Center Staff


Ken Gill


Kenneth Gill, Ph.D., CPRP, (PI and Co-Director) is an Associate Dean of Faculty Development, and Chairperson and Professor of the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He supervises academic programs from the associate through doctoral levels. He oversees workforce development and technical assistance projects funded by New Jersey, New York, and other states. He is co-author of two books, Psychiatric Rehabilitation (2014) and People in Recovery as Providers: Building on the Wisdom of Experience (2010), and more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and chapters. He combines his applied research background (Ph.D., Columbia) with his psychiatric rehabilitation and leadership expertise to improve the skills of providers and refine practices designed to help people with serious mental illnesses thrive. Contact: [email protected]

Ann Murphy


Ann Murphy, Ph.D., CPRP, (Co-Director) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers. She has extensive experience as a researcher, focused on interventions to improve the lives of individuals with psychiatric conditions, as well as a provider of psychiatric rehabilitation services. She has provided many professional development conference presentations and trainings throughout her career and is committed to facilitating the implementation of evidence-based practices in mental health. Ann has contributed significantly to the implementation of several federal and foundation-funded research studies and has conducted program evaluations for community-based mental health programs, including serving as Evaluator for three SAMHSA-funded Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) grantees. Contact: [email protected] 

Joni Dolce


Joni Dolce, MS, CRC, CPRP, (Project Associate) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers. Joni has several years of experience working in behavioral healthcare, specifically Supported Employment (SE) services, providing both direct employment services and supervising SE staff. She has authored and co-authored articles and workbooks on employment and education and provides workshops locally and nationally on a variety of career services-related topics. Some of her areas of expertise include in-vivo staff training, job development, and implementing employment services into non-vocational settings.  Joni has presented and provided training to a wide range of audiences including individuals in recovery, behavioral healthcare providers, Veterans Administration staff, Human Resource professionals, and employers. Joni’s role in the MHTTC will be to support systems change initiatives through training, consultation, and technical assistance provided to behavioral healthcare systems and organizations. Contact: [email protected]

Michelle Zechner


Michelle Zechner, Ph.D., LSW, CPRP, Assistant Professor at Rutgers, Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Programs, has focused her career on helping people with mental health conditions and their supporters improve their health and wellness for over twenty years. She has worked in a variety of settings including: academia, outpatient mental health programs, nursing homes, state psychiatric hospitals, training services, and public mental health administration.  Currently, Dr. Zechner conducts research, teaches and mentors students, and consults inter-professional teams on the implementation of staff support programs. Her research interests include inter-professional teaching about vulnerable populations, supporting multi-dimensional wellness, and supporting mental health professionals. She has co-authored peer-reviewed and technical publications on health promotion, evidence-based practices, inter-professional health initiatives for people living with mental health conditions, and supporting older adults living with mental health conditions. She is a sought-after trainer and has given presentations locally, nationally, and internationally on topics ranging from multidimensional wellness, aging with mental illness, building resilience and self-care for health professionals, and health promotion strategies for people living with mental health conditions.

Caribel Sanabria Velez


Caribel Sanabria Vélez, Ph.D., (Senior Training and Consultation Specialist – Mental Health and School Mental Health lead for Puerto Rico) is a fully bilingual Clinical Psychologist. She has over seven years of clinical and research work, performing with federal, community, and non-profit organizations. Using the knowledge gained with her postdoc degree in trauma, she developed and provided workshops, documentation, and psychoeducation with an evidence-based methodology to foster and increase the resiliency of the Puerto Rican population. Caribel has worked on federal proposals targeted at helping minority and Hispanic populations who suffered during and post-Hurricane Sandy in New York City. She has also collaborated as a therapist and consultant in the development of new proposals for projects with the purpose of training mental health specialists in resiliency and trauma post-Hurricane María in Puerto Rico. Contact: [email protected] 

Caribel Sanabria Vélez, Ph.D., (Especialista senior en capacitación y consulta – Principal representante de Salud Mental Comunitaria y Salud Mental Escolar en Puerto Rico) es una psicóloga clínica completamente bilingüe. Ella tiene sobre siete años de trabajo clínico e investigativo, trabajando con organizaciones federales, comunitarias y sin fines de lucro. Usando los conocimientos adquiridos con su posdoctorado en trauma, desarrolló y brindó talleres, documentación y psicoeducación con una metodología basada en la evidencia para fomentar y aumentar la resiliencia de la población puertorriqueña. Caribel ha trabajado en propuestas federales destinadas a ayudar a las poblaciones minoritarias e hispanas que sufrieron durante y después del huracán Sandy en la ciudad de Nueva York. También ha colaborado como terapeuta y consultora en el desarrollo de nuevas propuestas de proyectos con el propósito de capacitar especialistas en salud mental en resiliencia y trauma post-Huracán María en Puerto Rico. Contacto: [email protected]

