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Mental health advocacy group holds inaugural awards ceremony
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Mental health advocacy group holds inaugural awards ceremony

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The Clocktower Restaurant in Staunton hosted the inaugural Mental Health of America — Augusta Community Awards Ceremony last month.

Approximately 50 people attended the event. The MHA-A presented eight awards to community members. Capt. Kelly Walker of the Waynesboro Police Department, and coordinator of the Blue Ridge Crisis Intervention Training Team, presented three awards. The MHA-A collaborates with the CIT program to provide consumers of mental health services to speak as part of the CIT training.

The Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Adam Kaul for his dedicated service in providing seminars for the MHA-A in the areas of Autism and Dementia this past fall and Bipolar and Mental Health and Aging in May.

Rachel Isak-Peer won the Professional Service Award for her work at Western State Hospital to establish comfort rooms in the psycho social rehab malls and the units as well as sensory carts on the units with items to give patients some stress relief. Isak-Peer is also active with the local National Alliance for Mental Illness, WE CARE and has been the coordinator of the Art: A Path to Recovery show for several years.

The Media Award was presented to Robin and Don Hawks and the Blue Ridge Community College Social Dynamics Class for making a significant contribution to promoting mental health information and education through new brochures, posters, a website, and phone messaging.

April Dovel received the Volunteer of the Year Award for her dedication in bringing programs to the area and working on a one-day conference to include CEUs next Spring.

The MHA-A Bell Award was presented to Emma Nargi on behalf of her dad Craig of Hermitage Hill Farm and Stable for his outstanding support and generosity of spirit of the MHA-A’s Boots and Brews Fundraiser.

Kristina Stelling received the Clyde F. Hoy, Jr. Consumer Advocate Award for speaking out and sharing her story for the occupational therapy class at Murphy Deming of Mary Baldwin University, Crisis Intervention Trainings and the Art:  A Path to Recovery program. She also serves on Western State Hospital’s Local Human Rights   Committee and the National Alliance for Mental Illness, WE CARE board. She has also organized a fundraiser in June for WE CARE.

The Dr. and Mrs. C. Lennart Sandquist Prevention Award was presented to Crystal Graham for her work locally and statewide with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Graham has presented    Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training   , Talk Saves Lives, and More Than Sad in addition to leadership in organizing the Out of the Darkness Walks to benefit the  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Dr. Lee E. Hersch received the top award, the J. Lewis Gibbs Distinguished Service Award named for the Rev. Dr. J. Lewis Gibbs, founder of the MHA-A and its first president. Hersch was the first area mental health professional to establish an Inter-Disciplinary Private Mental Health Practice in 1983, known as Augusta Psychological Associates and then later expanded into Waynesboro as he saw the need for private mental health services in our area. He has worked to dispel the stigma of mental health in the community by providing excellent care and coordination of services in the medical community and the community at large.

Walker presented the CIT Dispatcher of the Year Award to Elizabeth Rodzinka, from the Staunton Police Department. She took the CIT training and trainer training and is now an instructor in the program. She uses the skills in her daily work as a dispatcher in maintaining calmness with herself and those she is helping on the phone.

The CIT Law Enforcement Officer of the Year was presented to Thomas Gibson, senior officer with the Staunton Police Department. He uses his skills along with CIT training to handle calls for service within the Staunton Community.

John Lilly, program director at Middle River Regional Jail, received the CIT Jail Officer of the Year. He took the CIT training and now teaches in the program. He developed and executed complex jail scenarios which require an intimate knowledge of jail procedures, and jail reality for jail officer classes

A Memorial Resolution, honoring the life of former MHA-A Board Member, Dr. Carl Lennart Sandquist, was presented to his son and daughter in law, Warner and Linda Sandquist.

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