Victoria Ngo, Ph.D., Director, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy Center for Innovation in Mental Health
Victoria Ngo is an Associate Professor of Community Health and Social Sciences at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy (CUNY SPH), Director of the Center for Innovation in Mental Health (CIMH) at CUNY SPH, Director for Global Mental Health in the Center for Immigrant, Refugee, and Global Health, and an adjunct behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation. Also a clinical psychologist, she has expertise in developing, evaluating, and implementing evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, for depression, anxiety, and trauma in diverse communities in the United States and abroad. Her research pays particular attention to understanding and promoting implementation strategies that can increase access and quality of evidence-based mental health services for ethnic minorities and underserved populations worldwide. Dr. Ngo specializes in implementation strategies, such as use of community partnerships, task-shifting evidence-based practices, and integration of mental health care into more accessible service settings, including primary care, maternal health, and HIV services. Dr. Ngo earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Vanderbilt University. Her passion and commitment to working in ethnic minority and other underserved communities comes from her own experience as a Vietnamese refugee.
Michelle Garcia, Mental Health Community Partners Program Specialist, Mental Health Association in New York State
Michelle G. Garcia is the Assistant Director of the Mental Health Community Partners (MHCP) Program at the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS). Michelle started her career in global education, health & human rights – working in education in Southeast Asia; refugee resettlement in New York; human rights programming in the Middle East; and justice, equity, diversity & inclusion programming in health & higher education. Following burnout and chronic trauma, Michelle had a serendipitous internship at MHANYS. She became a mental health trainer; and learned self-compassion, self-care, and stress management strategies that transformed her personal life and recovery. As a second-generation Filipina American, Michelle is most passionate about MHANYS family mental health programs’ power to break mental health stigma among communities of color through its collectivistic, relational approach.
Jillian Nadiak-Bruck, Community Engagement Facilitator and Technical Assistance Specialist, Ulster County Department of Mental Health-HEALing Communities Division; Volunteer, Hudson Valley National Center for Veteran Reintegration (HVNCVR)
Jillian has been a volunteer with the Hudson Valley National Center for Veteran Reintegration (HVNCVR) since 2019. She began her work with veterans after the passing of her brother, an Army veteran, to an accidental opioid overdose and related PTSD in 2016 which is what brought her to the Center. She served on the board from April 2019 until October 2022 when she began her graduate studies in Public Administration at Marist College. She lends her voice to the Center for performances of the National Anthem and leads a Warrior Writers program many of the veterans participate in. She currently works professionally as a Community Engagement Coordinator for Opioid Prevention in the Ulster County Department of Mental Health. She hopes her MPA studies will help her continue to support the Center in the future.
Walter M. Roberts, Executive Director, Hope Community, Inc.
Walter M. Roberts has over 30 years experience in the affordable housing industry. He has worked with not-for-profit organizations for the last eleven years on several housing development projects in the NYC Metropolitan area. Prior to 2006, he worked for the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). He served at various levels in his 21-year career at HPD. Between 2000 and 2006, he served as Assistant Commissioner for Planning Services. In prior years, he was Director of the Neighborhood Redevelopment Program where he redeveloped 2,000 units of affordable housing. He also managed 4,600 In-Rem units as the Director of Central Harlem Property Management office. Mr. Roberts received his B.A. from Binghamton University and attended Columbia University where he earned Master degrees in both Urban Planning and Social Work.
Malcolm A. Punter, Ed.D., MBA, President & CEO, Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc.
Malcolm A. Punter is responsible for the management and oversight of all aspects of HCCI. Malcolm Punter earned a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) specializing in Executive Leadership, with an emphasis on social justice from St. John Fisher College. Dr. Punter also holds a Master of science Law Degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, specializing in international, corporate taxation and financial services, an M.B.A in Management, and a B.S. in Behavioral Science. Dr. Punter coordinates and manages the strategy for HCCIs real estate portfolio of nearly 3000 housing units and 70 commercial spaces. Dr. Punter reports to the Board of Directors on all matters related to the financial and operational sustainability of HCCI’s more than $350,000,000 million dollars in real estate assets and social service programs.
