Parsippany, NJ – Carmela Lunt, Founder and Board President of Community Hope, Inc., has been recognized by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare as the winner of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Leadership. Ms. Lunt has spent her lifetime advocating on behalf of individuals recovering from mental illness and substance abuse by providing housing and services in a dignified, respectful, and “person-centered” way.
The Lifetime Achievement Award will be formally presented to Carmela Lunt on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 during the Awards of Excellence Dinner at the 2009 National Council Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
For nearly 25 years, Community Hope, Inc., a non-profit organization, has provided housing and support services within its communities, to adolescents and adults recovering from mental illness. Serving 300 individuals in northern New Jersey, Community Hope is among the largest providers of transitional and supportive housing for individuals in recovery from mental illness and substance abuse in New Jersey. In 2004, Community Hope developed a statewide housing and recovery program for U.S. veterans who were homeless and struggling with co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse. The Hope for Veterans program now serves nearly 100 formerly homeless veterans with mental illness and substance abuse.
“As a result of Carmela Lunt’s vision and leadership over the past two decades, hundreds of individuals and their families struggling to manage the difficulties of living with mental illness, have been able to reclaim their lives and have been given not only a place to live, but a sense of security,” said Linda Rosenberg, MSW, president and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. “Carmela has helped countless individuals transition from hospitals where they were institutionalized for more than twenty years into community residential programs where they socialize, pursue education and employment, and improve their quality of life.”
As a mother of a child with a severe mental illness, Ms. Lunt became an advocate and activist for others disabled by mental illness. In the 1980s, when patients disabled by mental illness were released from local and state psychiatric hospitals into the community, many had no where to go. With few support systems in place for the mentally ill, many individuals ended up homeless and destitute. Horrified by the lack of support services available to the mentally ill, Ms. Lunt began a quest to create housing and services in her community. She joined with other family members and enlisted the support of former N.J. State Assemblyman (currently US Congressman) Rodney Frelinghuysen, who sponsored a special legislative appropriation of $75,000 in 1985 to help fund the purchase of a single-family residence for individuals with mental illness. In 1986, what is now known as Community Hope, Inc. established its first community residence in Dover, N.J. with around-the-clock, on-site support.
“This is a well-deserved honor for someone who has dedicated so much of the past 25 years to helping others,” said J. Michael Armstrong, Executive Director of Community Hope, Inc. “Carmela responded to what she saw as a desperate situation for individuals with mental illness and created a safety net that today serves 300 people a day.”
During her career, Ms. Lunt has received many awards, including the 2006 Bank of America’s “Local Heroes” Award, Russell Berrie Foundation’s “Unsung Hero” Award and N.J. Monthly’s “Seeds of Hope” Award. In 2002 she received the Eli Lilly national “Welcome Back” Award. Community Hope’s Hope for Veterans Program was the 2005 recipient of the prestigious national Community Partnership Award from the Mutual of America Foundation and the N.J. Governor’s Excellence in Housing award.
The National Council Awards of Excellence recognize leaders in the mental health and addictions treatment field, like Carmela Lunt, who have a superior, sustained commitment to quality, behavioral healthcare and a career marked by significant contributions to the behavioral healthcare industry and the consumers it serves.
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) association of 1,600 behavioral healthcare organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation for mental illnesses and addictions disorders to nearly six million adults, children and families in communities across the country. The National Council and its members bear testimony to the fact that medical, social, psychological and rehabilitation services offered in community settings help people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders recover and lead productive lives.
Community Hope was formed as a private nonprofit organization in 1985 by family members and mental health professionals seeking a safe haven in the community where young adults could continue their recovery from chronic mental illness. Since then, Community Hope’s residential recovery programs have expanded to serve 300 individuals daily. The organization opened the largest program in New Jersey for homeless veterans in 2004 and is among one of the largest providers of supported housing for people with mental illness in New Jersey.