By Greg Wright, News contributor
Former NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck, MSW, LCSW, left, and Marvin Southard, DSW, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, attend the 2013 Voice Awards in September in Los Angeles.
Drew Horn experienced bouts of homelessness, long stays in psychiatric wards, and failed marriages and businesses. However, he decided to overcome his mental illness and turn these traumatic experiences into something positive.
Today, Horn is a therapeutic comic and clown and founder of the Turn-A-Frown Around Foundation in Freehold, N.J. He visits nursing homes, psychiatric wards and mental health treatment centers, using laughter, hugs and humor to help others.
Horn was at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles on Sept. 25 to receive a 2013 Voice Award for consumer/peer leadership. The Voice Awards honor individuals, movies and television programs for their work in educating and helping others overcome mental illness and alcohol and drug addiction.
The awards are hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), and supported by the National Association of Social Workers Foundation and more than a dozen other sponsors.
Horn urged the audience to never give up on family or friends who are trying to overcome a mental illness or addiction problem.
“Don’t get weary in well doing,” he said.
NASW also uses the awards to connect with entertainment industry officials who are working to improve the image of the social work profession in TV shows and films.
This year’s guests included actor Geoffrey Rivas, who portrays social worker “Bill” on ABC Family’s “The Fosters,” and his wife, Aida; and Rob Woronoff, a screenwriter who is working with actor and director Blair Underwood to develop a TV series about foster children and social workers. Destin Cretton, writer and producer of the critically acclaimed film “Short Term 12” also planned to attend but could not because of a late meeting.
Past NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck attended the event. She founded the NASW Communications Network and was instrumental in the push to get social workers to connect with entertainment industry officials as advisers.
Social worker Marvin Southard also played a prominent role in the Voice Awards Program. During the show, Southard, DSW, and director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, took part in a panel discussion that featured mental health professionals and entertainment industry officials.
Although the Affordable Care Act will provide insurance to cover mental health care for millions of uninsured Americans, Southard said people must still be willing to help family members, friends and neighbors who may be struggling with a mental illness or addiction.
“Therapy is important and medication is great, but it is communities that really help,” he said.