conference agenda & speakers

conference AGENDA

8:00 - 8:30   Registration/Breakfast

8:30 - 9:00 Opening Remarks:

Overview of some of the hardships that Berkshire County is currently facing
- Alex Sabo, MD

9:30 - 10:30 SESSION

“Enhancing Connections:  Introduce Concepts and Research behind Prevention Through Meaning-Making, Purpose, Connection and Resiliency”
- Alex Sabo, MD

10:30 - 10:45 Break

10:45 - 12:15  Yoga & Sound Meditation

- Rev. O’Malley, MD, Ph. D.

12:15 - 1:15     Lunch

1:15 - 2:30      Break-Out Groups

(Choose one of the three breakout sessions)

  • LGBTQ+

Facilitated by: Brenda Bahnson, LICSW
Additional speakers:  Christina Marks, LICSW; Emma Lenski, MSW; Kenneth Mercure.

  • Youth

Facilitated by: Christine Decker, LMHC
Additional speakers:   William Travis, Ed.D., Hunter Schrade; Kiara Bresett; Jane O’Leary

  •  Community Level

Facilitated by: Alex Sabo, MD
Additional speakers:  Christine Haley, LICSW; Amber Besaw; Chris Tucci, MFA

2:30 - 2:45   Break

2:45 - 4:00    Large Group Panel

Large Group Panel - ‘What Struck You and Where Do We Go From Here’
Moderators:  Alex Sabo, MD and Rev. Mary O’Malley, MD, Ph. D.

4:00 - 4:30   Conference Summary

Conference Summary - Alex Sabo, MD

Conference speaker BIOs: (In order of Appearance)

Name:  Alex Sabo, MD
License and Degrees:  MD
Dr. Sabo, MD is the Chair and Program Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, MA.  He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association

Name:  Rev. Mary O’Malley, MD, Ph.D.
License and Degrees:  MD, Ph.D.
Rev. O’Malley is a Massachusetts licensed physician, board certified in psychiatry and an Interfaith/Interspiritual Minister.  She is an Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry Voluntary Faculty School of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester, MA.  She is also the Medical Director, Consultation-Liaison Service, Berkshire Medical Center, Dept. of Psychiatry, Pittsfield, MA.

Name:  Brenda Bahnson                                                                                 
License and Degrees:  LICSW, MSW
Ms. Bahnson is currently the Administrative Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, MA.  She has previously served as the Department Director, Director of Operations and Program Director-Primary Care Outreach Team.

Name:  Christina Marks
License and Degrees:  LICSW
Christina Marks, LICSW has practiced clinical social work with children, adolescents, young adults and families for over 18 years.  The majority of her previous clinical work transpired in the community mental health arena in the Berkshires, through a variety of clinical and management roles at The Brien Center Child and Adolescent Division. Christina continues her passion of working with young adults through her role as Clinical Coordinator for Berkshire Health Systems Zero Suicide Grant. 

Name:  Emma Lenski
License and Degrees:  BA, MS
Emma Lenski identifies as a queer woman. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and English from MCLA, and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through SNHU. Emma has spoken at the 2017 Berkshire District Attorney's STRIVE Youth Leadership conference as well as at the 2018 Berkshire Pride celebration. She currently works as the Live Out Loud Youth Project's Group Coordinator, in addition to being the Elizabeth Freeman Center's South County LGBTQ Counselor/Advocate. 

Name:  Kenneth Mercure
Kenneth Mercure has been a longtime advocate and patient peer support guide for those who struggle with Lyme disease and he understands how chronic illness can erode an individual’s resilience to cope with the stressors of life. Kenneth co-founded the well-attended Annual Berkshire Pride Festival. His skills as a political activist have helped others in the LGBTQIA Community to become empowered. Kenneth is currently the Director of the Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County which is a program serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors and their allies who live in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

Name:  Christine Decker
License and Degrees:  M.Ed., MBA (pending 2019)
Ms. Decker is Outpatient Behavioral Health Services Manager of the Psychiatry Department at Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, MA.  In addition to a Bachelor degree in Psychology, a Master of Education degree in Psychology she is pursuing and MBA (expected in 2019).  She has held several positions at BMC since 2009 including:  Youth Zero Suicide Program Manager, Behavioral Health Care Manager, Quality Management Director (Acute Services), Director of Acute Care Operations and Mobile Crisis Coordinator.

Name:  William Travis
License and Degrees:  Doctor of Education, MA
Dr. Travis is a long time Berkshire County educator and administrator serving in superintendent positions for 20 years.  In addition to a Bachelor degree, he holds a Master degree in Teaching and a Doctor of Education degree.

