Each year, the National Council for Behavioral Health honors those who inspire us to fight against mental illness and addiction. Through its Awards of Excellence, the National Council spotlights the innovative and inspirational efforts of individuals and organizations — consumers and family members; behavioral health professionals, clinicians, leaders, and volunteers; provider organizations; and community partners — who are changing the lives of children, adults, and families living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders.
Learn about past honorees here and visit our Hall of Honor: Stories of Hope blog.
WELCOME BACK AWARDS: COMMUNITY SERVICE
Since their eldest son Sammy died by suicide in 1982, the Blooms have devoted their lives to advocating for supportive policies for mental illness and suicide prevention. They volunteer at the Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles to work as phone “buddies,” lead bereavement groups, organize events, and speak to legislators at every level of government. The couple has worked with hundreds of survivors to help them make strong, healthy choices for themselves, preventing spirals of death and grief within families. Co-founders of the California chapter of the Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network, the Blooms crisscross the country to testify in support of accessible and affordable mental health services. Having worked tirelessly for longer than their son was alive, their pain is now a “great gift to others,” changing and saving lives.
Crawford founded The Outlook Clinic in 2010, and more than 500 patients now use the clinic to visit a counselor, receive treatment and medication, connect to other community services, and participate in primary care clinics. Her vision and hard work has opened doors for many to receive the care they need, but are unable to afford.
WELCOME BACK AWARDS: Destigmatization
When Alison Malmon’s 22-year-old brother, Brian, died by suicide during her freshman year of college, she turned her grief into action. She formed Active Minds, a college mental health advocacy organization, and after graduating in 2003, became the first executive director. Active Minds now has chapters on more than 350 high school, college, and university campuses and involves over 10,000 student leaders in changing the way people think about mental health. Their speaker bureau has trained more than a dozen articulate young adults to share their personal stories with campus audiences in order to educate students and encourage them to seek help. Over the past 10 years, with Malmon at the helm, Active Minds has established a sustained presence on campuses nationwide, building a movement among young adults, and saving lives.
Granirer’s struggle with depression started at age 16, and was followed by a 17-year downward spiral of alcohol and prescription drug abuse. Living in recovery, he has since learned that teaching stand-up comedy is therapeutic for him, and has trained some 400 comics who’ve performed more than 500 shows across North America. Granier uses comedy to help others with their own recovery, building confidence and resilience in people with living with mental illness.
WELCOME BACK AWARDS: Lifetime Achievement
The Grahams have battled through the tragic deaths of their two sons to become nationally recognized advocates for suicide prevention awareness, research, and education in the military. Kevin, a senior ROTC Cadet suffering from depression, took his life in 2003, and his older brother Jeff was killed in action in Iraq eight months later. His grief brought Major General Graham to the brink of early retirement, but his wife Carol urged him to stay and shared that “You must not linger at this point, even to indulge your grief.” The Grahams have gone on to become passionate voices to break down the stigma of mental illness within the Armed Forces. They tell their story and reach out to military leaders across the country to help soldiers, veterans, and their families seek help for mental health problems.
Founding Louisville’s chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in 2000, Kuhl has overseen its growth from less than 10 people gathering at the local library to eight support groups in four locations. He himself struggled with depression since grade school and finally sought treatment at age 42, now living successfully and spreading hope through all he accomplishes.
WELCOME BACK AWARDS: Primary Care
Dr. Thomas has worked tirelessly for the past 13 years to develop a model of integrated care for an area with a high incidence of poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, and mental illness. Practicing in an isolated, rural, and highly underserved part of Appalachia — half of all babies delivered at the local hospital are born with drug addictions — Dr. Thomas is committed to addressing both the physical and social needs of his neighbors. When patients come in for primary care, physicians and other medical and support staff identify any underlying mental health or substance abuse issues and bring in a care manager to help patients connect to local resources. With a new framework for delivering whole healthcare, Dr. Thomas and his team are creating a healthier and happier community.
Teen Health Connection provides specialized adolescent primary and mental healthcare, community-based health education, and treatment for eating disorders. Using community events, social media, and peer outreach, they empower young people to take control of their mental and medical health choices and help teens to help others.
