Staff
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Amy Nitza, Ph.D, LMHC, Institute Director

Dr. Amy Nitza is the Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at SUNY New Paltz.  She is a psychologist who specializes in providing mental health training in academic and non-academic settings both nationally and internationally, with an emphasis on disaster mental health and trauma recovery. As a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Botswana, she trained mental health and school counselors and studied the use of group counseling interventions in HIV/AIDS prevention among adolescents.   She has collaborated with the University of Notre Dame in Haiti to develop trauma-related interventions for children in domestic servitude, and to provide training for teachers in dealing with traumatized children in the classroom.  She is also currently collaborating with UNICEF USA to develop and implement a program of mental health support for children impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  Amy is the author and editor of numerous publications, including the recent book Disaster Mental Health Case Studies: Lessons Learned from Counseling in Chaos.  She is a Fellow of the Association for Specialists in Group Work and serves on the Executive Board of the Society for Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy (Division 49) of the American Psychological Association.  She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University.  She formerly served as an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Professional Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

 

 

Karla Vermeulen, Ph.D, Deputy Director

Karla Vermeulen, Ph.D., is the Deputy Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health and an Associate Professor of Psychology at SUNY New Paltz, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in disaster mental health, grief counseling, and developmental psychology. In addition to teaching and research, she has coordinated the development and production of training curricula for the New York State Department of Health and Office of Mental Health, the American Red Cross, the United Nations, and other organizations. She is co-author of Disaster Mental Health Interventions: Core Principles and Practices (2017) and co-editor of Disaster Mental Health Case Studies: Lessons Learned from Counseling in Chaos (2019), both published by Routledge. She is currently completing a book on the developmental impact of disasters and other stressors on today’s emerging adults. 

 

 

 

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Rebecca Rodriguez, M.S., Program and Operations Manager

Rebecca Rodriguez, M.S., is the Program and Operations Manager for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH). She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Disaster Studies and a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from State University of New York at New Paltz. Rebecca is a certified American Red Cross Volunteer and has been with IDMH since 2011, serving as coordinator and principle investigator on numerous grants and activities, including projects for USAID West Bank/Gaza, United Nations Emergency Support Team, NYS Office of Mental Health, Department of Health, Office of Victim Services, and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelsey Valencia, M.A., Program Coordinator on Student Psychological Resilience Project

Kelsey Valencia, M.A., is the Program Coordinator for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) on the Student Psychological Resilience, Project which seeks to educate students on campus with stress management and psychological first aid. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from The College of Saint Rose and a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Kelsey worked as a Program Assistant for the Office of Veteran and Military Services and IDMH’s joint projects to create and share best practices for supporting military-affiliated students on campus.

 

 

Ethan C. Yake, Strategic Engagement Advisor

Ethan C. Yake is a humanitarian with 15+ years of experience building partnerships.  His desire for transformational change on behalf of mission-driven organizations has taken him around the world — managing bus tours in rural America and concerts at The White House, responding to natural disasters in Ecuador and Nepal, and observing international elections in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan.  He holds degrees from Kenyon College and Brown University; he loves the Green Bay Packers.

 

 

 

 

Andrew O'Meara, B.A., Graduate Assistant

Andrew O’Meara, B.A., is the Graduate Student Assistant for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH). He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at Potsdam and is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from State University of New York at New Paltz. Andrew has been with IDMH since May of 2019 where he assists in student advising for the Undergraduate Minor, maintaining the Institute’s social media presence, planning for the Annual IDMH Conference and conducting research to assist on various other projects and trainings. In addition to his work with IDMH, Andrew is also a Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services Volunteer, a Counselor-in-Training with Astor Services for Children & Families and is currently conducting research on substance use in marginalized communities.

 

 

Juan Carlos Rivera Ramos, M.Ed., LPC, Trainer for Caribbean Programs

Juan Carlos Rivera Ramos, M.Ed., LPC, is a trainer for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH).  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, where he is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Social Policy.  Over the past decade, Juan Carlos has worked as a Counselor for a TRIO Talent Search Program and as a Lecturer for a post-secondary institution.  He has served as public policy intern in Washington DC advocating for Hispanic population rights, and has been an active advocate for low income and first-generation students in the Federal Capitol.  During his Masters studies, Juan Carlos explored the impact of internet addiction on youth.  With IDMH, he has collaborated with UNICEF USA to train teachers from Puerto Rico’s Department of Education and elsewhere throughout the Caribbean.  He is currently a member of the Caribbean Association of Educational Opportunity Programs, where he has served as Treasurer and Coordinator for Government Affairs and Professional Development.  He has participated in trainings with the Association for Specialists in Group Work, and the Council for Opportunity in Education.  He is currently working as researcher and contact tracer in a regional epidemiology office on the island of Puerto Rico.

 


 

Please direct any questions or inquiries for trainings & interviews to the IDMH Graduate Student 
Assistant at idmh@newpaltz.edu or (845)-257-3477