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Speaker Schedule

Saturday, January 9, 2021, Improving Care For The Serious Mental Illness Population, 10:00 AM- 1:00 PM

Moderator: Janet Taylor, MD, Community Psychiatrist

Dr. Janet is a Community Psychiatrist in Sarasota, Florida.  She is on the frontline battling the emotional and economic impact of mental illness. She holds a M.D. from the University of Louisville, completed her psychiatric residency at New York Medical College and obtained an MPH from Columbia University “s Mailman School of Public Health in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She had a column in Family Circle Magazine, “Ask Dr. Janet”.  Dr. Janet is also frequently featured on ABC “Good Morning America” and NBC “The Today Show” and CNN.  She is a former host of the Discovery Health/OWN series, “Facing Trauma” and was the Guest Care Director for “The Jeremy Kyle Show”.  Dr. Taylor is a frequent speaker on the impact of Racial Trauma and Racism, Antiracism and Conscious Allyship. Dr. Taylor is experienced in Diversity and Inclusion work including Cultural Competence and more importantly, Cultural Humility. She is an expert in Implicit Bias through the lens of Neuroscience and behavior. She’s an expert in Self Care and Post Traumatic Growth and has created a “Reset Program” to address both.  She both counsels’ individuals through her practice and works with organizations and teams in the classroom to improve Diversity awareness, Diversity Management capabilities and individual coping skills to mitigate bias and improve communication skills, self-awareness and team functioning.

Housing as Healthcare:  Supportive Housing Initiatives in the State of Florida 

Supportive housing advocates remind us that development of housing for various special needs populations, including: the elderly, veterans, young people aging out of the foster care system, persons with a disability, persons with mental illness, those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, ex-offenders, and others can improve healthcare.  Innovations are happening across the United States to integrate supportive housing with Medicaid, managed care, and health care facilities. Hear our panelists Carole Matyas and Karen Koch as they discuss activities in Florida to make more supportive housing available through collaboration between many organizations and agencies.

Carole Matyas, Vice President SMI Operations, Wellcare

Carole Matyas is the Vice President SMI Operations for Wellcare. She oversees the SMI Specialty Plan in Florida and has responsibility for overall operation of the program.  Carole is accountable to assure the development of a fully integrated medical/behavioral program that is centered in whole person attention and care.  She assists with representing the company externally to assure our members, providers and stakeholders have the information and support they need.  

Carole has more than 30 years of behavioral health-related experience, with 20 of those years of experience in health plan operations. She joined WellCare in 2011 as VP Behavioral Health Operations at WellCare Corporate office. Previously she worked for Magellan Health Services, first as a general manager for call center operations, and then as Chief of Clinic Operations, where she led practice management and operations of 23 mental health clinics and a psychiatric urgent care center in Arizona. Her additional experience includes serving as Vice President of Public Sector Operations for Schaller Anderson, a Medicaid managed care organization and helped to develop their integrated model; and as Vice President for Value Options, a managed behavioral health care company whose contracts included carve out managed care for state and government agencies, where Carole was executive lead on a large carve out program in Texas.  Carole spent her early career as a licensed social worker providing direct clinical services in a group practice, community mental health and a residential treatment center. 

Carole has been recognized by Mental Health America and NAMI Texas for her dedication to mental health advocacy.  Carole earned both her undergraduate and Master of Social Work degrees from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Karen Koch, Executive Director, Florida Supportive Housing Coalition 

Karen Koch is the Executive Director of the Florida Supportive Housing Coalition (FSHC) and has served as its director since 2016. As executive director, Karen’s major responsibility is to advance the mission of FSHC to increase and improve permanent supportive housing and housing support services for persons with special needs such as individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders, youth aging out of foster care, disabled veterans and seniors, and persons experiencing domestic violence. Karen also advocates for individuals and families experiencing homelessness and those with extremely low incomes. 

As an advocate, Karen works with the legislature, state and local entities such as the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and managing entities, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA),  Medicaid managed care plans, the Departments of Health and Elder Affairs, and city and county governments. Her most important role is to inform leadership, funders, and other advocates of the importance safe, independent, and stable housing is to recovery for persons with special needs.  Karen also stresses the value supportive housing is to communities, and the public cost-offsets of supportive housing. 

Since becoming executive director Karen has worked with the legislature and the Agency for Health Care Administration to fund and acquire a Medicaid waiver to provide housing services in 2 areas of the state, and assisted AHCA and managed care plans to implement the waiver. She has successfully advocated for more funding for permanent supportive housing and worked with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to increase affordable housing for persons with special needs and lowering barriers to improve access to affordable housing.   

