2002 Citizen Services

Anne Matthew-Younes

Provided the American public with a high level of dedication and compassion in the mental health field, specifically in working to reduce school violence.

As the tragic school shootings in recent years have shown, some of America’s schools have too often been places of violence and vulnerability rather than places of learning. Anne Mathews-Younes works tirelessly to change that as Director of the Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress and Special Programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).

Mathews-Younes and her colleagues designed and implemented the CMHS/SAMHSA School Violence Prevention Initiative, which now serves as a model for the country in preventing school violence and fostering the healthy development of children.

A primary focus of Mathews-Younes’ work is the Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) grant program, a successful example of cross-departmental collaboration among the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice. It draws on the best practices of the education, justice, social service and mental health systems to foster enhanced resources that promote healthy child development and ensure that school environments are safe, disciplined and drug-free.

Mathews-Younes and her team also developed the “15+ Make Time to Listen, Take Time to Talk” campaign, which gives practical guidance to parents and care-givers about how to strengthen relationships with the children in their care: spend at least 15 minutes of undivided, child-directed time with them each day. “When you do that, magical things can happen,” Mathews-Younes says.

Youth violence extracts an enormous toll on the nation, but prevention can make a real difference in the lives of children. Mathews-Younes works to help young people feel safe in schools so that they can learn and grow into healthy, happy and responsible adults.

These noble efforts have been successful in large part because of Mathews-Younes’ leadership abilities. She has coupled her compassion and knowledge of the mental health field with a commitment to work collaboratively with her staff. “We’re just a huge team, and I’m just lucky enough to be a leader,” said Mathews-Younes. She is, to quote a colleague, “an unsung hero.”