NJ Department of Children and Families Hope and Resilience Symposia

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Two-Part Symposia Series on Long-term Recovery

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Host, Collaborators


Exhibitor Opportunity

Fees, Meals, Location

Symposium #1
Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Course Code: IT0108HA15

About the Symposium

The Hope and Resilience Symposia are a two-part series for mental health professionals to learn new perspectives, tools, and techniques to deal effectively and intervene appropriately with individuals affected by Superstorm Sandy. When a disaster hits a community, the trauma can reverberate with individuals not directly impacted by the disaster. Trained professionals skilled in recognizing disaster-induced trauma can expedite recovery.

The New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJDCF) is pleased to present the Hope and Resilience Symposia in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Health, New Jersey Department of Human Services, and Rutgers University Behavioral Health. This unique training will feature individuals who have successfully overcome seemingly insurmountable personal adversities.

8:30am Registration & Refreshments
  Welcoming Remarks, Commissioner Allison Blake, PhD, LSW

Morning Keynote: There’s Always a Way!,
Michael May, President & CEO, Sendero Group

Michael May, Hope and Resilience Symposia SpeakerMichael May was blinded at age three, and lived 43 years of his life without sight. In 1999, at age 46, May was given the possibility to see again through a revolutionary stem-cell transplant surgery. Before the surgery, May lived a full and rich life without vision; he broke records in downhill skiing, worked for the CIA and became a successful inventor. After a lifetime of identifying himself as a person who could not see, deciding to undergo the risky and life-altering procedure was not easy for May; the few documented cases of blind people regaining their sight indicate that it is an exciting and dramatic — but also terrifying — process.

Click to read full bio.

Despite the enormous medical and emotional risks, May decided to go through with the surgery. In a new book, Crashing Through, author Robert Kurson chronicles May's experience regaining his sight: from the joy of seeing his wife and his children for the first time, to the extraordinary frustration he faced learning to use his recovered eyesight.

Facilitated Q&A, Christopher Kosseff


Afternoon Keynote: Still Answering the Call: A Legacy of Hope
Major General Mark Graham (ret.), Senior Director, Military/Veteran Support Service & Rutgers National Call Center and Carol Graham

Major General Mark Graham, Hope and Resilience Symposia SpeakerMajor General Mark Graham retired from the Army after serving almost thirty-five years. Among his many current duties he serves as the Senior Director of the Rutgers UBHC National Call Center which includes supporting all active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members, as well as Veterans and their families. As the Senior Director he also has oversight responsibility for all 'Access Center' operations, the New Jersey Hopeline and multiple state and national 'Peer Support' help lines.

Click to read full bio.

Major General Graham is a tireless champion of military and civilian efforts to promote mental health and suicide-prevention awareness, and to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health care to honor the memory of his two sons, 2LT Jeff Graham who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in February 2004, and their son Kevin a Senior Army ROTC cadet who died by suicide in June 2003 while studying to be an Army Doctor.

He served in many key positions in the United States, Germany, Southwest Asia and Korea. Past assignments include Brigade Command in California where he was the first Active-Duty Army Colonel to command a National Guard brigade in peacetime; Executive Officer to the U.S. Forces Korea Commander; Chief of Staff and later Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Field Artillery Center and Fort Sill; the Deputy Commanding General of 5th U.S. Army/Army North where he coordinated evacuation and relief operations following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; Commanding General of Fort Carson, Colorado and Division West of First US Army and concluded as the US Army Forces Command G3/5/7 (Operations, Plans and Training).

Major General Graham holds a MBA from Oklahoma City University and a Masters in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. His numerous military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Humanitarian Service Medal. His most recent award was the 2013 Lifetime Achievement award presented by the National Council for Community Behavioral Health.

Carol Graham, Hope and Resilience Symposia SpeakerCarol Graham is the wife of Major General (Retired) Mark A. Graham, US Army. Carol has been instrumental in raising awareness for depression and suicide prevention across the country. She is nationally recognized for her advocacy in mental health and suicide prevention and has received numerous awards for her efforts including the President of the United States "Call to Service" Award, Secretary of the Army Public Service Award, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 'Lifesaver Award' for public service and the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council for Community Behavioral Health.

