NAMI presents awards for service to mentally ill

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Minnesota presented several awards at its annual conference, held at November 15 at St. Paul RiverCenter. The Star Tribune was one of several award winners, winning the Media of the Year Award.

Photos courtesy of NAMI Minnesota
Photos courtesy of NAMI Minnesota

The media award recognizes an individual or organization that has been instrumental in reporting on the needs of people with mental illness or effectively portraying the stories of people living with a mental illness and their families.

“This year the Star Tribune did an excellent job printing a multitude of stories related to the problems and progress in our mental health system. Reporter Chris Serres wrote stories describing the conditions at St. Peter Hospital, the development of the Olmstead Plan, the unintended consequences of the 48-hour hold rule, the lack of training for PCAs, the hope for protected transport of people with mental illnesses (instead of police or EMTs), the unplanned closure of the Riverwood mental health centers, several articles on Golden Valley’s denial of a conditional use permit for a children’s day treatment program, and more. He did a wonderful job relating how these policies impact people with mental illnesses,” said Sue Abderholden, NAMI’s executive director. She also praised editorial board member Jill Burcum’s work on an issue in Golden Valley and work on coverage of suicide issues led by editor and senior vice president Rene Sanchez.

Another award winner is Pahoua Yang, Ph.D., community mental health director for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, as Professional of the Year. The award is given to a professional who provides high quality services, exemplifies best practices, and demonstrates commitment and leadership to the field.

“Pahoua Yang has been a strong advocate for addressing the inequities in our mental health system and for improving access to culturally competent mental health care. It’s not enough for Dr. Yang to provide good mental health treatment, she works to ensure that all people have access to high quality treatment,” said Abderholden. “She has spoken at many forums on the on the needs of people with mental illnesses from immigrant and diverse communities. She also serves on the DHS Cultural and Ethnic Communities Leadership Council in yet another effort to push for change. NAMI greatly appreciates her efforts to fight for systemic change.”

Northern Twin Cities metro area Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights) was presented with a Legislator of the Year Award, which is given to a legislator who has been an outspoken advocate for children and adults with mental illness and their families.

“Rep. Laine has been one of our ‘go to’ legislators for authoring NAMI bills especially during the 2013 session. She authored a major children’s mental health bill that would have increased funding for respite care, improved case management for transition age youth, funded youth mental health first aid training for community health workers and helped schools decrease the use of prone restraints,” said Abderholden. “This session, she authored NAMI’s bill requiring DHS to create an online training program on the civil commitment act, and has also authored bills to increase support services for people who are homeless, including homeless youth.”

Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL – Faribault) was also given a Legislator of the Year Award. “Sen. Clausen was the author and successful champion for NAMI’s legislation in 2013 to create a workforce summit to develop recommendations in order to increase the number of people working in the mental health system at all levels, improve their education and training and to create a more culturally diverse workforce. He has attended the numerous steering committee meetings and attended the summit,” said Abderholden. She also commended his work on reducing use of seclusion and restraint in schools, and other issues.

Vail Place is the Provider of the Year. The award is given to an organization that provides mental health services that demonstrate excellence, respect and best practices. Vail Place is located in Hopkins and Minneapolis and uses the clubhouse model, an evidence-based practice, where people with mental illnesses are not patients or clients, but are members who carry out the activities of the organization.

“Vail Place is a community where people are connected to the services and resources they need to find a home, a job, friends, and a healthy lifestyle. They provide a variety of services including supportive housing, case management, employment, and opportunities to connect to others,” said Abderholden. “But what truly makes Vail Place stand out is that they take the next step – and offer opportunities for people to become part of the mental health advocacy movement. Their involvement has enabled their members to understand that their voice is important and that their efforts truly create change.”

Longtime NAMI Board Member Scott Craven, who recently left Minnesota and moved to Florida, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Other 2014 award winners are Leadership Award: Nancy Minahan; Program Volunteer Award: Susanna Berthelsen; Office Volunteer of the Year: Sylvester Hudson and Special Events Volunteer of the Year: Sue Abel.