Spirit of Meridian Awards

Spirit of Meridian

2023 Spirit of Meridian Winner

Hank Milius

Hank Milius, President and CEO of Meridian Health Services, is the recipient of the Rialzo XII Spirit of Meridian Award, a recognition that pays tribute to an individual who demonstrates proactive actions in promoting healthier communities. This annual recognition is awarded to someone who has contributed significantly to the overall health and well-being of people and somebody who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Milius is retiring from Meridian Health Services at the end of 2023 after 21 years of services. Under his leadership, Meridian extensively expanded and rebranded. He became CEO when it was Comprehensive Mental Health Services in 3 clinics with 200 employees, 3 medical staff serving 5,000 patients, and $20 million in revenue.

Today, Meridian is one of the leading providers of integrated health services in the industry. Meridian employs 1,100 staff including over 60 medical providers, and services 40,000 patients across more than 50 facilities with $150 million in revenue. Milius’ visionary leadership lead to Meridian becoming the “Whole-Person” Health Home it is today by providing a broad spectrum of services caring for the mind and body. Additionally, Milius created Rialzo. The annual charity gala has raised more than $1 million for its broad suite of healthcare programming.

2022 Spirit of Meridian Winner

Governor Eric Holcomb

Governor Eric Holcomb is the recipient of Meridian Health Services’ Rialzo XI Spirit of Meridian Award, a recognition that pays tribute to an individual who demonstrates proactive actions in promoting healthier communities. The annual recognition is awarded to someone who has contributed significantly to the overall health and well-being of people and somebody who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

“We could think of no one who has had more impact in a just a short period of time on the overall health of our state,” said Hank Milius, Meridian’s president and chief executive officer.

Governor Holcomb has identified healthcare as a major initiative in his legislative agenda and specifically focused on attacking the opioid crisis as one of his five pillars of accountability. Holcomb, on his first day in office in 2017, appointed the state’s first drug czar, tackling addiction and the state’s anti-drug efforts.

“In large part, the governor’s priorities mirror the ongoing work at Meridian. His support of these initiatives and demonstrating clear achievements made him our first choice for this annual award,” Milius said.

Governor Holcomb continues to lead the state through the Covid pandemic. During his State of the State address, he announced that roughly 600,000 Hoosiers have been vaccinated or scheduled to do so and he unveiled a new program called, Next Level Regional Recovery program. This program is intended to help the state’s economy recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.

Holcomb reinforces his healthcare initiatives in the Next Level Agenda, which includes adding more recovery housing for Hoosiers coping with substance use disorder, more mental healthcare services, tools to assess substance use disorder in pregnancy, and prioritizes reducing neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The governor’s agenda also includes expanding recovery housing for people in recovery fighting opioid use. In addition, Holcomb’s efforts to effect Indiana’s infant mortality rate are showing signs of working. Indiana’s infant mortality rate fell at the highest rate in six years.

The award will be given to Holcomb at Rialzo XI, Meridian’s annual charity gala, which is May 14 at the Scheumann Family Practice Facility on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

Previous Spirit of Meridian Winners


2019 Spirit Winners

Meridian Recognizes 2019 Spirit of Meridian Recipients Through a Decade of Philanthropy

Philanthropic endeavors have leaders who believe in the cause and champion for it! For a decade, Charlie Sursa and Fred Reese have been particularly instrumental in Meridian’s philanthropic efforts and are being recognized as recipients of Meridian’s 2019 Spirit of Meridian Award.

Philanthropy means the love of humanity—it is the pulse of not-for-profit organizations such as Meridian Health Services. Through the passion and dedication of Sursa, Reese and Meridian’s board and staff, Meridian has grown and expanded its services to communities offering “whole-person” healthcare through the integration of physical, behavioral and social services.

Charlie Sursa

Charlie Sursa and his family are known for a legacy of philanthropy which helped establish a culture of giving in the community. Sursa has selflessly given his time, talent and treasure to many organizations including serving on boards for the Indiana Youth Institute, Ball State University Foundation, Community Foundation, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, President of the local Rotary Club, and many others. In addition, Sursa has been on the Meridian Board of Directors and committees for over 15 years. He was instrumental in leading Meridian’s philanthropic initiatives with the creation of Meridian’s Fund Development Council. He led Meridian’s efforts to help create a culture of giving. “If it wasn’t for Charlie, Rialzo would not be here. He was the one who said we will never know if folks will donate unless we ask. And he was a pioneer in the support of Rialzo through his personal and corporate giving,” said Hank Milius, President/CEO, Meridian Health Services.