Before assuming her role as executive director, Karen served as Vice President of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health (FCCMH), aka the Florida Behavioral Health Association.  Over the 27 years that Karen worked at FCCMH she was actively involved in lobbying, Medicaid and DCF policy development, fiscal and data analysis, and workforce development. Most recently in her role at FCCMH Karen was the major lobbyist for funding and implementation of the CAT Teams, and spearhead the development and funding of FACT Teams. 

Karen has a master’s degree in social work from Florida State University and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Pittsburgh.  Besides her many years working for associations, Karen has several years of clinical experience working with adolescents with psychiatric diagnoses, teaching at the university level, and providing counseling services under the U.S. Navy FAR.

 Saturday, January 9, 2021    11:00 AM

Behavioral Health Homes and Improving Medical Care For the SMI Population Using Quality Metrics

Behavioral Health Home refers to a care model that integrates primary care, acute, behavioral health and social services and supports for adults with mental health conditions. It is an innovative, recovery-oriented, person and family centered model that promises better patient experience, improved quality of life, and reduction in health care costs as better outcomes than those achieved from the standard of care.  Our speaker, Dr. Jay Reeve of Apalachee Center, will discuss quality metrics obtained from his agency resulting from because of implementing the Behavioral Health Home model.

Jay Reeve, PhD, President & CEO, Apalachee Center

Jay Reeve, PhD, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Apalachee Center, in Tallahassee, Florida. Apalachee Center is a not-for-profit behavioral health center operating eleven outpatient clinics, including a national Center of Excellence for the study of Mood and Anxiety Disorders in cooperation with FSU College of Medicine, a Central Receiving Facility, three acute behavioral healthcare inpatient units, two primary care clinics, and six residential programs across the eight counties of Florida’s Big Bend region and manages the Behavioral Health Center at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. Apalachee Center employs over 500 staff, sees about 8000 clients annually, and has an annual budget of about 32 million dollars. Dr. Reeve also chairs the Mental Health Council of the Big Bend. 

Dr. Reeve received undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees from Tufts, Harvard, and Adelphi Universities.  He has been licensed as a clinical psychologist in Delaware, Florida, New York, and Rhode Island. Dr. Reeve joined Apalachee Center in 2005, when he was brought on board as the Chief Managed Care Officer, responsible for negotiating contracts with various insurance funders.  He was promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer in 2008.  Prior to joining Apalachee, Dr. Reeve lived in Rhode Island, where he was a senior psychologist at Bradley Hospital. He has also served in clinical staff positions at Delaware Psychiatric Center and Capital District Psychiatric Center. 

Dr. Reeve has held a variety of academic appointments, including teaching faculty positions at Brown University Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior; the University of Albany; Albany Medical College; Widener University; Immaculata College; the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology; the University of Hartford, and currently holds a courtesy appointment at the at Florida State University Medical College. Dr. Reeve has published in peer reviewed journals on topics ranging from the psychotherapeutic treatment of HIV+ adolescents to the use of group psychotherapy on children’s inpatient psychiatric units, and has served as a behavioral health commentator for the ABC News Medical Unit for many years.  

In 2014, Dr. Reeve was made a Fellow of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, “in recognition of his unique and significant contributions to the Council”.  In 2010, Dr. Reeve was awarded the Visionary Leadership award by the National Council for Community Behavioral Health. He was the first Florida mental health provider to win the Big Bend Mental Health Coalition’s Walk The Walk award, in 2008. In 2005, he received the Brown Medical School’s Outstanding Teaching Award in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Saturday, January 9, 2021   11:30 AM 

Initiatives in the State of Florida to Reduce Potentially Preventable Events (PPEs):  Hospital Admissions, Readmissions and Emergency Room Visits

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) oversees the provision of healthcare for about four million children, low-income adults, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.  Since 2014, the Agency has contracted for the provision of medical services to these individuals through the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program who have the responsibility to promote disease management and report quality metrics. Our speaker, Dr. Marc Rivo, will review how the plans and providers are collaborating to reduce PPEs in Florida.  Dr. Rivo will also share his personal and family journey of maneuvering through the state mental health system.

Marc Rivo, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Quality Medical Consultants (QMC) 

Dr. Marc is a family physician from Miami and Chief Medical Officer of QMC Cares Hospitalist Group, an organization which provides care for patients in the hospital who have serious mental and physical illnesses.  He has a long career caring for those in need.  He completed his MD at the University of California, San Francisco, and his Family Medicine Residency at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  Dr. Rivo practiced as a family physician in an African American public housing community in Washington, DC and in a community mental health center in South Florida serving a predominantly Cuban population.  He was Chief Medical Officer of a network of community health centers that provided comprehensive medical, mental health and social services to over 300,000 Medicaid patients throughout Florida.  These experiences taught him that almost all families have loved ones with mental illness, including his own, and that the right health care and social support can truly make a difference in their lives.  His wife Karen is a nurse and community health advocate, and they are parents of two precious daughters – a teacher and a family physician.   Striving to be a holistic clinician who cares foremost about the mental and spiritual health of his patients has been one of his most rewarding gifts as a family doctor. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020  Hot Topics in Mental Health

