NJAMHAA Celebrates Advocacy Successes, Announces New Board Leaders, Honors Several Individuals

On June 12, 2024, NJAMHAA highlighted advocacy achievements and recognized several individuals whose significant contributions helped make NJAMHAA's impact possible during the Annual Membership Meeting, Transformational Leadership…with Powerful Results.

"I am proud to work with so many individuals and organizations that transform as needed. They accept challenges and capitalize on the opportunities they present. Today is meaningful because we are celebrating such achievements by individuals in our membership and of NJAMHAA overall," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO.

FY2025 Board Officers and New Members

The Officers for FY2025 are as follows:

  • Chair: Anthony Comerford, PhD, current Vice Chair of the Board and President and CEO of New Hope Integrated Behavioral Health Care
  • Vice Chair: Frank Ghinassi, PhD, ABPP, current Board Treasurer; member of the New Jersey Mental Health Institute (NJMHI) Board of Trustees; President and CEO of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care; and Senior Vice President, Behavioral Health and Addiction Service Line, RWJBarnabas Health
  • Treasurer: Derry Holland, LCSW, Chief Executive Officer, Oaks Integrated Care
  • Secretary: Alan DeStefano, MSW, Executive Director of Cape Atlantic Integrated Network for Kids, was re-elected to this position.

The three new At-Large Board Members through the membership vote are:

  • Kathryn Colhoun, LCSW, Director of Community Resources and Advocacy, Ocean Partnership for Children
  • Lisa Merritt, DNP, RN, PHNA, NE-BC, Chief Nurse Executive, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton
  • Barrett Young, MS, Chief Executive Officer, Rescue Mission of Trenton and a member of the NJMHI Board of Trustees

The Board appointed the following individuals to complete the terms of recently and soon-to-be retired individuals:

  • Anthony DiFabio, PsyD, President and CEO, Acenda Integrated Health
  • Howard Haughton, CEO, Eva's Village
  • Shavonda Sumter, MBA, President and CEO of Children's Aid and Family Services; member of the New Jersey General Assembly; and Chair of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus

FY2024 Achievement Highlights

"Safra Ada Catz, a billionaire banker and technology executive who is currently CEO of Oracle Corporation, said, 'I know firsthand the complexities of leading an enterprise through business and technology transformation. It takes intense focus, a strong drive, and a clearly communicated vision to inspire and take an organization from where they are, to where they need to be or where they want to go.'" These insights certainly relate to the behavioral healthcare field and NJAMHAA's perseverance, leadership in evolving technology, and of course, to its Board," Dr. Wentz said. She shared the following highlights of NJAMHAA's advocacy achievements throughout FY2024:

State Level

  • Significant funding increases in the FY2024 Budget and Proposed FY2025 Budget
  • Legislation, Policy and Regulations: 100% Virtual Supervision for LSWs; Extended parity reimbursement for telehealth; Carve-in policies; and Crisis Professionals Day

Federal Level

  • Significant funding in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024
  • Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics arenow a permanent option for states under the Medicaid program.
  • FY2024 Federal Budget includes: a permanent requirement for state Medicaid programs to cover all forms of medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder; and extension of the state option to provide Medicaid covered services to individuals with substance use disorders who reside in Institutions for Mental Diseases
  • Ability for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Social Workers to bill Medicare

Please click here to read details on these and many other achievements in the annual report, Transformational Leadership…with Powerful Results. This publication also provides details on NJAMHAA's visibility in traditional and social media; specific examples of members' contributions; approved vendors and other business partners; educational training events; the Information Technology Project; and the New Jersey Mental Health Institute, including its Leadership Academy for Behavioral Healthcare Professionals.

Members Honored for their Tremendous Contributions and Impact

Congratulations and infinite gratitude go to the individuals honored today, as detailed below.

Lifetime Transformational Leadership Awards

  • Mary Gay Abbott-Young, LCADC, NJAMHAA Board Member; President, Rescue Mission of Trenton; Former Member, New Jersey Mental Health Institute (NJMHI) Board of Trustees
  • Deborah Megaro, MBA, Member of the NJAMHAA Board; Vice Chair of the NJMHI Board of Trustees; Chief Executive Officer, Capitol County Children's Collaborative
  • Julie Drew, LCSW, MPA, Member of the NJMHI Board of Trustees; Former NJAMHAA Board Member; Former System Executive Director, Behavioral Health, AtlantiCare

Transformational Leadership in DEI Awards

  • Brigitte Johnson, Esq., NJAMHAA Board Member; NJMHI Board of Trustees Member; President and Chief Executive Officer, CarePlus NJ
  • Tara Chalakani, PsyD, LPC, RN, NJAMHAA Board Member and Chief Executive Officer, Preferred Behavioral Health Group

Transformational Leadership Awards

  • Jacques Hryshko, LPC, ACS, NJAMHAA Board Chair; President and Chief Executive Officer, Family Connections
  • Anthony Comerford, PhD, NJAMHAA Board Vice Chair; President and Chief Executive Officer, New Hope Integrated Behavioral Health Care

Transformational Leadership in NJAMHAA Membership Growth Award: Barbara Cashin, CSW, LCADC, Business Development Consultant, Discovery Institute for Addictive Disorders

Transformational Leadership in ICMS Award: Renee Carrillo, MS, Co-Chair, NJAMHAA Integrated Case Management Services (ICMS) Practice Group and Director of ICMS (Burlington and Mercer Counties) and Director of Senior Well Being (Camden and Mercer Counties), Oaks Integrated Care

Transformational CMO Leadership Award: James Parauda, LSW, Executive Director, Tri-County Care Management Organization (CMO) and Vice President of NJCMO

Transformational Leadership in Technology Award: Teri Gilroy, Senior Data Analyst, Acenda Integrated Health

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