(LOUISVILLE, Ky - September 10, 2019) Psychologist and mental health advocate Sheila A. Schuster, Ph.D., was named a Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky today for her more
than four decades of leadership to improve services for persons living with mental illness or other disabilities and to increase access to health care across Kentucky.
 
One of Schuster's most recent "wins" was "Tim's Law," which allows Kentucky judges to order outpatient treatment for persons with several mental illness.

The bill, which passed in 2017, is intended to help break the cycles of homelessness, incarceration and involuntary hospitalization. Other policy victories that Schuster has helped lead include bills or other work that provides insurance parity for mental illness and addiction, treatment for autism, increases in mental health professionals in schools, and elimination of barriers to health care access, particularly for persons with disabilities or those living on very low incomes.
 
Schuster leads the Advocacy Action Network, an umbrella organization that includes groups addressing health care, mental health, social justice and disability issues. She also chairs Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition to improve Kentucky's health, and leads the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition, which comprises more than 80 organizations. She chairs the Behavioral Health Technical Advisory Committee to Kentucky's Medicaid program. She has held numerous leadership positions, including president and executive director, with the Kentucky Psychological Association. She is also a former member of the Foundation's Board of Directors and is currently a member of its Community Advisory Council.

"Sheila was absolutely integral to the creation of the Foundation in the late 1990s," said Ben Chandler, now president and CEO of the Foundation. When Chandler was Kentucky's Attorney General, he and Schuster were among a small group of individuals who worked on a lawsuit that ended in the settlement which, in turn, created the endowment that funds the Foundation's work.

"Her vast network of connections in the health care sector, as well as in the health policy arena, make her insights invaluable to professional and advocacy organizations," said Kathryn Mershon, who nominated Schuster for the award. Schuster's connections and insights help these groups "determine which issues to address, where the landmines are buried, to not only achieve policy consistent with their missions, but also to prevent mistakes in decision making that could compromise credibility and long term success," Mershon said.

Mental Health America of Kentucky Executive Director Marcie Timmerman said that Schuster's leadership of the 874K Disability Coalition "has led to a new and consistent respect for individuals who have disabilities (physical or mental) in Kentucky. Efforts of this coalition have resulted in the creation of the Engage and Empower Caucus in the Kentucky House - a truly bipartisan caucus focused solely on issues faced by individuals with disabilities."

Timmerman added: "It is not an understatement to say Dr. Schuster has been involved in every piece of good mental health legislation enacted in the past few decades."
 
Schuster is now eligible for the Gil Friedell Health Policy Champion award, which comes with a $5,000 grant from the Foundation to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner's choice. The winner of that award will be announced on Sept. 23 at the Foundation's Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum in Lexington. Nominations for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Award are accepted at any time. See details on the Foundation's website.

About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $27 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.
 
Media Contacts:
Bonnie J. Hackbarth
bhackbarth@healthy-ky.org 
877-326-2583 (Office)
502-552-3770 (Mobile)
Alexa Kerley
akerley@healthy-ky.org 
877-326-2583 (Office)
859-229-9611 (Mobile)