IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WJMN) – Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center held a social worker of the year ceremony to recognize an outstanding individual among the ranks. For 2022, that person is Alyssa Knoll, OGJVAMC Community Engagement and Partnership Coordinator (CEPC).

Knoll partners with community coalitions, forms ongoing relationships, provides training and education to community members and stakeholders, and serves as a resource to all.

As the CEPC for the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin, Knoll partners with community partners and organizations throughout the area, such as mental health organizations, Veteran Service Organizations, homeless organizations, first responders, members of the clergy, health agencies, gun shop owners, community members, and Veterans and their family members to reduce veteran suicide.

Approximately 65 percent of Veteran suicides are by Veterans not engaged in VA care, making Knoll’s community outreach that much more important.

Knoll supports the communities that serve Veterans by joining and establishing suicide prevention coalitions.

Knoll was recognized by her peers for her being a role model of the profession.

“She is kind, compassionate and has a calm and gentle presence, which is essential in this field,” read her nomination. “Her role is outreach. In this role she presents the ‘face’ of the VA to all stakeholders, displaying VA’s mission and values with so much grace and professionalism, we should all be proud.”

Knoll’s accomplishments over the past year include standing up a coalition to bring suicide prevention to more than 500 Army National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard members. This project was recognized by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration during a conference in Washington D.C.

Knoll created an opportunity for all Veterans to participate in art workshops at no cost. These opportunities are happening across the area in multiple partnerships. Veterans and their family members will have an opportunity to display art in an exhibit for more than a week in September and November at the Bonifas Center in Escanaba.

Knoll has also participated in multiple campaigns across our catchment area to raise awareness about the suicide prevention support offered by the VA crisis line, 988 then Press 1.

“I appreciate this award and being seen. But I want you all to know that I see all of you,” she said, moments after receiving her award. “Any one of us could be standing here right now because we all show up for our Veterans every single day. It doesn’t matter the circumstances. We are a can-do group of people.”

Nominees for the award were Sharon Anastas, Beth Brunelli, Mary Campbell, Kirk Carter, Nicole Foster-Holdwick, Sarita Gruszynski, Rich Holmstrom and Kirk Matthews.

VA has more than 18,000 social workers throughout its ranks, the largest employer of social workers in the nation. Iron Mountain VA and its associated Community-Based Outpatient Clinics employ 43 social workers throughout the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin.