NCDHHS Employee Receives 2022 John R. Larkins Award | Eastern North Carolina Now

Press Release:

    RALEIGH     Debra Farrington, chief of staff for NC Medicaid, was honored today as the recipient of the 2022 John R. Larkins Award.

    Established in 1988, the award recognizes commitment to justice and equality in the workplace and in the community and was announced during the state's annual North Carolina State Employees' Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Program. The ceremony was presented virtually due to the ongoing pandemic, and the award will be provided to Farrington at an event to follow.

    Farrington was among four finalists for Larkins Award, including:

  • Paulette Williams - NC Department of Public Safety, Polk Correctional Institution Academic Schools
  • Miroslava "Myra" Hernandez - NC Department of Commerce, Division of Workforce Solutions
  • Termaine Ross - NC Department of Public Safety, Juvenile Justice

    Farrington has made great strides in her commitment to justice and equality both internally and externally in NCDHHS.

    Notably, after the civil unrest of 2020, Farrington founded a Diversity and Inclusion Committee within NC Medicaid and retained an equity and inclusion vendor to provide training and skills to executive leadership. She launched a series of diversity conversations and created a unique way for team members to anonymously provide feedback and concerns when they observe inequities in the workplace.

    "Debra represents the best of NCDHHS, and I am proud to know that she was chosen among 70 other nominations for the distinguished 2022 John R. Larkins Award," said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "Debra represents our NCDHHS values, and especially her commitment to belonging by intentionally promoting an inclusive and equitable workplace, where everyone feels a sense of belonging, and our diverse backgrounds and experiences are valued and recognized as strengths."

    During her time at NCDHHS, Farrington has also served as a mentor and advocate to minority staff working through advancements in state employment. Her efforts and hands-on approach are focused on making a lasting impact on NC Medicaid, NCDHHS and beyond.

    "We have made huge strides in our internal work on equity and inclusion with Debra's leadership, passion and energy to get this work right," said Dave Richard, NCDHHS' Deputy Secretary for NC Medicaid. "We are nowhere near the finish line, but we have made great progress thanks to Debra."

    Farrington is a leader and advocate in ensuring Medicaid beneficiaries have access to high quality care and has maintained a focus on equity across all engagement efforts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she provided leadership in the development and implementation of a broad set of telehealth modernization policies that have dramatically impacted access to care for people living in often underserved, rural communities.

    Farrington's work has shined a light on the how the NC Medicaid program can be used to intentionally reduce health disparities through measurement and policy. Her constant vigilance to data which measures the health outcomes of historically marginalized populations is critical to this approach.

    "Debra leverages her experience, relationships and reputation to help foster conversations regarding equity with providers, funders and consumers," said Victor Armstrong, NCDHHS' Chief Health Equity Officer. "Her calm, professional, yet nurturing demeanor, allows her to bring different stakeholders to the table and engage them in meaningful conversations focused squarely on improving health outcomes for all North Carolinians."

    Dr. John R. Larkins was born in Wilmington in 1913 and devoted his life to improving human and race relations. He served state government through the Departments of Public Welfare (now NCDHHS) and Corrections, with the State Probation Commission and as a Special Assistant to the Governor on Minority Affairs until his death in 1980. Dr. Larkins wrote a collection of articles that explore race, community, leadership, and sociology.


    North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

    Email:     Phone: (919) 855-4840
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