2012 Recipient

LA CROSSE, Wis—In celebration of Mental Health Month, the 2012 Shining Star Award recipient will be introduced at a reception organized by the Mental Health Coalition of La Crosse (MHC) on Wednesday, May 9, which includes a brief program beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Pump House Regional Arts Center. The 2012 recipient is Vince Hatt, the recently retired director of the Franciscan Spirituality Center and recognized advocate for many causes associated with the poor and disadvantaged, and for men and women living with mental illness.  Two members of law enforcement, Officer Robert Wieczorek of the La Crosse Police Department, and Sgt. Mike Valencia, of the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department will be honored for their work with the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program.

At the Shining Star event, Hatt who has encountered depression throughout his life, will talk about his experiences as well as what he has done for those seeking help.

Hatt, who  calls himself a “wounded healer,” has created and led support groups for individuals to share their common experiences and coping strategies. In 1995, he established the local chapter of Depression Anonymous.

“I try to share a message of hope,” Hatt said. “When people come to me, I say I believe you can get through this and I will be with you. It’s important to know that nobody consciously chooses to become depressed. Depression isn’t our fault, but recovery is our responsibility.”

Hatt added, “From my own experiences with depression, I have gained much compassion and humility, while being much less judgmental.”

In honoring officers Wieczorek and Valencia, the coalition seeks to bring recognition to the CIT program, which trains law enforcement officers to effectively and humanely interact with persons with mental illness. The CIT sponsored by the coalition course is a 40-hour, five-day curriculum supported by the La Crosse County, many law enforcement jurisdictions and the La Crosse Community Foundation.

“We are very appreciative to be in a community where law enforcement recognizes the value of CIT and has supported this training for many of its officers,” said Patti Jo Severson, president of MHC. “Officers Wieczorek and Valencia are examples of the outstanding work done by officers in dealing with mental health crises encountered in their jobs.

"We are hoping to meet the national goal of 25 percent of officers trained in this life saving and changing program,” she added.
The Shining Star event is in its fifth year. Over 100 friends, mental health service providers, and members of the coalition, are expected to attend the event. The MHC was created with the mission of reducing stigma attached with mental illness.

Don and Roxanne Weber are serving as sponsors of the Shining Star event.

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Officer Robert Wieczorek
La Crosse Police Department

Vince Hatt (left), Patti Jo Severson (right)

Sergeant Mike Valencia
La Crosse County Sheriff Department