FBHA awards celebrate behavioral health heroes

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The honorees were celebrated earlier this month.

The Florida Behavioral Health Association honored six behavioral health professionals with a series of prestigious achievement awards earlier this month.

FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter said that after a difficult year-and-a-half, the half-dozen honorees deserved to be recognized and celebrated.

“Our Awards of Excellence recipients have been at the forefront of this pandemic,” Brown-Woofter said. “Each and every day these heroes have set their own personal lives aside to assist those who were and continue to struggle with mental health and substance use disorders during the pandemic.”

FBHA’s annual Awards of Excellence honor Florida’s best behavioral health professionals. This year’s winners:

— Supervisor/Administrator of the Year Award: Larry McFarland, LMHC and clinical officer at Bridgeway Center.

— Peer/Recovery Support Specialist of the Year Award: Joseph “Joe” Wiesen, senior recovery support specialist at DACCO Behavioral Health.

— Clinician of the Year Award (Youth): Wanda Stuart, prevention specialist at Operation PAR.

— Clinician of the Year Award (Adults): Cinthia Creteur, care coordinator at Peace River Center.

— Medical Professional of the Year Award: Kelly Jenkins-Gregory, RN, BSN, the director of nursing at SMA Healthcare.

— Distinguished Service Award: Dr. Evalina Bestman.

Read more about our award winners below.

FBHA said McFarland of Bridgeway Center in the Fort Walton Beach area received the Supervisor/Administrator of the Year Award for going above and beyond during the pandemic. He ensured the safety and security of both staff and clients of the Forensic Pre-Trial Program. Thanks to his work, the program was able to continue to accept referrals throughout the pandemic. As a member of Bridgeway Center’s Executive Leadership Team, FBHA said McFarland quickly discerns individual needs and moves efficiently to provide key information, recommendations, or direction to his managers and staff. FBHA said McFarland is a servant leader and has made many sacrifices to ensure his clients received care and assistance.

“For over 35 years, he has been a staunch advocate for the mentally ill and those suffering with substance use disorders,” Bridgeway Center CEO Bonnie Barlow said of McFarland. “Bridgeway Center, Inc. could not be more proud that he has been recognized for this prestigious award that is so very much deserved.”

McFarland said, “For many years I have attended the annual FBHA conference and witnessed the awards given to so many of my peers. I never thought that one day I, too, would receive an award recognizing my service. I am extremely humbled and appreciative of this recognition and thank all of those that have supported my receipt of this award.”

Wiesen of DACCO Behavioral Health in the Tampa area, received his award for contributions to health and wellbeing by using his hardships and subsequent long-term recovery to assist others in a way that only someone with lived experience can, said DACCO Behavioral Health.

DACCO Behavioral Health CEO Deanna Obregon said, “Joe Wiesen is an integral part of our team, and has made a tremendous impact on DACCO and the community. Joe continues to provide a unique perspective to the delivery of services to our patients. We are incredibly proud that he has been recognized for such an esteemed award from FBHA.”

Wiesen said he is so honored to have been recognized for such a prestigious award from the Florida Behavioral Health Association.

“I take great pride in my work, making an impact in the community’s overall wellness,” he said.

Stuart, of Pinellas County’s Operation PAR, has spent over 25 years teaching, educating and engaging youth about making positive choices.

“Operation PAR is proud and grateful that Wanda Stuart is recognized by the Florida Behavioral Health Association as the Clinician of the Year (Youth),” Operation PAR CEO Dianne Clarke said. “We are proud because we are able to share the amazing work Wanda has done with the youth in our community and we are grateful to Wanda for choosing Operation PAR to share her talents with those youth.”

Creuter stepped up and navigated her patients through the trials and tribulations they were facing during the pandemic, Lakeland’s Peace River Center said.

“Peace River Center is fortunate to have staff who are passionate and committed to our mission,” Peace River Center president and CEO Bill Gardom said. “Cinthia exemplifies this commitment and passion for her work, and we are so proud of the way she walks alongside clients daily. Her nomination for the FBHA’s Excellence Award was an excellent avenue for her to be recognized within our organization and among her peers.”

Jenkins-Gregory of SMA Healthcare, located in the Daytona area, has served her community in a number of roles, but now leads her organization’s Nursing Team as the director of nursing. Whether she is working directly with patients on the floor, or functioning in an administrative role, every decision she makes puts the health and safety of clients first. Her kindness and compassion are second to none, SMA Healthcare said.

“Kelly is deeply dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our clients, and she ensures our provision of exceptional health care services,” SMA Healthcare CEO Ivan Cosimi said. “She is a selfless leader who always puts her clients and her team before herself. She is a true asset to our community and role model for our entire SMA Healthcare team.”

Bestman’s award was a special recognition.

“Dr. Bestman is someone who has truly embodied what is means to be a servant leader throughout her entire career,” Brown-Woofter said. “Not only was she the CEO of New Horizons Community Mental Health Center in Miami for 45 years, but she was the first Black mental health professional to be appointed as the Executive Director of a Community Mental Health Center in the state of Florida.”

Bestman said she is incredibly honored to receive this recognition from the organization that helped support her community mental health center for years.

“I am humbled and shall be grateful to receive this outstanding award,” she said. “To have earned to respect and recognition from professional colleagues is awesome.”

More information on FBHA’s 2021 Awards of Excellence is available online.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.



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