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2017 Voice Award Winners

Meet the 2017 Voice Award winners whose work and personal stories of recovery are educating the public about behavioral health.

2017 Award Winners

See all awardee acceptance remarks from the 2017 Voice Awards event.

Award Categories

SAMHSA Special Recognition

Senator Elizabeth Dole

A headshot of Elizabeth Dole

Elizabeth Dole’s list of achievements demonstrates her lifelong commitment to service, made even more impressive by the fact that she was among the first, if not the first, woman to hold her positions, starting with her appointment to the Federal Trade Commission in 1973. She held several national leadership roles as Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Labor, and president of the American Red Cross. Additionally, Dole played an instrumental role in her husband’s 1996 presidential campaign before running her own campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Dole returned to her home state and became the first woman to win North Carolina’s Senate seat in 2002.

In 2012, Dole founded the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to support military caregivers after witnessing the hardships these spouses, parents, siblings, and friends of wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans face while she was caring for her husband, Bob Dole, during an extended stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Since the foundation’s launch, she has led the way in bringing critical resources to help these hidden heroes.

Carrie Fisher

A headshot of Carrie Fisher

Actress and writer Carrie Fisher was best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars series opposite Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, as well as her other roles in The Blues Brothers (1980), The ’Burbs (1989), and When Harry Met Sally… (1989). Fisher also appeared in a variety of television shows over the last few decades, including cameos on 30 Rock, Family Guy, and The Big Bang Theory, and her last recurring role on Catastrophe.

In addition to her successful film and television career, Fisher was celebrated for the work she did to change misperceptions surrounding mental health. She spoke openly about her lived experience with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. Through her books, she tackled difficult subjects such as addiction, recovery, and mental illness with humor and honesty, normalizing them and becoming a role model for people with behavioral health issues.

In 1987, she published her first bestselling novel, Postcards from the Edge, a semi-autobiographical book detailing her experiences with drug addiction and her relationship with her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds. Her first memoir, Wishful Drinking, was released in 2008, followed by her second and final memoirs, Shockaholic (2011) and The Princess Diarist (2016). Through her writing, Fisher described her high and low points, showing readers that it is possible to live a normal and fulfilling life with a mental illness, and encouraging them to seek the help and support they need.

Although remembered by many as the hero Princess Leia, Fisher’s writing made her an outspoken champion of mental health and addiction, humanizing her beyond the icon she was on stage.

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Lifetime Achievement

Major General (Ret.) Arthur T. Dean

A headshot of Arthur T. Dean

Arthur T. Dean became the Chairman and CEO of Community Anti -Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) on August 31, 1998. His responsibilities as Chairman and CEO include providing strategic direction, diversifying and increasing funding, leading the board, being the primary spokesman for the organization, and overseeing the operations and personnel of CADCA.

Before joining CADCA, he spent 31 years in the U.S. Army. He retired on August 31, 1998, at the grade of Major General. During his time in the Army, General Dean served around the world. He saw combat in the Republic of Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, and was a U.S. Army and Republic of Vietnam Senior Parachutist and an Army Ranger. He possesses numerous awards, with the highest being two awards of the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal.

General Dean has served on numerous boards, including as a member of the Executive Council of the Atlanta Area Boy Scouts of America; member of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Human Resources Strategy; chairman of the Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training (MCTFT) Advisory Committee; co-chair and member of the Advisory Commission, Drug Free Communities (DFC) Support Program, Executive Office of the President; member of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Advisory Council; and member of the Board of Directors, The Madeira School. He has served as a member of the Executive Committee (EXCOM) of the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and serves as chairman of the Board of Directors for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

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Consumer/Peer/Family Leadership

Kevin Briggs

A headshot of Kevin Briggs

Kevin Briggs is a retired California Highway Patrol sergeant who spent many years patrolling the Golden Gate Bridge. While on patrol, he encountered many people clinging to life on the bridge as they contemplated ending or attempted to end their despair. Using his compassion, gentle voice, eye contact, and innate ability of “listening to understand,” Briggs encouraged more than 200 individuals over his career not to lose hope and to start a new chapter in their life. These challenging but rewarding eff orts earned him the nickname “Guardian of the Golden Gate.” After a 23-year career with the California Highway Patrol, Briggs retired to dedicate his life to promoting mental health awareness across the globe through Pivotal Points, an organization he founded.

