Friend of MHA Award for The Sophie Fund

The Sophie Fund has received the 2023 Friend of the Mental Health Association Award from the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS). The honor was presented to Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, at the organization’s Annual Awards Dinner in Albany on October 23.

Josephine Gibson, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County (MHATC), nominated The Sophie Fund for the award for its “unwavering commitment to our community’s mental health and supporting the mission of the Mental Health Association.”

She described The Sophie Fund as an “ally” and “fast friend” which “has made a major impact on our reach and ability to provide quality mental health education and support services to community members.”

Gibson said that The Sophie Fund enabled her organization to host book talks with authors who write about mental health, provide free Mental Health First Aid trainings to workers in the hospitality industry and staff and students at Tompkins Cortland Community College, hire a paid intern to engage in advocacy work at Cornell University, and educate the community at large.

Just recently, she added, The Sophie Fund collaborated with the Mental Health Association to organize a youth art show to culminate National Bullying Prevention Month.

Gibson also cited The Sophie Fund’s leadership in various community initiatives, such as the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force. She said The Sophie Fund worked with her organization to help ensure that the voices of its peer specialists were included in such initiatives.

The Sophie Fund was established as a community advocacy organization by MacLeod and his wife Susan Hack in memory of their daughter Sophie, a Cornell University student who died by suicide in Ithaca in 2016. The organization supports mental health initiatives aiding young people in the Ithaca area.

Accepting the award, MacLeod said that The Sophie Fund was humbled by the recognition but focused credit on service organizations like the Mental Health Association for providing face to face, day to day support to those in need.

Scott MacLeod, speaking at the MHANYS Annual Awards Dinner

“We thank Josephine Gibson and her incredibly devoted and experienced team at the Mental Health Association for nominating The Sophie Fund ,” MacLeod said. “We thank them for the essential work they do to support mental health in our community. We feel extremely privileged and honored for the opportunity to work together in this mission.”

The MHANYS awards dinner was hosted by Executive Director Glenn Liebman and attended by more than 100 people, including New York State Mental Health Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan and Patricia Fahy, chair of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education.

Ann Marie Sullivan and Glenn Liebman

Patricia Fahy, speaking at the MHANYS Annual Awards Dinner

MHANYS, an affiliate of Mental Health America, was incorporated in 1960 and has 26 affiliates in 50 counties throughout New York State. Its mission is to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities by raising mental health awareness, ending stigma and discrimination, and promoting wellness and recovery.

Note from MHANYS about the bell that adorns its awards:

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained persons with mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. Clifford Beers, the founder of the Mental Health Association movement, experienced and witnessed many of these and other abuses. After his own recovery, he became a leading figure in the movement to reform the treatment of, and attitudes toward, mental illness. With better understanding and treatments, cruel practices eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, in the lobby of the national headquarters in New York City, the Mental Health Association collected discarded chains and shackles from asylums across the country. All of these restraints were then shipped to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore where they were dropped into a crucible and cast into a 300 pound bell with the inscription “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

Photo credits: MHANYS

Joining New York State’s Suicide Prevention Council

The Sophie Fund is honored to become a new member in 2023 of the New York State Suicide Prevention Council.

Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, and Jay Carruthers, director of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York

The council was established in 2016 to assist the New York State Office of Mental Health “to raise awareness, reduce suicide attempts and deaths, and promote wellness among New Yorkers.” The council formed four work groups to address specific areas, including the Zero Suicide Model in health and behavioral health care, communities and coalitions, school and youth initiatives, and data and surveillance. The Sophie Fund serves on the Zero Suicide work group.

Council membership includes experts (researchers, clinicians, and state and community agencies), individuals and family members with lived experience (attempt and loss survivors), and advocacy groups and organizations.

The recent fall meeting, in Albany on November 9, featured report-outs from the work groups. Jay Carruthers, director of OMH’s Suicide Prevention Center, announced the award of a major new federal grant to the center for advancing the Zero Suicide Model across New York State. The $3.5 million grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), runs through 2028. Zero Suicide is a set of strategies and tools for suicide prevention in healthcare and behavioral health systems.

New York State Suicide Prevention Council meeting November 9, 2023

The SAMHSA grant will support the Zero Suicide framework to improve suicide care and behavioral health services generally in Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC). Currently there are 13 CCBHCs in New York State, and 26 additional clinics will open by 2025.

The vision of the grant is to reduce suicide attempts and deaths among adults ages 18 and older and establish CCBHCs as the “backbone” of New York’s Zero Suicide infrastructure using a “center of excellence” model.

Carruthers also announced a $2 million, 5-year SAMHSA grant to address the “youth mental health crisis.” The goal is to expand access to mental health services for youth aged 10-21 years by increasing the number of pediatric/family practices offering the Collaborative Care Model (CoCM).

The model integrates behavioral health professionals into general medical practices to improve patient outcomes and reduce stigma related to mental health. It also increases the confidence and competence of physical health providers in treating mental health disorders.

The grant will support CoCM implementation in high needs practices that would otherwise lack resources, and provide CoCM to complex youth patients with co-existing chronic disease, trauma history, suicidal ideation or substance use disorders.