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Mercy Honors

Mercy Honors is a celebration that combines Mercy Care's signature recognition events — the community RISE Awards and the employee ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award. Nominees and honorees are people who lead the way to promote health and wellness in our Arizona community.  

A recognition event

A recognition event

At our annual event, we honor our community of members, advocates, providers and employees. We recognize your outstanding contributions and commitment in many areas. And for all the unsung health heroes who may not receive formal recognition — we see you. From our hearts to yours, thank you for all you do.


RISE Awards

People in our community are working to make the lives of others better. RISE stands for Resilience, Innovation, Service and Empowerment. The RISE Awards honor those who live these values every day.


This honoree uses innovation to improve how members get care. They create new programs or change the delivery of services to affect the community in positive ways.


This honoree inspires change in the community with their compassion, enthusiasm and dedication. They spread a message of hope. And they understand our focus on whole health. They make sure that people who make key decisions about health care hear member stories.​

Advocacy and collaboration​

This honoree advocates for change in health care. They give a voice to people who can’t always speak up. They work to raise awareness about key health topics. And they partner with others to create positive change in the community.

RISE Lifetime Achievement Award

This honoree has made outstanding contributions that affect community health and wellness. They’ve shown a steadfast commitment to helping people live healthier lives and achieve their full potential.

ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award

ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award

This honoree is an employee committed to excellence. They’ve made outstanding contributions to our members. Kate Aurelius was a former Mercy Care employee and deputy director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). Kate inspired this award and set an example for those who:

  • Care deeply about AHCCCS members
  • Encourage others to extend that same compassion to members
  • Show this compassion in their everyday work  

Awards by year

Honoree: Denise Ochoa-Puchi, long term care case management administrator and manager of Pima County

“Denise cares deeply for Mercy Care members and colleagues,” said Cindy Leach, Mercy Care long term care vice president. “She puts people first, rises to any challenge, searches to create simplicity in a complex ALTCS program, and cultivates trust in all her interactions with others.”

“Denise does everything for our members,” said Gretchen Lueck, Mercy Care long term care case manager. “She’s come up with many programs to help our members thrive. She’s always trying to expand the member experience in a holistic way.”

“Being heard is the biggest thing that families want,” said Sarah Klawans, Mercy Care long term care supervisor. “Families leave feeling heard. They want to know that we are advocating for their needs and Denise makes them feel that way.”

Watch a video celebrating Denise Ochoa-Puchi.

On May 11, 2023, Mercy Care recognized more than 200 community advocates and health care leaders at Mercy Honors. The RISE (RISE stands for Resilience, Innovation, Service and Empowerment.) awards celebrate individuals and organizations in our community who are working to make the lives of others better. The awards honor individuals and organizations in the three areas of Compassion, Innovation, and Advocacy and Collaboration. The RISE Lifetime Achievement Award honors the outstanding contributions of an individual that affects community health and wellness. And our ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award honors an employee that has made outstanding contributions to our members.

You can view a replay of the Mercy Honors livestream event on our YouTube page.


Individual: Valerie Hunt

"Inspiring change within a community can start with anyone. Those who are on the front lines, who speak with the members we serve, who hear their stories, are the ones who make a difference. Valerie hears those stories and advocates for everyone she meets. She does this with dedication and enthusiasm that are unparalleled—an enthusiasm and passion that are both contagious and inspiring. Not only does she support members, but she also supports therapists. These therapists then go on to provide therapy for the members we serve. It’s like a chain reaction of compassion and kindness."

Provider: The Villages Program, Copa Health

"Based at three Copa Health sites, The Villages are staffed with behavioral health technicians and peer support specialists that provide activities and experiences to promote the health and well-being of the whole person. Using evidence-based resources, The Villages provide groups and activities for Copa Health members to enhance their health and wellness, education, life skills, and work exploration. Through the compassionate care of Copa Health’s behavioral health technicians, members are offered the opportunity to learn communication skills, relationships, and interpersonal skills while creating a community of friends and a support system."


Individual: Christine Ehrich, CEO, Axis for Autism

"Nationwide, a critical shortage of autism providers is causing significant delays in evaluation and care. Here in Arizona, families often languish on waitlists for a year or more before connecting with a provider who has the necessary expertise to perform this evaluation and make a formal diagnosis. Christine Ehrich built an innovative network of doctorate-level psychologists and created a groundbreaking technological platform that allows these clinicians to work remotely."

