Veterans Mental Health Training Institute

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, which has been made possible by a grant through the New York State Legislature and collaboration with the Medical Society of the State of New York and the New York State Psychiatric Association.

December 9– Live Webinar - 12:00PM - 3:00PM
Supporting Military Families
NASW-NYS Members: FREE | Non-Members: FREE

NYSED Approved for 3.0 CE Credits
Click here for Program Information & Registration

January 7 – Live Webinar - 12:00PM - 2:00PM
The Relationship Between Military Culture and Social Work Practice
NASW-NYS Members: FREE | Non-Members: FREE
NYSED Approved for 2.0 CE Credits
Click here for Program Information & Registration

Previous 2020 Programming
Suicide Awareness and Prevention for Veterans
Military Mental Health Counseling, Moral Injury, and
Guidelines for Earning the Circle of Trust
A Closer Look at Moral Injury: Existential Challenges Faced by Returning Veterans
Addiction Trends Among Veterans
Screening and Treatment for PTSD in Veterans
Incorporating Peer Support into Social Work Practice with Veterans
Moral Injury of Military Servicemembers
Spirituality and Service: How to Make Meaning and Connect it for Healing


The NASW-NYS Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative is thrilled to kick off a series of panels to hear the experiences of veterans prior to, during, and after their service in their own voices. These panels will include focuses LGBTQIA+, female veteran, & BIPOC experiences, 9/11, moral injury, peer support, the veteran family unit, and more.

Our first panel featured the Joseph P. Dwyer program and included representatives of Joseph P. Dwyer county programs across the State, detailing who they differ and how they all support veterans through a peer support model. We were also joined by Dwyer Program legislative champions, Senators David Carlucci, Susan Serino, and John Brooks. To view the recording, click here. ⁠

In our second and this panels, we heard from Veterans about their experiences of 9/11. Whether it was the motivation for them to enter service, if they were already deployed, or were already a veterans, these panels discussed the diverse meaning of 9/11 for servicemembers. To view our first panel held on 9/10/2021 click here, and to view the second from 09/14/2020 click here.

Stay tuned for future panels!

For the 2020 VMHTI program year, NASW-NYS will focusing on online live webinars and conferencecs, as well as a special edition VMHTI Newsletter with self study CE opportunities. We invite our social work network to submit proposals for consideration to be presented as online live webinars.
VMHTI Topic Suggested Topic Areas
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Traumatic Brain Injury
Sexual Assault and Trauma
Substance Abuse
Suicide Prevention/Postvention
Moral Injury
Military Culture
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Exposure Based Therapy
Co-occurring Disorders
Peer Support
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Women in Military
LGBT in Military
Military Families

For application, complete and submit the form to with subject line 'VMHTI Proposal'.


Medical & Mental Health Professionals Trained in 2020


CEs Credits Distributed to Social Workers, LMFTs and LMHCs in 2020


Medical & Mental Health Professionals Trained since 2012

In July 2020, NASW-NYS announced the launch of the One Team VMHTI Listserv. One Team is a resource for clinical providers and students to engage with a network of peers to connect, to discuss, share knowledge, information, and professional resources focused on work with military service members, veterans, and their families. This platform provides an opportunity for members to:

Share Information on best practice and relevant issues regarding:

      • -Clinical practice with Military/Veterans (and their families)
      • -Serve as a source for referrals
      • -Increasing cultural competence
      • -Share relevant community resources
      • -Serve as a conduit to promote communications among practitioners, either actively working with a Military/Veteran population or those who wish to increase their cultural competence with this population and to identify emerging needs with the NASW-NYS Advocacy and Government Relations (AGR) Committee as they identify annual legislative priorities
      • -Explore bi-weekly/monthly topics as identified by Listserv Moderator and/or Veteran Advisory Committee Member


To join, complete the One Team submission form by clicking the button below. You will receive an email to the email you submitted confirming that you have been added to the One Team Listserv within 2 business days.



