Presented annually to a person dedicated to helping others by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Mid-Hudson, this year's award went to Margaret Hirst, Department of Behavioral & Community Health deputy commissioner and director of Community Services, for her almost 40 years of service to others.
“Margaret Hirst’s dedication to the people of Dutchess County, particularly our most vulnerable residents, has never wavered in her decades of service," said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. "She is a recognized leader in the mental health community throughout our state, and the impact of her work extends far beyond Dutchess County. Margaret is a treasured member of our Dutchess County family, and she is truly deserving of every honor she receives.”
A clinical social worker who has worked for the behavioral health public sector for 39 years, Hirst has extensive experience working with the mentally ill, chemically dependent, and intellectually and developmentally disabled – both adults and youth. She previously served as acting director for the Department of Behavioral & Community Health.
“Assisting those who need help has long been a passion of mine, and I have enjoyed working to better the lives of Dutchess County residents,” said Hirst, who will retire on October 26, 2017.
“I look fondly on my time in the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health, and I’m proud of the strides we’ve made through the years. I thank NAMI Mid-Hudson for its recognition, and I support the great work the organization performs each day on behalf of our neighbors.”
During her tenure, Ms. Hirst has helped initiate many new services and programs, such as:
- Community-based re-entry teams in adult homes;
- A mobile mental health program to reach individuals who have difficulty keeping appointments;
- Treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration, including drug courts and pre-trial diversion services;
- Chemical dependency and mental health treatment for individuals who are intellectually and developmentally disabled.
She was also instrumental in bringing about the Dutchess County Stabilization Center, one of the state's first-of-its-kind, non-medical, voluntary, walk-in center for individuals experiencing crisis resulting from mental health or substance abuse issues. She has also been an active member of the Criminal Justice Council since 1999.
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