Posted Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Annual Terri Belske Award Presented to MHA Coordinator

Al Shurdom, Coordinator of Self Help, Advocacy and Education for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, has been awarded Morris County’s annual Terri Belske Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award for 2019.

Al Shurdom

Al Shurdom

The award was presented on Tuesday, June 18, at the county’s 25th annual Public Forum, Many Faces of Recovery event, which was held at Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township.

Shurdom, of Parsippany, was nominated by friend and coworker Tracy Klingener, who noted that Al “sees his clients as people, not as people with mental illnesses.” Klingener cited Shurdom’s respect and kindness toward all of the clients he visits during wellness checks, going beyond what’s expected when assisting clients and visiting them in hospitals.

In addition, Mr. Shurdom has advocated strongly for improved patient care at the state’s Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital (located in Parsippany) and has spoken out at numerous town-hall meetings about the lack of services for mental health consumers in the community.

Rose Brown, Al Shurdom and Tracy Klingener

Terri Belske Award winner Al Shurdom is flanked by Rose Brown, at left, Senior Director of Programs, and Tracy Klingener, Assistant Director of Self Help, Advocacy and Education. Tracy Klingener nominated him for the award.

Morris County Stigma Free logoShurdom began his career in the U.S. Navy and became passionate about the mental health field during his time in the military. After completing his service, Al’s roommate was in a serious car accident. His roommate survived but the roommate’s fiance’ died. Following the trauma of the accident, Al’s friend began to have hallucinations and delusions, and was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder.

Al also personally has traveled the road of major depressive disorder, which was diagnosed while he was in the Navy.

He began work at the Mental Health Association in 2015 as a part time driver before transitioning into his current full-time role. He currently is pursuing his certificate to become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor so he can better help others with substance abuse, sharing his own story of addiction and recovery.

The Terri Belske Mental Health Advocate award recognizes a person or family member with lived experience of mental illness and/or substance use who has:

Terri Belske

Terri Belske

  • Demonstrated leadership as an advocate for adequate community resources to support individuals in their journey to recovery
  • Shown courage in representing the interests of individuals who have experienced mental illness and addictions
  • Demonstrated kindness and compassion for others in need
  • Acted as the voice for those who are not in a position to speak out for themselves.

Terri Belske was one of the first mental health consumers in New Jersey ever to sit on high-level state and county public policy committees. The Boonton resident, who died in 2016 at age 54, was a staunch defender and supporter of people who did not have a voice to advocate for themselves in the public arena.