Moderator: Nick Abid, D.O., FACN, Medical Director, Sunshine/Staywell Health Plans

Dr. Nick Abid has spent close to 30 years in patient care practicing community psychiatry in large
hospitals and community mental health centers. Prior to beginning his career in mental health, he
graduated from Michigan State College of Osteopathic Medicine. Following medical school, he
completed his psychiatric residency training at the University of Washington in Seattle.
For the past 14 years, Dr. Abid has been the Medical Director at Sunshine/Staywell Health Plans, working with
care managers internally, and behavioral health providers and facilities externally, to provide 800,000
Medicaid and 100,000 SMI members with quality behavioral health services.
Dr. Abid has 3 grown children, 5 grandchildren, and 3 dogs. In his free time, he enjoys the outdoors. He
loves swimming, biking and walking on the beach.

NAMI FL Salutes Veterans!

  • NAMI Homefront – Anita Herron, Manager National Education Programs, NAMI
  • Cohen Veteran Network
    • Elizabeth Sherr, Program Manager, CVN (Jacksonville) Centerstone
    • Karen Blanchette, Program Manager, CVN (Tampa) Aspire

Anita Herron, Programs Manager of National Education Programs NAMI

Anita Herron serves as the Programs Manager of National Education Programs for NAMI. She began
working at NAMI in 2017 as the Programs Manager for NAMI Family-to-Family, NAMI Basics and NAMI
Homefront. Prior to coming to NAMI, Anita served as Young Families Program Advocate at NAMI North
Carolina for seven years. Anita received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Troy University.

Elizabeth Sherr, LPC, Clinic Director, Steven A. Cohen Clinic

Elizabeth Sherr is a Licensed Professional Counselor originally from Massachusetts. She served as both a Non-Commissioned Officer and Commissioned Officer for 20 years, retiring in 2012. She is an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran. She holds an undergraduate degree is in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton Texas, a Master of Arts in Diplomacy with a concentration in Terrorism from Norwich University in Vermont and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Regis University in Denver Colorado. 

After seeing the increased need for mental health professionals, she knew this was where she needed to be and could continue to serve. Immediately following her retirement she went on to pursue a Master of Arts in Counseling. Her areas of focus are Military Sexual Trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress, Ccombat Ttraumas, Nnon-Ccombat Ttraumas, and Women Veterans. In addition to individual therapy, she also facilitates both psychoeducation, psychotherapy and support groups.

Prior to her current position as the Clinic Director at the Steven A. Cohen Clinic at Centerstone in Jacksonville she worked as a clinician with the Cohen Clinic in Clarksville Tennessee and previous to that at the Nashville Vet Center as a Re-Adjustment Counselor. She completed her internship at the Colorado Springs Vet Center as a Re-Adjustment Counselor. Elizabeth also served as a research assistant with the Denver VA Medical Center, Office of Rural Health focusing on improving women VVeteran wellness. She also facilitates women Veteran wellness retreats across the country with Welcome Home Warrior and The Wounded Warrior Project.

On her off time she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.

Karen Blanchette, LCSW, Director, Steven A. Cohen Military Clinic

Karen Blanchette, LCSW, is the Clinic Director at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in Tampa, FL where she has had the honor to work with post-9/11 Veterans, FL National Guard, and their family members since the clinic opened in the summer of 2019.  Prior to moving to Florida in early 2019, Karen worked for and directed programs for over 25 years in a multi-service behavioral health and substance use disorders treatment clinic in Massachusetts.  She is also a Faculty Advisor for the Boston University Graduate School of Social Work online program.  Karen has extensive training and experience in evidence based practice interventions for the treatment of diverse behavioral health needs. 

2020 Mental Health Impact

  • Suicide in the State of Florida – Alex Rodriguez, MD, Bay Pines VA Health Care System
  • COVID 19 in Florida: Best Practices of Providers and NAMI Affiliates – Bill Gardam, CEO, Peace River Center and Tina Kinney, Executive Director, NAMI Hernando
  • Racism and Healthcare Disparities in Mental Health – Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, Centerstone

Alex Rodriguez, MD, Psychiatrist, Bay Pines Veterans Affair Health Care System 

Alex R. Rodriguez is a native of Tampa, Florida, where he graduated from local public schools before matriculating to Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia), where he received his B.A., Graduate Certificate in Behavioral Science, and M.D. degrees. Commissioned as a U.S. Navy officer while in medical school, he completed his internship, residency in general psychiatry, and fellowship in child-adolescent psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco affiliated programs, while providing Fleet and Marine medical supports during the Vietnam War.

