The spirit and enthusiasm the late County Judge Bill McElhaney had for children’s health has been commemorated.
To honor his efforts while in office, The Center for Children’s Health, led by Cook Children’s Hospital, created the Judge Bill McElhaney Award that will be presented periodically to health care “heroes.”
Monday, Executive Director Larry Tubb presented the award for the first time to the judge’s wife, Kim McElhaney, at the commissioners meeting.
“We want to recognize people who travel with us on our journey, people who have become health care heroes,” he told the crowd. “Judge Bill McElhaney championed children’s health in Wise County.”
McElhaney promoted the Cook Children’s Communitywide Children’s Health Assessment and Planning Survey (CCHAPS) in Wise County and was instrumental in forming the Wise Coalition for Healthy Children (WCHC), which evaluated the survey results and developed an action plan for the county.
The coalition decided to focus on child abuse and specifically, its prevention.
Resources were already in place to deal with child abuse after it occurs, but there were fewer programs to address prevention.
The coalition’s first initiative was to work with the Wise Regional Health Foundation to secure two years of funding for the educational program called “Period of PURPLE Crying.” Each mother who gives birth at Wise Regional is given a short video helping parents deal with a child who won’t stop crying – the type of situation that can sometimes lead to shaken baby syndrome if the parent does not know that non-stop crying is often normal for newborns.
The coalition has also worked with local service agencies to make sure the 2-1-1 Texas database has updated resources for Wise County. Information on child abuse and neglect has also been distributed at various health fairs and festivals around the county.
The coalition is now providing free Parent Cafes in the county – small, intimate sessions in which parents and caregivers have the opportunity to discuss their families’ and parenting challenges, as well as share ideas and learn proven parenting techniques.
Tubb said when the Center was contacting county judges in the area to conduct assessments of children’s health, McElhaney was one of the few who actually stepped up to help.
“He was a champion and a friend,” said Tubb. “I think it’s all summed up best by the way he signed a coalition letter, ‘Sincerely and with love for every child.'”
Kim tearfully accepted the award.
“I would like to say how honored we are,” she said. “Since Bill passed away, we have realized more and more what he did. He never bragged about it. He never talked about it. He just did it.
“He was a champion, and he worked until he got it right. He never gave up,” she said. “I want to tell you from the family how much we appreciate this and how honored we are.”
Tubb said the award in the future will go to people who demonstrate that they are champions for improving children’s health, toward meeting the Healthy Children 2020 objectives, a guide followed by the Cook Children’s Promise to improve the health of every child in its region.
Those recognized will also demonstrate active involvement in improving children’s health at both the regional and county level and be actively participating in one or more community collaboratives to improve the health of children.
For information on WCHC and upcoming Parent Cafes, visit www.centerforchildrenshealth.org/wise.