Fred Reese

Fred Reese’s history in philanthropy led him to be known as the heart and mind of Meridian’s charity benefit gala, Rialzo. Reese’s dedication and passion brought Rialzo to life ten years ago. He has impressed people each and every year with beautiful decorations and astonishing themes making Rialzo the area’s largest charity gala while providing an incredible experience raising money for people in need. The owner of Willowbrook Interiors and NV Design, Reese’s professional expertise in interior design lends to his elaborate décor, keen execution of details, and his relationships within the community to help connect people to Rialzo and Meridian.

His collaboration and leadership with the arts community has made Rialzo an experience like no other with full theatrical performances and eventful productions at every Rialzo event. His time, talent and energy make Meridian’s charity gala and other annual events possible, including Holidays at Gresham. “Fred has a passion for the mission of Meridian’s programs and services, and generously invests 400+ hours of his time each year to Rialzo alone in planning and execution,” said Hank Milius. Reese has orchestrated ten years of transforming ideas and bringing them to life for thousands of attendees to experience Meridian’s “purpose with a party.”

“No one organization can be all things to all people and Rialzo is an example of exceptional collaboration,” said Milius. Rialzo is a true community collaboration with many organizations supporting Meridian including partnerships with businesses, corporations and the local arts community—Muncie Civic Theatre, Cornerstone Center for the Arts, and the Muncie Symphony Orchestra who offer performances throughout the event.

Since its inception, Rialzo has raised nearly $2.5 million in funds through donations, sponsorships, and sales resulting in Meridian’s ability to offer the following:

  • Maternal Treatment Program – providing support and therapy for addicted mothers and their newborn babies.
  • Pediatrics – Reach Out and Read Program funding (books for each well-baby visit).
  • A therapeutic playground for Pediatric Rehab patients at our Suzanne Gresham Center
  • Training for Foster Hope parents.
  • Women’s Health – to help mothers in need with advanced technology testing.
  • Wheeling for Healing Kits- portable therapeutic kits for behavioral clinicians to serve children in schools and in homes.
  • Welcome Home Packs- for previously homeless patients making the transition to apartment living.

Many of these programs were launched due to the generous funds received through the philanthropic efforts of Rialzo. A big thank you to two of the most important people who helped bring all of this to fruition, Charlie Sursa and Fred Reese, our 2019 recipients of the Spirit of Meridian Award.


2018 National Spirit Winner

Patrick Kennedy

Meridian Health Services presented Patrick Kennedy, former U.S. Congressman with the first National Spirit of Meridian Award. Kennedy reflects Meridian’s vision for more integrated healthcare systems and whole-person health. He also served as the lead sponsor of the groundbreaking Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act, signed into law in 2008. The Federal Parity Act provides millions of Americans previously denied care, with access to mental health and addiction treatment by requiring insurance companies to treat illnesses of the brain, such as depression and addiction, the same way they treat illnesses of the body, such as diabetes and cancer.Meridian Health Services hosted Patrick Kennedy at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott for a speaking engagement. Kennedy addressed a full capacity audience, sharing his personal experiences with addiction and mental illness that impacted he and his family. He also signed copies of his book, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction” for invited guests.

2018 Community Spirit Winner

Jeff Arnold

For changing the narrative about drug addiction in Delaware County, and for his tireless efforts to bring treatment and recovery programs to those who need it most, Meridian Health Services is proud to announce Delaware County Prosecuting Attorney, Jeffrey Arnold as the 2018 Spirit of Meridian Award winner.

The annual recognition is awarded to someone “who has contributed significantly to the overall health of our community and somebody who goes above and beyond the call of duty,” said Hank Milius, president and CEO of Meridian Health Services. Arnold has been an invaluable partner to Meridian Health Services and a key individual with Meridian’s Maternal Treatment Program at the Suzanne Gresham Center, a program for addicted mothers and their newborn babies, which opened just last year.

Arnold’s efforts are an example of caring for the social health of our community, and support Meridian’s whole-person philosophy of physical, mental and social well-being. His connection to this have a personal and professional background as he earned his undergrad, and Master’s degree in counseling psychology and worked in the field, prior to pursuing a law degree.

His caring but “tough love” approach in helping those in need has been key in getting people the supports and direction they need to rehabilitate and start a new life.

Arnold was awarded the Community Spirit of Meridian Award at Meridian’s 2018 annual charity gala, Rialzo IX “A Whole New World”. Arnold’s contributions and perseverance have helped create “whole new lives” in Muncie and Delaware County communities.