Provider: Tara Sundem, Hushabye Nursery

"Tara is a neonatal nurse practitioner who, in the midst of the opioid crisis, noticed an increase in the number of babies being born substance-exposed. She also noticed that the clinician caring for the baby and the environment they fostered made a difference in the way the baby progressed through their withdrawals (meaning that babies who were in a calm/quiet environment where they were in the presence of their parents did better). This sparked Tara to seek out a different way to care for these babies and their families. Hushabye Nursery is the result—a dually licensed facility in Phoenix that focuses on getting the entire family healthy through outpatient behavioral health programs and an inpatient program. They have a 12-bed freestanding nursery that detoxes babies who have neonatal abstinence syndrome, where the parents can room in 24/7 and assist in caring for their baby. This program is the only one like it in the country. It has served over 450 babies in two years with amazing outcomes for both the babies and the parents and is gaining national recognition for the work Tara is doing."

Advocacy and collaboration  

Individual: Desiree Lynn Cook

"Desiree Cook's lived experiences have inspired her to revolutionize a movement called I Am Somebody, which creates awareness and educates by creating a clear lens of the daily struggles of our underserved youth. Desiree is providing the first-of-its-kind cultural-related hygiene programs according to age, gender, and ethnicity as well as programs to combat bullying and improve social skills, school attendance, and academic success. Desiree has also helped to build Tucson's first tiny home community for youth who have aged out of the foster system or are experiencing homelessness. This effort is focused on youth ages 18–22 and is a blend of self-development, life skills, and homeownership. The goal is to end homelessness and sew this population back into the fabric of our community."

Provider: Tanner Community Development Corporation 

"Tanner Community Development Corporation, or TCDC, provides strategies and training through evidence-based programs to model prevention and resistance skills for youth to discourage underage drinking and marijuana use. TCDC's Family Preservation Project also increases knowledge and skills related to TIC (trauma-informed care) for professionals, faith partners, and caregivers. They help provide resources and services to promote family well-being. TCDC has set out to develop a community of casita-style tiny homes for homeless veterans. This project will allow homeless veterans to re-integrate into society and the community. These homes will offer units with the option of 400 to 600 square feet of living space. The units will be in-place, permanent rental homes. There will also be 35 individual housing units and dedicated on-site Community Resource Center for the veteran residents."

Honoree: Suzanne Pfister

Suzanne is the president and CEO of Vitalyst Health Foundation, which focuses on Arizona health policy, technical assistance for non-profits and strength-based community engagement and systems change.

She and her colleagues are working on a variety of projects, including support for the Cover AZ Coalition, which is focused on helping people obtain affordable health insurance; which is especially important work as we all continue to unwind the public health emergency.

Suzanne has had an unparalleled impact on Arizona’s health care industry with those who have worked with her describing her as “a force of nature” with a passion for leaving the world a better place.

Honoree: Anna Lambert, LTC Supervisor

Anna has touched thousands of lives directly and indirectly as a long term care supervisor. Her colleagues describe her as a compassionate individuals whose legacy is her commitment to the members, her team, and Mercy Care. 

“Anna really embodies the ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award,” said Karla Juarez-Calderon, Mercy Care case management coordinator. “She puts our members first and she is a great leader. She listens attentively to what we have to say, guides us through critical questions and allows us to be better stewards of our members. health.”

“She’ll be most remembered by the help and guidance she provides to compassionately, caringly and lovingly, work with our members to keep them in their best light and in their best situation,” said Anne Levy, Mercy Care case manager. “Kate always asked, ‘what have you done for our members lately?’ Anna doesn’t ask us that, she shows us that.”

On May 13, 2022, Mercy Care recognized more than 200 community advocates and health care leaders at Mercy Honors presents the 2022 RISE Awards. The RISE (RISE stands for Resilience, Innovation, Service and Empowerment) celebrate individuals and organizations in our community who are working to make the lives of others better. The awards honor individuals and organizations in the three areas of Compassion, Innovation, and Advocacy and Collaboration.  

See the virtual RISE Awards event from May 13, 2022 on our Facebook or YouTube pages.  


Individual: Jessica Newbourn, Solterra Team Services (BridgeWater Assisted Living)

“A simple hug from her can turn someone's entire day around. She has held people when they are sad and celebrated with them when they hit a goal. She truly loves these residents as if they were her own family.”

