RISE Awards

MMIC Rise Award logoMercy Maricopa's RISE (Resilience, Innovation, Service and Empowerment) Awards celebrate those working to improve lives. They recognize inspiring people and providers. They spotlight those promoting health and wellness.

View the RISE Awards program to learn more about the 2017 award recipients and nominees.


2016 Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael R. Zent, Ph.D., who passed away in early 2016, left behind a legacy of leadership, advocacy and fostered health and wellness throughout the behavioral health community.

Dr. Zent was most recently the CEO of Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Phoenix. Dr. Zent dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the continuous improvement of the behavioral health system in Arizona. He directed administrative and provider organizations, championed numerous programs and initiatives that helped to increase accessibility, cultural competency and care coordination, and reduce health disparities for the underserved multicultural communities in Arizona.

That’s why Mercy Maricopa selected him for this honor.

Mercy Maricopa RISE Award Winners

Leadership and Advocacy: This award is for those who act as leaders in their community. They inspire change through their leadership, their staff and their services. They give a voice to people who can’t always speak up. They help those living with physical or behavioral health concerns. They spread a message of hope.

Health and Wellness: This award is for a person who helps others have a positive outlook on life. They encourage health and wellness for the mind, body and spirit. They work on improving themselves. They inspire people around them to do the same. They inspire others with innovative programs and services. They help people get involved in their recovery by getting involved in their community.

In both of those categories, Mercy Maricopa selected an adult, a transition-age youth and a provider who embodied those qualities.

Here are the winners


In the LEADERSHIP AND ADVOCACY category, the award goes to ERICKA NELSON-DAVIS

Ericka has worked for Community Bridges for 14 years, and currently serves on the Crisis Response Team as an EMT-BHT. She knew her calling was to be out in the field helping, serving and advocating for those who feel lost and forgotten. She is putting herself through nursing school and still finds the time to be a providing wife, mother, grandmother and friend. In the words of her nominator: “On many occasions, I have witnessed Ericka always do what is right and in the best interest of our clients instead of taking the easy road . . . Most of the homeless people on the streets of Phoenix know her by name and are always happy to see her . . . Ericka has had her own battle with addiction, her story is so powerful. After sharing her story and encouraging positive change, people are willing to accept hope for their own future.”

In the HEALTH AND WELLNESS category, award goes to SHANNON YOUSO

As the lead for Crisis Response Network’s Grievance and Appeals team, Shannon manages staff that guides individuals through the seriously mentally ill evaluation process. She is dedicated to helping those living with mental illness and her work doesn’t stop at the office. Shannon runs the Bergamot Institute, an arts non-profit that she founded in 2010. It provides healing arts programs to survivors of suicide groups. She also volunteers with an organization that builds homes for the homeless in Nogales, Mexico. And she somehow also finds time to paint beautiful pieces. Her artwork often focuses on individuals living with mental illness. In the words of her nominator, “As a direct result of her experiences with mental illness Shannon has dedicated her career and personal life to helping others.”



Marissa is the mother of three young children and a strong advocate for youth who have experience in foster care and in the behavioral health system. Becoming a mom at 18 did not stop Marissa from becoming an advocate and leader in the youth community. Marissa is a truly dedicated member of Mercy Maricopa’s Youth Leadership Council and is always one of the first to volunteer for extra meetings, conference calls or anything outside of the typical role of a Youth Leadership Council member. Marissa also serves on Mercy Maricopa’s Children’s Provider Workgroup and is an active member of the Peoria Community of Practice on Transition. From her nominator: “Marissa always says that her biggest inspiration is helping other youth so that they don’t have to have the negative experiences that she did.”

In the HEALTH AND WELLNESS category, the award goes to AMANDA SHIPLEY

Amanda has been in Arizona’s child welfare system since she was 7 years old, the third of six children. The state removed the children from their home, placed them in foster care, separated from each other and enrolled in the behavioral health system. Amanda began running away at 12, using drugs and rejecting therapy. In the words of her nominator: “She believed that she was disposable and that she would never recover. She has been in more foster homes, group homes, RTCs and kinship placements than I can count . . . After getting to know her, I quickly realized that she was incredibly determined, intelligent, a brilliant writer and an extremely caring and nurturing person.” Once she got on the path to recovery, she never looked back. At 17, she is now a leader and positive role model for other teenagers in group-homes and behavioral health programs, an advocate for LGBTQ rights and a passionate volunteer.


