OUR CONSULTANTS

Our consult pool provides the expertise of leaders from organizations implementing best and evidence-based practices in LGBTQ+ behavioral health and individuals with lived experience.

Edward Alessi, Ph.D., LCSW

Pronouns: he/him

Areas of Expertise:

  • Trauma and PTSD
  • LGBTQ+ migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees
  • Affirmative psychotherapy
  • Population health approaches to clinical practice

Edward J. Alessi is Associate Professor of Social Work and Chancellor’s Scholar of LGBTQ+ Mental Health, Trauma, and Resilience at Rutgers University. HIs research aims to improve (a) understanding of stress and trauma among sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations, and (b) enhance clinical practice with SGM and other marginalized populations. 

Sean Aaron Betsinger, Ph.D.

Pronouns: he/him

Areas of Expertise:

  • Juvenile Justice
  • Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System
  • Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices
  • Federal Criminal Sentencing

Aaron Betsinger is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW) and research faculty at The Institute. He conducts research related to juvenile intake and detention for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), and he oversees evaluation activities for the U-TURNS project. He is also leading cost evaluation efforts for Maryland’s IV-E Waiver Demonstration Project and for an evaluation of DJS’ Accountability and Incentives Management (AIM) initiative. Additionally, Dr. Betsinger serves as a co-evaluator for the National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability and Permanency for LGBTQ Children and Youth in Foster Care. Dr. Betsinger serves on the University’s Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) and is the DAC sponsor for the Stonewall Pride affinity group. He also serves as the faculty sponsor to the SSW’s Queer Community Alliance (QCA). He received both his Ph.D. and M.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland, College Park, and he received his B.S. in Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University.

Jean-Michel Brevelle

Pronouns: he/him

Areas of Expertise:

  • HIV-related care
  • Public policy
  • Programming for youth

    Jean-Michel Brevelle has over 30 years of experience in providing training, technical assistance, and program development for public agencies and nonprofits. He specializes in content relevant to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression, at-risk youth, HIV, disabilities, domestic violence, coalition building, community engagement and community mobilization.

    Michael Dentato, Ph.D.

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Assessment of health and health disparities
    • Affirming Social Work practice
    • Macro practice, interprofessional education, effective non-profit leadership, and service provision with vulnerable communities

    Michael Dentato is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago where he also serves as co-Director of C-FIRST and vice chair of LUC Faculty Council. In addition to his teaching, research and scholarship interests, Dr. Dentato has over twenty years of community-based and consultant experience including clinical, administrative, and policy work throughout his tenure in New York City, Miami and Chicago. He is the editor of Social Work Practice with the LGBTQ Community: The Intersection of History, Health, Mental Health and Policy Factors, published by Oxford University Press, with a second edition forthcoming in 2021.

    Dani Dominguez

    Pronouns: they/them

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Gender affirming care education and consultation
    • Transgender and nonbinary-centered best practices
    • Diversity, equity, and inclusion education and consultation
    • Youth-centered practices with positive youth development, restorative justice, and a trauma-informed care approach

    Dani Dominguez serves as the Equity and Inclusion Specialist at YES Institute, leading education, training, and consultation on gender and orientation and intersecting diversity, equity, and inclusion topics. With over 8 years of professional experience working with youth-serving organizations in systems of care, coupled with their lived experience as a nonbinary person of color, they are committed to creating spaces where everyone is seen, heard, and valued for who they are.

    Toni Donnelly

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Training and coaching the Peer Parent Support workforce
    • Family engagement, involvement, and leadership
    • Building effective Wraparound teams

    Toni Donnelly is a Training Specialist at The Institute for Innovation and Implementation. She supports workforce development in navigating systems, building effective wraparound teams, training and certification of the peer parent support workforce, family engagement, involvement and leadership, parent – professional partnerships, identification of underlying needs and resources for families and youth experiencing complex challenges. Toni’s approach to training, coaching and technical assistance is informed by her most important role of raising three sons with emotional and behavioral health needs. She and her children have had experience in both the public and private sectors of behavioral health. Toni also served as a consultant to The National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability, and Permanency for LGBTQ2S Children and Youth in Foster Care implementation sites in an effort to support families in accepting their child’s gender identity and expression.

    Umut Durson, M.A.

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Transgender equity and inclusion
    • Suicide prevention and education
    • Military and veteran populations

    Umut Dursun has over 20 years of professional experience working in the fields of education, mental  and behavioral health, and social well-being, serving adults, youth, and families across the United States. Mr. Dursun specializes in content focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, school environments, and healthcare settings, and has worked with adult and youth systems of care addressing disparities related to gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, gender based violence and discrimination. In his role at YES Institute Umut supports the development and implementation of LGBTQ+ inclusive programs and curriculum in K-12 and collegiate settings, to prevent suicide and anti-gay based violence, and reduce gender and sexual orientation related bullying.

    Ezra Halstead, M.A.