Provider: Jeff Spright and the MIND 24-7 Team  

“Jeff and MIND 24-7’s motto is ‘Everyone gets seen and helped.’ It doesn't matter if they have insurance—their doors are open to everyone in a mental health crisis.”


Individual: Cherilyn Yazzie, Coffee Pot Farms  

“Cherilyn had never grown food before, but she taught herself how, using online classes, and in 2021 Coffee Pot Farms produced 12,000 pounds of fresh produce on less than an acre of land.”

Provider: Valleywise Health First Episode Center (FEC) Program  

“A young person overcame multiple traumatic events, including psychosis resulting in justice involvement, the deaths of his grandmother and a sibling, and a tragic accident that left him paralyzed. The First Episode Center provided unbelievable support and advocacy to ensure he received appropriate medical care … The team worked with Mercy Care and ALTCS administration so they could continue to serve him and support his family.”

Advocacy and collaboration  

Individual: Demetra Presley, Go With the Flow  

“Demetra created Go With the Flow AZ, a non-profit organization, to collect menstrual products and distribute them to Arizona schools, so that young people whose parents struggle to afford supplies wouldn’t miss school to manage their cycle. Her advocacy to educate the community about period poverty has expanded Go With the Flow’s work to include serving shelters for domestic violence survivors and people experiencing homelessness.”

Provider: Copa Health MACT team 

“They saved me from myself. They treated me with respect and dignity and fought for me to show me that I could find a life worth living and gave me hope when I was lost. This team fought for me when I was dying, when I tried to take my own life. They were there to bring me back.” 

Honoree: Linda Hunt, former President and CEO of Dignity Health’s Southwest Division.

Honoree: Summer Kamal, DDD Behavioral Health Coordinator 

DDD Behavioral Health Coordinator Summer Kamal was recognized as the 11th annual ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award recipient on May 19, 2022 during the virtual event.

The ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award is named after Kate Aurelius, a former deputy director of AHCCCS and former Mercy Care employee. The ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award honors a Mercy Care employee who cares deeply about AHCCCS members, encourages others to extend that same compassion to the members, and consistently demonstrates it in their everyday work.

“I’ve only been at Mercy Care for around seven months, and I kept hearing Summer’s name as somebody who did a lot of magic behind the scenes for our most complex members,” said Dr. Gagan Singh, Mercy Care Chief Medical Officer. “Summer is an ambassador for Mercy Care and our members, what she does really inspires me each day and I know she inspires others.”

“I can’t really point out just one situation in which Summer has done incredible work for members and families, it’s really her day in and day out activity,” added Lindsey Zieder, Children’s System of Care DDD Manager. “Her advocacy doesn’t stop no matter what level of work she’s doing.”

Special thanks for Catherine Anaya for returning to emcee our inspiring event. And immense thanks to Brandon Lee, an award-winning news anchor and best-selling author, who shared his moving and inspirtational story of recovery from addiction and trauma.  

Advocacy and collaboration  

Individual and organization

Alice Scott, YAP—Youth Advocate Programs 

Andy Arnowitz, Copa Health

Angelica Diaz, Mohave Mental Health Clinic

Arthur Melle, Southwest Network

Beverly Wohlert, Arizona Women’s Recovery Center 

Brenda Peral, Arizona Department of Child Safety

Marketing Team, Copa Health

Creshinda Thomas and Ray Miedema, S.T.A.R. Centers, Inc.

Danielle Frederick, STAR West Recovery 

Darwyn Chern, MD, Copa Health

Demetra Presley, Go With The Flow

Donna Floyd, S.T.A.R. West

Dr. Robert Rhoton, The Arizona Trauma Institute

Elizabeth (Liz) DaCosta, Community Bridges, Inc. 

Erica Contreras, Recovery Empowerment Network 

Izabel Rios, Lifewell

Jacqueline Miller, Centurion

Jenna Baker, Southwest Network 

Jerilyn Poulain, Brookdale Senior Living—Trail Ridge 

Jessica Bolland, CHEEERS Recovery Center

Jessica Bruce, Parent

Jessica Matus, Action Behavior Centers

Kimberly McWilliams, Terros Health

Laure Kasper, Caretaker, MAC/CLAS member

Laurie Goldstein, Association for the Chronically Mentally Ill

Linda Camacho, Lifewell

Mary Jo Whitfield, Jewish Family & Children's Services

Pamela Woolgar, AACT Arizona

Pariss Bobo-Mitchell, New Horizons Behavioral Health/Rising Stars 

Sanghoon Yoo, The Faithful City

Thomas Pickerel, Community Bridges, Inc.

