2019 Affiliate Pre-Conference Day | Mental Health America

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2019 Affiliate Pre-Conference Day

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Pre-Conference Day

Pre-Conference Day at our 2019 Annual Conference Dueling Diagnoses: Mental Health and Chronic Conditions in Children and Adults will be held on June 12, 2019, one-day prior to the MHA Annual Conference, at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. This year our focus will be on showcasing affiliate programs as MHA affiliates are the most diverse, innovative and successful at creating change in communities across the country. So, in 2019, we want you to hear from one another as a means of further supporting the development and continuation of your great programs.

Pre-Conference Day workshops will be designed for affiliates of all sizes, from the local information and referral hubs to larger entities with a range of programming. Our intention is to provide workshops that will be useful to all members of your staff, including newcomers to the more seasoned professionals. We will be highlighting the work of affiliates throughout our Network, focusing on successful programs, and on building and sustaining an active, growing, and strong presence on the state and local level.

Pre-Conference Day registration is automatically included for MHA affiliates that register for the full MHA Annual Conference. Simply remember to check yes for Affiliate Pre-Conference Day, when registering for the MHA Annual Conference. If you don’t know your affiliate registration code, contact MHA’s Valerie Sterns at vsterns@mentalhealthamerica.net.

Agenda for Pre-Conference Day - Wednesday, June 12

8:00 a.m.


9:00 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.

Pre-Conference Kick-Off Breakfast (Paul Gionfriddo, MHA President and CEO; Tom Starling, MHA Board Chair; Luis Perez, MHA Affiliate Relations Committee Chair and Valerie Sterns, MHA)

9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. 

The President's Cabinet (Tom Starling, MHA of the MidSouth)

10:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.

Engaging the Voice of Lived Experience In Our Work (Shannah Mulvihill, MH Minnesota)

Lifelines: A Suicide Prevention Program, An Experience from MHA of Monmouth County-NJ (Susan Tellone, MHA of Monmouth County)

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.


1:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. 

Reaching Out B4Stage4: Developing Youth-Focused Programs That Support Mental Health Literacy and Stigma Reduction (Josefina Alvarez, PhD, MHA-Northshore)

1:15 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Building Consensus, Creating Change: MHA of Greater Houston's Approach to Complex, Systemic Issues (Alejandra Posada, MHA of Greater Houston; Betsy Blanks, MHA of Greater Houston; and Natalie Fikac, MHA of Greater Houston)

Peer Specialists: Working with the Co-Occurring and Addiction Recovery Community (Carolyn Beauchamp, MHA in New Jersey; Chrissy Schayer, MHA in New Jersey; Robert Kley, MHA in New Jersey, Patrick Hendry, MHA, Kelly Davis, MHA)

2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.

Addressing Chronic Conditions and Serious Mental Illness; A Concurrent Approach (Mary Jones, MHA of South-Central Kansas)

2:45 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. 

Early Intervention in Schools - Starting from Scratch, to Signature Program, Brand Identity to Cash Cow (Ben Harrington, MHA of East Tennessee)

Beyond the Memes: Building a Powerful Storytelling and Advocacy Program That Works (Suzi Craig, MH Connecticut; Janet Reynolds, MH Connecticut)

4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Delegate Assembly (Tom Starling, MHA Board Chair; Reggie Williams, MHA Immediate Past Chair/Nominating Committee Chair; Paul Gionfriddo, MHA President and CEO)

