SHERIDAN — Sheridan resident Hollis Hackman recently received the Federal Advocacy Coordinator award from the American Psychological Association. It is the first time the award has been given to a Wyoming citizen.

Hackman, who retired from full-time work as a psychologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2010, continues to work there part-time doing tele-psychology (consulting via phone or computer) work with veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues.

He has served as Wyoming’s federal advocacy coordinator for several years.

“He works very closely with American Psychological Association based out of D.C. to help advocate and get services for constituents here in Wyoming,” colleague Dr. Amanda Turlington said. “Through his efforts, he was nominated and won the federal advocacy award this year at the conference that was held last week. It only goes to one psychologist a year. No one in Wyoming has ever received that honor. It is the highest level of recognition a federal advocacy coordinator can earn. It is really recognizing Hollis for all of the efforts he has put in expanding those services for consumers of mental health services in Wyoming.”

Turlington said a large part of Hackman’s work has been focused on mental health parity, or ensuring equal access for mental as well as physical conditions. She explained that while a person who has had a heart attack or other physical ailment is usually entitled to repeated visits as needed to a physician to treat the condition, insurance companies often restrict the number of visits that patients can make to seek mental health treatment.

“Parity says if you suffer from a mental health issue you should be able to seek the same amount of treatment,” Turlington explained. “Wyoming has been one of the last states to approve that. Hollis has continuously pushed that issue and really tried to advocate for the citizens here in the state. He has a compassion for the citizens of Wyoming and the unique struggles they face.”

“Simply put, it puts mental disorders as the same plane or playing field as physical disorders,” Hackman added about mental health parity. “If you have a problem with depression or bipolar or anxiety, then you can get treatment and your insurance company is obligated to provide coverage for that, jut like a broken leg. We are interested in having mental health coverage access increased for people. Parity also reduces stigma around mental disorders.”

Hackman was nominated for the award by a fellow psychologist from Utah, though he said he was unaware that he had been nominated up until the time his name was announced.

“I had no clue I was even being considered for this award,” he said. “I was pretty well speechless. I was in such shock when they were reading this award. It blindsided me. But what the heck, it is nice to get some recognition for the work you do.”