Tomás León, Equality Health Foundation

ToniMarie Mendez, Open Hearts Family Wellness

Veannisa Ramirez, RI International

Provider and organization

Aaron Edwards, Lifewell

Christian Leon, Happy Kids Pediatrics/Feliz Care Centers

Copa Health Coordinated Care, Copa Health

Donald Pierce, Unhooked Recovery

Jennifer Bose, Copa Health

Jennifer Brunson, CHEEERS Recovery Center

Medical ACT Team West, Copa Health  

MVP Kids Care Pediatrics  

Suganya Karuppana, MD, CMO, CMOO, Valle del Sol

Team Select Home Care



Adam Geno, Lifewell

Agnes Bartha, Mountain Park Medical Center

Alejandro Gomez, Good Neighbor Support Services 

Amy Denny, Lifewell

Ashley Beebe, Southwest Network—Saguaro Clinic 

Barbara Gonzales, Good Neighbor Support Services 

Beatriz Mateus, Southwest Network 

Beverly Wohlert, Arizona Women’s Recovery Center

Bianca Navarro, Alliance Behavioral Care

Brandon Lee, Art Of Our Soul

Brielle Rawlings-Dube, Touchstone

Britney Gooch, New Horizons Behavioral Health

Caitlin Hanson, Copa Health

Carlie Mooney, CHEEERS Recovery Center

Carrie Amy, Lifewell Behavioral Wellness Center—Desert Cove Site

Carrie Guyer, Alliance Behavioral Care

Cesar Tellez, Equality Health

Charity Renn, Lifewell, Windsor Clinic

Courteney Schinbeckler, Action Behavior Centers

Crystal Dombliksy-Klein, Southwest Network, Saguaro Clinic—ACT Team 

Dana Clapper, RI International

Dana Matturro, Ashton Gardens Assisted Living 

Danielle Hansen, Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI)

Dedra Seraphim, Metro NBI Chandler 

Dennis Wolfley, Stillwater Hospice

Detza VanBogaert, La Frontera—EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center

Dr. Albert A. Callie, Callie Pediatrics

Dr. Beverly Wohlert, Arizona Women’s Recovery Center

Dr. Shaun Dekutoski, Copa Health

Eddie Almberg, MIND 24-7 

Eshawn Peterson, Onward Hope, Inc. 

Eva Clemente, Good Neighbor Support Services 

Gerardo Sicalo Obrosky, Providence General Medicine and Pediatrics

Gina Paone, Hopess

Grant Oakley, Copa Health—At Leisure World Coyote Café

Heather Morales, Lifewell

Hoa Mai, Copa Health

Jamar Jackson, La Frontera—EMPACT

Jennie Dalcour, Christian Family Care

Jessica Newbourn, BridgeWater Assisted Living - Solterra Team Services

JoAnn “Jodi” Goguen, Open Hearts Family Wellness

Joanna Gaston, Stand Together and Recover Centers, Inc.—S.T.A.R

Joleen Rodriguez, COPE Community Services

Jonathan Mackey, Brain Solutions, PLLC

Kathrin “Allie” Zeller, Action Behavior Centers

Kathy Bynum, Homes of Personal Enrichment and Sobriety Services

Kaylee Dailey, Veyo

Kristel Montroy, RI International

Kristina Craig and Jessi Sheava, Licensed foster family for Grace Retreat Foster Care

Lindsey Kroll, Emblem Healthcare, Inc.

Lynn Guyot, RISE

Lyubov Walker, Brookdale Senior Living—Union Hills

Mackey, Brain Solutions, PLLC

Mary Krueger, Open Hearts

Mary Pelascini La Frontera—EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center

Matthew Beaty, New Hope of Arizona, Inc.

Megan Risner, Lifewell, South Mountain

Michael Beltran, Copa Health

Michael Rhinehart, La Frontera—EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center

Michael W. Sullivan, Mike’s Adult Foster Care

Michelle Cirocco, Televerde

Mike Zeeb, RI International

Molly Fisher Foster, Terros—Crisis

Nancy Osborn, Mentally Ill Kids in Distress (MIKID)

Nicole Nelson, Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI)

Andrea Klimas, Patina Wellness Center—Native American Connections

Penelope Weber, Brookdale Senior Living—Camino del Sol

Ramona Jacobo Arreola, Good Neighbor Support Services

Rayletta Bahe, Brookdale Senior Living—Flagstaff

Rebecca Peralta, CHEEERS Recovery Center

Richard Allsbrook, Life Force Community Services

Richard Novitske, YAP—Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. 

