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Anne Whitman

Anne Whitman is a person with lived experience with mental health and substance use challenges. She has been in recovery from mental health challenges and substance misuse for over 30 years. She is the parent of a 36 year old daughter, She has over 30 years of experience in starting, supporting, and guiding peer communities in providing mutual support while maintaining the core values of empathy and resiliency. She is a co-founder of the Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community located at Boston Medical Center and co-founder of the Cole Resource Center located on the grounds of Mclean Hospital. Anne is a consultant to the Southeast Recovery Learning Community of Massachusetts. She is also a consultant to the Center of Excellence in Psychosocial and Systemic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital where she worked with a team on peer consultants and staff to create a video for parents with mental health and substance use challenges and their providers. Anne is a Certified Peer specialist. She holds a PH.D and MA in Anthropology from Harvard University, an M.S in education and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A from Boston University. She has held significant academic, administrative and outreach positions at Harvard, MIT, and Wheaton College. She is also a co-founder of Bright Horizons Work Family Solutions. With her diverse background in research, building innovative organizations combined with significant experience in peer and family communities, she has helped to build creative, innovative, communities that hold individuals with lived experience and their families at their core.

Sandra Whitney-Sarles:
Sandi is the Program Director for the South East Recovery Learning Community; a DMH-funded mental health program run by Boston Medical Center. She has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years in a variety of roles starting as a direct care worker in a group residence. Prior to her current profession, Sandi worked as an educator at a university and an elementary school. She developed a diversion program for court-mandated juvenile fire setters. Sandi has been active in her own mental health recovery for over 40 years.

Jacqueline Martinez:
Jacqueline Martinez is a former director on the NAMI Board of Directors. She currently is employed as a Mental Health Coordinator I/Certified Peer Specialist with Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. Also, Jacqueline works for The Center of Excellence for Psychosocial and Systemic Research. Jacqueline was previously the Metro North Hub Manager at Northeast Recovery Learning Community and Casa Primavera Clubhouse, Program Director at Bay Cove Human Services Inc. Jacqueline found NAMI through as the parent of a child with mental illness while also struggling with her own lived experience. Through her affiliation with NAMI, she hopes to provide the tools and support to Latino community and communities in which English is not their first language, eliminating barriers for learning which focuses on students’ social-emotional wellness and provides practical techniques and methods teachers can use to promote a mentally healthy learning environment that takes into account individual styles of learning and the classroom climate. Jacqueline works in survey research and evaluation of health service quality by eliciting and valuing the perspective of people using the service. Current projects include the, adverse groups of stakeholders across Massachusetts to help inform future research aimed at improving the health care and recovery trajectories for a broad spectrum of individuals and family members affected by mental health challenges and evaluation of wrap-around services designed to support families who have children with mental health or trauma recovery needs. Jacqueline also works as a Certified Peer Specialist with guests and staff at a Commonwealth shelter to ensure that guests are supported to establish and sustain mental wellness. She also is a Certified Spanish Interpreter, Certified Forensic Peer Specialist and a Recovery Coach. Ms. Martinez facilitates peer support including the evidence-based Wellness Recovery Action Plan classes, Whole Health Action Management classes and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Connections support groups. As for NAMI in Massachusetts, she also trains facilitators nationally in both English and Spanish. Ms. Martinez served Transformation Center Board of Directors and was the Chair the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council and is on the Massachusetts Attorney General Disability Rights Advisory Council. In addition, she has worked supporting and facilitating positive parenting for prospective foster and adoptive parents.

Valeria A. Chambers (she/her/hers) EdM, CAS, CPS:
Using her lived experience as a Certified Peer Specialist in mental health recovery, Valeria works as a Peer Consultant at the Center of Excellence for Psychosocial and Systemic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital and at the Health Equity Research Lab, Cambridge Health Alliance. She has worked extensively with researchers and policy makers on projects addressing mechanisms underlying mental health care disparities in underserved communities for the past 7 years while also looking at how to better implement & provide access to trauma informed, culturally responsive services in peer support. She is the founder and lead organizer of Blacks Voices: Pathways4Recovery, a state-wide advocacy and leadership support network for Blacks and African Americans. During COVID 19 Valeria has enjoyed taking workshops in Digital Peer Support and GPS Group Peer Support in order to bring peer support to more people during these difficult times. She is part of the GPS virtual affinity support group for Black community leaders in the US, Canada and the Caribbean and is a Solidarity Group facilitator for a 4 week GPS course entitled “White Supremacy in the Age of Trump”. In working with her own wellness & recovery process, Valeria loves sipping tea curled up with a good book, practicing the 8 Limbs of Yoga, going for long walks, playing with friends with fur & looking for fun ways to tone the vagus nerve.

Paul Ottenstein:
The Homeless Empowerment Advisory Project (HEAP) was modeled after The Ruby Rogers Center as a user-run program to advocate for people in DMH homeless programs. HEAP meets at the Lindemann Inn and plans activities in the community for its members.
Paul Ottenstein has been the coordinator of the program since its beginning.

Pat Pesa:
Pat has worked for the Lindemann Inn and was the staff liaison for HEAP and helped bring residents to meetings and coordinate activities with the residents of the shelter. Pat has been supporting HEAP since its inception over 25 years ago.

