Melmark President and CEO Receives National Leadership Award

Rita M. Gardner and three other honorees were celebrated for their impact on the autism and behavioral health communities.


Rita M. Gardner, Melmark CEO & President and Frank L. Bird, Executive Vice President of Clinical Services

(Andover, MA– May 28, 2024)—Melmark President and CEO Rita M. Gardner recently received the Mental Health News Education’s Excellence in Autism Award during a reception held at New York University’s Kimmel Center in New York City.  The annual event celebrates and brings awareness to exceptional leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the lives of individuals and their families in the autism and behavioral health communities.


Mental Health News Education (MHNE), publisher of Autism Spectrum News and Behavioral Health News, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is committed to improving the lives of individuals living with autism, mental illness, and substance use disorders while also supporting their families, caregivers, and the professional communities that serve them by providing a trusted source of science-based information, education, advocacy, and quality resources in the community.


“I am honored to be among a group of such inspiring leaders for mission-first work in a community that I have had a lifelong connection to, both personally and professionally,” stated Gardner. “I am so proud of what our leadership teams have accomplished at Melmark and what we are building for future generations to ensure that individuals with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families are treated equitably, receive the highest level of care, and can reach their best outcomes.”


Along with Gardner, this year’s reception honored Bruce E. Feig, Senior Healthcare Consultant at Sachs Policy Group with the Healthcare Leadership Award, Dr. Rosa M. Gil, President Emeritus of Comunlife, Inc. with the Diversity and Community Health Leadership Award, Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of The Alliance for Rights and Recovery with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and workforce enablement solutions company Relias with the Corporate Leadership Award.


Rita M. Gardner, M.P.H., LABA, BCBA, CDE® leads Melmark, a nationally-recognized non-profit human services provider, with more than $125-million multi-state operations across its divisions in New England, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas. Melmark’s programs include premier private special education schools, professional development, and training and research centers. The organization’s clinically-sophisticated, evidence-based programs serve individuals with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, acquired brain injuries, medical fragility and severe challenging behaviors.


Gardner, who is the co-founder of Melmark New England and Melmark Carolinas, is an accomplished legislative advocate and her work has positively impacted services for individuals diagnosed with autism throughout the United States. One of her most notable accomplishments as an advocate is her involvement in the establishment of multiple public policy pieces that improve access and the quality of services for students and adults with autism and their families.

Melmark is a not-for-profit human service organization providing clinically sophisticated evidence-based special education, residential, vocational and therapeutic services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, developmental and intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries and other neurological and genetic disorders. All specialized special education services are based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and are designed based on each student’s individual needs.


Recognized as one of the leading providers in the country, Melmark has a combined staff of over 1,200 at its service divisions in Pennsylvania, New England, and the Carolinas and serves 500 individuals from across the country. To learn more, visit www.melmark.org.  If you would like more information, please contact Karon Mattox at kmattox@melmark.org.