Mental Health America (MHA), which was formerly known as the National Mental Health Association, has a long, proud history of advocating for the needs of people with mental illness and their families.
Now an experienced nonprofit leader and former state legislator and mayor, Paul Gionfriddo, will take over the reins of the organization, which has 240 affiliates across the United States.
Paul Gionfriddo says, “We still live in a world where fear of mental illness too often trumps common sense.”
“We are delighted to have Paul assume leadership of Mental Health America,” said MHA Board Chair Ann Boughtin in a prepared statement. “A long-time advocate in the mental health field and an experienced nonprofit executive, he is an ideal choice to carry forward the organization’s historic and leading role in advancing the health and well-being of Americans.”
Gionfriddo has held key leadership positions in the public and private health arenas during a career spanning more than three decades. In addition to leading nonprofit organizations in three states, he ran his own consulting business, specializing in primary care, mental health, public health, and children’s health. From 1978 through 1991, he served as a full-time elected official, with 11 years in the Connecticut state legislature and two years as mayor of Middletown, Conn. Last year, he was appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to a four-year term on the 12-member National Advisory Council to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Mental Health Services.
“My most important priority at Mental Health America will be to continue to work with those who believe that mental health is as much a birthright as is health in general,” Gionfriddo said in an interview with Psychiatric News. “We still live in a world where fear of mental illness too often trumps common sense, leading to neglect instead of prevention and early intervention, and incarceration instead of treatment. In the coming months, Mental Health America will continue the work that its founder, Clifford Beers, began over a hundred years ago to promote prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated health and behavioral health treatment for those who need it, and recovery whenever possible.”
Beers, a psychiatric patient, established the National Mental Health Association in 1909 to urge reforms in psychiatric institutions and fight widespread discrimination against people with mental illness (Psychiatric News, September 21, 2001). ■