    Pronouns: they/them and he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Community relations and strategic partnerships
    • Facilitation and educational content creation
    • Advocacy and outreach

    Ezra Halstead is the Director of Education and Outreach at FreeState Justice. In their position, they work to build connections and resources through client advocacy, community organizing, education, and outreach to achieve equity for vulnerable LGBTQ+ Marylanders. Ezra moved to the Baltimore area in 2017 after graduating from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies with a master’s degree in International Policy and Development and a dual concentration in Human Rights and Advocacy and Gender, Power, and Identity.

    Skylar Jackson, Ph.D.

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Stigma, intersectionality, and health
    • Resilience among LGBTQ+ people of color
    • Border identity stress
    • Stigma coping interventions

    Skyler Jackson is an Associate Research Scientist within the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Yale School of Public Health and an affiliate of the Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. His research focuses on understanding the psychosocial mechanisms through which experiences of stigma (e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia) shape health outcomes—and intervening upon them to improve the health and resilience of marginalized populations. Relying on a broad range of methodological approaches (e.g., microlongitudinal, qualitative, mixed methods), Dr. Jackson’s current projects explore how experiences of stigma-related stress—if not adequately coped with—interfere with psychological functioning and contribute to health disparities.

    Vida Khavar, LMFT

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Permanency and family acceptance
    • LGBTQ+ policies and practices
    • Child welfare

    Vida Khavar is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years of experience in child welfare. She is currently the project director for getREAL California and the Youth Acceptance Project at Family Builders. Through getREAL CA, Vida collaborates with and guides the California Department of Social Services in developing and implementing new affirming policies and practices for LGBTQ+ children in foster care. Vida also provides her clinical expertise, training, and technical assistance for the Youth Acceptance Project to several jurisdictions throughout the country.

    Justine Larson, M.D., M.P.H.

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Systems of Care
    • School-based psychiatry
    • Developmental disorders

    Justine Larson is the medical director of schools and residential treatment centers for Sheppard Pratt, the largest provider of nonpublic special education programming in Maryland. Prior to joining Sheppard Pratt, Dr. Larson served as the Senior Medical Advisor to Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She earned her MD at Harvard Medical School, her MPH in Family and Community Health at Harvard School of Public Arts, and her Master of Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.Dr. Larson serves as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is double board certified in general adult psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry.

    Kathy Lazear, M.A.

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Systems of Care
    • Cultural and linguistic competence
    • Health equity

    Kathy Lazear has over 35 years of experience in child and family services. She is a retired faculty member at the University of South Florida, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, Department of Child and Family Studies where she provided consultation, technical assistance, evaluation and training on developing Systems of Care with a focus on cultural and linguistic competence and youth suicide prevention. She is a currently a partner with the Human Service Collaborative of Washington, D.C., a policy and technical assistance group, and has worked internationally, with US states and communities, US territories and Native American Tribes to achieve health equity.

    Jill Levenson, Ph.D., LCSW

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Trauma-informed care
    • Vicarious trauma and self care
    • Sexual abuse victimization and perpetration
    • Clinical supervision

    Jill Levenson is a Professor of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL. She is a SAMHSA-trained trauma-informed care instructor, and has published 5 books and over 100 articles, many about adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed care. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Justice, the CDC, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Dr. Levenson is a licensed clinical social worker in South Florida. In 2020 she was NASW-FL Miami-Dade Social Worker of the Year. She has provided TIC trainings in more than 20 states, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and New Zealand.

    Jabari Lyles

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Supporting LGBTQ+ youth in systems

    • Developing strong allyship to the Trans community

    • LGBTQ+ history, culture, and language

    Jabari is an educator, community leader, and consultant with over 15 years of experience leading LGBTQ+ initiatives in Maryland. He is the former executive director at The Pride Center of Maryland and GLSEN Maryland, former chairperson of Baltimore Pride, and currently serves as Director of LGBTQ Affairs for the Office of Mayor Brandon M. Scott in the City of Baltimore. Jabari is a former elementary and middle school teacher and focuses much of his work on LGBTQ+ youth, gender, race, and public service.

    Linda Mitchell

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Family acceptance and permanency
    • Parent Peer Support
    • Child welfare

    Linda Mitchell started out as a Family Support Partner in 2008 in the Joint Planning Team Program. She was Credentialed in the High-Fidelity Wraparound Process, through the Youth and Family Training Institute in 2010. In 2017 Linda continued her role in the Foster Family Support Program. She utilized her experience as a foster/adoptive mom to help families understand the process and what it takes to foster/adopt a child. Then in 2018, she had the opportunity to utilize her skills and experience in the program of the Steps 2 Connect in partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. In Steps 2 Connect, she is the Family Engagement Specialist. She works with families that have children in the LGBTQ+ Community that are struggling to understand their child. She utilizes her experiences to offer families and caregivers support in helping to build and knowledge to support their youth. She has certifications in PSP, CPSP, HFW, and SOGIE. Linda works in partnership to train on SOGIE.

    John Pachankis, Ph.D.

