WEBINARS & PRESENTERS

Monday @ 10am
Recovery Support Specialist: From Classroom to Practice | Paul Acker, Daryl McGraw, Ally Kernan and Latosha Taylor
This webinar provides an introduction to training to become a Recovery Support Specialist, what to expect when working in the field, and understanding growth potential.
Allison Kernan is a Recovery Support Specialist, serving CT youth and young adults. Ally specializes in recovery from trauma, mental health, and substance use disorders. She was drawn to this work due to witnessing and surviving trauma throughout her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Ally offers trainings, workshops, group, and individual services to support and raise awareness of the effects of trauma and mental health disorders. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her loved ones, her pets, and publishing her first book. 
Daryl McGraw
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Latosha Taylor is a childhood trauma and psychiatric survivor who has transformed her lived experience into a passion for building community-based approaches to support others to find value in their experiences. She is also a Recovery Support Specialist that is working as an Educator and Advocate for Advocacy Unlimited. Latosha has presented in several national conferences on the diverse roles of peer support including to provide TA assistance through the Recovery Support Learning Collaborative to help mental health care providers integrate the peer role into their agencies Latosha teaches the Recovery Support Specialist Certification and Training for CT and is a nationally certified eCPR facilitator. She sits on the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery Board of Directors and serves on several boards throughout the State of Connecticut that focus on policy changes to ensure better recovery services for people in her communities.
Paul Acker
Monday @ 2pm
Intentional Peer Support Facilitators | Torry Bernard and Sarah Owens
This webinar is about Intentional Peer Support and the way Advocacy Unlimited uses this training as a foundation to connect with our community. During this webinar we will discuss the tasks and principles of IPS and how we as peers put these concepts into action. IPS inspires people to learn and grow instead of one person needing to "help" another person. We will discuss ways to strive for mutuality in relationships, and how we use our experiences to relate and build connection.
Torry Bernard is a trained facilitator in Intentional Peer Support and a Recovery Support Specialist as well. Through her education and lived experience, Torry has been able to support other's through their recovery. She started working at Join Rise Be 6 years ago where she helped create The Statewide Young Adult Warmline for young people. During this time, Torry was able to grow through her own obstacles by connecting with peers and inspiring others to succeed at whatever they wanted to do. Being in the Foster Care System and surviving human trafficking  has made her even more passionate about helping other's find their voice and strength through struggles. IPS focuses on Connection, Mutuality, Worldview and Moving towards- all things that Torry feels have helped her immensley through life.
Sarah Owens is a Bridger at Advocacy Unlimited who has worked for DHMAS funded non-profit mental health agencies for 17 years. Sarah loves her siblings, making connections, calming anxiety, looking for sea glass, and making music. Sarah was a disc jockey for 23 years up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Martha’s Vineyard to Boston. Sarah graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Dramatic Arts, which she uses to this day. Shortly after JFK was assassinated and way before her adult teeth grew in she struggled with early onset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Even though she had a loving family, nobody knew what was wrong with Sarah. Her childhood was lonely and anxiety prevailed much of the time. Sarah uses her own lived experiences, music, and laughter to try to mitigate anxiety and loneliness in others.
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Tuesday @ 10am
The Lotus Project: Young Adult Leadership Training | Luz Feliz
The Lotus Project is designed to help participants identify that without the mud, there is no lotus, but with hard work the lotus is indeed attainable with the help of other tools. By sharing personal experiences while navigating recovery during the transition through adulthood, Luz will showcase the shift from “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset”- essentially becoming unstuck. Luz will provide alternative approaches for dealing with daily stressors.
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Luz Feliz is the Young Adult Peer Leadership Coordinator for Join Rise Be. She has been a member of the JRB team since 2016, and believes being a part of this initiative provides a sense of community that lends her the opportunity to give back. She also enjoys being part of something that would have been beneficial to her when she was younger. Through her work, Luz’s main goal is to help those receiving services understand that there are alternative ways of dealing with stress. Through the practice of healthy alternatives, Luz hopes others can achieve a life of self-defined purpose. Luz graduated with her Associate’s degree in Social Services in May 2020 and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Psychological Science. In her down time, she enjoys watching movies, following Yankees baseball, and swimming.
Tuesday @ 2PM
Olmstead Offered to Nursing Home Residents | Jenn Henry
In this webinar you will learn how the cost-effective benefits of discharging residents with mental health and substance use to a less restrictive environment can save money. You will also learn what residents with mental health and/or substance use go through in the nursing homes. This webinar will discuss the importance of building hope and trust with residents during the discharge process. The Olmstead Initiative will enlighten the attendees of this webinar how we can more effectively provide services to residents with mental health and/or substance use in nursing homes.
