UA ‘Camp Wellness’ Receives 2016 Recognition of Excellence Award from U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Monday, September 12, 2016

Camp Wellness, a groundbreaking University of Arizona program that helps adults with serious mental illnesses develop healthy lifestyles, has been selected for the 2016 Recognition of Excellence in Wellness award given by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Camp Wellness is one of just three programs in the nation to receive the SAMHSA award this year. SAMHSA announced the awards today as part of its National Wellness Week.

“We are grateful to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for this important recognition of our program, which has been shown to significantly improve the health of adults living with serious mental illnesses,” said Myra Muramoto, MD, MPH, head of the UA College of Medicine –Tucson’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, which established Camp Wellness in 2009.

“We also are grateful to Cenpatico Integrated Care, the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Regional Behavioral Health Authority for Southern Arizona, for its financial support of Camp Wellness,” Dr. Muramoto said.

“We are proud and honored to have Camp Wellness and the wonderful services they offer as an option for our members. They understand the importance of whole-person health. This recognition is well-deserved,” said Terry Stevens, CEO, Cenpatico Integrated Care.

The UA Department of Family and Community Medicine developed Camp Wellness in response to national studies that show adults with serious mental illnesses have a shorter life expectancy than other adults; 25 fewer years on average, nationally, but 32 fewer years in Arizona.

The even shorter life expectancy in Arizona is partly due to chronic diseases, including the state’s higher incidence of diabetes, which often is accompanied by poor nutrition, obesity, heart disease and other illnesses, said Randa Kutob, MD, MPH, Camp Wellness medical director.

Camp Wellness data show “students” who complete the nine-week program typically lose about 4 pounds, reduce their waist measurement by 1 inch, improve their blood pressure and increase their physical endurance. The students also report significant improvement in their mental and physical health.

“Students experience Camp Wellness as a successful event in their lives,” said Andy Bernstein, PhD, a clinical and community psychologist and clinical director of Camp Wellness. “For many of them, it’s the first time they have completed something. So in addition to acquiring skills related to their own health issues, they also are acquiring a mindset that allows them to become more activated in other areas of their lives.”

Camp Wellness employs health mentors who have lived with serious mental illness (SMI) and have gone through training to provide support and teach classes to others living with SMI. The health mentors are essential to the success students achieve through the program, said Cheryl Glass, director of the UA RISE (Recovery through Integration, Support and Empowerment) Health and Wellness Center, which is home to Camp Wellness.

“It is a privilege and a joy to see people improving week after week, daring to dream and achieving their goals,” Glass said. “The health mentors provide amazing support to help make that happen.”

Julie Croteau is a health mentor who has been in recovery with bipolar disorder since her late 20s. She has been a health mentor at Camp Wellness since the program started in 2009. She was mentoring at another behavioral health agency in Tucson when she first heard about Camp Wellness.

“When I learned that it was going to focus on helping people with mental illness deal with things like tobacco cessation and exercise and nutrition, I was thrilled because before then, it just wasn’t being talked about. I always wondered why in behavioral health your head is separate from your body. You can’t separate the two. If you are smoking, it affects your circulation, which affects your mental health.”


She immediately applied – and was one of the first to be hired – to work at Camp Wellness.

One day last week, Croteau was mentoring a young woman who was in her second week with Camp Wellness. “She said to me, ‘I’m really tired.’ And I said ‘yes, you are, and you will be. You’ve been working hard, but you’re going to start feeling better, probably next week.’”

About the UA College of Medicine – Tucson

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is advancing health and wellness through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research, and advancements in patient care in Arizona and across the United States. Founded in 1967, the College ranks among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care and is leading the way in academic medicine through its partnership with Banner – University Medicine, a new division of one of the largest nonprofit health-care systems in the country. For more information, please visit

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information:

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Last modified date: November 8, 2016 - 9:30am