The Community Coalition for Mental Health was created by a research study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Our goal is to increase awareness about depression, reduce fear about mental health problems, and promote social justice. Our members are committed community advocates, compassionate family members, and leaders from the following organizations in New York City:
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Rev. Dr. Charles Butler
Rev. Dr. Charles Butler is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. He has a Bachelors’ Degree from Howard University in Business Administration, a Master’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Counselor Education, a Master’s Degree in Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry from Alliance Theological Seminary. Rev. Butler is employed by Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement. His current position is Vice President of the Equitable Development Department. In this capacity Dr. Butler provides informational seminars and counseling sessions to first time home buyers. He has assisted over 1500 individuals and families to become first time homeowners.
Dr. Butler currently sits on the Board of Directors for the St. Mark’s Federal Credit Union, the New York State Coalition for Excellence in Homeownership, and the New York Mortgage Coalition. In addition Dr. Butler writes a weekly column in the Harlem Community newspaper on Homeownership in Harlem.
Professor Teena Brooks, is the Assistant Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA)- NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. OCA provides consumer/peer perspectives to inform the Divisions work in mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities.
Previously, Ms. Brooks worked for thirteen years at the Urban Justice Center, an innovative nonprofit that serves New York City's most vulnerable residents through a combination of direct legal service, systemic advocacy, community education and political organizing. Before becoming a staff member at the Urban Justice Center, Teena worked as a crisis center coordinator at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
She is currently a lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work and has also taught social welfare policy at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. Teena is also a doctoral student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in the Social Welfare program.
Professor Joyce Johnson
Professor Joyce Johnson always knew her career path would evolve around assisting people. After completing a Bachelor's degree in sociology from The City College of New York in 1997, she learned about Hunter College's program in Rehabilitation Counseling, There she com- pleted her Master's degree in Education as a Rehabilitation Counselor in 2001. While still enrolled as a student she earned her certification as a Rehabilitation Counselor with a specialty in working with individuals with substance abuse issues.
Joyce's internships as a student lead her to work in methadone maintenance, out-patient, re-entry and a residential therapeutic community setting. After graduation, she accepted a position at Samaritan Village as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. The experience proved to be both challenging and rewarding with the opportunity to work closely with a diverse interdisciplinary team. Having demonstrated clinical expertise and strong leadership skills, Joyce rose through the ranks from a Counselor to Assistant Director of Clinical Services.
Despite the satisfaction of working with the substance abuse population and the lasting professional relationships she developed, Joyce decided it was time for a career move.
In 2005, she accepted a position at Coler-Goldwater as the Director of the Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling Department. Simultaneously she took on a position as an Adjunct Professor at Monroe College in the Department of Allied Sciences where she teaches courses in Medical Administration, Medical Assisting and Public Health. In 2005 Joyce obtained a New York State License as a Mental Health Counselor. She utilized her license in 2009 as a stepping stone by creating a proposal to offer counseling service at her religious organization. She was hired by First Corinthian Baptist Church as a Christian Counseling Supervisor that same year. This opportunity afforded her the ability practice and operate with greater independence while serving the Harlem community. 2010 she took on the role as a full-time College Professor at Monroe College.
When Joyce is not working she enjoys facilitating exams for different professions, conducting study groups for future rehabilitation counselors, and participating in church ministry activities.
Michael A Walrond Jr
Pastor Michael A. Walrond Jr. is the Senior Pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in Harlem, New York. Walrond— affectionately known as Pastor Mike—is quickly rising as one of the most prolific and sought-after teachers and preachers in the country.
Considered a visionary, cultural architect, and game-changer by his peers, Pastor Mike has not only catalytically changed the traditional prospective of black church, but he is innovatively shifting the paradigm of Christian understanding and culture. Within two years of his leadership at FCBC, the church experienced exponential growth, tripling its membership. Over the past ten years, membership at FCBC has grown from 300 to 9,000 members.