Click to read full bio.

Carol speaks at military and civilian conferences, seminars and workshops to help others better understand depression as well as to help prevent suicide, survive grief, and to offer hope. She is an advocate for Service members and their Families as she continues to speak out to raise awareness to the dangers of untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and the "Invisible Wounds of War."

Carol was appointed to the national board of directors of the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (SPAN USA) 2006-2009. She currently serves as a member of the Public Policy Council of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) since their merger with SPAN USA. As a result of her ongoing efforts on college campuses she is also a member of the University of Kentucky Fellows Society and the Cameron University Foundation.

Facilitated Q&A, Christopher Kosseff

3:00pm Closing Remarks, Adjourn
Presented by NJDCF, in Collaboration with NJ Dept. of Health, NJ Dept. of Human Services & University Behavioral Health Care

New Jersey Department of Children and Families

Allison Blake, PhD, LSW

Allison Blake, Hope and Resilience Symposia Presenter

Dr. Allison Blake was appointed Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families by Governor Chris Christie and was confirmed with a unanimous vote by the Senate on June 21, 2010.

As Commissioner, she has emphasized an integrated and strategic approach to serving children and families in the State. To that end, Dr. Blake has focused on a community-based, family-centered approach to service delivery throughout the work of the entire Department, ensured the inclusion of the parent and youth voice in the Department's planning and quality improvement work, and fostered a significant expansion of partnerships with the community to help enhance child abuse prevention and family strengthening efforts across the state.

Click to read Dr. Allison Blake's bio.

With a vision to promote sustainable growth and identify areas of improvement, as one of her first initiatives, Dr. Blake elevated the status of the child protection division's office on adolescents to a Department-level office with an emphasis on more strategic approach to serving youth transitioning to adulthood. By partnering with youth, parents, stakeholders, and service providers, and other state agencies to determine the current strengths of the system and the opportunities for improvement, a formal strategic plan was launched in 2011. Early achievements include the expansion of transitional housing, internships, and financial literacy programs, as well as practice improvements across the system.

This work prepared New Jersey well for the response needed to the growing human trafficking challenge faced by many states. Dr. Blake's commitment to these youth has allowed the department to take a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, intervention and treatment strategies to help victims become survivors.

Dr. Blake has placed a strong emphasis on continuous quality improvement, first by creating a department level office focused on performance management and accountability to help the department become a self-correcting, transparent organization; and later supporting a statewide leadership development plan to teach mid level staff how to manage by data in order to address problems and trends as they are identified. This work has included studying and understanding practice with children and families, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data, and including input from external stakeholders as well as internal staff.

Since Superstorm Sandy touched down in New Jersey in October 2012 causing unprecedented damage, Dr. Blake has provided leadership to the state's recovery efforts for women, children, and families. She has also spearheaded efforts to better prepare child serving organizations for natural disasters and improve sheltering strategies for children and their families. Dr. Blake has been committed to building partnerships and enhancing collaborative efforts through a public health approach with an emphasis on trauma-informed care in the aftermath of the storm.

New Jersey Department of Health

Mary E. O'Dowd, MPH

Mary O'Dowd, Hope and Resilience Symposia Collaborator

Mary E. O'Dowd has been serving as the New Jersey Health Commissioner since April 2011. As Commissioner, she oversees a staff of more than 1,200 and a budget of $1.9 billion. Commissioner O'Dowd is entrusted by Governor Christie to protect the public's health, promote healthy communities and continue to improve the quality of health care in New Jersey. The Commissioner has focused on three priority areas: building healthier communities, raising awareness about end-of-life care planning and working smarter.

She has worked to ensure residents have access to health care to lead healthier lives. Under O'Dowdís leadership, the Department has invested funding to support the health care safety netómore than $1 billion is provided each year to New Jersey hospitals and the state's Federally Qualified Health Centers to care for the uninsured and underinsured.

Click to read Mary E. O'Dowd's bio.