Denise Balzer, LCSW, Director, Bureau of Crisis, Emergency and Stabilization Initiatives at New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH)
Denise Balzer, LCSW is the Director of the Bureau of Crisis, Emergency and Stabilization Initiatives, NYS OMH and has worked for OMH since 2016. The Bureau is responsible for implementation of statewide crisis services including 988, Mobile Crisis, Crisis Residence Programs, Crisis Stabilization, Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Programs, Inpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs. Prior to working at NYS OMH, Denise worked in residential treatment centers with children and adolescents, community mental health centers in New York and Ohio and managed care organizations.
Katerina Gaylord, LMSW, Deputy Director,Bureau of Crisis, Emergency, and Stabilization Initiatives at the New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH)
Katerina Gaylord, LMSW, is the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Crisis, Emergency, and Stabilization Initiatives at OMH. She joined OMH in March 2021 as the 988 Project Manager. Her work primarily focused on the statewide planning and implementation of the new, national three-digit number for mental health and suicidal crisis, 988, that launched nationally in July 2022. Her role has expanded as the Deputy Director to provide support to the overarching development of the coordinated crisis system. Prior to joining OMH, she worked with the Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors as the Assistant Project Director of the Regional Planning Consortiums. She has focused her career on improving coordination and access to services for individuals with mental health challenges. She spent 12 years with hospital system as a leader in the behavioral health division, implementing and leading community programs including PROS, ACT, and Health Homes serving adults and children.
Chelsea Sherrod, PHIS 2023 Master of Ceremonies; Sports Reporter/Host, SportsNet New York
Chelsea Sherrod is a Sports Reporter and Host at SportsNet New York, home of the New York Mets broadcasts since 2006. Chelsea hosts shows and reports on New York and tri-state area professional sports teams like the New York Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Knicks, and Nets as well as coverage of the UConn Women’s Basketball team and much more.
Prior to joining SNY in December of 2022, Chelsea spent about one year and a half at the New England Sports Network (NESN) as a reporter and host after working as a Weekend Sports Anchor at local station WKTV in Utica, NY for just under two years.
Chelsea recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Strategic Communications and Public Relations at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT where she played four years of NCAA Division III women’s basketball before attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting where she received a Certificate in Broadcast Training.
Born and raised in Bridgeport, CT, Chelsea is proud of where she comes from. She loves her family and loves all sports especially soccer and basketball. Her true passion is the growth and development of women in all aspects of sport.
Thomas E. Smith, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, NYS Office of Mental Health
Dr. Smith is Chief Medical Officer, New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH) and Special Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. He oversees clinical and quality aspects of the New York State public mental health system with a focus on improving access to prevention, recovery, and rehabilitation services for persons with mental illness. He is the recipient of numerous NIMH and foundation grants for studies of engagement strategies for persons with serious mental illnesses, services for persons with first episode psychosis, and intensive care management approaches for high-need, high-risk individuals.
Dr. Smith earned his M.D. at Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed his psychiatry residency at the University of Chicago before coming to New York where he had extensive experience as a clinician, researcher, and hospital administrator at New York-Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He joined the behavioral health services research division at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in 2007 and participated in the design and implementation of New York State’s behavioral health Medicaid managed care redesign. As Chief Medical Officer for NYS OMH, he currently supervises programs that support quality of care, population health monitoring, and mental wellness and prevention throughout the NYS public mental health system. He also oversees NYS OMH mental health parity enforcement efforts as well as initiatives to develop system level quality and performance measures. He has participated in numerous local and national advisory councils and published widely on mental healthcare policy, Medicaid design and oversight
Gavin T. Walters Sr., Program Director, Vet2Vet of Ulster County; Coordinator, NY State Dwyer Coalition, Hudson Valley National Center for Veteran Reintegration
Gavin T. Walters Sr. is an Air Force Veteran who has dedicated his life to serving other Veterans in our community as the Director of the Vet2Vet of Ulster County Program and works for the Hudson Valley National Center for Veteran Reintegration (HVNCVR). Gavin was born in Jamaica and came to the US in 1988. He lived in Texas for a few years before heading to New York with the rest of his family. Gavin’s a proud American who decided to join the Air Force in 2003 after graduating High School. Due to medical issues, his enlistment was cut short but his desire to serve remained. He knows the struggle that Veterans experience as well as the process that comes with advocating for Veteran rights. He went on to earn his MSW in 2020 and spends his days helping Veterans in need. As Gavin facilities the Joseph P Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program which is critical to the mental and physical well-being of Ulster County Veterans, he coordinates the NY State Dwyer Coalition which is made up of NYS Dwyer Chapters. Gavin works to create partnerships with community members like the Ulster County Veteran Services Agency as well as the VA to ensure no Veteran is left behind. Gavin and his lovely wife of 8 years, Tomisha are the proud parents of 3 children! Gavin Jr., Eden, and Aniyah have blessed their household with laughter and tiny feet running around the clock.
