Administrative Staff
Download vCard Ken Houseknecht
Executive Director
716-886-1242 Ext. 314

I spent 30 years doing public and investor relations work with some really great people and some truly incredible companies/organizations. Most days, I told folks, "This much fun...and we get paid too! Doesn't seem right." I was blessed!

In 2011, I was honored to join the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Erie County as the Executive Director, an organization where I had been a volunteer for nearly three decades. The MHA does some amazing work, promoting mental health and wellness and helping folks who have suffered a temporary or more permanent loss of mental health or wellness.

Again, I work with incredibly talented and passionate people doing work that really makes a difference in people's lives. How cool is that! I'm still blessed!!!

Download vCard Jack Woodworth
Chief Operating Officer
716-886-1242 Ext. 317

Alongside providing support, advocacy and education in my role as Family Advocate, I enjoy helping people, fixing stuff, and developing business process improvement strategies. I’m living the dream with a wonderful wife and two bright and talented sons. The cats weren’t in the dream but they’re fun, too. A childhood filled with dismantling things and playing with construction toys developed into a long and happy career in engineering and quality leadership. In my spare time, I can be found on skis, skates, bicycles, or anything else that helps me go faster than I can on my own.

Download vCard Suzanne Hepburn
Administrative Coordinator
716-886-1242 Ext. 315

I have been working as Administrative Coordinator of the MHA for over 40 years. It has been truly an honor and privilege to work with such a dedicated staff over the years. When not at work I enjoy reading, gardening, swimming, kayaking, biking and cooking. My love for animals finds me rescuing stray cats on a regular basis. I live with my husband and cat in Ridgeway, Ontario.
B.E.S.T. (Basic Emotional Skills Training)

Download vCard Mary Lou Montanari
716-886-1242 Ext. 338

I have the unique distinction of being the longest term student intern in MHA history! I began my MHA career in 1980 as a SUNY Brockport Health Science student intern and have been here ever since. My current role as Director of the B.E.S.T. program provides me with the opportunity to pursue what I consider my vocation: to help young children start their school years with a healthy positive outlook and the skills they need to be kind and respectful members of their schools, families and communities. I am also pleased to support the efforts of the hard working staff at WNY United Against Drug & Alcohol Abuse by serving on their Board of Directors. My commitment to the needs of children extends into my personal life through involvement in church activities as well as services for those with developmental disabilities. My favorite pastime involves lake side camping with my family where I have the opportunity to enjoy biking, reading, knitting and creative campfire cooking.

Download vCard Mary Jane Jablonski
Senior Education Specialist
716-886-1242 Ext. 339

I am an education specialist for the B.E.S.T. Program, the MHA’s early childhood mental health education program. This year I celebrate 25 years with the MHA!

My professional career began as a Registered Nurse at Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and later as a psychiatric nurse at BryLin hospital. After 10 years of nursing, my interests in the field of health changed. I went back to school for my Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and eventually landed the perfect job . . . working with children in the field of prevention and mental health at the MHA. I work with young children in the classroom, helping them develop social and emotional skills that have a positive effect on the quality of their lives. For me, this is not a job; this is my passion . . . hence, 25 years with the same agency!

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Cory DeWitt
Education Specialist
716-886-1242 Ext. 331

I first had the pleasure of participating in the B.E.S.T. program in 2009 as a teacher’s assistant in a Buffalo Public School classroom. After seeing the incredibly positive impact this program had on the children in helping to develop social and emotional skills, I eagerly awaited an opportunity to join the B.E.S.T. team and share my enthusiasm for mental health.

My interest in mental health began as an undergraduate student at SUNY Brockport. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I decided to continue my education and earned a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Medaille College. It was during this time I developed a desire to help children proactively gain skills and coping strategies to assist them in successfully navigating through life. I am thrilled to be a part of the MHA and look forward to sharing my passion with others!

Carly Story
Education Specialist
716-886-1242 Ext. 349

View Bio
After interning at the MHA as an undergraduate student in 2010, I'm so excited to be back as a part of the MHA family and a member of the B.E.S.T team! I graduated from Canisius College with my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology in 2012 and earned my Master's Degree in Social Work from the State University at Buffalo in May of 2015.

