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Molina Healthcare honors unsung heroes

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Molina Healthcare of New Mexico recently recognized eight unsung heroes at its first Community Champions Awards, including Doreen Smith, a college student from Laguna Pueblo.

Smith, a student at New Mexico State University, received the Outstanding Student/Youth Award for her work as a youth spokesperson who presents on teen suicide on a local, national and international level. As a Native American, it is a topic close to her heart because of the disproportionally high rates of depression and suicide found in Native American teens.

She is an advocate and lobbyist for the New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care’s Youth Advisory Group. She and her team helped develop and lobby for a legislative proposal (HB 29) regarding teen peer-to-peer suicide prevention initiatives in 2007, which receives $50,000 in funding annually.

“Doreen’s passion and dedication is remarkable,” said Ann Wehr, M.D., president of Molina Healthcare of New Mexico. “What she is doing for teens in her community and the Native American population is truly commendable. By creating awareness and providing resources, Doreen is literally able to save so many young people’s lives especially within the Native American population. It is our honor to recognize her for her admirable efforts.”

Established to honor the memory of Dr. Molina, the Community Champions program spotlights the good deeds of everyday heroes in their communities. The 2009 winners were recognized in several categories including advocacy, civic leadership, education, health care professionalism, student/youth, support group/service club and volunteerism.

Each winner also received a $1,000 grant to give to a deserving nonprofit organization as part of his/her award. Smith designated the New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care. SBHC has more than 80 school-based health centers bringing health care services to where students are – in school. SBHC provides medical and behavioral health services so students can avoid health-related absences and receive support to succeed in school.