Stephanie Campbell, Director, NYS Behavioral Health Ombudsman Office
After receiving her MA from Columbia University, an MS from University at Albany, and an MSW from New York University, Stephanie Campbell joined Friends of Recovery – New York (FOR-NY) in 2015 and worked at the state and national levels on public policy issues affecting individuals and families impacted by addiction. As a person in sustained recovery, Stephanie now serves as Director of the NYS Ombudsman Office (CHAMP) to oversee a statewide program to help New Yorkers access treatment, harm reduction and peer support services along the full continuum of healthcare and is an adjunct professor at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. She also is a member of the Recovery Policy Collaborative in partnership with the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O’Neill Institute.
Crystal Lewis, Ph.D., Department Director, Social Solutions and Services, Nathan Kline Institute
Dr. Lewis is the Division Head of Social Solutions and Services Research at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, and an Associate Professor and Laurie M. Tisch Scholar for Racial Equity in Mental Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.
Previously, Dr. Lewis earned a Ph.D. in infectious disease epidemiology from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University in 2000, and joined Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health where she launched a 15-year NIH-funded research program focused on the social environment and its relationship with access and engagement in substance use prevention and treatment services for minoritized communities.
Since 2015, Dr. Lewis has continued this work, building expertise in community-based research, implementation science, and promotion and use of community spaces for persons contending with stigma and discrimination related to substance us, mental illness, and race.
Helen-Maria Lekas, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Social Solutions and Services, Nathan Kline Institute
Helen-Maria Lekas is a medical sociologist who works in public health. She joined the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in 2016 as a Research Scientist in the Division of Social Solutions and Services Research. Alongside Dr. Crystal Lewis, she co-directs CCASE (Center for Research in Cultural and Structural Equity in Behavioral Health). She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. Her research focuses on stigma and discrimination, sexual and substance-use related risk behavior, and patient-provider relationships in resource poor contexts. She has expertise as a theoretician with an appreciation for applied research. Through interventions and trainings, Dr. Lekas is working on addressing the structural and cultural barriers to engagement in medical care among minoritized patient populations, including persons with HIV and behavioral health conditions, patients who leave the hospital against medical advice, and patients contending with multiple intersecting stigmas.
Megan Spagnola, Mental Health Community Partners Program Specialist, Mental Health Association in New York State
Meg is a Program Specialist and trainer with the Family Engagement team at The Mental Health Association in New York State. She is a graduate of the State University of New York at Potsdam with a BA in Psychology. Meg’s career has been in substance abuse counseling for the last 8 years spanning the continuum of care from detoxification, inpatient, residential and outpatient treatment facilities in NY. She is a CASAC-2 with clinical supervision training. Meg began her work with The Mental Health Association in New York State on the Mental Health Community Partners (MHCP) project with a belief that there are alternative ways to support individuals and their families in their journey towards mental health recovery and wellness. Meg brings her clinical background to this human-centric, relational, wellness oriented program in order to improve systemic gaps in care through providing engaging and exciting trainings to professionals and paraprofessionals across New York State.
