Presented by the NASW-NYS Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative (VMHTI)
for all social workers, LMFTs, LMHCs, and licensed psychologists.
Online - Live CE Program
Received LIVE credits for participating over Zoom
There is no partial credit option. You must attend the full event to received CEs. 
   
(If you are not in NYS, check with your own licensing board to see if our programs are eligible for CE credit in your state.)

9:30am – 10:00am
Welcome, Announcements, and Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative (VMHTI) Overview

10:00am - 11:00am
Conference Keynote
Veteran Health & Wellness:
Ways to Navigate Hurdles Facing Veterans’ Wellbeing
Presented by: Alex Othmer, Former Navy SEAL, M. Psyc, MPSL, Co-Founder and CEO of Guardian Revival

11:00am - 11:10am - Break

10:00am - 11:00am
Voices of Veterans Panel
Beyond Misconceptions:
Who and What is a Veteran?

Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness

Panelists: MAJ Robin MacHattie, Behavioral Health Officer and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator/Army National Guard, Alyssa Gibbons, LCSW-R, BCD, US Navy, Anthony M. Rabasca, Lt Colonel, USAF, Retired, Brent Russell, LMSW, Army Veteran, Karl Rohde, Army Combat Vietnam Veteran, Silver Star Recipient

12:40pm - 1:10pm: Lunch Break

1:10pm - 2:40pm
Voices of Veterans Panel
Peers as Models for Posttraumatic Growth

Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness

Panelists: Jeffrey McQueen, MBA, LCDC, Army, Executive Director for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County, John Bourges, Captain US Army Reserves, NYPD Retired, RN Retired, County Coroner, Michael Varmette, Lt.Col. USMC, Retired, MSW, MSSM, Dani Koulermos, US Army Disabled Veteran, LCAT-P, Michael Shurmatz, LCSW, U.S. Army

2:40pm - 2:50pm: Break

2:50pm - 4:50pm
Voices of Veterans Panel
We're Not All Green:
Veteran perspectives on maintaining and reclaiming their humanity during and after military service

Facilitator: Tim Scott, U.S. Army Active Duty, LICSW

Panelists: Jose M. Rios, Ph.D. Candidate, Program Director for Black Veterans for Social Justice, Sandra Moody, CBRNE Specialist US Army (1998-2010), Montgomery Brown, Combat Navy Medic, Member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Becton; James Edward Becton III: Executive Artistic Director: US Army; 54B/74D-(CBRN Specialist)

 

9:30am – 9:40am
Welcome and Announcements

9:40am - 11:10am
Voices of Veterans Panel
Disenfranchised and Non-Self-Identifying Veterans:
Pathways of Support

Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness

Panelists: Adjahni Dèsirè, US Army, Abdul S. SPC/US Army, Amee Hernandez, US Army, Jibaritos with Troops, Gavin T. Walters Sr, MSW-USAF, Program Director of Vet2Vet of Ulster County and NY State Dwyer Coalition Facilitator, Preston W. Brown, MSW, Airforce, Shinnecock Nation, Long Island Fatherhood Initiative

11:10pm - 11:20pm: Break

11:20am - 1:20pm
Voices of Veterans Panel
Community Building:
Calling to Action Peers, Systems, and Resources

Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness

Panelists: Ward Halverson, Retired LCSW-R Private Practice, Captain/US Army, Tim Scott, U.S. Army Active Duty, LICSW, Jeremy Duers, Marine Corps Veteran, Mikki Kendall, US Army, Dylan Damboise, Marine Veteran

1:20pm - 1:30pm: Call to Action and Closing

The Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative (VMHTI) is a multi-year comprehensive training project developed by the National Association of Social Workers - New York State Chapter (NASW-NYS), aimed at increasing the number of community health and mental health professionals clinically trained in the assessment and treatment of mental health issues specific to veterans and their families. VMHTI is supported by a grant from the New York State Legislature as part of its efforts to address the unmet mental health needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families. NASW-NYS developed the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative to educate and train community health and primary care providers on veteran-specific mental health issues, including among others post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, suicide, suicide prevention, and substance use disorders. The goal of the VMHTI is to (further) build the capacity of New York’s community mental health workforce to better serve our returning veterans and their families through the delivery of free veterans mental health conferences and other related programming.

NASW-NYS is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers (Provider ID #0014), licensed mental health counselors (Provider ID #MHC-0053), licensed marriage and family therapists (Provider ID #MFT-0037) and licensed psychologists (Provider ID #PSY-0088).



