2015 Recipient

Contact Patti Jo Severson (pjseverson@charter.net)

April 20, 2015—LA CROSSE, Wis—In celebration of Mental Health Month, the 2015 Shining Star Award recipient will be introduced at a reception and brief program organized by the Mental Health Coalition of La Crosse (MHC) on Monday, May 11, 2015 from 5:00—6:30 p.m. in the Cargill Room at Riverside Center II.

The 2015 recipient is Randolph A. Kjos, a retired state vocational rehabilitation counselor, who advocates for those experiencing homelessness and poverty, the addicted and victims of abuse including those men and women living with mental illness.

At the Shining Star event, Kjos will talk about his experiences as well as the support he seeks to provide for those needing help. He is a volunteer with Independent Living Resources, the La Crosse Homeless Coalition and the Franciscan Spirituality Center. In Houston County, he was involved in starting that areas only Narcotic’s Anonymous Chapter. He also uses his background as a vocational rehabilitation counselor to advocate for the mentally ill and homeless who seek Social Security Disability (SSI). “SSI provides critically needed access to income, housing, and medical care,” Kjos said. “It’s incredibly rewarding when I am able to share with somebody that is experiencing homelessness, that his or her benefits have been approved. Their initial response is never about the money, but rather that they now have a place and community where they belong. ‘I’m finally somebody,’ they say.”

Kjos’ advocacy also comes from his own personal experiences confronting addiction, homelessness, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and early exposure to abuse. Today he maintains a regimen that provides the balance in his life that he seeks. “I begin and end each day with what I call an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ I diet, exercise, meditate and try to stay connected with things that are meaningful.”

The purpose of the Shining Star award is to confront the stigma associated with mental illness and to put a story and face to members of our community who have lived experiences to share. “My message to others is, ‘Don’t write anyone off. I want to help because people have helped me. So much is up to us to be there for others because we can make a difference. I mean no disrespect when I talk about some of the things that can take away from a person’s mental health. For example, meet a person with no diagnosis. Put him on the street—homeless for six months. Then send him to a psychiatrist. He will for certain get a diagnosis because of the conditions and circumstances  of his life” Kjos said.

The Shining Star event is in its eighth 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.



Lieutenant Avrie Schott, Emergency Response Team Negotiator with the La Crosse Police Department will also be honored. Schott, who supports and has been trained in the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program is a member of the La Crosse Police Department team that has been involved in several high profile, potential dangerous situations that were successfully defused without injury or loss of life. Funding from the Mental Health Coalition supports CIT.

In honoring Lieutenant Schott, 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 course, which is sponsored by the coalition, is 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. “Officer Schott exemplifies outstanding work done by officers in dealing with mental health crises encountered in their jobs.”



Shining Star Event – Slide Show – May 11, 2015



Picture 1 of 60