Jennifer Henry works for Advocacy Unlimited as an Advocacy and Education Engagement Specialist. She facilitates the Wellness Recovery Action Plan training and is also the Olmstead Coordinator. She has lived experience with mental illness. Jennifer has an Associate degree from Capital Community College and is also a Recovery University graduate. Jennifer promotes progress in the recovery movement for people with mental illness and co-occurring disorders. She has collaborated with agencies such as NAMI, Keep the Promise, Catchment Area Council, and Disability Rights Connecticut, Dress for Success, and the Recovery Council at Capitol Region Health Center. As Olmstead Coordinator she has similar duties as a Bridger, working with participants in the community to support them in their journey to wellness. Her expertise as a Bridger reaches a demographic which is mostly the elderly population. 
Wednesday @ 10am
Compassionate Activism | Mitzy Sky
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Mitzy Sky shares her journey through writing, spoken-word, storytelling, and videography. She’s consciously unlearning messages that hindered her from living wholeheartedly. Her poem In This Moment was published in We Are the Change-Makers – Poems Supporting Drop the Disorder. She is a contributor in the anthology Imagining Monsters, and the American Journal for Psychiatric Rehabilitation (AJPR) - IRCC Special Issue Boundary Crossings: Systems, Communities, and Expertise published by University of Nebraska Press (UNP). She has contributed to the online magazines The Good Men Project, and Mad in America. She developed the Compassionate Activism program, and she created the Beyond the Story© project and is a Blogger/Vlogger at www.mitzysky.com.
The Compassionate Activism (CA) training stems from the conviction that communicating from a foundation of respect is in itself a change agent that opens opportunity for community building and awareness. Attendees and facilitators will explore advocacy for human rights with the intention for transformation, equity, inclusion and liberation. Through the CA training attendees learn about self, systems, legislative advocacy, the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act (FHA), holistic practices, public speaking, storytelling, and taking a second look at how we've come to view emotional distress, caused by moral injury.
 
Wednesday @ 2PM 
We Hear You: Exploring the Voice Hearing Experience | Maggie Taylor and Skye Collins
Voice-hearing and other alternate experiences have long been a taboo subject, but it’s a far more common experience than people believe. 1 in 10 people in the U.S. have had some form of alternate experience- that’s more than the number of people with naturally red hair. Despite how common these experiences are, support for voice-hearers is still limited. Advocacy Unlimited has two programs which focus on supporting people with these experiences: Connecticut Hearing Voices Network and Masterichs Program. Both of these initiatives create spaces where people can share openly and without fear, and connect with peers. What is your understanding of these experiences? Do you share them? Do you know others who do? Join Skye and Maggie for this webinar where we discuss resources for voice-hearers in Connecticut as well as explore the concepts of genuine dialogue, challenging perspectives, and providing nonjudgmental support.
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Maggie is a Recovery Support Specialist, who has a Bachelor Degree in Human Services with a minor in Psychology. Maggie feels that it was an act of faith that brought her to the peer movement. I could not imagine working with people in any other capacity outside of the peer role; my hope is that I am able to combine both, my education and lived experience to communicate issues that broaden the perspectives of both, people living with diagnoses, and their communities.
Skye Collins is the project coordinator for the CT Hearing Voices Network, as well as the technical support and communications coordinator for Advocacy Unlimited. Skye is a voice-hearer, but before being hired by AU, they were unaware that there was a community of others who shared their experience. Now, they are excited to improve the visibility of the CTHVN program, in the hopes of helping the voice-hearers more easily connect with their peers, and improving understanding of voice-hearing throughout Connecticut.
They live in Naugatuck with their family, and enjoy drawing, leather-working, creative writing, and larping, as well as playing with their two kids.
Thursday @ 10am
The Doors of Change | Heidi Viener
Join Heidi for a Toivo workshop exloring what change looks like to you. How do you embrace change? Perhaps the answers to these questions will be brought to light throughout this offering. A guided meditation will welcome reflection on the past and future while remaining present. You will be invited to listen to any and all messages you receive. All the while, you are encouraged to get creative and illustrate in ways that you feel called to. This 2-part workshop, consisting of guided meditation creative expression, will help lead you through "The Door of Change." You will need paper, any coloring mediums available to you, and a place of comfort.
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Heidi has reshaped her life by incorporating holistic healing practices since first walking through the doors into Toivo in August of 2015. After years of struggling with mental and physical challenges because of traumas which began in her young childhood, she found peace and healing when she started to transform herself from victim and survivor into a thriver. Participating in a variety of holistic healing modalities, rethinking her thinking, sharing her own lived experiences, and facilitating her own wellness workshops at Toivo have allowed her a new direction along her life journey.
