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Program Specialist Mario Becerra wins award for Work Well Initiative

Tom Stubberud and Mario Becerra Work Well InitiativeOn Friday, June 9 at the Marriot Mission Valley, SDWP Program Specialist Mario Becerra and Tom Stubberud of Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) were recognized at the 31st Annual Behavioral Health Recognition Dinner for their work on the Work Well Initiative — a county-wide strategic plan on which SDWP had partnered with CSH — to increase employment for those with lived experience of mental illness.

The behavioral health community in San Diego County annually recognizes individuals who work to support clients and family members in their efforts to achieve recovery without stigma. The dinner is attended by over 650 people each year, including consumers and other stakeholders in San Diego County’s behavioral health community.

The Recognition Dinner achieves its mission through the following objectives:

  • Acknowledging clients for dedicated services
  • Recognizing volunteers for services
  • Honoring individuals and/or groups whose achievements and services have been above and beyond the scope of their duties
  • Communicating appreciation to community leaders for their vision, leadership, dedication and support

A total of 13 distinct awards are given to recognize these efforts following a nomination process. Nominations are solicited seeking individuals and programs who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to reduce the stigma and barriers facing consumers of mental health. A committee of consumers, family members, behavioral health professionals and community members use a standardized rating sheet to review each nomination in each category independently. The individuals serving as raters remain confidential as does their rating of the nominations. Awards are given to recognize the “best of the best” in behavioral health.

Becerra and Stubberud were nominated for and won the award for Vocational or Educational Support, which focuses on a staff or program (including peer and family educators, job coaches, etc.). The Work Well Committee brings together all behavioral health and community partners to focus on expanding employment and vocational outcomes for clients in the behavioral health system, initiating realistic conversations about mental health in the workplace and focusing on replacing fear of mental illness with facts.

Since Becerra joined SDWP last year, he has provided trainings and technical consulting for employment staff, as well as convene focus groups and the monthly Work Well Committee meetings. Becerra also coordinates employer socials, focus groups and trainings for people with mental health challenges who are interested in employment. Events that connect job seekers and employers allow these two groups the opportunity to learn more about each other’s needs.

“Thanks to Mario’s efforts, the work we are doing in reducing stigma and helping those with lived experience in behavioral health issues connect with employers has made an impact in our area,” said Becerra’s supervisor, Manager of Adult Programs Vicki Brannock.

Work Well efforts are directly increasing employment opportunities for people in the behavioral health system, with 510 more clients working as a result of Work Well Initiative, and 1,153 more clients now defining themselves as job seekers than two years ago.

“It is an honor to be recognized with this award,” said Becerra. “There is still a long way to go in tackling the issue of increasing employment for those with lived experience of mental illness, but every step we take has a real measurable impact for job seekers and employers.”