Mental health awareness and advocacy, as well as working with children have always been passions of mine, and I am so thrilled to be in a position where I can not only teach, but also learn from children each and every day.

Katie Revai
Education Specialist
716-886-1242 Ext. 349

In 2013 and upon completion of my undergrad career at the University at Buffalo, I took a leap of faith, followed my heart in its desire to serve others, and moved to the Mississippi Delta to teach children at the kindergarten and junior kindergarten levels. Though I had long enjoyed working with children, it was there that I quickly fell in love with early childhood education. Just as much, I noticed a need to reach children on a level deeper than academics alone.

I truly believe social emotional skills are fundamental to child development; with such, our young can achieve anything! In June 2015, I returned to Buffalo to begin my Ed.M. in Early Childhood/Childhood Education and to continue fulfilling the important task of shaping young minds and hearts. I'm so happy to join the MHA, work with the wonderful ladies of B.E.S.T., and serve children and schools in our community!

Alex Glines
Education Specialist

I've long known that I wanted to work in the mental health field, and after obtaining my Bachelor's degree in Health Science and Psychology from SUNY Brockport in 2009, I did just that. After working with the adult population providing drug, alcohol and tobacco cessation services, I decided to continue on with my education with one end goal in mind- working with children!

While obtaining my Master's degree in Community and School Health from Canisius College, I started to truly recognize the importance of preventative education in all populations. Joining the MHA has allowed me the amazing opportunity to live out my passion, and provide the basic mental health education that is so important to school aged children in our community!
Child & Family Support Program
Download vCard Jenny Laney
716-886-1242 Ext. 313

I called the Mental Health Association 11 years ago in need of understanding how to navigate the mental health system in Erie County. I was supported by a family member then working as the Director of the Child and Family Support Program. She provided support and education about community resources that others had not informed me about. As my journey continued, I was supported by many other family advocates who provided hope and encouragement while supporting my family. It is an honor to be employed as the Director of the Child and Family Support Program; providing the support that I once received.

Rachaelle Barrios
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 321

Little did I know that my journey here to the MHA would start when I walked into that support group 12 years ago and I met a kindred spirit.  We became friends, a support for each other, advocates, we worked at different jobs but in the same field, now today she is my supervisor and I couldn’t ask to be at a better place to work for.  I became an advocate for others, after needing to navigate the different systems for my own family and knew how difficult it could be. I have been helping families advocate for themselves for almost 9 years now.   I love what I do and feel a calling to help where I can.  I have been working at the MHA as a consultant for 3 years, and only recently started working here in the office.  I am a wife, a mother of 3 awesome kids, and a nana of an almost 2.5 year old granddaughter.  I love to travel and try new things, especially experience the local culture of the area I am in at that time.  

Caitlin Neumann
Youth Peer Mentor
716-886-1242 ext. 345

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Caitlin is known statewide for her role as President of the Board of Directors of YOUTH POWER!, the NYS network of young people who have been labeled and are seeking change. Being diagnosed with a mental health condition at a young age, she has developed a lifelong mission working to decrease the stigma of mental health and to bring support and guidance to her peers in hopes to inspire hope and change. Caitlin has presented and spoken at various mental health awareness conferences and events statewide, sharing her story and using her experiences to help transform child serving systems for the future. Her travels have no limit, having traveled to the Netherlands in October 2013 for a conference as well as to present Master classes on the importance of youth peer advocacy. Caitlin is also a certified Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor. Her mantra is as follows: "To define is to limit".

Joyce Orlowski
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 332

Being part of the Mental Health Association  has given me daily countless opportunities to grow and learn. It has allowed me to empower others, by helping them navigate through the complicated maze of the mental health community.   Many years ago, during a difficult time,  I was blessed with the gift of  support and understanding when I called the  Mental Health Association.  Paying it Forward is not only my goal, but my reward as well.  Life is a journey, not a destination... and what a journey it is!

