Sharon Raggio has completed a few 26-mile foot races over the years, but she has yet to cross the finish line on her longest-running marathon: a career in mental health.
Raggio sprinted through miles of professional twists and turns to become the senior vice president of clinical services at Pikes Peak Mental Health. Since 1979, she has served in various capacities in the mental health field, including positions as a social service representative, an alcohol counselor and community educator and a family and marriage therapist.
She began working for PPMH in 1996 as a child and family specialist. From there, she jogged on to program manager, to division director, and then to vice president of programs and services.
All the while, keeping her “eye on the balance,” she said.
In a profession where burnout is anticipated, balance means hope.
“You have to have hope,” Raggio said. “For every horror story there are 10 successes. We have to learn from our social ills and recognize the good work that is being done.”
Raggio is being recognized for the work she has done in the community. Cynthia Zupanec, the director of public relations for the Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group, nominated Raggio for Women of Influence, and said the recognition is well deserved and overdue.
“I see Sharon as one of the unsung heroes,” Zupanec said. “We see everything that she does, and the community at large doesn’t have a clue about what she does. Everything she does is all about making the world a better place.”
Raggio’s current doings in the community include board membership on the Suicide Prevention Partnership, the Community Health Partnership and the Detox Coordinating Council.
What she has done for PPMH is to bring recognition to the organization through “outstanding outcomes benchmarked against state and national instruments,” Raggio said. “Every practice is linked to research as to what works for this population. We’ve been able to outperform the averages and provide outstanding quality care.”
Those performances were enhanced when Raggio created the Pikes Peak Balanced Score Card program, which incorporates an accountability tool that measures best practices in business and mental health.
Zupanec said the tool “accurately reflects status in relation to strategic goals in the financial, customer, business processes and learning and growth domains.”
Raggio also spearheaded the Detox Task Force to address the 2001 funding losses that forced PPMH to reduce detoxification beds from 24 to eight. The Detox Coordination Council was a result of the task force.
She’s also been recognized nationally and statewide as an expert in a treatment approach – the Recovery Model – that “incorporates an ongoing personal process … of achieving healthy goals, despite the presence of a psychiatric disability,” Zupenec said.
Raggio’s own goals have incorporated business and service. She has a master’s degree in psychology and an MBA.
“As I grew professionally, I wanted to ensure I had the business education to be a good steward of the mental health field,” she said. “A business and clinical degree enables me to have the appropriate balance between being fiscally responsible and clinically efficient and aware.”
However, the system is often unbalanced because of funding cuts and insurance companies “ratcheting down” benefit packages, Raggio said. “There are lots of gaps, and the challenges in our community are huge,” she said.
Although there are still stigmas and myths associated with mental illnesses, mental health must be holistic in its approach and integrated into the community, she said.
“Our systems have to be holistic … and mental health needs to be a part of the fabric of the community,” Raggio said. It’s an issue that crosses all socio-economic, racial, religious and gender boundaries.
Woven into the fabric of Raggio’s life are family, friends, recreation and travel. She has three adopted sons, all in their mid- to late 20s. Despite her career highlights, she said her biggest accomplishment is “raising kids who are all doing well.”
She has traded running for swimming and loves to travel, especially to Greece, she said. She and her husband, Tim, also enjoy traveling via their individual motorcycles.
Raggio credits Tim as her support system, and attributes her successes to an “upbringing that was always about how you make a difference.”
“And I always knew I wanted to help people,” she said.
“I am blessed with having a lot of energy, and that helps.”
Especially when you’re running a marathon.