WELCOME BACK AWARDS: Psychiatry
Dr. Florence has dedicated his career to serving people with severe mental illness, particularly the chronically homeless and others among this most vulnerable population. He has worked at local, state, and national levels as a clinician, educator, program developer and an agent of system change. He is a founding member of the Project Outreach Team, a homeless outreach and jail diversion program, which was named Team of the Year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2005. When faced with limited psychiatric resources in primary care, Dr. Florence implemented a novel co-visit model where he moved from room to room with primary care providers to give patients the benefits of integrated care. Dr. Florence literally meets patients where they are, be it at a clinic, homeless shelter, on the streets, or even a campsite.
Dr. Askins believes that empowerment is the difference between being a patient and being a person in recovery. His clinicians engage with clients to help them overcome challenges, identify natural and community supports, and access solutions. Clinicians address physical as well as psychological issues to integrate care and sustain recovery.
Reintegration Awards: Achievement
Steele spent his early career as a lawyer, chef, and hospital administrator, always driven, enthusiastic, and hard-working. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and recovered through effective treatment. When his daughter left home, becoming one of the nameless faces of America’s homeless as a result of her battle with schizophrenia, Steele’s life gained a new purpose. With the support of his wife, Dianne, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the guidance of the International Center for Clubhouse Development, he founded Vincent House. With few rehabilitation opportunities in the area, the Vincent House helped fill a void by offering a clean, safe place for people recovering from mental illness. In ten years, from its humble beginnings as a small storefront, Vincent House has grown into a state-of-the-art facility offering transformational opportunities for more than 600 lifetime members.
Garner shares her inspirational story of recovery with more than 3,000 people every year. After being homeless for three years in the 1990s, her mental illness was stabilized after she visited a community mental health center. Today she directs peer programs for the Midwestern Colorado Mental Health Center.
This award honors those whose impressive personal achievements – while living with mental illness – have provided hope and inspiration to others.
Reintegration Awards: Advocacy
In 2008, a group of youth decided that the best way to fight the stigma around their mental illness was to talk openly about their struggles and aspirations with people in the community. They formed the Hope and Advocacy Panel to share their personal stories of living with mental illness through PowerPoint presentations set to music. The youth, ages 13-24, travel around Montana and other states bringing a message of hope and enlightenment to families, professionals, educators, and consumers. The presentations also serve to dispel the myths surrounding mental illness and its negative portrayal in the media. While each panel member has a unique story to present, they all share the pain of stigma, the debasement of being bullied, and the loneliness of being shunned by peers and neighbors.
In the late 1960s, Frese was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized for two years in a high security ward in Ohio’s Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital. Ten years later, he was hired as the Director of Psychology for that very same hospital. He has shared his inspirational story of recovery in more than 2,000 speaking engagements and published works.
Reintegration Awards: Artistic Contribution
Economically disadvantaged children with mental illness often do not get positive reinforcement from adults. The Works of Heart Art Event and Auction has done much to change that painful reality. Since 2007, Family Service & Guidance Center has hosted five art nights a year to showcase the work of young artists with mental illness. Children work with volunteer artists in the community to create works of art that often serve as windows into their young lives. The art lets children focus on their amazing creations rather than their illness. The event has also helped community members realize that children with mental illness are no different than their own children and grandchildren. Art has given these children a new voice as they struggle to build new social and behavioral skills in order to live happy, healthy lives.
Atkins learned about The Second Step Players, which performs comedy and musical parodies about life with mental illness, the same year she learned about her bipolar disorder. Today she is a Licensed Professional Counselor and directs the theater group with actors who have mental illness.
Reintegration Awards: Clinical Medicine
Before Child and Adolescent Bipolar Services, the nation’s first inpatient/outpatient pediatric unit for children with bipolar disorder, opened 15 years ago, many families did not know where to turn for help or how to deal with their everyday challenges. Today, CABS strives to decrease the burden of debilitating mood symptoms on youth and their families by using proven approaches for diagnostic assessment, treatment, and recovery. The program offers state-of- the-art pharmacological treatment, psychosocial interventions, and social supports, as well as training for students and professionals in mental health. CABS offers a successful combination of clinical service, education, and ongoing research. To date, more than 1,400 youth have received services at the unit’s programs.
