2017 Annual Conference

NAMI NJ 2017 Annual Conference was successfully held with over 260 people in attendance! Our audience was blown away by AJ Mendez’s candid and inspiring keynote speech, which forcefully busts stigma around mental illness and challenges everyone to rise above personal tribulations, turning them into opportunities to grow and serve. The conference also featured two excellent panels on the first episode psychosis outpatient clinics in NJ based on the RAISE treatment model, and the recovery oriented cognitive therapy approach presented by the Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center at University of Pennsylvania. In a special afternoon event, NAMI NJ celebrated our Executive Director, Sylvia Axelrod’s twenty-five years of service to NAMI New Jersey. We thank all conference attendees and Tribute participants for making our events a grant success!

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Recently retired WWE superstar AJ Mendez is a powerhouse – strong, quirky, and totally confident. But that wasn’t always the case. Growing up in New Jersey, AJ was a quiet girl trying to act “normal” when she felt anything but. As her family struggled with drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness, she found escape through comic books and video games, inspired by the tough and unconventional female characters. It wasn’t until she discovered the WWE that she learned superheroes could be real.

NAMI NJ is proud to feature AJ as the Keynote speaker at the NAMI New Jersey Annual Conference on Saturday, December 2, 2017. AJ signed copies of her best selling book, Crazy is My Superpower. Read more about AJ’s story here:



8:30 AM    Registration & Breakfast

9:30 AM    Welcome

Mark Perrin, MD, President, NAMI NJ

Sylvia Axelrod, MA, Executive Director, NAMI NJ

9:45 AM    Opening Remarks

Valerie L. Mielke, MSW, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Mental Health & Addiction Services

10:00 AM    Overview: Transforming Care for First Episode Psychosis in NJ (View video here)

Steve Silverstein, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Rutgers University

Christopher Bracey, MSW, LSW, Outreach/Referral Specialist, Oaks Integrated, Cherry Hill

James Castorina, MA, LAC, Outreach and Recruitment Specialist, Oaks Integrated Care

Alyson Hague, LCSW, Team Leader/Outreach and Referral Specialist, Rutgers

Melissa J. Sampath, MA, LAC, Clinical Manager, Care Plus NJ, Inc.

11:00 AM   CRAZY IS MY SUPERPOWER (View video here)

AJ Mendez 

12:00 PM   Book Signing: CRAZY IS MY SUPERPOWER

12:15 PM   Lunch Buffet

1:15 PM     Recovery Oriented Cognitive Therapy (View video here)

Paul M. Grant, PhD, Assistant Professor, Aaron T. Beck Center, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Ellen Inverso, PsyD, Director of Clinical Training and Education of the Beck Recovery Training Network


This conference is made possible by our sponsors