2016 Conference Concurrent Workshops




1. A Guide to Navigating the Mental Health System

Phil Lubitz, MSW, Associate Director, NAMI NJ

Workshop Description: The Mental Health system of care is often described as disjointed, cumbersome and confusing. Individuals and families voice that they are unsure who to call or where to turn for assistance. This workshop will describe mental health services that are available in New Jersey, how they are organized and additional generic services that are available to support individuals with a mental illness and their families.

Speaker Biography:

Phillip Lubitz, MSW, is the Associate Director of NAMI NJ where he is responsible for advocacy programs and law enforcement education. He has more than 40 years of experience in the public mental health system as a therapist, administrator and family advocate and is a frequent newspaper, television and radio contributor on mental health issues in New Jersey.

He currently serves as the Chairman of the New Jersey Behavioral Health Planning Council, a post to which he was appointed by Governor Christie. He is also responsible for adopting the State Plan for supporting the family caregivers of people with a mental illness.

He was awarded the Senator Paul Wellstone award for Mental Health Advocacy by the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addictions Agencies and The Governor Richard J. Codey mental Health Champion Award from NAMI New Jersey. He received a BA from the George Washington University and a Masters in Social Work from the Rutgers School of Social Work.


2. Co-occurring Disorders: Mental Illness and Substance Use

Rahmon Solhkhah, MD, Chairman of Psychiatry, Jersey Shore University Medical Center

Workshop Description:
People with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of symptoms, as both may vary in severity. In many cases, people receive treatment for one disorder while the other disorder remains untreated. This may occur because both mental and substance use disorders can have biological, psychological, and social components. The consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death. People with co-occurring disorders are best served through integrated treatment. With integrated treatment, practitioners can address mental and substance use disorders at the same time, often lowering costs and creating better outcomes. Increasing awareness and building capacity in service systems are important in helping identify and treat co-occurring disorders. Early detection and treatment can improve treatment outcomes and the quality of life for those who need these services. Dr. Solhkhah will discuss how a diagnosis of a co-occurring disorder is made, as well as consequent treatment options, and suggest resources and information that individuals and families can use to move towards wellness and recovery.

Speaker Biography:

Ramon Solhkhah, MDRamon Solhkhah, M.D. is the Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC, Neptune, NJ) and Corporate Medical Director of Meridian Behavioral Health Services. Prior to his arrival at JSUMC, Dr. Solhkhah was the Vice Chairman for Education of the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Child & Adolescent Outpatient Service (CAOS) at Maimonides Medical Center. He has also held posts as the Associate Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, Director of the Child and Family Institute and the Chief of the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. Dr. Solhkhah graduated from New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY, and from the residency training program in General Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1997. He then completed a Residency in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in 1999, followed by a fellowship in Addiction Psychiatry in the Division of Drug and Alcohol Abuse at New York University. Dr. Solhkhah is a former fellow of the Substance Abuse Minority Fellowship from the American Psychiatric Association and the Center for Mental Health Services. He was also a fellow of the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEPf-BD) and a mentor of the Walter Reed Society for Health Policy and Public Health. He is a recipient of the Oregon Excellence in Psychiatry Residency Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the Ilene Gold, M.D. Scholarship from the New England Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Solhkhah, a member of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is an active clinical researcher who has taught, lectured and written extensively in child psychiatry and in the area of adolescent substance abuse.


3. Evolving Directions in Psychiatric Practice and Research

Robert G. Stern, MD, Acting Vice Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Staten Island University Hospital; Associate Clinical Professor, Rutgers-RWJ Medical School

Workshop Description:
Dr. Stern will discuss new treatments for mental illness.

Speaker Biography:

Dr. Robert SternRobert G. Stern, MD is a board certified psychiatrist on staff at Staten Island University Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, NJ. For the past 30 years, Dr. Stern’s clinical work and research have focused on the treatment of patients with severe mental illness, with particular emphasis on those with schizophrenia. Dr. Stern has published over 100 articles, book chapters and abstracts. Dr. Stern graduated from Sackler School of Medicine, University of Tel Aviv and completed his residency training and fellowships at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr. Stern is the recipient of the 2012 NAMI Exemplary Psychiatrist Award.


4. Building A Better Life: Tips & Tools to Pursue Your Educational Goals

Tammy Irwin-Smith, BSW, MSW (2017)

Brittany Stone, MS, CRC, CPRP

Workshop Description:

Tammy Smith will present her journey to achieving her educational goals, with the emphasis on resources and supports were helpful to her.

Speaker Biography:

Tammy Smith is a single mother and a full-time student in the MSW (Master’s of Social Work) program at New York University with an anticipated May, 2017 graduation. Tammy serves as Chairwoman of the town of Fair Lawn’s Stigma-Free Task Force and also as the Graduate Student Representative on the New Jersey National Association of Social Work (NASW) Board of Directors for the 2016-2017 academic school year. Tammy is currently fulfilling her year-long master’s field placement internship on an adult inpatient unit at Rockland Psychiatric Center and she works part-time as a per diem case manager for adults with serious mental illnesses at Care Plus, NJ in Paramus. She has received numerous academic scholarships and fellowships which has enabled her to pursue her full-time studies without significant costs. Most recently, Tammy was awarded the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Club of GFWC Margaret Yardley Fellowship and the NYU Elinor A. Seevak Fellowship. She is a past recipient of the New Jersey NASW Harriet Bloomfield Memorial Scholarship and was awarded competitive scholarships from both the Council on Social Work Education and the Phi Alpha International Honor Society for Social Work in 2015 for her academic excellence and commitment to fighting for social justice through her volunteer work. Additionally, Tammy was last year’s Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey (SHA) tenant of the year award recipient. She has spoken publicly to various audiences about her journey through the mental health system and her personal recovery from mental illness. Tammy hopes to work full-time as a social worker in the mental health field upon her May 2017 graduation after she obtains her Master’s of social work degree.

bstone_namiBrittany Stone, MS, CRC, CPRP, is a Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers where she provides training and technical assistance to agencies and staff seeking to improve education and employment outcomes for people with mental health conditions. Prior to moving into academia, she was a founding member of the NJ Learning Enhancement and Resource Network (Supported Education) and developed specialized knowledge in supporting college students with mental health conditions to complete postsecondary education. In addition to her work developing and implementing didactic and in-vivo training in Supported Education and career development initiatives she provides online and classroom instruction to students and is currently involved in research examining the use of Disability Services, cognitive behavioral interventions for PTSD, and the role of self-efficacy and hope in employment outcomes for people using ACT services.

5. New Provisions of the Mental Health Parity Law

Gerry Grasso, Federal Department of Labor

Speaker Biography:

Gerald Grasso is a Bengerald-grassoefits Advisors at the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) at the U.S. Department of Labor.  Benefits Advisors support the agency’s mission to protect the integrity of pensions, health plans, and other employee benefits. EBSA oversees approximately 700,000 private pension plans, including 419,000 participant-directed individual account plans such as 401(k) plans, and millions of private health and welfare plans in the private sector. In addition, Benefits Advisors provide direct technical assistance to plan participants and their beneficiaries, administrators, fiduciaries, service providers and other interested parties regarding their rights and obligations under the statutory and regulatory provisions of ERISA, ACA, HIPAA, COBRA, MHPAEA, and related legislation.

Gerald Grasso joined EBSA in 2015. He received his Masters in Accounting and B.S. from St. Johns University. Prior to this, He was honorably discharged from the United States Navy.