WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for service, has awarded Angela Zaur with the Excellence in AmeriCorps award for Most Innovative Service at this year’s virtual AmeriCorps Symposium. Angela was selected for her work with the Sidney Health Center in Sidney, Montana. She was recognized alongside four other AmeriCorps honorees representing the best of national service.   

In partnership with the Sidney Health Center, a not-for-profit community medical center, Angela Zaur spearheaded a new behavioral health program integrated with OB/GYN and Primary Care. Angela tackled her community’s substance abuse and mental illness challenges by integrating behavioral health questionnaires and intervention into the Health Center’s routine medical care. The questionnaire that Angela developed screened for anxiety, depression, and common life stressors such as food and housing insecurity, transportation issues, and insurance coverage. 

Once a mental illness or risk factor was identified, health professionals intervened by providing positive response tactics and informing their patients of essential services to mitigate triggered stressors. Since the implementation of the new mental health screening protocol, Sidney Health Center has seen a dramatic increase in mental illness diagnoses and has connected more than 40 patients to life-saving resources.  Angela’s efforts have not only led to an increase in the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health disorders in Sidney, but they are also raising mental health awareness and addressing stigmas against mental illness in rural Montana. 

Now in its sixth year, the Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards were created to recognize the outstanding and innovative AmeriCorps programs, members, and alumni tackling our nation’s most-pressing challenges.  This year’s winners were honored at the annual AmeriCorps Symposium, held virtually in 2020. 

“AmeriCorps members are responding to the mental health concerns of their communities with leadership and courage,” said Chester Spellman, Director of AmeriCorps. Angela Zaur is a prime example of the power that innovative AmeriCorps members have to impact communities and change lives. As we navigate challenging times, our Excellence in AmeriCorps awardees bring a message of hope: the spirit of service in America is alive and well.” 

As large swaths of the nation face unprecedented natural disasters alongside a public health crisis, AmeriCorps is poised to respond. While teams of AmeriCorps members deploy to Hurricane Laura relief efforts, more are joining the fight against the devasting wildfires on the West Coast, just as teams remain on the ground responding to the effects of the Derecho in Iowa. Even as they address these arising challenges, AmeriCorps maintains a sustained effort to fight hunger, keep communities safe, and facilitate youth education in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Since the program’s inception in 1994, more than 1.1 million AmeriCorps members have served the nation, giving more than 1.6 billion hours of service and earning nearly $4 billion in education awards. Every year, the 75,000 AmeriCorps members prepare students for success, rebuild communities and revitalize cities, support veterans, fight the opioid epidemic, respond to disasters, preserve public lands,  foster economic opportunity, and more.