The VMHTI advisory committee comprised of veteran experts, representatives from veterans service programs, relevant federal, state and local agencies as well as current and retired members of the military, military family members and other stakeholder organizations in collaboration with Chapter staff. The advisory committee oversees all programming and curriculum development of the VMHTI.


Sharon Bailey, Major, USAF, Retired, LCSW-R

Sharon Bailey, MAJ, USAF, Ret started her career in the military as a Combat Medic in the Army. After her enlistment, she entered the Air Force Reserves as a Flight Medic, while she completed her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Social Work. She was a commissioned officer in the Air Force and Retired in 2007.

Sharon is a LCSW in Texas for over 30 years. She is trained as a Critical Incident Debriefer for children and adults. She worked as a Military Social Worker, private practitioner, consultant, educator and academic counselor, Military Life Family Counselor, clinician for the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs.

Sharon is currently the Veteran Outreach Administrator for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Vet to Vet Program at BRIDGES in Rockland County and Clinical Supervisor for the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Alternative to Incarceration Program.

Sharon has been married 39 years; she has three sons and three granddaughters.


John Bourges BSN, Captain Army Reserves 2006 - 2014

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.


Venecia DeRoose, M.S., MSW Candidate, Navy Veteran

I am a Navy veteran who served 7 years on active duty. I served on the Harry S Truman CVN-75 for 3 years. I then served at Naval Station Oceana, Virginia Beach for 4 years. I enjoyed being in the military. My first duty station was the Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier and I worked as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician. I chose this job because I wanted to do something challenging and new. I was deployed to Afghanistan and completed my last tour at NAS Oceana. In 2013, I decided to separate from the service because I knew it was time. It was a bit intimating to venture into the civilian world with a lot of unknowns. Thankfully the employers I encountered welcomed my military experience. A couple years later I decided to make myself even more marketable by applying to a master’s program. In 2015, I completed that masters’ program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. In 2019, I made the decision to return to college and I am currently working on my Masters in Social Work because I want to be able to help my fellow veterans in need.


Alyssa Gibbons, LCSW-R, BCD, LCDR, US Navy Medical Service Corps 2009-2016

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.


Mary Jo Gibson, LCSW, Retired Military Spouse

Mary Jo Gibson is a licensed clinical social worker and completed coursework as an addiction specialist. She grew up on Long Island, NY, and received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Catholic University and her Masters of Social Work from Adelphi University. Mary Jo previously served as a social worker at both Bronx Municipal Hospital and Catholic Charities Mental Health Clinic in Woodside Queens, in addition to leading workshops on general wellness and healthy eating. Mary Jo also has significant experience leading military family readiness groups during the time her husband served as an officer in the US Army. During that time period, her volunteer responsibilities included facilitating communications between the deployed Soldiers and families, providing resources to families in need, visiting and supporting wounded warriors, coordinating training programs, and mentoring family readiness advisers. Mary Jo is currently employed as a social worker with the Behavioral Health Interdisciplinary Program at the Albany Veterans Administration hospital, and is an adjunct professor at SUNY Empire State College, where she currently teaches courses in "Crisis Intervention" and previously taught "Grief and Loss." She serves on the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative Advisory Committee and the WAMC Community Advisory Board. Mary Jo is a founding co-chair of the U.S. Congressional Spouses Group on Suicide Prevention and Education, on which she served during the time her husband Chris Gibson served in the U.S. House of Representatives following his retirement from the Army. She continues to support local chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Mary Jo lives in Kinderhook, NY, with her husband, and they have three children: Katie (22) Maggie (20) and Connor (18).


Lorraine Greenwell, LMSW, MPH

Lorraine Greenwell is the Deputy Executive Director at BRIDGES, a peer-driven, cross-disability service and advocacy organization. Lorraine oversees the Rockland County PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Military Trauma from Adelphi University School of Social Work.



