Mental Health America to Honor Outstanding Advocates, Innovative Program at Annual Conference | Mental Health America

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Mental Health America to Honor Outstanding Advocates, Innovative Program at Annual Conference


Mental Health America to Honor Outstanding Advocates, Innovative Program at Annual Conference

Awards to be Presented to Harvey Rosenthal of Albany, New York; Charles Willis of Atlanta;

Texas Youth Suicide Prevention Program


ALEXANDRIA, Va. (August 27, 2014)—Mental Health America will honor two outstanding mental health advocates and an innovative affiliate program at its 2014 Annual Conference—Parity and the Affordable Care Act: Bridging Gaps to Advance Mental Health—at the Sheraton Atlanta, Georgia, September 10-12, 2014.

Mental Health America’s highest honor, the Clifford W. Beers Award, will be presented to Harvey Rosenthal of Albany, New York, and Charles B. Willis of Atlanta, Georgia. The Beers Award is presented annually to mental health consumers who best reflect the example set by Mental Health America founder  Clifford W. Beers in his or her efforts to improve conditions for and attitudes toward people living with mental health conditions.

This is the first time in the history of the Beers Award that two individuals are being honored.

“This demonstrates the breadth and depth in our nation of voices with lived experiences,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America.

Rosenthal is Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc. (NYAPRS), a member of New York's Medicaid Redesign Team and a person in recovery from a mental illness.

Willis is the Georgia Peer Support Resiliency Project Director with the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, an organization that promotes holistic recovery and resiliency through advocacy, education, employment, empowerment, peer support and self-help.

Mental Health America of Texas’ Youth Suicide Prevention Project will receive the Innovation in Programming Award. The award recognizes the continuing innovation and creativity of the MHA affiliate network in program development and implementation.

The Clifford W. Beers Awards will be presented on the evening of September 11 at the Conference Awards Dinner. The Innovation in Programming Award will be presented during the Innovation Nation Affiliate Session on the afternoon of September 11.

“We applaud all these honorees for their invaluable commitment and contributions to the mental health field,” Gionfriddo said. “Their work and accomplishments have made a major difference in the lives of people living with mental health and substance use conditions.”

Below are additional information on the awardees and their accomplishments:

Harvey Rosenthal: Harvey Rosenthal has over 39 years of experience working to promote public mental health services and policies that advance the recovery, rehabilitation, rights and community inclusion of people with psychiatric disabilities. Under his leadership, NYAPRS has supported a strong grassroots advocacy community, developed recovery training programs for community providers and has created nationally replicated peer service and economic development innovations. Harvey’s leadership has helped win a number of legislative, budget and policy victories, including the adoption of the Medicaid Buy-In work incentive, a ban on solitary confinement in NYS prisons, the creation of a state Olmstead council on which he sits and expanded alternatives to involuntary outpatient commitment programs. Currently, as a member of New York’s Medicaid Redesign Team, he is working to assure that the state’s Medicaid reforms feature a strong recovery focus with required access to peer supports and crisis alternatives. Nationally, Rosenthal has worked to fight stigma, discrimination and coercion and to expand and incentivize recovery services and informed choice protections. He  regularly speaks nationally on topics like these and also currently serves on the board of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Harvey's interest in promoting mental health recovery is also personal, dating back to his own hospitalization at age 19.

Charles B. Willis: While working for the Georgia Department of Labor, Willis began experiencing symptoms of mental illness. He sought relief in self-medication and when he went to a local community mental health center for help he was told to come back when he sobered up. During the ensuing 27 years, Willis endured a downward spiral. He went through more than 20 treatment programs, was in and out of jails, became a convicted felon, lived homeless and was diagnosed as HIV positive. Through the help of a mentor, he charted a path to recovery. After training as one of the early Certified Peer Specialists in Georgia, he was quickly identified as a powerful role model and mentor and was hired by the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN) as their Self-Directed Care Project Director. His impact was soon felt statewide and he subsequently led numerous ground-breaking efforts, including the Georgia Peer Support Resiliency Project, the Georgia Peer Workforce Development Project, and the statewide Peer Wellness Initiative. He has organized Double Trouble in Recovery groups throughout the state. He currently directs GMHCN’s Whole Health Workforce Development Project, which is funded by SAMHSA. Additionally, Charles is an emissary of the recovery message outside the mental health community—in his own church where he is a deacon, his neighborhood, with civic and charitable groups where he is often invited to speak, and even within the political process.

Mental Health America of Texas Youth Suicide Prevention Project:  Now in its eleventh year, the project has a worldwide reach and represents state of the art thinking and research. The project has distributed over 1.1 million printed suicide prevention and postvention toolkits and English/Spanish bilingual brochures; trained more than 36,000 individuals in suicide prevention techniques and referrals in accessing treatment and services; and provided numerous exhibits to education the public. Through the project, Mental Health America of Texas developed the first suicide prevention smart phone app, which has been downloaded over 30,000 times in 38 countries. It also developed the Hope box smart phone app where individuals create a personalized virtual hope box. The project also collaborated with Kognito to create the online At-Risk for Suicide interactive trainings for high school and middle school teachers and administrators. Tools used in the project incorporate consumer and family involvement and empowerment as a central component. Many aspects of the project have already been replicated around the country.

For more information on Mental Health America’s 2013 Annual Conference, go to

Mental Health America (, founded in 1909, is the nation’s leading community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our 228 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions—Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; Educating the public & providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.


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