Oryx Cohen, M.P.A.
Chief Operating Officer
Oryx is working with NEC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to continue systems change state by state. The most important part of what informs his work is his lived experience with altered states of consciousness: being diagnosed, hospitalized, and subsequently finding a path to healing.
Work experience he brings to NEC includes co-directing the Western
Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (WM RLC) for the past four years. At
the WM RLC he helped develop a system funded peer-run alternative to the
mainstream system that has experienced amazing success (www.westernmassrlc.org).
He also co-founded the Freedom Center in 2001, the Pioneer Valley’s only
independent peer-run support/activist organization. Freedom Center’s purpose is
to empower and support people with psychiatric labels while challenging
oppressive mental health policies and practices (www.freedom-center.org).
He has served on several boards and committees internationally, nationally and
regionally, including the International Network Toward Alternatives for Recovery
(INTAR) and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA).
He volunteered for several years with MindFreedom International, directing its
Oral History Project. This project involved collecting and documenting c/s/x
stories of abuse, empowerment, and healing in the mental health system. He is
currently adjunct faculty in the Westfield State College Psychology Department.
If you would like to request Oryx Cohen to give a presentation in your area, click here to complete this form.
Coordinator of Emotional CPR
Cultural and Linguistic Competency Coordinator
Maria works for the National Empowerment Center (NEC) as the Emotional CPR (eCPR) coordinator and trainer (English and Spanish) and Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Coordinator. Maria translated the eCPR program into Spanish, which has been embraced by Promotores (Community Outreach Workers) and in Puerto Rico. Her passion for her work comes from her own personal background as both a survivor of trauma and a family member. Maria is committed to support, strengthen, and promote projects like eCPR that promote community-based education of mental wellness. “I believe in dialogue to build a common path of humanity. eCPR gives us a voice individually and collectively and opens a sense of wonder and humility.”
Judene Shelley, M.P.H.
Director of Special Projects
Judene has long believed in the power of people working together to create
change. While raising her children, she worked with other parents to reform a
public elementary school in New York City, to build a playground for young
children in Rowley and to establish a weekend drop-in activity center for teens
in Hamilton, Massachusetts. She currently volunteers as a girl scout camping
leader and accompanies the public school chorus where her children sing. She has
helped raise funds to preserve music, arts, and world languages in her local
public school system. Judene’s recovery from a label of mental illness included
counseling, publishing articles and speaking about choice in treatment and
recovery as well as singing, kayaking, hiking, bicycling, and cross country
skiing with family and friends.
Education - Judene has been an advocate for positive health since
receiving her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Chapel Hill
in North Carolina. She taught at Durham Community College's Early Childhood
program, served as Interim Program Director, and helped organize annual
conferences for providers. Judene worked for the Massachusetts Department of
Public Health as a Health Educator in the addictions field before coming to NEC.
Advocate - Judene has been an active member of the consumer-survivor-expatient
movement since her involuntary hospitalization in 1993, testifying before
Massachusetts legislative committees in the process of passing a Bill of Rights
for mental patients and reforming the involuntary commitment law. Judene was one
of the people whose story was highlighted in a May 1997 Boston Globe Spotlight
Series on Involuntary Commitment. She also worked as the Boston Area Director of
the Massachusetts Consumer Satisfaction Team.
Presenter and Writer - Judene presents at conferences on Consumer
Choice through Crisis, Experiencing the Full Range of One’s Emotions, and
Wellness and Recovery. Her newspaper articles include topics such as Teen Anger,
Depression, and Finding the Path to Mental Health. Judene was the former chair
of the Human Rights Committee of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health,
and organized their series of highly successful statewide human rights
conferences for several years.
B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Recovery From Mental Illness and Becoming a Commissioner - Dan is a
person who has recovered from schizophrenia. He was hospitalized several times
prior to becoming a psychiatrist. He is one of the few psychiatrists in the
country who publicly discusses his recovery from mental illness. He is a role
model for others who are struggling to recover, and his life dispels the myth
that people do not recover from mental illness. His recovery and work in the
field were recognized by his selection as a member of the White House Commission
on Mental Health.
Education and Practice - Dan received his AB from Princeton University,
his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin and his M.D. from
George Washington University. He is a board-certified psychiatrist who completed
his residency at Harvard Medical School. He is presently Executive Director of
the National Empowerment Center.
