Ronya Foy Connor ‘04, MPA ’05, Ph.D.: Providing mental health services to first responders

Portrait of Ronya Foy Connor

Ronya Foy Connor graduated from the ILR School in 2004 and CIPA in 2005 with a concentration in Human Rights and Social Justice. Connor also earned a master of social work and a doctor of philosophy from Howard University. She works as the Director of Gender Affairs at the Ministry of Health and Social Development for the Government of Anguilla.

Connor and her colleagues are focusing on the mental health response across the island of Anguilla by establishing and operating a Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) Hotline in partnership with the Anguilla Red Cross and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Here’s what she had to say about responding to the Pandemic— and how her Cornell MPA helped her react to the ever-changing policy landscape recently.

How are you and your colleagues addressing the Pandemic right now?

As one of the hotline support coordinators, I provide mental health services to first responders, including weekly outreach and counseling sessions.  Our team maintains regular contact with policy shapers, including the Governor, Deputy Governor, Ministers of Government, doctors, nurses, and health professionals, along with educators to check in on their well-being.  Over the past two months, I have conducted a session on ”Coping Strategies in the midst of COVID-19” for employees of the Health Authority in addition to a Zoom session for young entrepreneurs throughout the Caribbean, focusing on “Mental Health and Your Business during COVID-19.”

How did your CIPA MPA help you react to the ever-changing landscape over the last few months?

Throughout addressing the situation of COVID-19, quick thinking and action is necessary, and it truly is a matter of life and death.  As individuals suffer from the mental health concerns of fear and anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation, my response is to be person-centered; catering to resolving individual concerns yet still aware of the broader country response.  Applying a broad knowledge base and versatility to my work is certainly a skill that I strengthened throughout my CIPA education.

My CIPA MPA taught me how to apply the traits of a true public servant by being grounded in the theoretical but always open to creativity and applying ingenuity to any policy response. 

Ronya Foy Connor Ph.D.

What are some policy changes you hope will come out of this Pandemic?

In our post-COVID-19 development, I hope to see a greater national focus on providing/strengthening mental health facilities and resources.  In many places, counseling and mental health services are still stigmatized.  I look forward to working with the Anguilla government and NGOs on introducing a focus on holistic health and wellness as a necessity for all people regardless of sex, age, income, or otherwise.

Share Your CIPA Alumni In Action Story

Help us share your experience responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic by submitting a CIPA alumni note. We hope to highlight you and your organization's response to the Pandemic in our Alumni in Action series.  Please contact Sarah Louise Schupp, Assistant Director of External Relations, to share your story. We sincerely appreciate your hard work and dedication to improving the lives of others during this unprecedented time.

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