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Keynote Addresses

Rethinking Psychiatric Care: History, Science, and the Long-term Effects of Psychiatric Medications

RwhitakerOver the past 30 years, during which time our society has embraced the use of psychiatric drugs, the burden of mental illness in our society, as measured by disability rates, has grown exponentially. A thorough review of the literature reveals one reason why: While psychiatric medications may be effective over the short term, over the long term they may “impair recovery” for many people. To promote better long-term outcomes, we need to develop protocols that utilize psychiatric medications in a more selective manner, and emphasize intensive psychosocial care.

Speaker Bio: Robert Whitaker is the author of five books, two of which tell of the history of psychiatry. His first, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill was named by Discover magazine as one of the best science books of 2002. His second book on this topic, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, won the Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism in 2010, and has been translated into nine foreign languages. His latest book, which he co-wrote with Lisa Cosgrove, is Psychiatry Under the Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform. He is the founder of, a website that features research news and blogs from an international group of writers interested in “rethinking psychiatry.

Creative Approaches to Life with a Complicated Mind


A range of alternative therapies are emerging as different understandings of the human mind inform common practice. This keynote presentation will explore several case studies of alternative therapies with remarkable results. Clients can thrive with a combination of traditional medical interventions and explorations with the goal of adapting to life with atypical neurology. Creative approaches eschew labels and encourage engagement and adaption over stigma and pathologizing.

Speaker Bio: Barbara Mainguy MA, is a Creative Arts Therapist with a background in working with people with diagnoses that include major suffering and psychosis. She works with puppets, movement and stories, as well as standard tools to help people negotiate their self-world interface. She works in private practice, with local Behavioral Health Homes and in medical practices, including that of Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona. She co-authored the new book Remapping Your Mind: The Neurology of Self-Transformation through Story.


Special Address and Workshop

NAMI’s Federal Legislative Agenda to Improve the Lives of People Living with Mental Illness

NAMI’s Director of Legislative Advocacy will provide a perspective on an array of federal policy issues including funding for mental illness resaerch, services, supportive housing and veterans programs, as well as prospects for comprehensive mental health reform legislation in the US Congress.

Speaker Bio: Andrew Sperling has been NAMI’s Director of Legislative Advocacy since 1996.  Prior to joining the NAMI staff, he was a Legislative Assistance for US Congressman Rick Swett of New Hampshire. NAMI’s federal legislative agenda encomap-sses a broad range of policy goals all oriented to expanding access to treatment and support services to help consumers and families reach the goal of recovery and full commuinity integration.

Other Morning Workshops

Policing Services and the Mental Health System

Sheriff Keith ClarkIn the past decade there have been significant changes to improve police response to calls with an underlying mental health issue. The changes include training, policies, and partnerships. This presentation will provide an overview of the new approaches and will also identify what is needed for the future.               

Speaker Bio: Sheriff Keith Clark is serving his third term as the Sheriff of Windham County. Sheriff Clark received his Masters of Justice Administration degree from Norwich University. He is a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy and retired from the Vermont National Guard in 2012.

Sheriff Clark is a current board member of Health Care and Rehabilitative Services, the designated agency for Windham and Windsor Counties. He helped develop the Mental Health Crisis Response curriculum for the Vermont Police Academy and is the primary law enforcement instructor for the training. The Sheriff is an active member of the Act 80 review community and is also member of the Tri-Branch Task Force.

Aces in  Action

Research has overwhelmingly demonstrated the connection between early life experiences and behavioral, health, and socio­economic outcomes in adulthood. Chronic toxic stress caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, increases the likelihood that an individual will develop any number of a myriad of physical, mental, economic or social maladies later in life. This presentation explores the body of research launched by the initial groundbreaking  ACEs study. We’ll examine the process linking experiences to physiological changes in the body and discuss how these physiological changes influence health and wellness.  Lastly, we’ll discuss practical strategies for addressing some symptoms related to chronic toxic stress.

Speaker Bios: Jim Walsh is a Master prepared Psychiatric  Nurse practitioner, with 30 years’ experience in the state of Vermont.  He currently provides  consultation to Springfield Medical  Care services  (FQHC) primary care,  coverage  to  Springfield Hospital Psychiatric unit, Windham Center, and our Community Health team’s Care Coordination for Mental health and  Substances Abuse services.

Bill Brown is a Vermont-based speaker, coach, and counselor.  He holds a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling with 10 years of experience in the field and is the area manager at HCRS in Springfield VT.  His work focuses on the development, implementation and management of innovative mental health treatment programs.

Health Risks of Cannabis Use    

There is a lot of contradictory information out there about the possible risks of cannabis use.  This presentations will review what is known about the associations between cannabis and psychosis, PTSD, and anxiety and will also review new information about addiction and problem use.  Effects on brain growth will also be discussed.

Speaker Bio: David Rettew is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.  He is the Training Director of the UVM Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and the Director of the Pediatric Psychiatry Clinic at the University of Vermont Medical Center.  He received his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in psychology before working at the National Institute of Mental Health.  He then earned his medical degree at the University of Vermont followed by adult and child psychiatry training at Harvard Medical School within the Massachusetts General and McLean Hospital program.  He joined the UVM faculty in 2002 where he divides his time between clinical, teaching and research activities. His main research interest is the role of temperament and personality factors in childhood psychiatric disorders.  Dr. Rettew has over 100 published journal articles, chapters, and scientific abstracts on a variety of child mental health topics, including a recent book entitled Child Temperament:  New Thinking About the Boundary Between Traits and Illness, published by WW Norton.  He also writes a blog for Psychology Today called, The ABCs of Child Psychiatry.”  Dr. Rettew is married and the father of three children.

Special Needs Planning for Individuals with Mental Illness

Special needs planning  is essential to protect and plan for your disabled child of any age.  Even though not having the right plans in place can be a detriment for loved ones with a mental illness, many families just don’t know where to begin.

This workshop will include an overview of what parents and grandparents need to know about special needs planning, including the protection of important government benefits (SSI & Medicaid), special needs trusts,  how to avoid a “payback” to the state for Medicaid, and more. We will also discuss what to do in situations where a person is already over the asset limit and the options available in those situations.

Speaker Bio: Claudia Pringles is a licensed attorney with a focus area in special needs law. She is also a tireless advocate; helping to pass several laws at the state level that significantly help those with disabilities and she received a national award for her advocacy.  She is a parent of two children, including a teenage daughter with autism. Her website is

Stories of Recovery

Me-pic-sign-2Peer panel discussion of personal journeys to recovery with mental illness. The workshop will introduce NAMI In Our Own Voice, a program which raises the awareness of mental illness and recovery through personal testimony and short videos; the NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group meetings, which have helped people living with mental illness to learn from one another’s experiences, share coping strategies and offer mutual encouragement and understanding to maintain wellness; and the Me2/Orchestra (“me, too”),the world’s only classical music organization created for individuals with mental illnesses and the people who support them.

Speaker Bio: Mitzi Bockmann is a New York City-based Certified Life Coach, certified through the Coach Training Alliance, and a member of the International Coach Federation.  Thelma Stoudt is a peer facilitator of the Connections Recovery Support Group in the Rutland and Brattleboro areas. Carole Furr is a NAMI Board member and plays the french horn in the Me2/Orchestra.