Pastor Mike’s community and social justice initiatives include the Micah Clergy Roundtable of NYC, A.C.T. Social Justice Ministry, anti-“stop and frisk” campaign and helping to get the “New York City Living Wage” legislation passed through the City Council. In early 2014, Pastor Mike ran a spirited congressional campaign and many are eyeing him to enter the national stage sooner rather than later.
He is a board member of the National Action Network (NAN) and was appointed the first National Director of Ministers Division. He serves as a Trustee and adjunct faculty member of Chicago Theological Seminary and for over two years served as weekly columnist for the New York Amsterdam News. His work has been recognized by The Harlem Torch, Positive Community Magazine, The Amsterdam News, and he was named “One of the Lord’s Foot Soldiers” by Newsweek Magazine.
Pastor Mike has received numerous honors, accolades, and recognitions include induction into Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers as a “Distinguished Preacher.” In 2014 Pastor Mike was a recipient of The Root 100 Award, a list of the top 100 most influential African Americans under the age of 45.
La’Shay Morris, MPH
La’Shay Morris, MPH, is second year masters of public health student at Columbia University, studying in the department of Population and Family Health with a certificate in Child, Youth and Family. She received her bachelor’s degree in Health Education with a minor in Urban Studies from San Francisco State University. Her desire to pursue public health came while studying Nutrition and Food Science as well as the humanities at the University of Ghana and throughout West Africa for a year.
Her training has equipped her for looking at disparities in urban settings. Her research interest are Community Based Participatory Research with children, older adults and faith based work; through which to create resiliency. As well as creating programs that address the need of executive functioning in early childhood development.
She has recently served on the E-board of the Black and Latino Student Caucus and Columbia Christian Fellowship at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Her long term goals are become a clinical psychologist and own and operate a café.
Erin Leigh George
Erin Leigh George, MSW, is a dedicated social justice advocate. She received her B. S. in Psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and spent several years providing mental health services to youth populations both in the U. S. and abroad.
Erin’s direct practice work provided insight into the systematic failures of our institutions, resulting in a desire to engage in more systemic reform. Erin received her Master’s in Social Work and Public Policy from Columbia University in May 2014. Erin focused her studies and work upon drug policy and criminal justice reform and completed a graduate fellowship with the New York Policy Office of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Erin currently works as a Social Worker and Advocate at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a non-profit, civil-rights law firm. Erin works to promote policies that ensure Environmental and Health Justice for ALL New Yorkers
Dr. Samuel K. Roberts
Samuel Kelton Roberts, Jr., is Director of the Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), and Associate Professor of History (Columbia University Arts and Sciences) and Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences (Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University).
He writes, teaches, and lectures widely on African-American social history, and medical and public health history, with particular interests in criminal justice, policing, and social policy. He is the author of Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), and is currently writing a book on the history of race and the politics of addiction during the “heroin plague” between the 1950s and the 1990s.
Dr. Sidney Hankerson
Dr. Sidney Hankerson is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is conducting research to reduce disparities in depression care among African Americans. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia, where he majored in Psychology. He then attended Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Hankerson received both his MD degree and Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at Emory. This training equipped him with knowledge to optimize healthcare systems that provide care for underserved populations. His long-term goal is to create a faith-based mental health network through which to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health care.
Dr. Hankerson’s professional affiliations include President of the Black Psychiatrists of Greater New York & Associates, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the American Psychiatric Association.
Dr. Laura Smith
Dr. Laura Smith received her Ph. D. in Counseling Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Now an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, Laura has previously worked in a variety of applied settings in New York City. She was formerly the founding Director of the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center at Barnard College and the Director of Psychological Services at the West Farms Center, where she provided services, training, and programming within a multifaceted community-based organization in the Bronx.
Laura’s research interests include the psychological dimensions of social class, poverty and race-class intersectional issues; the development of socially-just practice models for psychologists at the community level; and participatory action research (PAR) in schools and communities.