Keynote: Veteran Health & Wellness: 
Ways to Navigate Hurdles Facing Veterans’ Wellbeing
Presented by: Alex Othmer, Former Navy SEAL, M. Psyc, MPSL, Co-Founder and CEO of Guardian Revival

Description
This presentation will address topics relating to veteran’s health and wellness, including modern health trends, mental health, suicide, substance abuse, nutrition, sleep, exercise, leadership, and peer support. In addition, the course content will offer unique insights into cultural considerations when working with the veteran population. This course material is addressed specifically to veterans, however is also relevant and extremely valuable for mental health professionals.

Learning Objectives

After the completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  1. Apply information and skills to promote happier and healthier lives for veterans
  2. Describe healthy relationship skills in leadership, and ways to apply this to both professional and personal settings.
  3. Identify symptoms and signs associated with mental illness and suicidal ideation in veterans
  4. Apply skills of cultural competency and humility while working with the veteran population
  5. Describe modern health & wellness challenges facing veterans and how to address them in various settings

 

Voices of Veterans Panel: Beyond Misconceptions: Who and What is a Veteran?
Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness
Panelists: MAJ Robin MacHattieBehavioral Health Officer and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator/Army National Guard, Alyssa GibbonsLCSW-R, BCD, US Navy, Anthony M. Rabasca, Lt Colonel, USAF, Retired, Brent Russell, LMSW, Army Veteran, Karl Rohde, Army Combat Vietnam Veteran, Silver Star Recipient

Description
This panel workshop will include an introduction and general overview of Veterans and military cultural competence, featuring discussions around the diversity of veteran experiences, including: dispelling Veteran stereotypes, highlighting different eras, different branches, cultures, and identities.. The panelists will discuss humanizing what a Veteran is, and set a foundation of knowledge with military terms and culture such as: types of service, drafted or enlisted, types of deployment, discharge, service, combat and non-combat. The workshop will also review stereotypes and misconceptions within both civilian and veteran communities, as well as media portrayals and societal views. Lived experiences will be highlighted by the panel discussion, combined with professional perspectives.

Learning Objectives

After the completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  1. Outline 3 aspects of military culture, and how these may influence one’s identity
  2. Identify at least 3 trends or statistics related to veteran reintegration
  3. Explain relevant terminology related to military culture and the veteran experience
  4. Describe the variety and complexity of veteran experiences and the challenges they may face
  5. Identify clinical skills that may aid in the screening of mental health issues in veterans

 

Voices of Veterans Panel: Peers as Models for Posttraumatic Growth
Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness
Panelists: Jeffrey McQueen, MBA, LCDC, Army, Executive Director for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County, John Bourges, Captain US Army Reserves, NYPD Retired, RN Retired, County Coroner, Michael Varmette, Lt.Col. USMC, Retired, MSW, MSSM, Dani Koulermos, US Army Disabled Veteran, LCAT-P, Michael Shurmatz, LCSW, U.S. Army

Description
This presentation, through both lecture and panel discussion, will examine the use of veteran peer support models, its importance in connecting and building community for veterans, and evidence-based benefits of peer support services. This workshop centers around the idea that peer support and intervention can model post traumatic growth. The panelists will discuss the importance of holding space for story/narrative, normalizing trauma and post trauma experiences, as well as the art of self-disclosure in peer roles. The presentation will describe the use of positive psychology to foster resiliency, while simultaneously finding ways to validate past experiences. Panelists will also discuss their experiences with and perceptions on the value of peer support services, the importance of understanding military and veteran culture when working with veterans, and the role of social workers and mental health professionals in providing and advocating for peer support.

Learning Objectives

After the completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  1. Explain how peer support is helpful for veteran well-being, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health
  2. Determine when peer support is appropriate to incorporate into service planning
  3. Identify avenues to connect veterans with peer support in the community
  4. Define resiliency factors from a strength based perspective
  5. Describe correlations between peer services and the concept of modelled post traumatic growth

 

Voices of Veterans Panel: We're Not All Green: Veteran perspectives on maintaining and reclaiming their humanity during and after military service
Facilitator: Tim Scott, U.S. Army Active Duty, LICSW
Panelists: Abdul S., SPC/US Army, Jose M. Rios, Ph.D. Candidate, Program Director for Black Veterans for Social Justice, Sandra Moody, CBRNE Specialist US Army (1998-2010), Montgomery Brown, Combat Navy Medic, Member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Becton; James Edward Becton III: Executive Artistic Director: US Army; 54B/74D-(CBRN Specialist)

Section One
A pivotal stage in our journey to becoming a veteran is when we took an oath to the U.S Constitution. Subsequently, we endured a rite of passage that indoctrinated us into a distinctive institutional culture based on a common identity, sense of purpose and belonging, grounded in traditions and norms that determine how we think, behave, communicate and relate to one another and the outside world. We were trained to embrace the military values of courage, honor, loyalty, duty, and self-sacrifice.