Reintegration Awards: Education
The Fountain House supported education program has become a cornerstone of the venerable institution for 10 of its 60 years. Proving that people with mental illness can succeed and excel in school, the program provides an array of supports to build confidence in young people and encourage them to return to or remain in school. The program has assisted almost 200 youth in the past year by offering them the academic, financial, and social supports to help them succeed. Much of the program’s success stems from a unique model that focuses on the development of a strong peer-to-peer support culture. For various activities — from learning to read to earning a graduate degree — young people connect with a wide variety of educational supports and services, and also with a vital peer community.
The Jed Foundation’s ULifeline is an online resource for college students. The free, confidential site helps students, health counselors, and campus professionals at more than 1,400 colleges and universities create and promote mental health tools and campus-specific resources tailored to their needs.
Reintegration Awards: Employment
Thresholds is a nationally recognized leader in supported employment for people with serious mental illness. In 2012, the supported employment program found jobs for 397 of its 561 members. Since the pioneering research conducted in the 1990s by Dartmouth College’s Psychiatric Research Center on the practice of supported employment, Thresholds has offered members continuous support in finding, obtaining, and maintaining a job. Driven by the idea that no one is a lost cause, the organization has used evidence-based practices and thoughtful supports for more than 50 years. Service providers from across the country and around the world — including Great Britain, Singapore, Pakistan, Taiwan and New Zealand — have visited Thresholds to learn how to implement supported employment and other best practices used in the agency.
The Mental Health Center of Denver’s 2Succeed in Employment program helps people with mental illness reach their employment goals. Every year the program secures permanent, independent jobs for 400 people. Program participants are highly involved in setting their employment goals and work with their counselors to determine a successful strategy.
Reintegration Awards: Housing
Main Street Housing is unique not only because of its impressive track record in providing affordable quality housing for people with mental illness in Maryland, but because it is a disability-run organization. All staff and a majority of board members at Main Street Housing have personal experience living with a mental illness. Since purchasing its first property in 2002, the agency now has the capacity to serve more than 70 individuals and families. The average length of stay for clients served at Main Street Housing is four years, a remarkable achievement given that traditional property management companies typically have between one to two years stay. Main Street Housing has excelled because it bases its policies on tenants’ rights rather than programmatic compliance, and an unwavering belief that a stable living environment is the single most important foundation from which to build a successful, healthy, and full life in the community.
JBFCS has helped people with mental illness live independently by providing recovery-oriented permanent housing. An impressive 96 percent of clients living in housing programs for adults with mental illness find and hold stable housing.
Reintegration Awards: Mentorship
Paquette never intended to become a mentor for other young people, but she found as she shared personal stories about her struggles with bipolar disorder that it led others to self-empowerment. As she watched how her stories drove more people from despair to hope, she felt inspired to take up the mentorship banner and start the Bipolar Babe Project. Her path to mentorship has been rocky, strewn with substance abuse in her teens and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in her 20s — the illness led to two hospitalizations and a suicide attempt. Now, she regularly visits the youth psychiatric ward in Victoria, British Columbia, and has become a role model to countless youth in the community. She formed the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC, a nonprofit that organizes support groups for young adults and women, and develops presentations at schools and community events.
Diagnosed with co-occurring bipolar disorder and substance use disorders Dicharry had 10 forced hospitalizations and a stay in prison. Later, he became committed to recovery. In 2008, he founded Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment, and now mentors members between the ages of 13-22 on recovery.
Excellence in Behavioral Health Management
In 2004, Grafton’s CEO, Jim Gaynor, issued a formidable directive: minimize the use of restraints and seclusion without compromising consumer or employee safety. A revolutionary technique called the Least Resistance Approach to Crisis Management or “Ukeru” was developed, replacing restraints and seclusion with alternatives that promote a safe, comforting, and secure environment for individuals in treatment for mental illness, as well as promoting best practices among employees. Since the technique was developed, the company has experienced a 95% reduction in use of restraints and seclusion for its more than 2,900 consumers. Grafton stands apart in efforts to minimize the use of restraints and seclusion across the organization, realize remarkable results, and sustain positive outcomes over time.