Dr Martha Sullivan
Dr. Martha Sullivan has a background that includes key positions in government, city agencies, and the voluntary sector. Dr. Sullivan has a wealth of experience in healthcare leadership, education, policy, planning and program development. She is dedicated to developing and increasing access to culturally competent, quality health and behavioral health services for underserved and minority populations, including older adults, women, people of color and the seriously mentally ill or homeless.
As Gouverneur Health’s (HHC) Executive Director, Dr. Sullivan presently oversees one of the largest Diagnostic and Treatment Centers in New York and a Skilled Nursing Facility.
Over thirty years ago, Dr. Sullivan developed the Center for Older Adults and Their Families and the Women’s Comprehensive Mental Health Program at Gouverneur, where she later served as Director of Behavioral Health. She is the only social worker to have held such a position in HHC.
Dr. Sullivan served as Deputy Commissioner of NYC DOHMH, overseeing chemical dependency, mental health promotion and community liaison and as Executive Director of the Fordham-Tremont Community Mental Health Center. There she developed specialty services, including the Men’s Mental Health Service, and produced the documentary film Men of Color and Mental Health: Moving from Alienation to Hope.
Emely Santiago, MSW, MPH, is an experienced bilingual social worker with extensive public health research experience. She received her Masters in Social Work in Advanced Clinical Practice and her Masters in Public Health in Health Policy and Management from Columbia University. Before pursuing her Masters, she worked at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program as a Research Assistant.
Emely’s direct practice experience focused on working with historically disenfranchised communities in the New York City area and increasing access to mental health resources. Her career focus is to bridge the gap between direct service and mental health policy.
Emely currently works as a Project Coordinator for Dr. Hankerson at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Emely works to increase awareness on mental health issues and encourage help seeking behavior within faith-based community settings.
Ms. Alicia James is a social entrepreneur, nonprofit marketing consultant and purpose strategist. She is the founder and President ARJ Solutions a nonprofit cause related marketing consultancy. She works with grassroots agencies and purpose driven entrepreneurs who want to create impact in the lives of others.
After 20 years of nonprofit programming, fundraising, business development and marketing consulting, Ms. James made the decision to launch her purpose vision. A business model designed to educate, empower and advocate for mothers. She is the visionary, founder and President of The P.A.M Project (Preserve A Mom) a social enterprise agency which advocates and promotes the importance of maternal mental wellness and addressing mental illness stigma in communities of color.
In 2015, Ms. James held two Mental Health and Wellness Community Forums in partnership with both Nassau and Suffolk County Departments of Minority Health. She continues to collaborate with both the public and private sector producing educational workshops and community forums which focused on physical activity, nutrition, mental health / wellness, mental illness stigma, and self-care for caregivers.
Ms. Alicia James was awarded the Nassau Alumnae Delta Sigma Theta Sorority's 2017 Woman of Distinction, for her community contributions in the area of Mental and Physical Health. She is currently working on her first book based on her purpose journey and advocacy work for maternal mental health.
Ms. James’ life mission is to continuously cultivate positive change for women and girls, health related issues and in communities of color. She knows from firsthand experience that the real work in creating positive change is through community engagement.
Jaylaan Ahmad-Llewellyn, is a second year masters of clinical psychology student at Teachers College Columbia University. Jaylaan is completing her masters in clinical psychology with an emphasis on spirituality, mind, body practices. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Harvard University. Her desire to work directly with communities to facilitate their own healing led her to work with Dr. Sidney Hankerson’s research team on facilitating community mental health within African-American faith based communities.
In the past, Jaylaan has participated on the boards of Northside Center for Child Development and Peace First. She is excited to discover and implement alternative delivery methods of healing to underserved populations.
Stefan Pienkowski was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. After earning his Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Philosophy, Stefan worked in an immunology clinic as a medical assistant for a year and on the oncology floor of an academic medical center as a certified nurse assistant for another year. He then returned to school to earn his Master’s degree in Bioethics and Health Policy. During his Master’s program, Stefan became captivated by community-based participatory research. When presented with the opportunity to join a CBPR team and complete his Master’s degree, he moved to New York City and began working with Dr. Hankerson and the CCMH.
Now with his Master’s degree complete, Stefan is continuing his work with Dr. Hankerson and the CCMH as well as instructing elementary and middle school children in math and STEM curriculums. Looking towards the future, Stefan has applied to medical school where he hopes to gain the skills necessary to promote the wellbeing of people in his communities and continue his efforts in community-based participatory research.
Michael Connolly, a native of Sydney, Australia, pursues two careers – he holds a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Harlem Family Institute and also works as a coordinating editor at The Wall Street Journal, focused mostly on international political and economic issues. He has done pro bono psychoanalytic work with children and their parents or primary caregivers one day a week at an East Harlem elementary school since 2006, and, since 2010 has also been honorary executive director of the diversity-sensitive Harlem Family Institute, It is the nation’s only psychoanalytic institute focused on training African Americans to become licensed or certified psychoanalysts as a core part of its mission
Mr. Connolly holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, specializing in international affairs, from the J.F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts (Journalism and Politics) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, in Melbourne, Australia. He grew up in a clergy family and had a 20-year career in the Australian media before moving to the U.S. in 1987.
Mr. Connolly is also the Treasurer of the American Board for Accreditation in Psychoanalysis. He also holds a 1993 Certificate in Yoga Instruction from the World Yoga Center in New York. From 1979 to 1982, he was a member of the Australian press’s standards and press-freedom body, the 13-member Australian Press Council. The council established a standing press-freedom committee to investigate and report on threats to press freedom as a result of recommendations he made in a 200-page study of the council in an international context.
Xavier Porter was born and raised in Jamaica and now lives Harlem. He is a single father raising a fourteen-year old daughter who is his pride and joy. Xavier Porter, MPA, is a seasoned mental health counselor and community relations expert with over twenty years of combined experience as a proven leader in the areas of strategic planning and facilitation, public affairs, advocacy, crisis management, community and government relations, and business etiquette. He possesses a well-rounded set of experiences in the non- profit, government, university, and health care industries.
Xavier continues to work for a large behavioral health not-for-profit agency providing integrated services to an array of disabled individuals. He has been tasked with facilitating strategic community partnerships to improve consumer outcomes and forge reciprocal relationships in host communities. He's outgoing, hardworking, enthused about challenges, obstacles, and joys of life. He's dedicated and committed to change and public service. He's supportive and determined to help others prosper while helping help bring awareness to causes that affect the community. He's strong believer in rights for all and breaking stigma of mental illness for employment.
Ivyonne Harris is a New Orleans native who is currently a second year Masters student in the Clinical Psychology program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Ivyonne is a research assistant for Dr. Marti Jones studying gender and racial identity/development among African American female college students. Ivyonne also conducts research under Dr. Sidney Hankerson to increase mental health awareness and decrease stigma at Christian churches through the use of First Aid Mental Health. Her research interest includes cultural mistrust, stigma, racial identity, and development. Ivyonne received her BA in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University.
Doris A. Rhem
Doris A. Rhem attended La Guardia Community College and York College. Ms. Rhem attends Mother AME Zion Church and is the President of the Mother Zion Health Ministry. She is an active member of the Community Coalition for Mental Health, Manhattan Interfaith Advisory Group, Community Health Workers, and the National Counsel Negro Women.
Ms. Rhem, dedicated and passionate encourages health and wellness for all. Ms. Rhem has been and is active in the Harlem community and other areas of New York City. She has held numerous leadership positions for years in her church and is an advocate for those in despair and those who require basic emotional assistance. Doris has faith and relay on the Lord’s grace and mercy every day as she finds comfort in both practical and theory service when needed.