While stationed at the Naval Medical Center, Camp Pendleton, Dr. Rodriguez was selected to the White House Fellows Program, where he served from 1980-81 as a Special Assistant to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC and was responsible for executive oversight of department mental health-substance abuse, children’s programs, and disease prevention-health promotion activities, in addition to a lead role in the resettlement of Cuban refugees from the Mariel boatlift evacuation. He subsequently was assigned as Medical Officer and Head, Office of Quality Assurance for the Department of Defense OCHAMPUS (Office of Civilian Health and Medical Programs of the Uniformed Services) where he led medical policy, quality management, and risk management programs for a national health care program, including implementation of the first national mental health services peer review program, in partnership with the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, and American Nurses Association. He subsequently became the Corporate Medical Director for the first major national public managed behavioral health company (Preferred Health Care, LTD), which established clinically-managed programs for corporate, government and other health plans insuring several million persons. He then became the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Consortium Health Plans, the national accounts company for Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans, where he led all quality management activities affecting over 90 million Americans’ health care. He subsequently served as CMO of Magellan Health Plans and as Vice President for Medical Quality at WellCare Health Plans. Since May 2009, Dr. Rodriguez has served as a staff psychiatrist at Bay Pines VA Health Care System, where he has contributed to the systems’ medical records and health care research activities.

From 1969-2005, Dr. Rodriguez served continuously in the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer, retiring as a Captain after serving as a commanding officer of Naval base and Fleet hospital combat zone units, and as Command Surgeon for a Readiness Command. A former president of the American College of Medical Quality and Associate Editor of the American Journal of Medical Quality, he has led and participated in numerous national professional activities (e.g., American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Child-Adolescent Psychiatry, National Committee for Quality Assurance, National Quality Forum, Institute of Medicine-National Academy of Sciences, Disease Management Association of America) and is a former appointee to the Florida Substance Abuse and Mental Health Corporation. He is board-certified in Psychiatry.

Bill Gardam, CEO, Peace River Center

Bill Gardam is an innovative executive with over 30 years of government, for-profit and non-profit healthcare and business experience.  He is the President and CEO of Peace River Center, an integrated behavioral health system of care offering a broad range of prevention, advocacy and treatment services for mental health, substance use and domestic violence issues through 27 locations and 30 programs designed to meet the needs of children, adolescents, adults and seniors; and, through the use of telehealth, increasingly bringing care and services to rural areas and virtual visits during this time of COVID-19. 

Prior to joining Peace River, Bill was the CEO of a smaller community mental health center in Iowa and before that worked for the State of Iowa in several positions, including State Administrator for Mental Health and Disability Services during which he developed the first combined mental health and disabilities state plan resulting in a redesign of the adult and child mental health system and increased funding in services.

Bill holds an M.B.A. in Healthcare Administration from Wagner College in Staten Island, New York and is a trained mediator for Civil, Family, Juvenile Court and U.S. Postal Service EEOC matters.

He serves on the Board of the Florida Council for Behavioral Health; is past Board Chair of the Florida Behavioral Health Association; current Board Chair of Behavioral Health Partners of Florida, LLC, a statewide network of behavioral health providers; Board Chair of Integrated Care Network of Florida, a statewide behavioral health independent practice association in partnership with Centene Corporation; and, serves on the Board of Directors of the Sunshine Health Plan providing coverage to over 2 million lives in Florida through their Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Healthy Kids and Child Welfare plans.

Tina Kinney, Executive Director, NAMI Hernando

Tina Kinney is the Executive Director of NAMI Hernando and a Florida Board-Certified Recovery Peer Specialist for both Adult and Family. She is married with 5 children and has been a Hernando County resident for 30 years. She is passionate about helping those with mental health and substance use challenges recognize the signs and symptoms and overcome the obstacles they face on their recovery journey. She teaches NAMI Basics, presents Ending the Silence, facilitates both Connection Recovery Support Groups and Family Support Groups. She is also a certified Instructor of both Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid and a WRAP Facilitator. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, the beach and volunteering at her church. Tina also sits on the Advisory Board for the BSW program at Saint Leo University and is a Board Member for Ability Tree Florida. She participates in the Hernando County Public Safety Coordinating Council, Hernando County’s Community Health Improvement Plan Partnership (CHIPP) and is Treasurer for the Hernando County Community Alliance. Tina was instrumental in developing Hernando Cares, a behavioral health resource guide, worked diligently with community partners to secure a $1.2 million dollar grant for Youth Criminal Justice Diversion and works closely with Circuit 5 Specialty Courts in Hernando County by providing program participants with peers to reduce recidivism. In 2017, Hernando County’s Board of County Commissioners donated a 4.4-acre property to NAMI Hernando. Tina’s dream is to build NAMI Hernando’s Beautiful Mind Center into a Recovery Community Organization as part of Florida’s Recovery Orientated System of Care (ROSC) initiative.