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • LGBTQ+-affirmative mental health interventions
    • Identity development
    • Evidence-based practices

    John Pachankis is the Susan Dwight Bliss Associate Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry at Yale and Director of Yale’s LGBTQ Mental Health Initiative. His research examines the mental health of LGBTQ+ populations in the US and globally and the efficacy of LGBTQ+-affirmative mental health interventions. He has published over 100 scientific papers on LGBTQ+ mental health and stigma and recently co-edited the Handbook of Evidence-Based Mental Health Practice with Sexual and Gender Minorities, published by Oxford University Press.

    Ryan Papciak, M.S.W., LCSW

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Transgender health
    • Gender dysphoria and euphoria
    • Gender-affirming interventions

    Ryan Papciak is a trans man and doctoral student at Barry University’s School of Social Work. He is currently a graduate research assistant to Dr. Ashley Austin, with whom he is conducting research on the experiences of gender dysphoria for transgender and gender non-conforming adults in the U.S. In addition to this, his research focuses on the relationship between trauma and gender dysphoria for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

    Jerry Peterson

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Program development and measurement
    • Family acceptance and permanency
    • Community collaborations and system-change

    Jerry Peterson is a veteran nonprofit leader with over 35 years of experience in program development, implementation, administrative leadership, System of Care analysis, and change strategies, with a focus on LGBTQ+ children, youth, and their families. As Executive Director of the Ruth Ellis Center, Jerry Peterson launched and implemented a unique partnership with Henry Ford Health System to open a fully integrated, behavioral and primary health care center in Highland Park, Michigan.  The Health and Wellness Center opened in 2016 with the primary purpose to address the serious health disparities experienced by LGBTQ+ young people of color experiencing homelessness, system involvement, and other barriers to wellbeing in Detroit/Wayne County, Michigan.

    Sheila Pires

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Behavioral health of children, youth, and young adults
    • Policy and financing
    • Supporting families involved in multiple systems

    Sheila Pires has over 40 years of experience in child and family services, is a former Deputy Commissioner of Social Services, a former state child mental health director, and has held senior management and consulting positions at the federal level.  She is a founding partner of the Human Service Collaborative of Washington, D.C., a policy and technical assistance group, and has consulted with every state and many counties on policy and financing reforms.

    Lydia Proulx

    Pronouns: they/them

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Youth engagement
    • Youth Peer Support
    • Youth leadership development

    Lydia’s own lived experience with mental health, school, and youth leadership drives their dedication to authentic youth engagement, advocacy, and education. They’re excited about improving the service delivery model for LGBTQ+ youth on a national scale. Prior to working at Youth MOVE National, Lydia was Youth Program Manager of a statewide chapter, Youth MOVE Massachusetts. Currently, Lydia is studying for their MPH at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. In their spare time, Lydia volunteers on a local farm for hunger relief and teaches comprehensive sexual health education to youth and young adults.

    Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., ACSW

    Pronouns: she/her

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Family acceptance
    • Training professionals across settings on helping diverse families to support their LGBTQ+ children
    • Clinical case consultation

    Caitlin Ryan is a clinical social worker, researcher and Director of the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) who has worked on LGBTQ+ health and mental health for more than 40 years. Dr. Ryan developed the first evidence-based family support model to reduce risk and promote well-being for LGBTQ+ young people – in the context of their families, cultures and faith communities, including multilingual resources to increase family acceptance and support. She trains across the U.S. and in other countries and works with agencies, providers and faith communities to integrate FAP’s family support model into systems of care to build healthy futures for LGBTQ+ children and youth.

    Lee Westgate, M.B.A., M.S.W., LCSW-C

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Healthcare policy
    • Health equity
    • Pedagogy and curriculum design

    Lee C. Westgate, MBA, MSW, LCSW-C is a board approved clinical supervisor in the state of Maryland. He obtained his Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work and a Masters in Business Administration with a focus on Leadership and Management at the University of Baltimore. He is currently serves as a Clinical Instructor at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work. He has participated in a CSWE-sponsored National Trauma Task Force work-group that focused on the intersection of ethics and trauma-informed practice and was awarded an immersion fellowship through Boston University to study addiction and behavioral health. 

    Joseph Zolobczuk

    Pronouns: he/him

    Areas of Expertise:

    • Suicide and bullying prevention
    • LGBTQ+ client and patient care inclusion
    • Diverse religious communities

    For 25 years, Joseph Zolobczuk has served at YES Institute, a mission-driven nonprofit to prevent suicide and ensure the healthy development of all youth through powerful communication and education on gender and orientation. His entire professional career is dedicated to reducing mental and behavioral health disparities experienced by youth who identify as LGBTQ+ from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural/religious backgrounds. He develops curriculum and leads training workshops on LGBTQ+ health disparities that meet Florida Board of Nursing, Florida Board of Licensed Clinical Social Work, and Florida Certification Board continuing education accreditation standards. Joseph helped co-author two novel peer-reviewed studies on anti-gay bullying incidents in Florida as well as LGBTQ+-discrimination among helping professionals in the workplace.

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