Sagamore of the Wabash Recipients

Mary and Cornelius Dollison

Mary and Cornelius Dollison have spent a lifetime helping others. The Dollison’s opened their home more than 30 years ago during summer vacation, to help educate children in their neighborhood. That small gathering of youth was the foundation for what became Motivate Our Minds [MOM]. “Seeing the importance of helping children help themselves, helping families help themselves is a challenge, but one that’s worth it for the health of community and those within it,” said Mary Dollison.For their remarkable service to Muncie and Delaware County, the Dollisons are being awarded Indiana’s highest honor—Sagamore of the Wabash. The award is the highest honor, which the Governor of Indiana bestows. It is a personal tribute given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state, or to the governor.The Dollison’s were presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award at Meridian’s 2018 annual charity gala, Rialzo IX “A Whole New World”. The Dollison’s, through their selfless contributions made throughout Muncie and Delaware County, are creating “whole new communities.”


2017 Spirit Winner

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

Meridian Health Services named IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital’s NICU team winners of the Spirit of Meridian award for being on the frontlines in the local fight against addiction.

Today, an average of more than two babies a week are born at Muncie’s hospital with exposure to drugs. They have Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which normally causes them to cry and shake non-stop. Because of this, they need constant care.

That’s where IU Health BMH’s NICU steps in. The team is committed to taking care of these newborn babies born suffering from withdrawal, sometimes logging 12-hour shifts on their feet. On average, these nurses care for 11 babies per day, making for a total of approximately 250 per year.

Because of their devotion to caring for these babies, the doctors and nurses at IU Health BMH are helping promote Meridian’s whole-person health cause.


2016 Spirit Winner

Dr. John Wernert

Dr. John J. Wernert, M.D., MHS, earned the 2016 Spirit of Meridian award for his ongoing contributions to integrated healthcare.

Dr. Wernert currently serves as secretary for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. A psychiatrist, he was appointed by former Gov. Mike Pence in June 2014, making him the first healthcare provider to earn the position.

As secretary of the FSSA, Dr. Wernert helped launch the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), a health insurance program for low-income individuals and families. Since its implementation, Meridian has enrolled more than 600 applicants. Meridian’s own enrollment specialist works with communities across the state to educate the public about the healthcare program and how best to leverage its features.

“My first priority is to make sure patients and families are at the center of what we do at FSSA,” Dr. Wernert said. “The Division of Mental Health is concerned about the mental health of citizens, and the Division of Aging works primarily with the needs of Hoosier elderly – but these divisions need to work in concert and coordinate their services for maximal impact.”

That logic fits perfectly with Meridian’s integrated care philosophy, which blends specialties in physical, mental and emotional well-being. By using this philosophy, Dr. Wernert continues to build bridges between government and healthcare providers.


2015 Spirit Winner

Jim Hiatt

Jim Hiatt believes in building strong relationships with his customers. A pharmacist for 40 years, he develops personal connections within his occupation, and because of this, Meridian Health Services has honored him with the 2015 Spirit of Meridian award.

Hiatt’s long-time pharmaceutical career started in college. He attended Ball State University and then transferred to Purdue University to finish his pharmacy degree, He graduated college in 1975.

Hiatt now works at Genoa Pharmacy, located in the North Tillotson Avenue campus of Meridian Health Services in Muncie. Hiatt and his business work hand-in-hand with hundreds of Meridian clients, for whom Hiatt goes above and beyond to serve medication needs and build personal relationships.

Hiatt has been known to personally deliver medicines, make himself available after hours and bat for clients when dealing with insurance companies. His personal touch to medicine is an asset for Meridian as it strives to keep the community healthier and happier.


2014 Spirit Winner

Donna Bookout

Donna Bookout is the 2014 winner of Meridian Health Service Spirit of Meridian award, which recognizes community members who embody the organization’s focus on whole-person health. Bookout received the award Saturday at Rialzo V, Meridian Health Service’s annual fundraising gala for her efforts in Women’s Health to help addictive pregnant mothers and the public awareness campaign “When I Abuse, We both Lose.

Bookout’s boundless energy and limitless contributions toward the protection and wellness of children from abuse, made her selection easy. It has been and remains a primary cause for Meridian, as well. “Donna Bookout brings the highest level of commitment to the very things Meridian Health Services stands for,” said Hank Milius, president and CEO. “There are few people who have done so much for so many for so long.”

Bookout, a longtime board member of Prevent Child Abuse of Delaware County, has worked with Meridian Services’ Child Advocacy Center and has made it one of her life’s missions to give voice to the voiceless. Bookout’s lifetime of giving has included involvement in Healthy Families advisory board, and the board of the Children Clothing Center. She also has been involved with Retired Senior Volunteer program, the Youth Empowerment Group of Delaware County, United Methodist Women and Gethsemane United Methodist, and has worked with TEAMwork for Quality Living’s Eliminating Poverty In the Community program.

Bookout’s professional career as education coordinator for Planned Parenthood of East Central Indiana meant she was involved with Healthy Mothers/Healthy Babies and its steering committee. At the same time, she became more aware of the problems of adolescent pregnancy. She has headed its adolescent Pregnancy Issue Committee.