Robert Daly, Good Neighbor Support Services 

Rodney Reed, Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI)

Rosa Del Aguila Pineda, Providence General Medicine and Pediatrics

Roy Monroe, CHEEERS Recovery Center

Rudy Apadaca, Dignity Health

Ryan Berger, Lifewell/TLP—Fillmore

Sara Wind, Caitlin Hanson and Grant Oakley, Copa Health

Sarah Deats, RI International 

Seneca Dixon, Lifewell

Shawn Matturro, Ashton Gardens Assisted Living 

Shequan Palmer, Open Hearts

Stella Paolini, Mujeres Únicas

Stephany Cohen, Recovery Innovations International

Stevie Willis, La Frontera—EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center

Susan Henry, Lifewell Behavioral Wellness 

Susanna Terrell, RI International, The Restart Program

Tavo Sastre, Reach Family Services

Tia McKay, Brookdale, North Tucson

Tonja Oliver, Therapeutic foster parent for Human Services Consultants 

Tyler Santos, Lifewell

Wendy Armendariz, Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH)

Zaniel “Zane” Freeman, Home Assist Health


April Dickerson, Recovery Empowerment Network

Arizona Child Psychology  

Copa Health IT & Digital, Copa Health

Donald Feltner, Devereux

Dr. Nima Ghadimi, SPG Virtual Care

Medical ACT Team West, Copa Health

First Episode Center (FEC) Program—Shasa Jackson, Dr. Aris Mosely and entire FEC Team, Valleywise Health


Individual and organization

Brian McDonald, Alliance Behavioral Care

Britney Gooch, New Horizons Behavioral Health

Cherilyn Yazzie, Coffee Pot Farms

Christine Stevens, Axiom Care

Deven Torrez, Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI)

Dr. Shar Najafi-Piper, Copa Health

Erik Osland, evolvedMD

James Ward, Southwest Network

Jeff Pobst, S.T.A.R Life and Skills Center

Jennifer Muñoz, Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI)

Kimberly Craig, CHEEERS Recovery Center

Kulinda Rollins, Focused Family Services

Kyle Curtis, La Frontera—EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center

Mark Walsh, Retina Associates 

Monica Chavez, La Frontera—EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center

Rhonda Kiphuth, Hopess. Residential Treatment

Roxy Sandoval , Nationwide Vision SNF Mobile Unit 

Shelby Schrader, Alliance Behavioral Care

Shelly Hislop, La Frontera—EMPACT, Suicide Prevention Center

Sunshine Dean, Spectrum Healthcare Group

Tyler Stott, Resilient Health

Valle del Sol Mobile Team, Valle del Sol  

Vivienne Gellert, Gellert Health, Inc.

Wardaine Taylor, Comfort Keepers—Chandler

Provider and Organization

Advanced Autism Center for Treatment—Cori Law, Advanced Autism Center for Treatment

Amy Whatley, Southwest Human Development

Anthony Johnston, Lifewell

Brain Solutions, Brain Solutions, PLLC

Carl Santoro, Compassionate Assistance

Cicili Arockiaraj, NP, Community Partners Integrated Health

Gateway ACT Team, Copa Health

Dana Matturro  

Dr. Beverly Thomas-Carter, Life Health and Wellness Health Care 

Dr. Ramiz Audi, Arizona’s Children Association

Florence Crittenton Services of Arizona  

Gail Salentes, Dr. John Sarris, Leo, Sarah, Patti, Sheri and the MACT Team, Copa Health

Provider: Community Bridges Avondale 

“Sometimes it's the smallest thing that means the most, such as witnessing a staff member kneel down by a patient in a wheelchair to be on their level and talk to them eye to eye instead of bending over them to speak with them. When observing our staff interact with our patients you can see the genuine caring on their faces as well as hearing the compassionate and empathetic tone that they use.”  


Individual: April Rhodes, president and CEO of Touchstone Health Services and Spectrum Healthcare Group 

“In the midst of a pandemic, April has been laser-focused on providing our communities the integrated health care they need. Under her guidance, our organizations have continued to provide crisis support/primary care/behavioral health services in homes, schools, hotels, offices, jails, hospital, on the streets and online.”  

