Washington, D.C. (October 14, 2021) — The National Council for Mental Wellbeing will recognize three extraordinary mental health and substance use treatment advocates during Hill Day at Home (October 19, 2021), the organization’s annual advocacy event to promote bipartisan solutions for mental health and substance use providers and patients.
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 substance use challenges.
“Faced with a pandemic, workforce challenges and a rising demand for mental health and substance use treatment services, this year’s advocacy award winners have risen to the challenge, going above and beyond to improve the mental wellbeing of their communities,” said National Council for Mental Wellbeing President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia. “Their proactive leadership led to innovative new programs and partnerships, and they secured new funding to get people the care they need. Their work – and their relentless drive to realize their vision – will have a lasting impact and is a blueprint for smart and effective advocacy.”
This year’s honorees include:
- Individual Achievement in Advocacy Award: Kanzoni Asabigi M.D., Ph.D., MPH. 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 (D-Highland). Assemblymember Ramos, a lifelong resident of the San Manuel Indian Reservation in California’s 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 California State 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.
Register for Hill Day today, and tune in on Tuesday, October 19, at 4:05 p.m. ET (1:05 p.m. PT) for the 2021 Advocacy Leadership Awards presentation.
Founded in 1969, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is a membership organization that drives policy and social change on behalf of nearly 3,500 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 2.5 million people in the U.S. to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.