On May 12th, 2016, MHANI had the honor of hosting Paul Gionfriddo at Hotel Fort Wayne. Paul is President and CEO of national Mental Health America, and author of the book Losing Tim: How our Health & Education Systems Failed my Son with Schizophrenia. At our annual Legacy Breakfast and an extended lecture in the evening, Paul shared the story of his son Tim, a moving yet tragic story shaped by the public policies Paul created as a member of the Connecticut General Assembly.
Tim had schizophrenia at a young age that led to poor behavior and struggles in the classroom and at home. Due to difficulties securing him proper accommodations in the classroom, Tim struggled to learn in school. Although Tim’s parents tried everything in their power to get him a proper education, it never worked, and Tim dropped out once he reached 18. Despite securing housing three or four separate occasions after that, Tim eventually became chronically homeless and now lives on the streets of San Francisco.
While Tim’s story shows the holes in the mental health system, attendees at the Legacy Breakfast were left with a feeling of inspiration following Gionfriddo’s moving speech. Feedback from one attendee indicated that he felt that Gionfriddo’s speech spoke straight to the heart of the problem that individuals in the mental health field face while helping those who have mental health challenges.
Local members of the community also spoke at the Legacy Breakfast. Victor Torres, board president, was the Master of Ceremonies. The Honorable Wendy Davis made opening remarks. She discussed the impact that organizations like MHANI have on people with mental illness who get involved with the justice system. It can be difficult sometimes for people with mental illness to meet the requirements of their court order due to their illness, but MHANI can help direct these individuals to resources that may be able to help them.
Mayor Tom Henry also made a proclamation at the Legacy Breakfast. He proclaimed May 2016 as Mental Health Month in Fort Wayne. May is celebrated as Mental Health Month all across the country, and it is a time for individuals to become more aware of their own mental health, learn more about mental illnesses, and fight to reduce the stigma around these issues.
The Alida Cunningham Award was presented to Sarah Bridgwater for her advocacy for women with mental illness. Sarah served as Board President of Cedars Hope for four years. During that time, she dedicated herself to ensuring that the women at Cedars Hope were given the best service possible and were able to continue calling Cedars Hope their home. The award is named after Alida Cunningham, who fought for the rights of those with mental illness for the majority of her life.
The Mental Health Legacy Award was presented to The Lutheran Foundation and accepted by Marcia Haaff, CEO. They have been instrumental in advancing the mental health and well-being of individuals and families in northeast Indiana. The Mental Health Legacy Award is given to an organization that has made a difference in the community through its work in the mental health field.
Thank you again to our sponsors for helping us spread awareness about mental health issues.
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After the success of the Legacy Breakfast, we are already looking forward to our annual Gala in the fall. Be sure to join us at the Mirro Center on October 8th!
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