Mental illness alliance names 2021 Iris Award winners

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The National Alliance on Mental Illness La Crosse Vernon named three recipients of its NAMI Iris Award Thursday — an award given to those who have done outstanding work to address mental health in the region.

Dr. David Metzler, Suzie Howe and Jean M. Sterling received the award this year in recognition of their work to educate and increase awareness about mental illness.

Metzler had a career as an adult psychiatrist at Gundersen Health System beginning in 1992. Prior to retiring, he served as chairman of the Department of Behavioral Medicine and chairman of the clinic-wide Compliance Committee.

“Dr. Metzler is truly a person who has made a profound impact on how our community views and responds to mental health issues,” according to the press release.

Howe serves as the clinical coordinator for the community support program mental health team at the Family & Children’s Center. She was able to open an after hours drop-in center called “The Other Door” in Viroqua, giving people of Vernon County access to resources.

“The Other Door has become an important resource in the Viroqua community. Without Suzie’s vision, dedication, and leadership, this vital program may still be simply an idea,” NAMI said in the release.

Sterling has been a member of NAMI La Crosse Vernon for 12 years, serving as president of the board for two terms.

“Jean has worked tirelessly in challenging the stigma of mental illness in our community and in promoting grassroots advocacy to improve public understanding of mental illness. She is a staunch proponent of action-oriented programs and public visibility to engage our community in learning what resources are available to them and their loved ones in the recovery journey,” said the release.

The three were recognized this week as part of NAMI’s efforts to mark Mental Illness Awareness Week.

For more information about NAMI La Crosse Vernon, check out: www.namilacrossecounty.org.

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