The Vinland Center provides integrated services to people with brain injuries, mental illness, learning disabilities, and other cognitive disabilities. Six months after graduating from the program, 92 percent of clients report abstinence or reduced use of addictive substances. The program boasts a 93 percent reduction in incarcerations and annual savings to society of more than $1.2 million.
Risk and liability are inherent to the field of behavioral healthcare and tools to minimize them are essential. The Excellence in Behavioral Healthcare Management Award, with a cash prize of $10,000, recognizes an organization that has demonstrated effective and innovative programs currently in use to minimize risk and liability. These programs improve the operation of the organization or the lives of the people it serves.
Excellence in Health Information Technology
The Rhode Island Quality Institute’s behavioral health integration program has been a beacon of change in the community. Developed in partnership with the Rhode Island Council of Community Mental Health Organizations and the state’s network of behavioral healthcare providers, the data-sharing network ensures that patients are fully engaged and protected by a secure, electronic exchange of information whenever they seek care from participating providers. Primary and behavioral health providers can view clinical information from enrolled patients and also connect to other healthcare providers to exchange health information. In less than a year, the innovative program has nurtured new partnerships and novel endeavors, breaking ground for improved communication between behavioral health and primary care, and improved health outcomes for those served.
Riverbend is realizing greater patient engagement and compliance rates through the use of Health Buddy, a device that provides two-way communication between healthcare providers and people with serious mental illness. The technology helps people monitor their mental and physical health, identify potential health risks, and actively manage their health.
Information technology can, and often does, make a world of difference to people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. It can also make helping these individuals faster and more effective.
Excellence in Service INNOVATION
When all psychiatric beds in a remote region of Texas were eliminated by budget cuts in 2000, people in crisis were forced to use the local hospital emergency room. That gap in care was addressed when the Burke Mental Health Emergency Center opened in 2008. It is the first freestanding, comprehensive rural emergency program where psychiatric emergencies are handled entirely via telemedicine. Registered nurses provide 24/7 telephone triage to expedite admissions and patients see a psychiatrist within 30 minutes via videoconference. The rapid response allows for quick de-escalation of psychiatric symptoms through medications and interventions provided by physicians and onsite staff. Before the center opened, one out of 19 emergency visits resulted in hospital admission because a lack of psychiatric beds. Today those admissions have been eliminated entirely.
Summer Jam is a 12-week, day-camp style program that uses expressive therapies, behavioral skills training and self-advocacy activities to make a difference for youth. Participants attend one day a week to practice positive social skills to help them build self-esteem, cope with depression, and better manage anxiety and stress.
Mental Health First Aid Community Impact
Since 2009, Austin Travis County Integral Care has demonstrated exceptional energy, impact, influence, and innovation in rolling out Mental Health First Aid USA. The program has continued to broaden its outreach and plans to conduct trainings for diverse audiences like primary care staff, youth-serving organizations, and Spanish-speaking populations. More than 30 trainings have certified over 800 people as Mental Health First Aiders. Instructors are attuned to the needs of specific audiences — from homeless shelter volunteers, to teachers, young adults, and school counselors, and general community groups. The program has brought positive change to the community, such as moving Austin Independent School District to eliminate the practice of disciplinary removals by addressing students’ underlying mental health needs.
Following the tragic shooting in Tucson in 2011, the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, started offering Mental Health First Aid and has trained nearly 500 people, including 350 local county government employees. Evaluations find that 35 percent of class participants used at least some of what they had learned at work.
This award recognizes outstanding efforts in delivering Mental Health First Aid based on organizational commitment, extent of reach, community impact, and program sustainability.