Janet Taylor, MD, Community Psychiatrist

Dr. Janet is a Community Psychiatrist in Sarasota, Florida.  She is on the frontline battling the emotional and economic impact of mental illness. She holds a M.D. from the University of Louisville, completed her psychiatric residency at New York Medical College and obtained an MPH from Columbia University “s Mailman School of Public Health in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She had a column in Family Circle Magazine, “Ask Dr. Janet”.  Dr. Janet is also frequently featured on ABC “Good Morning America” and NBC “The Today Show” and CNN.  She is a former host of the Discovery Health/OWN series, “Facing Trauma” and was the Guest Care Director for “The Jeremy Kyle Show”.  Dr. Taylor is a frequent speaker on the impact of Racial Trauma and Racism, Antiracism and Conscious Allyship. Dr. Taylor is experienced in Diversity and Inclusion work including Cultural Competence and more importantly, Cultural Humility. She is an expert in Implicit Bias through the lens of Neuroscience and behavior. She’s an expert in Self Care and Post Traumatic Growth and has created a “Reset Program” to address both.  She both counsels’ individuals through her practice and works with organizations and teams in the classroom to improve Diversity awareness, Diversity Management capabilities and individual coping skills to mitigate bias and improve communication skills, self-awareness and team functioning.

Saturday, October 10, 2020  Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System in Florida

The Definition of Insanity – Jail Diversion Through Mental Health Court Panel Discussion   

Saturday, October 10, 2020 – 10:00 AM


  • The Honorable Steven Leifman, Judge, Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, Miami, FL
  • The Honorable Jerry Demings, Mayor, Orange County, FL
  • Norman Ornstein, PhD, American Enterprise Institute
  • Justin Volpe, Peer Support Specialist, 11th Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, Jail Diversion Program

Moderator: Cindy Schwartz, Project Director, Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, Miami, FL

Cindy A. Schwartz currently serves as the Project Director of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida Criminal Mental Health Project- Jail Diversion Programs. Her career goals have been focused on promoting system transformation, community integration and recovery. Cindy has a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, an Advanced WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) facilitator, Instructor of How Being Trauma Informed Improves Criminal Justice Responses, Consultant for the SAMHSA SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance (SOAR TA) Center and consultant for the SAMHSA GAINS Center. Cindy is also actively involved in her community and serves on a variety of professional organizations, boards and committees.

The Honorable Steve Leifman
Miami-Date County Court – Criminal Division

Judge Steve Leifman is the Associate Administrative Judge of the Miami-Dade County Court – Criminal Division. From 2007 – 2010, Judge Leifman served as Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health for the Supreme Court of Florida. From 2010 to 2018, Judge Leifman chaired the Florida Supreme Court’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Court.  He currently chairs the Steering Committee on Problem Solving Courts for the Supreme Court of Florida and the Mental Health Committee for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. In 2000, Judge Leifman established the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, which aims to divert people with serious mental illnesses from the criminal justice system into treatment.

Judge Leifman is the co-chair of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Mental Health Committee and co-chair of the Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative. He is also a Gubernatorial appointment to the Florida Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse and a member of The National Institute on Drug Addiction’s (NIDA) Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network. Judge Leifman is a lifetime member of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP), a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a Voluntary Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami School of Medicine and on the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Supportive Housing. More recently, Judge Leifman was appointed to serve on the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness and the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) established by the 21st Century Cures Act.

In 2015, Judge Leifman received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence. One of the nation’s highest judicial honors presented by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the Rehnquist Award is presented annually to a state court judge who exemplifies judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics.

Judge Leifman is also the first recipient to receive the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence (2015). He was named by New Times as one of Miami-Dade’s most interesting people of 2017 and a 2016 Governing Magazine Public Official of the Year. More recently, Judge Leifman was awarded the 2020 Dade County Bar Association (DCBA) David W. Dyer Professionalism Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the DCBA, the 2018 Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health, the 2019 Yale-NAMI Mental Health Advocacy Award, a 2019 Presidential Commendation by the American Psychiatric Association and the 2019 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Public Service Award.

The Honorable Jerry L. Demings
Mayor, Orange County, Florida

Mayor Jerry L. Demings was sworn in on Dec. 4, 2018 as the 5th elected Mayor of Orange County and is the first African-American to serve in the role. He oversees more than 8,000 Orange County employees and a $4.4 billion budget as the County’s chief executive officer. He says that his goal is to make Orange County the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” by creating a community culture of innovation, collaboration and inclusiveness. Always a trailblazer, Mayor Demings became Orlando’s first African-American police chief in 1998 and was elected the first African-American Orange County Sheriff in 2008. He was re-elected in 2012 and again in 2016.

