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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 for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) and an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department of SUNY New Paltz, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in disaster mental health, grief counseling, and lifespan developmental psychology among other topics. She holds a Masters in Psychology from SUNY New Paltz, a Doctorate in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham, and a Certificate in Mental Health in Complex Emergencies from the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation. In addition to teaching and research, she has coordinated the development and production of IDMH training curricula for the New York State Department of Health and Office of Mental Health, the American Red Cross, the United Nations, United States Agency for International Development West Bank/Gaza, and other organizations. She is co-author of the textbook, Disaster Mental Health Interventions: Core Principles and Practices, published in 2017 by Routledge, and co-editor of the upcoming Disaster Mental Health Case Studies: Lessons Learned from Counseling in Chaos, to be released by Routledge in 2019.




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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. 


Cassandre Surinon, Special Programs Manager

Cassandre Surinon is the Special Programs Manager for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH). She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the Ecole de Psychologues Praticiens of Paris, with a psychopathology specialization. She is licensed in France as a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. She has worked in the fields of disability and justice and worked in a psychiatric hospital in Paris before leaving for Haiti where she worked as a counselor and coordinator of a program that provided psychosocial support to children in schools who were exposed to trauma. In this role she developed curriculum, conducted training and supervised graduate students from universities in Port-au-Prince. She has also conducted research on skin color’s place as a symbol in the delusions of people emigrated from sub-Saharan Africa into France.