Section Two
Ultimately, military culture is deeply dehumanizing, requiring service members to:

  • Assimilate to a way of being that requires us to forgo our individual and social identities, and instead told that “we're all green.”
  • Be obedient to an authoritarian command structure by reflexively following orders and relinquishing critical thinking and independent thought.
  • Give up our personal freedoms and de-prioritize our family relationships.
  • Dehumanize and engage in horrific acts of violence against anyone who is deemed to be “the enemy” and be willing to die or become permanently disabled, often for duplicitous political and economic agendas. Simply, military culture is inherently violent and jingoistic.
  • Participate in a culture rooted in racism, misogyny, heteronormativity and gender normativity.

Many veterans know these dehumanizing dimensions of military service all too well, while also valuing other aspects of their time in service, which together shapes their post-service lives in a multitude of ways.

Section Three
While there are important distinctions based on the multiple overlapping identities of veterans (target, agent and both), a common denominator for many is their subordinated social and economic status before, during and after serving in the military. Relatedly, “class” is baked into military service, whereby enlisted personnel (over 80% of service members) are the working class of the military, while officers are middle- and upper-class management.

Subsequently, veterans are too often othered, rhetorically honored for political purposes, and systemically labeled as a population composed of deeply damaged bodies, minds, and souls. Thus, we are commonly patronized, pathologized and discarded. While it is imperative for the social work profession to strive to meet the unique needs of veterans, it must be diligent in not conforming to reductive labels and dehumanizing narratives about veterans, nor only defer to powerful institutional sources to shape their standards of practice.

In this presentation, a diverse panel of U.S. military veterans will critically examine these complex dynamics based on their common and divergent positionalities and experiences.

Learning Objectives

After the completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  1. Develop deeper understandings of military culture and the common and divergent experiences of military personnel that impact their lives as veterans
  2. Demonstrate an awareness of the oppressive and dehumanizing nature of military service in order to inform social work practice with veterans
  3. Understand the importance of humanizing and empowerment-based approaches to micro, mezzo and macro practice with veterans and their families

 

Voices of Veterans Panel: Disenfranchised and Non-Self-Identifying Veterans: Pathways of Support
Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness
Panelists: Adjahni Dèsirè, US Army, Abdul S. SPC/US Army, Amee Hernandez, US Army, Jibaritos with Troops, Gavin T. Walters Sr, MSW-USAF, Program Director of Vet2Vet of Ulster County and NY State Dwyer Coalition Facilitator, Preston W. Brown, MSW, Airforce, Shinnecock Nation, Long Island Fatherhood Initiative

This workshop will highlight the experience of veterans who do not self-identify, or who have severe skepticism, cynicism, or distrust towards institutions, and will examine reasons for not identifying as a veteran, whether it is defined by the government, their personal experiences, or civilian reactions and misconceptions. The workshop will cover stigmatized sub-groups such as veterans who have not served overseas or in combat, and veterans who have legal issues. In addition, the panelists will discuss topics like citizenship, medical separation, other than honorable discharges, LGBTQ, and ethnic and gender minority veterans. The panelists will also discuss demographics of Veterans that can often be overlooked, for reasons such as veteran advocates themselves working within these systems and institutions, or the vets who receive help are unwilling to engage with these systems.

Learning Objectives

After the completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify 3 reasons why a veteran might not self disclose service history.
  2. Identify at least 3 ways to support a veteran who is apprehensive of government institutions.
  3. Identify relevant resources that are aimed to support veteran needs.
  4. Describe the concept of disenfranchised and how that applies to different eras, genders, ethnicities, identities, and experiences within the veteran community.
  5. Identify unique avenues to support disenfranchised veterans, including education, direct services, community engagement, and family support.

 

Voices of Veterans Panel: Community Building: Calling to Action Peers, Systems, and Resources
Facilitator: Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness
Panelists: Ward Halverson, Retired LCSW-R Private Practice, Captain/US Army, Tim Scott, U.S. Army Active Duty, LICSW, Jeremy Duers, Marine Corps Veteran, Mikki Kendall, US Army, Dylan Damboise, Marine Veteran

Description
This panel will provide tangible resources, examples of interventions that have worked for veterans, tools to navigate support systems, and a call to action to continue service to the Veteran community. The panelists will discuss the gaps in community building, systems, and resources that Veterans face.. The panelists will also discuss practices and strategies of empowering veterans via education, supporting veterans in the workplace, and ongoing advocacy efforts for veterans. In addition to the panel, a PDF handout will be provided for all attendees with resources complied from all panelists.

