Keynote Speakers


March 15-18, 2020

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Our lineup of amazing keynote speakers is set!

Monday, March 16, 2020
Morning Keynote Address
8:30 am – 9:45 am 

Keys to Improving Health and Wellbeing for Our Children
David R. Williams, Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health; Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA

About the Presenter

David R. Williams is the Norman Professor of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies and of Sociology at Harvard University. His prior academic appointments were at Yale University and the University of Michigan. His research has focused on trends and determinants of socioeconomic and racial disparities in health, the effects of racism on health and the ways in which religious involvement can affect health. He is the author of more than 150 scholarly papers in scientific journals and edited collections, and he has been ranked as one of the Top 10 Most Cited Researchers in the Social Sciences during the last decade. Black Issues in Higher Education ranked him as the 2nd Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences in 2006. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Morning Keynote Address
8:30 am – 9:45 am

From Systems to Opportunity: Promising Approaches That Connect Young People to Families and Communities
Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez,
Vice President, Center for Systems Innovation, Annie E. Casey Foundation

What happens when youth-serving systems, researchers, and policymakers step back, reexamine their long-held beliefs about what works and listen to how young people and their families think about challenges and solutions? In this keynote address, Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, vice president of the Center for Systems Innovation at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will share examples of leaders who have challenged their own assumptions, connected deeply with the people they serve and emerged with creative, promising strategies to achieve safer communities and a better path for young people to transition to adulthood. Gasca-Gonzalez also will share new ways leaders are using federal funding streams and other resources to support approaches rooted in youth voice, community, and equity.

About the Presenter

Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez is the vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Systems Innovation, which entails overseeing national and state reform efforts in three key areas: child welfare, young people transitioning into adulthood, and juvenile justice. Prior to assuming this role in 2018, Sandra served as the director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, which aims to equip young people leaving foster care with the relationships, resources, and opportunities needed to achieve well-being and success as they transition into adulthood. As the director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Initiative, Sandra led national, state, and local efforts to improve policies and practices to ensure young people have the opportunity to successfully transition from foster care to adulthood. She is known for her fearlessness in tackling deep-rooted challenges and her willingness to go into diverse communities to increase engagement in a way that benefits children and families.

Sandra is a published author in the area of human trafficking of young people in foster care and translating adolescent brain science into child welfare practice. As an alumna of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Fellowship program, Sandra also is a graduate of the National Hispanic Leadership Institute, a recipient of an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard University, and has been recognized by business journals in two states as a “40 Under 40” leader. She earned a master’s degree in psychology from Emporia State University and a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Afternoon Plenary
2:45 pm – 4:00 pm 

Workforce Innovations and Opportunity Act: An Opportunity to Invest in the Employment of Youth and Young Adults (Ages 14+) With Mental Health Conditions

Richard Luecking, EdD, Co-Director of the Center for Transition and Career Innovation for Youth with Disabilities, Research Professor at the University of Maryland (UMD); Nancy Koroloff, PhD, Research Professor,  Pathways Research and Training Center and Professor Emeritus, School of Social Work, Portland State University, Portland Oregon; Shane Blackburn, IPS Supported Employment Specialist, Pathways, Inc (Kentucky)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), passed by Congress in 2014, is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market. One of the most innovative pieces of WIOA is that it mandates specific approaches for youth, including state vocational rehabilitation agencies providing Pre-Employment Transition Services (pre-ETS; e.g., work-based learning experiences like internships) for students with disabilities. Students with serious mental health conditions (SMHC) should have access to pre-ETS, however,  many providers in non-school settings for transition-age youth with SMHC are still unaware of this initiative. This plenary will describe research about collaborations between state vocational rehabilitation and child mental health systems and provide an overview of WIOA, how it came to be, and what it mandates for youth with disabilities. Mental health providers from Kentucky will describe their collaborations with the KY Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to develop pre-ETS programming and support the needs of young adults with SMHC. Attendees will also learn ideas on how to enhance collaboration between agencies of mental health and vocational rehabilitation to support youth with SMHC transitioning to employment.

