SAMHSA’s Voice Awards Fellowship Program is a pilot project designed to give consumer/peer leaders in the behavioral health community the skills they need to amplify their voices to promote important behavioral health messages through storytelling. By sharing stories about resilience and recovery from a unique personal perspective, together, the Voice Awards Fellows will shape public perceptions of behavioral health and promote social inclusion in the workplace, in schools, and in communities nationwide.
The Voice Awards Fellows are consumer/peer leaders in the behavioral health community who demonstrate that recovery is not only possible, but commonplace. Through their advocacy, Fellows play a vital role in raising awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and in promoting the social inclusion of people with behavioral health problems.
The 2012-2013 class of Fellows includes the following individuals:
The Voice Awards Fellows will share their stories of recovery and resilience using a variety of communications vehicles over a 12-month time frame. In particular, the Fellows will:
Eric Arauz is a behavioral health advocate, consumer, and author of the internationally acclaimed memoir, "An American's Resurrection." For his company, Arauz Inspirational Enterprises (AIE), he travels around the world speaking, lecturing, conducting trainings, and hosting grand rounds on topics such as bipolar disorder, co-occurring disorder, trauma-informed recovery, suicide prevention, veterans issues, PTSD, and succeeding on a college campus with behavioral health issues. He is currently lecturing throughout the U.S. in undergraduate and graduate school classes on his memoir.
Mr. Arauz lives with Bipolar 1 Disorder, PTSD, addiction, and a survived suicide attempt while in in-patient care. He has been housed in three maximum-security psychiatric hospitals and held in restraints for more than 24 hours in a Veterans Administration psychiatric facility. During his recovery, he has: earned numerous degrees from Rutgers University; received a Consumer Leadership Award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) 2009 Voice Awards; been appointed adjunct instructor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; and received a NAMI-NJ Hero Award for his national work with veterans and suicide. He was appointed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, serving as the Vice Chair of the recent Task Force on Opiate Abuse for Adults 18-25. He is a faculty member with the American Psychiatric Nurses Association on the SAMHSA Recovery to Practice Grant, which is launching a national pilot on Recovery Practices for In-Patient Nurses.
Mr. Arauz is a Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm and will be leading a group of disabled Veterans on a 10-day trip to Israel in October 2013 for the Heroes to Heroes organization to help them heal from PTSD. He considers his greatest accomplishment his 3-year-old daughter.
Karen Curlis is a social worker who believes that true recovery cannot occur until the ugliness of shame and prejudice of having a biological brain disorder is removed from our society. In recovery from schizoaffective disorder, she works to reduce negative attitudes toward those with "lived experience" and spreads the message that treatment works, and recovery is real, possible, and achievable.
Ms. Curlis has worked with the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, and various nonprofits to fight stigma, promote recovery, and advocate on behalf of people with mental illnesses. She also serves as a member of several regional task forces concerned with the interface between consumers and the criminal justice system. The former Board President at the Ohio Center for Advocacy, Training and Support (OCATS), Ms. Curlis is a peer advocate who provides support through Psychiatric Advance Directives, the Wellness Recovery Action Plan program, the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Cleveland's Peer-to-Peer Mentor program, the OCATS Speakers Bureau, and NAMI's In Our Own Voice program.
Katherine Heart survived child sexual abuse to become an award-winning scholarship athlete at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned degrees in health and physical education. She managed nonprofit fitness, health and victim service programs until an event triggered severe PTSD in 1992.
Ms. Heart had 27 inpatient hospital stays over the next 15 years, began smoking, gained more than 100 pounds, and developed diabetes and high blood pressure. By 2007, she was prescribed 14 medications daily and eventually developed Medication-Induced Parkinsonism and Tardive Dyskinesia.
She finished therapy with Brainspotting treatment and worked with her health care team to resolve her health conditions. She also found a new path to wellness, joining SAMHSA's Wellness Initiative efforts. Today, she is smoke-free; has achieved a healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol level; and no longer requires medications for diabetes or post-traumatic stress.
A passionate advocate and educator for trauma-informed care and wellness recovery programs, Ms. Heart started a social enterprise company, Heart Resources, LLC, to spread wellness. She has assisted nonprofits in applying for millions of dollars in grants from corporate, foundation, United Way, and government funders. Ms. Heart partnered with nonprofit agencies to design a peer-advised fitness program that was awarded a Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Grant. She also co-founded the Turtle Team, which is a community fitness walking team for people in recovery to participate in the Pittsburgh Great Race 5K during National Recovery Month.
Ms. Heart is President of the Grant Professionals Association-Western PA Chapter and member of the Pitt Varsity Letter Club, IDEAFitness, and American College of Sports Medicine. She is also the author of TELLINGS: From Wound to Wellspring (Outskirts Press, 2008) and Making Meaning and Money as a Grant Writer for Your Cause.
