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Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee Members Biographical Information

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SAMHSA ISMICC Committee Members Biographies

Non-Federal Members

Trinidad de Jesus Arguello, Ph.D., LCSW, PMHRN-BC, Director, Compostela Community and Family Cultural Institute, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Dr. Arguello was born in Puerto Rico. She has 44 years of experience in mental health using an integrated approach combining her nursing and clinical social work skills, and knowledge to address health and mental health issues from a multi-cultural and linguistic approach. Dr. Arguello is currently the co-founder and Executive Director of Compostela Community and Family Cultural Institute, which provides behavioral health and substance abuse services in Taos County and adjacent rural communities. Dr. Arguello is an adjunct faculty member at the University of New Mexico-Taos and a field instructor for Social Work graduate students from New Mexico Highlands University. Dr. Arguello has served on the Commission on Disability, the State Health Coordinating Council, New Mexico Mental Health/Behavioral Health Planning Council, NAMI-New Mexico Board of Directors and past President. Dr. Arguello established a NAMI-Taos affiliate (2007-present) and is the President. She has also served on the Taos County Health Council, Holy Cross Medical Center Board of Directors, and is currently the Taos County Coordinator for the American Red Cross (ARC), as well as being a First Disaster Responder for the ARC nationwide. Dr. Arguello has held adjunct faculty positions in various colleges and universities and presented on cultural issues related to Hispanic families and mental health and domestic violence. She has been a Board member and reviewer for the Affilia Journal of Women and Social Work, the Council on Social Work Education, Status of Women in Social Work Education Council, and a member of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Racial/Ethnic Minority Graduate Scholarship Committee/Community to Community Committee.

Ron Bruno, Chief Executive Officer, Crisis Response Programs and Training, CRPT INC, Salt Lake City, Utah

Mr. Bruno retired from the Salt Lake City Police Department in 2015 with over 20 years of experience working with members of the community with behavioral health issues. Not wanting to give up his ability to “work the streets” as a patrol officer, he immediately volunteered with the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake as a reserve officer and continues to be a first responder to calls for service regarding individuals with mental health issues, children with emotional disturbances, and individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. He dedicated his career to working with both adult and child populations dealing with serious mental illness and emotional disturbances.

In partnership with numerous organizations, he worked to develop effective crisis response systems and programs for the benefit of those individuals with mental health issues. Mr. Bruno was the law enforcement liaison to the first mental health court in the state of Utah and gained vast experience working with individuals with serious mental illness who were involved with the criminal justice system due to felony criminal acts. He has worked with various councils and committees in Utah for the enhancement of services for populations dealing with mental health issues and is currently on the Utah Behavioral Health Advisory Council that provides recommendations to the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Mr. Bruno has partnered with numerous national organizations such as the Council of State Governments Justice Center on a report for the Bureau of Justice Assistance titled “Statewide Law Enforcement/Mental Health Efforts: Strategies to Support and Sustain Local Initiatives”, and partnered with the same organization which resulted in Salt Lake City Police Department’s designation as one of six Law Enforcement/Mental Health Learning Sites in the nation.

David Covington, LPC, M.B.A., CEO and President, RI International, (DBA for Recovery Innovations, Inc.), Phoenix, Arizona

Mr. Covington is an accomplished Senior Executive with experience in operations of large-scale public-sector behavioral health services (revenues exceeding $750 million annually), clinical leadership, and marketing. Mr. Covington is the CEO and President of RI International, one of the nation’s leading behavioral health and addiction treatment providers with more than 55 crisis and recovery programs in the U.S. and New Zealand. He is also the owner of Behavioral Health Link (BHL), which provides mental health and addiction crisis intervention, mobile crisis, and crisis call centers (24/7/365) across the state of Georgia. BHL’s programs are nationally recognized for setting a new standard of care, supported by emerging research in recent studies by experts. Mr. Covington is a key leader in the international initiatives “Crisis Now” and “Zero Suicide” and two-time winner of the Council of State Governments Innovations Award.

Mr. Covington is a results-oriented, decisive leader with proven success in developing internationally recognized programs for quality and innovation. He has a track record of improving business outcomes through cutting edge technologies, extensive business analytics and productivity, process and design enhancements, reaching more people and serving them more effectively. He has experience in dynamic demanding environments, while remaining pragmatic and focused, incorporating strategic, political, technical, and human resource frames.

