Joanne Nicholson, PhDJoanne Nicholson, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry, Dartmouth College

Dr. Nicholson is a clinical and research psychologist, and professor of psychiatry at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center. She is also adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), where she directed the Child and Family Research Core of the UMMS Center for Mental Health Services Research.

Dr. Nicholson is one of the foremost experts in the field of parents with mental illnesses and their families, in partnership with people in recovery. Her team is developing education and skills training materials for parents, integrating the current knowledge about parents with mental illnesses, and evaluating interventions for families, including the pilot Family Options intervention. Dr. Nicholson’s research interests also include the study of collaborations, knowledge exchange, and the impact of web-based interventions.

Dr. Nicholson has received funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Alliance for Mental Illness Research Institute, private foundations, and industry sources.

In 2006, Dr. Nicholson received the Armin Loeb Award from the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association for her significant career contribution to research in psychiatric rehabilitation. She has been a W.T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Fellow, and an NIDRR Switzer Distinguished Research Fellow. She is the 2010 recipient of the UMMS Women’s Faculty Committee Outstanding Community Service Award, and in 2011 received the Katharine F. Erskine Award in Medicine & Science for her professional achievements, commitment to the advancement of women and girls, and her contributions to the community.

View Dartmouth Bio »

Marilyn Benoit, MDMarilyn Benoit, MD

Chief Medical Officer, SVP Clinical & Professional Affairs, Devereux

Dr. Benoit is a child & adolescent psychiatrist, chief clinical officer and senior vice president of Clinical & Professional Affairs of Devereux, the largest not-for-profit behavioral health care organization in the country. Dr. Benoit is a past president of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2001-2003). She has been on the faculties of the medical schools of Howard University and George Washington University and is a clinical associate professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center.

She was director of Outpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and served as vice chairman and Interim chairman. She served as the Medical & Executive Director of the Hurt Home Devereux Children’s Center in Washington, DC, from 1993-1998. She is a past member of the Board of Trustees of the Child Welfare League of America, president and chair of the Alliance for Childhood (1998-2011), and a past member of the board of trustees of Devereux (2004-2011).

She serves on the advisory board of the University of Pennsylvania’s Field Center for Children’s Social Policy, Columbia University’s TeenScreen program, and other non-profit organizations concerned with children’s issues.

She is a nationally known advocate for children, and for her presidential initiative for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) she founded, in collaboration with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). At Devereux, Dr. Benoit provides oversight and drives quality initiatives in clinical and programmatic interventions. Dr. Benoit has lectured internationally and has published widely. Dr. Benoit holds a graduate degree in Health Services, Management & Policy from The George Washington University School of Public Health.

Devereux article »

Toni Wolf

Executive Director, Employment Options, Inc.

Toni Wolf is one of the leading experts in the field of parental mental illness in the United States.

As executive director of Employment Options since 1989, Toni has provided leadership and a forward-looking approach to creating innovative programs and a space for healing. She has received several state and local awards for her work promoting the delivery of high-quality mental health services.

She sees her job as a way to constantly seek new services and to be creative in her approach and the direction of the organization. Her door is always open and she manages to balance an executive approach at a grassroots level. Her areas of expertise include Strategic Alliances and Community Relations, Employer and Community Relations, Mental Health and Recovery, Nonprofit Leadership, State and Federal Funding, Sector Strategies, System Change Frameworks, and Public Policy.

Wolf is a results-orientated leader, capable of effectively presenting the issues facing those moving from illness to mental health recovery while providing visionary leadership. Her collaborative style, program implementation skills, and knowledge of best practices and has led Employment Options to assist hundreds of individuals recovering from illness towards mental wellness living in the Metro West communities.

Wolf has the ability to translate her professional expertise in a manner to effectively work with a wide range of individuals, be it managers, direct care workers, policy-makers and the people the organization serves. She has also utilized her leadership skills and passion over the years to be a critical proponent for parents with mental illness within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I’ve seen over and over again the transformation that is possible for people. That is what has inspired me every day.

Employment Options, Inc. »

Kate Nemens, Esq.

Supervising Attorney, Clubhouse Family Legal Support Project

Kate Nemens is an attorney with the Clubhouse Family Legal Support Project since 2004, where she represents low-income parents with mental illnesses in pro bono family law matters and custody and visitation cases. She strives to exert a positive impact on the preservation of family relationships for some of the most vulnerable children and stigmatized parents. She was a Boston Bar Association Public Interest Leader and is a regular presenter/trainer for the Clubhouse Project at conferences. Nemens participates in several Bar Association panels regarding child support and disability benefits. She designed the family law/mental health training program for the plenary session of the Juvenile Court Department and has participated in the Domestic Violence Council, Family Law Task Force, and Task Force on Children Affected by Domestic Violence.

Nemens is a graduate of Cornell University, where she earned a bachelor of arts in Industrial Labor Relations (1997) and of Northeastern University Law School, where she earned her law degree. (2001).

I provide insight for the provider about the legal process, the next steps, what to focus on and why the process takes so long. I demystify the legal process for the service personnel.


Deborah Saper, LMFTDeborah Saper, LMFT

Associate Director of Clinical Communications, UMASS Medical School
Program Lead, Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital

Deborah Saper oversees the innovative family programs and services at Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, a new 320-bed hospital opened in 2012 in Massachusetts that replaces both Worcester State Hospital and Taunton State Hospital. The state-of-the-art treatment facility for mental health concerns was designed to help transition patients with severe and persistent mental illness into the “Community First” program, which is based upon community placement into group homes and independent living settings.

In 1993, Saper received her bachelor of arts and special education teaching certification from Rowan University. In 2002, she earned her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Drexel University. Currently, Saper is enrolled in the School of Global Inclusion and Social Development PhD program at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Saper was the founder of Embracing Family, a relationship education and resource center. She has presented experiential and educational seminars and workshops throughout the state of New Jersey. For the past decade, she has been an adjunct sociology and psychology professor at Camden County College, Gloucester County College, and Rowan University and St. Joseph’s University. Deborah is the former talk show host of “Keeping It Real in Relationship” on WNJC 1360 and former relationship expert for Ladies Home Journal. Deborah has 24 years of developmental disabilities experience; 17 years of as an educator and presenter; and 13 years of individual, marriage and family therapy.

SafeTogether Advisory Board

Patty Burke, M.Eng

Board of Directors, Treasurer
Child & Family Connections
Chair, SafeTogether Advisory Group

Jeanne Lehrer, PhD

Vice President, Youth Behavioral Health
NorthEast Treatment Centers
SafeTogether Strategic Program Partner

Carol Horwitz, Esq.

Executive Director
Disability Rights Pennsylvania

Joanne Nicholson, PhD

Professor, Researcher
Dartmouth University

Larry Real, MD

Chief Medical Officer
Department of Behavioral Health Philadelphia

Melodie Jackson

Family Specialist/SOC
Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health

Sue Walther

Executive Director
Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

Valerie Oulds, Esq.

Senior Vice President, Children’s Transformation Initiatives
Community Behavioral Health

Norm Alger

Marketing Strategist
Chair, Marketing Committee

Evan Kaplan

Executive Director
Child & Family Connections
Deputy Chair, SafeTogether Advisory Group

Kathleen Creamer, Esq.

Managing Attorney
Community Legal Services
SafeTogether Strategic Program Partner

David Fair

Deputy Chief Executive Turning Points for Children

Fran Hazam

Consumer Advocate
Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Toni Wolf

Commissioner, Rehabilitation Commission
State of Massachusetts

Waleska Maldonado, MHSA

Deputy Commissioner, Community Based Prevention Services
Philadelphia Department of Human Services

Cynthia Zubritsky, PHD

Director of Integrated Primary Care and Behavioral Health Initiatives
Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research, UPenn

Valerie Gold

BRSS TACS Deputy Director
Center for Social Innovation

SafeTogether Strategic Planning Committee

David Fair, Chair

Deputy Chief Executive
Turning Points for Children

Evan Kaplan, Co-Chair

Executive Director
Child & Family Connections

Regan Kelly, MSW

President and CEO
NorthEast Treatment Centers

Jeanne Lehrer, PhD

Vice President, Youth Behavioral Health
NorthEast Treatment Centers

Waleska Maldonado, MHSA

Deputy Commissioner, Community Based Prevention Services
Philadelphia Department of Human Services

Valerie Oulds, Esq.

Senior Vice President, Children’s Transformation Initiatives
Community Behavioral Health