Behavioral Health Week Stronger Together 2020 Award Winners
Behavioral Health Peers, Advocates, Families, Providers, and Supporters as we came together in Santa Fe to lead the charge for improving Behavioral Health in New Mexico. Several community members were awarded for their work in Behavioral Health, including Rachel Nelson and Tom Starke. The full list of award winners is presented below.
Star Award Recipients
Judy served on the New Mexico Behavior Health Planning Council for nine years and recognized the lack of supports available for individuals in rural communities, particularly for seniors. To help address these gaps and the social isolation seniors in rural areas often experience, Judy founded the Senior Jubilee Program and for ten years traveled throughout the state to connect, educate and celebrate New Mexico seniors. The community-based conferences feature presentations by local, state, and federal subject matter experts to address concerns such as nutrition and access to health care, and to promote physical and behavioral health. The jubilees help to build connections for this underserved population who often have mobility, transportation, and communication limitations.
Joanna works with the nonprofit groups NMCAN and New Day Youth Family Services to help support youth involved in NM Children, Youth and Families Department’s systems. Both groups are dedicated to improving conditions and experiences for youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems or who are homeless or precariously housed. Joanna brings her personal experiences with the State’s systems to inform these organizations, and CYFD, about how to better support at-risk youth and their families using trauma-informed approaches. In December 2019, Joana participated in a panel presentation at a national conference to share her challenges and suggestions for improving state-level systems. Joanna advocates for improvements in supports and safe placement practices for system-involved youth.
Matilda, born and raised in Espanola, became a Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW) in 2017, and is employed with Blue Cross Blue Shield as a Recovery Support Assistant. Matilda has overcome several personal challenges and inspires persistence and resilience in all who know and work with her. She is dedicated to helping others improve the quality of their lives and uses her weekends and personal time off to volunteer in her community. Matilda is a CPSW trainer and was one of the first peers to provide training in a correctional facility. In the fall of 2020, she will begin a Master of Social Work program, and looks forward to continuing her support of others through her education and lived experience.
Jeff is the executive director of the Endorphin Power Company, an Albuquerque-based organization that provides transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness resulting from substance abuse. The program is based on the “Four Pillars:” education, exercise, community and service others. Jeff is dedicated to finding services for all, often referring individuals to other organizations that can provide more appropriate services. He also volunteers with Albuquerque’s Tiny Home Village, a project designed to provide safe, transitional housing and support services to individuals experiencing homelessness to help reduce their involvement with the criminal justice system.
April Nacarrato (505) 652-8853
April has worked primarily with human service organizations and behavioral health providers; she is currently employed as a Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW) with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Raton. April began the CPSW training in 2017 but was unable to complete the course due to her son’s physical health challenges. April advocated to have a training held in Raton, and she was able to complete that 2019 training and receive her certification. April is committed to supporting individuals in recovery and recovery services in her community.
Rachel is an Occupational Therapist (OT) who works with individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges and homelessness to help restore their functional abilities in activities of daily living. She has worked within the state’s behavioral health, housing, and legal systems for several years to improve services and outcomes for individuals experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges. For five years Rachel served as the Legislative Chair of the New Mexico Occupational Therapy Association and now serves as a committee member. She helped update the New Mexico Occupational Therapy Act to include OT as behavioral health providers. Rachel helped write a grant to fund an OT position within Albuquerque’s Tiny Home Village, a project which seeks to provide safe, transitional housing using a holistic housing intervention that includes vocational and community integration components. Rachel recently partnered with the Albuquerque Second Judicial District Court to help transition individuals experiencing homelessness to stable housing, develop independent living skills, and reduce their interactions with the criminal justice system. Rachel serves as a Director on New Mexico’s Board of Directors for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Jeanine O’Connell (707) 684-0931
Jeanine is a Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW) and full-time employee of Albuquerque Forward Flag, a foundation dedicated to preventing veteran suicide. She is also a trainer for the CPSW Veteran Endorsement. During September Recovery Month events, Jeanine drives the Straight Scoop for Vets and Friends coffee bunker throughout New Mexico, visiting numerous rural communities to promote suicide prevention strategies. During community visits she distributes information and provides hope to veterans and their families.