Kristy Ritvalsky


Kristy Ritvalsky, MPH is a school-based senior training and consultation specialist with the MHTTC. Before joining the MHTTC team, she supported school teams with coaching, training, and technical assistance in social-emotional learning (SEL), school mental health, and positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS). She brings more than 15 years of experience in implementing and maintaining evidence-based. practices in various settings that involve direct and indirect consultation services. Kristy is passionate about improving the educational and social outcomes in urban communities. She has worked extensively in urban districts of Philadelphia, PA, and Newark, NJ working within schools and partnering with community organizations to align school-wide behavior programs. Contact: [email protected]

Alicia Lukachko


Alicia Lukachko, DrPH, MSW, LSW works with the Northeast & Caribbean MHTTC as a senior training and consultation specialist in school mental health. She is a faculty member at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Department of Psychiatry. Within the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions, Alicia also oversees the Eye2Eye Peer Support Program for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. She received her doctorate in public health from Columbia University, where she also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology. Alicia later earned a master’s degree in clinical social work from Rutgers University. She is a licensed therapist, a certified school social worker, and has extensive experience in program design, implementation, and evaluation. In addition to her current work in the areas of school-based mental health and peer support, Alicia’s research interests have spanned the roles of race, ethnicity, discrimination, and trauma on health and utilization of mental health services.  

Tania Leonard


Tania Leonard, MS is a Senior Training and Consultation Specialist with the MHTTC. Tania has over 18 years of experience identifying and connecting resources for schools, districts, and urban communities.  She has a rich history working in the mental health field and education leadership. Tania has worked tirelessly collaborating with child servicing agencies at both the city and state levels. Her strong leadership and coordination skills have supported numerous collaborative efforts through committee work in conjunction with the Department of Human Services, Philadelphia School District, District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Justice Systems, Disciplinary Placement Representatives, and other Inter-agency work.

Prior to her joining the MHTTC, Tania worked with urban school districts where she provided leadership, guidance, and coaching to schools, specifically supporting the mental health needs of students, developing and maintaining community partnerships, and facilitating school-wide crisis recovery.  Tania has supported up to 40 school teams with managing evidence-based supports, responding to behavioral health emergencies, coordinating supports with the city’s Acute Services to ensure appropriate follow up, managing the aftermath of school and community crises (e.g. student or staff death, community violence, natural disaster).  She has served on the Philadelphia Suicide Task Force Subcommittee for Education and was instrumental in authoring the Suicide Prevention Policy for the Philadelphia School District. She is a trained Trauma Informed Professional and holds a certification in Education Policy. 

Tania remains committed to providing quality services to the most vulnerable populations.

Katty Rivera


Katty Rivera, M.Ed, (Project Coordinator) comes to the MHTTC from a large community-based behavioral health organization where she managed treatment teams and coordinated services for people with serious mental illnesses in employment and housing programs. She has presented training programs and managed large community-based events. Katty is a leader in the Latino/a community serving as co-chair on the advisory board of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture at Rutgers and a leader with the Latino Alumni Association. She also serves on the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion for the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA). Contact: [email protected]

Heidi Trotta


Heidi Trotta (Instructional Designer) focuses on e-learning creation and production work at the MHTTC.  Her current academic interests include visual design and literacy, case-based learning, digital gaming, and design thinking. Heidi has her Ed.M. from Teachers College at Columbia University in Instructional Technology and Media with a Master’s Degree in Adult Education/Instructional Media from Seton Hall and certificates in Advanced Web Design/Web Graphics from Rutgers University. To relax and have fun, she loves to pursue creative projects such as painting, sculpting, mixed media, creating books, and drawing.  She also enjoys ballroom dancing. Contact: [email protected]

Sean Karyczak


Sean Karyczak, MS, CRC, (Evaluator) is an Assistant Research Coordinator in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He has experience working as a researcher, program evaluator, and counselor providing services to individuals with mental health challenges. Within the MHTTC he serves as the evaluator of the center’s training initiatives and products. His interests include physical health promotion, inter-professional health care education, and advancing evidence-based practices for those with mental health challenges. In his spare time, he can be found cycling around town and enjoying the outdoors. Contact: [email protected]

Meredith Bell Franczak


Meredith Bell Franczak (Program Assistant) received her B.A. in Health and Wellness Communication, with a minor in Digital Communication, Information, and Media, from Rutgers University. As the program assistant, Meredith runs our social media accounts, creates digital content for the center, manages our website, and provides additional support to other members of the team. In her spare time, Meredith enjoys cooking, hiking, and camping with her husband and her dog. Contact: [email protected] 

Stuart Luther


Stuart Luther (Graduate Assistant) is pursuing his master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling with a focus in clinical mental health counseling at Rutgers. His academic and clinical focus is on supporting underserved and culturally diverse communities both through mental health services and research. As the Graduate Assistant, Stuart supports all the MHTTC’s programs but primarily supports the center’s school mental health work. Stuart is currently completing his clinical internship with a School-Based Youth Services program at a New Jersey high school.