About the Presenters

Richard Luecking previously served for 28 years as President of TransCen, Inc., a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving employment success of people with disabilities. During his tenure at TransCen he was responsible for the implementation of numerous model demonstration and research projects related to the transition from school to work of youth with disabilities. Currently, at UMD, he is leading research and demonstration projects that feature the use of Pre-Employment Transition Services as prescribed under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Dr. Luecking’s professional history also includes serving as a state vocational rehabilitation counselor, the director of non-profit competitive integrated employment service programs, and a member of local and state Workforce Investment Boards. He also served as a Policy Advisor to the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, where he helped establish its national Employment First initiative.  His research interest is the translation of knowledge for both policy makers and practitioners.

Nancy Koroloff has been an active researcher in the field of child, adolescent and young adult mental health services and policies since 1984.  In her early years she conducted research about family advocacy organizations, family peer-to-peer support and the importance of family involvement in evaluating child mental health services and having input into mental health policy.  More recently she has conducted research related to young adults with mental health concerns.  With Barbara Friesen she has published a review of the impact of housing policies on young adults with mental health challenges and documented the potential for young advocacy groups to change policy.  Dr. Koroloff worked with FREDLA to develop the Fam-VOC, a survey that measures how effectively mental health advisory groups or council include family members as partners.  Recently she co-authored an article reviewing research relevant to family member involvement in  the transition process with their young adult child. She is a co-researcher in the Triangle Research Project, studying the relationship among child mental health, adult mental health and vocational rehabilitation services. 

Shane Blackburn is a recent graduate of Morehead State University. He is the first college graduate in his family. Shane works as an IPS Supported Employment Specialist in Morehead, KY. He currently attends the University of Louisville, where he is working on a Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Mental Health. Shane has a decade of experience working with youth and has served as a missionary in Uganda, Nicaragua, New Orleans, and South Carolina. Shane hopes to serve and assist youth in Appalachia impacted by social and health disparities to help in the re-development of his community and families affected by the current state of the Appalachia.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Morning Keynote Address
8:30 am – 9:45 am 

Advances in Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy: Reflections From a 25-Year “Advocrat”
Gary M. Blau, Executive Director for the Hackett Center for Mental Health, Houston, TX

In this keynote address, Dr. Gary Blau, Executive Director for The Hackett Center for Mental Health, and long-time leader of children’s mental health efforts at the state and federal levels, will discuss progress made over the past 25 years in children’s mental health research and policy. As a former “bureaucrat” that was a staunch “advocate” for youth, families and quality services, Dr. Blau will also share his thoughts on the key challenges facing the children’s mental health research and policy community, and steps necessary to address those challenges. Finally, Dr. Blau will share his vision for how public-private partnerships can be strengthened to ensure a higher commitment to fidelity in research, policy, and practice.

About the Presenter

Gary M. Blau is the Executive Director of The Hackett Center for Mental Health. The Hackett Center was established in January 2018 as the inaugural regional center of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. Leveraging the participation of exceptionally skilled researchers, community leaders, and health care providers, The Hackett Center’s purpose is to transform systems and influence policy through unprecedented collaboration. Before Dr. Blau’s appointment as Executive Director of the Hackett Center, he spent the past 15 years as Chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in Maryland. At SAMHSA, Dr. Blau provided national leadership for children’s mental health, helping create systems of care across the country and launching an array of high-impact policy and practice transformation efforts that have changed the landscape of mental health for children.

Dr. Blau has extensive experience in public policy, developing evidence-based community programs, implementing health care reform initiatives, and focusing on critical issues such as trauma, school-based mental health, prevention and early intervention, health disparities, and poverty. Dr. Blau is perhaps best known for his leadership in expanding awareness and support for the values and principles reflected in the “system of care” framework; namely, that services and supports should be organized into a coordinated network, that meaningful partnerships should be built with service users, and that services and systems should be evidence-based and culturally and linguistically competent.