7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

MHA Affiliate Reception

 20 F Street NW Conference Center Capitol View Rooftop


Pre-Conference Day Speakers

Josefina Alvarez Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Adler University's Chicago Campus where she teaches doctoral courses in community psychology, social determinants of mental health, ethics and research methods. Her training in clinical and community psychology and experience as an educator have fostered her interest in community-based interventions focusing on health promotion and prevention. She supervises interns at MHA-North Shore where she is currently President of the Board of Directors.
Carolyn Beauchamp, ACSW, MSW is the President and CEO of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ). Carolyn has been a leader in the public mental health field for over three decades. Her lifelong commitment to advocating for persons with mental illness has been the driving force in her professional life. From working on the wards of Greystone Psychiatric Hospital as a social worker early in her career, to creating one of the state’s first outreach programs to board and care homes, to becoming the Mental Health Association’s Director of Policy and Advocacy and then its CEO – her interest and abilities using individual, systems and legislative advocacy have led to her success in the field. Under her leadership, the MHANJ has developed and implemented programs to empower consumers to become effective personal and systems advocates and created a strong statewide consumer voice that affects policy decisions at the highest levels. A graduate of Gettysburg College, Carolyn received her M.S.S.W. from Columbia University School of Social Work and pursued three years of post-graduate training in family therapy at the Mid-Jersey Institute for Family Therapy.
Betsy Blanks attended Rice University, where she graduated with degrees in English and policy studies. Following graduation, Betsy taught 7th grade reading at KIPP Reach College Preparatory as a Teach for America Corps Member. She then spent two years with the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston. Through her personal and professional experiences, Betsy has developed a passion for working with children and vulnerable communities, which drives her work as the Assistant Director for the Center for School Behavioral Health at MHA of Greater Houston. Betsy recently returned to school to pursue an MSW through USC’s highly-regarded online program.
Suzi Craig is the Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Policy of Mental Health Connecticut. She brings more than 20 years of strategic planning, marketing, creative direction, fundraising, and community engagement expertise to MHC. Her ability to cultivate trusted, mutually beneficial relationships has resulted in a long track record of wins at MHC and at her previous positions in both the business and non-profit worlds, including book publishing in NYC, strategic brand consulting, public broadcasting, and Connecticut’s startup eco-system. Suzi is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and is a nationally certified yoga teacher. She lives in West Hartford, CT with her partner, stepchildren, Gus the goofy Golden Retriever, and a cat that could care less but is loved, nonetheless.
Kelly Davis is the Director of Peer Advocacy, Support, and Services at Mental Health America where she is involved in promoting peer support, peer certification, youth and young adult leadership, and college mental health. Kelly’s lived experience with mental health diagnoses and trauma are at the center of her passion for transforming how we support individuals and change systems and services.She is passionate about trauma-informed care, peer support, consumer-led transformation, positive psychology, and civil rights. She serves in an advisory role to the Well Being Trust, The Support Network, and the Center for Law and Social Policy. She has spoken at many events, including The White House Making Health Care Better Series on Mental Health, and has been featured in media outlets including NBC Nightly News, The Mighty, Thrive Global, Yes! Magazine, and Mashable.
Natalie Fikac, Ed.D., is the Director of the Center for School Behavioral Health at MHA of Greater Houston as the in January 2019. Most recently, Natalie served as the Director of Guidance & Counseling for Spring Branch ISD. Since 2014, she has also been an adjunct professor at Lamar University. Natalie has served as a district, state and national level consultant and speaker and as a member of numerous committees at the state and local levels focusing on the needs of students in our changing educational world. Natalie earned her Doctorate in Education Leadership from Lamar University.
Paul Gionfriddo is the President and CEO of Mental Health America (MHA) and has worked in a variety of health and mental health related positions during a career spanning nearly 40 years. His policy memoir, Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia, was published by Columbia University Press in 2014. Paul was a full-time elected official from 1978 until 1991. As Mayor of Middletown, CT from 1989-1991, he served as Chief Executive and Administrative Officer of a municipality with 500+ employees and 45,000 citizens. From 1978 until 1990, he was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives. He served as Deputy Majority Leader and Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Public Health and Appropriations Subcommittees on Health and Hospitals and Human Services.
Ben Harrington, MA Ed has been the CEO of the MHA of East Tennessee since 1994. He has received the CEO of the Year Award from United Way and in 2010 was named Knoxville Business Journal Healthcare Hero for developing school and worksite based intervention programs. An ardent advocate, Harrington is proud to serve Mental Health America's Regional Policy Council and is also a member of the Affiliate Relations Committee.
