The Bridge Forum Brings Back ‘Mental Health’ Event to Go Beyond the Stigma in Arizona

May 18, 2022

The HeroZona Foundation, a nonprofit that works with veterans, and first responders committed to bringing social good to future generations and underserved communities, has announced a unique mental health segment of its Bridge Forum.

A panel of Arizona leaders in government and healthcare plan to discuss mental health issues plaguing the state.

The group also will explore actions to help community members who struggle to access resources.

National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. will deliver remarks, and Dr. William Parham, the mental health and wellness director for the National Basketball Association, will offer the keynote.

The 8:30 a.m. event at the Footprint Center in Phoenix has received support from the NNPA, the Phoenix Suns, and Equality Health Foundation.

Officials plan to live stream the event at

“There are many stereotypes surrounding mental health that perpetuate harm to Arizonans struggling with certain diagnoses,” said Alan “AP” Powell, chairman of AP & Associates – Strategic Alliances.

Powell, a U.S. Army Desert-Storm veteran and HeroZona co-founder, added that “forums like this one are important in breaking those stigmas and helping the community better understand how to support those affected by mental health issues.”

Event panelists include COPA Health CEO Dr. Shar Najafri-Piper, Arizona Coalition for Military Families Director Thomas Winkel, Mercy Care Deputy CEO Tad Gary, Solari Crisis & Human Services President and CEO Justin Chase, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cara Christ.

Equality Health Foundation President Tomas Leon will moderate the event.

“The pandemic has worsened the mental health crisis in America indicated by higher anxiety, depression, and suicide rates,” Leon stated.

“It’s imperative that we bring together first responders and the mental health community to find innovative solutions that improve how we help people during a crisis.”

Dr. Chavis said it’s noteworthy that the Bridge Forum on Mental Health is timely and needed.

“This is a national issue because of the growing mental health crisis in communities across the United States and underserved communities,” Dr. Chavis asserted.

“The NNPA again recognizes and salutes the leadership of the Phoenix Suns and others in Arizona for supporting the crucially important Bridge Forum on Mental Health. We will be there to participate fully and to represent the Black Press of America.”

Further, mental wealth is the sum of all emotional vitality that all persons are always in possession of, even if they are unaware that they possess these gems of inner strength, Dr. Parham stated.

“Mental wealth is also seen in the abilities to see, acknowledge, and accept that life offers trials and tribulations that inevitably open portals for people to discover that they have levels of ‘survival genius’ and untapped emotional, mental, and physical tools they can use to free themselves from the clutches of despair, hit the reset button, and find their way forward with a renewed sense of purpose, direction, and optimism.”

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, Tempe Police Department Chief of Police Jeffrey Glover, and Mesa Fire Department Fire Chief Mary Cameli, also are expected to attend the forum.

The foundation has launched various community programs, including The Bridge Forum’ Time for Change’ Summits, which bring leaders from across the country to discuss racial inequality, police relations, veterans’ issues, mental health, and more.

Other initiatives include Phoenix Tools 4 School, Holiday Bike Giveaways, MLK Celebrating the Dream, Veterans Reach to Teach, and the HeroZona Forgotten Heroes Breakfast.

In January 2018, the Scottsdale Police Department implemented 29 new initiatives from the Scottsdale Bridge Forum 2017.

These included establishing sufficient resources for police personnel dealing with trauma, establishing dialogue opportunities with under-served communities, enhancing engagement with the community’s youth, and identifying ways to address the community’s needs related to behavioral health.

For more information about the Bridge Forum and to stream its upcoming event on Tuesday, May 3, visit

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