Mental Health: Hope and Resilience in the Berkshires Virtual Conference

Hope and Resilience in the Berkshires

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Conference Description


December 9–10, 2020
9:00 am – 1:00 pm

FREE with a $25 suggested donation to support BCC Mental Health Certificate program students


The “Mental Health: Hope and Resilience in the Berkshires” conference will provide social workers and other human service and health care professionals with enhanced understanding about mental health stressors in different population groups, local resources and key tools to support individuals and families during this challenging time.

Participants will gain valuable knowledge about mental health during the times of pandemic, including:

  • Different ways of engagement with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities to advance social work effectiveness in the context of Berkshire County. 
  • Trauma, violence, self-care, addiction, and other mental health topics that can enhance locally-based social work practice.
  • Local resources and support services working with vulnerable population groups (children, older adults, people with substance use disorders, veterans, homeless people, immigrants, etc.). 
  • Possibilities for interprofessional teamwork and interorganizational collaboration.

Mental Health and Resilience Conference Resource Guide

Conference Schedule

Day One - Wednesday, December 9, 2020

  • Primary Session: 9:00 – 10:15 am  -   MENTAL HEALTH DURING PANDEMIC     

    Mental Health During Pandemic 

    COVID-19 pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on mental health all over the world. A public health crisis like this has been proven to cause political unrest, economic decline, social isolation, and overall challenges in accessing health care and human services. Multiple studies have demonstrated that COVID-19 pandemic has increased rates of risky behaviors and exacerbated acute stress, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of mental health decline. 

    This panel discussion will open a two-day conference Mental Health: Hope and Resilience in the Berkshires with presentations on how COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Berkshire County. The panelists will look at the most urgent issues and resources available for the general population and vulnerable groups in the Berkshires. 

    Speakers / Panelists
    • Kari Dupuis, LICSW, PhD, Associate Professor in Human Services, Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield, MA  

      Dr. Kari Dupuis teaches as Berkshire Community College where she also serves as a chair for social work transfer, addiction recovery, and mental health worker programs. Dr. Dupuis has twenty-five years of post MSW clinical experience including work as a school counselor, mediator, crisis counselor and clinical services director. She has intervention research experience with adolescents and has worked in a variety of settings including the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Violence Prevention Training Network and as a School Counselor and Mediator in the school system. 

    • Wes Buckley, BA, Program Director, National Alliance for Mental Health in Berkshire County, Pittsfield MA.  

      NAMI in Berkshire County is a non-profit organization offering education, advocacy, and support for anyone affected by mental illness. Programs are focused on serving families and/or caregivers and peer-to-peer resources to empower and educate them while caring for a loved one. NAMI programs are able to integrate with medical care and help to define and make visible the tools that people and families instinctively already have. Wes Buckley’s experience with mental health is both personal and through his own business as a teaching artist, bringing music programming to various settings, working with people of all abilities and creative interests. 

    • Lisa Mattila, BA, MEd, LMHC, LSW, Personal Counselor, Students Support Center, Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield MA. 

      Prior to her position at BCC, Lisa Mattila served as an outpatient therapist at the Brien Center and in residential treatment centers. Her areas of expertise are working with clients who are struggling with trauma, depression, anxiety, and adjustment issues utilizing various modalities such as psychodynamic, CBT and mindfulness. Lisa has created an internship program for undergraduates in psychology/ social work and graduate students in clinical mental health counseling. Lisa's experience in higher education also includes teaching, consulting, psycho-educational programming, and research. She has presented at several conferences regarding math anxiety, mental health issues with college students (of all ages) and BCC's CARE Team.   

    • Dr. Jennifer Michaels, MD, Medical Director, The Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Pittsfield, MA. 

      Dr. Michaels is the Medical Director of the Brien Center, Berkshire County’s largest community mental health provider, an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and an attending psychiatrist at Berkshire Medical Center. Dr. Michaels is dual board certified in adult and addiction psychiatry. She is a national mentor for the Physician Clinical Support System, a program providing training and education to physicians treating people with addictions. Dr. Michaels is a committed community educator on topics related to addiction, mental health and mindfulness. She has been treating people with behavioral health and addiction issues for over 25 years. 

    • Lee Watroba, BA, Program and Community Outreach Manager, Erikson Institute, Austen Riggs Center, Stockbridge, MA. 

      Lee Watroba is the Program and Community Outreach Manager of the Erikson Institute at the Austen Riggs Center.  She is the President of the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide, and sits on the Board of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Ms. Watroba is a member of the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and is a member of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Berkshire County. In 2016 received the NAMI Eunice Zorbo Member of the Year Award. Ms. Watroba was co-chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Berkshire County Out of the Darkness Community Walk in 2016 and 2017. She is also the Vice President of the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Watroba hold a bachelor’s of arts degree in Psychology from Westfield State University. 


    Bringing Post-traumatic Growth Principles to Clients Living with Mental Illness 

    In this challenging time in our world, many have identified the COVID-19 pandemic as a collective trauma. While the impacts of this trauma long term remain uncertain, those individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable to the reverberations of this collective trauma, both mentally and physically. This workshop will explore how Post-traumatic Growth principles may support our clients during this difficult time, and enhance overall coping and levels of resiliency. 


    Pamela Coley-McCann, BSW, MSW, LICSW, Assistant Professor, Berkshire Community College Human Services Department.  

    Pamela Coley-McCann has over 35 years of experience as a social worker and 15 years of experience in private practice working with clients facing a wide range of mental health needs. Pam has studied behavioral addictions, as well as the impact of trauma. Working from the lens of a trauma-informed perspective has been invaluable in her clinical work, and she is excited to share her knowledge in presentations to school personnel, students, and colleagues. 

  • Breakout Session Two: 10:30 – 11:30 am  - PANDEMIC OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE    

    Pandemic of Domestic Violence  

     COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on employment, housing, child care, safety, and social support for the most vulnerable population groups in Berkshire County. Many people who experience domestic violence have been trapped in their circumstances because of financial dependence, limited access to alternative housing, added stress of balancing work, child care and children’s schooling. Public health restrictions and closures dramatically reduced opportunities for domestic violence and child abuse to be reported or noticed by mandated reporters. 

     This session will discuss challenges related to domestic violence in the Berkshires and focus on resources available locally.  


    Deborah Parkington, BA, Director of Programs, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Pittsfield MA. 

    Elizabeth Freeman Center (EFC) provides services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families. EFC staff is located in accessible offices in Pittsfield, North Adams and Great Barrington, the Pittsfield police Department, the Adams Police Department, and Berkshire County Kids’ Place, Probate and Family Court and the District Courts in Great Barrington and North Adams. 

    Deborah Parkington supervises implementation of EFC programs; coordinates meetings to ensure that services are effectively delivered to survivors of sexual assault/domestic violence; programs staff training needs and staff development; serves as a link to community, state and nationwide organizations; supervises EFC’s physical response team which responds to police departments and hospitals throughout the county after normal business hours and on holidays and weekends following a sexual assault or domestic violence incident. 

  • Break: 11:30 - 11:45 am


  • Breakout Session Three:  11:45-12-45 pm - THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON NON-CITIZENS  

    The Impact of COVID-19 on Non-Citizens  

     The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every aspect of the US immigration system. Millions of immigrants and their families have been left without any responses or resources in the time of crisis. The situation is exacerbated by the unfortunate reality that a lot of recent immigrants and undocumented immigrants in the US are essential workers facing COVID-19 at the frontlines. Lack of health care and mental health resources is especially prominent for people who may lack language skills and knowledge of the way health care system functions in the US. Berkshire County experts working with immigrants will discuss the issues that are most urgent for local immigrant population. 


    Michelle Lopez, BA, MA, Executive Director, Berkshire Immigrant Center, Pittsfield, MA

    Michelle Lopez has an educational background in anthropology and Caribbean Studies. Michelle has 6 years of working at non-profit organizations. She began as the Coordinator for Cuba at Road Scholar, then she worked for the Institute for Study Abroad as Resident Director in Havana, Cuba, before her role at the Berkshire Immigrant Center (BIC). Michelle spent 2 years in higher education, first at the University of Buffalo as the International Education Office's Staff Assistant and then at Brandeis University as the Assistant Director of Study Abroad. At Berkshire Immigrant Center, she oversees program supporting individuals and families in making the economic, psychological and cultural adjustment to a new land, not only by meeting basic needs, but also by helping them to become active participants in Berkshire County communities.

  • Breakout Session Four:  11:45 – 12:45 pm  - SELF-CARE TO BUILD MENTAL HEALTH RESILIENCE  

    Self-care to Build Mental Health Resilience

    An introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an overview of the impact of stress on the nervous system, exploring the function of stress and the difference between stress reactivity and mindfully mediated stress response, and some basic, easy, practical tools for resetting the nervous system, restoring agency and choice with body awareness and self-compassion. 


    Gail Zinberg, LICSW, Certified MBSR Teacher, Mindful Berkshires, Pittsfield, MA

     Gail Zinberg has been a dedicated practitioner of Vipassana/Mindfulness meditation since 1983, having completed numerous silent retreats over the decades. She has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1999, specializing in trauma and dissociation, Relational Gestalt and Buddhist psychology. Gail received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher Certification from UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society in 2018. Gail received certification as an MBSR Live Online Teacher by East Coast Mindfulness, just as the pandemic was beginning. Gail continues to practice psychotherapy as well as teach MBSR online through Mindful Berkshires. 

  • Primary Session: 12:45 - 1:00 pm - DAY ONE - CONCLUSION

    Day One: Conclusion  

    Kari Dupuis will discuss the sessions that were held on December 9th and provide a preview of the sessions to be held on December 10th. 


Day Two - Thursday, December 10, 2020

  • Primary Session: 9:00 – 10:15 am - MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES ACROSS THE LIFESPAN   

    Mental Health Challenges Across the Lifespan 

    This panel discussion will focus on a range of mental health needs among older adults, children and their caregivers as well as those who recover from addictions and cope with mental health illnesses. We will talk about services and resources available for these population groups locally: counseling, outreach, treatment, and other programs. The panelists will share challenges of offering mental health services to different population groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Speakers / Panelists
    • Will Turner, LICSW, MSW, Behavioral Health Clinician, Coordinator of Elder Mental Health Outreach Team, Elder Services of the Berkshires, Pittsfield MA  

      Will Turner’s experience spans over 40 years in mental health covering hospitals, clinics, residential treatment, day treatment programs and Elder Services of the Berkshires. He is a trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapist (DBT). He is currently working with the elders of Berkshire County. 

    • Megan Wroldson, BA, MSW, LICSW, Division Director, Adult and Family Services, The Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services 

      Megan Eldridge Wroldson, LICSW, has worked in the social work field for over fifteen years. She has experience working with a number of client populations, including the elderly, persons with chronic illnesses and disabilities including HIV, cancer and blood disorders, persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with behavioral health disorders. In her role as a Division Director, she oversees adult outpatient behavioral health services, residential addiction treatment programs, and specialty services.  Megan has training in Acceptance Commitment Therapy, the NIATx process improvement model, domestic violence/sexual assault counseling, Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, and supervision of MSW interns.   

    • Ann Marie Carpenter, LICSW, Director of Social Emotional Learning and Student Support, Pittsfield Public Schools

      Ann Marie Carpenter has worked in the social work field for over thirty-five years. She oversees social emotional learning and student support programs in Pittsfield Public School System. 

    • Chris Haley, LICSW, Berkshire Are Director, Department of Mental Health, Pittsfield, MA 

      Chris Haley has been at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for the past six years.  She oversees all of the state-funded mental health services for adults in the area. She has over 30 years of mental health and social work experience.  She has worked with other agencies and community stakeholders to create trauma-informed systems in Berkshire County. 

  • Break: 10:15 - 10:30 am


  • Breakout Session One: 10:30 – 11:30 am  - COVID-19: SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES   

    COVID-19: Supporting Children and Families 

    This discussion will focus on the pandemic’s impact on the wellbeing of children and families. The experts will discuss how isolation increased anxiety and depression among children and adults. Some anxieties around financial security, being in this situation alone, juggling working and helping children with school, facing insecurity around housing, etc. We will talk about resources that exist in Berkshire County for children and families, how those resources have been utilized, and what are the challenges in making those resources and services available.  

    • Cynthia Segui, BS, MSW, LICSW, Family Support Coordinator, Community Health Programs, Great Barrington, MA

      Cynthia Segui is the Program Coordinator for ParentChild+ South County program at Community Health Programs as well as several other programs that support families with children ages 0-5. She has been working with children and families for 16 years focusing on trauma and behavioral disorders. Ms. Segui served as a School Adjustment Counselor at two elementary schools in the South Bronx, New York City; as an outreach counselor with the Social Intervention Group at Columbia University doing outreach with the homeless drug-involved population; a Child and Adolescent Clinician conducting individual and family therapy and a member of the Family Stabilization Team at The Brien Center; and the Clinical Director for Phoenix House Substance Abuse Treatment Center at the Berkshire County House of Corrections. Ms. Segui is an active participant with several collaboratives focused on improving the lives of families in need in South County. 

    • Hilary Houldsworth, BA, MSW, LICSW, Program Supervisor, Clinician for The Family Resource Center, the Brien Center, 18 Degrees Family Services for Western Massachusetts, Pittsfield, MA 

      Hilary Houldsworth began her career in the human services field in 2012 at The Brien Center, working in various roles with youth and families, providing direct care, therapeutic mentoring and intensive care coordination. After earning her MSW in 2016, she began working with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in an outpatient therapy setting in New York State at The Arc Mid-Hudson. Hilary Houldsworth relocated back to the Berkshires last year and began her current role at The Family Resource Center at 18 Degrees as the Clinician. In her current role she provides a parenting group, completes mental health assessments, provides short term therapy, referrals, and provides clinical oversight to the Family Resource Center staff. 


    •  Amy Hall, MSW, Program Manager, Family Support Programs, Child Care of the Berkshires, Inc.


      Amy Hall is the Program Manager for Family Support Programs at Child Care of the Berkshires, overseeing the Family Center, ParentChild+, Healthy Families and Parenting Partnership Programs.  She has been with CCB for over 20 years.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree (BA) in Psychology from MCLA, a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) from SUNY (State University of New York) and a Non-Profit Management Certificate from Duke University.  She is passionate about helping families build resiliency through strengths-based programming.


    • Kathryn Casella, M.A., LMHC, Supervisor, Child, Youth and Family Services, Department of Mental Health, Pittsfield, MA.

      Kathryn Casella has worked at the Department of Mental Health (DMH) since 1992. She is also an adjunct Instructor for the Elms College BSW program.  At DMH, Kathryn supervises the team responsible for providing mental health services and programs to children and youth at risk for psychiatric hospitalization.  The services include Case Management, Day Treatment programs, community, residential, and hospital levels of care.  The team collaborates with schools, social service agencies and mental health clinics and providers in Berkshire County.  

  • Breakout Session Two: 10:30 – 11:30 am  - STRUGGLES WITH ADDICTION  

    Struggles with Addiction 

    This presentation will explore significant challenges such as mental health, homelessness and stigma faced by individuals in addiction recovery, along with a discussion of available resources such as Clinical Stabilization Services for Substance Abuse, McGee Recovery Center, the Brien Center and other treatment options in Berkshire County. 


