It affects everyone. Persons with mental health issues are your neighbors, professionals and
Cynthia Blesi (pronounced Blee See) is the current treasurer of the Mental Wellness Campaign, and a proud Disabled American Veteran. She joined the Board in 2007 because of her passion for greater understanding of mental illness. She also brings a unique perspective to the Board, as she was committed by Anoka County to the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center (AMRTC) for six months in 1998. She sees serving on the Campaign as a great way to give back to society.
Gini Dollansky (Campaign Secretary) worked for Anoka County Social Services and Mental Health Department for 28 years, retiring in September, 2011. As principal administrative secretary for the department, she was a county liaison and has been with MWCAC since its inception. She has a family member who has suffered from depression; even though she was familiar with available resources, she found it very difficult to maneuver within the system to access the needed services. Her family member was also very worried about the stigma associated with having a mental health issue. She wants to be part of the Campaign to help educate people about mental wellness and to erase the stigma associated with mental illness.
Tammy Ferguson (Ex-Officio member)
Tammy Ferguson works as the Human Resource Manager at Connexus Energy. Her full-time work exposes her to mental health issues in the workplace. Her desire is to help increase awareness that untreated mental illness negatively affects the productivity of workers, and billions of dollars are lost by companies each year. A key to addressing mental illness issues is in education.
Christine Harnack is the Director of the Mental Health Clinics for Volunteers of America of Minnesota and has over 30 years experience developing and supervising mental health programs for children and their families across the continuum of care; outpatient, in-home, group home, residential treatment, and chemical dependency settings. Christine is a licensed psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist who is dedicated to making quality and innovative mental health services available, accessible and culturally sensitive for children and their families.
Mary Heinisch (Ex-Officio Member)
Mary Heinisch is a retired organization effectiveness consultant. She has seen the stigma of mental illness adversely affect members of her extended family and friends. The mission of the Campaign fits Mary’s passion to eliminate the stigma connected with mental health issues.
Dr. Nita Kumar serves as the Mental Health Consultant for the Anoka-Hennepin School District where she is accountable for mental health planning and programming for the nearly 40,000 student population. She holds dual clinical licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and has earned a doctorate degree in clinical counseling. She has worked in the mental health field for 15 years in various settings including managed care, special education, community mental health, and private practice. Nita’s professional interests are improving access to mental health treatment, increasing public awareness of factors that impact mental wellbeing, and integrating health and mental health issues.
MaryAnn Larios has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years in a variety of educational settings: Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, Rio Salado College in Phoenix, Arizona and currently works as a counselor at the Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a college counselor and enjoys working with students of all ages. The vast majority of students she sees are impacted by mental wellness concerns personally, or with a loved one.
Donna McDonald is a Licensed Social Worker and has over 20 years experience in children and family mental health, and is a private mental health provider. For the last nine years, she has held the position of Violence Prevention Coordinator for Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services. In this capacity, she works with community groups as well as action teams who are members of the Alliance for a Violence-Free Anoka County. She also has developed and given workshops on topics related to bullying, media and family violence and its effects on children.
As a member of the NAMI Anoka (National Alliance on Mental Illness) steering committee, Leanne would like to help coordinate their activities with the MWCAC. She is a consumer, family member and trained facilitator for a NAMI Connection support group in Coon Rapids. Educating the community about brain disorders/mental illness, reducing the stigma and providing support to people living with a brain disorder are her priorities.
Jerry Pederson, Manager of Anoka County Mental Health/Chemical Health Services, is the vice-chair of the campaign and has been a part of the Community Social Services and Mental Health Department since 1992. Jerry joined the Mental Wellness Campaign Board in 2012 as a representative from Anoka County because the campaign’s mission is so important for individuals with mental illness and it supports the mission of the Anoka County Human Services Division as well.
Ron Peterson has been a resident of Anoka County for 30 years. As a consumer and concerned family member of both mental health and chemical health issues, he is the father of five and grandfather of six. He lost his sister to mental health issues, and wishes to promote the awareness of mental wellness in the county. A veteran, Ron is particularly interested in men’s issues. He is thrilled to be a part of the Campaign.
Barry Scanlan is our newest member of the campaign. He works at the Anoka-Hennepin School District as their district prevention coordiator, working to instill in students and staff the importance of mental and chemical wellness and safety from bulling. He also oversees the district's trauma response team. Barry says, "As a member of the mental wellness campaign, I feel this will strengthen my contribution to the safety and mental wellness of the students, families and communities of Anoka County and Anoka-Hennepin schools."
Duane Schaefer is the chair of the campaign after joining the MWCAC in 2012. He is a licensed alcohol & drug counselor as well as a certified co-occurring disorder professional. Duane currently is the Substance Abuse program manager at Unity Hospital. He has a passion to remove the barrier that stigma creates for those seeking help in the community.
DID YOU KNOW?
50% of all sick days are for mental health reasons