Joe Dziobek has been practicing his motto of “We never give up on anybody” since he started his career by counseling youth at a group living facility in 1975. He also never gives up on Fellowship Health Resources, where he’s worked at for 37 years, and the people the agency serves. Dziobek’s organization now serves nearly 3,500 people in seven states, expanding to include more than 74 programs. An innovative and creative leader, Dziobek created Studio 35, a therapeutic healing arts and recovery program at Fellowship Health Resources, after seeing how participating in the arts helped his wife cope with a difficult illness. He has succeeded in making a difference in the lives of countless people through a holistic, integrated approach, building on each individual’s strengths and personal goals.
Joe Frietze learned the value of hard work at a young age. At age 5, he started working with his nine siblings picking cotton, bailing hay, and planting seasonal crops on the small farm his parents owned in New Mexico. After serving in the Air Force and trying his hand at a number of jobs, he co-founded Children in Need of Supervision. The fledgling agency blossomed into Families and Youth, Inc., an organization he has directed for 36 years. In 1984, when the New Mexico governor eliminated the organization’s programs and it was at risk of closing, Frietze spearheaded an effort to broaden the behavioral health mission and pursue funding for services in prevention, intervention, and treatment. Today Families and Youth, Inc. flourishes as a provider of quality, cost-effective clinical and social services for youth and their families.
With her philosophy of “Not standing with those in power but with those in need,” Gates is a passionate advocate for mental health and addiction services. Appalled at how people with mental illness were treated in state hospitals, Gates resolved early in her career to change the behavioral healthcare system. She has worked tirelessly for almost 20 years, building Community Health Resources into an agency motivated by a vision of hope and optimism recognized for the highest quality customer service, proven results, and patient-centered engagement. A savvy business leader, Gates led the organization’s growth from a small $3 million agency covering only a few towns in northern Connecticut, to a $42 million organization providing a full array of services to half the state. She is a passionate advocate for mental health and addiction services, involved in public policy and advocacy at local, state, and national levels, and inspires and mentors the leaders of tomorrow.
Johnson’s leadership skills were evident upon his arrival at Navos as the new CEO in 1998, when he settled a hospital labor strike that had been dragging on for five months in two weeks. A values-driven yet pragmatic business leader, Johnson has been a clinician, administrator, and champion in community behavioral healthcare for 35 years, achieving financial growth and sustainability for Navos, while inspiring clinical innovations that have received national acclaim. Johnson spearheaded the planning, development, and construction of a $22 million, nine-acre campus. He doubled his agency’s size, making it one of the largest of 60 community mental health organizations in Washington State. He has set high standards for staff accountability, rewarded creativity and excellence, and helped pioneer solutions in childhood mental health, recovery-oriented services, and the integration of primary and behavioral healthcare.
George Kimes has devoted his career of more than 40 years to helping build and improve the behavioral health system. He turned a nearly bankrupt mental health center into a thriving 180-person organization, pioneering a customer-oriented service model and instituting a legacy of strong leadership and staff development. In 2000, Kimes joined the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association as executive director, bringing his visionary leadership, business savvy, and political acumen to the state level. A recognized leader and community advocate, Kimes’ vision for the future has included technological advancements in the behavioral health system. He was instrumental in the creation of the Community Behavioral Health Network of Pennsylvania, a highly successful, provider-owned behavioral health managed care company. He has influenced the lives of countless people by increasing access to affordable behavioral health, securing funding, and building new facilities.
When Dr. Ranieri arrived at La Frontera almost 20 years ago, he faced some daunting challenges. The organization was losing money, staff morale was low, and he encountered internal resistance when introducing a new mission, vision, and value systems. Today, he has succeeded in transforming La Frontera into a strong, relevant organization that is leading the way in cultural competence, with robust relationships with the state’s Native American tribes. Raneri’s rebranding initiative elevated La Frontera from a strictly behavioral health organization to a community problem-solver, working on issues like violence reduction, suicide prevention, economic development, affordable housing, and public safety. He continues to build infrastructure to sustain organizational growth and better outcomes in an ever-changing behavioral health environment.
When the unique combination of leadership, vision, and values is identified, the National Council rewards it with this special accolade.
The Visionary Leadership award honors staff or volunteers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the behavioral healthcare field and who exemplify the values and ideals embraced by the National Council.