Join over 400 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.

Tuesday, May 4 from 2:00-3:30pm
Pre-Conference Screening & Panel Discussion

Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops 

A screening of the movie, Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops, will be available to all conference registrants. There will also be a panel discussion with Ernie and Joe, other law enforcement and local officials. The goal will be to discuss the intersection of law enforcement and mental health crisis.

Wednesday, May 5 from 9:00-10:00am
Keynote Speaker

Ken Nwadike, Jr.

Ken Nwadike, Jr., peace activist, motivational speaker and video journalist known as the Free Hugs Guy online will present the Power of Positive Human Interaction and Ways to Bridge the Racial Divide. This keynote aims to create unity, civility, and build a more diverse and inclusive culture by the positive human interaction

OPENING SESSION | 08:15 AM - 10:00 AM

Meditation – Mindfulness to Connect | 8:15 AM – 8:45 AM
Robert Lettiere, Certified Yoga Therapist and Meditation Practitioner

Join us as we dive into the depths of our souls natural space; peace. Facilitator Robbie Lettieri is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Meditation Practitioner. Together we will collectively ground down while energizing ourselves to kick off our 2 day virtual conference.


Opening Remarks | 09:00 AM – 9:15 AM
Paige Pierce & Geraldine Burton


Click each toggle to view the events workshops and their descriptions

Session I | 10:15 AM - 11:30 AM

Creative Connections
Emily Vaianella | Youth 

During this workshop, we will explore the unique ways we can connect with our community when feeling isolated. We have all experienced this global pandemic; we may be feeling isolated and alone, and many of us have experienced these feelings long before the world shut down. Our community in psychiatric institutions has been isolated, disconnected from community, and stripped of basic human rights; because of this, and with inspiration from madwomen in the attic’s “December Letters Project”, we imagined the Creative Connections Campaign at Hands Across Long Island. The purpose of the Campaign is to reach our community in institutions through letters and art to express that we love, we care, and we stand with our community; to reimagine the ways we can connect with others through art and letter-writing, and to bring awareness to the challenges our community faces. This campaign is a conscious-raising effort that we can utilize to advocate for the rights of our community while exploring the unique ways we can connect with each other. Participants will explore and navigate the barriers our community faces, discuss advocacy efforts we can take to ensure the rights of our community, while creating art that can be donated to our campaign and sent to people who are currently in institutions. Come prepared with materials we can use to collage and create inspiring messages.

Supporting youth in BIPOC community
Rebecca Anuru & Karmita Morgan | Workforce Development 

This workshop will provide key steps for adult allies to best support BIPOC youth as providers. Five key steps will be explored: 1) Be real and check yourself, 2) Listen to them and act accordingly, 3) Understand trauma and how it can show up, 4) Build rapport with trusted caregivers and other youth supports, and 5) Provide material resources within your means.

Restorative justice: Moving from Theory to Practice
Quianna Bennet | Youth

Youth Voice is powerful, Youth Voice is important, and Youth Voice is valued. Join us in this interactive opportunity to explore Restorative Justice Community Building Circles through practice. We will come together to learn more about the circle process, discuss our values and take time to connect. You will learn about Restorative Justice Circles, not by reading about them, or having someone simply talk to you about them. Youth will join in, participate, and have your voice heard. Bring your unapologetic self, your wealth of knowledge, and unique lived experiences as we build with one another. See you there!

Investing in Yourself, You are Valuable! Developing Your Self-Care Plan
Crystal Collins & Melody Tien | Wellness

This self-care presentation is designed to help students:

  • Understand self-care Identify self-care needs
  • Evaluate their coping skills
  • Identify barriers and areas for improvement to self-care
  • Develop a self-care plan
  • Put their self-care plan into action

Working with Children & Families – Project Hope
Cheryl Gerstler | Family & Advocacy Track

How does NY Project Hope help? Our Emotional Support Helpline is staffed by trained crisis counselors who help callers talk through their emotions and find resources to help them with the challenges of COVID. NY Project Hope also has a website filled with resources that folks can access anytime at, as well as a supportive social media presence. We welcome you to take a look and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our services are always confidential, free, and anonymous.

Providing peer services to LGBT youth and young adults when you might not have that lived experience
Ashton Daley (he/him) & Ashley Dickson (they/them) | Workforce Development

This presentation aims to educate attendees on how to interact and engage LGBT+ identifying youth and young adults in their recovery journey. Utilizing the lived experience from the presenters, we will overview vocabulary used within the LGBT+ community, the prevalence of LGBT+ identifying people with substance use disorders and/or mental illness, the support they have within treatment settings, and what providers can do to improve care. As a group, we will explore how to engage with people in a LGBT+ affirming way and how to correct non-LGBT affirming actions if/when they happen. Towards the end of the workshop, the presenters will open the conversation so participants can discuss their experiences and ask questions.

LUNCH & LEARN | 11:45AM - 12:15PM

Social & Racial Injustice & it’s impact on the children’s service
system providers & families. Where do we go from here?
Rebecca Anuru, Karmita Morgan & Kim Kaiser

Remote learning & Telehealth services
Cortney Lovell & Julie Dealing

Finding Your Voice
Brad Hansen & Pam Brannan

Learning to Let Go
Nancy Craig & Tiara Springer-Love

Call the Police when you need help
Alex Carpenter & Alia Pierre

SESSION II | 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM

Making the Step
Rebekah Freitas & Anne-Marie Freitas | Youth

Prepare to learn the basics of “adulting.” We will review how to make a resume, budgeting & saving, staying
organized, making & keeping appointments and more! Get ready to make the step from the child world into
the adult world! This workshop will be hands on with lots of resources to use after the workshop. Taught by a
Certified Youth Peer Advocate and a Family Peer Advocate!

Choose Love as a Family

Scarlett Lewis & Stacey Orzell | Family

After losing her son in the Sandy Hook tragedy, Scarlett Lewis took a pro-active approach to addressing mental health issues and helping children across the US and the whole world by creating the nonprofit Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement ( The Movement’s Choose Love programming teaches children and adults how to thoughtfully respond with love in any situation by using the Choose Love Formula (Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion-in-Action = Choosing Love). This insightful and engaging workshop will present a discussion of the four character values of the Choose Love Formula and how they can be practiced as a family. Through learning these essential social and emotional skills and tools children will become more engaged, more confident, and more compassionate that will empower them, and the entire family, to thrive emotionally, mentally, and socially. When implemented, these easy-to-learn traits strengthen the health and resilience of individuals, improve relationships between family members and the world around them, and promotes a safer, more peaceful and loving family dynamic.

Planting “Seeds” of HOPE
Kathleen Liedka | Wellness

Interactive activity – will plant sunflowers while discussing how you can literally sow seeds as well as figuratively. Planting a “seed” for ones self-care. Planting a seed is to believe in tomorrow. Will talk about how plants give us a sense of responsibility, helps us respect other living things, allows us to nuture. Gardening/planting keeps us connected to other living things, especially during these trying times. Promotes relaxation. Planting seeds symbolizes regeneration. I will also share how I planted a memory garden for my son, and planted two evergreen trees, one in his memory and one that life is “evergreen” and will go on….would also like to provide each participant with a card w/ a Sunflower on it and the saying “Give yourself the same attention you give to others and watch yourself bloom” this would be reminder of how important they are and how important it is to take care of themselves.

Recovery Basics – Treating Individuals as a Resource in their LIFE
Barbara Callahan & Tyrone T Brown | Family

Language and attitude are important to supporting individuals who are coping with substance use and mental health challenges. This workshop will examine behavior and language as a tool to empower individuals and communities in rethinking the old narrative regarding our view of individuals needing services.

How Can I Do That? Everything You Need to Know to Become a Youth or Family Peer Advocate
Susan Burger & Robert Lettiere | Workforce Development 

If you interested in working in the field of Peer Support then you are in the right place! This workshop will focus on the how to become a Youth Peer Advocate or a Family Peer Advocate. Participants will learn about Family and Youth Peer Support Services, the criteria to become credentialed and the specific trainings required. Then we will put it all together in to 6 simple steps to get you through the process

Youth Speakout Prep
Youth Power Staff | Youth

 The Speak Out is an opportunity for young people to be creative and empowered to share their stories with the world. The facilitators will assist the participants in learning skills to effectively advocate and bring awareness to their experiences by utilizing different forms of art. This is a safe space for young people to build lasting relationships that will help them throughout their life by remembering that they aren’t alone. This is the time for NY’s youth and young adults to stand up, be heard and make a difference

Wednesday, May 5 from 2:00-3:00pm
Closing Plenary Speaker

Johnny Crowder

28-year-old suicide/abuse survivor, TEDx speaker, mental health and sobriety advocate and Founder & CEO of Cope Notes, Johnny Crowder will offer Daily Routines to Improve Overall Health. In this presentation, we’ll discuss how to identify healthy and unhealthy habits, how to foster a culture with the strength to overcome stigma, and how implementing simple, even unconventional, self-care practices into our daily routines can make a transformational impact on our mental and emotional health.

To view and share the Pre-Conference, Keynote and Closing Plenary speaker program, click here

Youth Speakout

The Youth Power network has put together a Youth Speak Out that will help young people build their voice and advocacy skills. YOUth are the future and your voice matters!

For questions or concerns, please contact