Brian Hepburn, M.D., Executive Director, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), Alexandria, Virginia

Dr. Hepburn has been the Executive Director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) since July 2015. He previously was the Director of the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration (MHA) from 2002 to 2014 and that position became the Director of the Behavioral Health Administration in July 2014. Dr. Hepburn was the Clinical Director for MHA from 1996 to 2002. He was also the Director of Psychiatric Education and Training for MHA from 1987 to 1997. Dr. Hepburn received his medical degree in 1979 from the University of Michigan, School of Medicine and received Residency Training in Psychiatry at the University of Maryland from 1979 to 1983. He was a full-time Faculty Member at the University of Maryland from 1983 to 1988 and has been on the Volunteer faculty at the University of Maryland since 1988. He maintained a private practice from 1983 until 2004.

Jennifer Higgins, Ph.D., CCRP, Director, Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, South Hampton, Massachusetts

Dr. Higgins graduated from the Gerontology Ph.D. Program at the University of Massachusetts. From 2016-2019, Dr. Higgins was the Director of Research and Policy at the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP). ADDP is a trade association representing 135 developmental disabilities provider agencies across the Commonwealth. Dr. Higgins’ is responsible for reviewing research affecting persons with developmental disabilities and making policy recommendations for the agency.

At present, Dr. Higgins is serving a four-year term on the Food and Drug Administration’s Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee. In her role, she reviews medical research on opioid drug products and opioid abuse-deterrent drug products and votes for approval or disapproval of the products under review by the committee.

Dr. Higgins is the owner of CommonWealth GrantWorks and has spent more than 20 years providing consulting and grant-writing services for non-profit organizations across the Commonwealth.

Johanna Kandel, B.A., Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, West Palm Beach, Florida

Ms. Kandel is the founder and CEO of the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness (the Alliance) and Author of Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder. Ms. Kandel founded the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness in October 2000, after a 10-year battle with various eating disorders and has brought information and awareness about eating disorders to more than 300,000 individuals nationally and internationally. In addition, she facilitates weekly support groups, mentors individuals with eating disorders and their families through their treatment and recovery, and helps thousands of people gain information and find the help they need. As a passionate advocate for mental health and eating disorders legislation, Ms. Kandel has spent a lot of time meeting with numerous members of Congress, and was part of the first-ever Eating Disorder Roundtable at the White House.

Ms. Kandel is a proud member of the Board of Directors for the Eating Disorders Coalition, member of the Academy for Eating Disorders Advisory Board, and a member of the Eating Disorders Leadership Summit. She has received many awards for her ongoing outreach and advocacy work, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service© and Harlequin Enterprises' More Than Words Award. Ms. Kandel has appeared on national television programs, including NBC Nightly News and The Today Show, and profiled in the New York Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and Glamour Magazine.

Steven Leifman, J.D., Associate Administrative Judge, Miami-Dade County Court, Miami, Florida

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. In this capacity, Judge Leifman was responsible for chairing the Court’s Mental Health Subcommittee, which authored the Transforming Florida’s Mental Health System Report. This report, which has received considerable state and national recognition, outlines recommendations with the goal of decreasing inappropriate and costly involvement of people with mental illnesses in the justice system.

From 2010 to 2018, Judge Leifman chaired the Florida Supreme Court’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Court. Judge Leifman 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. 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 Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network. Judge Leifman is also a lifetime member of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP).

Due to Judge Leifman’s expertise in the areas of criminal justice and mental health, he has been appointed to serve in a variety of capacities on local, state, and national bodies, including Co-Chair of the Council of State Governments/Technical Assistance and Policy Analysis Center for Jail Diversion Judges’, Criminal Justice/Mental Health Leadership Initiative, Co-Chair of the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force and the Board of Directors of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. Judge Leifman is a member of the National Leadership Forum for Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Services, the American Bar Association Task Force on Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards, Board of Advisors of the Equitas Foundation, and a Voluntary Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami, School of Medicine. In addition, Judge Leifman served as Chair of the South Florida Behavioral Health Network and Florida Partners in Crisis, and currently serves as Finance Chair of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

Judge Leifman has received numerous awards including the 2015 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 of the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence in 2015, presented by the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Judge Leifman has also been featured in many national and local television programs, radio programs and articles regarding mental health and the criminal justice system.

