By SARAH HUFFMAN
Mildred Casiano MSW, LCSW-R, MPH, director of behavioral health at the Union Community Health Center (UCHC), located in the Fordham Heights neighborhood, has been honored as a 2021 Woman of Distinction by the Senator for the State Gustavo Rivera (SD 33) in a ceremony held at the center on October 22.
During her acceptance speech, Casiano thanked Douglas York Ph.D., CEO of UCHC, her Behavioral Health team and the entire UCSC family as well as her friends and family who came to support her. That day. She said she felt âoverwhelmed and thrilledâ but overall âtruly blessedâ by this honor.
âI want to thank my family and friends,â she said. âWithout their support, this award would not be possible. To my patients I say, ‘Thank you for trusting us and [your] courage and commitment to your mental health. We will continue to work together to humanize and normalize the conversation around mental health, because talking about mental health saves lives, âshe added.
The ceremony also featured speeches from Rivera and York. For her part, York said community health centers and professionals like Casiano have brought life-saving health services directly to thousands of Bronx residents. âWe are proud to celebrate it because our goal has simply been to help remove some of the existing barriers to accessing care,â he said.
Rivera explained that women of distinction were usually honored at a ceremony in Albany, but due to the pandemic, the UCHC center was instead chosen as the venue for the event, in which a video depicting Casiano’s accomplishments was broadcast.
Rivera added that her office normally keeps a list of organizations and people doing important work in the district as a reference when compiling the Women of Distinction and Veterans Hall of Fame awards. He said they wanted to present the award this year to someone who had done important work throughout the pandemic.
The senator said UCHC was key to providing care for what he described as a very, very high need population in his district (SD 33). âSo when I think of Ms. Casiano’s work around behavioral health, how essential it is with communities like this and the fact that this institution offers that, I’m always happy to come here, and again. happier to be able to celebrate someone who does such a good job, âsaid Rivera.
The senator explained to those in attendance that Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) like UCHCs were places across the country where most working-class people received their primary care. âThey are so deeply involved in the community that I am always happy to be able to honor anyone who works for them, and Ms. Cassiano was just the person,â he said.
Casiano grew up in the South Bronx and has focused her career on public health in the neighborhoods in which she grew up. From an early age, she said she knew she wanted to dedicate her career to helping the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.
âI have been serving community health for over 30 years; it has been my passion, âshe told the Norwood News. âI had a lot of mentors who guided me through the process, so growing up in the same communities that were disadvantaged, it’s just a great honor to have this opportunity because I think we are all working very hard. hard for a common goal. This is the common goal, to help others.
During his acceptance speech, Casiano also spoke about the negative stigma associated with mental health care and his desire to make mental health care as high a priority as physical health care. âI think it’s important for all of us to keep talking about mental health and normalizing it, like we’ve done with all other illnesses and to feel that level of comfort when you come to see your provider,â said she declared.
Each year, the New York State Senate Women of Distinction Awards are presented by the respective state senator to a woman from each Senate district who serves her community.
UCHC is a non-profit FQHC serving the Bronxites from six locations in the borough. Officials said its mission is to serve the community with the best possible health care, regardless of ability to pay, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or position. religion.