Recognizing the importance of giving children a healthy start in life, Commissioner O'Dowd has led an expansion of the Newborn Screening program and an initiative to increase breastfeeding rates in New Jersey. Under her leadership, New Jersey was the first state to implement pulse oximetry screening to improve early detection of critical congenital heart defects. Additionally, she expanded newborn testing from 54 to 60 genetic and metabolic disorders. To increase breastfeeding rates, the Department has supported maternity hospitals to implement the Baby Friendly Hospitals Initiative, a World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) program that encourages and recognizes hospitals that promote and support breastfeeding. Four New Jersey hospitals have achieved this designation since the initiative began and several more have made significant improvements.

During her time as Commissioner, O'Dowd has worked to generate greater discussion around end-of-life care planning. She has convened roundtable discussions with health providers, authored articles and visited facilities to raise awareness around this issue. In collaboration with the New Jersey Hospital Association, O'Dowd implemented the Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment—or POLST form. This form empowers individuals to work with their physician or advance practice nurse to document preferences for medical care at the end of life.

In the area of working smarter through creative partnerships, the Commissioner has worked to achieve measurable results in promoting organ, tissue and blood donations in the state. By collaborating closely with advocates and the Motor Vehicle Commission to increase the number of registered organ donors—there has been a 13 percent increase statewide. Through a partnership with some of the state's leading corporations, as co-chair of the Workplace Blood Donor Coalition, Commissioner O'Dowd is working to reduce the state's chronic blood shortage. A targeted 2012 summer campaign resulted in an 11 percent increase in units of blood collected. To build on this success, the Department has partnered with the 2014 New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee to conduct a campaign called the Super Community Blood Drive.

As Commissioner, she led the Department's response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy—working closely with healthcare facilities, emergency responders and public health partners before, during, and after the storms to ensure they had the resources needed to care for residents.

New Jersey Department of Human Services

Elizabeth Connolly, MPA
Acting Commissioner

Elizabeth Connolly, Hope and Resilience Symposia Collaborator

Elizabeth Connolly became the Department's Acting Commissioner on February 28, 2015. She has worked in various roles at the department for 26 years, most recently as Chief of Staff. She began her career in the department's Division of Family Development and worked in child welfare reform as Director of Data Analysis and Reporting in the Office of Children's Services. Ms. Connolly also served as Director of Research and Evaluation, Special Assistant to the Commissioner and led the department's Sandy recovery initiatives and emergency preparedness activities related to Ebola Virus Disease. She lives in North Brunswick and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and Masters in Public Administration from Seton Hall University.

Click to read Elizabeth Connolly's bio.

DHS has the largest budget in state government, with over 15,000 employees - approximately 75-percent of them serving as direct care workers in the state-run developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals. About one in six New Jersey residents is impacted by the work of DHS.

The Department works in partnership with the Administration on initiatives including: Medicaid reform; advancing supported placement of individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness in the community; creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities; and sustaining the safety-net of services made available for the state's older population, and individuals and families with low income.

University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC)

Christopher O. Kosseff
President & CEO

Christopher Kosseff, Hope and Resilience Symposia CollaboratorChris Kosseff is responsible for a state-wide system of academically based mental health and addiction services across New Jersey. In 1996 when he assumed responsibility for this system, the operating budget was approximately $50 million per year, with the majority derived from Medicaid reimbursements. In 2015, the budget is $251 million, with a dramatically diversified portfolio. While all of the core clinical services remain vibrant and serving the academic and clinical missions, the range of services now includes correctional health care, an administrative services organization, peer operated helplines for service members, veterans, mothers of children with special needs, law enforcement officers and child protection workers, a statewide suicide prevention hotline and a clinical research and training institute.

Click to read Christopher O. Kosseff's bio.

Chris has a Master of Science degree from Syracuse University. Additionally, he holds clinical assistant professor appointments in the departments of Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School. Included in the awards he has received is the Meritorious Service Medal by the National Guard.


The April 8, 2015 symposia was approved for the following credits. We cannot guarantee credit approval for future offerings.

Certified Health Education Specialists: An application has been submitted to award Certified Health Specialists (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialists (MCHES) up to 2.5 total Category I Continuing Education Contact Hours (CECH). Maximum Advanced-level contact hours available are 2.5. The Rutgers Office of Public Health Practice is designated multiple event provider of CECH/s by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.