Provider: Native American Connections Integrated Health Team 

“Well aware of the health disparities impacting Native American community members, NAC quickly initiated responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Integrated Health Clinic implemented a full COVID-19 vaccination clinic, vaccinating everyone from its healthcare providers to high-risk and vulnerable individuals.”  

Advocacy and collaboration  

Individual: Andy Arnowitz – information and resources coordinator at Copa Health 

“Over the past 20 years, Andy has been a tireless advocate for individuals and their families. He receives hundreds of calls each month and he is relentless in helping people navigate the complexities of the system. He also manages a number of support groups. Andy is a peer who has given back more to the system than he has ever received.” 

Provider: St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Hospital – its president, Julie Miller; its Intake Department, the Observation Services for Children and Adolescents Program; and the Child and Adolescents Services Unit and its supporting departments  

“St. Luke's Behavioral Health Hospital's collaboration with Mercy Care helped create the Human Trafficking Collaborative. They’ve served over 100 minors who are victims of human trafficking and have worked around the clock to make sure these girls are assessed and given the proper treatment.”

On April 9, 2021, Mercy Care recognized more than 90 community advocates and health care leaders with the RISE Awards. See the virtual RISE Awards event from April 9, 2021.  


Individual: Daniel Morrow – recovery coach at Southwest Network’s Saguaro Clinic 

“Dan is the epitome of customer service, patience, and recovery-focused interactions with all members. He has been active in encouraging and promoting members to tell their recovery stories for Southwest Network to share. Dan has such an excellent way of engaging with members and getting them to a point of being their own heroes. Thank you, Dan, for your ongoing support and commitment to our members and to recovery.” 

Honoree: Senator Kate Brophy McGee, former Arizona lawmaker 

Senator Brophy McGee was instrumental to Medicaid expansion and restoring funding for KidsCare in Arizona. Her support for restoring funding KidsCare following the Great Recession meant health care benefits for 30,000 children whose parents made too much money to qualify for AHCCCS but didn’t have employer-sponsored health insurance. She was also a leader in the creation of the Department of Child Safety as a stand-alone agency. 

Watch the video honoring Kate Brophy McGee. 

ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award honoree: Samaiyah Fullylove 

Long Term Care Case Manager Samaiyah Fullylove was recognized as the 10th annual ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award recipient on April 16, 2021, during the virtual event. 

“She loves to help other people,” said Valerie Thomas, Long Term Care supervisor. “She sees our vulnerable population and she wants to do what she can to better their lives. It’s a personal fulfillment for her.”   

Samaiyah’s peers and supervisors describe her as compassionate, caring, humble, hardworking and an advocate for our members in every way. “She finds out what our members want or what they need and she helps them set a realistic goal for their discharge, and then she works it through with them,” said Scott Early, Long Term Care clinical manager. “She doesn’t expect recognition – but she deserves it.” 

Watch the video celebrating Samaiyah Fullylove. 

2020 RISE Award honorees

On Friday, February 28, 2020, Mercy Care recognized more than 80 community advocates and health care leaders with the RISE Awards. 


Individual: Gregory Mingus, Recovery Empowerment Network

Greg began working with Recovery Empowerment Network (REN) in April of 2017 as a recovery coach. He quickly became a star for his passion to help members. In addition to his coaching duties, Greg was dedicated to creating a fitness center for members. Greg knows physical health has a large impact on mental health and amassed a gym full of mostly donated equipment to help members have the best chance to conquer physical health setbacks. Members have lost hundreds of pounds while participating in his classes. One gentleman who was in a wheelchair when he started with Recovery Empowerment Network is now walking and riding his bike. Greg is able to take what is often a daunting first step and make it fun and enjoyable for each member.

Provider: Kinga Tomos, King House Assisted Living Home

Kinga Tomos is the owner of King House Assisted Living Home. When her first home filled up, she started a second home so she could provide services to more members. Kinga does not shy away from taking on some tough members who need a lot of care. Kinga treats all members like family. Kinga has helped residents reconnect with family, she takes residents to their appointments, and even has paid for supplies out of pocket to ensure members get what they need.  