Adrienne Lightfoot, Certified Peer Specialist, Department of Behavioral Health, Washington, D.C

Ms. Lightfoot is a Certified Peer Specialist and Peer Program Coordinator, Consumer and Family Affairs Administration, DC Department of Behavioral Health. Ms. Lightfoot has expertise in building community relationships, navigating public behavioral health systems, and providing consumer-focused mental health/substance use trainings. For more than 6 years, Ms. Lightfoot has facilitated workshops for the DC Metropolitan Police Crisis Intervention Officers providing the perspective of behavioral health consumers. Ms. Lightfoot thrives in her recovery and supporting others in their journey to recovery. Ms. Lightfoot has worked in the District of Columbia for the last 17 years supporting the peer movement and working with a variety of government agencies to promote recovery and the inclusion of peers in the behavioral health system.

Amanda Lipp, B.S., Director and Filmmaker, Lipp Studios, Sacramento, California

Ms. Lipp is the Director and Filmmaker of Lipp Studios, Specialist, the Center for Applied Research Solutions, and Founder of The Giving Gallery.

Ms. Lipp has produced over 50 short documentaries about mental health. The main topics she explores include psychosis, schizophrenia, LGBTQ, recreation therapy, and the intersection of teens and technology. A passionate advocate, she has given over 150 speeches sharing her journey navigating the mental health system during college to becoming a social entrepreneur and filmmaker. Clients include Columbia Psychiatry's OnTrackNY program, Sutter Health, University of Wisconsin, and Princeton University.

Ms. Lipp serves on the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and serves as a board advisor for Technology Adolescent Mental Wellness, a philanthropically funded research initiative hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Pediatrics.

Ms. Lipp graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a B.S. in Human Development.

Sue L. Smith, Ed.D., Chief Executive Officer, Georgia Parent Support Network, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia

Dr. Smith received her Doctor in Education in 2000 and is a parent/professional with over 33 years’ experience in the field of services provided in Systems of Care, Family and Youth Involvement, Policies and Practices. She has managed a System of Care (ChAMPS) in Atlanta, GA, Therapeutic Foster and Respite Services, A Peer-to-Peer Transition Program for youth with mental illness and addictive diseases and a receiving center, Family Resource Center, for all of the youth removed from their homes by Georgia’s Department of Family and Youth Services in Fulton County, GA. Sue is well-known and respected in Georgia and at the national level for her expertise in children’s services, advocacy, education, and Systems of Care. Sue is currently focusing on two new demonstration projects. The first is “Street Outreach”, a program to locate and get to know homeless youth in Atlanta, GA, and the surrounding Metropolitan areas, to better understand their needs and develop a comprehensive program building on already existing services and gaps that are discovered to fully understand their needs. The staff for this project are Certified Parent and Youth Peer Specialists. The second demonstration project is placing Certified Peer Specialist-Parents in Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Emergency Rooms.

Dr. Smith is a founding member of the Georgia Parent Support Network, Georgia’s Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Sue has twice served as President of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, Past President of the Mental Health Association of Georgia, Past Board Member of Mental Health Association and Current Member of and Past-Chair of the Behavioral Health Planning Council of Georgia. Sue is a member of the Georgia 988 Advisory Committee. In addition, Sue has consulted with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Macro International, Georgetown University, many states, as well as local regions in Georgia regarding issues surrounding children with severe emotional disturbances and the delivery of services to these families and children. Sue received her Doctor of Education Degree (Ed.D.), Master of Science Degree in Public Health Administration and completed the University of South Florida’s Systems of Care Children’s Mental Health Post Graduate Certificate Program.

Sue is the recipient of the prestigious Rosalyn Carter Caregiver Award, Tipper Gore Remember the Children Award, and the Karl Dennis Unconditional Care Award. She is the mother of one adopted and one foster daughter with severe emotional disturbances.

Winola Sprague, DNP, CNS-BC, Medical Director, Children’s Advantage, Ravenna, Ohio

Dr. Sprague is the Medical Director of Children’s Advantage, a community mental health agency in Ravenna Ohio. Dr. Sprague has over 19 years of psychiatric nursing experience treating children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances in underserved populations. While obtaining her Doctorate of Nursing from Kent State University, Dr. Sprague researched, trained, and successfully implemented a parenting program for the Appalachian population, which resulted in improved parenting outcomes. Dr. Sprague has experience working in hospital, day, and outpatient treatment settings. In addition, Dr. Sprague is a licensed psychiatric nurse with the Ohio Board of Nursing and Board Certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with a certificate to prescribe medications.