An Orlando native, Mayor Demings is married to former Orlando Police Chief Valdez B. Demings, who also made history as the first female police chief in Orlando. In November 2016, she was elected to the 115th Session of the United States Congress and was re-elected in 2018. Congresswoman Demings represents Florida Congressional District 10. They have three sons who are all graduates of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. A lifelong public servant, Mayor Demings is a graduate of Jones High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida State University and a master’s of business administration from Orlando College. He graduated magna cum laude.

He is a graduate of the 194th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy and studied at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Mayor Demings currently serves on several regional boards of directors, including the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Central Florida Expressway Authority, Metroplan Orlando, Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Lynx, Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Orange County Tourist Development Council, Orlando Economic Partnership and he is involved in numerous civic organizations. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and is a steward at Saint Mark AME Church in Orlando. Mayor Demings has a passion for working with organizations that support children and volunteers with several non-profit agencies.


Norman Ornstein, PhD
American Enterprise Institute

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies politics, elections, and the US Congress. He is a co-host of AEI’s Election Watch series, a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic, a BBC News election analyst, and the chairman of the Campaign Legal Center.

Dr. Ornstein previously served as co-director of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. A longtime observer and analyst of American politics and the US Congress, he has been involved in political reform for decades, particularly campaign finance reform and the reform of Senate committees. He has also played a part in creating the Congressional Office of Compliance and the House Office of Congressional Ethics.

Dr. Ornstein was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.

His many interviews have been aired on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NPR, and “PBS NewsHour,” among others. His articles and opinion pieces have been published widely, including in Politico, The New York Times, NY Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Dr. Ornstein’s books include the bestsellers “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported,” with E. J. Dionne and Thomas E. Mann (St. Martin’s Press, 2017); and “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism;” “The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track,” with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006); and “The Permanent Campaign and Its Future” (AEI Press, 2000).

Dr. Ornstein has a PhD and a master’s in political science from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Minnesota.


Justine Volpe, Recovery Peer Support Specialist
Eleventh Judicial Circuit
Criminal Mental Health Project, Jail Diversion Program


Justin is a Certified Recovery Peer Support Specialist working with the 11th Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, Jail Diversion Program since 2008. As a successful graduate of the program, Justin has firsthand knowledge of the importance of ensuring the availability of timely, high quality behavioral health treatment services in the community. After experiencing a series of psychiatric health care crisis several years ago – which le     d to a period of unstable living conditions, disruption of family and social supports, and brief involvement in the justice system – Justin became engaged in treatment and support services in the community.

Today, he enjoys a full and productive life in recovery, serving as an inspiration and role model for others. Justin has also served as a National Consultant since 2011 and has travelled the country sharing his message of hope and inspiration. Justin has helped train over 2500 CIT Officers in Miami Dade County since 2008 and assisted in getting over 1000 people out of jail. His experiences make him uniquely qualified to speak to the importance of ensuring people have access to care when and where they need it, as well as the unfortunate consequences that can result when they do not. Having overcome significant challenges, Justin is now married with a son and a homeowner.

Saturday, October 10, 2020 – 11:00 AM

Law Enforcement Crisis Intervention Team (CIT): It Takes a Village = Cooperation, Understanding & Collaboration Panel Discussion

 In many communities in Florida and the United States mental health crisis services are not available to meet the growing demands.  The first responders to many crises is law enforcementCrisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs are innovative, community-based programs that connect law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families.

Hear our panelists as they share the impact of CIT in Florida communities. 

  • Michele Saunders, LCSW, Chairwoman, Florida CIT Coalition
  • Habsi Kaba, CIT Coordinator, 11th Judicial Court, Miami, FL
  • Joyce Carbonell, PhD, Florida Sheriffs Association, CIT Training Coordinator
  • Charles Kenniff, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office
  • Kim Cline, Advocate


Moderator: Michele Saunders, LCWS, Chairwoman, Florida CIT Coalition

Michele Saunders is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 35 years of community mental health service.  She recently retired from the Department of Veteran Affairs providing mental health services to veterans and their families. Ms. Saunders currently is a consultant with Policy Research Associates conducting Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) Mapping, CIT Program development and other technical assistance to local communities.  She is also the Chair for the Florida CIT Coalition, composed of CIT programs throughout Florida. Ms. Saunders was one of the founding members of CIT International, Inc. in 2008 and was its 1st Vice President from 2008 – 2018.  She continues as a consultant to CIT International, coordinating their annual conferences. Other key positions held include Director of Community Services, Seminole County Government, Executive Director of Florida Partners in Crisis, a nonprofit advocacy organization of criminal justice, behavioral healthcare and consumer advocate leaders and Executive Vice President of Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare, a community mental health center. Ms. Saunders holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from James Madison University in Virginia, a Master of Social Work degree from Florida State University and is licensed as a Clinical Social Worker since 1986.