Individual: Josette Sullins, DEHP Integrative Care

Josette developed a new treatment method for PTSD and trauma. When she realized the effectiveness, she paid for a research study to be done by Dr. Bob Bohanske of Southwest Behavioral and Health Services. Raising funding through private donations, the study went on for two years. When the research was completed and was published, it showed an 83% success rate through evidence-based and measured relief of symptoms. Josette has donated her services to homeless individuals, veterans and others suffering from severe PTSD and trauma. She continues to provide her specialized service to those without insurance coverage or financial means at no charge. Her clinic has also been designated as a treatment partner with Southwest Behavioral and Health Services as a referral resource for trauma survivors.

Provider: Medical ACT Team – Copa Health

The Medical ACT Team at Copa Health has been recognized for developing innovative ideas to engage and support their members – such as their talent show. Many members reached out about the talent show, stating that they rediscovered their passion for dancing and that participating in the talent show helped them meet new people who have similar passions. Additionally, the Medical ACT Team was recognized for their member awards. By presenting awards to members who showed improvement, they have celebrated members’ accomplishments when they may have gone their entire lives without recognition. The Medical ACT Team presents their members with awards for improvement in areas such as:

  • Esteem for valuable involvement in housing, employment and rehab
  • Celebration for their sobriety
  • Resilience
  • Nightingale for success in health and wellness
  • Sunshine for being positive role models

The Medical ACT Team also started the "Peer Facilitator" program where members have the opportunity to learn how to facilitate training groups. Running these groups can enable members to inspire and support others going through similar situations.

Advocacy and collaboration

Individual: Michelle Dumay

Michelle has played an instrumental role in the Mercy Care ALTCS Member Advisory Council. Michelle is engaged, she asks questions about how the policies and programs being presented would benefit and/or impact members like her daughter or caregivers like herself. She researches and outreaches for alternative treatments and best practices for how she can be the best mom and caregiver possible, while also assisting others. 

Provider: Phoenix Human Trafficking Collaborative — Phoenix Police Department HEAT Unit, Streetlight USA and Phoenix DREAM Center

In 2017, the Phoenix Police HEAT unit was coming across child victims of trafficking and recovering them just to see them run away. To address this, the Phoenix Human Trafficking Collaborative began operations in October 2017 as a partnership between Mercy Care, Phoenix Police Department HEAT Unit, Streetlight USA and Phoenix DREAM Center. Over the past two and a half years, the Phoenix Police Department’s HEAT unit has gone above and beyond working with the Collaborative to ensure that these victims get the help they need immediately. They do this by providing transportation to the hospitals and to placement after that. Phoenix PD often transports kids that do not have open cases with their department, and they do it because they care. 

Phoenix Dream Center uses a trauma-informed approach to help adults who have been traumatized by human trafficking. They provide a safe, secure, integrated, homelike environment to women who come into their custody as part of the Collaborative. This environment includes onsite physical and behavioral health services, individual and group therapy, onsite and online school so members can complete credit recovery and high school diplomas, an onsite pharmacy, and an array of other support services. They work closely with Mercy Care, Phoenix Police Department, Maricopa County Juvenile Court, St. Luke's Behavioral Health, Department of Child Services and multiple other providers to advocate for appropriate services and protections for these young people to help them heal and keep them from returning to their traffickers. The Phoenix Human Trafficking program has a 94% retention rate, which means that 94% of the young people receiving treatment through this program remain in the program. 

2020 RISE Lifetime Achievement Award honorees

For the first time ever, Mercy Care awarded two RISE Lifetime Achievement Awards:

  • Kurt Sheppard
  • Christy Dye

Honoree: Kurt Sheppard, former President and CEO, Valle del Sol

Kurt Sheppard became the chief executive officer of Valle del Sol in 2011. He began working for Valle del Sol in June 1999. Over the years Kurt has held many positions with Valle del Sol, including director of Quality and Information Systems and chief operations officer. He often says, while he obtained his master’s degree through formal education, Valle del Sol has been his PhD program. 

Watch the video honoring Kurt Sheppard.

Honoree: Christy Dye, former president and CEO, Partners in Recovery

Christy Dye’s background spans more than 25 years as a state administrator, provider and system leader in managed behavioral health, health care integration and recovery-focused provider networks in Arizona and other states. She was an early innovator in implementing an integrated service system for adults with co-occurring disorders, including strategies for network development, financing, licensure and consensus building. More recently, Christy’s interests have turned to health IT and using technology to improve behavioral health care practice. 

Watch the video honoring Christy Dye.

