BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
“I’m tired of seeing people die, and I’m tired of speaking at funerals..” is what Matt Bell, 2017 Advocate of the Year Award recipient of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, told The Toledo Journal what helps motivate him to help others.
Along with seven other people, Mr. Bell, and his peers were recognized for their exceptional contributions in helping others find their paths to recovery, at the Boards fourth Annual Recognition Ceremony. The event was held Monday, May 1, at the Parks Inn, 101 N. Summit St.
Kristal Barham, community engagement and outreach manager for Mental Health and Recovery Service Board of Lucas County, told The Toledo Journal that, when the awards ceremony was conceived in 2013, they wanted a way to recognize those who worked to help others, who were challenged with mental health problems, or addiction.
“We wanted to recognize people who were doing positive things, and having an impact within the community,” she said.
The board sends out nomination forums to various agencies, and asks them to nominate someone who meets the board’s description of an award recipient. Once the nominations are received, a committee selects the most qualified to receive the award.
The ceremony continues to grow with each year, Mrs. Barham said. Over 260 people were present at the event, and the nominations have grown.
The youngest recipient was 15 year old Manuel Mathis, who received the Teen Leadership Award. His volunteerism at numerous organizations in Toledo, as well as his leadership skills when counseling those his age, allowed him to receive the award.
“I, somewhat, didn’t have a father in my life, and so I want to help others who are in similar circumstances get over their challenges,” he said.
Candace Garmon was awarded the Alcohol and Other Drug Professional of the Year award. In her tearful acceptance speech, she said how the many challenges of life such as drug addiction, and her mother dying from the disease, have motivated her to help others.
“I had to admit I was powerless against the addiction, and I had to admit I had the disease,” she said. Her advice to others fighting a battle against addiction is, “Believe in yourself, be open to receiving help, but above all, admit you have a problem,” Ms. Garmon said.
When Mr. Bell received his award, he candidly reveled to the audience that he never would’ve imagined he would be receiving such an honor, because only, 19 months prior, he was homeless, and had warrants for his arrest.
“Receiving this award is humbling,” he said. “It’s a reminder to continue to do what I’m doing; which I’m passionate about because I lived it,” Mr. Bell said.
Others being awarded were Lt. Hank Everitt of the Oregon Police for Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year, Dan Rogers for Consumer Involvement of the Year, Dustin Smith for Mental Health Professional of the Year, Larry Wanucha, Advocate Hall of Fame, and Dr. Donald Perryman, Diversity and Inclusion Award for Leadership; the newest award.