Patrick Hendry is the Vice President of Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services at Mental Health America. He has worked as a mental health advocate for the past twenty-four years. His areas of expertise include peer-provided services, self-directed care, recovery-based trainings, organizational development, and management and sustainability. Patrick received MHA's highest honor, the Clifford W. Beers Award in 2012, and a SAMHSA Voice Award and Eli Lilly Reintegration Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. He is the former Executive Director of the Florida Peer Network and has assisted in the development of numerous peer-run programs and organizations. Patrick is a strong supporter of the inclusion of mental health consumers in all aspects of the behavioral health system.
Mary Jones, LCMFT, LCAC is the President/CEO of the Mental Health Association of South-Central Kansas and is part time faculty at Friends University in Wichita, KS. She has developed community-based service programs for people with mental illness for the last 24 years. Her professional highlights include housing development for people with severe mental illness and seniors, opening and expanding outpatient treatment programs including therapy, medication services and substance use disorders. She is Vice President of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition. She is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselor.
Robert Kley is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ). Robert oversees the operational functions of MHANJ, which includes program planning and development, financial and strategic planning. He also manages the statewide information and referral system, employment services, disaster response and recovery, outreach and peer services, intensive family support services, marketing, grant writing and participation in state and national government affairs and human service policy initiatives.
Shannah Mulvihill, MA, CFRE serves as the executive director/CEO of Mental Health Minnesota. She has worked in the non-profit and public sectors for nearly 20 years in the areas of communications, development, public policy and organizational leadership. Shannah holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and has served as a volunteer counselor for the Walk-In Counseling Clinic and Crisis Connection. She is a former board chair of Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless and former disaster services volunteer and advisory committee member of the Twin Cities American Red Cross.
Alejandra Posada, M.Ed. serves as Chief Operating Officer for MHA of Greater Houston. Since 2010, she has led the organization’s integrated health care programming. Beginning in 2015, she brought together stakeholders to develop consensus recommendations for sustainable integrated health care with a focus on financing and workforce development. Alejandra has presented multiple times at the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA) conference, and she co-chaired the 2017 CFHA conference in Houston. Alejandra has over 15 years of experience in the non-profit and education sectors. She holds a Master of Education from Loyola University Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts from Rice University.
Janet Reynolds is the lead instructor and co-creator of Mental Health Connecticut's Write On! program. She is an award-winning writer and editor and former high school English teacher. Reynolds has created nine magazines and is an award-winning investigative journalist. As a seasoned editor and marketer who understands how to tell a story and how to get that story out into the world, she is currently writing a memoir about her family’s journey with schizophrenia. She is also starting The Invisible Memoirs Project, a non-profit dedicated to helping the disenfranchised understand, tell and, when interested, share their stories. Reynolds holds a Masters in English Literature from Trinity College and lives in Canton, Connecticut with her family.
Chrissy Schayer is the Director of Consumer Connections of Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ). oversees the operations and development of MHANJ’s award-winning peer training and education program. also identifies, develops and implement training curricula; collaborate with community partners to develop a robust peer workforce in the state of New Jersey; and provide leadership in agency-wide innovative program development and strategic planning.
Tom Starling, Ed.D., is in his 10th year of leading MHA of the MidSouth, with offices in Nashville and Memphis. Previously, he served as CEO of a local United Way, CEO of a local Alzheimer's Association, Administrator of a retirement community, and in higher education for over a decade. Starling holds a BA in psychology from Baylor University, MDiv in theology from Southwestern Baptist Seminary, MA in medical ethics from Vanderbilt University, and doctorate in educational administration from Tennessee State University.
Susan Tellone is the Associate Director of the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Monmouth County. She is responsible for overseeing all youth programs and education initiatives for the MHA. Susan specializes in Suicide Prevention and educating schools in the Lifelines Curriculum throughout Monmouth County. Prior to coming to MHA, she worked in Manasquan School district as a school nurse, crisis coordinator, anti-bullying specialist and teacher. During her tenure at Manasquan the school experienced one of the largest teen suicide contagions recorded.
Reginald Williams is a Senior Vice President at Avalere Health and the Board Chair of Mental Health America.  At Avalere Health, Reggie leads teams that deliver research, analytic, and strategic support to clients, with a focus on the needs of life sciences manufacturers and patient groups. He advises clients on medical technology policy, regulatory and market access strategies for new products, and the evolution of public and private payers’ use of evidence for formulating coverage and reimbursement decisions, with a focus on the Medicare program. Prior to joining Avalere, Reggie was a member of the health policy team at the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). He also served as the Howard R. Swearer Public Service Intern in the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health.


Thank you to our 2019 Pre-Conference Day sponsors!



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