Erie County Training Collaborative

The Erie County Department of Mental Health is delighted to host a monthly training series for anyone working in the system of care addressing mental health, substance use and intellectual/developmental disabilities. 

The Department has been working with representatives from the mental health, substance use and intellectual disability provider communities to identify opportunities to support agencies, staff and support the retention of staff who deliver vital services.

Mark your calendar for 2023! Trainings will take place the 4th Tuesday of each month from 12PM to 1PM. The sessions will take place in an online forum.

This is a true community collaborative and we are always looking for presenters to volunteer to share their expertise with our community!

Upcoming Sessions

Please watch this space for upcoming training announcements!


Please share the training offerings with others in your organization and those who work in our Systems of Care!


Presentations and Materials from Past Sessions:

December 20, 2022: "Mobile and Online Sports Betting"
Presented by:  Jeffrey Wierzbicki, Western Team Leader, Western Problem Gambling Resource Center

Online sports betting was launched in New York State in January 2022. This training will discuss what Mobile sports betting is and how it works. It will also cover the risks, risks specific to young people, and if there is a connection to substance use. In addition we will talk about the impact on families, if this is the same as other types of gambling, and how to recognize problem sports betting.

November 29, 2022:  VA S.A.V.E Suicide Gatekeeper Training
Presented by:  Christopher Ramnauth, LCSW, Community Engagement and Partnership Coordinator, Suicide Prevention at the VA WNY Healthcare System

Christopher Ramnauth, LCSW (VA WNY Healthcare System) will facilitate S.A.V.E., which is a VA Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training.  This training consists of the following components; brief overview of suicide in the veteran population, suicide myths and misinformation, risk factors for suicide, the S.A.V.E. model (Signs of suicide, Asking about suicide, Validating feelings, Encouraging help and Expediting treatment) and VA resources for mental health support.

September 27, 2022:   Trauma 101"
Presented by:  Ted Adams

This training will cover the general principles of Trauma-Informed Care and how these principles apply to the work that you do.

July 26, 2022:  "Adult Single Point of Access and Accountability for Housing"
Presented by:  Christine Slocum, MA, Erie County Department of Mental Health, Housing Coordinator, Adult Single Point of Access and Accountability

The Erie County Department of Mental Health coordinates the County’s Single Point of Access and Accountability for all mental health residential programs. In this training, the SPOA Housing Coordinator will discuss eligibility, what types of housing programs are available, and how to do the SPOA referral on

June 28, 2022:  "Utilizing Existential Therapy and Enhanced Meaning/Purpose in Life as Treatment for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders"
Presented by:  
Timothy E. Arent, M.S., Substance Abuse and Comorbid Mental Health Counselor at the Beacon Center of Central and Western New York

This presentation will discuss the use of Viktor Frankl's logotherapy and other existential treatment modalities in addressing mental health and substance abuse disorders more completely. In conjunction with current evidence-based practices, this presentation will detail how utilizing enhanced subjective meaning/purpose in life, assisting your client in replacing automatic thoughts with healthier alternatives, and achieving an enhanced understanding of your client's worldview can increase treatment efficacy. This webinar will offer theory and practice useful to both those unfamiliar with existential therapy as well as the more experienced practitioner.

May 24, 2022:  "LGBTQ+ Concerns for Youth and Families"
Presented by:  Reverend Susan Frawley

This presentation will address terminology, including pronouns.  We will also be discussing gender and sexuality definitions, educational issues, Allyship, New York State laws, and medical and social issues for transgender youth.

April 26, 2022:  "Harm Reduction Philosophy and Practice"
Presented by:  Emma Fabian, MSW, AVP of Harm Reduction, Evergreen Health and Part-Time Professor, UB School of Social Work and Naomi Taylor, Harm Reduction Specialist, Evergreen Health

This talk will provide an introduction to the principles of the Harm Reduction approach as well as the history of Harm Reduction in public health. Evergreen's continuum of care that includes Harm Reduction programs for people who use drugs will be discussed as well as how to refer patients.

March 22, 2022:  "Problem Gambling 101 - Just the Basics"
Presented by:  Jeffrey Wierzbicki
, Team Leader with the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Topics to be covered in this training will include: types of gambling, emerging trends, spectrum of gambling behaviors, warning signs of problem gambling, co-occurring mental health and substance use, at-risk populations and how to get help. The CASAC and Social Work Continuing Education credits are not available for the recorded session. 

February 2022:  Cluster B Personality Types, the Dramatic-Erratic Group - Overview and Focus on Borderline Personality”
Presented by:  Christopher Frigon, LCSW, Senior Therapist from Horizon Health Services

The DSM groups Antisocial, Histrionic, Borderline, and Narcissistic personality types together based on differentiation from Cluster A (odd-eccentric) and Cluster C (anxious-fearful).  We will overview Cluster B personality types, and focus on Borderline Personality due to the high clinical prevalence and generally higher risk this population presents with.

January 2022:  "Aging and Mental Health - Climbing a Mountain of Stigma"
Presented by:  Heidi Billittier, LMSW, Director of Older Adult Services at Compeer and Janelle Thiessen, LMSW, Jewish Federation Apartments Service Coordinator

This interactive discussion will touch upon stigma associated with mental health and aging in our communities.  We will discuss barriers to mental health services and ways in which we might address those barriers in the context of our personal and professional lives. We will introduce the “Reframing Aging” initiative and facilitate a conversation around aging and purpose. We believe strongly that older age is not about losing one’s value, but rather that the opposite is true. It is up to all of us to help shift that mindset.