Habsi W. Kaba MS MFT CMS
Director of CIT Miami-Dade and Police Mental Health Collaboration
Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project
Crisis Intervention Team Program

Habsi began her career in the field of mental health in rehabilitation and recovery, nearly 25 year ago. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, her passion as an educator and public speaker on mental health, has inspired her work to create understanding, compassion and connections within the behavioral health community, first responders and society. Since 2003, Habsi has led the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Program of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, in Miami-Dade County. Among numerous certifications, Habsi is a certified Mental Health First Aid, USA and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Criminal Justice Instructor. To date, she has trained over 10,000 first responders, 911 Communications personnel, mental health professionals, government officials, including organizations in the private sector. Habsi has served as a consultant on an international, federal, state and local level, including the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Hostage Negotiation Team. Habsi is an internationally recognized expert in the field of crisis intervention best practices and education, curriculum design and development trauma, first responder self-care, de-escalation techniques and police and mental health collaboration. She shares her vast experience as a boundary spanner, leader and resources facilitator, in the implementation of behavioral health criminal justice initiatives, systems transformation and law enforcement, behavioral health and community liaison services. In 2014, Habsi was named the CIT International Coordinator of the Year, for her many contributions to law enforcement, behavioral health and her community. Her expertise, celebrated interpersonal skills and unique style has made her a widely known and sought-after educator, panelist and conference speaker throughout the United States.

Joyce Carbonell, PhD, Statewide CIT Coordinator
Florida Sheriffs Association

Dr. Carbonell is a licensed clinical psychologist. She completed an internship at Baylor College of Medicine and an NIJ post-doctoral fellowship in Applications of Psychology to Crime, Delinquency and the Criminal Justice System. She was a professor of psychology at Florida State University for 35 years and is currently a professor emerita. She was the civilian director of the FSU Crisis Management Unit and also spent time as the director of the FSU Psychology Clinic. She won multiple awards for university teaching and continuing education. She was the recipient of many grants from federal, state and local agencies. Her research is widely published in refereed journals and also includes reviews, book chapters, and technical reports and is also represented in presentations at national and international conferences.

Dr. Carbonell has provided training at law enforcement academies and other federal, state and local agencies on topics such as crisis intervention and sexual harassment. Dr. Carbonell has also provided employment screening evaluations for law enforcement agencies and fitness for duty evaluations. She served as a consultant to a TAC team, providing both training and assistance at callouts. Since 2004, she has been a trainer in a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training program based on the Memphis model. Presently she is the statewide CIT coordinator for the Florida Sheriff’s Association.


Lt. Charles Kenniff
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Lt. Charles Kenniff is a 36-year veteran of law enforcement. A graduate from the New York City Police Academy, he worked for NYPD before relocating to Florida and joining the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in 1990. Charlie has received numerous citations and awards and is a state recognized expert on special populations and the Baker Act. Charlie has been involved with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, specifically the “Memphis Model,” since 2003, and is a Master C.I.T. instructor as designated by the University of South Florida and the Florida CIT Coalition. Lt. Kenniff was one of the first to complete CIT International’s Certified Coordinator course and he continues to teach civilians and law enforcement about safe and proper responses to persons in crisis due to mental/emotional illness, addictions and organic brain disease. Charlie is currently on the board of directors of the Sarasota Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Charlie has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and has participated in numerous advanced leadership and law enforcement trainings. Lt. Kenniff is currently the commander of his agency’s training section, overseeing all aspects of law enforcement and corrections training including the recruit field training programs for courts, corrections and patrol. Lt. Kenniff runs the agency’s Leadership Academy which prepares newly promoted supervisors to successfully navigate the challenges of 21st-Century policing.

Kim Cline

Kim Cline is from Bradenton, FL living part-time in Florida and part-time in Bettendorf, IA with her husband.  She has two children and was born in Mississippi, in May of 1969.  Kim grew up in Kentucky and moved many times, including living overseas.  After high school, she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Information Systems from Western Kentucky University.  Upon finishing college, she accepted a job offer with Texas Instruments as a Programmer Analyst and worked for the company for 6 years.  During that time, she married her high school sweetheart and decided to start a family.  She continued to work for a couple of years, but ultimately decided that for her own health and for her family’s sake, she would become a stay-at-home mom.  While her husband works, today she is known as the CEO of the family, where she is in charge of keeping all things afloat for two places.  She enjoys researching and taking cooking classes focusing on a whole food plant based cooking style.  This has led her to reversing her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.  With this change at age 50, she no longer has to take Metformin to control her diabetes.  She enjoys going to the beach, traveling, and spending time with her family. Kim was initially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 in 2003.  She credits her husband and family for their support as they have been an integral part of her overall health and well being.  She and her husband will celebrate 27 years of marriage in December, 2020.

