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This year during Hill Day at Home 2021, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s annual advocacy event to promote bipartisan solutions for mental health and substance use providers and patients, we will recognize three extraordinary mental health and substance use treatment advocates.

The National Council’s 2021 Advocacy Leadership Awards, supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, recognize individuals and organizations that have led legislative or regulatory advocacy and public policy efforts to expand access to services and supports for people with mental health and/or substance use challenges. This year’s honorees include:

Individual Achievement in Advocacy Award: Kanzoni Asabigi MD, PhD, MPH

Dr. Asabigi currently serves as vice president at the Detroit Recovery Project, an organization dedicated to strengthening, rebuilding and empowering underserved populations in Detroit affected by drug and alcohol addiction. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Asabigi worked with epidemiology, emergency preparedness, environmental health, communicable disease and behavioral health teams to devise a response strategy. The plan included a specific strategy to target vulnerable populations (i.e., unhoused individuals, people who use drugs and nursing homes) and engage the CDC Foundation.


Public Service in Advocacy Award: California Assemblymember James C. Ramos

Assembly member Ramos, a lifelong resident of the San Manuel Indian Reservation in San Bernardino County, was elected to represent the residents of the 40th District in the California State Assembly in 2018. A member of the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe, Ramos is the first California Indian to be elected to the Assembly. Ramos introduced legislation that established the state’s Office of Suicide Prevention, and his leadership brought $2.7 million to California’s FY2021-2022 budget for ongoing support for suicide prevention efforts – a critical effort as suicide rates continue to rise during the pandemic. Thanks to the persistent advocacy of Ramos for a statewide approach to reducing suicide rates, California has a new tool to save lives.

Organizational Achievement in Advocacy Award: Larimer County, Colorado

Larimer County, the sixth-largest county in Colorado based on population, is paving the way for others by creating an integrated behavioral health system of care. In 2018, the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners and its staff sponsored an initiative to create a countrywide recommendations report that showed the cost analysis and ROI that could be realized by creating a strong behavioral health continuum of care in the community. The completion of this comprehensive report led to the creation of a voter-approved ballot initiative that designates sales-and-use tax dollars to behavioral health programs and initiatives.

A special thank you to Sunovion Pharmaceuticals for sponsoring the 2021 Advocacy Leadership Awards. Sunovion is a leading global pharmaceutical company focused on the innovative application of science and medicine to help people with serious medical conditions. With patients at the center of everything it does, Sunovion has charted new paths to life-transforming treatments that reflect ongoing investments in research and development and an unwavering commitment to support people with psychiatry, neurology and respiratory conditions.