Thursday @ 2pm
Bridger Discussion | Brittany Sidler, Sarah Owen, Michael Thompson, Jennifer Henry, and Sarah Beaulieu
The Bridger Team will lead a panel style conversation about our diverse approaches and experiences with bridging, and what sets it apart from typical clinical relationships. We will also have a participant join to talk about their experience in the program. Time will also be allotted for Q&A for further connection.
Brittany is a Bridger at AU and has the unique perspective of being a former participant in the program. In learning to reframe beliefs and unlearn survival mode, she became empowered to live authentically and find her voice. She strives to bring that experience to the participants she now gets to work with – in addition to building mutual relationships and providing resources, She supports others in finding their voice to advocate for themselves.
Jennifer Henry works for Advocacy Unlimited as an Advocacy and Education Engagement Specialist. She facilitates the Wellness Recovery Action Plan training and is also the Olmstead Coordinator. She has lived experience with mental illness. Jennifer has an Associate degree from Capital Community College and is also a Recovery University graduate. Jennifer promotes progress in the recovery movement for people with mental illness and co-occurring disorders. She has collaborated with agencies such as NAMI, Keep the Promise, Catchment Area Council, and Disability Rights Connecticut, Dress for Success, and the Recovery Council at Capitol Region Health Center. As Olmstead Coordinator she has similar duties as a Bridger, working with participants in the community to support them in their journey to wellness. Her expertise as a Bridger reaches a demographic which is mostly the elderly population. 
Michael Thompson came to the work of Peer Bridging over 2 years ago at a fork in the road. The fork he faced was to be authentic and rise, or put on more masks and run. He chose the former. He had played the whole in-authentic role all my life. Hide, keep safe, wear the masks, and do what is expected. Keeping up the persona led to a lot of pressure and eventually/gratefully, a breakdown. After a lot of rest, Mike found a space where nothing was expected except to show up as he is, messiness and all. Without expectations he felt safe enough to return to his body and natural sense of curiosity, play, joy, inspiration, and adventure returned. Presence without expectation welcomed Michael back home within himself. And creating that for others is what he does bridging at AU.
Sarah Owens is a Bridger at Advocacy Unlimited who has worked for DHMAS funded non-profit mental health agencies for 17 years. Sarah loves her siblings, making connections, calming anxiety, looking for sea glass, and making music. Sarah was a disc jockey for 23 years up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Martha’s Vineyard to Boston. Sarah graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Dramatic Arts, which she uses to this day. Shortly after JFK was assassinated and way before her adult teeth grew in she struggled with early onset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Even though she had a loving family, nobody knew what was wrong with Sarah. Her childhood was lonely and anxiety prevailed much of the time. Sarah uses her own lived experiences, music, and laughter to try to mitigate anxiety and loneliness in others.
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My name is Sarah B, I am a peer in recovery helping other peers in recovery!
Friday @ 10am
Inequities in the Mental Health System | Skyler Rivera
Skyler Rivera's path to this point has been a long difficult one. Over the past 10 years he has fought numerous battles ranging from race and equity issues, to personal mental health battles and struggles. Growing up with a white mother and a Puerto Rican father with African roots, he saw many disparities and differences in upbringings, cultures and mindsets. In 2020, Skyler set out to talk about the comfortability of not feeling like he belong on either side of his family. After diving into these feelings and talking with his half siblings he saw an even deeper disparity in the mental health system and within our own communities. In his mind he knows others need to see proof and hear stories on these subjects. Skyler today wants to bring that to a wider audience, starting today!
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Join Skyler for a presentation and conversation on major inequity's in the mental health field. Space will be held to discuss the deeper rooted stigmas and the truths that many people choose not to see within minority communities. In this webinar, Skyler hopes to bring awareness to the differences between ethnic communities and upbringings while taking a deeper look at stigmas and how to address them. A collective conversation on how we can help each other create effective change will close out our time together.
Friday @2pm
Recovering the Self During the Transition to Adulthood | Michaela I. Fissel
A webinar designed for those working with young people who are engaged in mental health and addiction services. It is also relevant to those who simply want to connect with young people with greater relevancy. Through a developmentally and generationally relevant approach - gain a deeper understanding of what recovery looks like during the transition to adulthood. The possibility of recovery offers a the path forward to living a life of self-defined purpose.
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Michaela is a force of nature who is dead set on the belief that every person is capable of cultivating their unique talent. She is a mother of three beautiful souls, and works in non-profit leadership. She describes herself as an outdoor enthusiast - as she enjoys swimming in waterfalls, solo backpacking adventures, and mountain biking. Trained as a meditation teacher, and yoga instructor, she is spiritually routed and lives a wholehearted life where magic thrives. Her professional experience includes community research, program development, and policy analysis. She spent 13 years researching and teaching on the process of recovery during the transition to adulthood. Her great work is centered on knowing that we are more than what we were led to believe.