As an international speaker, author, veteran, and sergeant, Briggs has shared his story and personal experiences in places such as the Technology, Entertainment, and Design 2014 Conference as a TED Talk, La Ciudad de Las Ideas (Mexico), Yahoo News, The New Yorker magazine, Men’s Health magazine, NPR’s Bob Edwards Show, People magazine, and USA Today, as well as other magazines, newspapers, radio programs, and podcasts around the world. His first book, Guardian of the Golden Gate: Protecting the Line Between Hope and Despair, was released in July 2015.

Tom Cruz

A headshot of Tom Cruz

Tom Cruz is an Active Duty Master Sergeant in the Unites States Army with more than 22 years of service. He has deployed in support of Operation Joint Guardian and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and just returned from a six-month deployment. MSG Cruz is a suicide attempt survivor and has experience in suicide prevention and suicide prevention awareness-raising eff orts. Since his suicide attempt, MSG Cruz has become a passionate advocate of more awareness and prevention for veterans’ mental health. He has taken his skills to social media, where he assisted in pioneering two organizations to identify and assist veterans with mental health issues, suicidal ideations, relationship issues, financial concerns, and other veteran-specific issues. MSG Cruz has been widely sought by military units, military bases, Department of Defense organizations, national suicide organizations, and the White House for his expertise on veterans’ issues and social media. MSG Cruz is Master Resilience Trained Level One; an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainer; Question, Persuade, Refer trained; and an Army Suicide Intervention trainer. He is also the Program Director for Suicide Prevention/Awareness with Veterans Counseling Veterans, advisor to Animal Rescue & Veteran Support Services, panel member of the Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research with University of South Florida, and a subject matter expert with Tampa VA, the White House, and the Office of the Surgeon General.

Major General (Ret.) Mark and Carol Graham

A headshot of Major General (Ret.) Mark and Carol Graham

Mark and Carol Graham are tireless champions of military and civilian eff orts to promote mental health and suicide prevention awareness, as well as to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health care. To honor the memory of their sons, Second Lieutenant (2LT) Jeff Graham, who was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq in February 2004, and Kevin Graham, a senior Army ROTC cadet who died by suicide in June 2003 while studying to be an Army doctor at the University of Kentucky, the Grahams established the Jeffrey C. and Kevin A. Graham Memorial Fund to provide the Question, Persuade, Refer suicide prevention program at the University of Kentucky. The Grahams also established the Jeff and Kevin Graham Memorial Endowed Lectureship in Psychology for the study of depression and suicide prevention at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. Additionally, they support the ongoing efforts of the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership in Colorado Springs, Colorado, through the Jeffrey and Kevin Graham Support Services program. The Grahams’ story is featured in the award-winning book The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War, by Yochi Dreazen. Major General Graham currently serves as the Senior Director of the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care National Call Center and the Director of Vets4Warriors.

Kristina Kaufman

A headshot of Kristina Kaufman

Kristina (Kristy) Kaufmann is the co-founder and executive director of Code of Support Foundation. During her 11 years as a wartime Army wife, Kaufmann recognized that the mental health impact on service members and families was not being appropriately addressed. Her determination to improve the approach for providing the support needed to endure repeated deployments often ruffled feathers among senior military leadership, but Kaufmann pressed on and wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post, “Army Families Under Fire.” The piece resulted in the platform upon which she and her co-founder, Major General Alan Salisbury, USA (R) built Code of Support Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to integrating support eff orts in a highly fragmented veteran support community.

Kaufmann is considered a subject matter expert regarding the mental health impacts of war on military families, and her publications and media appearances include The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, CNN, and major network broadcast channels. Kaufmann is a leader in the cross-sector collaboration drive to facilitate the public-private partnerships necessary to meet the needs of the military and veteran community. She is a 2017 Presidio Institute Fellow and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

Jodi Savits

A headshot of Jodi Savits

Jodi Savits, a mother, grandmother, sister, student, peer, Fresh Start Program Director, and person in long-term recovery, has dedicated her life to helping others—especially veterans— in need. For 23 years, Savits lost herself and her family due to her addiction. In 2000, Fresh Start Recovery House in Philadelphia gave her the tools, resources, and respect she needed to rebuild and reclaim her life. Three years after completing her treatment at the Recovery House, Savits decided to give back and returned to Fresh Start to work there part time. Shortly thereafter, Savits enrolled in college, began working full time, earned an associate’s degree in behavioral health, and was promoted to Director of Women’s Programs at the Fresh Start Philadelphia campus. She continued her education and obtained her bachelor’s degree in social work from West Chester University. Throughout the years, she served on numerous committees to establish Recovery House standards and has helped organize the PRO-ACT Recovery Walk held annually in Philadelphia.