In the HEALTH AND WELLNESS category, the award goes to RICKY OCHOA

Ricky is a hard-working case manager at Partners in Recovery – East Valley. He has a gift of being able to relate well to younger members, he’s approachable and down to earth. Like most case managers, Ricky has a large caseload, but he still finds time to be there when his members (and their family members) need him the most. Ricky encourages his members to do things for themselves, and take on more responsibilities as they progress. In the words of his nominator: “Rickey encouraged my daughter to join the Art Awakenings program at a time that she rarely left the house, and he navigated the intake and transportation process with her at a time when just the cab ride into the studio in Phoenix was a nerve-wracking event for her. Case managers have a tough job, a job that only a very special person can do well. Ricky is one of these rare individuals.”

In the LEADERSHIP AND ADVOCACY category, the award goes to DR. MICHAEL FRANCZAK

Mike is chief of operations for Marc Community Resources and a longtime behavioral health administrator in Arizona. He’s also been the primary investigator on numerous grants from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration. Mike is well known in the behavioral health community as someone who works tirelessly and collaboratively across systems. He works to eliminate barriers to care, create new programs to bridge gaps and meet the needs of members and families. A gifted teacher and trainer, his genuine care and compassion for others come through in every interaction and presentation. He believes in everyone’s capacity for recovery and resiliency. And he’ll work his tail off to help them get there, though he rarely takes any credit. In the words of his nominator: “Mike epitomizes creating an environment of recovery and resiliency! An extraordinary visionary, man of action and leader!”

Mercy Maricopa RISE Award Nominees

Individual – Adult

Health and Wellness
Christiana Dart
Kristen Heninger
Martha Cubias
Scott Belkner
Shannon Youso
Vanessa Williams
William Arnold
Yolanda Henson

Leadership and Advocacy
Carrie Smith
Elizabeth DaCosta
Ericka Nelson-Davis
Greta Mang
Lupe Silva
Matthew Schlechty
Richard Beeman
Shelly Severns
Vanessa Williams

Individual – Transition-Age Youth

Health and Wellness
Amanda Shipley
Consuelo Caballos

Leadership and Advocacy
Maria Rodriguez
Marissa Gimber-Gibson


Health and Wellness
Holly Brown, Southwest Network
James Coleman and Guy Welch, Welch Physical Therapy
Crisis Response Network
Dr. Monica Faria, Southwest Network
Four Directions Integrative Wellness Team,
Crisis Preparation and Recovery
John Summers, Southwestern Network
Inpatient Facility Staff, Oasis Behavioral Health
Ricky Ochoa, Partners In Recovery
Stevie Willis, La Frontera-Empact

Leadership and Advocacy
Ashleigh Carmarda-Hart, Focused Family Services
Arizona Criminal Justice Commission
Chris Riley, The Cross Roads Inc.
Christy Dye, Partners In Recovery
Desert Edge Mentoring Services
Dr. Michael Franczak, Marc Community Resources
Ehren Werntz, Arizona Autism United
Elizabeth DaCosta, Community Bridges
Erin Juarez, Marc Community Resources
Jason Vail Cruz, Terros
Lupe Silva, Marc Community Resources
Rachelle Simmons, La Frontera-Empact
Sadie Klieman, Southwest Network
Stacia Clarke, Family Involvement Center
Tanner Community Development Corporation (HEAAL)
Tony Dumont, Ensign Services
Alex Porter, Marc Community Resources
Hope Lives


RISE Awards logo

2015 RISE Award Winners

Mercy Maricopa proudly announced the winners of the first annual RISE Awards on April 29, 2015 at the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness in Phoenix. A crowd of nearly 200 people gathered to share in the celebration. We selected the winners, all strong contenders, from 35 nominees in the three RISE Award categories. These individuals and agencies have demonstrated an unwavering dedication to transforming the behavioral health community by promoting recovery and resiliency, health and wellness, and innovation. They are:

