Governor: Celebrate Behavioral Health Aides Statewide
NSHC recognizes work of village-based counselors this BHA Celebration Month
Nome, Alaska – The tireless work of first responders to mental health in rural communities is being recognized this month.
Gov. Bill Walker signed a proclamation declaring November 2015 as Behavioral Health Aide Celebration Month. Valerie Davidson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, read the proclamation at the seventh-annual Behavioral Health Aide Forum at the beginning of the month.
Davidson gave the keynote address at the forum, speaking to the support behavioral health aides provide to their communities and to each other.
“Some days are really, really tough – and you know that more than anybody – but we’re going to make it because we’re all in this together,” Davidson said.
As part of the forum, which included hours of training for certification requirements, BHAs from across the state were honored for their outstanding service.
Emma Olanna, a recently retired NSHC village-based counselor from Brevig Mission, received the “In Appreciation” award. Olanna, who has a bachelor’s degree in social work, worked for six years and achieved a training level of Behavioral Health Aide-Practitioner. She was also a chemical dependency counselor and the co-chair of the Liitfik Cultural Committee, a group tasked with planning for a wellness and treatment center for the Norton Sound.
Teresa Perry, a NSHC village-based counselor who unexpectedly passed away this summer, was honored with the “In Memoriam” award. Perry’s family received the award, presented by fellow NSHC BHAs who said Perry was a mentor known for supporting and motivating her colleagues. Perry worked for NSHC for more than 18 years.
Gov. Walker’s proclamation noted the work behavioral health aides do as counselors, educators and advocates to help address substance abuse and mental health challenges. He encouraged Alaskans to celebrate BHAs, whose work promotes health and healing across the state.
“We are so pleased to see Governor Walker recognize the hard work of behavioral health aides,” said Lucy Apatiki, vice president of NSHC’s Community Health Services. “NSHC’s Village-Based Counselors work behind the scenes as the first responders of their communities’ behavioral health and truly are unsung heroes.”
Apatiki said NSHC’s village-based counselors demonstrate a commitment to community health with their longevity of service and integrity.