Name:  Hunter Schrade
Hunter Schrade is a program assistant, visiting AIRY facilitator, fine artist and co-facilitator of the new Art & Peer group for teens and young adults at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Monday evenings. He is a graduating senior at MCLA preparing for a Master's degree in Art Therapy. Hunter is trained in suicide prevention and trauma informed care with youth and recently presented at Love Yourself, Community Education and Awareness Day at the Colonial Theatre, as well as Anna Maria College's 2019 Art Therapy symposium in Paxton MA. In addition to his expertise in gender studies and LGBQTIA peer mentorship, he shares his lived experience, as featured in the 2018 suicide prevention and survivor documentary, Messages of Hope. For more information about the AIRY program please visit www.airyedu.com or contact Founder/Director, Marney Schorr at airyberkshires@gmail.com.

Name:  Kiara Bresett
Kiara Bresett is a 2017 original pilot member and intern of the AIRY program, and an early track student at MCLA, majoring in art and psychology in preparation for a Master's degree in Art Therapy. Kiara has presented for Springfield College's Graduate Art Therapy Program, the 2018 MA State Suicide Prevention Conference and at Anna Maria College's 2019 Art Therapy symposium. Kiara is a fine artist, peer mentor, and designer of self soothing and sensory based art materials for stress reduction. Kiara has served the AIRY program for the last two years at community events and is proud to be the first of the many AIRY success stories.For more information about the AIRY program please visit www.airyedu.com or contact Founder/Director, Marney Schorr at airyberkshires@gmail.com.

Name:  Jane O’Leary 
License and Degrees:  MA
Jane O’Leary (Director of Education) joined Barrington Stage in September 2015 as the director of the Playwright Mentoring Project and KidsAct! programs. Prior to joining BSC, Jane earned her Masters in Applied Theatre at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Having studied Drama as an undergraduate at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Jane studied at Stella Adler Studios as well as Playwrights Horizons. A member of Actor’s Equity, Jane has performed in many productions regionally and in NYC. A former teacher and director at Gotham City Improv, Jane has performed, produced and directed countless improv shows in NYC at Gotham City Improv, The Magnet, Upright Citizen’s Brigade and The PIT. Jane has presented at conferences at Williams College, Keane University and Baruch College. As a teaching artist Jane has worked with the Creative Arts Team (NY), Broadway Classroom (NY), NYC Children’s Theater (NY),  Mosholu Montefiore (Bronx) and JCC on the Palisades (NJ). Jane serves on the board of The Christian Center in Pittsfield and is deeply committed to issues of social justice. She recently won a Neighborly Award for her work with PMP in North Adams.

Name:  Christine Haley
License and Degrees:  MS, Master of Law, BSW

Ms. Haley is currently the Site Director, Berkshire County for the Department of Mental Health.  She has worked as a clinician at Elder Services of Berkshire County, Sisters of Providence Healthcare, The Brien Center and Holyoke Medical Center.

Name:  Amber Besaw
License and Degrees: MA

Amber Besaw, the Executive Director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, is a northern Berkshire resident. Amber has a Master's Degree in Community Mental Health and Counseling and an undergraduate degree in Sociology. She has been working with children & families in New York and Massachusetts for the past 20 years. Amber has lived and worked in Berkshire County for the past 12 years, initially as a Clinician with the Brien Center's Child & Adolescent Division, then the Brien Center's Community Service Agency, until moving to the Coalition to build The Family Place, family resource center program in 2011.  Since that time, Amber has moved into the Executive Director's position and is focused on leading the Coalition in fulfilling it's mission of empowering the region to enhance the quality of life through it's efforts of connecting, convening, and supporting all facets of the community.

Name:  Chris Tucci
License and Degrees:  MFA

Chris is the Deputy Director at RSYP. He grew up in Delaware, Ohio and graduated from Muskingum University in 2000 and UCLA in 2003. Chris spent the last eight years as the Associate Professor and Director of Theatre at Heidelberg University. Since 2003 he has also worked as a counselor, Program Director, and Director in Los Angeles and Northwest Connecticut for summer youth programs. He has been a featured speaker and program coordinator at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and the American Camp Association’s Tri-State and New England conference on a number of social justice and youth programming issues. He also is a passionate theatre maker and his work has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Berkshire Eagle, the Valley Advocate, Rural Intelligence, Metroland, Berkshire Living Magazine, Berkshire Magazine, the New York Sun, Chronogram, the Women’s Times, and has been featured on NBC News Channel 10’s Mass Appeal, WAMC Northeast Public Radio and New England Public Radio.