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Each year, the Mental Health Association of Maryland honors individuals whose leadership has had a lasting and profound impact on Maryland’s behavioral health system and the people it serves. This year’s honorees include consumer champion Cynthia Petion, child advocate Michelle Zabel, and Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk.

Click on the kudo boards below to congratulate our awardees. Send kudos or share memories with our awardees using the boards linked below by clicking the "+ Add to Board" symbol on the top of each board. Don’t forget to sign your name (or add your name in the comments) so the awardee knows it’s from you!

Ms. Cynthia Petion | 2022 Distinguished Service Award

Ms. Cynthia Petion has been awarded the 2022 Distinguished Service Award for her life-long leadership in the consumer movement. Her guiding hand has played a central role in the development of an unparalleled statewide network of peer-run services which have empowered consumers and toppled barriers to recovery. She has ensured the inclusion of people with lived experience as partners in the guidance and improvement of Maryland’s behavioral health care system and her support for Maryland’s Consumer Quality Team (CQT) has ensured a level of peer-led quality oversight that guarantees the consumer experience is a driving factor in the development and delivery of public behavioral health services. Ms. Petion's legacy is steeped in dignity and respect for everyone's human rights and has resulted in a significant and lasting impact on the lives of Marylanders living with behavioral health disorders. 

Click here to say congratulations to Cynthia!

Ms. Michelle Zabel | 2022 Paula Hamburger Child Advocacy Award

Ms. Michelle Zabel has been awarded the 2022 Paula Hamburger Child Advocacy Award for her dedication and efforts to improve the lives of children and youth across the country living with mental health and substance use disorders. With over 30 years of work in child- and family-serving systems across the country, Ms. Zabel's career has been dedicated to improving access to quality home- and community-based care for young people with serious behavioral health needs. In her time at the University of Maryland she has transformed The Institute for Innovation and Implementation from a small technical assistance center of just two employees into a national powerhouse that supports state and local governments and organizations in implementing and sustaining effective systems and clinical practices that best meet the needs of children and youth involved in public systems. Her leadership ensures systems across the country are responsive to the unique needs of children and families from different communities, cultural backgrounds, and experiences. Ms. Zabel's advocacy and passion are undeniable, and it’s difficult to think of a stronger voice for children and families.

Click here to say congratulations to Michelle!

Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk | 2022 Legislator of the Year Award

Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk has been awarded the 2022 Legislator of the Year Award for her leadership in the 2021 session, which resulted in a range of new policies that remain critically important to our behavioral health community. Delegate Pena-Melnyk served as the lead sponsor on bills to establish a Commission on Health Equity, expand the collection of public health race and ethnicity data, and require implicit bias training for the renewal of health licensure. Additionally, her sponsorship of the Preserve Telehealth Access Act ensured continued access to care and her bill creating a Behavioral Health and Public Safety Center of Excellence continues to divert individuals with mental health and substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system. 

Click here to say congratulations Delegate Pena-Melnyk!