Melissa Salamon
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 346

I joined the Mental Health Association of Erie County team in 2015, bringing over 20 years of experience working with children with disabilities and behavioral needs. Before joining the Child and Family Support Program with the Mental Health Association, I worked with Behavior Innovations providing intensive behavior intervention for individuals with Autism, Autism Society of Ontario and families with special needs children throughout the Niagara Region and Hawaii. I look forward to the exciting challenges each day presents and enjoy working with so many skilled and dedicated professionals with such diverse backgrounds at Mental Health Association. I am a small business owner of a photography studio and enjoy gardening, paddle boarding and relaxing at the beach. I am the proud mother of two boys and live with my husband in Buffalo, NY.

Leslie Wexler
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 346

I have an MFA in dance from the University of Michigan and a BS in dance from SUNY Brockport. I taught at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts from 1983 to 2006. I was co-director of Buffalo Contemporary Dance, a modern dance repertory company. I have volunteered at numerous organizations in the Buffalo area including Lothlorian Therapeutic Riding Stables, the Matt Urban Hope Center, and the Mental Health Association. I joined the MHA staff in July, 2014.

Vicky Woodworth
Family Support Partner

I was introduced to the Mental Health Association when the Family Support Program was a big support to my family. It was a time when we had been frustrated with the children’s mental health system of care. They brought a sense of calm and shared their expertise while helping us navigate the system. In my previous experience as a registered Occupational Therapist, I treated children who have special needs. I worked closely with the parents of my clients by teaching them how to help their child.

In 2012, I was asked if I was interested in assisting families in the Psychiatric Emergency room (CPEP) at ECMC. It was an opportunity to help families during one of the most difficult times they might face. It has been gratifying to bring them hope, information and compassion just as our family had once been helped by MHA. Being a family support partner at ECMC has been a blessing for me.

Janet Gaskin
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 337

Most days I feel like I need to pinch myself! I am doing my dream job!! It wasn't always my dream job, I had spent the last 25 years working in the Auto industry. Until several years ago when Mental Illness hit our family hard. We almost lost one of our children to mental illness. While in the hospital waiting room waiting to visit my daughter, my current supervisor introduced herself and offered support. Jenny and I kept in touch over the last few years and in March of 2015 I was offered a position here as a Family Support Partner. I feel very fortunate to be working with some of the most amazing and compassionate people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I understand what families are going through, the ripple affect Mental Illness can have on a family, I know the pain and fear you are facing. I love being able to share some of my experience in a way that hopefully creates a little peace, and connects families to the support groups and resources we have at MHA. In my spare time, wait! what spare time? I don't have much spare time but I do have 4 great kids, I am married to a very supportive husband and we also have many 4 legged "kids" that add great joy to my life.

"And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed)." Dr. Seuss

Nina Zarembka
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 332

I started working in the Child and Family Support Program at the MHA in August 2015. Having been a recipient of mental health services myself I am happy to have the opportunity to help others through similar struggles.

I was born and raised in Buffalo and currently reside in Allentown. I hold a BA in Psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University.

I really enjoy world traveling - some countries that I’ve really enjoyed visiting include Italy, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Greece and Costa Rica. In my spare time, I can be found walking around Allentown, listening to music, reading, and being out in nature as much as I can, whether it’s by walking, hiking, etc. I feel privileged and very excited to be able to help others as much as I can through my work at the Mental Health Association.

Susette Mines
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 337

Hello, I’m Susette Mines - a pioneer and family partner working with the Mental Health Association in the Child and Family Support Program since 1999.

I have experience in both personal and professional capacity. I encourage support, encourage adults, parents, children, and/or family members with the Mental Health special education, phone support, and assist as a facilitator in a host of our support groups. I provide information and referrals to programs and community resources in addition to providing educational advocacy – so call us! “I believe in you.”

Erin Herman
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 345

Mental Health has always been a large part of my life. A majority of my family has struggled with mental illness, as well as myself. I was diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety when I was 16 years old. From there I was thrown into the mental health system and was often left feeling like I had no control over my life and treatment. In 2012 I began working for the Mental Health Association, facilitating the 20 something group and doing peer advocacy at Bryin Hospitals. Since then, I have grown so much and hopefully helped many youth as much as they helped me. My ultimate goal is to make sure that youth know they are not alone in this, that it gets better, and they can speak up for themselves during their treatment.

