Awards were presented at the organization’s annual conference November 5 in St. Paul. NAMI Minnesota is a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses and their families through its programs of education, support and advocacy.
The awards were presented by Sue Abderholden, NAMI’s executive director.
Roseville resident Anna Mae Marschall was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, for her leadership in moving NAMI’s mission forward. “Anna Mae Marschall understands that to grow a movement you have to be in it for the long haul. For over 20 years, she has provided leadership for the NAMI Ramsey County affiliate. She has facilitated a family support groups for over 20 years, taught Family-to-Family classes for over 15 years, and taught
Hope for Recovery classes,” said Abderholden.
Marschall has been active in the Ramsey County Adult Mental Health Advisory Committee and the Citizen’s Advisory Committee. She has held legislative house parties to help educate elected officials. She also creates newcomer packets for first-time attendees at NAMI meetings, helps with special events such as the group’s annual picnic and holiday party, and makes sure the affiliate has a presence at the Ramsey County Fair. On their board, she has filled many roles.
“Education, support and advocacy – Anna Mae has actively involved in all three aspects of our mission,” said Abderholden. “Despite all this incredible work, she really doesn’t ask for it to be acknowledged or praised. Well, we believe her commitment and accomplishments should be in the limelight. There is no way that we can adequately thank her for all she has accomplished in improving the lives of people with mental illnesses and their families. NAMI has continued to grow stronger and expand its programming thanks to Anna Mae.”
Moorhead resident Marian Olson was given a Leadership Award, in recognition of her work as someone who has given generously of time, spirit, resources and skills for NAMI in a leadership capacity. After much work to help meet community needs, Olson is stepping down as leader of NAMI Moorhead.
“Marian lives with depression and anxiety, and fueled by the need to break down stigma and let others know that recovery is possible, she helped start the current NAMI affiliate in Moorhead,” said Abderholden. “She has done an amazing job in carrying out our mission in the Moorhead area. She’s organized education classes, forums, support groups and more. She’s made sure her elected officials know her and she tells them how they should vote. She’s worked with the local paper to include stories about mental illnesses and the mental health system.”
“Although she is stepping down from her leadership position within NAMI Moorhead, her immense passion for the work will not be diminished as she continues to find avenues to change the conversation around mental illnesses. She continues to lead a NAMI Connection support group providing a huge support to individuals living with a mental illness in Moorhead,” said Abderholden.
The Winona Criminal Justice Coordinating Council was given a Criminal Justice Program of the Year Award. The award recognizes an individual or group that has demonstrated through its action a strong commitment to the decriminalization of mental illnesses.
“The Winona Criminal Justice Coordinating Council deserves this year’s award. They were one of the first counties in Minnesota to participate in the National Stepping Up Initiative whose goal is to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in the jails. There are now 12 counties in Minnesota participating in this initiative,” said Abderholden.
The council brought together community partners such as police, lawyers, judges, social workers, jail staff, mental health providers and NAMI members to learn about each other’s systems and to identify gaps and solutions. Other actions included bringing about police training in public safety mental health first aid, meeting with U.S. Sen. Al Franken, educating the community about collateral consequences – such as the difficulty in finding a job after being in jail or prison – and learning more about the “ban the box” initiative. The council recently won a national grant.
“The council is now looking at how to share information between the systems and how to increase the mental health care provided in the jail. This group is truly working together on the local level to create positive changes. We applaud their work and encourage other communities to follow their lead,” said Abderholden.
The Dan O Fund was honored with an Anti-Stigma Award, for promoting justice, dignity and respect, and working to reduce stigma. Dan Olsen was a person committed to his family and friends and committed to helping others. When Olsen took his own life in 2009, family and friends decided to create an event that would bring family and friends together and help others, particularly families with a loved one with a mental illness or who had lost someone to suicide.
For the last eight years, the DanOFund and its annual DanO golf tournament has brought family and friends together. The numbers of people attending increases every year. It has raised funds for NAMI to expand its suicide prevention efforts and to promote mental health literacy among first responders, especially firefighters.
“Each year at the banquet following the golf tournament, event organizers and Burnsville residents Mark Olsen and Royce McEwen help raise awareness, talking openly about mental illnesses and encouraging people to seek help,” said Abderholden. “They aren’t afraid to talk about it. Their willingness to talk about mental illnesses in their community has helped break through that wall of silence. Through the love of a brother and friend, Mark and Royce have truly changed lives.”
Mauricio Cifuentes, senior division director of health and wellness at Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) in Minneapolis, was honored with a Professional of the Year Award. The award recognizes a professional who provides high quality services, exemplifies best practices, and demonstrates commitment and leadership to the field. Cifuentes has provided clinical supervision to interns and professional social workers, consultation to social service agencies providing services to Latinas and Latinos, and psychotherapy to clients of diverse social identities. He has done research, and written and presented to national and international audiences on several topics particularly related to Latinas and Latinos. Abderholden praised him for his work toward culturally competent care and practices.
Rochester resident Roger Nolte was given a Volunteer of the Year Award, which salutes an individual who has given generously of their time, resources and energy to either a NAMI affiliate or NAMI Minnesota. Nolte stepped in to help NAMI SE Minnesota, putting in many hours to upgrade their computers and install new software. He is a longtime NAMI supporter and volunteer, helping with bookkeeping and computer issues. He and his wife Maggie have taught NAMI’s Family-to-Family and Hope for Recovery classes
Lake Elmo resident Jeneal Olsen was given a Special Events Volunteer of the Year Award, for giving generously of her time, resources and energy to a NAMI special event. She has helped with the NAMI Spring Gala for many years, serving on the event committee. She also works on an Author-Book Reading event that is highlighted at the Gala and provides another source of funding for NAMI. She also teaches Hope for Recovery classes. Olson began volunteering when she retired.
Two legislators were also honored, Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Melissa Wiklund, (DFL Bloomington), for their work as outspoken advocates for children and adults with mental illness and their families.
Abderholden praised Wiklund for authoring and co-authoring numerous bills to improve the mental health system – particularly for children. These included bills to fund crisis connection, increase funds for school-linked mental health programs, and increase funds for homeless youth, and bills to require foster parents to have training on FASD, and a bill that included the language needed to continue to develop certified community behavioral health clinics.
“Every time we approached her about being the chief author of a NAMI bill, she said yes. She is a senator that is willing to not only support our issues but to take the lead on them. We are so very grateful for her support and leadership. Wiklund is a champion for children and adults who live with a mental illness,” said Abderholden. Hausman was singled out as a strong advocate for affordable and supportive housing. She understands that without a home, recovery is difficult. Hausman worked hard to get housing funds into the bonding bill. She was also the key advocate for funding the planning and remodeling of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, working with NAMI Minnesota to make needed improvements there. She also authored a bill to increase the number of school support personnel to help all children succeed.
“This fall, Hausman met with NAMI members to hear about their concerns and NAMI’s legislative goals for 2017. She has taken what she learned that night to heart and has continually repeated the common theme – the need for everyone to have a place they can call home,” said Abderholden.