Meridian’s “whole-person” health initiative integrates physical, mental and social well being to help people achieve their optimum health. The approach is designed to connect treatments and doctors working together to heal both the body and mind for total well-being.


2013 Spirit Winner

Dr. Saber Bahrami

Dr. Saber Bahrami is a remarkable man. Just ask anyone who knows him. Born in Afghanistan, his youth was spent in abject poverty. He was the only one of his mother’s children to survive infancy.

His widowed mother and her brother somehow orchestrated an education for Dr. Bahrami. Once in high school, he eagerly participated in a youth exchange program, spending a year in Missouri.

It was during this time in his life that he managed to get some paid work and, as the story goes, he did not spend even a penny. Instead, he sent it all home to his mother and uncle to help support them.

These kinds of selfless acts would become Dr. Bahrami’s trademark stamp as a physician, philanthropist and friend. He is the 2013 Spirit of Meridian Community winner. Read More »


2012 Spirit Winners

Community Award Winner
David Chastain
Director of Special Services Jay County School Corp.

David Chastain, Director of Special Services at Jay County School Corporation, is our community award winner. Dave is an outstanding representation of a community leader collaborating with Meridian’s staff to help grow our school based programs.

Dave has been a very strong supporter and advocate for Meridian Health Services. He implemented a unique alternative school program in Portland, Indiana that integrated educational and behavioral services for children that are unable to tolerate a regular classroom setting.

The program has had great success for these children being able to complete their education and receive critical behavioral services. The success of this program has encouraged other school corporations to implement it and Meridian’s childrens and Connxxions program services with it. Dave has facilitated and promoted Meridian’s school and home based services to four other school corporations that Meridian is now providing services to with a total student population base of 20,000.

If you didn’t know better, you would think Dave worked for Meridian. On a regular basis, Dave opens doors for Meridian with an enthusiasm and passion that opens eyes, ears and hearts to our work.

Employee Winner
Deceil Moore
Regional Clinical Manager Meridian Health Services

Congratulations again to our very own Deceil Moore for being this year’s “Spirit of Meridian” employee award winner.  Deceil’s passion and dedication is reflected in all the great things she does for Meridian, her clients and the community.

Deceil has been with Meridian 18 years. She is an Licensed Clinical Social Worker and recognized as an expert in providing mental health treatment for people with the dual diagnosis of intellectual disabilities and mental illness.

Deceil is a founder of Meridian’s Connxxions program that has been providing mental health treatment for  the dual diagnosis population for the past 10 years. The Connxxions program currently serves 23 Indiana counties serving over 800 clients and is now recognized as the leading mental health provider in Indiana for this population. Deceil also educates people on a state and national level by presenting at many seminars on treatments for dual diagnosis.

In each of the several original nominations about Deceil, her giving spirit was touted again and again. Despite her growing responsibilities and  geography, she always finds time to talk about individual cases and to train new people at Meridian. Her passion is noted as deep and real….and is a real inspiration in developing the next levels of leadership at Meridian.


2011 Spirit Winners

Community Award Winner
Dr. Christina (Tina) Drummond
Medical Director of the Emergency Department
IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

Dr. Drummond is recognized for her commitment and dedication to patient care and as well as her efforts in collaborating with Meridian’s inpatient psychiatric program. It is well known in the behavioral health and emergency medical services communities that psychiatric patients pose a significant challenge to hospital emergency departments.

“I believe you can find an exception to this at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, due in large part to the leadership of Dr. Drummond. Dr. Drummond has fostered a culture committed to providing excellent emergency care to psychiatric patients,” said Barbara Sells, Meridian’s Program Manager at Meridian.

Meridian staff report that all needs of psychiatric patients are appropriately assessed, treated, and managed humanely and creatively.

Employee Winner
Kimberly J. Canan
Behavioral Clinician
Suzanne Gresham Center
A division of Meridian Health Services

“Kim is one of the most resourceful and creative people I have met. She finds a way to get her clients what they need…so she can change their lives,” said one nominaiton. “And she treats each of her cases as if they were children of her own.”

Most people would not want to take on kids like Kim sees. She works with the most challenging cases, usually kids who are headed to residential treamtent centers. Yet, if you were to meet any of the children with whom Kim has spent time, you would discover kind, respectful, thankful kids who have come to respect their community.

Kim also put three years of ‘spare time’ effort into creating a 25 foot-long and floor-to-ceiling mural of a park scene at the entrance of Meridian’s Suzanne Gresham Center. Designed to make families in need of services more comfortable, the Gresham Center is honored to have Kim’s work as a comforting introduction to the building, and reflection of her dedication to helping people cope and giving families hope.