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


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.