2016 Mental Health Champions

CHANGED HEARTS LEAD TO CHANGED LIVES, and Changed Lives Lead to Changed Communities

Heather is a dynamic, engaging and enthusiastic individual with nine years of substance use recovery.  She works tirelessly to help other individuals discover the hope, healing and the transformational power of recovery.

After years of using substances, participating in treatment programs, and being incarcerated, she reignited her relationship with God, which sparked a change in her heart that would alter the course of her life forever.  After having success with a 12-step program, Heather realized she wanted others, who were in similar situations, to share in the joy of recovery, so her work began!  She became a House Manager for a women’s program in Branson, spending two years running the house and mentoring women.  She then returned to Jefferson City, her hometown, focusing on a vision to give back what she had graciously been given.  In 2014, she founded and opened The Healing House and New Beginnings, Inc., serving as the Executive Director and Case Manager.  This is the first and only female recovery house/program in Jefferson City – slogan: Changed Hearts Lead to Changed Lives, and Changed Lives Lead to Changed Communities!

In 2015, she received her Bachelor of Science in Human Services.  She has also obtained her MRSS-P Certification (Missouri Recovery Support Specialist-Peer Certification) from the Missouri Credentialing Board.  She speaks frequently to drug court participants, and also openly and enthusiastically shares her story with local churches, organizations and groups telling them recovery is possible – just look at me!  In addition, she serves as a member of the Department of Corrections – Reentry Group, Jefferson City Breakfast Rotary, and the Missouri Recovery Network.

Although Heather has many life accomplishments, what is most admirable and inspiring is her determination and courage regarding her own hardships.  She has an unfaltering determination to make a difference in her community and the lives of others.

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INSPIRES BY EXAMPLE those whose paths he crosses, regardless of disability

With a positive attitude and a will to contribution, Max Lewis doesn’t let disability hold him back.  A diving accident in 1986 resulted in quadriplegia he experiences, and while it limits his ability to care physically for himself, it hasn’t limited his life spirit or his commitment to making the world a better place.

Following his accident, hospitalization and rehabilitation, Max pursued and attained a Master’s Degree in Health & Wellness.  He went on to attend and graduate from the University of Missouri Law School, and is now an attorney.  Working not for money but for justice, today he works pro bono for people who could not otherwise afford representation. He also applies his legal analytical abilities to advocacy for people with disabilities at the legislative level, conveying to legislators the importance of full community inclusion and dignity in life and work for people with disabilities.  He has served as moderator in several public candidates’ forums on disability issues.

He also serves on the Board of the Columbia Housing Authority.  A public housing tenant himself, he serves as an unofficial liaison between other tenants and the Board, adding uncommon empathy to the mix in considering matters that impact the lives of tenants.  In addition, he serves on the Board of Boone County Family Resources, and actively contributes toward their effort to deliver services to people with developmental disabilities in a person-centered, family-friendly way.  He serves on the Board of Mid-Missouri Legal Services, committed to achieving full access to justice in civil matters for central Missourians who cannot afford it.  In addition, he serves on the Board of Mustard Seed, a fair trade retailer benefiting artisans in third world countries.  Several years ago, Max helped establish an adapted gymnastics class for children with disabilities at the University of Missouri.  He runs the class, and expresses gratification to be associated with an effort that builds their strength and self confidence, inspiring them to achieve.

With great humility, but also with undying passion, Max Lewis touches and improves the lives of others every day and inspires, by example, those whose paths he crosses, regardless of disability.

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A FORCE IN THE FIELD of Behavioral Health

Sarah’s passion, eloquence, knowledge, work ethic and contributions to Missouri’s behavioral health system continue to make an impact in her St. Louis community and statewide.

She has created a career path in which she uses her lived experience to help others along their own recovery journey, delivering the most important gift often only a peer can give to someone who feels lost and alone; the gift of hope.  She provides hope for recovery and hope for a wonderful and fulfilling life, despite a mental health diagnosis.

She currently serves as the Co-Director of DBSA/St. Louis Empowerment Center, where they offer peer support groups, peer specialist services, employment services, computer skills, socialization and access to community services.  She began working there in May 2002 as the Statistics Director and Grant Writer, becoming the Assistant Director in 2007, and the Co-Director in 2014. She has created employment opportunities, both paid and volunteer positions, to individuals also in recovery, linking them to benefits, housing, medical care, dental care, and training for job skills.

Sarah serves on the State Advisory Council for Psychiatric Services, where members advise and make recommendations on ways to improve the mental health system of care in Missouri.  She has been a Certified Missouri Peer Specialist since 2009, and gained a training position for the Certified Missouri Peer Specialist (CMPS) training team.  She has also been an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis since 2005.  She holds a BA from Hardin-Simmons University and a MFA from Western Illinois University.

Sarah is poised, passionate, and dedicated to Missouri lives affected by mental illness.  Her voice, commitment and contributions to the behavioral health system are commendable and extraordinary.   She will, no doubt, continue to be a force in the field, and in making a tremendous impact in her community and statewide.

See more of Sarah’s story