Learning Objectives

After the completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  1. Outline 3 communication strategies to engage and provide support to veterans
  2. Identify at least 3 gaps in the veteran community and correlate them with needs areas
  3. Identify relevant resources that are aimed to satisfy abovementioned needs areas for the veteran community
  4. Describe in detail best care practices for veterans, as well as their families
  5. Identify unique avenues to support veterans, including education, workplace, community, peer to peer work, and community based

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Becton; James Edward Becton III: Executive Artistic Director: US Army; 54B/74D-(CBRN Specialist)

Becton, James Edward a United States Army Veteran, is a multi-disciplined, multifaceted, multi-unionized, National/International, Award-winning, professional performance arts practitioner, broker, and educator. Becton, with over 35 years in storytelling, has since pivoted into the role of Founding Executive Artistic Director of The Becton International Black Theater & ARTS Consortium (@TheBectonArts, @Jthe3rd , www.theBecton.com ).

Preston W. Brown, MSW, Airforce, Shinnecock Nation, Long Island Fatherhood Initiative

Preston Brown is a Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Member. Preston is a Prevention Educator with the Long Island Fatherhood Initiative at the Retreat. He has a graduate Degree in Social Work from Stony Brook University, with a specialization in Trauma, 2015. He facilitates a 24/7 Dad Parenting Course across Suffolk and Nassau County for fathers, father figures, and expecting fathers 18 years of age and older. The 24/7 Dad Parenting Course is developed by the National Fatherhood Initiative; it aims to improve the well-being of families and children through the promotion of responsible fatherhood and healthy relationships.

Preston Brown served in the United States Air Force from 1984-2000 in the Comptrollers Squadron at Kirtland AFB, Kwan-Ju AB ROK, Bitburg AB GE, Mildenhall AB UK and McGuire AFB NJ, 15.5 yrs. Preston was deployed to Incirlik AB Turkey as a paying agent for Operation Proven Force at the start of Operation Desert Storm, Antalya AB TU for Operation Provide Comfort and Aviano AB, IT for Operation Deny Flight. Preston was discharged from active service with a Bad Conduct Discharge in 2000.

Dylan Damboise, Marine Veteran

Dylan is a Marine Corps Veteran and former 0651 Cyber Network Operator . After his service his engagement with the Dwyer Project showed him firsthand the transformational power of peer support. He studied at Fordham University and completed an internship at Paramount+ Veterans Network. Presently, Dylan is a paralegal at Fusco, Brandenstein and Rada, LLC, focusing on helping veterans secure their benefits. Outside of work, he enjoys tabletop games with friends.

Jeremy Duers, Marine Corps Veteran

Jeremy Duers is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1999-2004 as a percussionist in the Marine Corps Field Band. He was the Band's NCOIC of both the library and the supply, and was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for devising the Desktop Procedure used across the band field. After being medically discharged, Jeremy attended Skidmore College and earned a Bachelor's in History and Government. He then went on and earned his Master's in History and Teaching from Union Graduate College. Upon graduation, Jeremy taught Social Studies and coached wrestling and football in Houston and then in Upstate New York, earning Coach of the Year honors and leading several athletes to State qualifications and titles. Jeremy changed careers and is currently the coordinator for the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer to Peer program for both Warren and Washington County. He lives in Lake George with his wife of 23 years and five children. He is a devout Catholic, and enjoys the challenge of helping veterans no matter what their needs and highlighting the issues that veterans face after discharge.

Ward Halverson, Retired LCSW-R Private Practice, Captain/US Army

Halverson served as a medical officer captain and company commander with the 25th Infantry Division, TF Cerberus in Afghanistan OEF 2004 - 6. Returning home he opened a private mental health practice focused on child and family therapy which, to this day, specializes in the management of oppositional defiance and behavioral treatment. In 2016 he gradually shifted toward consultation and entrepreneurial interests ultimately leading to development and growth of Cornerstone Herkimer, LLC which, along with strategic planning and advocacy, has built a successful system of billing/invoice management and mental health marketing to statewide private practices.

Mikki Kendall, US Army

Mikki Kendall is a writer, diversity consultant, and occasional feminist; she has appeared on the BBC, NPR, The Daily Show, PBS, Good Morning America, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, WBEZ, and Showtime, and discusses race, feminism, police violence, tech, and pop culture at institutions and universities across the country. She is the author of the New York Times-bestselling HOOD FEMINISM (recipient of the Chicago Review of Books Award and named a best book of the year by BBC, Bustle, and TIME). She is also the author of AMAZONS, ABOLITIONISTS, AND ACTIVISTS, a graphic novel illustrated by A. D’Amico. Her essays can be found at TIME, the New York Times, The Guardian, the Washington Post, Essence, Vogue, The Boston Globe, NBC, and a host of other sites.

Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness

Aynisa Leonardo is a Licensed Clinical Art Therapist (LCAT, ATR-BC), who has been in the field of mental health services for 12 years. She is the VP of Clinical Outreach at Water Gap Wellness. Her prior experience includes working in inpatient, outpatient, and non-profit settings with clients experiencing posttraumatic stress, addiction, family conflict, and other mental health challenges. She has concentrated on advanced program development and clinical education, locally and nationally. She continues to provide evidence-based and interactive style presentations to hospitals, non-profits, and corporate agencies, in an effort to raise awareness of current trends and improve competency within the healthcare community.

MAJ Robin MacHattie, Behavioral Health Officer and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator/Army National Guard

MAJ MacHattie has been a commissioned officer in the New York Army National Guard since 2015. She serves as a Behavioral Health Officer (social worker) and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. Her passion is helping Service Members understand the nuances of behavioral health and wellness, providing psychoeducation, support, and appropriate resources. She also dedicates herself to raising awareness of sexual assault: what it is, how it thrives in certain unit cultures, bystander intervention, prevention efforts, and resources available. Prior to commissioning, Robin had worked as a civilian contractor for the New York Army National Guard from 2011-2015. Her civilian profession is in higher education, holding the position of Assistant Professor of Social Work.

Sandra Moody, CBRNE Specialist US Army (1998-2010)

Sandra Moody is a Western New York Native with a 30+ year career. Sandra’s career began in 1981 in Combat Medical, and she journeyed through various skill sets including WMD Specialist and Theater Security Cooperations before her retirement in Oct 2015. Sandra has been a volunteer Peer Mentor with the Saratoga County Veteran’s Peer Connections within the Joseph P Dwyer program since March 2013. She also Co-Chairs the Veterans Mental Health Counsel at the Stratton VA.

Anthony Rabasca, LT.Col., USAF, Retired, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Lieutenant Colonel Rabasca retired from the United States Air Force after 20 years of service. He is graduate of four military institutes including: Squadron Officers School, Air Command and Staff College, Armed Forces Staff College and the Air War College. His military experience was divided between two Air Force specialties: For eleven years he served in North American Air Defense (NORAD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He was chosen to attend the Defense Race Relations Institute(DRRI) from which he graduated in 1972. For eight years of his career he served as Social Actions Specialist. The Social Actions mission focused on Equal Opportunity and Treatment, Drug/Alcohol Abuse and Rehabilitation, and Race Relations. His duties included conducting group sensitivity training that focused on race relations and sexism in the Air Force. From 1976-1980 he served as an instructor at the Department of Defense Race Relations Institute(DRRI) where he was in charge of curriculum development of subjects that included racism and sexism in the military. In 1978 he earned a Masters Degree in Human Relations from Oklahoma University. From 1980 to 1983 he served as Deputy Commander of the ROTC Detachment at Rutgers University. His last Air Force assignment was as Director of Training at the NORAD Operations Center located at Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, NY. After retirement in 1988 earned a clinical degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University. He was President of the New York State Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (NYAMFT) from 1999-2002. In December of 2001he served at the World Trade Center, ground zero, as a Red Cross Mental Health Specialist. In 2013 he retired after 25 years in private practice as an LMFT. He has been a member of the VMHTI Advisory and Curriculum Development Committees since 2016. He is currently working as a consultant to the Sitrin Outpatient Military Rehabilitation Clinical Development Program, New Hartford, NY and is a sponsor and participant in Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing in Twin Bridges, Montana. He resides in Rome, NY with his wife, Jane.

José M. Ríos, Ph.D. Candidate

Jose M. Rios, U.S. Army veteran serving 11 years in uniform, 4 years on active duty, 7 years in the reserve component to include a tour of duty in support of Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm - the First Gulf War. Currently, serving as the Program Director for the SSG Fox Veterans Suicide Prevention Program at Black Veterans for Social Justice, in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y. Additionally, serving as the co-facilitator of the Veterans Action Group (VAG) at Black Veterans for Social Justice and is the Finance Officer at American Legion Post 269, in Patchogue NY.

Jose holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Management graduating Magna Cum Laude. Also, holds a Master of Business Administration Degree (M.B.A.) in General Management and a Master of Philosophy Degree (M.Phil.) in Information Studies. Finally, he is a candidate for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Palmer School of Library and Information Sciences on the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University.

