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JEFFERSON CITY, MO., JULY 21, 2008, — The Missouri Mental Health Foundation and the Department of Mental Health are seeking nominations for the 2009 Mental Health Champions Awards. These awards recognize Missourians who have overcome the personal challenges of mental illnesses, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities to make a difference in their communities.

Three persons will be selected as Mental Health Champions – an individual with a diagnosed mental illness, an individual with a developmental disability, and an individual in recovery from a substance or gambling addiction. These individuals will be persons who have succeeded in making life better for others and for their communities.

“They are persons who inspire others,” said Keith Schafer, director of the Department of Mental Health. “They serve as an example to us all that our disabilities, whatever they are, do not define us. I have long been very interested in finding a special way to recognize the people that we serve for the many contributions they make that serve the community at large. We often think of people with these disabilities as non-contributors and that simply isn’t true. If we are to break down the stigma that affects the people we serve, I believe we have to bring their many contributions to the forefront. This is an opportunity to do so.”

The department will accept nominations for the Mental Health Champions awards until October 30, 2008. The winners will be honored at a Champions Banquet April 15, 2009, in Jefferson City. This is the second year for the Mental Health Champion recognition.

Anyone may nominate someone as a Mental Health Champion. Information and nomination forms are available at or by calling the Department of Mental Health, Office of Public Affairs, at 573-751-4423. Video tributes to the 2008 Champions also can be viewed at the site.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health serves approximately 170,000 Missourians each year, providing treatment services for persons with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse problems and promoting prevention initiatives. The department employs about 8,700 staff, operates 28 facilities, and contracts with thousands of local providers to serve citizens throughout the state.