In 2013, Savits relocated and became Director of the 40-bed program on the campus of the Coatesville (PA) Veterans Administration Medical Center (CVAMC). This innovative Fresh Start program offers an integrated service model serving veterans with serious mental illnesses, substance use disorders, and homelessness. Savits and her team work with veterans to get them medically and psychologically ready for services, including providing drug and alcohol counseling, mental health care, primary care, and job placement assistance.

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Young Adult Leadership

Montavious McKinney

A headshot of Montavious McKinney

Montavious McKinney is an independent contractor for Mid-South Health Systems (MSHS) in northeast Arkansas and the president of Youth M.O.V.E. Arkansas, a statewide youth-driven organization devoted to improving services and supports provided to youth and young adults.

As a child, Montavious received mental health services for ADHD, depression, anger issues, and substance use issues. After completing several MSHS programs and getting on a path to recovery, he joined Youth M.O.V.E Arkansas in 2007 to learn how he could help others who face similar challenges. Montavious’ lived experience inspired him to transform himself into an exemplary youth leader, a public speaker, and a tireless advocate for youth and young adult rights. His dedication to making his community and state a better place for young people to live, thrive, and succeed is truly inspiring for youth advocates locally and nationwide.

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Captain Fantastic

In Captain Fantastic, Ben (Viggo Mortensen) and Leslie Cash (Trin Miller) live with their six children completely off the grid in a cabin in the mountains of Washington state. Passing their ideals—namely survivalism—on through vigorous physical, intellectual, and practical training, Ben and Leslie are teaching their children how to survive on their own. They made the decision to live this lifestyle after Leslie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which Ben believes started with her postpartum depression after their son Bo was born. As Leslie’s condition progressively worsens, her family is forced to send her to a hospital in Sacramento. When Leslie unexpectedly dies by suicide, the immediate and extended families are forced to confront their feelings of blame, guilt, and collective grief.

Writer: Matt Ross

Producers: Declan Baldwin, Samantha Housman, Monica Levinson, Nimitt Mankad, Jamie Patricof, Crystal Powell, Shivani Rawat, and Louise Runge

Director: Matt Ross

Megan Leavey

Megan Leavey is based on the true-life story of a young Marine Corporal (Kate Mara) whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. When Megan is assigned to clean up the K9 unit after a disciplinary hearing, she quickly identifies with a particularly aggressive dog, Rex, and has the opportunity to train him and become his handler. Over the course of their service, Megan and Rex complete more than 100 missions, often scouting conflict areas to sniff out possible explosives before troops arrive. Their efforts undoubtedly save scores of lives, as well as prevent service members from suffering catastrophic injuries caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). When Megan and Rex are both wounded by an IED explosion and forced to rehabilitate separately, Megan must confront the trauma of the explosion and her transition to civilian life alone in order to find the strength and determination to bring Rex home.

Writers: Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt

Producers: José Luis Escolar, Scott Holroyd, Robert Huberman, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe, Pete Shilaimon, and Nicole Stojkovich

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

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Chris Gethard: Career Suicide

Comedy Special

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide is a comedy special about depression, alcoholism, suicide, and other parts of Chris Gethard’s life. Gethard holds nothing back as he dives into his experiences with mental illness and treatment, as well as his journey finding hope in the strangest places. It is a painfully honest look into the mind of one of the most original and exciting comics at work today.

Writers: Chris Gethard

Producers: Judd Apatow, Mike Berkowitz, Chris Gethard, Marcus Raboy, Brian Stern, and Anna Wenger

Directors: Kimberly Senior

Jane the Virgin

Anxiety, PTSD, Addiction, and Recovery Storylines (Season 3)

Set in Miami, the series Jane the Virgin details the surprising and unforeseen events that take place in the life of Jane Gloriana Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) and her family. While structured as a funny—and often melodramatic—telenovela, Jane the Virgin recognizes opportunities to address and educate viewers about a variety of issues—including mental illness and addiction. Season three’s main storyline revolves around the death of Jane’s husband Michael (Brett Dier) and the grief—and resulting panic attacks—that ensue. In “Chapter 56,” Jane turns to a therapist for help, and after diligently completing 89 sessions, she feels strong enough to manage her challenges on her own. However, throughout season three, Jane the Virgin takes opportunities to pause and educate viewers about mental illness and addiction. In “Chapter 53,” Rafael (Justin Baldoni) helps his ex-wife Petra (Yael Grobglas) recognize that she has signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and encourages her to seek therapy. Earlier in the season, “Chapter 48” shows Rogelio (Jaime Camil) spending all night keeping Luisa (Yara Martinez) company, supporting her through a struggle to maintain her sobriety, and counseling her to seek professional help when morning comes.