November 2021: Th e Drama Triangle and Communicating with People with Personality Disorders”
Presented by:  Christopher Frigon, Senior Therapist from Horizon Health Services

Working with difficult personalities in therapy presents many challenges for clinicians.  This training is designed to present the concept of the Drama Triangle as a map to begin understanding how to communicate professionally and effectively with individuals, couples, and family systems struggling with features of personality disorders.

October 2021:  "Co-Occurring Disorders Part II - Building Clinical Competencies to Provide Integrated Care
Presented by:  
Lindsey Rickard, LMHC, Vice President of Training and Innovation and Catherine Maloney, LMHC, Director of Training and Innovation from BestSelf Behavioral Health

This training will start with a brief review of co-occurring disorders, integrated care, and common barriers to providing care to co-occurring disorders. We will then move into a review of 5 competencies needed by clinicians to provide the best integrated care for co-occurring disorders and examples of how to provide training and support in identified competency areas. 

September 2021:  "The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children's Brain Development"
Presented by:  Peter S. Martin, MD, MPH, Director of the Division of Community Psychiatry and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University at Buffalo

There are numerous deleterious effects that growing up in a violent and/or neglectful household can have on the development of youth.  In this presentation, there will be an overview of different regions of the brain that are negatively changed as a result of this exposure.  There will be an explanation of typical functioning of these various brain regions.  Subsequently, there will be an exploration of how these specifics changes in these areas as a result of exposure to violence can impact the functioning of youths, with different impacts depending on the stage of development.

August 2021:  "Adapting to Our New Normal"
Presented by:  Esther Kaul, LMHC, and Lana Lal, LMHC, they are both Clinical Supervisors in the Counseling Services program at Child & Family Services

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our daily lives and our “business as usual” mentality which has forced us to make so many adjustments in our personal and professional lives.  These adjustments impacted us emotionally, physically, and mentally. Please join us to discuss and explore how to successfully transition out of the pandemic and create new routines, all while developing a new normal for ourselves, our families and the individuals we serve.  Our goal is to discuss the residual effects of the pandemic on providers as well as explore strategies for healthy coping and management. 

July 2021:  "Co-Occurring Disorders: Prevalence, Challenges and Strategies"
Presented by:  Jillian Warner-Dombrowski (MS, Master CASAC, Ph.D. Candidate), Co-Occurring Disorders Supervising Counselor at Transitional Services, Inc.

Jillian Warner-Dombrowski (MS, Master CASAC, Ph.D. Candidate), Co-Occurring Disorders Supervising Counselor at Transitional Services, Inc. reviews information on co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. This training includes current research about the prevalence of co-occurring disorders in behavioral health treatment settings. Commonly encountered disorders are briefly presented. Challenges with assessing co-occurring disorders, along with strategies for addressing identified challenges with clients are discussed. Finally, best practice strategies for providing services to individuals with co-occurring disorders are summarized.

June 2021:  Lethal Means Reduction: The “How” of Suicide Prevention that Makes a Difference"
Presented by:  Celia Spacone, Ph.D., Coordinator, Erie County Suicide Prevention Coalition and Katie Coric, LCSW, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Veterans Administration WNY Healthcare System

Katie Coric, LCSW (VA WNY Healthcare System, Suicide Prevention Coordinator) and Celia Spacone, Ph.D. (Erie County Suicide Prevention Coalition Coordinator) review the latest information on suicide in Erie County and nationally with a focus on veterans, a particularly high-risk group. They describe the philosophy of ‘means reduction’ which focuses on the method one chooses to attempt to end one’s life. By working with clients to reduce access to the most lethal means as a part of safety planning, a reduction in the number of deaths by suicide is possible. Applications of this model and resources are discussed.

April 2021 (Part 1) & May 2021 (Part 2):  "Understanding Vicarious Trauma… The Road to Resilience” 
Presented by:  Dr. Kirsten Vincent
, CEO of Recovery Options Made Easy

Choosing a career in a helping profession is an honorable decision and often those who choose it, bear the burden of other people’s trauma. Hearing trauma survivor's stories and witnessing traumatic events firsthand can affect advocates, health care professionals, police officers, lawyers, therapists, peers and others; it's called "vicarious trauma," and it can have a variety of negative effects. The toll of witnessing intense human experiences  and emotions can contribute to a negative transformation of a helper’s own sense of safety, and of being competent and purposeful. This workshop provides participants with the opportunity to examine their own experiences and become aware of the signs of both vicarious trauma and vicarious growth. Participants will have the opportunity to develop a personalized plan to repair negative effects, as well as, accelerate their resilience. 

March 2021:  "Clinical Education Training with a focus on Anxiety"
Presented by:  Dr. Rose Hazlitt, Psy.D. and Dr. Michael Cummings, MD. 

They presented a case study and lead a community conversation about anxiety. Participants walked away with a deeper understanding of how to support people who experience anxiety and had an opportunity to share strategies of their own that have been successful. 

January 2021 (Part I) & February 2021 (Part II):  "Working with Survivors of Abuse"
Presented by:  Mark O'Brien, LCSW-R
, Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Health

Mark shared his knowledge and insight in working with survivors of abuse; primarily sexual abuse, but also touched on physical and emotional abuse. This training is appropriate for anyone who is working with survivors of abuse and was not limited to just clinical staff.