Dr. John Nash . . . with gratitude

“Dear Mr. Stoltz,

Thank you for your invitation. However, I’m not clear why I would come to your clubhouse when New Jersey has wonderful clubhouse programs here.


John Nash”

NashThis was Dr. Nash’s handwritten response to our invitation to him to speak at one of our Mental Illness Day conferences over 10 years ago. Many of you recall that, for 20 years, we invited people who were affected by mental illnesses to our annual Mental Illness Awareness Day conferences.

A call to Dr. Nash’s office at Princeton to clarify my invitation was, unfortunately, no more fruitful.  While his assistant said that she would put forward our request, his speaking schedule, she said, was filled.

We were fortunate to bring to Long Island notable people such as Patty Duke, Rod Steiger, Lionel Aldridge, Debra Norville, peer leaders like Judi Chamberlin, Dr. Dan Fisher, Mariellen Copeland, and writers Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison and Andrew Solomon. They spoke to crowds of upwards to 1,200 people. But our efforts to bring Dr. Nash — at the height of popularity of the bio-pic “A Beautiful Mind” — were never successful.

Our Mental Illness Awareness Day events successfully changed the regional dialogue about mental illness and mental health — understanding that emotional distress and trauma were not issues for a closeted few but for all of us.  We know today that there is no health care without inclusion of behavioral health.

The rare courage of Dr. Nash — akin to that of Magic Johnson, Farah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers, and Michael J. Fox — to allow his journey to be captured on film, has been a major force in moving mental health conversations into the mainstream.

Michael Stoltz has been at the agency’s leadership helm since 1990, first as Executive Director of the predecessor organization, Clubhouse of Suffolk, and since July 2014, the CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW). MHAW is the result of the merger of Clubhouse with Suffolk County United Veterans and the Mental Health Association in Suffolk County.                                                                                                                                             Under Michael’s stewardship, the agency has grown to one with an $10 million annual operating budget, 150 employees, servicing more than 3,000 people each year through its Ronkonkoma, Riverhead, and Yaphank facilities. A social worker by training, Michael received his MSW in 1982 from Adelphi University, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor teaching Social Welfare Policy and Human Service Management. He served as a Program Supervisor, developing and implementing the Suffolk County Intensive Case Management Program, as well as positions in management and direct service at several Long Island outpatient clinics.

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