Susan Karavolas, Deputy Chief People Officer, NYSTEC
Sue is a strategic partner to NYSTEC’s senior leadership team, providing consultative services in all areas of human resources, including coaching; employee engagement and relations; talent recruitment, development and retention; culture; compensation; organizational design and change; organizational and performance management; training and development; and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Prior to joining NYSTEC, Sue served as vice president of human resources for the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, assistant deputy director of the New York State Office of General Services’ Business Service Center, and senior business partner of human resources at GlobalFoundries. She earned a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in management from the College of Saint Rose and is a Certified Facilitator from Everything DiSC (an assessment model used to predict job performance based on four dimensions of human behavior — Dominance, influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness).
Melissa Hinds, Associate Director for Health & Technology; Director of Online Assistance Unit, Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Inc.
Melissa Hinds is a registered nurse who oversees and develops curriculum, coordinates projects, and the implementation activities for the System Transformation initiatives. She contributes healthcare knowledge across Center for Practice Innovations (CPI) at Columbia Psychiatry activities and products and ensures that CPI’s technology platform runs smoothly to meet the Center’s increasing needs internally and with our external partners. She is interested in identifying and disseminating effective interventions for psychotic disorders and how technology can reduce the burden of psychotic disorders in resource-poor settings. She works to adapt and teach education strategies for diverse learners and adopt effective evidence-informed practices in academic and clinical healthcare settings to provide the best care for culturally diverse populations and inform nursing research. In her role, she works to develop more integrated care and interprofessional content to help nurses and other clinicians state-wide. In addition to her work with CPI, Ms. Hinds is an adjunct lecturer, clinical instructor, and nursing peer mentor.
Deborah Faust, Director of Mental Health Community Partners & MHANYS CarePath, Mental Health Association in New York State
Deborah Faust is from the Mental Health Association in New York State and Director of their signature program called CarePath and the Mental Health Community Partners project. Ms. Faust is Co-Director of Building Connections, a joint project with New York State Coalition against Sexual Assault. Building Connections strengthens trauma-informed services throughout NYS. Her career has focused on supporting families in crisis. Ms. Faust was the Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives for the NYS National Alliance on Mental Illness and received the Family Advocacy award at the 2010 Legislative Conference. Her role at the Mental Health Association has involved developing program and training content that propose offering a relational perspective for supporting recovery and intergenerational family mental health. Both programs presented today suggest our wellness is in partnership with others. Ms. Faust is a person with lived experience managing her own mental health and a family member of someone managing a serious mental health condition.
Jason Benitez , Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
Capital Region Chamber, Albany, NY https://capitalregionchamber.com/
Jason Benitez is Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, at the Capital Region Chamber. He is responsible for assisting businesses and organizations in the Capital Region and beyond, in embarking on, and advancing, their DEI journeys. Benitez also works to further the strategic mission of the Chamber, relevant to the areas of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The Capital Region Chamber believes that full potential is realized when diversity, equity and inclusion are the standards upon which we strengthen and impact our businesses and communities. As an advocate for regional businesses, the Chamber – through its leadership, actions, educational programming and community collaboration – is committed to cultivating inclusive economic opportunity for all who call the Capital Region home.
Jason previously worked for 15+ years in Higher Education, at 3 institutions; the University at Albany, SUNY Schenectady and most recently, Union College, where he spent 8 years as Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. While at Union, Jason’s efforts assisted the College in being recognized with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award (HEED), given by Insight Into Diversity, for 6 consecutive years.
Jason serves on the national Board of Directors and is Chair of the DEI Sub-Division, for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, as well as a Board Trustee for the Northeastern, NY chapter of the Make a Wish foundation. Benitez holds a Bachelors, Masters, and Certificate of Advanced Study, all from the University at Albany. He lives in Slingerlands, NY with his wife and 2 children.
Sam Warach, Founder & CEO, NextStep Health
Sam Warach is a social entrepreneur driven to improve access to care and health literacy resources to help individuals and communities build resilience.
As the Founder and CEO of NextStep Health, Sam serves the mission to empower communities toward well-being and recovery; partnering with government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector to provide access to evidence-based resiliency tools for communities across the US and beyond.
Learn more about Sam on https://samwarach.com
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