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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

March 15, 2022

NYS Office of Mental Health Announces 2022 Mental Health Equity Journey Awards

The NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) today announced the recipients of the agency’s 2022 Mental Health Equity Journey Awards, which are given to organizations and individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to improving access to healthcare for New Yorkers in marginalized and underserved communities.

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “The awardees we’re honoring today are committed to promoting behavioral health equity and addressing the mental health needs of all New Yorkers, particularly the unique needs of populations that historically and currently face disparities. They are doing wonderful work and I’m happy to recognize their efforts”

The Mental Health Equity Journey Awards are comprised of three award categories:

  • Individual Hero Award
  • OMH State Operated Facility/Program Award (i.e., hospitals, clinics, offices)
  • OMH Licensed/Community Provider Award

The 2022 awardees include:

Kerron Norman (Individual Award) - Kerron Norman is a Chief Program Officer for Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY). Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for her contributions towards dismantling the causes and effects of persistent poverty and social injustice for the communities she serves.

Sara Taylor (Individual Award) - Sara Taylor is the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Positive Steps and Managing Director of Taylor-Jones Event Management Services. Sara also founded the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) PEEEEEEK Parent Mental Health Project. Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for her work empowering and motivating vulnerable populations living in poverty.

Melanie Funchess (Individual Award) - Melanie Funchess has served as an advocate for children, youth, and families for over two decades. She is currently the CEO and Principal at Ubuntu Village Works LLC. An organization dedicated to creating culturally responsive community-driven healing and wellness spaces. Melanie Funchess also served as a Commissioner of Schools for the Rochester City School District and the Director of Community Engagement for the Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County. Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for her work on community building, educating others on the effects of racial trauma, and promoting mental wellness in communities of color.

Michael Lindsey (Individual Award) - Dr. Michael A. Lindsey is a noted scholar in child and adolescent mental health. He is the Executive Director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University (NYU), the Constance and Martin Silver Professor of Poverty Studies at NYU Silver School of Social Work, and an Aspen Health Innovators Fellow. Additionally, he leads the working group of experts supporting the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. Dr. Lindsay was recently appointed Dean of NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. We present this Journey Award to Dr. Lindsey for his work towards eliminating suicide, particularly in young Black youth.

Dior Vargas (Individual Award) - Dior Vargas is an intersectional mental health activist delivering education and resources to all communities, emphasizing the QTBIPOC community. Her photo project titled “The POC and Mental Illness photo project” has provided visibility to BIPOC individuals living with Mental Illness. We present this award to Dior Vargas for her efforts in eradicating the stigma of mental illness in the QTBIPOC community.

In Our Own Voices (Community Program) - In Our Own Voices is a progressive organization that directly works to combat oppression and marginalization in the LGBTQ+ POC community. Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for their commitment and dedication to reducing disparities and marginalization in the LGBTQ+ POC community.

Hamilton-Madison House (Community Program)- Hamilton-Madison House is a voluntary, non-profit settlement house dedicated to improving the quality of life of the Lower East Side’s Asian community. Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for their work in reducing disparities by providing culturally and linguistically sensitive Behavioral Health Services to New York City’s Asian community.

Rainbow Heights (Community Program) - Rainbow Heights is a support and advocacy program for LGBTQ+ consumers of mental health services. Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for their diligent work in reducing disparities for the underserved and disenfranchised LGBTQ+ community.

Hutchings PC (State Operated Program) - Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for making great strides in reducing disparities for clients, engaging in training that promotes cultural awareness in their workforce, and continuing to provide quality culturally and linguistically appropriate care to clients and the community.

Greater Binghamton Health Center (State Operated Program) - Receiving a 2022 Journey Award for diligently to provide a diverse/inclusive work environment (developing agency-wide Diversity & Inclusion training, creating the Cultural Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Committee, advocating strongly on behalf of LGBTQ+ patients).

The celebration of these awards goes hand-in-hand with the Agency’s broader equity agenda and the commitment to reducing disparities for New York’s marginalized, underserved and unserved populations. Some of the Agency’s select equity focused initiatives include:

  • Collaborating with Nathan Kline Institute’s Center for Research on Cultural and Structural Equity in Behavioral Health to conduct an Agency-wide review aimed at identifying systemic and executive policies, procedures and practices unintentionally contributing to racial inequities in New York’s mental health care system.
  • Leveraging formal partnerships with the State University of New York and the New York City-based City University of New York to develop diversity pipeline programs to increase the level of diversity in NY’s MH workforce.
  • Developing and implementing an online training curriculum to support broad mental health system adoption of the National CLAS Standards, as well as additional modules on reducing racial/ethnic-based bias in the delivery of clinical services and providing culturally appropriate clinical services for the primary special population groups served.
  • Adding equity components to all agency RFPs as well as licensing and funding requirements grounded in the National CLAS Standards in an effort to ensure that organizations are prioritizing activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion (i.e., diversifying the workforce, understanding the role that culture plays in an individual’s recovery and providing staff training on these vital topics).
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