Writers: Perla Farías, Valentina Garza, Sarah Goldfinger, Madeline Hendricks, Merigan Mulhern, Jessica O’Toole, Amy Rardin, Carolina Rivera, David S. Rosenthal, Micah Schraft, Paul Sciarrotta, Deidre Shaw, Jennie Snyder Urman, and Chantelle Wells

Producers: Lewis Abel, Sean Canino, Valentina Garza, Sarah Goldfinger, Jorge Granier, Gina Lamar, Joe Lawson, Jessica O’Toole, Gary Pearl, Amy Rardin, David S. Rosenthal, Micah Schraft, Paul Sciarrotta, Emilia Serrano, Brad Silberling, Timothy Silver, Ben Silverman, and Jennie Snyder Urman

Directors: Eva Longoria Baston, Matthew Diamond, Zetna Fuentes, Gina Lamar, Anna Mastro, Melanie Mayron, Fernando Sariñana, Micah Schraft, and Brad Silberling

One Day At A Time

PTSD, Addiction, and Recovery Storylines (Season 1)

Loosely based on the 1975–84 Norman Lear television series of the same name, One Day At A Time follows three generations of a Cuban-American family living in the same house. Penelope (Justina Machado), a newly single Army Nursing Corps veteran, is raising her two children, Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz), with the support of her colorful Cuban mother, Lydia (Rita Moreno).

Upon returning to civilian life, Penelope took a job as a nurse at a family physician’s office, which provides her with a regular shift so she can return home to her loving family at the end of the day. However, struggling to balance her personal and work life, she has found the return home difficult, as she faces a lot of unresolved issues from her time in the Army. Her military service left her with both a shoulder injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but she’s initially only willing to seek help for the former. She also has not been in contact with her estranged husband, Victor (James Martinez), who is also an Army veteran. His struggles with alcohol and PTSD and his work for a private contractor in Afghanistan led Penelope to make the tough decision to leave him and raise her children alone.

Writers: Michelle Badillo, Dan Hernandez, Sebastian Jones, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Caroline Levich, Becky Mann, Peter Murrieta, Andy Roth, Mike Royce, Benji Samit, Audra Sielaff, and Debby Wolfe

Producers: Dan Hernandez, Patricia Fass Palmer, and Benji Samit

Directors: Pamela Fryman, Victor Gonzalez, Jody Margolin Hahn, Michael Lembeck, Phill Lewis, and Linda Mendoza

The Warfighters

“A Warrior’s Battle: The Story of Rob Guzzo” (Season 1, Episode 6)

The Warfighters is a powerful portrayal of the high-stakes environment in which members of the military operate, as well as the challenges they face. Based on true stories from veterans, each episode includes intimate interviews, action-packed cinematic sequences, and real images and footage from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Episode 6, “A Warrior’s Battle: The Story of Rob Guzzo,” tells the story of Navy SEAL Rob Guzzo, whose platoon deployed to Iraq in 2006 and faced an enemy and combat so intense that it leaves Guzzo with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His parents, both members of the U.S. Navy, said the mental trauma their son endured from serving overseas—coupled with the discrimination and misperceptions attached to mental illness—played a major role in his death by suicide.

Producers: Mike Baumgarten (former Army Ranger), Peter Berg, Paul Cabana, Brandon Carroll, Matt Ginsburg, Matthew Goldberg, Steve Harris, Natalie Baldwin Leon, Russ McCarroll, Ray Mendoza (former Navy SEAL), and Mark Semos/p>

Directors: Peter Berg

This is Us

Anxiety, Addiction, and Recovery Storylines (Season 1)

This is Us follows siblings Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) as their lives intertwine. After 36 years, Randall, who was adopted as an infant, finally meets his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones). This Is Us addresses mental health, addiction, and recovery through the life experiences of these two characters. Randall is shown experiencing panic attacks as a child, supported by his adoptive father, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who counseled him and helped him get through the challenges.