In the Recovery and Resilience category:
Youth: Austin Daley
Adult: Gloria Abril, advocate and longtime NAMI member
Provider:  John Moore, Marc Community Resources

In the Health and Wellness category:
Youth: Jackson McAuliff
Adult: Aaron Foster, Recovery Innovations
Provider: Dr. Rodd Aking, Trinity Adult Medicine

In the Innovation category:
Youth: No nomination
Adult: Alicia Gonzales, Foundation for Senior Living
Provider: Sara Marriott, PSA Art Awakenings

RISE Lifetime Achievement Award
Attorney and mental health advocate Charles “Chick” Arnold with a lifetime achievement award. Arnold, the event emcee, reminded audience members about how far the behavioral health system has come in the decades since he filed the class-action lawsuit, Arnold vs. Sarn – a legal fight for community-based services and supports for people diagnosed with serious mental illness.

The 2015 RISE Award semifinalists:

Katelyn Swift
Aaliah Smith


Kristina Sabetta, CHEEERS
Dawn Wallschlaeger, therapeutic foster care supervisor
Dick Geasland, MIKID
Marc Saklak, CHOICES
Jessia Minnifield-Hartzler, Child and Family Support Services
Rene Kuehne, parent and caregiver
Kathie Kelling, Evoking Greatness
David Fraijo, Evoking Greatness
Hayley Winterberg, project coordinator, Inter-Growth
Dawn Schoenstadt, Family Involvement Center
Cheryl Anderson, Marc Community Resources
Lisa St. George, Recovery Innovations
John Schwartz, CHEEERS
Patricia Hanning, CHEEERS
Dominic Martinez, Terros
Sonnet Sharpe, CHEEERS
Gaye Tolman, Recovery Empowerment Network
Morgan Cox, S.T.A.R.

Dr. Bronislava Shafran, Arizona Age Reversal Neurology
Crisis Preparation and Recovery
Kimberly Craig, Center for Hope
Ehren Werntz, Arizona Autism United
Dr. Kent Eller, Southwest Network
New Horizons Youth Homes
Touchstone Behavioral Health

You can watch a short video that captured the creative process of the PSA Art Awakenings artists that created the RISE Award statue for Mercy Maricopa.


Woman creating an award out of clay


Artists working on clay awards

PSA Art Awakenings has been nationally recognized for its psycho-social rehabilitation program, which includes 13 studios and 5 galleries serving about 1,200 artists a year. 

Studios help artists develop their skills in visual arts, poetry, music, movement, drama and delivers pre-job training, socialization and education.

Under the direction of Antonio Pasos, the agency's artist in residence and artistic behavioral health specialist, local artists embraced the assignment of creating 10 statues for the RISE Award winners. They were involved in every step of the process. From the beginnings, as Pasos sketched out designs, PSA artists lent their advice and vision.

Once the design was decided – a ceramic figure reaching up to embrace a shining sun, secured in a sturdy mahogany base – artists in the Yuma studio began fashioning the plaster mold.

Hand carving a clay award

The process moved to the northwest Phoenix studio, where artists carefully cut clay slabs and pressed them firmly into the mold. They dried the clay with a hair dryer, watching as it began to pull away from the edges of the mold. It was ready to be popped out.
After the clay pieces were removed from the molds, artists used cutting tools to carve out pieces of clay and give the award its “windows.” Once they were hand-finished, the pieces were dried, fired and artists finished it off with a delicate green patina, with golden sunbeams.

Artists working with clay

The finished product is a beautiful collaboration that embodies the healing power of art and self-expression. Along the way, the artists built relationships, learned new skills, practiced respect for themselves and others, shared pride in their accomplishments, and further developed self-esteem and wellness management skills. Artists in yet another studio used band saws to cut the 10 bases and carve identical divots in the top for the ceramic piece to fit snugly, with a few drops of liquid nails for good measure. Thanks to PSA Art Awakenings, Antonio and the other talented artists for their vision and work. You inspire us.

The RISE Award

Finished version of the RISE Awards statue