AUBURN – J. Gregory Shea, leader of Tri-County Mental Health Services for the past 30 years, has been given a lifetime achievement award for his work by a national health care organization.

Shea has been executive director of Tri-County since 1974, leading it from an organization serving several hundred people to one serving more than 7,000 individuals and families in five counties.

The award was presented by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. The council represents more than 900 community-based mental health providers across the country, including 40 in the Maine Association of Mental Health Services.

In presenting the award before more than a 1,000 attendees last month, council board President Dale Klatzker of Concord, N.H., recognized Shea for his leadership in guiding Tri-County Mental Health Services over the past three decades as well as for his efforts throughout his career to highlight the needs of mentally ill individuals at the state and national level.

Shea was instrumental in developing the Maine Council of Community Mental Health Centers, the Maine Association of Mental Health Services and served as a board member and president of the NCCBH during the 1980s.

“Greg provided essential leadership during a time of extreme instability in the national council’s history,” said former council president and CEO Charles Ray. “His reputation between and among regions (and his) diplomatic skills in healing growing rifts between the national office and newly formed state associations (at that time) place him in the foremost ranks of those who are responsible for the strong national council of today.”

Shea said the award came as a huge surprise, and that he was both grateful and humbled by the honor.

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