As an adult, the pressures and anxiety related to finding his biological father and subsequently learning William has advanced cancer prove too much for Randall to bear. After breaking down during a major presentation to one of his biggest clients, his actor brother, Kevin, steps up to support him. It is at the nexus of this storyline that we delve into William’s lifelong path to recovery. When William was a young man, the death of his mother caused him to turn to heroin to address his grief and leave newborn Randall at a fi re station. Now in long-term recovery, William is nearing the end of his life. As he and Randall revisit Memphis in his last days, William displays the tenacity earned from years of experience in recovery. This Is Us brings William’s storyline to a conclusion by showing that William was the man he was because of his addiction, not in spite of it.

Writers: Isaac Aptaker, Elizabeth Berger, Bekah Brunstetter, Dan Fogelman, Vera Herbert, Laura Kenar, Joe Lawson, Kay Oyegun, Aurin Squire, K.J. Steinberg, and Donald Todd

Producers: Isaac Aptaker, Steve Beers, Elizabeth Berger, Bekah Brunstetter, Glenn Ficarra, Dan Fogelman, Cathy Mickel Gibson, Charlie Gogolak, Vera Herbert, Dieter Ismagil, Joe Lawson, Ken Olin, Nick Pavonetti, John Requa, Jess Rosenthal, K.J. Steinberg, and Donald Todd

Directors: Sarah Pia Anderson, Uta Briesewitz, Timothy Busfield, Glenn Ficarra, Silas Howard, Helen Hunt, Chris Koch, Ken Olin, John Requa, Wendey Stanzler, George Tillman Jr., and Craig Zisk

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Almost Sunrise

Almost Sunrise follows two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, who both struggled with depression for years after they returned home from their service. After contemplating suicide, the two decide to embark on an extraordinary journey—a 2,700-mile walk across the country from Wisconsin to California to reflect on their haunting experiences of war and, ultimately, save themselves.

Writers: Michael Collins and Eric Daniel Metzgar

Producers: Suparna Bhasin, Peter Cooper, Patty Kim, Claire Ratinon, Chris Sheridan, Erin Sorenson, and Marty Syjuco

Director: Michael Collins

Iron Will: Veterans Battle with PTSD

Iron Will: Veterans Battle with PTSD is a journey into the minds and lives of veterans living with some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, the documentary aims to bring awareness and support to veterans by honestly sharing their personal stories, daily struggles, and resilience.

Writers: Zac Adams

Producers: Tim VandeSteeg, Zac Adams, Judy Diethelm (EP), Robert Moore (EP), Andy Fraser (EP)

Director: Sergio Valenzuela

The S Word

From the filmmakers of former Voice Award-winner Of Two Minds comes a new documentary that explores one of the most misunderstood topics in the human experience—suicide. In THE S WORD, suicide attempt survivor Dese’Rae L. Stage is on a mission to find fellow survivors and document their stories of courage, insight, and humor. Along the way, she discovers a rising national movement transforming personal struggles into action. Both attempt survivors and the families and friends of those who have been lost are portrayed in the complexity, pain, and even humor of their experiences.

Writers: Douglas Blush and Lisa J. Klein

Producers: Douglas Blush, Julian Cautherley, Patricia Harris Dileva, Kurt Norton, and Gianna Maria Smart

Directors: Lisa J. Klein

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Honorable Mention

Film & Documentary

  • Beyond Silence
  • Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (HBO)
  • Generation Found
  • Moonlight
  • No Greater Love
  • Outside the House
  • Prescription for Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis (MTV)
  • Prison Dogs
  • Risky Drinking (HBO)
  • Soldier On: Life After Deployment
  • The Next Mission
  • Visions of Warriors
  • Warning: This Drug May Kill You (HBO)Beyond Silence


  • Black-ish (ABC) – “Good Dre Hunting” (Season 3, Episode 13)
  • Catastrophe (Amazon) – addiction & recovery storyline (Season 3)
  • Elementary (CBS) – “How the Sausage is Made” (Season 5, Episode 8)
  • Every Brilliant Thing (HBO)
  • Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) – “True Colors” (Season 13, Episode 23)
  • Law & Order: SVU (NBC) – “Heightened Emotions” (Season 18, Episode 4)
  • Mom (CBS) – series (Season 4)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) – therapy & recovery storyline (Season 8)
  • Queen Sugar (OWN) – addiction & recovery storyline (Season 1)
  • You’re the Worst (FX) – series (Season 3)

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Last Updated: 09/27/2018