Brent Russell, LMSW, Army Veteran

Brent Russell is a Desert Storm veteran who served from 1990 to 1992 with the 369th communication Battalion. He was released with an honorable-medical discharge out of Fort Dix N.J. Brent graduated with a Masters in Social work from Adelphi University in 2014 and now is a LMSW working on getting certification for his practice. Brent Russell is the Director of Veterans Services at the Mental Health Association of Nassau County which houses “The PFC Dwyer Peer Support Project of Nassau County” and also “The Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island”. He oversees 14 Veteran peer support groups and coordinates different events geared to engage the Veteran and family member to connect them with positive resources if needed. Ultimately leading Veterans and family members to good health and wellness.

Michael Shurmatz, LCSW, US Army

Michael currently works as a Readjustment Counselor at the Buffalo Vet Center where he specializes in integrative therapy for trauma and Moral Injury utilizing ACT, DBT, CPT, and EMDR interventions. Michael has facilitated trainings on moral Injury through an ACT perspective in the WNY community, through the NASW NYS Chapter, the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative, and VA. Prior to coming to the Vet Center, Michael worked as a Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (SARRTP) Social Worker at the Buffalo VAMC, and Outpatient Behavioral Health Senior Counselor at BestSelf Behavioral Health. Michael graduated from the UB School of Social Work, Master of Social Work in May 2019. Prior to going back to graduate school, Michael was the manager for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program at the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY from 2015 – 2017. Michael served in the U.S. Army, as a Commissioned Logistics Officer from 2007 – 2011, serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2009-2010.

 

Montgomery Brown, Combat Navy Medic, Member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Bio coming soon!

John Bourges, Captain US Army Reserves, NYPD Retired, RN Retired, County Coroner

John Bourges worked as a Registered Nurse from 2003 to 2018 in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Department settings, earning a BSN, CCRN and CEN, as well having been an ACLS & BLS Instructor. John was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) as an Officer, serving both as an ER and ICU nurse in a combat area of operations. He has twenty years’ experience with the New York City Police Department including Patrol, the Narcotics Division and the Detective Bureau. John also trained in Personal/Dignitary protection. He is the Program Coordinator for The Dwyer Veterans Outreach Program in Putnam County and was elected a County Coroner in 2015/18. John is on the Board of Directors of the Prevention Council of Putnam; formally NCADD; and a member of the Putnam County Suicide Prevention Task Force.

Adjahni Dèsirè, US Army

Born and raised in NY, Adjahni Dèsirè is a US Army veteran who is currently pursuing a degree in film production at CUNY Brooklyn College. She's written and directed 5 shorts and is currently working on writing her first feature-length screenplay.

 

Alyssa GibbonsLCSW-R, BCD, US Navy

Alyssa Gibbons, LCSW-R, BCD graduated from UNC Charlotte with her MSW in 2003 and has been in clinical practice since June 2003. She has worked with a variety of populations, mainly adults in various stages of recovery from MH/SUD issues. She served 6 years as an active duty Navy Medical Service Corps Officer from 2009 – 2016 as a social worker. She currently works for the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center in outpatient substance abuse and has a passion for spirituality as a recovery focus.

Amee Hernandez, US Army, Jibaritos with Troops

Bio coming soon!

Dani Koulermos, US Army Disabled Veteran, LCAT-P

Dani Koulermos is a U.S. Army Veteran who served as a Military Police Officer from 2012 to 2016, both stateside and overseas. After her honorable discharge, she pursued a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling and Clinical Art Therapy from Long Island University, focusing on PTSD and MST, and graduated with dual honors.

Currently, she is a Primary Counselor at Outreach Recovery Center's Veterans Track in Brentwood, working towards her New York State Licensed Creative Arts Therapist certification. She specializes in art therapy for trauma processing and recovery from substance abuse, particularly for veterans with PTS and SUD. Dani manages a caseload including homeless populations and runs multiple therapy groups, including Creative Solutions in Recovery Art Therapy and Grief and Loss.

Dani also conducts an online Military Sexual Trauma webinar series, advocating and educating about MST. She is involved in several initiatives, including the Resource Coalition at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Veterans Suicide Coalition. She served on the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission from 2020-2022 and was honored in 2023 for her military duty, leadership, and community service.

Her PTSD and MST-themed artwork has been exhibited at Columbia University and LIU POST galleries. Dani also has experience as a Veterans Counselor at the Victims Information Bureau, aiding in rape crisis, domestic violence counseling, and veteran family support.

