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2011 CMHA National Award Winners

In 2011, three awards were presented as part of CMHA’s national awards program.  The Consumer Involvement, C.M. Hincks, and the Edward J. Pennington Innovation Award(s) were presented at CMHA’s nationwide conference in Kelowna, B.C.

The Consumer Involvement Award honours a consumer/person with lived experience who best exemplifies self-determination and a strong sense of advocacy, and who has made an outstanding contribution to the involvement of consumers/persons with lived experience within CMHA and in society in general. The award honours past, present and future consumer leaders and recognizes the CMHA values:  to embrace the voice and promote the inclusion of people with mental health issues.

Eimert Koops, from Kelowna British Columbia is this year’s recipient. Eimert works with peers in a program called One to One. Eimert, developed a wellness program for the group based on the book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”, and contributed his perspective for a video done by CMHA “Inspiration Through Empathy: Peer Support.”

Eimert’s dedication to his peers is evident as a participant at the Wellness Development Centre at CMHA.  The Wellness Development Centre (WDC) program provides wellness and community for adults experiencing mental health concerns. WDC programs offer opportunities |for fitness, nutrition, recreation, skill-building and socialization, both at CMHA and in the community. Eimert informally mentors others and develops friendships that extend beyond the program.

Eimert’s passion is connecting with others on the psychiatric unit at the hospital during information sessions about CMHA and he enjoys leading the weekly activity sessions. He has also been a guest speaker at Okanagan College during the Peer Mentor training to talk about mental health from his personal perspective. Eimert models hope, personal responsibility, self-advocacy and the importance of education and support systems. Eimert’s positive attitude, kindness and compassion shines through in all he does.

The C.M. Hincks Award, honours the spirit and social commitment of the founder of CMHA, Clarence Meredith Hincks. It is presented to an organization or individual that works – in the same sprit as Mr. Hincks – to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

This year, the recipient is Cliff Cross, Interior Health Authority, in BC. Cliff has worked in the mental health field for over 30 years, and during that time he has worked with CMHA every step of the way.  Cliff started off as a front line worker and is now the Program Director, Mental Health and Substance Use services for the Interior Health Authority. He believes and supports the core values of CMHA and always practices the Framework for Support model. Cliff truly values the involvement and the engagement of people with lived experience.

Cliff has led to the creation of CMHA several branches and has supported their growth to healthy and vibrant branches that are leaders in their communities.

One of Cliff’s most recent projects is to reorganize the Crisis Lines for the Interior of BC. Instead of implementing change without consultation, he embarked on a yearlong process of working with current service providers to partner and collaborate.

Cliff has an open door policy; he welcomes and values feedback from families and individuals that access service.

The Edward J. Pennington Award honours Edward J. Pennington, a General Director of CMHA National Office, for his 15 years of service and to celebrate innovative mental health programs st the local, regional, provincial or national levels of the CMHA. This award recognizes innovation within the CMHA, which demonstrates significant community development, mental health promotion or other programs that exemplify team leadership and innovation in the mental health field.

CMHA Kelowna (CMHA-K) Branch is the recipient for this award because of their innovative and leadership, which has shaped significant community development around mental health through a foundation of community well-being. The CMHA-K has emerged through 6 years of development after building from the inside out to become a leader in community development in Kelowna. This is evidenced through the recent 2010 Central Okanagan Foundation Volunteer Organization of the Year award and specifically the Willowbridge Transitional Housing Project (Willowbridge) which was recognized by four 2010 Tommie HomeBuilders Awards.

In the past year, CMHA-K has almost doubled its workforce to 35. Following CMHA’s mission and the vision of mentally healthy people in a mentally healthy society, CMHA-K adopted a lens of wellness and mental health on all programs. Efforts included the Wellness Development Centre, peer support, the Artworks Studio, Bounce Back, Mental Health First Aid and homeless outreach including community navigation, eviction prevention and housing support.

The shining star of innovation this past year was Willowbridge as the first to open of 32 sites around the province developed under Memorandums of Understanding between the provincial government and eight municipalities. The tenants – all formerly homeless people – began moving into the 40 studio apartments in August 2010. The City of Kelowna provided the land, while the Province provided capital funding as well as annual operating funding. The stability of CMHA-K as a pillar in Kelowna and the integration of learning from the Willow Inn Project set the stage for the first of this innovative model in British Columbia. As demonstrated by its early success Willowbridge has become a welcome addition to CMHA-K’s vast range of programs and outreach.

We would like to congratulate all award recipients along with all of this year’s award nominees.