingly fitting that the delayed event was to honor a man who, as health director, guided the community’s health for three decades and ultimately culminated in him navigating the county through the global pandemic.
Following a brief meet-and-greet in the lobby of the Cole Auditorium, Jarrell was introduced by Abbie Covington, former Hamlet mayor and current councilwoman.
According to Covington, Jarrell is responsible for the department’s growth over the past 30 years, growing the department’s annual budget from $2 million at the start of his tenure to approximately $6 million today.
Covington attributed the creation of several of the department’s services to Jarrell.
A dental clinic was added in 1996 to provide dental care to children on Medicaid. Since the clinic’s establishment, a dentist has been added to the staff and services have been extended to adults.
The Pharmacy Assistance Program was created to provide maintenance medication to the county’s senior citizens in need. The program has distributed $2 million in medication this year, according to Covington. Those medications are donated by their manufacturers.
Additionally, to fill a need for primary care services, the health department created the Richmond Community Care Clinic. The Richmond County Health Foundation was also formed during Jarrell’s tenure and is used to help with copays, according to Covington. The foundation is funded through private donations.
In addition to growing the size and scope of the health department, Covington credited Jarrell with the removal of the Imperial Foods processing plant remains. The Imperial Foods chicken plant in Hamlet caught fire in 1991 resulting in the loss of 25 lives.
The award was presented by RichmondCC President Dr. Dale McInnis.
Prior to his retirement in May 2021, Jarrell was named Health Director of theYear in 2020 by the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors.
Read more about Jarrell’s career here.
The RichmondCC Foundation has presented the Distinguished Citizen of the Year award since 1986, according to a plaque inside the Cole Auditorium. Past recipients have included: state Sens. Tom Mcinnis, Richard Conder, and William Purcell; Kenneth and Claudia Robinette of C. F. Smith Property Group; now-former FirstHealth regional administrator John Jackson; and former RichmondCC president Dr. Diane Honeycutt.