Mercy Honors

Annual Mercy Honors event brings RISE Awards and the ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award together

On Thursday, February 28, 2019, Mercy Care recognized more than 90 community advocates and health care leaders through the RISE (Resilience, Innovation, Service and Empowerment) Awards. The RISE Awards celebrate inspiring people in the community who are working to improve lives by advocating and promoting recovery, health and wellness. Nine individuals including transition-age youth, adults and providers were awarded in the categories of Leadership and Advocacy and Health and Wellness.

Leadership and Advocacy

Cassandra Brueck is the 2019 Youth honoree. 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.

 Cassandra Brueck

Anika Robinson, Susan Woodruff and Angela Teachout are the 2019 Adult honorees. They are the founders of ASA Now, a non-profit 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 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, extra-curricular activities, aquatic and equine assisted therapy, family events, life/trade skills, community outreach, and advocacy and support in navigating the behavioral health system.

Anika Robinson, Susan Woodruff and Angela Teachout

Gene Cavallo is the 2019 Provider honoree. 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.

Gene Cavallo

Health and Wellness

Steven Castañeda is the 2019 Youth honoree. Steven, 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.

Charles “CJ” Johnson  and Renee Medunic are the 2019 adult honorees. Renee and CJ shared their stories of recovery from opioid addiction for a public service announcement produced by Mercy Care. See the video here. 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.

 Charles “CJ” Johnson  and Renee Medunic

The Medical ACT Team at Partners in Recovery (PIR) is the 2019 Provider honoree. 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.

Medical ACT Team at Partners in Recovery (PIR)

Mercy Care awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award to 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. Click here to watch a video honoring Tom Betlach.

 Tom Betlach

During the event, Mercy Care Marketing and Communications Manager Monica Alonzo was recognized as the 2018 recipient of the ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award. “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.

Monica Alonzo was recognized as the 2018 recipient of the ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award

The ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award is named after Kate Aurelius, a former Mercy Care employee and former deputy director of AHCCCS. It honors a Mercy Care employee who cares deeply about the people we serve, encourages others to care deeply for the individuals we serve and infuses that compassion into their everyday work. The award recognizes an employee’s outstanding contributions to our members and provides special recognition to those who consistently demonstrate their commitment to excellence in all aspects of their jobs while helping Mercy Care further its mission. “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.” Click here to watch a video celebrating Monica Alonzo.

Mercy Honors is a celebration that combines Mercy Care's signature recognition events -- ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award and RISE Awards.

During a breakfast reception, we honor our community of members, advocates, providers and employees for their outstanding contributions and commitment to leadership, advocacy, health and wellness. 

ReMEMBER Kate Aurelius Award
An annual recognition program to memorialize Kate Aurelius, a former Mercy Care employee and deputy director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), for her dedication to ensuring quality health care for the most vulnerable. The award recognizes an employee's outstanding contributions to our members and commitment to excellence.

RISE Awards
An annual recognition program to recognize people in our community working to make the lives of others better. RISE stands for Resilience, Innovation, Service and Empowerment. The awards honor individuals and organizations in two categories.

Leadership and Advocacy: This award is for a youth, an adult and a provider who are leaders in their community. They inspire change by the way they live their lives. They give a voice to people who can't always speak up. They take their message to health care decision makers.

Health and Wellness: This award is for a youth, an adult and a provider who helps others have a positive outlook on life. They encourage health and wellness for the mind, body and spirit. They work on improving themselves. They help people get involved in their recovery through community involvement.