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Social work professor honored for programs supporting children's mental health

The Pilot-Independent - 10/26/2017

BEMIDJI - Brenda Mack, an assistant professor of social work at Bemidji State University, is one of three recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Service Award from the Minnesota Association for Children's Mental Health.

The association's awards recognize achievement or leadership in the field of children's mental health. The Outstanding Service Award is given annually to a person who demonstrates compassion, dedication and commitment to improving quality of life for children with or at risk of having a mental health disorder; who provides lasting contribution to children with mental health needs or to the field of children's mental health; who is engaged in advocacy activities related to children's mental health; and/or develops or implements innovative, successful methods of care.

"Brenda Mack has been a pioneer for children and families in the Northwest region of the state," the association said. "Brenda excels at integrating theory and practice, bringing together children and service providers in mutual dialogue to deliver shared strategies that result in long-lasting change."

The association noted her work as director of the Northwestern Mental Health Center in Crookston, where she led an effort to create a school-based mental health program that serves 21 school districts, including a Native American reservation. The program provided free therapy, assessment and skills development activities for uninsured or underinsured families with limited access to transportation.

Mack said the program helped reduce the barriers between the children who needed support and service providers.

"Parents don't have to take time off work to try and get their child to a mental health facility, which may be a four-hour round trip away," she said. "Providers are co-located in the schools, so they build relationships with teachers and administrators and students. The apprehension about seeing someone and talking about your issues is diminished somewhat because you're seeing these people in your school every day."

While Mack is honored to receive the award, she is quick to recognize that the programs she helped manage in Crookston were only successful because of the support she received from many other people.

"I feel like I'm receiving this award on behalf of so many other people who have helped to make these services exceptional," she said. "It took so many people collaborating to bring the resources into northwestern Minnesota for children who have mental health issues and their families. One of the reasons we were so successful in writing grants and receiving funding is because of those partnerships and those collaborations."

Mack is in her first year on the BSU faculty. Her courses include Introduction to Social Welfare, Intercultural Communications, Family Dynamics and Interventions and Generalist Practice 1.

Mack will be honored with two other recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Service Award during the Minnesota Association for Children's Mental Health annual awards gala Nov. 10 in Brooklyn Park.

 
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