2020 ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award honorees

Honoree: Jessica Clemens

During the event, Network Administrator Jessica Clemens was recognized as the ninth annual recipient of the ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award. “We are here for our members and their families,” said Tad Gary, Mercy Care chief operating officer. “Jessica is one of those employees who takes that work to heart and really structures her team and her day-to-day operations around that focus of members and their families.”  

“Kate epitomized the notion of family,” said Jami Snyder, director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). “Her fierce loyalty, her authenticity, her willingness to challenge those around to do better and to be better, her wit, her subtle way of letting you know that she cared and her contagious laughter reminded all of us that on any given day this job is more than simply a professional endeavor. It is, in fact, an opportunity to come together, to work in partnership and in service to the nearly 1.9 million lives that we are responsible for each day.”   

Watch the video celebrating Jessica Clemens.

2019 RISE Award honorees

On Thursday, February 28, 2019, Mercy Care recognized more than 90 community advocates and health care leaders with the RISE Awards. Individuals and providers received awards in two categories:

  • Leadership and advocacy
  • Health and wellness

Leadership and advocacy

Youth honoree: Cassandra Brueck 

Cassandra, a high school student from Gilbert, Arizona, recognized the warning signs and prevented a friend from attempting suicide. That experience has led her to advocate for greater awareness of the triggers and signs and speaking up, including public speaking and writing columns in support of suicide prevention.

 Adult honorees: Anika Robinson, Susan Woodruff and Angela Teachout 

They are the founders of ASA Now, a nonprofit organization in Arizona that advocates, supports, and assists children who are currently in or have been adopted from foster care in Arizona. These women were instrumental in the passage of an Arizona state law in 2016 that simplified access to behavioral health care services for foster and adopted children. They are about to open the first community center in Arizona that specializes in serving foster, adoptive and kinship families. The community center will offer respite, support groups, trainings, after school tutoring, extracurricular activities, aquatic and equine assisted therapy, family events, life/trade skills, community outreach, and advocacy and support in navigating the behavioral health system.

Provider honoree: Gene Cavallo 

Gene is the VP of Behavioral Health for Maricopa Integrated Health System in Phoenix. He has spent his 30-year career dedicated to improving behavioral health services in Arizona. Gene champions policies that improve the lives of vulnerable Arizonans living with a severe mental illness. Among his recent achievements is his involvement with the re-opening of a hospital in Phoenix that will be devoted to behavioral health services, including 192 inpatient beds.

Health and wellness

Youth honoree: Steven Castañeda 

Steven is the a young father of two children who were critically injured in a fatal car crash on April 13, 2018. He has been an exemplary advocate for his children, while working a full-time job. He has made sure his children receive the integrated services they need. Steven is also a great support to his older brother who recently received a serious mental illness designation. His brother had a hard time accepting the diagnosis but is now active in care.

Adult honorees: Charles “CJ” Johnson and Renee Medunic 

Renee and CJ shared their stories of recovery from opioid addiction for a public service announcement produced by Mercy Care. Renee is also a member of the Mercy Care Member Advisory Committee and serves as a peer support specialist. CJ shared his story last summer at Mercy Care’s opioid provider symposium.

Provider honoree: Medical ACT Team at Partners in Recovery (PIR) 

This team received multiple nominations from members they have served. The Medical ACT team held a health fair for PIR patients to receive onsite medical services, such as eye exams — which was particularly helpful for members with diabetes. The Medical ACT team also provides daily sessions on the importance of exercise, proper nutrition and self-care and promotes healthy lifestyle choices to empower members.

2019 RISE Lifetime Achievement Award honorees

Honoree: Tom Betlach, former director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS)

Tom provided nearly three decades of distinguished service to the state of Arizona, led AHCCCS for the past nine years and served as its deputy director for the prior eight years. He is widely recognized as a national leader in Medicaid managed care and health care policy. 

Watch the video honoring Tom Betlach.

2019 ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award honorees

Honoree: Monica Alonzo, Mercy Care marketing and communications manager

“When Monica speaks and connects with the member, they feel relief. They realize they aren’t alone and they realize that they actually have a heart working on their behalf,” said Debbie Hillman, Mercy Care chief administrative officer.”

“She is one of those people who walks into a room and everyone there is better for it,” said Laurie Munn, marketing and communications director. “She has made us a better team and a better organization because of how she continuously keeps an eye on what is best for our members. I think she’s extraordinary.” 

Watch the video honoring Monica Alonzo.

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