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 On April 23, Santa Clara County’s mental health department recognized five different individuals during their third annual heroes awards. “For me to be recognized is a tremendous honor. We’ve been providing mental health services in the community for 40 years now, but this is the first time that we’ve really received official recognition of the work that we do in the community,” said Patricia Chiapellone, executive director, Alum Rock Counseling Center. “It’s an honor and recognition of our work.”

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The Alum Rock Counseling Center (ARCC) received the agency hero award. Under the ten-year leadership of Executive Director Patricia Chiapellone, ARCC has grown from a staff of 18 to a staff of 99. More than half of the staff live in the community that is being served.  “I think that’s part of why we’re being recognized and why we do good work  because we are reflective of the community that we serve and the youth can identify with their counselors,” said Chiapellone.

ARCC serves over 4,000 clients each year through a Continuum of Care model providing 12 different programs in schools, homes and an Eastside clinic. Counseling, parenting and mentoring services assist children, youth and their families to address issues of truancy/school failure, anger management, juvenile delinquency, gang activity, drug/alcohol use, and family violence.

The other heroes included: Teresa Nava Consumer Hero 

At four years old, Teresa Nava was placed in a series of foster care homes due to her mother’s mental health issues and started running away by age eleven. She spent most of her youth living on the banks of the Guadalupe River, suffering from PTSD. Ms. Nava was also in and out of Juvenile Hall; that pattern continued as an adult with being in and out of jail 15 times between the ages of 18 and 24.

Despite these conditions, Ms. Nava responded to those reaching out to help her both from Juvenile Justice and Mental Health. She turned her life around, becoming a peer outreach worker and was quickly promoted to a Housing 1000 Encampment Case Manager with Home First. In addition to knowledge and enthusiasm, Teresa Nava has become a champion in reaching the homeless in our community.

Kathy Forward Family Member Hero

Kathy Forward has been one of the principal leaders at Santa Clara County NAMI for over 15 years, originally as a volunteer and now, as Executive Director. Ms. Forward has worked closely with numerous mental health organizations over the years, always with the goal of helping those organizations understand that family and peer support are critical elements for a person struggling with a mental illness.

Dr. David Hammons, MD Program Hero

For over 20 years, Dr. Hammons has volunteered his time in downtown San Jose, providing medical care to the homeless and others without regular access to medical care. After retirement, as a Gardner Health Services volunteer physician, Dr. Hammons has been providing care to homeless patients who were mentally ill and/or addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Angelique Gaeta Mover and Shaker

Sometimes Movers and Shakers are well known; sometimes they work quietly behind the scenes. Both can move mountains and impact entire communities.

Students from Lincoln High School, who had conducted a DADS’ sponsored community mapping project of marijuana dispensaries and a marijuana survey, approached Ms. Gaeta with their recommendations for re-zoning of the dispensaries. The issue is critical: high schools report a 279% increase in student suspensions for drugs since the dispensaries opened and began promoting themselves. She included their perspectives, along with perspectives of other community members, in the San Jose City Council packet addressing rezoning of the dispensaries. The City Council has directed the City Manager’s Office to return this May with several rezoning scenarios for consideration and action.

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