Speaker Biographies

Featured Speaker

Robert Whitacker

Robert Whitacker

Robert Whitaker has won numerous awards as a journalist covering medicine and science, including the George Polk Award for Medical Writing and a National Association for Science Writers’ Award for best magazine article. In 1998, he co-wrote a series on psychiatric research for the Boston Globe that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. His book Anatomy of an Epidemic won the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism. He is also the author of three other critically acclaimed books: Mad in America, The Mapmaker’s Wife, and On the Laps of Gods.

Moe Armstrong

Moe Armstrong

Moe Armstrong is the founder of the VET to VET organization. Vet to Vet is a self-help program of veterans helping veterans overcome both mental illness and substance abuse. The national headquarters are located in West Haven, Ct. and has spread nationally to 26 states in just a few years. For 14 years he was Director of Recovery for Vinfen where he set up numerous support groups throughout Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 


Peter Ashenden

Peter Ashenden

Peter Ashenden has served as director of consumer affairs at OptumHealth since April 2010. He served for two years as president/CEO for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) after holding the position of executive vice president at DBSA. For 12 years, Ashenden was executive director of the Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP) in New York State. He has provided training to consumer/survivors and mental health professionals nationally, and has been active in starting many self-help groups. He is a well-known keynote speaker at mental health-related events throughout the country, including Alternatives 2004 in Denver, Colorado.


Susan Bergeson

Susan Bergeson

Susan Bergeson is currently Vice President of Consumer Affairs for the Public Sector of Optum Health. She is charged with overseeing public sector network operations by providing guidance, strategy and fostering a culture of recovery and resiliency. As an author she has contributed to many books including The Physicians Definitive Guide to Mood Disorders and Bipolar for Dummies. Previously, Bergeson served as CEO of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the nation’s largest consumer-led mental health organization.

 


Gayle Bluebird

Gayle Bluebird

Gayle Bluebird, RN has been active in the consumer/survivor movement since 1974. She is currently the Director of Peer Services in Delaware where she coordinates a team of 28 peer supporters. In 2010 she received a SAMHSA VOICE Award. She is a familiar face to many varied audiences.

 


Bill Boyer

Bill Boyer

Bill Boyer works for Pennsylvania’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) in the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Program Development under Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare. Bill is the Section Chief for Program. Additionally Bill is charged with developing and managing a variety of state wide-demonstration and technical assistance projects. Bill is a past recipient of the Pennsylvania Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services Distinguished Advocate Award 2004 and 2012, The Pennsylvania Clubhouse Coalition Partnership Recognition Award 2008 and the Dr. George W. Fairweather Innovation Award in 2006.

 


Magdalena Caballero-Phillips

Magdalena Caballero-Phillips

Magdalena Caballero-Phillips founded The Hope Concept Wellness Center on 11.11.11 to a successful following in the DFW Metroplex in Texas. Formerly the Spanish Programs Project Manager, Peer Services/Supports Project Manager and Manager of the Warm Line at the Mental Health Association of Greater Tarrant County, she is an Advanced Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) ® Trainer from the Copeland Center and also a Texas Certified Peer Specialist with via HOPE Texas Mental Health Resource Network and the Texas Dept. of State Health Services.

 


Gina Calhoun

Gina Calhoun

Gina Calhoun for works the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery as National Director for Wellness & Recovery Education. She is a certified peer support specialist and has had the opportunity to be part of 16 certified peer specialist trainings, 7 certified peer specialist supervisor trainings and 45 WRAP® trainings. Gina was awarded the Distinguished Advocates Award from the PA Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services, chosen as the PA state representative for the National Pillars of Peer Support Summit and had the honor to be the keynote speaker for the National Veteran’s Conference as well as the National Association of Peer Specialist Conference.

 


Nicole Darr

Nicole Darr

Nicole Darr is a Program Manager at the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP). She has been involved with the Certified Peer Specialist initiative since 2007, creating resources for peer specialists and helping to move the profession forward. Her interest in peer support grew from her own recovery journey. In 2011, she was honored with a Distinguished Advocate Award for the promotion of psychiatric rehabilitation services.

 


Rhonda Dennis

Rhonda Dennis

Rhonda Dennis, a Gulf War Veteran, currently serves Veterans at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a Certified Peer
Specialist in the Veterans Empowerment Center. Rhonda specializes in connecting or reconnecting Veterans to their communities, to themselves and to meaning and purpose in life through individual and group supports. Rhonda is a certified WRAP facilitator and she facilitates peer support groups in the areas of women’s issues, military sexual trauma, and LGBTQ issues. She is an active public speaker, advocating for Veterans to have fulfilled lives through self-direction. She is currently the business manager of the LGBT Special Emphasis Program/EEO at the PVAMC and holds a specialized position with the local AFGE. Rhonda is constantly seeking ways to support Veterans who are under-served.

