News Column

Mental Health Leader Gil Sanchez Remembered

Dec. 7, 2012

Loretta Sword

Gil Sanchez, a longtime Spanish Peaks Mental Health Center CEO who was highly regarded in his field and as a civic leader, died Wednesday night. He was 82.

A native of San Antonio, Sanchez came to Pueblo to lead Spanish Peaks in 1980. He already was known as an innovator in mental health, having been named outstanding social worker in the nation by fellow graduate students in 1972, and serving as a key organizer of the national Alliance for Hispanic Health in 1973.

He also helped to establish the National Council for Community Health Centers and served as a member of its board of directors for three years.

The father of five grown children and the widower of Jane Fugate, Sanchez began his 50-year career as a probation officer in San Antonio, where he later became superintendent of the Boy's Training School.

He was an early pioneer of integration and equality in mental health treatment, insisting that no one who needed services should be denied. Locally, he was as wellknown for his support of the business community as for his professional compassion and expertise. Before he retired in 2010, Sanchez received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pueblo Latino Chamber of Commerce, where he had once served as president.

Marguerite Salazar, regional director of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, lauded Sanchez as a mentor for health professionals of the next generation.

He also was named professional of the year by the Latino chamber in 1999 and received the Robert Hawkins Award for Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy from the Mental Health Association of Pueblo in 2003. The U.S. House of Representatives recognized Sanchez's leadership in providing services to children that same year. Sanchez also has received the Vision, Innovation, Dedication, and Advocacy Life Award from the Alliance for Spanish Health.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

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