Writer and producer, Roger Wolfson and SAMHSA Associate Director of Consumer Affairs, Paolo Del Vecchio joined me to chat about the Voice Awards and why they're advocating on behalf of substance abuse and mental health.
Candace: Paolo, as the Associate Director of Consumer Affairs at SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) can you tell us more about the agency please?
Paolo Del Vecchio: "Sure. SAMHSA is one of about a dozen different agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and our focus is on improving mental health and addiction treatment services and our focus is on improving mental health and addiction treatment services around the nation."
Candace: This question is for both you and Roger- how has mental illness affected and shaped your life and how did you first become involved in advocating for substance abuse and mental health?
Paolo Del Vecchio: "Let me start and then Roger, you can add to this. But I am personally impacted by mental health issues in that I have suffered from depression for most of my life and actually since the third grade was my first experience. I've been suicidal; have received various forms of mental health treatment and services, and using that experience as well as those of many of my immediate family as well experiencing the same issues really gives me the passion for the work that I do, and why I advocate around mental health and addiction issues is because of my own personal experience that I've had."
Roger Wolfson: "And as far as myself, Candie, my first real introduction to the issue on a professional level was when I was working in the U.S. Senate. I was staff to Senator John Kerry back in 1996 when the Republicans actually came with a massive budget cutting bill that would have eliminated a huge portion of it from SAMHSA and John Kerry took to the floor with me behind him to fight for it, and that's when I learned some important statistics like the fact that every dollar of funding that's spent on substance abuse and mental health treatment saves seven dollars for the American consumer almost immediately. It just makes sense."
Candace: Roger, as a talented writer and producer yourself, can you tell us about this years Voice Awards? (The awards took place on August 24th)
RW: "Yeah, sure. The Voice Awards every year is really an amazing experience but this year one of the things that's really an honor for us in this community is that Ron Barber is coming. Ron Barber, you may know is the Deputy Director for Gabrielle Giffords state office and so he was one of the people who was shot back on January 8th and he's coming along with the mayor of Tucson and his wife. The three of them have been advocating greater funds and greater programs to help people who suffer from collective trauma like that and one of the reasons why I'm going to be so honored to meet Ron this evening is that I'm part of that family. Anybody who watched what happened to Gabrielle Giffords; anyone who watched what happened on 9/11, we've all become collectively part of the experience of dealing with national events. We're all going through trauma on a very regular basis and we need to be aware of the impact it has on us and we need to be able to reach out for help."
Candace: Absolutely. Paolo, can you give us a little more background on some of the other recipients this year?
PD: "Sure. And the basic premise of the Voice Awards is to recognize tv and film productions that have done an outstanding job of addressing mental health and addictions issues as well as community leaders like the Tucson mayor and Ron Barber, but some of the productions that are nominated for awards this year include the tv series 'Parenthood'."
Peter Krause as Adam Braverman on NBC's "Parenthood." His son on the show, Max Braverman has Asperger's disease. – Image credit – Disability Scoop
Candace: My favorite show!
PD: "Oh is it? Okay and actually one of the stars of that show, Peter Krause, is going to be our host tonight. We're also recognizing the series 'Grey's Anatomy' as well as 'Private Practice; and the actress, Kate Walsh, who will also be there with us tonight. Some of the films that we'll be recognizing including 'The Fighter,' as well as 'The Kings Speech.' So that's just a sampling of some of the productions. We are going to be webcasting the event live tonight starting at 6:15 pacific time if your audience wants to go to Samhsa.gov/VoiceAwards, they can start seeing the red carpet arrival at 6:15 tonight."
Candace: How are recipients chosen and how are they nominated for awards?
PD: "We get nominations from both the entertainment industry from writers and producers as well as from the public, and what's been really interesting, Candie, is that we've seen an increase in the number of nominations each year for the six years that we've done the Voice Awards. This past year we've added 200 nominations (the most ever) around tv and film productions. We then have writers and producers who help us with the judging. We have people from the health and addictions community that help us with the judging. We have kind of a three step process to do the judging, to when we get to the final winners that will be announced tonight."
Candace: Do you have any additional information or anything you'd like to share with viewers?
PD: "You know I have one message and then Roger you can add to this, but one main message I'd certainly like to leave you with and that's the message of recovery and that people can and do overcome mental health and addiction issues to live happy and full lives."
RW: "And I'd just like to encourage your viewers, your readers and your listeners to actually check out the webcast and also check out SAMHSA's website, Samsha.gov because there's a lot of information that's genuinely helpful; a lot of things there that people I think will find inspiring and universal. When you watch the award ceremony tonight there's so many times that they'll pan around the audience and you'll see Laura San Giacomo crying or you'll see Melissa Manchester nodding her head. What's going on with mental health and these issues is something that we all are touched by, affected by and experienced ourselves."
Candace: I couldn't agree more. I love what you're both doing, so thank you very much and I will be watching tonight and I'll make sure that my viewers are too. So thank you again, I really appreciate it.
RW: "Thank you, Candie."
PD: "Thank you."
*Interview was taped prior to the Voice Awards which took place on August 24th. Followers of Candace Rose on twitter were notified and given more details about the Voice Awards prior to the award show. If you would like the latest on Candace Rose and news as it breaks, please follow via twitter! Thanks.