The work of three ‘Champions’ for children and families took the spotlight at the Washington County Coalition for Children’s 18th annual issues forum.
“This is one of our favorite traditions over 18 years,” Coalition Coordinator Susan Orban said. “It is always so wonderful seeing the work of some of the area’s unsung heroes being publicly recognized.”
The coalition presented its Champion for Children award to Nicole O’Malley and two Champion for Community Change awards to Matthew Roman and Ellen Flannery-Schroeder on May 26.
O’Malley is the founder and executive director of Hands in Harmony, a non-profit music therapy organization. She also is a clinical assistant professor of music therapy and director of the music therapy program at the University of Rhode Island.
“We chose Nicole as this year’s Champion for Children for her work with infants and young children,” Orban said. “Her trailblazing efforts foster bonding through the development of personal lullabies for substance-exposed newborns and developmental skills through musical play in early intervention programs. She is a music therapy leader in our state and her work with vulnerable children, as well as people with health conditions and disabilities of all ages, is worthy of public recognition.”
In accepting the award, O’Malley said she is honored to be part of bringing music back post-COVID to its intended use of bringing communities together.
Roman is chief innovation and behavioral health officer at Thundermist Health Center.
“Matt was chosen as one of this year’s Champions for Community Change for his tireless efforts to improve children’s mental health in Washington County,” Orban said. “From his support of youth at Curtis Corner Middle School to participating in collaborative office rounds with local pediatricians, to the coalition’s most recent work designing school-based telebehavioral health services, Matt is an eager collaborator and an exceptional community problem-solver.”
Roman, seeing the lack of pediatric psychiatry and counseling resources in the region, developed Thundermist’s pediatric nurse practitioner fellowship program, which provides enhanced access and case management for referrals from local pediatricians.
“Matt is a steadfast champion for community change,” Orban said.
Roman implored forum attendees to make sure they have ‘rechargeable batteries.’
“Our batteries need to be fully charged these days to be able to do deal with what our kids and communities need,” he said.
Flannery-Schroeder is a psychology professor and director of training in clinical psychology in the Department of Psychology and director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Anxiety Lab at the University of Rhode Island.
The coalition chose Flannery-Schroeder as a Champion for Community Change for her exceptional creativity and longstanding commitment to training health and mental health providers and parents to promote children’s mental health, Orban said.
“Ellen has done it all,” she said. “She has worked with the local behavioral health workforce to adapt cognitive behavioral therapy strategies for use with children, facilitated collaborative office rounds with local pediatricians, and played a key role creating the coalition’s child development program, The Greatest 8TM. An expert in child anxiety and treatment, Ellen seizes every opportunity she can to promote children’s mental health.
“Her passion for teaching is evident in the fun, engaging ways she engages her audiences, whether they are students, health providers, or parents. And, she always thinks out of the box, where creativity lives. In accepting her award, Flannery-Schroeder acknowledged the national emergency in children’s mental health. “Our kids are in trouble and they are counting on us,” she said. “We need to be there for them.”