Mental Health America honors nine Floridians leading advances in wellness, care, and recovery with 2023 Exceptional People Impacting the Community awards.
Fort Lauderdale, FL — Mental Health America, the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit promoting mental health as a critical aspect of overall wellness, will honor nine Florida leaders who are having an exceptional impact advancing the group’s commitment to prevention, integrated care, and recovery. The nonprofit’s Southeast Florida chapter will celebrate seven women and two men as 2023’s Exceptional People Impacting the Community. This year’s honorees represent Broward Health, Purpose Built Families Foundation, Carrfour Supportive Housing, Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, Woman2Woman, WondHerful, United Way of Broward County, Henderson Behavioral Health, and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
Exceptional People Impacting the Community (EPIC) 2023 marks Mental Health America’s 27th annual program honoring community leaders who have made extraordinary contributions to mental wellness in Broward County.
Paul Jaquith, President of Mental Health America for Southeast Florida, said honorees are nominated by the public, reviewed and ultimately selected by past award recipients.
Last year’s honorees included Representative Christine Hunschofsky. As the mayor of Parkland during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in 2018, Rep. Hunschofsky mobilized services and resources to help the community heal. In her first term as a State Legislator, Rep. Hunschofsky filed legislation to create the Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
“These awards are presented to members of our community who have exhibited exceptional service through their actions, advocacy, leadership or service delivery to the most vulnerable in our community,” Jaquith said. This year’s honorees represent the best of the community’s leaders who share a common, tireless commitment to advancing wellness, care, recovery and prevention. They have collectively impacted countless fellow Floridians. Awardees will be honored at Mental Health America’s gala luncheon on Wednesday, May 17th at the Signature Grand in Davie, Florida. Tickets are available to the public from the organization’s website.
Julie Solomon-Bame is Broward Health’s Patient Care Coordinator, where she has worked for nearly three decades. Julie began serving individuals with HIV/AIDS and became an early, pioneering advocate for client-centered care. She is today responsible for coordinating Broward Health’s respite care across all of Broward County.
Purpose Built Families Foundation
Seth Eisenberg is the CARF-accredited nonprofit’s Chairman and CEO, co-founder of the agency’s Operation Sacred Trust Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) collaboration which has helped end homelessness and prevent suicide for thousands of Florida veterans, and long advocated for trauma-informed, compassionate, client-centered care as the foundation for battling homelessness, poverty, addictions, incarceration, and preventing suicide. He is an author of PAIRS Essentials, Warrior to Soul Mate, and the PAIRS SHALOM Workshop, evidence-based skills training program delivered worldwide to disrupt underlying factors that lead to homelessness, poverty, and violence towards self and others.
Carrfour Supportive Housing
Stephanie Berman-Eisenberg has served as President and CEO of Carrfour Supportive Housing since 2006, helping establish Carrfour as Florida’s largest nonprofit affordable housing developer with more than two dozen communities across Florida. She has been responsible for assembling more than $200 million to fund supportive housing communities that have housed more than 10,000 Floridians, including the innovative Southwest Hammocks community that will provide supportive housing for Broward residents living with severe mental health challenges. In 2011, together with her husband, Seth Eisenberg, Stephanie founded the Operation Sacred Trust collaboration for ending veteran homelessness and preventing suicide.
Broward Behavioral Health Coalition
Celena King is the Senior Director of the System of Care for the Broward Behavioral Health Coalition (BBHC), where she oversees Adult Care Coordination, FACT & High Acuity Teams, Civil State Hospital Discharges, Power of Peers (POP), Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Adult Case Management. Celena is known across Broward County as a leader who removes barriers, never retreats from a challenge, and establishes extraordinary collaborations with clients and providers.
Belinda Knox founded Woman2Woman (W2W) as a safe place for women in need to discuss mental health and addiction issues, answering a clarion call to lead women out of the revolving cycle of poverty, addiction, sexual abuse, and homelessness. For nearly two decades, Belinda has co-facilitated parenting classes, served as an advocate for unhoused women and children, and become an invaluable community resource for friends, family and neighbors throughout Broward County who are dealing with addiction and mental health challenges.
Heather Palacios took her personal struggles with suicide and depression that began in her earliest years to become a pastor and create WondHerful. Her goal is saving the lives of those who have suicidal thoughts. Heather connects regularly with people around the world and locally, including at psychiatric hospitals, homeless programs, treatment centers, through social media, and extensive public speaking to schools, churches and businesses.
United Way of Broward County
Janice Ribeiro serves as vice president of the Community Impact Health Initiative at United Way of Broward County, where she was instrumental in the county’s response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy and assisted in the management of the Family Resource Center to support survivors. Janine spearheaded the Broward Suicide Prevention Coalition to bring together more than 80 organizations and community partners on behalf of a shared commitment to life. Nearly three years ago, United Way of Broward County received millions of dollars from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to create 2,500 affordable homes in Broward County.
Henderson Behavioral Health
Diane Sasser directs Acute Care and Adult Outpatient behavioral health services, overseeing Henderson Behavioral Health’s crisis stabilization unit, short term residential treatment services, mobile crisis response teams, and central outpatient services. She is known as a leader always available to share her expertise and experience who cares deeply about Broward’s most vulnerable.
Fort Lauderdale Police Department
As Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Officer, George Stengel’s typical day included making contact with 30-50 individuals in need of housing, mental health services, healthcare and basic needs. George has long been known to fellow officers and within the community for always going the extra mile with remarkable empathy and compassion.
“This award is very special to me,” said Representative Hunschofsky. “I saw first-hand the need for services in our community not just in the immediate hours and days after the shooting but now in the years following. Taking care of our mental health and physical health is key to living a healthy life, and I am pleased to bring my shared experiences to the state level and work to make a positive difference for Floridians.”