Kevin Hines has spoken to more than 300,000 people about his first-hand experience with suicidal thoughts and his eventual attempt to complete suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. As one of 33 Golden Gate Bridge jump survivors, he is using his voice to spread messages about living mentally well and preventing suicide.
Mr. Hines is a powerful, honest, and intimate presenter, as well as a writer. He has been featured in hundreds of national and international print, radio, film, and television media outlets, including the critically acclaimed film "The Bridge," by filmmaker Eric Steel, on CNN's "Larry King Live," ABC's "20/20," CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360°," ABC's "Good Morning America," and Ireland's famed "Tonight with Vincent Browne." He has also written several articles about suicide prevention and mental health in America. His memoir, "Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt," comes out in July 2013.
Mr. Hines' will to live and stay mentally well has inspired people of all ages to change their lives for the better. He speaks from the heart and has an intriguing, life-altering voice that resonates with diverse individuals from a range of backgrounds.
One of Mr. Hines' newest goals is to reach out to our Nation's active duty military service men, women and Veterans about suicide prevention and coping with mental health challenges. He shares his story with all sectors of the military and Veterans Affairs across the country, conveying the importance of preventing deaths by suicide and promoting mental wellness in the face of great adversity. This population is particularly meaningful for Mr. Hines.
Clarence Jordan is a consumer thought leader, advocate, and the vice president of Recovery and Wellness at ValueOptions®, the Nation's largest independent behavioral health care and wellness company. He is responsible for planning and directing programs and initiatives that align with the company's commitment to the principles of person-centered care and peer support programs. Mr. Jordan also serves as a member of ValueOptions' Senior Leadership Team; supervises a multidisciplinary team devoted to providing peer and family services and information; and provides technical assistance and support for initiatives, products, and services that ensure a meaningful life for ValueOptions' members.
Mr. Jordan is in his second term on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) National Board of Directors and is director of NAMI Tennessee's Multicultural Outreach Initiative. He developed and wrote The Guide to Mental Illness, What Every Family Needs to Know, which earned the State affiliate the National Multicultural Outreach Award.
Passionate about veterans' issues as a former naval officer, Mr. Jordan conducted a national NAMI-sponsored press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on the experiences of military families. He also provided testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs in 2010 on the mental health needs of veterans and their families.
Mr. Jordan is a noted speaker who has delivered keynote addresses at numerous national and State conferences. He was awarded a Consumer Leadership Award at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2010 Voice Awards, and was appointed as Special Advisor to the Board of Directors of NISH — a national nonprofit agency whose mission is to create employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities — in 2012.
Jennifer Matesa is an award-winning nonfiction writer who has been writing for more than 20 years about women and families, health and health care, and major life changes. She teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Ms. Matesa comes from a family in which addiction is prevalent. Having detoxed from a high level of painkillers in 2008, she now writes and speaks about the escalation in the U.S. of prescription drug addiction. She owns the popular blog Guinevere Gets Sober, which has become a leader in its genre and is widely read by editors, publishers, treatment centers and networks, physicians, researchers and educators. It is consistently featured in curated lists of top sites in its field.
Ms. Matesa writes about addiction for outlets such as The Fix, a New York City-based online magazine. Her work has been featured in Salon, AlterNet, Jezebel, and other online media outlets. Her first book, Navel-Gazing: The Days and Nights of a Mother in the Making, a journal of pregnancy, was published by Random House. It was chosen by Lamaze International as a top 10 pregnancy book and was featured in other national and regional exhibitions and media coverage. Her biography of a young breast cancer patient, Knowing Stephanie, is an exploration of the ways a 30-year-old woman facing a dire diagnosis managed to reconstruct her life through taking charge of her medical treatments and pursuing emotional and spiritual transformation.
For 12 years, Ms. Matesa covered social issues at a high level for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, producing pieces that educated members of Congress, state legislators, governors' staffs, and the public about progressive health policy.
Stephen Puibello is an activist living with bipolar disorder and HIV who is committed to reaching out to others with similar challenges and letting them know that they are not alone. He received both his HIV+ and bipolar disorder diagnoses in 1996, which at first crippled him; it took years for him to accept his diagnoses and educate himself about bipolar disorder.
In 2004, he created www.bipolarbear.us, which provided him a platform in which to share his experiences as a gay man recovering from substance abuse challenges and bipolar disorder and living with HIV. The Web site also provides self-help, peer-to-peer, and LGBT community mental health resources for those dually diagnosed with HIV and mental illness and impacted by the compound stigma of both. He recently created a blog titled "p2p: you are not alone" on his site. Mr. Puibello also raises money and awareness for various bipolar disorder and HIV-related causes via different AIDS Rides and mental health organizations.