FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 24, 2013
(AUSTIN) — Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, on Thursday (Sept. 19) received the Second Annual Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt Award from Mental Health America of Texas (MHAT) at the organization's 50th annual Honoring Dinner at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel in downtown Austin.
MHAT is the state's premier advocacy organization concerning mental health issues, and its mission is to promote mental health; prevent mental illnesses and addictions; and facilitate recovery through education, advocacy and services.
Charles Butt, CEO of H-E-B, established the award in 2012 in memory and honor of his mother, who served on the Board of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (TDMHMR) when Senator Zaffirini worked there while she was a graduate student.
"I am delighted to accept this award and to continue to champion independent living and quality health services for persons with mental illnesses," Senator Zaffirini said. "This honor is especially meaningful because it is named after Miss Mary, an inspiring early leader for mental health. Over the last 50 years, we have made tremendous progress in the mental health arena, but there still is so much more to do."
A member of the Senate Finance and Health and Human Services Committees and of the Legislative Budget Board, Senator Zaffirini long has been an ardent advocate for legislation and funding that improves the lives of persons with mental illnesses.
At the age of 22 (1968) the future senator was named to the Board of Directors for the Texas Mental Health Association (MHAT's precursor) and served as its State Chair for Community Health Services and as State Co-Chair of Legislative Action. She volunteered her time to lobby the Texas Legislature and to testify in support of community MHMR centers and independent living for persons with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities.
As a member of the Texas Senate since 1987, she has won more than 10 awards for her mental health advocacy and has passed more than 25 bills that specifically improve mental health services for Texans, especially in the community. Her mental health legislation has included bills protecting patients at psychiatric hospitals from abuse and neglect and helping prevent child relinquishment for the purpose of obtaining mental health services.
Her proudest moments include securing $109.4 million for enhanced adult crisis mental health services in 2009 and her happiest include this year's elimination of waiting lists for mental health services.
Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of The University of Texas System, was the master of ceremonies at the MHAT gala. The senator's son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., introduced her and presented the award.
Last year's honorees were Joe And Dr. Teresa Lozano Long of Austin.
SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, and Mike Peterson, Board Chair for Mental Health America of Texas, ring the Mental Health Bell of Hope. Cast from the discarded chains and shackles from asylums throughout the country, the bell symbolizes hope for victory over mental illness. In 2013 Senator Zaffirini authored and passed Senate Resolution 554, recognizing the bell's visit to the Texas Capitol.