Patsy Thomas, president of Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County, will receive the Communicator of the Year Award from the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America at the fourth annual Worthy Awards dinner on Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Fort Worth Club. The Worthy Awards celebrate the region’s best in public relations and communications. Members of the critically acclaimed comedy group FOUR DAY WEEKEND will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the awards presentation.
A keystone of the Worthy Awards, the Communicator of the Year Award is presented to a leader outside the public relations profession who exemplifies open, effective communication. A committee selected Thomas as Communicator of the Year in large part due to her ability to communicate and create partnerships with public and private agencies, as well as individuals in need of behavioral health services and their family members.
The Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County was founded in response to a tragedy in Fort Worth. In 1999, a man entered Wedgwood Baptist Church on a Wednesday evening and began shooting. He killed seven and wounded several others before killing himself. Then Mayor Kenneth Barr asked a group of mental health agencies to develop and implement a plan that could address the mental health issues faced by the killer in an effort to keep anything similar from happening again. The group became Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County and in 2002, Patsy Thomas became its full-time paid president. Today, Thomas is still the only paid staff person of an unparalleled community collaboration that is considered one of the most successful organizations of its type in the country.
When many saw “evidence-based practices” as threats, Thomas created a series of symposia designed to bridge the gaps among research, policy and practice. Nearly 200 people attended each, and more than 150 volunteered to participate in Learning Communities responsible for identifying evidence-based practices that would work in Tarrant County. As a result, mental health agencies in Tarrant County are now staffed by more than 100 individuals who provide a number of evidence-based therapeutic practices that had not been available in Tarrant County before. Because of Thomas’ efforts, 54 providers from 13 local agencies are now trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Among the evidence-based practices now available in Tarrant County are several that address childhood trauma. Thomas led the communication effort that resulted in the mental health community focusing on this all-important area.
Due to Thomas’ communication and persuasion skills, approximately 900 individuals at 13 agencies are being trained to help teens become more resilient. She also spearheaded development of a public awareness campaign on recognizing trauma in children.
As one nominator said, “Because of Patsy and her ability to unite people, Tarrant County’s mental health system is one of the strongest in the country.” Her ability to collaborate with leaders throughout the community, the state and the country has resulted in more than $50 million in state and local grants designed to build a better mental health system in Tarrant County.
This year, several strong nominations for Communicator of the Year were received. The following nominees are eligible to be nominated again next year: Dr. Kent Brantley, for his heroic model as a crisis communicator when he became the first person with the Ebola virus to return to the United States; Wayne Carson, Ph.D., CEO of ACH Child & Family Services; Ellen and Tom Harris, founders of the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation to help prevent suicides; Marty Leonard, business owner, board member of the Tarrant Regional Water District and community volunteer; Gary Patterson, head coach of Texas Christian University’s nationally ranked football team; and Janet St. James, former medical reporter for WFAA-TV, who told her personal story of battling invasive breast cancer.
Previous Community of the Year award winners are former Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Walter Dansby (2014), Mayor Betsy Price (2013) and former Councilman Joel Burns, who received the inaugural award in 2013.
In addition to the Communicator of the Year Award, GFWPRSA plans to present more than 50 awards to area public relations and communications professionals for strategic communications programs and campaigns, including Best of Show. The evening begins with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m. and dinner at 7, followed by the awards presentation. Individual tickets are $75 for members, $85 for nonmembers and $50 for students. Tables of 10 are available for $650 at worthyawards.com.
The program is sponsored by the Fort Worth Business Press, PAVLOV, Crown Printed Products & Services and Glen E. Ellman Photography.