 


Karen Dinardo

Karen Dinardo

Karen Dinardo In 2010, Karen was hired, as a Peer Specialist, for the Delaware Psychiatric Center. She was one of the original “Pioneers” for Peer Services in Delaware. Karen has specialized in the In-Patient side of Peer Services. In September 2011, Karen was hired as the “Peer Services Coordinator”, for the In-Patient Service’s team at DPC.

 


Matthew Federici

Matthew Federici

Matthew Federici is a national leader and advocate for systems transformation. Prior to joining the Copeland Center as executive director, he directed the Institute for Recovery & Community Integration of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which was instrumental in the development and implementation of Pennsylvania’s Systems Transformation through Certified Peer Specialist and Wellness Recovery Action Plan training programs. His work with the Institute on Peer Specialists implementation outcomes was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.

 


Gareth Fenley

Gareth Fenley

Gareth Fenley is a writer and mental health service provider who is President Emeritus at NAMI Augusta Georgia. She is also a Certified Peer Specialist at Georgia Health Sciences University. She is pursuing a PhD in Health Sciences with a specialization in Psychiatric Rehabilitation and will complete her studies in 2014.

 


Daniel Fisher

Daniel Fisher

Daniel Fisher, MD, PhD, a leading activist in the recovery movement, is the co-founder and executive director of the National Empowerment Center. He was a member of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, helped organize the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, and helped develop eCPR (emotional CPR), which enables one peer to help another through an emotional crisis using skills of Connecting, Empowering, and Revitalizing.

 

 


Lisa Goodale

Lisa Goodale

The DBSA Vice President of Training, Lisa Goodale is a skilled professional with more than 25 years experience in the nonprofit and public sectors. Lisa is the project direct for the successful Peer-to-Peer Resource Center. She has worked with and trained hundreds of people living with mental illness to work as part of every consumer’s recovery team. Lisa has been integral in creating a new national trade association, the Peer Specialist Alliance of America (PSAA), and she represents DBSA on the Consumer Liaisons Council to the Department of Veterans Affairs Committee on Care of Veterans with Serious Mental Illness (SMI Committee).

 


Steve Harrington

Steve Harrington

Steve Harrington is the founder and executive director of the National Association of Peer Specialists (NAPS). He has earned degrees in wildlife biology, public administration and law, but has found his passion in mental health rehabilitation. An author of 13 books, he is “still trying to decide what he wants to do when he grows up.”

 


Saya Krebs

Saya Krebs

Saya Krebs, PhD, CLC, has spent a good deal of her life as a mental health and substance use educator as well as recovery expert through knowledge and experience. She has provided consultation and training to state and local mental health departments and community-based organizations. Through various state and local projects she has assisted providers and stakeholders in implementing the recommendations of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Saya’s expertise includes mental health policy, organizational development, supported employment, and job creation for consumer/survivors. Additionally, she provides resources and technical assistance to the mental health community regarding best practices to promote community integration for adults living with mental illness. Over the past years Saya has served on various boards and mental health recovery advisory committees. Saya has also lectured and given many talks on recovery and her motivational hope-filled seminars have inspired many.

 


Lyn Legere

Lyn Legere

Lyn Legere, MS, CPRP, CPS, is the director of education, quality and peer support at the Transformation Center, where she oversees the Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training program. She is also the president of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. She presents worldwide on psychiatric rehabilitation practices, recovery oriented services, and the critical roles of peers in the workforce. Her personal recovery experience is the foundation of her work.

 


Kim MacDonald-Wilson

Kim MacDonald-Wilson

Dr. Kim MacDonald-Wilson, ScD, CRC, CPRP, is the Director of Recovery and Transformation for Community Care Behavioral Health, overseeing the development and implementation of recovery-oriented programs and systems innovations in the Community Care network. Kim has worked in the field of mental health and psychiatric rehabilitation for over 30 years in a variety of settings, including directing individual career support services, training professionals and people in recovery in psychiatric vocational rehabilitation, conducting research at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University; and teaching rehabilitation counseling at the University of Maryland. In those settings, she developed expertise in partnering with people in recovery with mental health conditions to develop the skills and supports needed to be successful and satisfied in chosen life roles. Kim earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling with a specialization in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Boston University. Currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, she has published numerous articles and book chapters on psychiatric rehabilitation, job accommodations, and employment issues of people with psychiatric disabilities.

 


Ron Manderscheid

Ron Manderscheid

Ron Manderscheid, PhD, worked for more than 30 years in the federal government on public- and behavioral-health research and policy. He is the Executive Director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors (NACBHDD) and is a member of the editorial board of Behavioral Healthcare magazine.

