Mental Health Advocates Names Melinda C. DuBois its New Executive Director

The Mental Health Advocates (MHA) of Western New York board of directors appointed Melinda C. DuBois as the agency’s new executive director, effective Sept. 1. She will replace Kenneth P. Houseknecht who is retiring after serving nine years in the position.

DuBois comes to MHA from Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, where she served as vice president of health services since 2015. There, she provided leadership to 145 staff at nine health centers serving 18 counties from Niagara Falls to Syracuse.

Dubois brings to MHA 25 years of experience managing multidisciplinary health and human service organizations, is a respected administrator with a reputation for building relationships and coalitions, and has served as a government advocate in Albany and Washington DC.

She joins MHA at a time of tremendous growth and change, according to the organization. Under Houseknecht’s leadership, MHA saw agency revenues more than triple to $2.1 million. The agency is one of seven nonprofit organizations that make up the WNY Human Services Collaborative. The collaborative will soon move into the newly renovated shared space facility at 1021 Broadway next to the Broadway Market in Buffalo.

“I am incredibly honored to be named the next executive director of the Mental Health Advocates of Western New York,” says DuBois, “and to join such a well-established and well-respected agency.  Under Ken’s leadership, the MHA of WNY has developed into an innovative and collaborative bedrock of the community. The isolation and fear created by the COVID pandemic, the collective trauma of systemic racism, and the instability of an unknown future all contribute to a greater need to advocate and support the social and emotional well-being of our community. The work of the MHA is more important than ever. I look forward to our move to the new location at 1021 Broadway where we will be joined by other nonprofits in an innovative project sharing space and sharing support services.  And I look forward to working with this incredible board, the dedicated staff and our passionate supporters to guide the future of the MHA.”

According to Suzanne Furlani, MHA board chairwoman, this is an unprecedented time for all and, especially now, for the MHA. “The board is confident that Melinda brings the right mix of talent, skill, experience and compassion to navigate the challenges in the months and years before us. She will build on the strengths of this agency’s programs and staff, and forge new collaborative relationships as we move in with our partners at 1021 Broadway.”

DuBois joined Planned Parenthood in 2014 as the regional director of patient services and was promoted less than a year later to vice president of health services. Prior to that, she was administrative director of student health and counseling at SUNY Geneseo, executive director of Buffalo Womenservices LLC, and a clinical coordinator of maternity services at Baker Victory Services.

She is a current board member of Horizon Human Services, a member of Health Leadership Fellows Cohort 6, past president of the Crisis Services board of directors (2008-2010), a 200 Hour registered yoga instructor and comes with a history of additional community involvement serving as a board or advisory committee member of various health, civic, and cultural organizations.

She is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo with a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in social work. She currently resides in East Aurora.