Saturday, October 10, 2020 – 12:00 Noon


 The Honorable Scott Plakon, Florida House of Representatives, 29th House District will be providing viewers a wrap-up of the day’s sessions. He will give insight into the state’s commitment to support mental health courts and jail diversion.  Representative Plakon will also comment on the valuable role of law enforcement in providing services to persons with mental illness.

The Honorable Steve Plakon
Florida House of Representatives

Representative Scott Plakon (R) represents Florida House District 29, which is the west portion of Seminole County. He was originally elected to serve in 2008 but was unelected in 2012 when he moved out of his district to run due to redistricting.  He came back to his home district in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016 and 2018. Representative Plakon is a businessman who has created and sold multiple companies. He currently owns a commercial real estate firm and other small businesses.

A few landmark legislative bills that Representative Plakon has sponsored and passed in the most recent sessions have dealt with removing the statute of limitations on the sexual assault of minors (Donna’s Law), giving patients more knowledge on alternative options for prescribed opioids, and assisting incarcerated individuals with applying for an occupational license so that upon their release, they would have a means to make a living.

Representative Plakon also has been a strong advocate for Alzheimer’s patients and their care partners. His late wife, Susie Plakon, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s in 2015 and passed away in the summer of 2018. Each year, he and Representative Matt Willhite (D) sponsor meaningful bipartisan legislation to help the 570,000 Floridians who live with this disease and the 1.3M family members and care partners who help them.

Representative Plakon and his wife, Rachel live in Heathrow, Florida. He has 6 children and 3 grandchildren (with the fourth on its way).

Saturday, September 12, 2020  “A Celebration of NAMI Florida”

Advancing Mental Health in the State of Florida Legislature

September 12, 2020   10:00 AM

Join state legislator, David Smith, 28th Legislative District and Gayle Giese, NAMI Florida Board Member and President of the Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition, as they discuss the mental health of Florida residents and explore best practice models to improve mental health care delivery.


David Smith

Florida House of Representatives, District 28

Rep Smith

State Representative David Smith was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2018 and is a business consultant in Central Florida. Representative Smith retired from the United States Marine Corp with the rank of Colonel, flying 52 combat missions in Iraq.  He is the recipient of the Legion of Merit (2), Meritorious Service Medal (3), Air Medal “V” (2), Navy Commendation Medal (3), Navy Achievement Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment (6).

As a representative for parts of Seminole County, the Representative Smith is currently a member of the  Business & Professions Subcommittee, Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee, Public Integrity & Ethics Committee and Transportation & Tourism and the Appropriations Subcommittee.  He is involved in several community and civic organizations, to include:  Rotary Club International, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Central Florida Marine Corps Foundation, Leadership Orlando Class #78 and Leadership Seminole Class #26.

 Gayle Geise

President, Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition

Gayle Geise is Chair and a founding member of the NAMI Advocacy Group of Broward County and President of the Board of the Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition, which she helped to found. She is passionate about helping those with mental illness and their families and speaks openly about serious mental illness within her family. She advocates to provide safe affordable permanent supportive housing, insurance parity for mental health services, certified peer specialists, more and better-funded FACT teams, more psychiatric treatment beds, mobile response teams, centralized receiving centers, and other vital services, First Episode Psychosis Programs and Medicaid Expansion. In 2019, she won an EPIC (Exceptional People Impacting the Community) Award from Mental Health America of Southeast Florida.  She is currently restarting the national Stepping Up Initiative with the Broward County NAMI Advocacy Group, to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.

 NAMI Vision for the Future


Daniel Gillison



Dan Gillison brings expertise in non-profit leadership and a passion for advocating for people with mental illness to NAMI. Before coming to NAMI, Dan led the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF), where he was responsible for strategic planning, personnel management, board communications, oversight of APAF’s public education programs and outreach, and formulating strategic alliances and partnerships to further APAF’s mission. Prior to APAF, Gillison led County Solutions and Innovation for the National Association of Counties (NACo) where he was instrumental in repositioning the organization’s programs to provide expertise in health and human services, justice and public safety. 

Dan has over 30 years of experience and has previously held leadership positions at Xerox, Nextel, and Sprint. Dan holds a B.A. from Southern University and A&M College.

A Year in Review and Awards Ceremony

April Chambers

NAMI FL President

April Chambers is a marketing leader in strategy, development, implementation, integration and team building in the marketing technology landscape. April is a proven leader with highly developed business skills. She has extensive experience across banking, construction, retail, consulting, and themed entertainment industries. April is the current President of the NAMI Florida Board of Directors.

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