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UA's Camp Wellness wins 2016 Recognition of Excellence in Wellness Award

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Courtesy Health and Welness Center | The Daily Wildcat

The UA Rise Health and Wellness Center's 2016 Camp Wellness Team poses for a group photo. Camp Wellness helps adults with mental difficulties find support and live healthy lifestyles. (Photo by Mark/Biomedical Communications photographer)

The UA’s Camp Wellness, a program for adults with serious mental illness, won a 2016 Recognition of Excellence in Wellness Award from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The camp was developed by the UA’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and the RISE Health and Wellness Center in response to a national survey that found that adults with serious mental illness were dying 25 years earlier than the rest of the population and that those in Arizona were dying 31.8 years earlier.

Camp Wellness is a nine-week interdisciplinary program that combines the expertise of nurses, doctors, psychologists and health educators to help its students adopt a healthy lifestyle through various classes and offers emotional help and support. 

Cheryl Glass, the director of the center, said she hopes the award, which was only given to two other programs this year, will inspire others to implement programs similar to Camp Wellness. 

“Mental illness can strike anyone at any time ... Recovery is possible, and a big part of your recovery is tending to your health and wellness,” Glass said. “It’s just awesome to see people here recovering and improving.”

For some program graduates, Camp Wellness represented more than a step in recovery. Suzy Hew, 58, lost her daughter 16 months ago and had been grieving for almost a year when she first started at the camp. 

“I feel supported from the staff and from the students, and a lot of us have gotten to be closely bonded with each other because a lot of us have suffered some great loss in our life—I know that I have—and Camp Wellness keeps me going,” Hew said. “It’s the family I don’t have anymore.”

Hew currently volunteers at the camp since she has already completed it herself. 

She said she is thrilled about the award.

“It’s so well deserved,” Hew said. “They’re serving so many people in the community that have had such a difficult time ... I can’t say enough about it. It’s phenomenal.”

Willie Hudson, 48, was struggling with addiction when he first started at Camp Wellness. He said the program appealed to him because it was a solid place for hime to go instead of a group or a rehabilitation center.

“It helped me benefit my lifestyle—it gave me structure because you have to go in every day of the week,” Hudson said. “That structure was a good thing for me ... They help us share [ourselves] with each other ... so to speak. It’s such a positive experience [and] positive environment.”

Hudson said he thought that Camp Wellness should have won the award a long time ago since the program has touched so many people’s lives. 

“It’s a lovely group, a lovely program, a lovely plan,” Hudson said. “Congratulations [to them] on the award.”

The administration that granted the award said that the 2016 winners were selected by a committee of national experts “for their meaningful work to improve health outcomes for individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders.” Both Hew and Hudson could attest that Camp Wellness achieved this for them and more. 

“You know what’s phenomenal about Camp Wellness? We don’t dwell on our negative stuff that brought us there,” Hew said. “We just try to move forward in a positive manner. I think that’s extraordinary, because Tucson is not really the town that’s known for supreme friendliness, and Camp Wellness is just such a safe spot to be. It’s just home.”


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