Amanda L Matteson, PhD, MSW/ Army National Guard

Amanda Matteson served in the Army National Guard from 2005 to 2011 as a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008. She earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2011, her Master’s in Social Work (MSW) in 2018, and her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work in 2022. Her dissertation research focused on women veteran peer support. She works at the VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center on research to improve health care for Veterans.

Jeffrey McQueen, MBA, LCDC, Army, Executive Director for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County

Jeffrey McQueen, MBA, LCDC, is the Executive Director for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County.  Mr. McQueen is a combat veteran who has lived experience with multiple facets of recovery.   Prior to his journey in recovery, Jeffrey has experienced several institutions battling emotional distress, PTSD, and substance abuse, Mr. McQueen has presented implementation techniques throughout the country on topics such as Personal Growth and Change, Time Management and other Recovery Based modalities. He has learned from a variety of adversities and obstacles throughout his recovery process and has embraced these experiences as well as learned to use them to not just educate society as a whole, but to find purpose and empowerment in these experiences.

Alex Othmer, Former Navy SEAL, M. Psyc, MPSL, Co-Founder and CEO of Guardian Revival

Alex Othmer is the CEO and Co-Founder of Guardian Revival, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization chartered to revive and preserve the mental health and well-being of veterans and first responders — our guardians — at no cost to them. Alex attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy, earning his Bachelor’s degree in Nautical Science and U.S. Coast Guard Third Mate Unlimited Tonnage License, while serving as a two-sport varsity athlete in Football and Track & Field. Upon graduation, Alex commissioned as an Officer in the U.S. Navy where he served as a SEA. He holds a Master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Leadership from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in Public Leadership from San Francisco University.

Abdul, S. SPC/US Army

Abdul, S., also known as Falcon, is an Arab American filmmaker and US army veteran. Starting his career as a stand-up comedian in Jordan, Abdul went on to write and perform for shows on major Middle Eastern TV networks and worked as a video editor at Al Jazeera English in Doha, Qatar. Passionate about visual arts, Abdul studied improv at Second City in the US and earned a Masters in Filmmaking from London Film School aiming to create thought-provoking, authentic and entertaining content.

Karl Rohde, Army Combat Vietnam Veteran, Silver Star Recipient

Karl Rohde, Army, Combat Vietnam Veteran is presently Director of Veterans Services for Putnam County. He is certified by the VA as a Veterans Service Officer (VSO). In that capacity he assists Veterans in filing claims for compensation with the VA. Karl has been involved with Veterans issues on some level since 1989. He a Past State Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and is the founder of the Putnam County Joint Veterans Council that brings the various Veterans organizations of Putnam County together to work as a team for Veterans. Since the funding of Dwyer Vet2Vet passes through his office he been a part of the team and strong advocate of Dwyer. He is a horse handler in the Equus Effect Horse Therapy for Veterans. He sits on the Putnam County Suicide Prevention Task Force. Karl has 2 master’s degrees one in history and one in education.

 

Tim Scott, U.S. Army Active Duty, LICSW

Tim Scott is a clinical social worker and social work educator who also has a doctorate in social justice education from UMass Amherst, with a focus on political economy and ethnic studies. He has extensive experience as an organizer and activist in a range of social and economic justice campaigns and liberation movements. Since 2016, he has worked closely with frontline Lakota land and water protectors and veterans in resistance struggles for sovereignty, climate justice and land back. Tim is a first-generation college graduate who enlisted in the U.S. Army Infantry at the age of seventeen.

Michael Varmette, Lt.Col. USMC, Retired, MSW, MSSM

Lieutenant Colonel Varmette, USMC (Ret) hails originally from upstate New York. He applied and was accepted into the State University of New York at Albany where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During his time at SUNY he joined the Marine Corps in 1982 under the Platoon Leaders Commissioning Program. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in May 1984 and July 1984 attended The Basic School, Fox Company. At the Basic School he was assigned as an Infantry Officer and upon graduation attended the Infantry Officers Course. His first assignment was to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, where he was a Platoon Commander, Weapons Platoon Commander, and Executive Officer to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. After this tour Lieutenant Varmette was assigned to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Center in Bridgeport California. He held various billets of Mountain Leader, Unit Operation, and Chief Instructor. He was promoted to Captain and attended Amphibious Warfare School. Completing the mid-level career school, he was assigned to Hawaii as a Company Commander, Weapons Company Commander for 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. He was promoted to Major and was reassigned as the Plans Officer for III Marine Expeditionary Forces, Hawaii. Read More

