A local drug prevention and education advocate was honored for outstanding work in public health at a statewide ceremony Tuesday in Atlanta.
JP Banks, director of the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County, was presented the Behavioral Healthcare Worker of the Year award by the Georgia Public Health Association.
Banks said he was shocked and honored.
“I was genuinely surprised and am indeed honored to have been presented with the Georgia Behavioral Healthcare Worker of The Year award,” Banks said. “In my position as director of the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County I am privileged to work with many agencies and individuals; it is truly a collaborative effort to prevent substance abuse in the county.”
In accepting the award, Banks said he wanted to stress the role of the association in meeting the group’s drug-resistance goals.
“The Drug Free Coalition of Hall County has two goals. One, to reduce substance abuse, and two, to increase collaboration to meet goal one,” Banks said. “It is through this collaboration that the coalition is successful.”
The Behavioral Healthcare Worker of the Year Award was established in 1984 to honor an individual who “exemplifies outstanding contributions in the field of behavioral health, developmental disabilities, or addictive diseases,” according to the association.
Dave Palmer, District 2 Health Department spokesman, said Banks’ emphasis on prescription drug abuse awareness had been especially important in combating the “serious public health threat,” he said.
“(Banks) was instrumental in scheduling community drug take-back events, secured drug drop-boxes in multiple locations in the county and has worked with students in the school systems to raise awareness about substance abuse through an annual video contest and ‘red-carpet’ event,” Palmer said.
Banks’ leadership on prescription drug initiatives has also led to key partnerships, Palmer wrote in the nomination application.
“In 2010, JP Banks was a key part of the initial task force on prescription drug abuse in Hall County that led to the adoption of the program by the Medical Association of Georgia Foundation,” Palmer said. “The Drug Free Coalition of Hall County has continued to be a partner with this program, now known as ‘Think About It.’”
Banks was born in Griffin and has lived in Hall County since age 5, graduating Gainesville High School and earning his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College.
His career has taken him from California for counseling and intervention services to Central Asia, working with the Peace Corps to coordinate medical care in Uzbekistan.
In 2007, Banks returned to Georgia and joined the fledgling coalition, becoming director in 2011.