Most recently, Dr. Sprague received her Medication Assisted Treatment waiver and certification and is working with individuals and families with substance use disorders. Dr. Sprague is a certified Trauma and Loss Specialist an Instructor in Basic Life Support, Workplace Violence, and Safe Sitter. She is a member of the North Eastern Ohio Nursing Initiative Preceptor and a Substance Abuse Counselor.

Rhathelia Stroud, J.D., Presiding Judge, DeKalb County Magistrate Court, Misdemeanor Mental Health Court, Decatur, Georgia

Judge Stroud is the Presiding Judge and Director of the Misdemeanor Mental Health Court, formerly the Diversion Treatment Court, which was the county's only adult mental health court until January 2016. She is also responsible for all administrative and operational policies and procedures for the court. She presides over temporary protective order cases as a superior court judge by designation, and other diversion court programs, as well as, misdemeanor and felony first appearance and preliminary matters, warrant application hearings and other civil action contract proceedings.

Judge Stroud has gained statewide certification for the court as a bona fide accountability court eligible for state funding. She has obtained approximately 2 million dollars of grant funding through various sources to include federal, state and county programs. She has also developed the court's policy and procedure manual and participant handbook. In addition, she presented and documented a needs analysis that resulted in approval of a county paid mental health court director, coordinator and clinical evaluator. She also activated and established a 14 member 501(3)(c) foundation board that also serves as an advisory council for the mental health court. Judge Stroud redeveloped and currently facilitates the Crisis Intervention Training (Legal Aspects and Civil Rights) Program community wide and specifically to local law enforcement to help educate on mental illness in an effort to safeguard against injury and death, but also to promote treatment and assistance instead for those suffering from serious mental illness.

Katherine Warburton, D.O., Medical Director and Deputy Director of Clinical Operations, California Department of State Hospitals, Sacramento, California

Dr. Warburton is the Medical Director and Deputy Director of Clinical Operations, for the California Department of State Hospitals, a 6,000-bed forensic hospital system. She received her medical degree from the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency at Maine Medical Center. Dr. Warburton received additional training in Forensic Psychiatry at the University of California, Davis Division of Psychiatry and the Law. Dr. Warburton is board certified in adult and forensic psychiatry. She is an Associate Professor on the Clinical Faculty at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. Dr. Warburton has lectured and published on forensic topics related to violence and competence to stand trial. She is editor of the textbook Violence in Psychiatry.

Federal Members

The Secretary of Health and Human Services Designee
Joel Dubenitz, Ph.D., Social Science Analyst/Psychologist
Gavin Kennedy, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary ASPE
CAPT. Menna Vythilingam, Ph.D., Senior Advisor for Mental Health
Washington, DC

The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.
Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Rockville, MD

The Attorney General
Nicole Ndumele
Deputy Associate Attorney General
Mariel Lifshitz
Senior Advisor, Substance Use, Opioid, and Mental Health Policy
Department of Justice
Washington, DC

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Sandra Resnick, Ph.D.
Deputy Director
Northeast Program Evaluation Center, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Washington, DC

The Secretary of the Department of Defense
Richard Mooney, M.D., Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Health Services Policy and Oversight
CAPT. Ken Richter, Jr., D.O., CPE, FAPA
Director for Mental Health Policy & Oversight
Health Services Policy & Oversight
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs
Defense Health Headquarters (3M613)
Falls Church, VA

The Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development
Corey Minor Smith
Senior Counsel, Office of General Counsel
Washington, DC 20410

The Secretary of the Department of Education
Meghan Whittaker
Early Childhood Team, Office of Special Education Programs
Washington, DC 20202

Secretary of the Department of Labor
Taryn Williams, M.S.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy
Washington, DC 20210

The Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Kirsten Beronio, J.D.
Senior Policy Advisor on Behavioral Health Care
Acting Deputy Director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services
Washington, DC 20201

The Administrator of the Administration for Community Living
Alison Barkoff, J.D.
Acting Administrator and Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging
Washington, DC

The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
Marion (Taffy) McCoy, Ph.D.
Social Science Analyst
Baltimore, MD

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