News release: Rural health awards presented at Minnesota Rural Health Conference

News Release
June 26, 2012
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Rural health awards presented at Minnesota Rural Health Conference

O.J. Doyle and Violence Prevention Council of Morrison County receive awards

This year's "Rural Health Care Hero" and "Rural Health Team" awards were presented today in Duluth at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference. O. J. Doyle and a longtime advocate for emergency medical services (EMS), and the Violence Prevention Council of Morrison County received the awards for their outstanding contributions to rural health.

Doyle, a resident of St. Paul, received the Rural Health Care Hero award for over two decades of legislative efforts and innovation to strengthen the state's EMS system, particularly in rural areas. Most recently, he helped Minnesota become the first state in the nation to establish a new health care provider type: the Community Paramedic. Community paramedics work alongside EMS personnel to address low-intensity and preventive cases, effectively increasing a community's primary care capacity while also freeing up its EMS providers for more urgent situations.

Trained as a paramedic and now a lobbyist for a variety of EMS clients, Doyle was instrumental in helping the Community Paramedic legislation become enacted in 2011with strong bipartisan support. He also helped create the Minnesota EMS Regulatory Board and the Minnesota Statewide Trauma System, and worked to secure funding for a variety of EMS functions in rural areas, including those for volunteer ambulance personnel and rural ambulance research.

This year's Rural Health Team award went to the Violence Prevention Council of Morrison County, a collaborative effort among St. Gabriel's Hospital, Hands of Hope Resource Center and a broad spectrum of individuals from throughout central Minnesota, including a district judge, a county social worker, an emergency services nurse, police chiefs from two communities, a pastor, a corrections officer and a domestic violence survivor, among others.

The council received the award both for its collaboration and innovation. It uses a "spectrum of violence" approach to reducing partner violence in Morrison County by targeting "upstream" activities to change societal norms. Just as other public health initiatives have successfully changed norms related to child safety restraints and tobacco use, the council uses a variety of public education and media strategies to change how partner violence is perceived. It also works to bolster community resources dedicated to violence prevention and to improve how domestic violence is handled.

Recent projects include working with Little Falls Community High School students to create "Photo Voices" – video clips about partner violence that air within the school and will soon run on a local cable access channel – and collecting detailed data at the site of domestic violence incidents to provide a stronger base for prosecution and sentencing.

Following the council's first full year of implementation, the number of domestic assaults in the county dropped from 62 to 48; orders for protection decreased from 56 to 31; and violations of those orders dropped from 35 to 15.

The Minnesota Rural Health Conference presents the Rural Health Hero and Rural Health Team awards each year. This year's conference, "Bringing It All Together," was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Health's Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, the Minnesota Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Resource Center. More information about the conference is available at


For more information, contact:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications

Mark Schoenbaum
Office of Rural Health and Primary Care