(LOUISVILLE, Ky - September 23, 2019) Sheila Schuster, PhD, was named the inaugural winner of the Gil Friedell Health Policy Award this morning, in recognition of 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. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky will give a $5,000 cash grant to Mental Health America of Kentucky in her honor.
The Gil Friedell Award is named for the first director of the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky who also founded what became the Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation. The Friedell Committee united with the Foundation in 2018.
Schuster leads the Advocacy Action Network, an umbrella organization vthat 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.
"Sheila is passionate about improving mental health, she is passionate about ensuring access to health care, and she is passionate about going about her work in a way that garners both respect and results," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
Schuster said she selected Mental Health America of Kentucky as the Friedell Award grant recipient because she has partnered with the organization for years in her advocacy work with the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition.
"This award is a tremendous honor," Schuster said. "I treasure it even more because it is named for Gil Friedell - a mentor, friend and role model. His legacy of health advocacy inspires me to do all I can to improve the lives of my fellow Kentuckians."
"Sheila is most deserving of this honor," said J.D. Miller, who chaired the former Friedell Committee. "She has worked tirelessly for the health and well-being of Kentuckians with a special focus on behavioral health and was a charter member of the Board of the Friedell Committee."
The Friedell Award winner is selected from each year's Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions, Kentucky individuals or organizations recognized by the Foundation for their engagement in improving the health of people in their communities and/or the entire Commonwealth through policy change. The Foundation awards a $5,000 cash grant to a nonprofit organization of the Friedell Award winner's choice that is working to improve health policy in Kentucky. The Foundation accepts nominations for Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions at any time. The nomination form is on the Foundation's website here.
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.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth