Public Health is Mental Health_ Q&A With Dr. Sandro Galea: Q&A With Dr. Sandro Galea

At PRA, we work for well-being.  Our work in the wellness and well-being space seeks to improve outcomes for individuals with behavioral health conditions. We understand that all populations we work to serve have unique needs, and improving well-being can enhance the overall quality of life and outcomes for these individuals, as well as for… Read More

Inktober 2019 Header

I was hesitant to sign-up for a blog post sharing my experiences about Inktober this past month, however, it’s such a relief to be on the other side, and I can’t believe Inktober is already over. What is Inktober, you ask? “Every October, artists all over the world take on the Inktober drawing challenge by… Read More

Closeup of American Flag

As I reflect on Veterans Day 2018, I fondly remember my husband and I both proudly donning our hooded Army sweatshirts and heading out to enjoy a free lunch. As we entered the restaurant, my husband received countless, “thanks for your service,” “hey I served in the Army too,” “where were you stationed,”…I am sure… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Intellectual Wellness

A wise person once told me, take advantage of professional development opportunities, no matter how large or small. All you need is one good take away message, tool, skill…one golden nugget…to make it all worthwhile. As part of my professional development for this year, I attended the National Wellness Institute’s (NWI) 2019 National Wellness Conference… Read More

Hand holding two sharpies in front of wall of post it notes

All four of the BJA VALOR Initiative’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) sites [Huntsville, Alabama; Honolulu, Hawaii; St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, and Alamogordo, New Mexico] have completed their 40-hour trainings, with a total of 145 graduates. In addition, PRA has wrapped up the corresponding Train-the-Trainer workshops, so the four sites can continue to train law enforcement… Read More

View of fields, bluffs, and the sea on an Irish Walking Trail

Over the years, I have had ample opportunity to speak with friends about strategies for relaxation. Some gravitate towards yoga or the cinema, while others paint, cook, or travel the world on river cruises. While I consider myself to be a fairly social creature, I find personal zen in the quiet of the outdoors, preferably… Read More

Drop of water causing ripples

In mid-September, I went to the induction ceremony at the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The Hall is close by in Seneca Falls, NY, and if you haven’t gotten a chance to go, I would recommend it. I had been to the museum before (it’s part of the National Park Service), and I chose to… Read More

In Therapy and Thriving

Fifteen years ago, when I was just starting social work school, one of my professors recommended that we should all see a therapist, that we needed to know what it was like for our future clients, and maybe it would be good for us too. I was skeptical. I wasn’t going to be a clinician.… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Social Wellness

I so look forward to the first day of autumn because it is the unofficial start of the holiday season in my book…even in 90-degree North Carolina weather. Finally, no excuses needed to deck your living space out with all of the pumpkins, apple-scented candles, leaf wreaths, and mini bales of hay propping up your… Read More

Close up of people writing in notebooks during a presentation.

I spent a couple of hours on one Saturday taking part in a Naloxone (common brand name Narcan) rescue training. Naloxone is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, potentially reversing an opioid overdose. While PRA doesn’t provide any direct services to clients, a lot of our training and technical assistance involves working… Read More

Movie theater

I attended the 2019 Annual Conference for the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) in New York, New York and had the honor of watching this 20-minute film. America; I Too follows the story of three immigrants who have been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The short film introduces you to… Read More

People putting their hands in for a group cheer

Guest post by a Florida SOAR Provider Two years ago this past April, we started the Hillsborough County Health Care Services SOAR unit in Florida with the vision of serving the needs of our indigent clients experiencing or at risk of homelessness while working towards becoming one of the best SOAR groups in the country.… Read More

Close up of a dictionary

Content warning: Ableist language. We don’t say the r-word anymore. But have you heard someone say one of these recently? “He’s so crazy.” “The weather is schizophrenic.” “Our workload is insane.” “That’s lame.” I have, and I’m trying to stop. All the phrases use ableist language. Ableism is the discrimination of people with disabilities. Ableist… Read More

SOAR 2019 CJ TA Awards

Beginning January 11, 2019, the SAMSHA SOAR Technical Assistance Center worked alongside local SOAR criminal justice (CJ) leads to plan and prepare SOAR Implementation meetings for six sites that were awarded the SOAR CJ Technical Assistance Opportunity.  On May 13, 2019, the final Implementation meeting was held for this third round of awardees. The SOAR… Read More

Daniel Rivera

This story was shared with the SAMHSA SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance Center by Daniel Rivera, whose wife Teddi Rivera is a SOAR Local Lead. An edited version of the story is below and underscores the power of the SOAR model and its reach in everything from income support, housing stability, employment,… Read More

View of a windy road along the ocean during a cloudy dusk

In April 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in two SOAR Criminal Justice (CJ) Technical Assistance (TA) Implementation Meetings. These were the first meetings of this type I have been a part of since I started working for Policy Research Associates, Inc. and the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center. Fortunately, I had my two experienced… Read More

Multicolored tiles arranged in a cascading pattern

On May 1, 2019, I attended a Mental Health First Aid Training, in Albany, New York, sponsored by the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS). What I liked about the training was that the trainer began by asking each participant about why they signed up to take the Mental Health First Aid… Read More

Close up of chocolate chip cookies on a baking sheet

This story was shared with the SAMHSA SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance Center by an anonymous individual who learned about the SOAR model when it was used to support their estranged brother. An edited version of the story is below and underscores the power of the SOAR model and its reach in… Read More

Horse on top of a hill

Horses have been the central part of my life for as long as I can remember. Inside, I am forever that little girl. You know the one. The girl that points out every horse on a road trip; that has horse-themed wall calendars and mugs; that watches every horse movie unless it doesn’t end well… Read More

Organized bedside table

In January, I used my annual Day of Reflection to get started on a project I had wanted to undertake for a long time. I planned to spend an uninterrupted block of time at home, organizing some of my worldly items and determining which things could be discarded. In the practical sense, the project was… Read More

Tree-lined highway

By Meghan Agblevor “So what do you see yourself doing in the future?” is a question that always takes my brain into overdrive. Why? Well, growing up I always wanted to be an Obstetrician-gynecologist but I’ve always hated science, so that’s a no. I would love to open up my own service business in Africa… Read More

View of memorial pillars at the National Monument for Peace and Justice

I was looking up at a copper edifice used to memorialize the life of someone I have never met. The structure that captured so much of my attention was not alone.  This structure was meticulously suspended at least 15 feet above my head along with several hundred more some adorned by a single name, but… Read More

PRA Celebrates Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month! Mental Health Month is an opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health care and to share resources and support to encourage people to seek help when they need it. To honor the month, PRA staff shared their answers two questions: Why does mental health awareness matter? What does mental… Read More

Macro shot of puzzle pieces

Mental health awareness matters because we are all affected by it. It is at the center of so many issues affecting our country. Along with issues of poverty and trauma, mental health is woven right into the fabric of our society. Through mental health awareness campaigns and by being an advocate, a voice, for people… Read More

Children's MHAD 2019

Once a year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shines a national spotlight on the importance of caring for every child’s mental health and reinforces that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development. The 2019 theme for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is “Suicide Prevention: Strategies that Work.” Learn… Read More

Pink notebook on a pink desk with a plant, pen, and paper surrounding the book

At PRA, we have a number of “boards” around the office.  These boards are bulletin boards maintained by staff and various committees to share information and materials with staff.  For example, our Cultural Competence Board, maintained by PRA’s Cultural Competence Committee, has featured pieces on intersectionality, implicit bias, and trauma.  Our Wellness Board, created by… Read More

SOAR 2019 CJ TA Awards

It is often said that the preparation for individuals to be released from prison and jail begins at the time of incarceration. Although the maxim is ideal, it is not uncommon for people with serious mental illness to return to communities without the support they need to ensure successful community integration.  When faced with housing… Read More

On Friday, January 11, I tuned into a 1-hour webinar entitled “New Alaska Statute Directs State Policy to Incorporate Principles of Brain Development.” As an educator and trauma trainer with a long-established interest in research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I was interested in learning how, in this political environment, scientific knowledge on trauma and… Read More

Writing for Wellness Financial Wellness

When people think about their financial wellness they are often thinking about the nasty four letter word D-E-B-T. I could tell you all about “good” debt vs. “bad” debt but I want you to read the entire blog post without your eyes glazing over. I’d much rather provide tips on how to manage, save, and… Read More

Picture of an airplane flying through the clouds

Ashley’s Favorite Food Halls In the never-ending search for good food everywhere and in particular places I’m traveling for work, I like to seek out food halls. These have popped up not only in trendy cities (even Albany!), and are typically upscale food courts, with multiple rotating or permanent vendors cooking and selling out of… Read More

Growing Clover

Recently, in conversation with someone, I was asked “if I feel lucky.” I responded by telling her I do feel lucky—in fact, sometimes I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world. What defines “luck,” though? I can tell you that when I was younger, I never felt particularly lucky. I focused more… Read More

Diverse group of hands fist bumping over a conference table

Last summer I had the privilege of attending the New York State Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc. conference on “Confronting Health Inequity.” This conference was aimed at creating a dialogue on the impact of racism on mental health. The keynote speaker was Dr. Ruth Shim, who is the Director of Cultural Psychiatry, and an associate professor… Read More

Overhead shot of a coffee cup, notebook with pen, stethoscope, computer, glasses, and cellphone

In October 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) Annual Conference as my professional development for the year. One class I attended was particularly interesting, especially given the population we often advocate for here at Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA). Judi Kosterman, Ph.D., from the… Read More

Woman standing under a cliff looking out at sea

I was in a 9-year relationship with someone who has a severe and persistent mental illness. It was the only romantic relationship I really knew, and it was something that I hoped with every piece of me would remain the same. This person was unique, intelligent, funny, and charming. This person had a series of… Read More

SOAR Infographic Collage

There’s a new page we’re excited to share with SOAR providers and agencies across the country: the SOAR Infographics page! This page houses key infographics to help your agency communicate the success and reach of SOAR. Here are just a few of the available infographics you can download today: SOAR Overview This one-page infographic provides… Read More

Iron on ironing board

We all talk about cultural competence. It is part of our professional development and values. But what does it mean and how do we really put cultural competence into practice? One way to operationalize cultural competence is by modifying Evidence-based Practices (EBPs). I am reminded how cultural differences can have an impact across the spectrum… Read More

PRA's 2018 Year in Review

Another year has gone by at PRA, and it seems to have done so in a blink! Each December, we gather at PRA to reflect and celebrate the year that has passed and to prepare for the year ahead. During one of PRA’s favorite traditions, the Annual State of the Firm, President Pam Robbins encouraged… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Environmental Wellness

What does environmental wellness have to do with where you work? Well if you consider that almost half of your waking hours are spent in the workplace then the environment you work in should certainly be a significant consideration when examining your overall environmental wellness.  What surrounds you every day can most certainly affect your… Read More

Playstation Controller

They say it takes a village to raise a child. This is also true of ensuring a successful transition from homelessness and serious mental illness to housing, stability, and recovery. We began working with JT when he was 20 years old. He entered foster care at a young age and was eventually adopted, but due… Read More

SOAR Child Curriculum

Over the course of the past year, we have been developing the SOAR Online Course: Child Curriculum. It has been a challenging and rewarding undertaking.  SOAR for Children is going to be an incredible addition to the work of the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center and an important resource for the field. The staff of the… Read More

Two Older Women

I have kept this 2016 NY Times article about the rise in homelessness among older adults and a Vox essay written by a 50-year-old woman experiencing homelessness because I had plans for writing a blog on this issue in the future. I am not sure why it has taken me nearly 3 years to write… Read More

Blown dandelion

As we kick off the 10th year of the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center, I am reminded and encouraged of the incredible impact the SOAR initiative has on individual lives and communities. I get goosebumps when I hear about the ways that SOAR spreads like a good pollinator. Through a wonderful partnership with the Grand Challenges… Read More

Multicolored confetti in a blue room

25 years…it goes by in a flash. When I started at PRA in 1993, I was 1 of 12 employees. At that time, PRA was a small one-story building at 262 Delaware Avenue. When we moved to 345 Delaware Avenue in 2000, the old building was leveled and the CVS was built in its place.… Read More

Have You Ever Heard of Elmer Ellsworth

The history of the United States is directly linked to the history of the Capital District. Not only is Albany the oldest active city charter still in operation today,[1] innovations such as the telegraph, the electric motor, the steamboat, and the railroad were first established here.[2] Many of us were taught in grade school of… Read More

Towel, lotion, candle, and flowers on a table

For many women, a domestic violence experience is an immediate cause of homelessness. Women that are struggling to survive and escape the stress and chaos of their lives are foreign to the idea of pampering themselves. In contrast, many women that I know also have strong stressors in their lives and work hard to protect… Read More

People putting their hands in for a group cheer

Organized by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), each October National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and provides education about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. DOL has a number of helpful resources to organize your own disability employment awareness event. We also… Read More

People Standing, Texting

“If you’re middle-aged, she’s you. If you’re a millennial, she’s your mom.” I simply can’t get past this quote I read in Frank Bruni’s column the morning after the hearings for the open Supreme Court seat as it was like an arrow through my heart. The author of this statement is speaking about Dr. Christine… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Occupational and Physical Wellness

Since 1949, May has been a national observance month for mental health. During Mental Health Month, awareness is raised about the impact of mental health conditions on individuals, families, and communities. Recognizing the importance of this observance, WellStaff@PRA, Policy Research Associates’ staff wellness committee, organized its first annual Mental Health Awareness Step Challenge in 2017.… Read More

Chan and Katie at the March for Our Lives

The Parkland shootings raised our nation’s consciousness about gun violence in ways that were previously unseen. That event and the ensuing national debate over gun control and responsible gun ownership was the catalyst for much discussion among colleagues, friends, and family for many of us. Most notable for me, however, was the ongoing dialogue with… Read More

Computer, open notebook, eye glasses

The Social Security Administration’s Analyzing Relationships between Disability, Rehabilitation and Work (ARDRAW) Small Grant Program has recently funded its second cohort of student researchers. ARDRAW is a one-year $10,000 stipend program awarded to graduate-level students to conduct supervised independent research designed to foster new analysis of work, rehabilitation, and disability issues, which may develop innovative… Read More

Two women at a large concert

Last year, I lost a friend to an opioid use disorder. I think about her every day: who she was when I knew her best; what kind of a life she could have had; how, even though it was improbable (but not impossible), we could have reconnected and rekindled our friendship. This year, I am… Read More

Invite Us to Your Inbox

Looking for new ways to connect with PRA and its projects? Have you checked out our email lists? National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) The NCMHJJ  promote systems change and improved outcomes for youth with mental behavioral health, substance use, or co-occurring disorders in contact with the juvenile justice system. Its monthly… Read More

Busy Hallway Filled with People

This summer has come and, while not quite gone, is going quickly and with it so has July’s Social Wellness month. Even though it has already come to a close, it is still important to take time to reflect and plan ahead for your social wellness (doing so may even have benefits for your physical… Read More

Outside Pillars of the Supreme Court

This time of year brings me back to some of the most meaningful milestones in my professional career.  The last Wednesday and Friday of each July inevitably brings me back to sitting for the New York State Bar Examination.  It also brings me back to the intense pride that I felt graduating from law school… Read More

Bowl of popcorn

In June, the SOAR TA Center’s Pam Heine and Suzy Sodergren attended the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Conference in Washington, DC for their professional development. Among the highlights was a Film Festival that featured award-winning socially conscious films.  NASW expressed that, “Film is a valuable resource to promote civic awareness, global engagement, discussions,… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Financial Wellness Dollar bills

Financial stress is a reality that most, if not all, of us face at some point in our lives, to some degree. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, total credit card balances for Americans amounted to almost a trillion dollars ($784 billion) in the second quarter of 2017. 1 Beside this fact, credit card… Read More

Photo credits: Deb Perelman/Smitten Kitchen

Since 2006, Deb Perelman has been cooking food and photographing it, operating the Smitten Kitchen blog from her tiny NYC kitchen. Her slant is “comfort food stepped up a bit,” always from scratch, and without “excessively fussy and/or pretentious ingredients.” Her favorites are artichokes, pommes frites, and bourbon. She has published two cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen… Read More

Juneteenth 2018 Reflection

On June 19, 2018, I sat with my family—my son, his wife, her parents and my parents—and had a great dinner filled with old stories and laughter. Red, white, and blue streamers, table mats, and centerpieces infused with American flags made way for a fashionably patriotic ambiance. Comfort adorned the table with barbeque, watermelon, and… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Social Wellness

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” – Helen Keller A few months ago, after a particularly challenging day, I called one of my best friends. Within a half hour he was sitting on my couch listening intently, offering words of support and encouragement while periodically passing… Read More

White cloth-covered book on a wooden table

Bryan Stevenson has written a painful and powerful book, Just Mercy, chronicling his creation of the Equal Justice Initiative and his (and others’) fight for justice and redemption. The PRA Cultural Competence Committee selected this book for our Spring Book Club. The consensus after our book club discussion was that we were all grateful to… Read More

Blue and orange apartments

One of the benefits I have been most excited about since joining PRA in September 2017 is the professional development benefit. Each employee has the opportunity to attend a professional conference of interest to the individual employee once a year for the purpose of enhancing their professional development. On April 9, I flew to Denver,… Read More

I had the privilege to attend NatCon18, the annual conference of the National Council on Behavioral Health. The conference is busy. The agenda and hallways are packed. There was an interesting juxtaposition playing out in those convention center halls. Plenary speaker after plenary speaker spoke about the plague of loneliness. Meanwhile, over 5,000 conference attendees… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Emotional Wellness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month…what a perfect time to blog about emotional wellness! I volunteered to write this blog based on some recent work I’ve been doing both personally and professionally in this area. To start, I’d say that I like to think of myself as a person who is emotionally healthy but, I… Read More

Cracks in the desert

In March 2018, the staff members at PRA completed the Harvard Implicit Bias Test as a part of our continued efforts to improve the services we provide to communities and states across the country. The purpose of this exercise was to raise awareness about biases—we all have them—so our staff members, as individuals, could reflect… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Spiritual Wellness. Image displays Person sitting in seated meditation.

I used my Day of Reflection in 2017 to focus on the Eight Dimensions of Wellness.  I wanted to concentrate on my wellness and maybe put into place a plan for eating healthy and integrating some sort of exercise routine that would involve stretching. I printed out and used SAMHSA’s Eight Dimensions of Wellness Guide… Read More

Our country is fragmented in sharp pieces. Everywhere and every day you hear of another atrocious act being committed, another derisive tweet sent out, and people all over our huge country getting more and more angry and submitting to their fears. What you don’t get to hear in your day-to-day is the work that seems… Read More

Writing for Wellness: Physical Wellness

While I’m no expert at physical wellness, I can say that I’ve made great strides over the years. I spent a bit of time in the New York Army National Guard and suffered a hip injury at the tail end of Basic Combat Training, which only got progressively worse when I went on to Advanced… Read More

Sleeping french bulldog

I am sure that my officemates are growing tired of getting unsolicited updates on Honeybee. You see, Honeybee is my year old French Bulldog that I had to, at least temporarily leave behind in New York City when I relocated to Albany, New York last December.  Our separation has not been an easy one as… Read More

2017 Year in Review

It seems that every year is one full of milestones for PRA, and 2017 was no different. In 2017 we had two of our biggest milestones yet: the celebration of our 30th Anniversary and the retirement of our founder, Hank Steadman. During one of PRA’s favorite traditions, the Annual State of the Firm, President and… Read More


I love bluebirds. A year ago I’d never seen one before, but ever since a small flock of them showed up in the eastern redcedars right outside my cabin last winter I’ve been obsessed. There is no collective noun for eastern bluebirds—no gaggle or murder or exultation—because they don’t typically travel in large groups. During… Read More

Person making a heart with their hands

My college friend invited me to a show called FEELINGS at Littlefield in Brooklyn a few months ago. FEELINGS is a variety show, with each show focusing on a different feeling. The theme of this broadcast was sadness — a topic we all love talking about. Since I’m working on being more vulnerable — thanks to… Read More

School books and blocks

The older I get, the more nostalgic I become about the people who made the greatest difference in my formative years. Mrs. Rosenberg was my fifth grade teacher and I owe much of my love of learning to her. My journey to Mrs. Rosenberg’s class was politically charged; I was part of New York City’s… Read More

Closeup of four hands fist bumping over a desk

I attended the Family and Youth Engagement in School-Justice Partnership: Voices from the Field webinar put on by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, and conducted by PRA’s own Jacqui Greene on November 28, 2017. The talk, which featured clips from NCMHJJ’s Family and Youth Engagement to Keep Kids in School podcast… Read More

Working on a laptop

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Disability Determination (DDP) Small Grant Program, which provided $10,000 research stipends to graduate students in the area of disability, has successfully concluded. In total 55 research projects were completed, designed to assist SSA with its disability determination process. Research was conducted on the process itself, the Compassionate Allowance program, and… Read More

Writing for Wellness Blog Header: Financial

I regretted volunteering to write a blog on financial wellness while I simultaneously procrastinate recertifying my student loans and find myself ordering lunch at the office more than I bring food from home.  Then, I was reminded (thanks to my super smart supervisor!) that writing a blog on financial wellness doesn’t have to be about… Read More

Kitchen butcher board

In August, I attended the 2017 American Indian Alaska Native Behavioral Health Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, co-sponsored by the National Indian Health Board and Indian Health Services. In the opening session, Mirtha Beadle, Director of the Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, presented on SAMHSA’s National… Read More

Marathon Participants

My friend and I have a goal to run 50 half marathons in 50 states together. It’s a lofty goal, made even loftier due to the fact that we only run two races per year. In May we completed our fifth race (we’re 10 percent of the way there!) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We ran the… Read More


This blog post was originally published on the SOARWorks website on October 31, 2017. So much of the work we do at Policy Research focuses on disability, and within the SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance (TA) Center this work often focuses specifically on the link between disability and employment. The SOAR program aims to help people… Read More

Person working next to Laptop

When I was in high school, I read Flowers for Algernon. The classic 1966 science-fiction novel tells the story of menial laborer Charlie Gordon, 32, who has an IQ of 68 and is suddenly gifted with intelligence after taking part in an experiment. However, the effects of the experiment are only temporary as Charlie slowly diminishes… Read More

Robin nestled in evergreen branches

We focus a lot on wellness at PRA. Wellness for our employees and wellness as an important piece of the expertise that we offer to the field. Sometimes, as I drive into my garage at the end of the day when wellness has been on my agenda in some way, I am overwhelmed by the… Read More

Person reading a book

As our population ages, health and behavioral health care needs will rise. Many families will respond to these needs by acting as caregivers. During this October’s National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, we should be mindful of the behavioral health needs of caregivers. A 2015 study conducted at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center… Read More

Wellness Hotel

EVEN hotels are jumping on the wellness bandwagon!! Recently I experienced another perspective on occupational wellness, the perspective of the work traveler. It is pretty hard to focus on your wellness when you’re on the road, spending too much time in airports, hotels and meeting rooms, having limited healthy food choices, and being too strapped… Read More

Pink, blue, and purple hydrangea bush

“Patrick was never at a loss to make people laugh and always had a big heart for the less fortunate. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Patrick may be made to the New Hope Foundation of Marlboro.”- From Patrick’s obituary, March 22, 2016 “Our state faces a crisis which is more urgent to… Read More

School Desk

I have always really loved learning. My mom was an elementary school teacher and I grew up surrounded by ceiling-high shelves of books. I truly enjoyed college and graduate school, and the idea of going back for more is always in the back of my mind (raising two children and working full-time pushes that a… Read More

Person taking an artful picture of their lunch with an iPhone

Recently I’ve become very aware of my extremely high rate of iPhone, social media, and Internet consumption. I feel a constant pull towards my phone and experience sheer terror on the rare occasion it’s not next to me and I can’t remember where I saw it last. Living in a world inundated with the Internet,… Read More

Occupational Wellness - Writing for Wellness

PRA’s focus on wellness is very exciting, and I jumped at the idea of writing a blog on wellness. I chose occupational wellness based on some recent experiences, but when sitting down to write couldn’t remember where it all started. Then it came to me as a sipped my tea from my favorite mug bearing… Read More

Couple of Business People Meeting

You’re in an interview – Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. This common response to being interviewed is also known as nervousness. It’s science!  In 14 Tips For Staying Calm During A Job Interview, Dr. Tamar Chansky explains that our brains respond the same way in an interview as they would in… Read More

Neon light on a wall saying work harder

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash One of my younger cousins called me recently to talk about her future, but she’s interested in a field I never seriously considered, so at first I couldn’t offer much first-hand information. Then she brought up something that I do experience every day. “I want to have a job where I know… Read More

Young boy squeezing a large rubber ball

On May 14th, I was officially done with college. I know they say that time flies, but I truly feel like just yesterday I was a freshman, not knowing what to expect of college or where my life was going to be at the end of 4 years. It is a surreal feeling knowing that… Read More

GAINS Center Individual TTT Applicants

Since the inception of the How Being Trauma-Informed Improves Criminal Justice System Responses training in 2011, PRA and the GAINS Center staff have completed over 90 trauma training deliveries and train-the-trainer (TTT) events. Over 2,300 individuals have been trained by PRA/GAINS (and countless others through local deliveries following the TTTs), primarily through onsite training deliveries… Read More

Four horses at wire gate

I have owned thoroughbred racing horses for about 22 years.  I am small time, with usually 1 or 2 horses at a time that I own in a 50-50 partnership with my trainer.  They run most often at Finger Lake Race Track near Rochester, New York and occasionally at Saratoga, Aqueduct, and Belmont. One can… Read More

Spiritual Wellness Blog Header

I often write about being a person in long-term recovery from behavioral issues—issues which brought me to many of the common places people who have struggled with these issues face: jails, hospitals, and treatment programs. Recovery being possible for absolutely everyone, my life turned from one of sadness and pain to one of achievement, joy,… Read More

Two friends shaking hands.

After graduating from college I realized that the period of being drowned in homework and assignments was over. Even though this is an amazing feeling, I made a promise to myself to continue to learn and educate myself as a person. The book I am reading now is called How to Win Friends and Influence… Read More

Voice Awards Blog Week-Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the day set aside for remembrance of those who have died in our nation’s service.  When this long weekend comes each year, I always attend Marlborough’s Memorial Day ceremonies and participate in a race around our town lake, which makes donations to military families.  This is also a time when I think… Read More

Voice Awards Blog Week-Community

Having the good fortune to travel throughout the country working with states, territories, and the District of Columbia to support the enhancement of the systems that support service members, veterans, and their families (SMVF), I have seen many innovative initiatives in communities.  All of these initiatives are being led by dedicated people who are committed… Read More

Voice Awards Blog Week-Individual

Transitioning service members and veterans face many different challenges, some of which are very similar to their civilian counterparts and others that are unique to the military. Issues such as child care, home maintenance, and household finance management are common to most families, but military spouses and family members often face other issues, such as… Read More

Pink, Yellow, and Orange Cake with stars sprinkles

This post originally appeared on the SOAR Voices blog. We have been collecting SOAR outcomes for 11 years now and as tedious as data collection can seem, it never gets old. Every application, every approval, every dollar saved, and cost reimbursed represents a life changed, a system improved, and a difference made. I look at… Read More

House Sketches

Before we had even moved a single scoop of earth to make way for our future home’s foundation, my husband and I had already toured the place extensively. On paper, on the computer, and on the plot of land, we’ve been sketching, revising, refining, and simulating the place for years. During winter we paced out… Read More

Physical Wellness Blog Header

I’m intrigued by the wellness work we do here at PRA.  Intrigued may be an odd word to use but let me explain. I think the work is incredibly important, and I feel strongly in the concept of whole health and seeing the full picture of wellness. The intriguing part for me is how I… Read More

Empty apartment

This blog post originally appeared on the SOAR Voices page of the SOARWorks website. With the release of new guidelines on coordinated entry systems by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in January 2017, communities around the country are working hard to increase the efficiency of their local crisis response systems, ensuring… Read More

Carrots in a cloth bag

About a month ago, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and stumbled upon the #ZeroWaste hashtag. Intrigued, I clicked on it and was greeted by hundreds of photos of people around the world striving to use fewer single-use products in their daily life–all in beautiful, Instagram-worthy photos. I was hooked. What is Zero Waste?… Read More

San Francisco apartments

It’s National Public Health Week (April 3-9, 2017) and like our partners and providers around the country, we are helping to raise awareness of how homelessness impacts public health. This year’s annual theme, coordinated by the American Public Health Association, is “Healthiest Nation 2030.” This theme focuses on how we can work together to create… Read More


One of my favorite things about the PRA community is our “giving table”—a name I uncreatively made up for the purposes of this blog post. The table is located in our upstairs kitchen, conveniently located next to the coffee machine. While it does often serve its purpose as a place for people to prepare and… Read More

Get Social with PRA

Looking for new ways to connect with the PRA projects? Have you checked out our projects’ social media presence? National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) The NCMHJJ has a strong social media presence—you should follow and like us! Our Twitter account shares resources and opportunities for juvenile justice professionals daily, while our… Read More

Springfield TTT

On April 5th of 2016 I had the privilege to attend a How Being Trauma-Informed Improves Criminal Justice Responses Train-the-Trainer event for my professional development. PRA’s Professional Development benefit allows  employees to attend one training  or conference each year to enhance their work. As the person who works across projects assisting in material prep for meetings… Read More

Elevator Bank

Most people grow up with the wisdom passed on from generation to generation through their grandparents. However, I am unlike most people. Of my four grandparents, three of them passed away before I was born, while the remaining grandparent lived in another state. I sought mentorship at an extremely young age from older and wiser… Read More

2016 Year in Review Blog Header

We’ve closed out another wonderful year at PRA and are well on our way to an exciting 2017—our 29th year of operation (can you believe the big 3-0 is next year?). While the New Year has come and gone, we’d like to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. At our annual State… Read More

New Zealand Collage 1

Last October, Dan and I took a 2 ½ week trip to gorgeous New Zealand. The country hadn’t previously been on our destination radar, but we couldn’t pass up a flight bargain, so decided to go for it. We stayed in a majority of Airbnb homes, as well as a couple hostels, and did not… Read More


Guest post by Meredith Osta, Program Director of Fostering Futures NY While each of FFNY’s 15 volunteer teams is special in its own way, one group stands out for a unique reason. The team from Policy Research Associates (PRA) is made up of colleagues at a workplace. “We’re hoping to sign on more teams from companies… Read More


The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) was recently signed into law with overwhelming bipartisan support. It provides exciting opportunities for developing or expanding criminal justice and behavioral health collaboration to reduce the disproportionate prevalence of justice involved persons with mental illness. The Cures Act provides for a broad range of programs through multiple funding streams, including… Read More

Women's March Photo

On January 21st, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with several friends and colleagues to participate in the Women’s March on Washington. Taking part in the movement seemed vital, but frankly I was dreading the inconveniences that would also be present: a long late-night bus ride from Albany, large crowds, lack of control in a new… Read More

This blog originally appeared on the SOAR Voices blog. With the deadline for the next round of Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) approaching on February 3rd, we want to highlight how important the integration of SOAR into SSVF programs has been in ending homelessness for Veterans with disabling conditions. In 2015, over half of… Read More

PRA's Month of Giving

As we close out another year, we’re also closing out our annual Month of Giving! Each year’s Month of Giving is special and this year was no exception. For our 2016 Month of Giving, PRA adopted a family for the holidays. We paired up with the Albany County Department for Children, Youth, and Families to… Read More

Skid Row Housing Trust’s Star Apartments

Photo: Skid Row Housing Trust’s Star Apartments  In September 2016, I flew to Los Angeles (LA) to attend a Social Security Administration (SSA) Field Hearing, as well as several other meetings to discuss the best way to collaborate and gain buy-in for SOAR in LA. We met with community members, agencies, and officials that had flown… Read More

Nicole Friendship Collage

Health nuts know all the rules. Granted, I’m the kind of health nut that primarily knows what rules she is currently breaking, but there’s one area of wellness I’ve come to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older. My commitment to it matches the degree of its hyperbolic benefits: Supports brain health! Promotes recovery! Prevents… Read More


Read Dan Abreu’s blog about SongwritingWith:Soldiers, written in 2014. During our recent seminar on Songwriting with Soldiers, our presenter, Mary Judd, the Executive Director of SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S), invited seminar participants to attend a performance during their upcoming retreat weekend. The performances are not open to the public, so I knew this was a special opportunity.… Read More

Statue of Liberty

You wouldn’t know by looking at or speaking with me, but I am an immigrant. I may not look or talk differently than you, but nonetheless I am not an American. My mom met my now stepdad while he was stationed in Kaposvár, Hungary with the U.S. Army in the late 1990s, I spent the… Read More

Group of Youth

Healthy People 2020 Goal: Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death The dramatic spike in heroin addiction and overdose deaths is staggering and unlike anything our country has ever seen. Heroin use has increased across most age groups and all income levels; it has more than doubled in the… Read More

Hands in heart shape in front of sun

Just after viewing Generation Found as part of PRA’s Recovery month celebration, I was asked by someone at PRA if I could share information about a new drug being used on the streets called W-18, also known as “beans” or shady 80s”. It is very dangerous painkiller that has been in the public eye lately. This… Read More

Spiritual Wellness Blog Header

I love reading and talking about spirituality, so I enthusiastically volunteered months ago to write this blog. Did I mention that when we took the 8 Dimensions of Wellness assessment that I scored the lowest on spiritual wellness? I think that’s called irony. Were any of you shocked by your scores? I wasn’t. Winston Churchill… Read More

Person holding another person's hand

When I worked in disability services, we had several people in our residential programs who lacked capacity to make informed decisions and who had no one in their lives legally authorized to make decisions on their behalf. Usually, when these folks face non-emergency invasive medical treatment or end-of-life decisions, the only recourse for their care-givers… Read More

PRA Building with Pumpkin Decorations

On Wednesday, PRA staff members took advantage of the beautiful fall day to try their hand at pumpkin carving. They carved 12 pumpkins, and they now sit outside our building to greet the residents of Delmar! We even saw a few people stop their cars to take some photos of our pumpkin display; how cool… Read More

Close-up of Rhino

Late last May, I received this email from a friend: “Janet, do you know Damien Mander? He gave a couple of TED talks recently. Had you ever watched/listened to him? Will you let me know what you think? Today?” I responded that I did know Damien Mander from watching a TED Talk. I loved Damien… Read More

Occupational Wellness blog header

When life struggles begin to interfere with your job responsibilities and productivity, taking advantage of your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help you get back on track, especially when you know you’re not working to the best of your ability. Decisions you make to grow personally may have unintended consequences, which can hinder your… Read More

Coffee Shop

I had the great opportunity to attend SAMHSA’s Homeless Programs Branch Grantee conference this past August 15-17. It felt so much like a family reunion because the conference brought together so many people united around the same purpose and so many people that I have known for years, feel forever connected to but don’t get… Read More

National Wellness Week is Sunday, September 11 through Saturday, September 17. Each day has had a different theme, and PRA staff have gotten in on the fun! PRA staff were asked to share their favorite Wellness Tip! Their answers were compiled into a Flipagram—watch to see their best tips! As Wellness Week falls during Recovery… Read More

Ramona Gardens Buildings

Image By Tedder (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons Guest post by Magdalena Morales-Aina, LPC-S, LPCC While attending a conference in Anaheim in June 2016, I decided to visit the Ramona Gardens Housing Projects with my friend and colleague Lisa. I was born in East Los Angeles and lived in the housing projects with… Read More

Lavender Field - Provence

How about a 6-day walking/hiking tour in Provence in the height of lavender season? That was the question my wife, Carolyn, asked me last January. The idea came from a brochure we received from Country Walkers, a company with whom we had done a hiking tour in Glacier and Waterton National Parks a number of years ago and… Read More

Zipline Wristband

Adrenaline seeker? Fear conqueror? Itching to break away from your routine and push your limits? Whatever the reason, if you’ve ever wanted to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, I highly recommend ziplining at Hunter Mountain! This July, I went ziplining at Hunter Mountain with five of my friends. It’s about an… Read More

School Stairway

The current controversy over the use of the slogan Black Lives Matter resonates very deeply for me.  As the wife of an African American man and the mother of three biracial children, two of whom are boys, it speaks to my fears about what they may encounter as they head out into the world each… Read More

On Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote an opinion that John Hinckley, Jr. no longer posed a danger to himself or others and should be released from federal supervision. Hinckley had been found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) in June… Read More

Intellectual Wellness

I often write about my experiences being a person in long-term recovery from substance abuse issues. Fairly early in my recovery I returned to school to continue my education so I could have the skills to build a career to support myself financially. I decided to major in political science with a concentration in political… Read More

Baseball game

During the course of my summer travels for PRA, I always attempt to take in as many Major League Baseball games as my schedule will allow. In a six-week period so far this summer, I have had the chance to watch games in Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington. I had the… Read More

Guam Coastline

When I was first approached to go to Guam as part of the work that the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) Technical Assistance (TA) Center is doing, I was delighted, excited, and admittedly clueless. So clueless, in fact, that I wasn’t even completely aware of where Guam is located until I got a… Read More

SOAR Training Model

PRA’s Program Areas are on the cutting edge of innovation in providing technical assistance and training in the behavioral health, homelessness, and criminal justice fields. One of our projects, the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance (TA) Center created a unique training model for providers that increases access to Social Security disability benefits… Read More

Fit-Friendly Worksite

The American Heart Association has recognized Policy Research Associates, Inc. as a Gold Fit-Friendly worksite! To be certified as a gold-level fit-friendly worksite, PRA met the American Heart Association’s criteria of offering employees physical activity support, increasing healthy eating options at work, and promoting a wellness culture, as well as being a tobacco-free worksite. Here’s how… Read More

I’ve been dipping my toe into the pool of gardening these last few years, but this summer I really dove in. With the help of my green-thumbed boyfriend, we established a small vegetable garden held in three different ecosystems—an aquaponics system (the bass are alive and well!), a hydroponic system, and a more traditional outdoor… Read More

Chef's Materials

A few months ago, I jumped in to something that I’d been batting around for years and went to cooking school. The Capital Region (Voorheesville, specifically) is lucky enough to host Gio Culinary Studio, which offers, along with dozens of drool-worthy one-night themed classes, a six-week intensive culinary certification course. The certification classes are deliberately… Read More

Wellness Wednesday- Financial Wellness

Like many of my peers (43 million of them, to be exact), I graduated from college with student loan debt. Mine is a bit higher than your average…okay, a lot higher than your average. I remember attending the accepted students’ weekend at college and sitting through a series of student loan workshops where we were… Read More

GAINS SIM-2016v3

This post originally appeared in SAMHSA’s GAINS Center’s April 2016 eNewsletter. Subscribe to the GAINS Center’s eNewsletter to stay up to date on news, resources, and events. The Sequential Intercept Model is being used by many communities as a guide to behavioral health service system transformation, and more specifically as a tool to identify strategies… Read More

Wellness Wednesday: Emotional Wellness

It’s my first spring in Albany, and the tulips have taken me by surprise. If you aren’t local, you may not know that hundreds of thousands of tulips are planted around the Capital Region and bloom just in time for the annual “Tulip Festival,” (next weekend) an occasion that earned Albany the title of “I… Read More

Abby's Quilts

 About 2 years ago, I took up quilting. You can read all about how I became a quilter and the story behind it in my Journey to a Hobby blog. Since this post, I have delved even further into the world of quilting – I regularly attend quilt shows, have taken a number of quilting… Read More

Cat in Glasses

Being a person in long-term recovery from various behavioral health disorders, I am often asked by people, “What works? What has made your recovery possible?” This usually happens as I am getting done with a presentation, walking off stage after spending the last hour or so sharing intimate details about my personal life in front of… Read More

Alphabet Soup

This is part three of the Alphabet Soup blog. Read part one to learn the A through I acronyms, and part two to learn the J through R acronyms! Our work at PRA is filled with acronyms – we have one for just about every program, practice, and training, which can be challenging for newcomers… Read More

Wellness Wednesday-Cheese and Crackers

We all know that it is important to take care of our bodies.  With the hectic nature of our daily lives, it is easy to ignore our physical health.  Between work, travel, social, and home responsibilities, all too often, we only pay attention when an illness or injury strikes.  For me, I was forced to… Read More

This is part two of the Alphabet Soup blog. Read part one to learn the A through I acronyms, and part three to learn the S through Z acronyms! Our work at PRA is filled with acronyms – we have one for just about every program, practice, and training, which can be challenging for newcomers… Read More

This is part one of the Alphabet Soup blog. Read parts two and three to learn the J through Z acronyms! Our work at PRA is filled with acronyms – we have one for just about every program, practice, and training, which can be challenging for newcomers who are trying to keep up with the… Read More

View from the Cabin

It’s been a rainy winter. December through today, we’ve had nearly two inches of precipitation more than the area’s average, and everyone around the Northeast watching their skis rust in storage knows perfectly well it hasn’t been snow. While I wouldn’t mind the slopes catching a regular dusting, around the cabin I don’t miss the… Read More

paraSITE Structure

I spent my 2015 Day of Reflection visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC.  I viewed a piece called “paraSITE homeless shelter” created in 1997 by Michael Rakowitz. The paraSITE inflatable shelter uses excess HVAC air to keep the individual warm. These shelters are simple and cost under five dollars! Why is this… Read More

Pig at CAS

A living, breathing, snuffling pig snout feels like nothing else I have ever before touched, except maybe a football (aka “pig skin”). Pigs also have long eyelashes that you can see when you get close enough to scratch their snouts which they seem to love given their vocalizations. Pigs are very social and quite curious… Read More

NYAPRS & Alternatives Conference Presentation

As part of the GAINS Center at Policy Research Associates for the last few years, I have been able to help provide technical assistance to SAMHSA’s Mental Health Transformation Grant (MHTG), which supported 20 grantees across the country for the last 5 years. One of the main successes of the MHTG program has been peer integration… Read More

Close up of keyboard and mouse

This blog originally appeared on the SOAR TA Center’s SOAR Voices blog. Emotionally exhausted, detached, going through the motions, insensitive, irritable – not exactly what we thought we would be feeling when we first imagined a life in human services! What seemed like a great idea – going into human services because we wanted to… Read More

Whole Health Month Blog Header-Self Efficacy

I’m a health communication scholar, and I’m passionate about and intrigued by behavior change.  This fascination was part of the impetus for my enrollment in a PhD program – thirsty for knowledge and expertise on the topic of behavior change, particularly as it relates to health and wellness. One of the central tenets of several… Read More

Whole Health Month Blog Header-The Warrior Dash

A couple of years ago, my life was not looking exactly as I would’ve hoped. For various reasons, I moved back to my hometown in February 2013 and wondered where my life was headed.  In May 2013, a girlfriend asked if I wanted to do Warrior Dash–one of those obstacle course races–in Windham in July.… Read More

Raw Food Blog Header

Back in 2012, I was on Twitter and saw a tweet from Ani Phyo, a chef, stating that people who entered a raw food challenge could win a Vitamix. At the time, I was in the market for a Vitamix, so I looked into how I could join this challenge.  I clicked the link provided;… Read More

Whole Health Month Tip Sheet - Wellness

Interested in improving your wellness? This tip sheet provides a list of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, as well as sample activities that can be done to improve wellness in each area. In addition, there is some explanation as to why these activities actually matter and proof of their ability to create subtle transformations in… Read More

Occupational Wellness Blog Header

Occupational wellness is defined as personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work (SAMHSA, 2015).  I’m in a unique position because I helped write the proposal responding to SAMHSA’s RFP for the Program to Achieve Wellness.  PRA received that contract, and I received a job with a program that I spent countless hours describing in the… Read More

Whole Health Month Play Blog Header

I love Michael Jackson.  Here’s one of my favorite Michael Jackson quotes: “I will never stop helping and love people…Continue to love, always love.  Bring on the children, imitate the children – not childish, but childlike.” From this, I gather it behooves us to live lives filled with an abundance of love and childlike adventure.… Read More

PRA's 2015 Year in Review

We’ve wrapped up another fantastic year at PRA and embarking on our 28th year of operation. One our traditions, both on the blog and at our end-of-year staff meeting, is to reflect on the hard work we have done and get energized for the year ahead. At our staff meeting, Pam encouraged staff to guess… Read More

Whole Health Month Blog Header (3)

Wellness is something many people aspire to achieve, but what is it?  How do we make sense of this vague term?  Is it being physically fit?  Is it having stability in life?  Is it maintaining recovery?  SAMHSA defines wellness as “being in good physical and mental health” and notes “Wellness is not the absence of… Read More

Field Goods Bounty

This is the time of year when everyone is deciding whether or not to make resolutions. Well, let me give you a little *ahem* food for thought. Last April I joined Field Goods, a year-round food subscription service that sources fresh, organic food from small regional farms and delivers it to community sites. Because there… Read More

Unity House Dinner

Good cheer, high spirits, and a stronger connection to the community – sounds like PRA’s Month of Giving! Started in 2013 by a group of community-minded staff as a way to give back during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the Month of Giving has grown into one of PRA’s most cherished traditions. Here’s… Read More

Blades of Grass

Every once in a while I am lucky enough to experience something that reminds me why I chose to devote my career to ensuring justice and supporting young people who society wants to throw away.  Last month I attended a day of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Youth Violence Prevention Communities of… Read More

Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme court has had a very direct impact on my entire professional career.  However, until last month, I had never been in the court.  So just how did all this come to be? It starts with my first job after graduate school with the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene.  When I… Read More

Penny as a puppy

Thanksgiving weekend also marked a third annual family reunion…for my dog. I recognize that we’re entering into strange animal-lover territory, but for the last 3 years we have reunited with Penny’s siblings and their equally loved families. This may be slightly less weird when you consider that we were somewhat bonded together from the start–our puppies… Read More

Old Deadwood Trail

Recently I was able to take a three-day trip to South Dakota with Donna for an In-State Policy Academy.  We flew into Bismarck, North Dakota on Monday, and then had a 4-hour drive to Pierre, South Dakota in a small Chevy Sonic rental car.  On our drive to South Dakota, we were amazed by how… Read More

High School Football Field

Where I grew up is the quintessential small town – Berryville, Virginia (yes, Berryville — my last name is Lemon and I grew up across the street from the Grapes).  My high school was small, with only about 100 people in the graduating class. Everyone knew everyone and it was a huge deal when a… Read More

Sarah at Aviation Museum

Wednesday night April 15, I headed to the hotel in Albany to stay the night and head off in the morning to complete my Advanced Individualized Training (AIT) at Fort Rucker, Alabama.  There are about 50 of us staying the night at the hotel, and only two of us are female.  0430 am I get… Read More

Quinn Memorial Building Entrance

I was so very unhappy with my previous office in the West Village of New York City. While a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York, I fell deeply in love with the West Village. Whether it was the diversity of the blocks that comprise the West Village; the outdoor cafes where we were… Read More

PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series (5)

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More

PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series (4)

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More

PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series (3)

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More

PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More

PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More

Cynthia Castaneda and Judge Anchondo

July was Minority Mental Health Month and it was an exciting time in El Paso, Texas.   Mental health was highlighted on July 16th, and several speakers discussed the importance of reducing stigma and increasing awareness of mental health and treatment in minority communities. At an event sponsored by El Paso’s local NAMI, Judge Anchondo, a… Read More

Ida Street Community Garden

For someone who is accused of eating too many salads, I have never considered myself much of a vegetable gardener. I am happy to take advantage of other’s bounty and frequent local farmers’ markets. However, last year my family became involved with Capital Roots based in Troy, New York. If you visit a local farmer’s… Read More

Prepared Breakfast

On the second Wednesday morning of every month, you can normally find me and about four or five of my colleagues cooking breakfast at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless (IPH).  We arrive early, between 7:00–7:30 a.m., but much of the work occurred the night before – shopping; precooking pounds of bacon, sausage, potatoes; and printing… Read More

Military Homecoming

When my husband got orders to deploy in 2013, we did both the best and the worst thing we could have done. We decided that we would use the 90 days we had before he left to spend as much time together and make enough memories to get us through the 11-month tour. In our… Read More

Policy Research Associates, Inc. Logo

If you have browsed our website recently, you may have noticed that the PRA logo and website have a new look! As our last logo and website update was in the mid-2000s, we felt it was time for a refresh! This new redesign helps better reflect the high-quality work we are known for, and adapts… Read More

APPA Training Institute

I recently attended the American Probation and Parole Association’s (APPA) 40th Annual Training Institute. It was held July 12-15, 2015, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles, California. Many of the over one thousand attendees were APPA members from probation and parole departments throughout the country.  It was a group that I… Read More

ai weiwei exhibit

I had some time to kill in Casper, Wyoming, on June 16 and decided to visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center as I waited for Connie Milligan, a GAINS consultant who I was meeting for a trauma training in Laramie. (Why we were in Casper instead of Laramie is another story.) Casper was the… Read More

Lake George

On a recent Saturday, Ron and I took a hike up Sleeping Beauty Mountain on the east side of Lake George. We were on an access road walking back to our car, when I had a close encounter with a timber rattler! I knew in the back of my brain that they have a habitat… Read More

View of the redwoods

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to the Redwoods. Of course, the best part of the trip was spending a week with my daughter, Emily. Flying first class, courtesy of the PRA Holiday airline raffle, was wonderful as well. I could easily get used to traveling that way! Equally special to the time with… Read More

Birthday cake

Guest post by Deborah Dennis, former Project Director of the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center I read with tremendous nostalgia Kristin’s July 6 email to State and Local SOAR Leaders. Wow, SOAR is 10 years old this year…  I recalled so many incredible memories as I reflected on the 10th birthday of SOAR. I remember Michael Hutner,… Read More

Half peach

Where poor appetite meets lousy food describes my gloomy reaction to the lunch delivered to me last June 17, a beautiful sunny day and one day after I had been admitted to the hospital. I hadn’t ordered this lunch, but here it was: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing. I ate a few bites of… Read More

Grand Canyon

In December 2011, I was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Cancer).  Although most only live 12 months – 15 months after diagnosis, I’ve been blessed and have lived longer than originally expected.  As a result, I decided to create a bucket list to experience all I could while I’m healthy.  The Grand Canyon was high… Read More

Policy Research Associates, Inc. Logo

I’m often asked by family, friends, colleagues, and business partners what PRA does.  It’s not necessarily a straightforward answer, as there are many different projects and lines of work going on simultaneously.  We don’t sell widgets and we don’t have a sales team, but we do have a unique brand that is highly specialized.  Being… Read More


As an intern at Policy Research Associates, Inc., my primary work has involved surveying prisons and jails around the country in order to find out about their use of the “Brief Jail Mental Health Screen”. I collect the data by calling different facilities around the country and asking to speak to someone who would be… Read More


For two weeks in April, I was able to see a snapshot of three very different parts of the country: Washington/Oregon, Colorado, and Alabama. On April 1, I flew from Albany, NY to Portland, OR for a site visit in Vancouver, WA (no, not Vancouver, Canada). The Pacific Northwest has become my favorite area to… Read More

Pam Root is the Assistant Director of the SOAR TA Center at PRA. In addition to the incredible work she does helping individuals with medical impairments, mental health issues, or substance use issues experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, she recently completed the coursework necessary to become a Registered Nurse! We sat down with her to… Read More


It seems like every week there is a new incident involving a police shooting or other intervention that kills a suspect.  Recently, it was Freddie Gray in Baltimore whose spine was severed during an arrest that resulted in his death.  A few weeks ago, right here in Albany, Donald Ivy was tasered by an Albany… Read More


Here in the northeast things are finally warming up, and for the third year in a row at PRA that means it’s time to plant our garden! In a narrow strip of land bordering our parking lot, employees take part in this worthwhile project, good for both body and soul. This year we have big… Read More


May 7th is the 10th anniversary of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is designed to address the needs of children and young adults with mental health or substance use challenges. The issue Why is a focus on children’s behavioral health so important? Childhood experiences affect our adult physiology in dramatic… Read More


I recently had a friend who took his own life.  He battled depression and alcohol for most of his life.  He attempted suicide a few times.  In his obituary it said, “Michael…, 54, of …, conceded to his struggle with lifelong clinical depression on March 30, 2015.” It was actually good to read that they… Read More


I grew up in an energy conscious household; my mom likes to say that we were green before it was cool. We have always abided by the reduce, reuse, recycle concept – we bring our reusable shopping bags wherever we go, we buy in bulk, and we are conscious about our power usage. I never thought… Read More


This fall, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Sweden and Norway to visit friends, hike, eat delicious food (Stockholm has a thriving restaurant scene), and experience a bit of the Scandinavian lifestyle. In Sweden, we saw the Vasa, a ship built in 1628 that was supposed to demonstrate the prowess of the Swedish… Read More

Campbell's Soup Cans

Header photo by FLICKR user Matthew Hurst Photo link: I recently checked out the stats on hunger in the U.S. ( In 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households — 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children. For the same year, 14 percent of households (17.5 million households) were food insecure, and… Read More

Service Members Marching

This blog was co-written by Lisa Guerin and Dan Abreu. An Introduction: Film producers Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry begin their acceptance speech at this year’s Academy Awards acknowledging the Crisis Center staff and the Veterans and families brave enough to ask for help:  “We want to thank the dedicated people at the Crisis… Read More

Flock of birds

In observance of national Social Work Month this March, I have been thinking about what it means to me to be a social worker. Every time someone asks me “what do you do?” I hesitate and have an internal debate. Do I tell them that I am a “social worker” and let them assume that I… Read More


In November 2013, I took my Day of Reflection at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY. The Arboretum is only 5 miles from downtown Albany, but feels worlds away from the urban hustle and bustle of the state capital.  It’s a peaceful place that allows for deep reflection and thought. I spent that day… Read More


Michelle beat me to the finish line with her recent blog on running her first 5K. For a while now, I have been composing in my head a similar piece: a different “first,” but the same theme of appreciating the support I received. I shared a lot of nervous laughter with my sister when signing… Read More

Even though I hate getting my hands dirty, I am known as a “crunchy granola” person in the office, which is understandable. My boyfriend works for a biotech business, I recycle and compost religiously, I shop at farmers’ markets, and I try to be conscious of the products I use and recognize their impact on the… Read More

CIT Mom License Plate

While conducting an Early Diversion site visit in Connecticut on January 14, 2015, Brian and I parked next to a vehicle with license plates that read, “CIT MOM.” As soon as we saw the license plate, we knew we had to find out more about the car’s owner, and hoped that they would be present… Read More

Are you Geechee or Gullah?