Brian Peete (312) 480-9841
For the two years that Brian served as the Alamogordo Chief of Police, he inspired and guided the community to improve the continuum of care for people living with mental illness and substance use disorders. He was instrumental in establishing a group of stakeholders committed to improving services and reducing incarcerations through a sequential intercept mapping process. Brian played a key role in obtaining funding for Alamogordo to establish a Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) model and a Mobile Crisis Response Team. Under Brian’s leadership, 21 participants from area law enforcement agencies graduated from the first CIT training program and trainings are ongoing. After leaving Alamogordo PD, Brian continues to support CIT initiatives, both locally and nationally. He is a member of the local Behavioral Health Collaborative and participates with a national team working with SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families Technical Assistance Center to implement best practices in homelessness and suicide prevention as well as a full spectrum of mental health services.
Pueblo of Pojoaque
Since 2016, the Pueblo of Pojoaque, under the leadership of Governor Joseph Talachy, Lt. Governor Jenelle Roybal, Chief Judge Kim McGinnis, and Rafaela Sanchez, has devoted significant time and resources to improving community access to behavioral health services. Pueblo leadership has been active in developing an annual community recovery event, which focuses on supporting individuals with mental health challenges. Pueblo leadership has held the September recovery event for two years, uniting individuals from surrounding communities to celebrate a culture of healing, and to honor those who share stories of their challenges and successes in struggling with mental health and substance use. The event also provides information about resources to support recovery and helps break down the stigma that is sometimes more prominent in smaller, more rural communities.
Alex Romero (575) 776-6063
Alex has been involved with the nonprofit organization Inside Out for several years. Through the northern New Mexico-based recovery center, Alex worked on his GED and recovery simultaneously, and became a Certified Peer Support Worker with Inside Out in 2011. Alex has continued to focus on his recovery and personal growth, working with the Life Link in Rio Arriba in various capacities. After returning to Inside Out in Espanola, Alex was promoted to Operations Manager. His humility and integrity are key to his leadership and recovery work in Espanola, where he also provides street outreach, and continues to inspire community members.
Lupe is the founder and Director of Barrios Unidos, a welcoming drop-in center in Chimayo. Lupe greets all with a warm smile and hug to demonstrate her commitment to providing a safe space to those living with mental illness and substance use disorders. She continues to focus attention on the stigma and discrimination often related to behavioral health challenges, and advocates for system-wide changes to address the systemic dysfunctions she believes contribute to these issues. Barrios Unidos offers a wide range of services to help support recovery, including acu-detox, sweat lodges, and yoga. When not delivering direct services, Lupe conducts street outreach to provide meals and clothing to those in need. She successfully organized the second annual recovery event in Chimayo in September 2019 to promote community resources and celebrate recovery. Lupe attends recovery events throughout the state during September Recovery Month and speaks of her own journey to inspire hope in others. Lupe organized a memorial at Santuario de Chimayo to remember those lost to drug overdose, and to provide a forum for people to discuss their experiences and help break the stigma that individuals in small communities with behavioral health often face.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Pamela Drake, SCPS
Pamela has worked with the San Juan County Partnership since 1991 and has served as the Executive Director since 1993. The Partnership, a nonprofit community action agency, identifies and shares county-wide resources to support prevention programming, community planning activities and projects, and serves as a forum for community input and networking. Pamela is dedicated to coalition building, which is reflected in the diverse and significant number of collaborations she has established to help build the foundation of the Partnership, and which include: law enforcement agencies, schools, city, county and state agencies, media outlets, multiple Native American organizations, AmeriCorps, and physical and behavioral health providers. Under Pamela’s leadership, the Partnership has established a housing assistance program which provides rental assistance, funding for rapid rehousing and security and utility deposits, and assistance with permanent supportive housing for disabled and chronically homeless individuals.
Pamela writes grants to help address service gaps throughout the county; often these are related to alcohol and drug abuse prevention efforts that target at-risk youth and families. Through Pamela’s efforts, the Partnership’s programming and training components have a strong cultural competency emphasis and the Partnership is sponsoring a Cultural Harmony Conference in early 2021.
Pamela has served on multiple boards and advisory groups; she has been an appointee to the Substance Abuse Subcommittee of the Behavioral Health Planning Council since 2003 and serves on the BH Planning Council as well as on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council.
