Join over 300 representatives from family peer support providers, family members, youth and professionals from the children’s behavioral health and other cross-system children’s services at this statewide event and stay abreast of the many challenges and opportunities facing children, youth and families as health and behavioral health services continues to move toward an integrated system of care. We encourage New York State Family Peer Support Providers, Youth Peer Advocates, Health Plans, Health Homes, and other service providers to attend and receive pertinent education & information on services, collaborations and practices in our children’s health and behavioral health system.

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Once you register, make sure to reserve a room.

Registration opens at 9:30AM on Sunday, April 30, 2023.


Justin Michael Williams

Justin Michael Williams, is an author, transformational speaker, and top 20 recording artist who works at the intersection of music, mindfulness, and social justice.

Click each conference track below to view the upcoming workshops

Session I | Sunday, 2:15-3:30PM

Gender and sexuality: Creating inclusive and affirming environments for all
Ashley Davis,; Karen Fuller, FPA-C

  • TA guide to LGBTQ+ allyship, and creating safe, inclusive, and affirming environments for all. Presentation covers Q Center services, terminology, statistics, and best practices for affirming environments

Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation Program (CPEP): What is it?
Jean Sadowy

  • Program overview of Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation Program (CPEP): What is it?This presentation is to provide an understanding of the role of a CPEP in the broader community-based service arena.  There are preconceived ideas and misperceptions on what the focus of a CPEP is and what service(s) are delivered.  The presentation will include assisting in recognizing when individuals may benefit from a CPEP evaluation and review of OMH CPEP regulations.  

Building Advocacy Skills and Student-Centered Transition Planning with Young People with Disabilities
Stacy Marshal

  • In this session, family and youth educators from INCLUDEnyc share information on legal provisions under IDEA as well as practical ways that families and professionals support young people with disabilities in developing the skills and experience needed for transition from school to adulthood. We will include the voice and perspective of our professionals and of the youth with disabilities with whom we engage in this work (youth to either attend in person, or through pre-recorded video, depending on health concerns and other factors).

A Desk of Her Own
Carol Murdie

  • A personal discussion about our family’s experience navigating the special education system from Early Intervention to the transition into Kindergarten with our daughter who is diagnosed with Autism and ADHD. Having a child with a disability is challenging in and of itself, but a child with a dual diagnosis creates another level of challenges and systems to navigate.  Participants will hear about our personal challenges and conflict with our local school district that pushed our daughter out of school, and significantly impacted her outlook on school.  Our story takes you along on our journey, riddled with frustrations, anger, heartbreak and shows you how we came out on the other side with a positive outcome.  Participants will also hear about our current journey of restoring relationships with our home school district and building new relationships with her current placement.   

“Because I Said So”: Exercising Self-Advocacy for Transitional Aged Youth
Kristin Rivera; Gabriel Jackel-Dewhurst

  • The objective of this workshop is to empower transitional aged youth by introducing self-advocacy skills that can be used to address power dynamics from adults. The workshop will begin with a brief presentation about advocacy and power dynamics transitional aged youth may face. Then presenters will initiate role play with attendees and encourage engagement. The workshop will conclude with a discussion about what was learned. 

Navigating and Building Sustainable Networks
Tammy Ellis-Robinson; Ketrina Hazell; Elizabeth Slusarz

  • Navigating and building a sustainable network can help young people feel the support of a community while maintaining the agency to make decisions and address self-determined goals. Sharing lived experience and engaging in interactive activities of self-exploration participants will consider the levels of trust and range of individuals in their networks or who could be a part of their sustainable networks.
Session II | Sunday, 3:45-5:00PM

Talking About “The Talk”- How parents can start the conversation on sexual wellness.
Megan Gallo; Kate Thorpe

  • The team at SCCAYA is funded by the NYS AIDS Institute to serve young people ages 13-24YO who are living with, or are at high risk for acquiring, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. We gear community outreach towards the importance of being proactive with sexual wellness through HIV/STI testing, treatment, and prevention. 
  • This presentation would take families through a step by step approach to starting the conversation about sexual wellness at any age in a developmentally appropriate manner. The goal of the presentation is for parents to gain enough knowledge to feel empowered to have these “awkward” conversations, so that their children are prepared for safe (emotionally and physically) relationships in the future. Areas of focus will include basic concepts in sexual wellness, data supporting the need for accurate sexual health education, and the importance of consent. Presenters will encourage active participation from audience members.  Time will be allotted at the end of the presentation for a panel discussion in which we are hopeful to have perspectives from both youth and parents. 

