Patrick Thibault ’80 received the 10th annual Paul and Sheila Wellstone Social Justice Award in October for his efforts to keep mental health services available in Willmar.
Thibault, a registered nurse consultant with a bachelor’s in psychology from St. Cloud State, works for Minnesota Specialty Health System (MSHS). The program serves adults with severe mental illness who have been turned down by other intensive residential treatment programs. Thibault oversees medical care and helps patients reach their rehabilitation goals with an emphasis on returning patients to the community.
“We help them secure housing, link to community mental health services and provide family-based mental health education,” Thibault said.
When funding for the program was cut from the state budget in 2011, Thibault led an effort to contact every state legislator in a marathon calling session followed by letters, emails and a trip to the capitol to meet with key legislators and aides. Funding was restored when lawmakers were presented with Thibault’s argument that MSHS’s approach to complex medical cases was less expensive than standard hospital care.
Thibault has worked in the field for 24 years and finds inspiration in his patients.
“In my years of working with persons with mental illness, I’ve been struck by their courage in the face of their losses,” Thibault said. “They find ways to cope and survive under some of the most destructive circumstances and in a culture that stigmatizes mental illness.”
Similarly, Cara (Osterberg) Ruff ‘92 won a Paul and Sheila Wellstone Social Justice Award in 2004 for her work on behalf of disabled adults.