Major Varmette was assigned in 1996 to Marine Corps Systems Command as a Project Officer for Individual Weapons. Finishing that tour, he attended Marine Corps’ Command and Staff College and obtain a Master of Science in Systems Management from Capitol College. He received orders to Headquarters Marine Corps, Manpower and Reserve Affairs. As Division Head for Distribution of Manpower Management Officer Affairs he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In 2002, Lieutenant Colonel was assigned as a Professor of Program Management and Leadership at the Defense Acquisition University. While there he was assigned to the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan as a military consultant. He retired out of Headquarters Battalion in Quantico, 1 July 2006. Lieutenant Colonel Varmette served on Unit Deployments to Okinawa, deployments with Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable to the Mediterranean, including Somalia and Afghanistan. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Varmette was a program manager and consultant for Intelligence Systems from 2006 to 2016. He recently completed his second graduate degree from the Graduate School of Social Welfare, University at Albany in May 2020. He resides in Lake Luzerne New York.

Gavin T. Walters Sr, MSW-USAF, Program Director of Vet2Vet of Ulster County and NY State Dwyer Coalition Facilitator

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 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. 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 and decided to join the Air Force in 2003. 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 your 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 works to create partnerships with community members like the Veteran Services Agency as well as the VA to ensure no Veteran is left behind. The Dwyer Programs (Vet2Vet) uses proven strategies to engage Veterans with peer mentors and in the community. No one understands a Veteran like a Veteran and Vet2Vet puts that into practice on a daily basis. They have many programs, including Group Sessions for PTSD, Equine Therapy, Mindfulness sessions, and of course peer counseling. Gavin has also taken the lead for New York State serving as the leader of the NY State Dwyer Coalition. This coalition works with NYS leaders to advocate for legislation and build better support for Veterans across the state.

What do social workers have to say about the VMHTI?

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Charles G. - Social Worker

The panels vast and different experiences provide a depth to understanding veterans I've never imagined possible. Thank you to all who've been open to sharing your life experiences.

Jill F. - Social Worker

I have learned more about the Military during this. session and yesterdays panel than I have ever before. Thank you!

Mariama S. - Social Worker

I can't believe how much I've learned from the panelists from these two days. You all rock! Most powerful continuing education course I have ever taken.

Lori A. Z.

Truly the best conference I have ever been to.

Elizabeth A. - Social Worker

An an LCSW I have much experience in mental health in particular PTSD. I have become increasingly interested in working with veterans and registered for this conference to learn more about the culture. This conference, and in particular hearing from the veterans, has solidified by intention. Thank you NASW and all the panelists.

Rachel K.

Hearing directly from veterans through the programs and conference has made a huge impact on me. Our veterans do not need to be saved by clinicians, they just need the support to heal themselves and one another. This is exactly what social work is about. I have a renewed commitment to my vets and other clients.

Kim T.

My father is a Vietnam vet. He frequently spoke about the brotherhood he felt and how much he missed that sense of belonging. Thank you for helping me to understand this more.

Jessica L.

Having the listserv to get 24/7 guidance from veterans and other clinicians is one of the greatest resources I have ever gotten. The workshops are wonderful as well, however I can not thank you enough for having the listserv and guidance I get there available.

Marvin R.

These presentations should be at every high school and every college in the United States. The panels give names, faces, and stories to our veterans. This is very impactful and thank you for making these available.

John Bourges, Captain US Army Reserves, NYPD Retired, RN Retired, County Coroner
Melanie Corinne, Marine Corps Veteran, 2013-2018, Levantine Arabic Linguist
Jeremy Duers, Marine Corps Veteran
Dylan Damboise, Marine Veteran
Alyssa Gibbons, LCSW-R, BCD, US Navy
Mary Jo Gibson, LCSW, Retired Military Spouse
Lorraine Greenwell, LMSW, MPH
Ward Halverson, Retired LCSW-R Private Practice, Captain/US Army
Dani Koulermos, US Army Disabled Veteran
Aynisa Leonardo, LCAT, ATR-BC, VP Clinical Outreach, Water Gap Wellness
MAJ Robin MacHattie, Behavioral Health Officer and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator/Army National Guard
Amanda L Matteson, PhD, MSW/ Army National Guard
Anthony Rabasca, LT.Col., USAF, Retired, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Brent Russell, LMSW, Army Veteran
Tim Scott, U.S. Army Active Duty, LICSW
Karl Rohde, Army Combat Vietnam Veteran, Silver Star Recipient
Gavin T. Walters Sr, MSW-USAF, Program Director of Vet2Vet of Ulster County and NY State Dwyer Coalition Facilitator
Michael Varmette, Lt.Col. USMC, Retired, MSW, MSSM