“Recovery is a road- not a destination. Take every day one step at a time”

Heather Randolph
Family Support Partner
716-886-1242 ext. 319

I am living the dream. For many years I have practiced being a strong member of my family and community, raising my children and doing the best I can. Today I remain a voice for those who are unable, unwilling or unsure of how to advocate for themselves. I am of service at work and at home. I have been a Recovery Peer Advocate for most of my life therefore it has been a relatively simple transition to become a Certified Peer Recovery Coach for Mental health and Substance Use Disorders. I am grateful for the opportunity to join the MHA team and further assist those I work with and for. In my down time I enjoy sunsets, swimming, reading, long walks and deep conversation.

Doug Hahn
Youth Peer Mentor

I was diagnosed with a mental health condition at a young age, and have received various levels of care in the past; my experiences were mixed but across the board, peer support was a driving force in my recovery. It inspired me to develop goals of my own: helping youth who are struggling, letting them know that their voice is valid and heard, and to help make peer support more available in the community while decreasing stigma. My mission is to use what I’ve learned from my struggles to help someone overcome theirs. “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

Ljupka Palavestra
Family Support Partner

Life can be full of unexpected twists and turns, heartbreaks, as well as moments of bliss and joy. After a childhood filled with play, scenes of a beautiful Adriatic sea where we were traveling every summer, family gatherings, and many friends, the war started in Former Yugoslavia. All of a sudden everything changed; life became dark and difficult. My family and I had to flee. That was a trauma that I never completely healed from and it was something that had to be accepted as an unfortunate reality. In the myths of my personal trauma I came in contact with a mental health system back in my country that was inhumane, and I suffered greatly the consequences of that mistreatment. After a few years I decided to join the movement of peers who have gone through similar experiences who are trying to make a difference in people’s lives as well as assist those who provide care.

What is so wonderful about the Mental Health Association is that the people who work for this agency have a family member affected by emotional and mental difficulties, or they themselves have gone through that experience. They are in the hospitals where people are in the most difficult life situations, and they are sharing their stories trying to comfort them, offer recourses, and say that there is hope and people who care. I was so grateful to become a part of this great family of dedicated and caring people. I have a BA in Art as well as Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling. My desire is to combine knowledge from learning about mental health, as well as share my own personal experience. I also believe in the gentle power of art in healing, such as painting, drawing, writing, singing or simply reading an inspirational literature.

I would like to share a meaningful quote that sums up my feelings regarding this wonderful work - ”Seven brothers were ill in one hospital. One recovered from his illness and got up and rushed to serve his other brothers with brotherly love, to speed their recovery. Be like this brother. Consider all men to be your brothers, and ailing brothers at that. And if you come to feel that God has given you better health than others, know that it is given through mercy, so in health you may serve your frailer brothers.” Nikolai Velimirovic.

Toddie Rogers
Family Support Partner

Born and raised here in Buffalo, NY, I’ve lived mostly on the East side of the city. My education in Buffalo Public Schools #81, Hutch Tech High School, and ECC-North Campus. Working vast employment from child care to Buffalo public bus aide assisting the children with special needs. For a bit I even became a very good sales customers services and training person for many telecommunication companies.

Growing up was not easy. I had to work hard every day at school and at home. I was told by the fourth grade that I was different and that I had a learning disability. Finding this out was not easy and from that day on I was not allowing myself to be defeated or others to think less of me. From elementary and then into high school I had my ups and downs but regardless, my high school diploma was important. I had to take one extra year to get that diploma. Today I am ecstatic to have my IEP Certificate and my high school diploma. I am very proud that I have both. Eventually I was able to go to college and get my Associates Degree in Hospitality.

