On Thursday, April 19, 2018, the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health Stigma presented 10 Ambassador Awards to “School Based Professionals” whose work best exemplifies how they encourage understanding and acceptance of adults and children whose lives are affected by mental illness.
Pathways, Wellspring Prevention’s Carteret School-Based Youth Services program was one of the awardees. Lauren Balkan, Program Director, accepted the award on behalf of Pathways.
Carteret High School principal David Salvatore who nominated the Pathways program and Ezra Helfand, Wellspring’s Executive Director and CEO, joined Ms. Balkan at the festivities.
Sylvia Axelrod, MA, Stigma Council Chair noted, “Congratulations to the school based professionals and programs that are being recognized this year by the Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma. Each one of our Ambassador Award honorees has demonstrated outstanding contributions to providing education about mental health that reduces stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness. The Importance of their work in these times cannot be underestimated.”
Ms. Balkan noted that “our efforts over the past year reached over 1000 youth in Carteret High School and because of these efforts about 150 youth have been involved in individual counseling and over 300 youth have gotten involved in groups and clubs offered by Pathways during that same time frame.”
She continued, “I am especially honored to be accepting this award on behalf of the Pathways Program because we prioritize and pride ourselves on creating a safe supportive environment for all students to maximize their potential and achieve success and also to find happiness. But we know that they might need some help along the way to achieve those things and the only way they are going to get that help is if they are willing to reach out for it and accept it. That is why reducing the stigma attached to mental health is so important to us.”
The Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health Stigma was originated in November 2004 through an Executive Order signed by Acting Governor Richard J. Codey. This task force was formed to investigate New Jersey’s mental health systems and to develop solutions to obstacles that currently face those with mental illness and their families. The mission of the Governor’s Council is to create a better mental health system and to educate the public about the importance of mental health, embracing and learning more about mental illness that will strengthen families and the communities in which we live. The Ambassador Awards embody the Council’s philosophy of Respect. Understanding. Change.
The awards ceremony was held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, in Monroe Township, NJ.