2020 Hamilton Awards Celebrates Mental Health Leaders

Highlights Nominees’ Focus on Community

Terre Haute, IN – Hamilton Center, Inc. hosted the annual Hamilton Awards Dinner Tuesday, October 27 at the Sycamore Banquet Center, on the campus of Indiana State University. The event highlighted fiscal year 2020 accomplishments and recognized those nominated for Hamilton Awards. The theme for the event was Community and featured Hamilton Center’s role in the community especially during COVID-19.

“This pandemic has caused Hamilton Center to re-engineer how services could be delivered safely and effectively,” said, Melvin L Burks, CEO of Hamilton Center, Inc. “I am proud of our staff for finding creative solutions, sticking to our proactive plan and ensuring consumers are supported.”

“I am also so humbled by the contribution of all of the Hamilton Award nominees.  Lives have been enhanced and our community has benefited greatly from their work,” he added. 

Katherine Hamilton, for whom the Center and awards are named, fought for the inclusion, acceptance and support of those struggling with mental illness in the early 1960’s. She emphasized the importance of community in her life’s work. In this spirit, Hamilton Awards were created to recognize individuals and organizations who have significantly contributed to the cause of mental health and addiction while furthering the mission of Hamilton Center, Inc. Nominees were recognized in the categories of Hamilton Center staff, Community, and Volunteer. Winners are as follows:

Hamilton Award, Staff

Mark Collins Nominated for his 16 years of service, steadfast leadership in uncertain times, and unwavering commitment to the safety of consumers and staff. Mr. Collins began his career as a case manager in 2004 and worked his way up in the corporation to his current position of Chief Clinical Officer, where he exemplifies dedication, integrity and servanthood in ensuring Hamilton Center meets all standards of care.

Hamilton Award, Community Service

Casey Brown & Family, Mask Makers of the Wabash Valley – Nominated for their public service during the COVID-19 pandemic by manufacturing of over 14,000 masks. In the face of adversity during the pandemic, they turned their energy toward doing something positive to help others.  They made much needed masks for first responders, medical personnel and mental health workers – including Hamilton Center employees, consumers and their families. Their efforts demonstrated what it means to be a part of a community. Their spirit and service to others is a beacon of hope in troubling times.

Hamilton Award, Outstanding Volunteer Service

DeAnna Griffin – Nominated for her involvement in the Wabash Valley Recovery Alliance and tireless service to those struggling with addiction, in recovery, and those currently involved in the legal system. Ms. Griffin spends a significant portion of her personal time providing transportation to those in need to attend important appointments such as doctor’s visits, DCS meetings, court dates, and even work. Described by her nominator as “simply the most giving and selfless woman I have had the pleasure of working with”, Ms. Griffin often works 15 hour days to further the message of recovery.

In addition to the Hamilton Awards, two individuals were recognized with Frank W. Jerse awards. This award, named in memory of Frank W. Jerse, is given to a community member who is a veteran or supported military families or who has significantly contributed to the community.  Dr. Jerse served during World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received a purple heart.  In addition, Dr. Jerse dedicated much of his career furthering post-secondary education at Indiana State University.  Lastly, he was a major contributor to the establishment of Hamilton Center.

This year, two individuals received Jerse Awards. The first recipient is Mr. Oscar Session, a 36-year educator who started his career as a teacher and ended it as an elementary school principal. After retiring from a fruitful career in education, he has been involved in various community organizations, including the Spruce Street A.M.E. Church, The Terre Haute Wabash Valley Foundation Board, United Child Care Board, Young Men’s Civic Club, and the local NAACP. A primary focus of his efforts has been in education and working to prepare youth for employment in the Terre Haute.

The second recipient of the Jerse award is Randy Steven, MD, who began working at Hamilton Center in 1972 as a Mental Health Technician and currently works as a physician on the clinical staff. He attended Indiana State University School of Medicine and has had a long career of leadership in the medical field in the area. Besides being active at Union Hospital and Hamilton Center in a medical capacity, he has been the volunteer medical director of St Ann’s Clinic and Hospice of the Wabash Valley.  He has always had a special interest in addiction medicine and has worked with local and State leaders to further the field. Lastly, he is a veteran who served in Vietnam. 

Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana. Services are provided to adolescents and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people with drug and alcohol problems. Counseling services are provided for people who may be struggling with stress, life changes, or relationship issues as well as more serious problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and serious mental illnesses.