I am now a very happy mom of two children both are my pride and joy and have great personality. My son followed me by going to the same schools #81 and now he’s in Hutch Tech. He’s diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, Ticks, Audio & Sensory Processing Disorder, Pervasive Disorder, Learning Disability, Depression and Anxiety. The best is that he’s a teenager. Each day is a lot but he is a good student and really likes helping others (kids the most). He is in the JROTC at school and interested in the poetry club. He is self-employed and wants to maybe join the military and plans to go to college to be a Computer Forensics or Neuro Medicine. My daughter is special in her own unique way. My baby is in a student of King Center Charter School that has been able to manage her wonderfully. She has a chronic condition called Hydrocephalus - that is when the cranial fluid that protects and nourishes the brain and spine is not flowing correctly. She has a shunt internally that helps her manage this difficulty so far. The fearful part is that every day is a new day for her. For my daughter she can get hurt, sick or infection can cause her to become very sick that she must be monitored in a hospital and the extreme is death. Some of her day to day difficulties are balance, sight and cognitive learning. Math especially. To aid her I found a great dance class to help her with balance and OT/PT services for when she needs it. At this time she gets intervention and extra one on one support. Both of them are my everything, my world. I could not see me being where I am today without them in my life.

For them I knew that I had to do what I had to. I became a stay at home mom and for the past 11 years I was that mom. From PTO’s to Hosting Support groups. This helped me and my children to learn and meet others that are going through what they live with every day.

Nancy Mariani
Family Support Partner

I am a proud parent of three wonderful, unique and special children, Anthony, Michael, Katherine. I also have a treasured stepdaughter, Elizabeth. My son Michael a UB honors student passed away unexpectedly in October 2015.

My first experience with the Mental Health Association was in 1991 when I sought support for my middle son Michael who was four years old at the time. I needed help understanding how to raise a child with adhd and oppositional defiance disorder. We were living in Wellsville so I drove to the Mental Health Association in Olean, NY and attended monthly support group meetings. My facilitator Audrey Powless, helped me a great deal and served as educational advocate when Michael began kindergarten.

After we moved back to Buffalo, Dianne Riordan and Jenny Laney supported me through Child and Family Support meetings, advocacy in the Ken-Ton schools, picnics/outings, hospital visits, respite and on-going phone calls. At the support meetings, I learned a lot of very helpful information and found people who truly understood. Eventually I was asked to facilitate meetings at the Church of Latter Day Saints, Mental Health Association and Gilda’s House on West Ferry.

I have worked as a teacher with Buffalo Public Schools for over thirty-two years and have just retired in September 2016. For the past ten years, I have been an Educational Specialist and Chairperson for the Committee on Special Education. I am certified to teach Elementary Education, Reading and Special Education in New York State. I serve on the board for the New York State Special Education Task Force.

For fun, I enjoy volunteering at the Irish Classical Theatre, attending programs at Kleinhans Music Hall and listening to all kinds of music, especially Celtic. I have volunteered at the SPCA for many years and have a rescue black lab mix, Velvet and three sweet cats at home. I enjoy traveling, gardening, walking, biking and yoga. I am involved with Save the Michaels of the World.

I am very grateful for all the help the Mental Health Association has provided me with through the years and look forward to being able to give back. I am especially interested in advocating for children in the schools through the CSE process.

Jared Courier
Youth Peer Mentor

My battle with substance abuse and my mental health started a long time ago, even though I didn't know it. I couldn't see one for the other. Now I know they're correlated and need to be taken care of together to keep myself well.

When I was younger, I went to the 20 Something group ran by the Mental Health Association and it gave me hope to fight against the stigma of my diagnosis.

I now work for them in hope, to help others who are dually diagnosed with mental health and substance abuse problems and in turn, get help from them. Everyday we live on this Earth is a blessing, I hope to help others like me to feel that way too!

Carly Congilosi
Youth Peer Mentor

I recently graduated with a BA in Psychology from Houghton College. In my spare time, I enjoy writing, spending time with God, and running outdoors. My favorite season is autumn, because I love the sound of leaves crunching under my feet and wearing brightly colored scarves. I live for black coffee and all things chocolate. I have a calico cat named Josie, and a beta fish named Bruce.

My experience with the mental health care system began eleven years ago when I was diagnosed with depression and OCD. I was blessed to be surrounded by family, friends, and mental health professionals who walked with me every step of that dark journey, and I can now say with confidence that there is always hope for freedom, healing, and wholeness. I am passionate about helping others live abundantly in spite of their mental health diagnosis.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (C.A.S.A.)
Download vCard Jodi Johnson
716-886-1242 Ext. 318

Old, getting wiser, bucket list getting shorter, having a blast!