    Shannon McCarthy, MSW, LADC 1, LICSW, Administrative Director for Behavioral Health and Substance Use Disorders, Berkshire Health Systems, Pittsfield, MA  

    Shannon McCarthy is the Administrative Director for Behavioral Health and Substance Use Disorders.  Shannon has worked with clients that have a substance use disorder for over 20 years and she has worked closely with those with mental health concerns for over 10 years. In her current position, she oversees the day-to-day management and operation of the inpatient and outpatient Behavioral Health and Substance Use Disorders at Berkshire Health Systems.

  • Break: 11:30 - 11:45 am


  • Breakout Session Three:  11:45-12:45 pm - SUPPORTING VETERANS  

    Supporting Veterans  

    This session will focus on veterans and the mental health challenges that they may experience.  The presentation will explore services and resources available for this population locally: counseling, outreach, treatment, and other programs. The speakers will also share challenges of offering mental health services to veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    • Jon Schnauber, MSW, LCSW-MA, LMSW-VT, DSW(c), Instructor, Elms College 

      After returning from Afghanistan in 2003 Mr. Schnauber spent nine years working on veteran reintegration after war. As a Co-Founder of the Veterans and Service Members Association (VASMA) at UMass Amherst and the Regional Director for the Student Veterans of America Mr. Schnauber was deeply involved in advocating and supporting the Veteran Community.  Since his return Mr. Schnauber has earned several credentials and higher education degrees related to social work. He is currently a doctoral student in social work at the University of Southern California. 

    • Bruce Buckley, CEO and President, Soldier On 

      Soldier On is a private, nonprofit organization committed to ending veteran homelessness. Soldier On's mission is to help veterans reclaim their place in the community while returning meaning, dignity, and hope to their lives. Soldier On offers a continuum of ongoing care to veterans and their families that includes immediate and long-term housing with an array of support services delivered where they live. The ultimate goal is to provide formerly homeless veterans with permanent, supportive, sustainable housing with services. 

  • Breakout Session Four:  11:45 – 12:45 pm  - HOMELESSNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH   

    Homelessness and Mental Health 

    This session will discuss the many challenges of homelessness and how these stressors impact mental health.  Participants will also learn about the services provided by Construct, Eliot Community Human Services, and Louison House , along with other resources for homeless individuals and families in Berkshire County. 

    • Jane Ralph, BA, MDiv, Executive Director, Construct, Great Barrington, MA  

      Jane Ralph came to Construct from north central Vermont. She served as Executive Director of the Clarina Howard Nichols Center serving those affected by domestic and sexual violence. As affordable housing was a primary obstacle to safety, under Jane’s leadership Clarina expanded their response to that need. Jane has worked with housing and homelessness in Washington DC and Kansas City as well as Vermont. Primary interests include building compassionate community through intersectional approaches to racial equity and social change. 

    • Kathy Keeser, MSW, Executive Director, Louison House, North Adams, MA 

      Kathy Keeser has worked with individuals who have experienced homelessness and mental illness for many years in the Berkshires and in St. Louis, Missouri. Louison House in North Berkshire County provides a Transitional Housing Shelter that can house families and individuals for up to two years. Louison House also offers a variety of services to further support residents to secure housing and engage in skills development.  


    • Andrew Klatka, LMHC, Homeless Services, Eliot Community Human Services Inc.

       Andy Klatka works in the Homeless Services Division at Eliot Community Human Services.  Eliot CHS provides clinically based outreach services to an adult homeless population with mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders to promote an improved quality of life by facilitating access to housing, treatment, and other needed resources/services.  Andy supervises a homelessness transition team that covers the 3 County Region including Berkshire, Franklin, and Hampshire Counties.  He works closely with the homeless shelters in Berkshire County and serves as a clinical liaison between shelters, human service agencies, and the mental health system. 


  • Conference Conclusion: 12:45 - 1:00 pm


    Kari Dupuis will conclude the two days of the conference. 



Continuing Education Credits

Application for social work continuing education credit has been submitted. Please contact Dr. Elena Nuciforo at BCC ( for the status of social work CE accreditation.

CE Credit FAQs


Last updated: 12/7/2020


For more information please contact Dr. Kari Dupuis or Dr. Elena Nuciforo at