Speaker/Teacher/Researcher - Dan travels to all parts of the country to
conduct workshops, give keynote addresses, teach classes, and organize
conferences for consumers/survivors, families, and mental health providers to
promote recovery of people labeled with mental illness by incorporating the
principles of empowerment. He has been featured on many radio and television
programs, including CNN Special Report. In addition he is a researcher having
carried out research into neurotransmitters at the National Institute of Mental
Health and on the ways that people recover. Along with Laurie Ahern, he
developed the Empowerment Model of Recovery and the PACE/Recovery program to
shift the system to a recovery orientation. He was recognized for this work by
being selected for both the Clifford Beers National Mental Health Association
Award and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law's Advocacy Award.
Author - Dan has written chapters in many books, as well as a number of
articles in professional journals such as Hospital and Community Psychiatry and
the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal. He has produced a video and booklet
about important aspects of recovery, "Recovery is for Everyone" as well as a
video on "Consumers Working as Providers."
If you would like to request Dan Fisher to give a presentation in your area, click here to complete this form.
Emily Sheera Cutler
Emily is a young adult psychiatric survivor who is currently helping NEC organize Alternatives 2017 on a consultant basis. Ever since her involuntary hospitalization at age 20, she has been passionate about fighting for the civil rights, liberty, and autonomy of people labeled mentally ill. She has written about her experiences in publications including Psych Central Pro, The Mighty, the Daily Pennsylvanian, and the Jewish Currents. In addition to working at the National Empowerment Center, Emily is an editor at the web magazine Mad In America. She is also a member of the Healing Voices Social Action Team and founder of the grassroots group Southern California Against Forced Treatment. Emily received a BA in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania, where she wrote an Honors Thesis on weight bias in the education system. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
Deborah Trueheart comes to NEC as a consultant, educator, counselor, artist,
writer, motivational speaker, and change agent. She has transformed her own
experience of suffering and is passionate about helping to birth a new paradigm
in mental health care by moving away from pathology toward wholeness-based
Deborah devoted the past 16 years to the study of psychology, holism,
metaphysics, process therapy, spirituality, and the healing process. She held
positions in business management, volunteer management, training and
development, community organizing, and mental health advocacy. She served as
direct care staff in several DMH and DMR funded residential facilities,
volunteered on a telephone counseling service, and had a private counseling
practice. She was the team leader for a federal grant project to create a
statewide network of people who use mental health services in Massachusetts, and
established the first Massachusetts Leadership Academy to build advocacy and
leadership skills. She received cultural competence training at the National
Coalition Building Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and is of Native American
Deborah is an experienced trainer, workshop facilitator and speaker. She has
been developing and facilitating workshops since 1989 and has presented at
Massachusetts Human Rights Conferences, annual statewide consumer conferences in
Maryland, Virginia, and New York, and nationally at NARPA and Alternatives
Conferences. She has also conducted one-day workshops and led retreats in
Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and
Pennsylvania. As Director of Training and Development, she coordinated a
state-work-force training grant awarded to Relief Resources, an organization
that provides relief staff to direct care facilities.
Deborah is developing a curriculum: Living Into Wholeness. This combines her
experiential wisdom and studies to create principles and practices that help
change habitual thought and behavior patterns, bringing one to a greater state
of wholeness and wellbeing.
Deborah has written extensively on mental health issues and recovery. She has
published essays, poetry, photography, as well as book and theater reviews. All
of Deborah’s activities are informed by her own experience of personal
transformation from psycho-spiritual suffering and trauma history. Deborah is
also a family member.
Education: Leslie College, Cambridge MA: Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral
Middlesex Community College, Lowell, MA: Associates Degree in Mental Health
1993. Graduated with highest honors; Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
Deborah is available for trainings, workshops and keynote presentations and
consulting on the following topics:
- Wellness Principles & Practices
- More than Brain Chemistry: Holistic Approaches to Alleviate Suffering
- Inside/Outside: Personal and Systemic Transformation
- We’re in this Together: How do I Help my Family Member?
- Beyond Pathology: Training for Professionals
Here is more information for two of Deborah Trueheart's trainings:
Living Into Wholeness (PDF, 237KB, 1 page)
Being a Catalyst for Social Evolution by Following Your Compass of Joy (PDF, 217KB, 1 page)