I grew up in beautiful Forestville, New York. I attended SUNY Fredonia and majored in Sociology. I love all things sports and was blessed to be able to play 3 sports in high school and college. I’m married to my hero, Kevin, a retired Major that served in the Army and Air Force. I have two healthy, happy children; Kyal and Lynsey. I moved back to Western NY after my husband retired and I was able to land my dream job as Director of the CASA Program of Erie County. I was able to advocate for children through the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program, the Ohio CASA Program and the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program. I have learned so much from amazingly passionate people and love being able to share that passion with my Erie County volunteers.

Adrienne Linger
Volunteer Supervisor
716-886-1242 Ext. 328

I began working for the CASA program in June of 2016; but have worked with the program for many years. During this time I knew that I wanted to become more involved within the program; as it makes such a huge impact on the families the program serves. I received my B.A. in Sociology from SUNY Plattsburgh. Following graduation I moved to Buffalo and have worked for various local social service agencies. My experience ranges from working with youth in a residential setting, foster care and case management. I will be continuing my education in the fall to complete my MS in Mental Health Counseling. When not working you can find me spending time with my daughter, family and friends. I am looking forward to continuing my growth within the CASA program and the Mental Health Association of Erie County!
Information & Referral Programs
Download vCard Kelly Miskovski
716-886-1242 Ext. 326

I joined the Mental Health Association of Erie County in April, 2013. I have always had a passion for mental health, which led me to graduating from the University at Buffalo with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology followed by a Master’s degree in Psychology from Medaille College. Prior to joining the MHA, I have experience working with at-risk youth in the community and a decade of tireless days and nights in the retail world. I am thrilled to join the team here at the MHA, which will allow me to continue to make a positive impact on the lives of those with mental illnesses. I love being able to advocate for mental health through our social media pages and by attending community events. I am probably one of the biggest cat ladies you know and have two of my own (Dylan and Bowie), who both have big personalities and bring me tons of amusement every day!

Download vCard Bridget McNally
Communications Program Assistant
716-886-1242 Ext. 347

I began working for the Mental Health Association of Erie County in June of 2015. Prior to this, I worked in the fast-paced world of retail management for seven years, as well as having a history of working with the elderly and individuals with a mental health challenge at an adult care facility. I have my A.A.S. in Telecommunications from Cayuga Community College in my hometown of Auburn, NY. I absolutely love living in Buffalo and am thrilled to serve the community!

Download vCard Lisa Maria Cruz
Bilingual Information and Referral Specialist
716-886-1242 Ext. 310

I started volunteering at the Mental Health Association in 2011 and was offered a position much to my delight in 2012 and have enjoyed my time with the MHA ever since. I work as the Bilingual Communications Assistant in the Community Outreach & Consumer Education, and Information & Referral Departments. I have two Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Political Science and Economics. I love to write and am beyond pleased that I get to use my creative side as a co-facilitator for the Writing & Well-Being Group. In my spare time, I like to go to Buddhist activities, hang out with friends, write poetry, and learn guitar. I love the Buffalo Infringement Festival and will be “infringing” this summer so be on the lookout for Found in Translation!

Download vCard Cathie Wallace
Information and Referral Specialist
716-886-1242 ext. 319

“Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So today is my new favorite day.”- Winnie the Pooh

In September, 2013 the above quote became full filled and continues to be filled every day I come to work at the MHA. My hope by working here is that each person who calls the MHA in need of some assistance receives some hope because, as office assistant, I am one of the first faces and voices that they see. I am also a co-facilitator for the 20 something group. Besides being on staff here at the MHA, I am also a consumer advocate with Lake Shore Behavioral Health.

However, when not working, you can find me relaxing at home in Allentown, knitting a prayer shawl for people in need, but what I enjoy the most is celebrating the blessings I have been given, and ministering God’s word through music with my family, the Contemporary Music Ensemble at St. Joseph University Parish

