National Council Presents Awards of Excellence to Honor Outstanding Accomplishments of Members and Behavioral Health Organizations

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Sophia Majlessi
(202) 621-1631

WASHINGTON, DC (July 16, 2020) – The National Council for Mental Wellbeing presented awards to numerous individuals and organizations for their efforts to improve behavioral health treatment, access to care and service delivery in America.

Seven recipients received the National Council’s 2020 Awards of Excellence during NatCon at Home, the organization’s annual conference. The awards represent the National Council’s highest honor.

“The Awards of Excellence are intended to honor amazing service and dynamic leadership,” National Council for Mental Wellbeing President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia said. “That is even more true this year as our nation and our field experience historic disruption. This year’s recipients have demonstrated strength, perseverance and grace in the face of significant obstacles.”

NatCon at Home occurred virtually for the first time ever, and more the 8,000 participants attended, making NatCon at Home the largest conference in the National Council’s 50-year history.

“It is appropriate that our recipients received our highest honor at our biggest event,” said National Council Board Chair Jeff Richardson, vice president and chief operating officer of Sheppard Pratt Health System.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing presents awards to individuals and organizations for the following contributions:

  • National Council Innovation Award: In a complex health care landscape, mental health and addiction treatment organizations are thinking “outside of the box” for creative solutions to challenges. This award recognizes their innovation and achievements.
  • Peer Specialist of the Year Award: Great things happen when passion meets purpose. This award recognizes an individual with lived experience who works in a health care organization and uses his or her strengths to help peers on their road to recovery from mental illness.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: This award is in recognition of an individual whose tireless efforts, far-reaching impact and commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable Americans living with mental illnesses and addictions is unmatched.

The National Council 2020 Awards of Excellence winners who are advancing behavioral health care in their communities and beyond are:

Lifetime Achievement Award – Amy Anderson-Winchell, LCSW, former president of Access: Supports for Living, Inc., also worked at Coordinated Behavioral Health Services (CBHS). Under Amy’s leadership, Access experienced 50% growth since 2010. Her commitment to innovation lead to the implementation of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic/Behavioral Health Urgent Care and has helped more than 100 people with complex needs realize their dream of living independently through the development of affordable housing projects. Amy has an unwavering commitment to ensuring that people with lived experience guide the work that Access does and has a deep belief in mental health recovery and that cure should always be an expectation for treatment. She continues to be a visionary leader during a time of significant transition in the health care delivery system. Hear Amy tell her story.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Joseph A. Masciandaro has served as President & CEO of Care Plus NJ, Inc., since 1978, successfully leading the most comprehensive community mental health care system in northern New Jersey as an innovator in integrated primary and behavioral health care for adults and children. Under Joe’s direction, CarePlus was one of only seven New Jersey agencies selected as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). Through the CCBHC demonstration, CarePlus is expanding access to mental health care and addiction treatment to thousands of northern New Jersey residents. Locally and nationally through his membership in the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Joe has been a fierce advocate for continued funding and expansion of the CCHBC model nationwide. Hear Joe tell his story.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Karl Wilson, Ph.D., spent his entire career compelling the mental health community to come together with one, strong voice to educate legislators, community leaders, friends and neighbors about what we can accomplish when we come together with our diverse strengths and experiences. He is the founding CEO of Crider Health Center, which merged with Pathways Community Health to form Compass Health Network. Karl retired in 2012, after 33 years in a leadership role. He participated in the National Council’s first Hill Day and was an inspirational voice on the National Mental Health America board from 2005 to 2011. His name and guiding principles reverberate through the halls of the Missouri legislature, the Missouri DMH and Missouri’s behavioral health service system. Hear Karl tell his story.

Peer Specialist of the Year Award – Janet Paleo, director of recovery-based services for the Texas Council of Community Centers, has a passion for helping others find recovery. Due to her efforts, Texas implemented Peer Support Services as a Medicaid benefit and greatly increased its investment in Mental Health First Aid. Janet was appointed to the Executive Committee of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), where she spearheaded the first WFMH International Trauma Summit, held in 2018. Janet founded a statewide non-profit organization, Prosumers International, which meets in seven locations throughout Texas to empower people experiencing mental health challenges to live their best, most independent lives. Hear Janet tell her story.

Peer Specialist of the Year Award – Jeff Avery is a former firefighter and current peer support specialist for Johnson County Mental Health Center in Kansas. “I try to inspire individuals I work with. I remind them of how far they have come and the possibilities that remain. I remind them that the best movies are those of an ordinary person accomplishing extraordinary things against all odds. I encourage them to watch the movie that they are creating and to become their own biggest fan; to root for themselves. I relay times that I failed to make the right choice and suffered the consequences. I also communicate what I learned.” Hear Jeff tell his story.

Innovation at Work Award – Bernalillo County Department of Behavioral Health Services. In the past five years, the organization’s Behavioral Health Initiative has launched 23 programs, invested $20 million into the behavioral health industry by partnering with service providers, committed more than $70 million to behavioral health projects and helped more than 50,000 people. Bernalillo County’s Behavioral Health Initiative is using innovation to address some of the most complex issues plaguing communities across the globe. Their innovations include unprecedented community involvement, breaking down silos, leveraging resources and funding, data-backed results, third-party accountability and crowd-funding solutions. Margarita Chavez-Sanchez, M.S., will accept the award. Hear Margarita tell Bernalillo’s story.

Innovation at Work Award – Northwestern Mental Health Center. NWMHC, a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, serves a comprehensive array of behavioral health care services to adults, children and families across six rural and frontier counties of Northwest Minnesota with a population of 70,000 people. Earning a CCBHC designation allowed NWMHC to double the number clients it serves annually. NWMHC has embraced innovation and was an early adopter of telemedicine. NWMHC has doubled its revenue, increased its staff by 35 percent and doubled the number of clients served under the leadership of Shauna Reitmeier, MSW, LGSW, who will accept the award. Hear Shauna tell NWMHC’s story.

Hear all the National Council 2020 Awards of Excellence winners tell their stories.

Editor’s note: for interviews, please contact Sophia Majlessi [contact information listed above].


About the National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 3,326 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 2 million Americans have been trained.

About The National Council

Founded in 1969, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is a membership organization that drives policy and social change on behalf of over 3,400 mental health and substance use treatment organizations and the more than 10 million children, adults and families they serve. We advocate for policies to ensure equitable access to high-quality services. We build the capacity of mental health and substance use treatment organizations. And we promote greater understanding of mental wellbeing as a core component of comprehensive health and health care. Through our Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program, we have trained more than 3 million people in the U.S. to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.