Program officer Donna Bushur finds gratitude in five years with Health Forward

Health Forward Program Officer Donna Bushur speaks with Lori Fluegel, attorney from MOCSA at the kick off of the infant mental health collaborative.

Donna waiting to present waiting to present the Tito Jackson card to Dr. Geis at the Enhanced Suicide Care Academy closing celebration in December 2019.

Program officers Donna Bushur and Shannon Morris with staff from Newhouse and Dr. Bill Geis at the Enhanced Suicide Care Academy closing celebration in December 2019.


Last week I celebrated my fifth year as a program officer with Health Forward Foundation, and my 25th year working full time in the social service area. 

Though my professional background is filled with a variety of positions from direct service to management, none have been more important to me than my current role. I feel as privileged today as I did five years ago to be a part of the foundation and a small part of the mental health community.

I struggled with the request to write this blog commemorating my fifth anniversary. Do I talk about some of the challenges I have learned about during my tenure, like the continued barriers to care that people with mental health issues face; the struggle to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health; the impact of individual and community-level trauma related to violence, poverty, homelessness, and discrimination; the lack of consistent policy and resources ensuring equitable help; or the complexity of care for people with behavioral health issues?

Maybe I could reflect more on my learnings about advancements in mental health, like the innovative approaches in our area encouraging mental wellness; the increase of trauma-informed programs and policies; the continued efforts of organizations to share resources and improve safety nets; the diverse, community conversations about mental health issues that encourage inclusion and reduce stigma; or the amazing resiliency of individuals, families, organizations, and communities.

However, since it is awards season, for my five-year anniversary blog, an acceptance speech about all those I wish to thank seems appropriate! 

To all my Health Forward Foundation colleagues, past and present: I am privileged to work with such a knowledgeable and committed staff and board. We spend a great deal of time with our work family. I have been fortunate to be with a group that cares about each other in and out of the office. A great ensemble cast!

I am thankful for the unconditional support and advice extended from my peers in the philanthropic community. Philanthropy is complex, and it has been essential to learn and share with peers. I have been comforted by the fact that I am not alone in navigating the challenge of being a funder.

My sincere and humble appreciation goes to every applicant, grantee, consultant, program participant, and community member that bravely shares time, expertise, challenges, appreciation, hopes, anger, energy, and patience. I am honored to have been a part of some amazing conversations, inspirational events, and life-saving initiatives because of the relationships developed during the grantmaking process. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me the opportunity to connect with so many courageous and compassionate individuals. It is truly what has motivated me for years.

Finally and most importantly, I want to extend the largest thank you to every person, regardless of whether you worked six months or 30 years in any role — clinicians, case managers, substance counselor, teachers, nurses, physicians, first responders, advocates, peer advocates, care coordinators, crisis workers, receptionists, agency administrators, intake staff, evaluator, volunteers, interns, youth workers, home visitors, attorneys, etc — in every organization — schools, clinics, hospitals, community-based organizations, shelters, neighborhood centers — of all sizes: You are the real heroes.

You, who courageously with relentless compassion, and often at the risk of your own mental well-being, work each day and night to help relieve pain and mental distress and provide hope and safety in our community. Any successes and lessons learned, I have achieved over the past five years at Health Forward would not have been possible without your efforts. 


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