Samirah Mayfield
Information and Referral Specialist
716-886-1242 ext. 311

I was born and raised in the city of Buffalo, NY. I am a wife and mother of three beautiful children ages 2, 6, and 8, who are the driving force behind me. After high school I went to Erie 1 Boces where I finished Practical Nursing. While going to college to become an RN I was working with people with developmental disabilities when one of my individuals turned to me and said, “Samirah, you’re different, you actually care and really listen to us.” This changed me. I always knew early on in my life that I wanted to help people and advocate for those who couldn’t advocate for themselves, so I switched career paths and in 2015 I graduated with an AAS Degree in Mental Health substance abuse counseling and received my CASAC- T in 2016. I am a true believer. Never underestimate the difference YOU can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out and help. Today I am living my dream working at the MHA.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ― Edward Everett Hale
Community Advocacy
Download vCard Karl Shallowhorn
716-886-1242 Ext. 323

I am honored to join the MHA and Compeer to be a voice for community advocacy. I am a NYS Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor and Certified Peer Specialist and have worked in the addiction/mental health field for over 15 years. I have a B.A. in Broadcasting and a M.S. in Student Personnel Administration from SUNY Buffalo State. I have 11 years of experience working in higher education. Prior to working at the MHA I served on its Board of Directors. I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Mental Health Association in New York State. I have published a self-help book titled Working on Wellness: A Practical Guide to Mental Health (2010, Chipmunka Publishing). I also write a weekly blog for BP magazine (

As a person living with a co-occurring disorder I have both personal and professional experience about the needs of those living with mental health challenges.  I am married with two beautiful daughters and in my spare time you can find me on Facebook, listening to music, and doing my best to stay balanced mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Victoria Davis
Manager of Workplace and Community Well-Being
716-886-1242 Ext. 316

I joined the Mental Health Association of Erie County in 2016 as the Manager of Workplace and Community Well-Being. In this role I hope to reduce the mental health stigma at companies around WNY, while providing the tools necessary to help their employees become both physical and mentally well. With over 6 years of experience in workplace wellness and working with over 150 companies, I have learned that every wellness program has to be unique to the employee demographics and there is no one size fit all program. It takes careful assessment of the company and employee needs to build an impactful employee wellness program.

I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Human Development at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and then went on to get my Master’s Degree in Health and Human Performance at Canisius College. I went into this field because I have a true passion for behavior change and helping people to live the highest quality of life possible. During my free time you can almost always find me in nature. I enjoy racing sailboats, cycling, mountain biking, yoga, swimming, hiking with my dog and competing in triathlons. I also enjoy spending time with my family, friends, reading non-fiction books and volunteering.
Community Awareness
Carol Doggett
Director of Community Awareness
716-886-1242 Ext. 350

I’ve spent my entire career as a communications professional with years of business and project management experience working with multi-national corporations, non-profits, and small businesses. Dealing with the many challenges of caring for a family member with mental health issues, more than once I turned to MHA for help and support. Now I have the opportunity to return that support using my professional skills to help others.

When I’m not at work, you’ll most likely find me with my horse at the barn. That’s where I go to relax and recharge. He keeps me honest and grounded, and reminds me what’s really important in life—food, water, shelter and love. If you’ve got these you’re always good to go.
Legal Services & Advocacy
Download vCard Michael M. Kane, Esq.
716-886-1242 Ext. 322

I first got involved with the Mental Health Association of Erie County in December 2012 after passing the New York State Bar and began working full time in the Legal Services and Advocacy Program in September 2013. I earned my Bachelor of Arts at Michigan State University where I majored in journalism and got involved in Spartan Athletics as a manager for the women’s basketball team. I returned home to Western New York to attend law school at UB.

During my free time you can find me watching the Bills, MSU Spartans, UB Bulls, and Chicago Cubs.  When not being disappointed by one of my teams I’m most likely on the golf course in the summer and ski slopes in the winter.  I am excited to be part of the Legal Services and Advocacy Program and put my law license to work, providing legal support to those in Erie County with mental illnesses.

Download vCard Katie L. Kestel Martin
716-886-1242 Ext. 324

The Mental Health Association welcomed me in October 2014 into their Legal Services and Advocacy Department. I earned my Bachelor of Arts at the University at Buffalo in both Sociology and Psychology as well as a minor in Philosophy of Law all while instructing martial arts and tennis. After working in psychological research, I continued my education to achieve my Masters in Social Work and Juris Doctor. Since Bar admission in 2014, I have served as an AmeriCorps Opportunity Corps member assisting homeowners in foreclosure proceedings and consumers in credit related legal issues.

