Karen Easter of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Mark Munetz, MD, of Akron, Ohio, have been awarded the Treatment Advocacy Center’s 2012 Torrey Advocacy Commendation for their dedication to improving the lives of people with mental illness and treatment law reform. The Torrey Advocacy Commendation recognizes the courage and tenacity of individuals who selflessly advocate – despite criticism and opposition – for the right to treatment for people too severely disabled by mental illness to recognize their own need for care.
Easter became an activist after a loved one was arrested for behavior resulting from his untreated mental illness. At the time, she lived in one of the few states without an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law. She realized that had AOT been available to her relative, it might have prevented his encounter with the criminal justice system. Since Easter became an advocate, her efforts have resulted in a critical first step toward changing Tennessee’s laws. This year, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill creating a small two-year AOT pilot program in Knoxville, providing access to treatment for people living with untreated severe mental illness.
Dr. Munetz, a psychiatrist, has been inspiring stakeholders to come together on mental health issues for many years. He has implemented AOT with widespread support and great success, significantly decreasing hospital admissions in Summit County. Dr. Munetz initiated the Ohio Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence to promote jail diversion alternatives for people with mental illness, one of the many examples of his unwavering dedication to helping all those with severe mental illness, including the most ill and vulnerable. He is currently at the forefront of advocacy for Ohio Senate Bill 350, which encourages the use of AOT as an alternative to incarceration for people living with severe mental illness.
“Karen and Mark have tirelessly dedicated themselves for years to fighting for improvements in the lives of mentally ill persons in their home states of Tennessee and Ohio,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director. “They exemplify the qualities and achievements the Torrey Advocacy Commendation was established to recognize.”