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James Plastiras Director of Public Information New York State Office of Mental Health 518-474-6540 james.plastiras@omh.ny.gov

May 16, 2023

New York State Recognizes Long Island Mother for Empowering Other Families

Heather Tafuro Honored for Using her Lived Experience to Help Other Parents Navigate the Mental Health System

Albany, NY – New York State is honoring Heather Tafuro, a Regional Parent Advisor from Long Island, with the 2023 ‘What’s Great in our State’ Family/Caregiver Award 


This award recognizes family members or caregivers who have made a difference in their community through their professional or volunteer work, using their own lived experience. 


Heather works for Families Together in New York State to ensure family voice and choice is at the forefront of decision making. Her role as a Regional Parent Advisor promotes advocacy and resiliency for New York families and helps them better understand how to navigate the mental health system. 


“Heather Tafuro shows us ‘What’s Great in Our State’ by helping to support and empower caregivers using her personal experience as a parent of a child with mental health challenges,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan. “This kind of peer support has proven to be so impactful for families and caregivers, helping them feel seen and heard as they learn to overcome the challenges they face. We thank Heather for this commitment to children’s mental health.”  


Heather was presented with the award at the annual ‘What’s Great in our State 2023’ event on May 9. The celebration recognizes the individuals and programs that are successfully advancing the cause of children’s mental health in New York State.  


“I am humbled to receive this award and extremely grateful to Denise Delio, FPA for the nomination,” said Heather Tafuro.? “I am only one of SO many who do this work with commitment and a passionate heart. I share this award with those who have helped me to be the person that I am, and I hope to inspire others to follow in our footsteps.” 


‘What’s Great in Our State’ 


The ‘What’s Great in Our State’ event was first launched in 2010 and is held during Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a national movement that raises awareness about the importance of children’s mental health. The event features a reading of Governor Kathy Hochul’s announcement proclaiming the week as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a ceremony recognizing our honorees, and an art show featuring artwork created by children receiving services from New York State’s mental health system. 


The What’s Great in Our State Conference was especially significant this year, in light of Governor Hochul’s historic, multi-year $1-billion commitment to overhaul and strengthen the state’s continuum of mental health care.


The event is sponsored by six New York State agencies and several children’s mental health advocacy organizations: The Office of Mental Health, the Council on Children and Families, the Department of Health, the State Education Department, the Office of Children and Family Services and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, Early Care & Learning Council, Families Together in New York State, Inc., Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness - New York State, New York State Network for Youth Success, Prevent Child Abuse New York, Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Inc., and the Suicide Prevention Center of New York. 



In the attached photo: Heather Tafuro (center), accepting the Certificate of Recognition from New York State Office of Mental Health Executive Deputy Commissioner Moira W. Tashjian, MPA (left); and Sarah Kuriakose, PhD, BCBA-D, Associate Commissioner, Division of Integrated Community Services for Children and Families.



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