I am a very proud daughter and sister of veterans as well as a proud Buffalonian. In addition to my passion for service, I am a local singer-songwriter performing my music in local venues when possible. I am very excited to be a part of the MHA team and I cannot wait to help the organization and our community members through legal representation and advocacy.

Download vCard Jo Evelyn Smith
716-886-1242 Ext. 320

I am a Paralegal who has worked at the MHA for Legal Services and Advocacy for 25 years. I previously worked for Erie County Department of Social Services as an Energy Crises Worker. I have worked over 30 years helping low income, disabled individuals obtain and retain benefits and entitlements that help them function independently in the community. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Tuskegee University and an Associate’s degree in Paralegal from Erie Community College.

Download vCard Nicole Blackwell
Paralegal / LSA Outreach Coordinator
716-886-1242 Ext. 330

The Mental Health Association of Erie County (MHA) welcomed me as a member of their team in October 2013.  I am a resident of Williamsville, NY, where I reside with my daughter. I have a passion for learning languages and professional dance.  I also enjoy writing when I get the chance.  Soon after graduating from college I was asked what I see myself doing for years to come.  The answer is found in this quote by John Hume: “I never thought in terms of being a leader. I thought very simply in terms of helping people.”  For many years now, I have helped to serve and advocate for the disabled and disadvantaged community in need of services that they may be entitled to. Every person at some point in their life needs a helping hand or a voice to speak for them. I am very excited to be a member of the MHA and the Legal Services and Advocacy Program.  I look forward to working to serve a purpose and a mission for those living with mental illness.

April Anawald
716-898-0110 Ext 125

I went back to school and received my degree as a Paralegal in 2008 and have worked in a few different legal fields but never really experienced the fulfillment I was looking for in my work. I accepted a position with the MHA working at the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY (VOC) in November of 2015 and I can say that I have finally found a home! As the daughter of an Air Force Veteran myself, our Armed Forces have always been near and dear to my heart. I have several family members and friends that have served our country over the years and I can not tell you how honored I am to meet these brave men and woman and help to assist them with their legal needs, at no cost to them. Working with Veterans is truly a rewarding experience because I don't think we can ever even start to give back to them what they have given to us so selflessly....

In my office you will always hear music playing and in my spare time I enjoy gardening, cooking, photography, concerts and spending time with my family & friends. I love the Bills & the Sabres and anyone who knows me knows that I have a crazy love for skulls, stars and quotes!

Life is too short so not to enjoy it, so take a minute to really look at your surroundings - count your blessings - appreciate them. Don't wait to tell someone you love them & most definitely laugh until tears trickle down your leg!! :)

Bruce McAllister
716-886-1242 Ext 348

I grew up and attended school in California then received my BA in political science from Whittier College, after which I spent a short time in the Peace Corps. I was then called to service in the Army in Vietnam. When I returned to the U.S., I went to Thunderbird Graduate School and received a BIM in international business after which I worked in banking for half a decade but found that unsatisfying so I went to law school. I started my own private practice dealing with immigration, personal injury, workers’ compensation and various other fields. I closed that office in 2008 and took a position as staff attorney with a firm in which I advised clients with a very wide range of legal issues. I then moved with my family from California to Williamsville, working for a time as a Spanish interpreter for Journey’s End Refugee organization. I secured my license to practice law here in New York.

My volunteer activities after licensing have been with Volunteer Lawyers Project, CLARO, the consumer debt clinic and Neighborhood Legal Services and tutored some Nepali boys in the Buffalo schools through the Lawyers For Learning project. As can be seen from my time in the Peace Corps, I have always been drawn to serving those who are most in need and vulnerable. So when the opportunity came along to work at Mental Health Association I gladly accepted. I am proud to be a member of a team that does such necessary and commendable work.

I am fluent in Spanish as a result of having spent a summer as an exchange student in Mexico while I was in high school and have studied Spanish and traveled in Spanish speaking areas for many years. And I lead a Spanish conversation group that meets weekly in Williamsville.
Military Family Programs
Download vCard Mary A. McParlane
716-995-4322 Ext. 326

999 Delaware Ave. Buffalo, NY

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