Understanding Your IEP: Working Together to Create a Meaningful IEP
Amanda Haught; Lourdes Rivera-Putz

  • Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) are designed to support students who receive special education services and work towards preparing students for life after high school. This interactive workshop will answer the following questions: How do you know a student is making progress towards their IEP goals? When you go over your child’s IEP… can you picture how the development of the IEP is setting up for life after high school? We will spend the bulk of the time taking policies and putting those policies to create a sample IEP that will be meaningful for you/ your family. 

What “doing the work” means in recovery
Laura Romanoff; Ashton Dailey; Pin Pashoukos

  • This workshop discusses the importance of recognizing the work people in mental health recovery are doing while they are in recovery Many believe that you can  simply “get over it” when it comes to trauma or mental health but that is not always the case. We aim to provide the space for  family members and other young people to discuss what “doing the work” looks like and how clinical providers can begin to recognize their efforts as actual work!

How can youth use community supports to gain independence
Cathy S. Kent (she/her) Senior Peer Advisor, New York Foundling (SFC Center); KimAlysha “Kimmy” Seligmiller (she/her), Youth Advocate, You Gotta Believe; Luis Evans (he/him) Youth Peer Advocate Staten Island Alliance; Zinab Fofana (she/her), Junior at SUNY Albany

  • This would be a panel discussion featuring young people from a variety of youth serving systems to discuss how they utilized the resources in their own communities to gain independence. 

Disrupting Stigma within Mental Health and Neurodiversity
Kim Kaiser; Danyale Sturdivant

  • Together we will discuss the historical and cultural factors that contribute to stigma within mental health, autism, and other neurodivergent disorders within historically marginalized communities and learn how we can help break the chains that contribute to stigma. Because together we can improve outcomes for our loved ones, ourselves, the families we serve and the systems that we utlilize.
Session III | Monday, 10:30-11:45AM

Navigating the Discharge Process: Examining Peer Support for Families of Individuals with First Episode Psychosis
Kimberly Hoagwood; Mary Acri; Priscilla Shorter; Meggin Rose; Tanya Hernandez

  • The discharge process from OnTrackNY and other First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs for adolescents and young adults can be a challenging time for participants and their families. A research team from NYU’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is collaborating with OnTrackNY to examine the impact of peer-to-peer support for caregivers after discharge. This project, called the Family Connectors Program, involves the delivery of peer support by trained Family Connectors who have lived experience and who have been trained in evidence-based skills to support, educate and advise caregivers whose loved one is transitioning into community services. This theoretically-grounded program is practical and low burden. FCs consult on the phone weekly with individual caregivers, offering them emotional and practical assistance. 

Strengthening & Supporting Families involved in the Child Welfare System
Melinda Agnew; Tanya Hernandez; Sara Simon

  • This workshop will share the new initiatives that OCFS has designed to increase safety, permanency and child & family well-being for families that encounter the child welfare system. Participants will get an opportunity to learn about new programs and services to support families.

Mental Health Awareness Through Superheroes
Simcha Weinstein

  • Superheroes may seem inhuman on the surface, yet they mourn loss and fear trauma, leading to some powerful fiction about the nature of strength, pain, and humanity. How many of us are wearing a mask to hide mental health challenges? Load your mental health toolkit with some evidence-based superpower solutions.

Reimagining Emotional Wellness in the Peer Workforce: Shifting Away from How it has been Historically Perceived
Ambar Martinez; Rita Cronise

  • When we work and live under ableist, heteronormative, capitalist, and patriarchal standards it is hard to imagine emotional wellness. In this session we consider what emotional wellness is, what wellness at work looked like in the past, ways to disrupt power structures that stand in the way of authentic wellness, and how to reimagine authentic wellness at work to benefit ourselves and those we support.

Supporting Mental Health Recovery & Creating Cultures of Whole-Family Health That Benefit All
Megan Spagnola; Shantalee Martinez

  • Join our workshop to learn about the Mental Health Community Partners (MHCP) Program’s innovative relational approach to supporting mental health recovery and whole-family wellness for adults & youth aged 12+. Funded by the NYS Office of Mental Health and SAMHSA, the MHCP Program was launched in 2022 following state-wide and national recognition of the MHANYS CarePath relational model to mental health recovery and whole-family wellbeing. As an extension of this model, MHCP supports individuals with high mental health needs (e.g. serious mental illness or emotional disturbance) navigate stressful life transitions, such as transitioning from treatment back to life with family in the community. The relational approach extends support to not only a youth or adult in recovery, but also to their family members or chosen supporters. Together, the whole family grows in learning about mind-body health, holistic health, and practical strategies to support recovery and create a family culture of wellbeing that benefits all.  

Sponsor & Exhibitor Information

Families Together is seeking sponsors and exhibitors for the Albany conference. This year more than ever it is critical that families and youth receive information about your services to explore successful collaborations between New York State Family Peer Support programs and health plans.

For more information on sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities, click here.