idea hub board member & SPH professor receives lifetime achievement award for mental health advocacy
Mary Jane England, idea hub board member, clinical professor of health law, policy & management, received the award from the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health for her leadership and advocacy around mental health coverage and parity.
Mary Jane England (MED’64, HON’98), clinical professor of health law, policy & management, has received the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Lifetime Achievement Award for mental health advocacy from the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH).
The award recognizes mental health leaders whose work has supported mental health coverage, parity, and awareness for children and adults across the Commonwealth. England received the award at the 2021 MAMH Friend & Leader Award Dinner on October 13. She is the third recipient of the award.
“I’ve worked in this field for over 50 years, so to receive this award is really wonderful,” says England, adding that perhaps one of the best parts of the evening was celebrating with the many people she has worked with throughout her career, as well as her three children.
A career supporting mental health
After completing her degree in child and adolescent psychiatry from the Boston University School of Medicine in 1964, England began working in local neighborhood health centers in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Brighton. There, she noticed that many of the children that she worked with ended up in the juvenile justice system, and began to recognize the real need for mental health services for these youth.
In the early 1970s, she joined the Massachusetts Department of Health and began working in policy around deinstitutionalization. Under the leadership of Governor Francis Sargent, she helped close several Massachusetts state schools and hospitals, and worked to get patients out of inhumane conditions and into supportive communities. In 1979, England became the first commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, where she had the opportunity to develop programs and services to support the health and well-being of children, adolescents, and their families.
Later, in 1990, she was recruited to serve as the president of the Washington Business Group on Health. While there, her interests in mental health services began to center around issues she was witnessing in the workplace. She developed a program called DART, Depression, Awareness, Recognition, and Treatment, to help large employers identify depressive symptoms among employees early to improve productivity and lessen overall isolation and burnout.
Joining Boston University School of Public Health
During this time, England’s daughter graduated from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), and Dean Robert Meenan appointed England as the first chairperson of the Dean’s Advisory Board. She remained in the role for nearly 10 years.
From 2001 to 2011, England served as president of Regis College, her undergraduate alma mater. As president, she oversaw transformative change within the institution, making the historic undergraduate women’s college a place for coeducation. In this role, she also became increasingly interested in college mental health, and began advocating for increased access to mental health services and trained personnel at both the college and graduate level.
After leaving Regis College, England joined the faculty at BUSPH under Dean Meenan, where she has continued her advocacy work for students. Though she no longer teaches, she has served as a chair on several search committees, and is also on the advisory board for BUSPH’s idea hub, where she says she is able to leverage her connections and knowledge of the corporate world to push public health forward. idea hub brings together the private sector, public sector, non-profit organizations, and academia to accelerate the pace of change in the health landscape and move businesses forward.
England’s other advisory roles
Beyond SPH, England serves on a number of advisory boards for organizations in the mental and public health fields, including NSF International, which tests and certifies products to verify they meet public health and safety standards, and 180 Health Partners, which helps to provide solutions and services related to substance use and other behavioral health challenges. She is a founding member of the Donato Tramuto Foundation, which for the past twenty years has awarded grants to organizations, including SPH, as well as annual scholarships to high school graduates in Maine. She also serves on the Mental Health Task Force and National Advisory Council at the Carter Center, where she advocates for mental health parity at the federal level and works to break down stigma, and is vice chair of the board of directors at the Mary Christie Institute, a national organization dedicated to improving the emotional and behavioral health of college students.
“I have taken my training and gone to the public sector, to the private sector, to the corporate world, and to academia. It has been a really great journey,” says England. “To receive this award is truly recognition that those who work in various parts of the workforce can bring a lot of knowledge and credibility to their work. You don’t have to feel boxed into one area of service, you can combine your understanding of both the public and private sides to make real, effective change.”
The original article from the BU School of Public Health can be found here.