Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nonprofit CEO Hopes to Make a Difference

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nonprofit CEO Hopes to Make a Difference

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

Wendy Hughes watched her father struggle with depression.

That family history and subsequent work with behavioral health agencies led to her latest job - president and CEO of Jacksonville-based Mental Health America of Northeast Florida.

"Growing up with a father who went far too long without treatment for major depressive disorder inspires me to break down the walls of stigma and promote early intervention," she said.

Hughes, 43, recently succeeded Denise Marzullo at the area affiliate of Mental Health America, which provides mental health support, recovery and advocacy. In August, Marzullo became the new president and CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Duval.

"My hope is to lead the agency with as much integrity and creativity as Denise ... did. I am eager to meet members of the community and hear from them as to what they see as our most pressing needs in the community," Hughes said.

A certified public accountant, Hughes worked in the for-profit sector early in her career. But she spent the last 12 years working for nonprofits in South Georgia, serving as chief financial officer for large community behavioral health centers in Waycross and Brunswick.

"I saw a broad perspective of mental health services, the needs of those served by mental providers and the gaps that exist in the continuum of care," said Hughes, who this year added a master's degree in health care management to her resume. The job at Mental Health America "appealed to my desire to share my vision for improved access and coordination of care to fill those gaps," she said.

"We give a voice for those that are often not heard," she said. "We try to teach them to become their own advocates so that in one voice we can all speak out for change and remove barriers to treatment."

Finding her niche in nonprofit work, Hughes said, "was a blessing. …

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