Mobile Medication, Early Intervention, Suicide Prevention, and Opioid Addiction Programs Win 25th Annual Better Government Competition

BOSTON – Pioneer Institute’s 25th annual Better Government Competition received nearly 100 entries from agencies and organizations across the U.S. on the topic, “Improving Care for Individuals with Mental Illness.”

One winner, four runners-up and four special recognition recipients were recognized at the Institute’s Awards Gala on June 20th at the Hyatt Regency in Boston. The Keynote Speaker was Pennsylvania Congressman Timothy Murphy, whose work as a psychologist and best-selling author has gained national acclaim. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker met with the Congressman and made a special appearance at the event.

Rep. Murphy is the author of the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act, that would reduce the barriers to psychiatric treatment for the most seriously ill and bring about long overdue reforms at the federal level. The bill has received bipartisan support in Congress and from national organizations and media outlets across the country, including the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Watch his address:

“One in five American adults suffers from a form of mental illness – it’s an issue that impacts all of us,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute. “We know that mental illness is not ‘solvable,’ but as our 2016 Better Government Competition awardees prove, we can make significant progress – and save lives – by improving the way we connect these individuals with the treatment and support services that they need.”

The winning entry was the North Carolina Mobile Medication Program (MMP), a pilot project that provides home visiting support to help ensure continuity of care for adults with severe psychiatric illness. The program focuses on low-income participants who have been prescribed psychiatric medications, and have a history of hospitalization or repeated emergency department visits. In its first year, MMP has helped reduce the number of psychiatric hospitalizations by 83%, and ER visits by 94%. The entry was submitted by Julia Wacker, MSW, MSPH, Director of Behavioral Health at the North Carolina Hospital Foundation.


MMP received a $10,000 prize. The North Carolina Hospital Association Program Manager Julia Wacker accepted the award.

Watch her acceptance speech:

The runners-up, each of whom received a $1,000 prize, are:

William R. McFarlane, M.D. (Portland, ME): An early detection, intervention and prevention model for at-risk youth that identifies and mitigates symptoms of psychosis through community outreach, assessment, and treatment.

Carlton County Public Health and Human Services (Minnesota): A text messaging service that connects teens and young adults in crisis to trained counselors and resources.

Jennifer K. Johnson, San Francisco Deputy Public Defender: A community-based facility that would provide multi-tiered support services and short- and long-term treatment for individuals with serious mental illness, as an alternative to incarceration.

Peter Holden, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth (Massachusetts): A partnership between behavioral health specialists working within primary care practices and the hospital Emergency Department, the local police department and school district, and Mental Health and Drug Courts to address the community’s substance abuse needs through comprehensive support.

Read the Compendium of Winning Entries:

Better Government Compendium 2016: Improving Care for Those with Mental Illness by Pioneer Institute


The 2016 winners were selected by a distinguished panel of judges with backgrounds in medicine, government, law, and business:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Childs, M.D., M.P.A., Adult/Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist
  • Frederic M. Clifford, Pioneer Institute Board of Directors
  • Kathleen M. Dennehy, National Council on Crime & Delinquency, Former Commissioner Massachusetts Department of Correction
  • Vicker V. DiGravio, III, President & CEO, Association for Behavioral Healthcare
  • Matt Selig, Esq., Executive Director, Health Law Advocates

In addition, Pioneer Institute staff selected four entries for special recognition, as follows:

  • OnTrak™ Treatment Solution

Terren S. Peizer, Catasys (Los Angeles, CA): An outpatient mental health treatment program that uses analytics and a targeted outreach effort to identify, engage and retain individuals with behavioral health conditions.

  • Adapting Critical Time Intervention as a Scalable Solution to Crisis Homelessness

Thomas Byrne, PhD, Boston University School of Social Work (Massachusetts): A proposal to integrate rapid re-housing programming with Critical Time Intervention (CTI), a time-limited but flexible form of assistance for individuals experiencing crisis homelessness, including many who suffer from mental illness.

  • Coordinating Care for Individuals Transitioning through the Corrections System

Richard A. Sheola, Beacon Health Options (Boston, MA): A web-based program (Jail DataLink) that compares public safety and corrections records with state census and Medicaid eligibility data to address the needs of high-risk individuals incarcerated with mental illness, share information with local agencies, and coordinate care upon release.

  • Helping Veterans Prevail in the Battle Against Mental Illness

Richard Gengler and Irving Steel, Prevail Health (Chicago, IL): A clinically proven acquisition and triage model that provides support, training, and resources, and ensures privacy, for those with behavioral and mental health disorders.

The winner, runners-up, and special recognition awardees will be recognized at an awards gala in Boston. After the event, a compendium of winning entries will be distributed to attendees, policy makers and opinion leaders in Massachusetts and across the country.

Pioneer Institute’s Better Government Competition, founded in 1991, is an annual citizens’ ideas contest that rewards some of the nation’s most innovative public policy proposals. As Pioneer’s signature event, the Better Government Competition Awards Dinner attracts hundreds of leaders in the business, non-profit, government, and media communities. Past speakers have included: The Right Honorable James D. Bolger, New Zealand Ambassador; John Stossel, former ABC news correspondent; US Senator Alan Simpson; Massachusetts Governors Mitt Romney, William Weld, Paul Cellucci, and Deval Patrick; David Gergen, advisor to four presidents; Michelle Rhee, head of StudentsFirst; US Senator Scott Brown; financial publisher Steve Forbes; Boston Mayor Martin Walsh; and former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis.


Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.

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