Pleasant Hill, CA – Ombudsman Services of Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda is pleased to announce that Executive Director Nicole Howell has been selected as a 2020 Woman of the Year by Congressman John Garamendi.
In an effort to recognize outstanding women serving in California’s Third Congressional District, the Congressman annually invites individuals and organizations to submit nominations of those who have shown a commitment to improving quality of life through leadership and public service.
“Every year I have the honor of recognizing the achievements and service of these distinguished women, Garamendi said. “These leaders come from a variety of backgrounds, but every one of them has made a real difference to their communities and the people around them. It’s a privilege to be able to honor them.”
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has rippled through our nation, each of these women have worked tirelessly to serve their communities and help vulnerable populations weather this storm. Their service is deserving of recognition, and by receiving this award, their work will be commemorated and chronicled at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC,” Garamendi added.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Howell said during the awards ceremony. “I would like to thank Jennalee Dawson for nominating me and, of course, Congressman Garamendi for selecting me.”
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Howell, and the Ombudsman team took to the front lines to distribute personal protective equipment to over 15,000 residents in long-term care. She also participated in efforts for residents’ rights by collaborating with local media and testifying on behalf of a movement of residents and their families at the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing “Examining the COVID-19 Nursing Home Crisis” on June 25. During the height of COVID-19, OSCCSA completed nearly 300 facility consultations and close to 200 individual consultations, providing vital information and resources throughout Alameda County.
“I want to accept this award on behalf of all those people who are fighting the fight for seniors right now, particularly those in long-term care,” Howell said. “Thank you so much. This is beyond what I could have dreamed.”
Driven by a calling, the Walnut Creek resident dedicates her career to the memories and experiences of her grandma – a Native American facing struggles as a low-income person whose second language is English.
In her grandma’s legacy, a decade-long career began in the nonprofit and then aging communities to fill a void by building programs, teams, and infrastructures and providing resources to educate and combat the ageism fighting against old adults. Nicole has helped cultivate change through the belief that there is both power and equity in shared leadership. She believes that powerful leadership is met with equal parts enthusiasm, engagement, and connection to the team and those you are working with.
As the Executive Director for Ombudsman Services of Contra Costa, Solano, and Alameda (OSCCSA), Howell is responsible for ensuring that the nearly 29,000 long-term care residents and their families have access to the highest level of care and respect and, above all, can live free of abuse and neglect.
“I’ve always had a passion for the nonprofit community, but when I became part of the Ombudsman Services in my prior role as the Director of Operations for Ombudsman Services of San Mateo County, something just clicked,” she said. “It reignited a connection and those experiences I saw my grandma facing. I quickly became a fierce advocate for seniors and dependent adults and was driven to immerse myself in culture-changing initiatives and person-centered care philosophies. It’s a true honor to use my voice for all of those in long-term care – residents, their families, and those who have passed. Really, it’s not just a community. It’s a movement of people.”
Since becoming Executive Director, Howell has grown OSCCSA’s budget by nearly 600%, lowered the use of anti-psychotics in Contra Costa County by 10%, and increased facility coverage by unearthing the problems and issues that are being overlooked. She has helped spearhead many new programs in Ombudsman Services and beyond, including the Elder Justice Program Solano, Telephone Reassurance, and Friendly Visiting in Solano County, as well as Healthcare Career Pathways and Residents’ Rights in Contra Costa.
About Nicole Howell
A Las Vegas native, Nicole Howell holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Nevada, Reno. As an avid speaker on all topics on elder advocacy and elder justice, she is honored to serve and be a part of the Solano Partners Against Violence as a Solano County appointed board member, a Chair of Legislative Policy for California Elder Justice Coalition, a member of the Rotary Club of Walnut Creek Sunrise, a member of the Core Project Team for the Alliance to End Abuse, a member of the Council for Age-Friendly Communities–Alameda County, a board member for the Trinity Center–Contra Costa County, and 2020 Walnut Creek Chair for Wine, Women, and Shoes.
About Ombudsman Services of Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda
Based in Pleasant Hill, with offices in Fairfield and Oakland, Ombudsman Services is the only organization mandated by law to make unannounced visits to long-term care facilities to ensure that residents are free from abuse and are receiving quality care. We have been aiding the community for more than 40 years, and all services are free of charge. We serve Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda counties with our team of highly trained Ombudsman staff and volunteers. For more information, visit www.ccombudsman.org.
About U.S. Congressman, John Garamendi
John Garamendi joined the U.S. House of Representatives on November 5, 2009. He brings nearly four decades of public service to the House Armed Services and Transportation & Infrastructure committees.
He has been a tireless proponent of job creation, quality and affordable health care, education, environmental protection, and scientific research, while always working to ensure the stability and success of the state he has always called home. Garamendi was raised on his family’s cattle ranch in Mokelumne Hill. He graduated with a BA in business from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
As California’s 46th Lieutenant Governor, Garamendi was Chair of the Commission for Economic Development, where he transformed this important body into a powerhouse to advocate for workforce development, vocational education, and research. As a Regent of the University of California and Trustee for the California State University System, Garamendi fought to hold the line on student fee increases and excessive administrator salaries. As Chair of the California State Lands Commission, he led the fight against new offshore oil drilling. For more information, visit https://garamendi.house.gov/.