 


Robert Martin

Robert Martin

Robert Martin, a person in recovery from mental health and substance use challenges, currently holds the position of Recovery Initiatives Specialist at the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS). He has been involved in the DBHIDS Recovery Transformation initiative since its inception, in 2007. He is a Certified Peer Specialist, a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator, and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner.

 


Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormack, Ph.D. is a family member, educator, researcher, clinician and advocate who has worked in the mental health field for over 25 years. He has been integrally involved with the Community Support Program (CSP) movement since its inception and is skilled in training others on how to build a recovery-oriented system based on CSP values and principles. Jim was the first to introduce the Fairweather Lodge Program to Pennsylvania in the 1970s and he created one of the first consumer run organizations in the state. Later, Jim went on to direct Philadelphia’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation Training Institute at the Medical College of Pennsylvania and trained residential, partial hospital and state hospital staff in the techniques for fostering consumer recovery and consumer centered programs. As an employee of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Jim has continued to offer technical assistance and training to CSP stakeholders and has written several federal grants to support the development of a statewide consumer leadership network and peer support initiatives.

 


Tom O'Hara

Tom O’Hara

Tom O’Hara is President of Creating Recovery Together LLC. Previously, he was Director of Policy and Planning for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, where he was the point person for the development and management of the Certified Peer Specialist initiative and the transformation of partial hospital programs into community-integrated recovery centers. He also has extensive experience in psychiatric rehabilitation, homelessness and housing services.

 


Joseph Rodgers

Joseph Rogers

Joseph Rogers is executive director of the The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse (funded in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and chief advocacy officer of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. He is an internationally known advocate and a leader of the consumer movement, with particular expertise in the design and implementation of peer-run programs as well as in behavioral health policy.

 


Harvey Rosenthal

Harvey Rosenthal

Harvey Rosenthal has almost 40 years of experience working to provide or promote public mental health policies and services that advance the recovery, rehabilitation, rights and community inclusion of people with psychiatric diagnoses or disabilities. Since 1993, he has served as executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS), a peer-provider partnership that has successfully led numerous legislative, budget and agency policy advocacy efforts and promoted the expansion of culturally competent recovery centered services and employment initiatives. NYAPRS also developed the nationally replicated peer bridger model in 1995 and has since worked to bring peer bridging and wellness coaching to Medicaid beneficiaries, adult home residents and criminal justice involved individuals. Harvey currently serves on New York’s Medicaid Redesign Team and its Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council. Harvey’s interest in promoting mental health recovery is also personal, dating back to his own hospitalization at age 19 and a grateful life in recovery.

 


Mark Salzer

Mark Salzer

Mark Salzer, PhD, is a professor and founding chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at Temple University. He is the principal investigator and director of the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, a research and training center funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

 


Cheryl Sharp

Cheryl Sharp

Cheryl S. Sharp, MSW, ALWF , Cheryl is the Special Advisor for Trauma-Informed Services for the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. She has over 25 years of experience working with adult trauma survivors and healing grief and loss. She is a nationally known speaker and trainer in several areas; including trauma, promoting alternatives to seclusion and restraint, WRAP, Mental Health First Aid, and Intentional Peer Support.

 


Peggy Swarbrick

Peggy Swarbrick

Peggy Swarbrick, PhD, OT, CPRP, is an assistant faculty member in the UMDNJ-SHRP Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions. She also has worked for many years at Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey, a large peer-operated agency. She is a leader, author, and advocate within the mental health system and consumer/survivor movement. She has published and lectured nationally and internationally on wellness, peer-operated services, employment, and recovery, and has been actively involved in promoting wellness initiatives.

 


Laura Van Tosh

Laura Van Tosh

Laura Van Tosh is an independent consultant with a local mental health authority in rural Oregon who has authored and collaborated on numerous articles and was a contributor and peer reviewer for the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health. She has held policy positions at the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, State of Maryland, and the University of Maryland. Laura has worked inside three state psychiatric hospitals and has been active in the consumer/survivor movement since 1985.

 


Franzswa Watson

Franzswa Watson

Franzswa Watson, B.A. is employed as a Peer Educator at the Delaware Psychiatric Center. In her role she educates new peer support specialists and clinical staff at DPC. She also assists and coordinates a new program called the Drop-In Zone, a drop in center for Delaware Psychiatric Center peer service recipients. Franzswa has served professionally in many different capacities: as a Freelance photographer, a cosmetology trainer, and an educator at Delaware State University.

 


Mertice Williams

Mertice “Gitane” Williams

Gitane Williams is the Vocational Wellness Educator at Crestwood Behavioral Health, Inc. As a peer provider with lived experience, she works to educate, develop, and navigate wellness and recovery values in the workplace. She uses her talents to provide mentoring and training to various professionals within the vocational rehabilitation network.


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