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May 7, 2024

Meet Our 2023 Mental Health Champions

Amye Trefethen

Amye Trefethen’s entire life has been impacted by mental illness. From her early experiences dealing with childhood trauma, to the onset of her symptoms, to eventually learning how to manage her own illness; Amye has experienced mental illness from all angles. Through her experiences, she has developed self-advocacy and education programming that is now being delivered state-wide and even at the national level. She has a unique ability to see a need, conceptualize an understanding of what it would take to meet that need, and figure out how to meet that need while operating within the boundaries of the organizational framework. Amye has incredible insights as a person living with a mental illness, a parent of a child with mental illness, and as a professional. Her experience and qualifications include 10 years’ experience working in mental health, during which, she has guided and aided so many Missourians. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Juris Doctorate. She is a NAMI Family Support Group Trainer and facilitator; NAMI Basics Teacher, NAMI Family-to-Family teacher, and NAMI Smarts Teacher. Amye’s sole motivation is to help those around her. She is smart, kind, and thoughtful, and she has without a doubt raised the consistency and the quality of the programming at NAMI.  As a person living with serious mental illness, she believes that inclusion means holding herself and those around her to high standards so that every person who needs help gets the best help possible. It’s part of her belief that we fight stigma every single day through all our actions and behaviors. Amye is a true advocate and champion.

Merna Leisure-Eppick

Merna Leisure-Eppick is in long term recovery from alcohol use disorder. Deep, personal loss in her life contributed to her dependence on alcohol. Over the last 30+ years, she has dedicated her life to serving others by working and volunteering in the treatment and recovery support sector. Merna started out driving a van in her early recovery, eventually becoming an executive director and then owner of sober living homes. Merna’s received numerous awards for her service to the field of recovery, and has spearheaded several organizational projects allowing hundreds of Missourians to have safe, accountable, affordable, accredited housing and recovery support services. Merna donates countless hours, mentors others in recovery, and leads the charge of implementing evidence-based approaches to her work with the community. Merna’s collaborative efforts are to be commended as she has brought service providers and community partners into the center increasing services and support and improving the knowledge and skills of the residents. Along with her husband, Merna has given time, money, knowledge and effort to ensure the success of the center as a community-based resource  and to increase the chances of residents finding and maintaining recovery. Merna has been a strong advocate for the recovery community, speaking to the local chamber, meeting with law enforcement and other community members to promote recovery and address the stigma associated with substance use. Merna’s goal is to see others find the peace and success she has found in her own recovery. Her efforts have significantly impacted the lives of those in the recovery community, and her impact on the reduction of stigma and the promotion of recovery in the Branson community is unmatched. Merna shows up every day sharing her knowledge and experience and encouraging individuals to play an active role in their own recovery while providing the tools and support necessary to help them walk that journey. Her dedication not only to the Simmering Center, but to the entire treatment and recovery community has helped to ensure access to model recovery housing and supports and impacted the lives of hundreds of people in the county and thousands across the state.


David Gould

David Gould is 38 years old and lives in his own apartment in Winghaven. David has several diagnoses and is functionally nonverbal, but continues to shine as a role model of how a person with a disability can live independently with supports. David has worked at the Marriot for over 14 years, and on his days off, he drives his golf cart to Subway each day for breakfast. Through the week, David receives support from DSP Matt, but he doesn’t always rely on Matt, as he is well known in the area and has people who naturally look out for him such as his neighbor who helps him tie his shoes while he carries in their groceries. David has built relationships and natural supports with all manner of people, and he is truly living his best life. One of David’s biggest attributes is that he is outgoing and has an expectation of inclusion. David participates in Special Olympics, has friends, works, drives his golf cart, and engages local officials advocating for inclusivity. David’s relationship with more than one state representative has changed their viewpoint on individuals living with developmental disabilities as he helped them understand he is a not a person to be pitied, but that he deserves to live his best life. Ultimately, David gained their respect and influenced their vote to increase supports in the legislature. David is constantly advocating to improve the lives of those living with developmental disabilities. David worked with his fellow People First St. Charles and the City council to change a recent law allowing him to drive his golf cart without a driver’s license. He helped the state understand the importance of technology devices, and now it is common practice for a person to receive an iPad with a built in communication app for those that are nonverbal. David’s goal is for everyone to have equitable access to their community to live, work, have a life partner, and pursue happiness. David’s advocacy efforts improved the lives of others by working to change the law related to the golf cart, working to get iPads paid for as a communication device, and for helping neurotypical individuals value a person regardless of ability. David is helping to erase stigma by engaging members of the public that aren’t familiar with developmental disabilities, and he does it all on his own.

Meet Our 2023 Lasting Legacy Honoree

John N. Constantino M.D.

John N. Constantino M.D. is the inaugural system Chief for Behavioral and Mental Health at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine.  Prior to moving to Atlanta in 2022, Dr. Constantino served as Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis, where he directed a research program in childhood social development that was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for 25 years.  He led the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital from 2009-2022 and served on the Missouri Mental Health Commission from 2003 to 2007.  In recent years he chaired a task force for defining best practice for individuals with combined developmental disability and behavioral impairment, under the auspices of the Missouri Alliance for Dual Diagnosis of the Missouri Department of Mental Health.  He is the founding director of one of the State’s Autism Centers of Excellence, founded the nationally-renown SYNCHRONY Project for young children in foster care in St. Louis County, and has received lifetime achievement awards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for both prevention and developmental disabilities research, based on his work in Missouri.  In his new role, Dr. Constantino has set his sights on a discovery agenda to model the impact of systematic implementation of decades of advances in clinical psychiatry, psychology, and the social sciences, to inform transformation of child mental health practice in the U.S. 

View a complete photo gallery from our 2023 event on our Facebook page.