Charles Greco M.A., CSW-R, BCD, US Army 1968-71 Vietnam 1969

A Brooklyn native, Charles Greco served in the Army from 1968 to 1971 in an artillery battery. Charles first started college after his service ended, and received 2 degrees from CW Post College (LIU), then attended LIU Brooklyn and earned a MA in Psychology through the GI Bill. Charles has been in private practice for over 30 years, and has seen veterans in therapy for 25 years since being awarded a contract from the VA in Eastern Long Island because of the long distance to the VA hospital in Northport. Charles has also been a member of the NASW Ethics Committee for over 25 years, and the Chair of the mentorship committee for NYSSCSW. Charles is an avid reader of biographies and is also Scuba diver. I have been involved in Volunteer work through United way of LI and worked in schools and clinics. Charles resides in Eastport, NY.


Ward Halverson, LCSW-R, M.Ed., US Army 2000 - 2008

A former public school teacher, army officer, and father of four, Ward V. Halverson grew up in Mercer Island, Washington, attended Hamilton College in Upstate New York, and settled in Dolgeville. He is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose School of Education and Syracuse University’s School of Social Work. Halverson opened an outpatient mental health private practice in 2007 after a varied decade working with children, families, parents, couples, soldiers, and teenagers. The practice employed 8 therapists and admin staff and is home of SimpleThree, a treatment approach designed to end childhood defiance in about a week. From November of 2004 until March of 2006, as an army reservist, Captain Halverson was activated for training and deployed to Afghanistan as the country’s director of mental health for detainee operations. His team created a psychiatric system for captured Taliban and Afghan, provided for their several hundred MP guards, and supported combat presence patrols and humanitarian missions throughout the country. Upon returning home, Halverson began work with fellow combat vets through the Syracuse Vet Center as an outpatient contractor, and led the Veterans Expo committee as an annual opportunity to connect veterans in need with those most qualified to help. As founder and director of rapidly-growing Cornerstone Mobile Counseling and, he has been connecting individuals and families in need across 9 regions of New York State with 120-some masters-level licensed providers to attack generational patterns of poverty.



Audrey Lewis, PFC Dwyer Peer Support Project, Army Veteran

Bio coming soon!



Amanda Matteson, NYS Army National Guard, OIIF Veteran, MSW

Amanda Matteson, MSW, is a doctoral student in the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany. Amanda served in the New York Army National Guard from 2005-2011 and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from 2008-2009. She earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2011 and worked at the Albany VA Medical Center for four years before returning to academia. Currently she works as the Program Coordinator on the New York State Senate sponsored evaluation of the PFC Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Veterans Program and has been a member of this research team since 2014.


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.

Brent Russell, LMSW, Army Veteran

Bio coming soon!



Michael Shurmatz, LMSW, U.S. Army

Michael Shurmatz currently works as Outpatient Behavioral Health Senior Counselor at BestSelf Behavioral Health, specializing in EMDR, DBT, CPT, and ACT interventions, with a focus on trauma, 2019 - Present. Mike has also been providing specialized training in Moral Injury and is currently learning to implement various forms of trauma treatment which directly target Moral Injury. Mike graduated from the UB School of Social Work, Master of Social Work in May 2019. Prior to going back to graduate school, Mike was the manager for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program at the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY from 2015 - 2017. Mike served in the U.S. Army, as a Commissioned Logistics Officer from 2007 - 2011, serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2009-2010. Mike graduated from Canisius College with a BA in Communications in May 2007. Mike currently resides in WNY with his wife and two children.


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. 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.


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"Overall training was informative and will be useful in my practice as a social worker."
"Helpful information that can be useful in working with clients who have dealt with trauma."
"Excellent and thoughtful presentation with enough doses of good humor to keep it comfortable for all."
"I received the information about resources which I can access and give to my clients to access."
"It helped to understand better what veterans have gone through and why it is difficult to reintegrate."
"The workshop on intimate partner violence was excellent. The instructor was engaging students shared their experiences easily."


If you have any questions about VMHTI, please contact the NASW-NYS Chapter at or at 518-463-4741