Brenda Carpenter, executive director of the Berkshire County chapter of NAMI, jokes at Wednesday's annual meeting that the organization is the 'little engine that could.'

NAMI Marks 34 Years, Presents Awards to Mental Health Advocates

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
02:37AM / Thursday, September 27, 2018

Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, left, and Sgt. Albert Zoito speak at the NAMI annual meeting. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The North Adams Police Department was recognized on Wednesday for the work it's been doing to understand and address people with mental illness. 
Brenda Carpenter, executive director of the Berkshire County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, awarded the department with the association's Silver Ribbon that is given to those whose work has shown a commitment to the care of individuals affected by mental illness.
She noted every officer has undergone Crisis Intervention Team training, a NAMI program designed to foster collaboration between law enforcement, mental health and medical services, and the mental health community. 
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said the training has given his officers another "tool in the toolbox" and he is fully behind the program.
"It is something that is invaluable. We see nationwide the struggles police officers are having. It is difficult to deal with people and we are dealing with them at their worst — at the worst part of their life, the worst part of their day, the worst part of their night," he said. "Clinicians and doctors can recognize the situation immediately, but we are just cops and we have to figure it out while keeping everyone safe."
Cozzaglio said officers use the training every day and that two weeks after the last training, they were able to successfully prevent a suicide.
Carpenter added that the department has received a grant that will fund a clinician on staff.
The police director said there is a cohesiveness between all the emergency services, mental health support systems, and the city administration that allows the city to be more proactive.
"Everyone works together very well ... there are no rifts and I think that is the secret to our success," he said.
The award was presented at NAMI's 34th annual meeting and award ceremony during a reception at the Holiday Inn and recognized important members within its own community and the larger community.
"A few years back I compared NAMI to the little engine that could well that little engine that could is still going strong," Carpenter said in welcoming NAMI partners and community members. "We continue to offer educational programs and support to the community as well as individuals with mental health diagnosis. ...
"We still have work to do but we are going strong."
After going through the annual report and touting the year's achievements and outlining future goals, Carpenter asked Mayor Thomas Bernard to say a few words.
"Programs like this that give someone the ability to say, 'I am not the only person' what you are doing is reinforcing that people are not alone," he said. "That is what helps to break the stigma. Individual experience may be different, individual family experiences may change but the truth is we are not alone in this struggle."
Bernard then signed on to the CEOs Against Stigma program.
"I want to reaffirm our commitment to inclusion, support, and respect for all residents," he said. "When we model these principles, we look to change attitudes, engage community and reduce mental health stigma."
A second Silver Ribbon was given to David Brien, program director of Berkshire Pathways, a Human Resources International program that offers support, training, education and recovery resources to people with mental illness.
Brien said he was honored to receive the same award his father had been presented posthumously and thanked his staff.
"I made them all come ... with administration stuff and advocacy I need someone to run the shop, so I want to thank my staff," he said.
Eunice Zorbo Awards given in honor of the late, longtime NAMI members were presented to Dr. Andrew Gerber of the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge and Linda Wooten of the Brien Center.
Gerber, who received the Member of the Year Award, said he immediately felt at home with Berkshire County NAMI.  
"I knew I was in the presence of people who care and truly have the best interest for those with mental illness in their heart," he said. "When you meet people who in their hearts really care about what they do and the family members and individuals with mental illness it makes it all worthwhile…being with you guys has made me feel part of something that makes me feel at home."
Wooten was given the Citizen of the Year award.
"Thank you I am very humbled by this award and I am very thankful for what I do," she said. "I love working with kids ... we are out there tirelessly working all of the time."


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