In Honor of Joyce Wale by Jonathan Edwards

August 18, 2022 (Reposted from NYAPRS ENews)

Gita Enders, Joyce Wale, and Jonathan P. Edwards

The Mental Health Service Delivery and Advocacy Community mourns the loss of Joyce B. Wale, a  pioneer, champion and proponent of peer support and the inclusion of experiential perspectives in facilitating transformation of a treatment-as-usual service model to a recovery-oriented system of care.  Joyce was an active leader known to many of us, passed away suddenly last week after recently retiring from UnitedHealthcare. She also was an active leader and served on a variety of legislative and New York State Committees.

Under her leadership was the implementation of Behavioral Health Expansions, the development of numerous services across the city as well as establishing roles for Peer leadership and innovative programming to promote empowerment among individuals and families accessing services within NYC Health + Hospitals. Joyce was a Fellow with the New York Academy of Medicine and the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Institute of Behavioral Healthcare Improvement. 

Among Joyce’s immeasurable contributions was her stellar leadership over several decades of the Office of Behavioral Health, New York City Health + Hospitals, where in 1998 she ensured the hiring of NYC H+H’s first Consumer Affairs Coordinator, Elmer Vasquez. Joyce’s vision for ensuring visibility, a seat at the table, professional growth and development and evidence that recovery is real among people with lived experience was to embed this leadership role within OBH, resulting in Elmer’s three successors, Jonathan P. Edwards (2003-2009), Linda Richard (2010-2012), and currently Gita Enders, Director, Office of Behavioral Health, Consumer Affairs, who assumed the role in 2013.

The impetus for Joyce’s indomitable spirit and resolve to advocate for the rights, recovery capital, and parity for individuals who had previously been deemed “patients” by many practitioners steeped in the hierarchical medical model of care, was to promote the notion of empowerment and the belief that everyone has a voice in their own recovery. The most obvious manifestation of this agenda was H+H’s hiring and deployment of hundreds of Peer Counselors (H+H’s internal labor relations classification for the peer specialist title) and, as far back as 2004, the establishment of Level 1 (entry level), Level 2 (team leader), and Level 3 (Supervising Peer Counselor), introducing a sound mechanism for career ladder opportunities for peer support workers who wanted to advance within the Peer Counselor title.

Jonathan Edwards also offered some personal thoughts:

“Joyce was a staunch change agent whose engine had been fueled more than 25 years ago when she walked on to an inpatient psychiatric unit and overheard staff using disparaging terminology to characterize the personhood and experiences of individuals being “treated” on the unit. 

Some years later, I was fortunate to be in attendance when Joyce received the Mental Health News Education (MHNE) Corporate Leadership Award, NYU Kimmel Center, Rosenberg Pavilion in May 2019 and was privileged to serve the NYC Safety Net Hospital System as the Consumer Affairs lead and internal advocate for six years under Joyce’s leadership. I would be remiss not to pay tribute to Joyce, who hired me when I was returning to the workforce in 2002 after dealing with major depression. Joyce eventually became my biggest champion and cheered me even after I moved on from NYC H+H. We will always value Joyce for her unwavering vision. She was a trailblazer within our community” 

Condolences and sympathy cards can be sent to Family of Joyce Wale at 1110 Bush Circle, Rockaway, NJ 07866

Joyce’s wishes were for any donations to be made to NJ Mental Health Association


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