Rushing Recognized for Exemplifying the “Spirit of a Social Worker”

From left to right: Dr. Emmerentie Oliphant, SFA School of Social Work Professor and
Director of MSW Program, Susan Rushing, Burke CEO, Col. Howard Daniel, Burke Chairman of the Board, and Paul Jackson, Director of Community Relations.

On March 13, at the 24th Annual Mission Possible Conference in Nacogdoches, Susan Rushing, CEO of Burke, was presented with the Spirit Award by the SFA School of Social Work. The intent of the award is to identify and honor individuals who may not be social workers, yet they embody the spirit of social work practice.  According to Dr. Emmerentie Oliphant, “The School of Social Work recognizes Ms. Rushing for the many contributions she has made to enhance the lives of people in our community”. The Spirit Award honors the memory of Dr. Linda Morales who was instrumental in addressing the challenges of those experiencing mental health problems.

Rushing has been the Chief Executive Officer for Burke for twenty-nine years. She has held numerous positions within Burke since joining the Center in 1980. As CEO, Rushing has led Burke to design, implement, and successfully operate numerous programs and initiatives. The Center serves a twelve-county region, employs a workforce of 600, and serves 13,500 individuals annually. 

With a regional advocacy network, she collaborated in designing and building the nation’s first rural mental health emergency center that provides psychiatric care solely using video teleconferencing. In 2011, this program received the American Psychiatric Association’s Gold Award for Community Services. In 2014, the Center saw another award from the American Telemedicine Association. Rushing was recently selected by the American College of Emergency Physician’s to present at their Solutions Forum in D.C. this May. Burke continues to share the successes of the mental health emergency center as an innovative model for mental health emergency treatment.

Rushing is not only the CEO for this multi-county, multi-faceted organization, she is also deeply involved in many boards both at a state and national level and holds membership in numerous other professional and community organizations. She has served as representative to the Professional and Technical Advisory Committee of Joint Commission and is past Chair of the Board of Directors of Mental Health Corporations of America and the Executive Directors Consortium of the Texas Council of Community Centers.

Colleagues describe Rushing as visionary, compassionate, and utterly brilliant. All of her achievements are well beyond the role of an administrator. Because of her, Burke is known statewide as a leader in grant funding, service to clients, and community-focused. 

In 2013, the National Council presented the center with the Excellence for Service Innovation Award. Rushing recognizes the needs and challenges of our rural service area which is why she sought solutions to integrate primary health services with existing mental health and developmental disability services. Later this month Burke will open the doors to a new mental health facility in Nacogdoches.  Rushing is passionate about expanding and enhancing services to those in need, and this shows through her advocacy work that touches East Texas in so many ways.