John Henry Award
Zia, a six-year-old Labrador Retriever, has worked with the Chaves County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program for nearly five years. CASA employees and volunteers are empowered by courts to offer critical information needed to ensure a child’s rights and needs are attended to while they are in foster care. Zia, bred and trained by Assistance Dogs of the West, has been accredited as a Service Dog and a Courthouse Facility Dog. She provides emotional support to children and youth involved in the Juvenile Justice System, helps reduce trauma while youth are interviewed by CASA employees and the courts, and serves as a key member of the play therapy team. Carrie-Lee Cloutier, Zia’s primary handler, is president of the Courthouse Dogs International Foundation, and with Zia, has been designated as a Program Leader Team by the Foundation. Wendy Taylor, Zia’s secondary handler, works with Zia in the courtroom. Zia, with her handlers, has given strength and emotional support to hundreds of abused and neglected children throughout the system’s custodial process.
Carol Luna Anderson Award
Thomas Starke, Ph.D.
Tom, a retired physicist and manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory for 30 years, has been a community activist and organizer promoting behavioral health recovery since 2012. Tom was a member and chair of Santa Fe County’s DWI Planning Council, and is Executive Director of Impact DWI, a nonprofit organization that produces Victim Impact Panels for DWI offenders. Tom has worked diligently to change DWI laws, focusing particularly on the use of ignition interlocks to help reduce drunk driving. In 2013 Tom established the Santa Fe Behavioral Health Alliance, a collaboration of public and nonprofit agencies supporting individuals with behavioral health illnesses. Through the Alliance Tom secured a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant to conduct a sequential intercept mapping workshop, which enabled agencies to connect their services with those of other agencies for individuals with behavioral health issues involved in the criminal justice system. Tom is the Chair of Recovery Communities of New Mexico, a Behavioral Health Services Division effort to promote community-based recovery events throughout New Mexico and reduce stigma, overdose deaths, and promote recovery. Tom is Vice Chair of the Santa Fe Recovery Center where he has been instrumental in the expansion of residential addiction treatment. Tom is also a board member of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), and NAMI-Santa Fe.
Behavioral Health Services Division Director’s Award
Mickie and Ernie Holland
Throughout their extensive careers, Mickie and Ernie Holland have served New Mexicans with behavioral health challenges. With a combined 75 years of service, the Hollands have provided compassionate services to thousands of New Mexicans, and they continue to develop innovative approaches to care for all who seek mental health services.
Mickie and Ernie hold master’s degrees in social work and have worked as psychologists, counselors, clinical directors and program officers. Both began their careers with New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Department (CYFD). Mickie worked as a child abuse investigator whose responsibilities included completing mental health assessments, developing treatment plans, and providing therapy; Mickie implemented and supervised a play therapy program. During his 24-year career with CYFD, Ernie held several supervisory positions, including District Operations Manager, Foster Care Recruitment and Retention Manager, and Family Preservation Manager. Ernie was responsible for all State-supported social work programs in Southeastern New Mexico and managed seven county office managers, consultants and other professional employees involved in child protective services.
Following their work with CYFD, the Hollands accepted positions with The Guidance Center of Lea County (GCLC), the sole provider of a comprehensive array of family-centered services for residents of Lea County and southeastern New Mexico. In 2005, Mickie re-opened Humphrey House Residential Treatment Center for Adolescents, and Ernie served as the Clinical Director of Residential Services for GCLC. Since then, the Hollands have greatly expanded the continuum of mental health services, as well as approaches to providing care; under their leadership GCLC has adopted the use of trauma-informed care as a guide for creating a safe and non-violent environment to foster healing. GCLC employs the Sanctuary Model of care for both staff and clients.
During their tenure, GCLC has implemented numerous additional programs, including: the conversion of Humphrey House to a transitional living program for adolescent males and the addition of adult and adolescent intensive outpatient substance abuse counseling. The Center has initiated home visiting services, in-home services, and specialized treatment programs such as infant mental health, family drug court, time-limited reunification, and treatment protocols for juvenile sex offenders. The GCLC campus has expanded enormously under the Hollands’ direction, and now includes a transitional living building, autism clinic, maternity group home, emergency shelter, and fully-equipped gymnasium. In 2014, the GCLC board of directors renamed the expanded Center to the “Ernie & Mickie Holland Multiple Purpose Building.” Since then, the Hollands have added more treatment services to their extensive menu, have been designated a local lead agency for special needs housing, and been recertified as a Sanctuary Informed Care organization.
Mickie and Ernie are dedicated to improving behavioral health services throughout the State, and are active in numerous organizations that support at-risk children and families. In addition to the hundreds of employees they have mentored over the decades, in any given month GCLC serves more than 1,000 clients and responds to more than 65 crisis intervention calls. Through their profound commitment and diligence, the Hollands have inspired, instilled hope, and improved the lives of thousands of New Mexicans.