Nanette Larson, State of Illinois, Employee of the Year

The Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health is pleased to share that our Director of Recovery Support Services, Nanette Larson, is the recipient the 2016 State Employee of the Year Award from the Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities.

The Award was presented to Ms. Larson by Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti at a Ceremony held at the Illinois State Library on May 11, 2016. As stated in the program, "Ms. Larson was nominated by numerous individuals who called her highly skilled, intuitive, tireless, open, respectful, steady, dedicated, inspiring and motivating, and one of the most forward-thinking individuals they know. Ms. Larson's skills do not end with office work; she projects a warm, cheerful attitude to everyday individuals in recovery - fellow people with psychiatric disabilities. Her colleagues have seen Ms. Larson resolve conflicts with remarkable patience and admirable tact, and incredible compassion. Ms. Larson treats each person with utmost dignity and respect; she loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her - characteristics that any employer would love in its employees. Another colleague said Ms. Larson's influence has touched every individual who has access behavioral health services in Illinois since the turn of the century. Another colleague said, 'When I first learned that the State of Illinois had established this award, I couldn't believe that Nanette Larson had not already won it. Why? Because Ms. Larson is the epitome of what this award aims to recognize and has done more for the disability community in Illinois than anyone I know.' Ms. Larson has a degree in Psychology and Religion from Illinois Wesleyan. Her message is one of hope for all whose lives are affected with these conditions. A final colleague, who was tremendously impacted by Ms. Larson both personally and professionally, calls Nanette the 'First Lady of Recovery.'"

In her acceptance speech, Nanette said, "This award is unbelievably humbling. Were it not for the Lord, I would have been eaten alive by mental illness. By God's grace, I have truly been saved from a pit of despair. I believe that this award belongs to the mental health recovery community in the state of Illinois. The question that was shared in the wonderful words written was 'why have I not received this award before?' My response is that we did not have such a strong, robust, heathy, well-developed recovery community before now. One in five Americans live with mental health challenges. Finally, individuals with mental health challenges are stepping out of the shadows and speaking up, having confidence in our voices. It's all of us, all individuals with mental health challenges - look down your row, if there are five people in it, one person in that row has been personally affected by mental health issues - it's all of us, individuals who are living well, successful, high-achieving, loving, caring, compassionate, kind people, who are being given this award today! From my point of view, it's about time that mental health conditions and people with them get some good press!"

Please join us in congratulating Nanette, the members of the DMH Recovery Services Development Group, and all the members of the mental health recovery community in Illinois, for this impressive recognition!

To see photos from the Awards Ceremony: