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Social Workers Honored at Voice Awards


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and aide Ron Barber.

Social workers snagged some top honors August 24 at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) 2011 Voice Awards at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

Ron Barber, a social worker and aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who was injured in the January shootings in Tucson, was given a Special Recognition Award for establishing a Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding.

That fund is starting an anti-bullying program in public schools and is seeking to lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness by doing a community-wide educational campaign to increase awareness of mental illness and treatment options.

And Jacki McKinney, MSW, who was sexually abused as an infant and later battled mental illness and substance abuse problems, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her 21 years of work as a fierce advocate for other mental healthcare consumers, particularly people of color and women.

“In this room with me tonight are people who have taken every step of the journey with me,” said McKinney, 77, who accepted the award with her son and daughter by her side. “You have to admit trauma to start to heal.”

Barber and Tucson Mayor Robert Walkup and his wife Beth, who also received special recognition awards for their work in getting mayors in other cities to seek early treatment for people with mental illness and addiction problems, said Rep. Giffords pushed for funding to get a trauma treatment center.

 That center probably saved Giffords’ life when she received treatment there after she and others were shot by Jared Loughner at a Tucson shopping center. Loughner, 22, who killed six people and injured 14, is now being held in a prison hospital in Missouri.

“One of the most resilient people we can ever hope to meet is Gabrielle Giffords,” Barber said.

Voice Awards program.

The Voice Awards, which were hosted this year by “Parenthood” and “Six Feet Under” actor Peter Krause, honor television shows, movies and consumer/peer leaders such as Barber and McKinney who educate the public about mental health and substance abuse and help promote public acceptance of people with these issues.

With the award show being televised near the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack there was an emphasis on healing and recovery from trauma.

 Television programs and movies that received honors this year included “The King’s Speech,” “Parenthood,” and “Harry’s Law” starring Kathy Bates. For more information on Voice Award winners click here.

Past NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck and Voice Award honoree and social worker Jacki McKinney,

 The National Association of Social Workers is a Voice Awards co-partner, along with the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors and the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

Talk Therapy TV, a New York cable public access program that educates the public about mental illness, is also a Voice Awards partner. Talk Therapy TV was created by National Association of Social workers member Jacob Berelowitz, MSW, LMSW, who was also in attendance.



From left: Brendan Broms of NASW, screenwriter Rob Woronoff, past NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck, and screenwriter and actor Hilliard Guess.

NASW was represented at the Voice Awards by past president Suzanne Dworak-Peck, a pioneer in getting more positive social work roles in television and film; Brendan Broms, membership coordinator for NASW in Los Angeles, and NASW senior public relations specialist Greg Wright.

NASW’s guests were Rob Woronoff, a former Child Welfare League of America staffer and screenwriter who is working on a social work series with actor Blair Underwood, and Hilliard Guess, an actor and screenwriter who is also contributing to Underwood’s project.

“NASW is proud to be a co-partner of this event,” Wright said. “It was also a thrill to see social workers get such public recognition for their efforts to help people with mental health issues and addictions and increase public empathy for them.”

For more information about how social workers help people with mental health and addictions issues, visit NASW’s Help Starts Here “Mind and Spirit” Web page by clicking here.

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