NOTE: Your certificate for these continuing education contact hours will be emailed to you within four (4) weeks of the program.

Health Officers and Registered Environmental Health Specialists: Rutgers University, NJAES, Office of Continuing Professional Education has been approved by the New Jersey Department of Health as a provider of NJ Public Health Continuing Education Contact Hours (CEs). Participants who complete this education program will be awarded 3.5 NJ Public Health Continuing Education Contact Hours (CEs).

NOTE: No certificate will be provided. Your transcript on the NJLMN will be updated to reflect these continuing education contact hours within one (1) week of the program.


  • Continuing Education Credit Request Form available at the program.
  • Please note that participants may not be eligible for continuing education credits if they are not on time and present for the entire session.
  • Participants must sign in.
  • Participants must submit a completed evaluation form at the end of the program.
  • Partial credits will not be issued to participants arriving late or leaving early.
  • Complete, Sign and Submit a "Continuing Education Credit Request Form" and $20 fee, for the following credits only.

NOTE: Your certificate for these professional contact hours will be emailed to you within four (4) weeks of receiving your request form and $20 fee.

Certified Counselor: Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care is an NBCC Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP™) and a co-sponsor of this program. Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care may award NBCC approved clock hours for events or programs that meet NBCC requirements. The ACEP™ maintains responsibility for the content of this program. Approval Number 6198. (2 clock hours)

Marriage and Family Therapists: This course will count for recertification credit towards NJDCA Marriage and Family Board licenses and certifications (LMFT) Rutgers UBHC provider number #200201113.5REC. (2 credit hours)

Nurse: Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the New Jersey State Nurses Association, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission On Accreditation. Accredited status does not imply endorsement by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, NJSNA or ANCC of any commercial products or services. P#204-7/012-15. (2 contact hours)

Psychologist: Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care maintains responsibility for the program and its content. Provider# 1532. Instructional Level: Introductory. (2 CE credits)

Social Worker: (The New Jersey Board of Social Work Examiners) This program is approved for social work continuing education hours by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care in accordance with New Jersey administrative code 13:44G and recognized by The New Jersey Board of Social Work Examiners. This program is approved for 2.4 general continuing education hours. All Social Workers Please Note: Social Workers must be prepared to write in their Social Work license/certification / registration number and license jurisdiction on the sign in sheet. Please be sure to bring this information with you to the training. Check with your state board to ensure credits are accepted.

Speakers and Planning Committee members have nothing to disclose.

Exhibitor Opportunity

Interested in being an exhibitor? Please contact Bianca Scardina for information. Space is limited.

The Hope and Resilience Symposia are a two-part series for mental health professionals to learn new perspectives, tools, and techniques to deal effectively and intervene appropriately with individuals affected by Superstorm Sandy. To that end, exhibitions should be aligned with the goal of the symposia. We reserve the right to deny the application of companies whose business practices are not in keeping with the symposia’s professional business environment. In an effort to provide a diverse lineup of exhibitors, show management reserves the right to limit similar services. Exhibitors are expressly prohibited from promoting political candidates. Please note we are unable to accommodate requests for vendors who intend to sell goods/services on site.

Registration Fee TBD  

Substitutions are permitted. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made, if requested at least two weeks in advance.


Breakfast and a buffet lunch are included.

PLEASE NOTE: The date for this event was selected to accommodate the speaker schedule. We understand it falls during the Passover holiday. Accommodations will be made for those who celebrate the holiday with a separate kosher breakfast and lunch buffet; however, you MUST advise our office with your registration. Be sure to select the kosher meal option with checkout.

If you have any other dietary restrictions or food allergies, please alert us at least one (1) week in advance of the course start date so that we can make reasonable accommodations. We cannot guarantee accommodations for special requests made after that time.


Pines Manor
2085 Route 27 (Lincoln Highway)
Edison, NJ 08817

Note: Pre-registration is required. We're sorry, but we cannot guarantee a seat, materials or meals for walk-in registrants at this time.


Sorry, registration is not currently available for this course.

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Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities

If you require special assistance, please notify our office when you register for a course and no less than one week in advance of the course start date. Every effort will be made to accommodate reasonable requests to meet your needs. For more information, please visit the Rutgers Office of Disability Services.