Karen Gromis:

Karen Gromis has been in recovery from bipolar disorder, ADD, and
general anxiety disorder with bumps in the road (sometimes craters)
for over 25 years.  She has worked at NAMI Mass for over 13 years and
has managed the NAMIWalks Massachusetts campaign -- in 2021 will be 14
walks.  In addition to the Walk, she handles most of the fundraising
initiatives and since July is part of the leadership team of 3 leading
NAMI Mass until they hire a new Executive Director or Interim
Director.  Prior to that in New York City where Karen was born and
raised she was active in the Broadway theater scene as both a press
representative and part of a general management team.  When she came
to Massachusetts she also worked in the theater at New Repertory
Theatre and at The Nora Theatre Company working on audience
development and fundraising.

Sam Botsford:

Sam Botsford is an individual with lived mental health experience who
has been in recovery for 6-7 years.  For the past two years he has
worked as a peer specialist at the Boston Resource Center located at
Boston Medical Center.  His work there consists of leading groups and
interacting with clients.  Sam graduated from Northeastern University
School of Law in May of 2018 and is currently enrolled at the Boston
University School of Social Work with an expected graduation in May,
2023.  From 2017-2020, Sam served on the NAMI Massachusetts Board of
Directors.  In June, 2020, Sam was certified as a digital peer support
specialist in order to better serve clients located at home during the
pandemic.  On a personal level, Sam married his wife, Ugo, in 2018 and
they had a child in January of 2020.  In addition to having lived
experience, Sam also has dealt with the mental health issues of family
members and loved ones.  In his free time, Sam enjoys spending time
with his family and his dog Bagel and, before COVID-19, going to the

Idony Lisle:

Idony Lisle is an artist, writer, the Assistant Director of the MBRLC and, incidentally, the webmaster. (Hi there.) She has a 32-year-old daughter and a 30-year-old son; she lives with the son, a cat, and a ferret. Somewhat to her surprise, she has a BS from the University of Wisconsin in Art, a PhD from Harvard in English, and a CPS.

Heidi Lee:

Heidi Lee is an artist, mother, and teacher who lives with the challenges of PTSD and Bipolar Disorder. She is a Certified Peer Support Specialist-Housing Navigator for Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. She has worked as the Artist in Residence for the Common Art program for seven years, where she guided and instructed unhoused community members.  She coordinated many exhibits for the program throughout the Boston area, including City Heart, a citywide art exhibit and sale for homeless and low-income artists. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Painting from Gordon College and a Master of Education with a concentration in Visual Arts from Lesley University. She founded the art program at an inner city middle to high school in Boston, taught there for nine years, and has since been teaching students of all ages independently. She works in mixed media, acrylic, and oils at her home art studio. Heidi lives in JP with her husband, James, and son, Ian, who is age 6. In her spare time, she thoroughly enjoys cooking Korean meals for others.  

Melissa Talal:

Melissa Talal grew up in California and Texas before moving to Massachusetts to live at Gould Farm to get better because her mental illness had been so troubling for her in her mid twenties and early thirties. However, before this, Melissa was successfully married and completed her bachelor's degree at the University of Texas and spent a year in law school where her illness emerged.  Fast forward, she worked for fourteen years for AMC in Burlington where she met her love, Mark Steere, in 2002.  Currently, Melissa is a mom to two cats, in graduate school at Northeastern University and working as a peer bridger for the Northeast Recovery Learning Program, running a successful program during COVID.

Norma Heath:

Reverend Dr. Norma J. Heath is the consultant in the Opening Doors To The Arts program. She is also Founder of Amron International Organization.
Norma was the 2017 recipient of the Howard Trachtman award and as a peer her mission is to help stop the stigma of Mental Illness.

Yuka Gordon:

Yuka Gordon was born in Tokyo, Japan and grew up in Ibaraki prefecture (north of Tokyo), in Hyogo prefecture (west Japan next to Osaka) and in Tokyo.

She came to the United States as an ESL student at Boston University.  Later on she met her husband.   She is happily married for 28 years and lives with Ichiro, 14 yrs. (Pug/Beagle mix.)

She worked for some American and Japanese companies for 10 years.  Then, she has been involved in peer work since 2009, starting as a volunteer.

Julie Anne Entwhistle:

Julie Anne Entwistle is a Certified Peer Specialist and Program Coordinator for the Hope Center. Julie Anne is dedicated to creating a trauma-informed space where individuals from all backgrounds can find their own peer support
community. She will be speaking in particular of the power of trauma-informed group peer support to create change within the mental health system and support individuals in finding recovery.

Chris Laureano:

Christopher Laureano is a Certified Peer Specialist and Director of the Recovery Education and Learning (REAL) Program at Bay Cove Human Services. Christopher is an autistic man who has also experienced anxiety and trauma through various life situations due to having trouble with reading social cues and learning differently from others. He is passionate about both making peer support trainings and the REAL Program equitable and accessible for all, and including neurodiversity in peer support. Chris will be speaking about the importance of “breaking the cycle” when overcoming anxiety, trauma, and life challenges with living as an autistic man, along with the importance of “self-evolvement” in recovery.  

Wooden Bookshelves
Julie Anne
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