I was about 7 years old when I heard this woman ask my father, “You gwon Geechee ah Gullah?” I grew up with a clear understanding the there was something different about the Geechee and Gullah people.  The distinction was often identified by the accent that didn’t sound quite Southern and didn’t sound quite Caribbean,… Read More


Before I get started, I want readers to understand that this is not a story of defeat, but instead it is a mostly a story of victory after overcoming enormous odds.  I started to do this story anonymously but realized that I would only be perpetuating the shame often felt by trauma survivors and their… Read More

Declaration of Independence

“Radical Words” – seems like a fringe call to action. That’s precisely what the historical documents (all originals) on display this fall at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA are – radical. They intended to fundamentally change the political order, and they did. The Magna Carta is the touchstone of modern democracy and the… Read More


I ran my first 5k this year!  As I re-read that statement, I am amazed because at 47, I spent 46 and half years convinced that I would never be a runner.  Since I was a kid in gym I hated running.  In high-school my older brother, home from college, encouraged me to run with… Read More

PRA's Year in Review Blog Header

It’s been another incredible year at PRA, full of “transitions” – our 2013 word of the year. The most notable transition at our annual State of the Firm was the orator – our new CEO, Pam Robbins, delivered the speech for the first time instead of our President and founder, Hank Steadman. This year, Pam… Read More

A Quilter’s Getaway weekend located at a once popular Dirty Dancing-esque resort in the Catskills is not something you would expect a 20-something to attend. Of the 16 women who attended the weekend, the average age ranged from 65-70, with an outlier at 83. But I have a hobby that most 20-somethings would consider odd,… Read More

silhouette of person in sunrise

This post was originally published on 12/02/2014 to the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center’s SOAR Voices blog. Read more blogs like these at their website. In October 2014 I became the newest member of the SOAR TA team. It is really exciting to be working on a project that helps people across the country in such a… Read More

Two Facebook posts I have read over the last couple of weeks helped me put into words a concept that is often hard for people look like me, a white male, to understand—the concept of white privilege. As a white male, it’s easy not to think about how my “whiteness” affords me certain “privileges” that… Read More

“Why do they burn their own communities?” I have been asked this question a dozen times today alone. I have been asked by friends, family, co-workers, and church members. I know many of you have the same question, but may not want to ask or feel that you can’t or don’t have the right to… Read More

When I got to work on November 13, there was an e-mail from my wife with an announcement about a performance at The Linda. The show featured a group of songwriters who have been working with veterans to put their stories to music. Kathy knew I liked live performance and that the veteran focus would… Read More


Walking a labyrinth is an ages-old form of meditation, pilgrimage, and repentance. The most well-known labyrinth is in Chartres Cathedral outside of Paris, built around 1200 (pictured above). Many labyrinths are modeled from this design and are in or around churches. However, their purpose today has extended beyond religious seeking, and they are often walked… Read More

American Flag

I am a wife of a veteran, a daughter of a veteran, a granddaughter of a veteran, a niece of a veteran, and a cousin of a veteran. I am a veteran. Serving in the military runs through my blood. Yet, I hardly stop to think about what that means to me. On the surface,… Read More

The Suicide Prevention Implementation Academy – the longest and largest Implementation Academy of the year, and I was asked to facilitate! In this role, I was asked to guide three state delegations, each composed of seven to nine delegates, through the implementation process to create a comprehensive and coordinated suicide prevention implementation plan. I don’t… Read More

Have you arrived to your meeting or training site and the AV equipment is nowhere to be found? How about your supply box sent by PRA? Didn’t arrive due to freak storm? Discovered the walls are painted in gold? No markers allowed!! How about only 5 wrinkled Flip Chart pages? LCD projector bulb out?  Clicker… Read More


‘Do you have a best friend?’ ‘Well, I used to.’ My friends and I exchanged glances.  What could our 18-year-old tour guide possibly mean by ‘used to‘? ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Oh, she was stolen.’ Maybe she didn’t understand the meaning of stolen.  After all, English was her third language – after Hmong and Vietnamese. … Read More

On June 19, 2014, President Obama presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to Kyle Carpenter, 24.  Mr. Carpenter was selected as a recipient because of his heroic actions in Afghanistan in 2010 when he threw himself on a grenade to save a fellow Marine.  Kyle sustained significant injuries that are evident in his pictures and… Read More


In August Policy Research’s Matt Canuteson was awarded the prestigious SAMHSA’s Voice Award for consumer leadership. He joins Policy Research’s LaVerne Miller in this distinction, who was honored with the award in 2010. To think of it: two staff of one small company in one large country have now won this national award! The SAMHSA… Read More

Teens standing by wall --- Image by © Image Source/Corbis

By Joseph J. Cocozza, Ph.D., Director of the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates, Inc. and co-lead of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Youth in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force The suicide rate among American youth is alarmingly high, and the rate for justice-involved… Read More


I was recently in the Los Angeles area for work, and I had made plans to meet a woman who I know only through our e-relationship. We’d never met in person but are FB “friends” and have shared stories and photos. As we were waiting in the bar for our table, a woman asked, “Are… Read More

The GAINS Center interviewed Ann-Marie Louison and Bradley Jacobs, co-directors of the Adult Behavioral Health Programs at CASES in NYC, about Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT). Mr. Jacobs oversees the Nathaniel ACT Alternatives To Incarceration (ATI) program, Manhattan ACT, and a supported housing and diversion program for individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes. Ms. Louison joined… Read More

Parent Child

Sentencing laws on both the federal and state level have not only increased the numbers of individuals incarcerated in prisons and jails, they have resulted in an increase in the number of minor aged children impacted by the incarceration of a parent.  Many policymakers are increasingly focusing their attention on the impact that incarceration has upon… Read More

German Shepard

At the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) Victims Committee meeting in November 2011, I attended a fascinating presentation by Courthouse Dogs on the use of facility dogs in the courtroom. I had never heard of using a dog to calm victims and witnesses. As I listened to the presentation, I thought about how having a… Read More


During a trip to Paris last month, I was struck by the number of apparently homeless individuals who were sitting against buildings and near the streets, particularly those with babies and small children. While data concerning total estimates of homeless people is lacking, the French national statistics office reported a 50% increase in homelessness in… Read More

City Blur

At the NJ Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s (NJPRA) annual conference this fall, there was an urgent plea to attend a training to become a NJ Family Care (formerly Medicaid) Application Assister, similar to Navigators.  I knew that NJ government decided to expand Medicaid. But, I didn’t really grasp who many people would be newly eligible.  By… Read More

Women wearing high heels

As the second of three sisters, I am well accustomed to life in the middle.  It’s been a long time since I’ve lived with my sisters, but the lessons learned from being at neither extreme – oldest nor youngest – have stayed with me. I tend to look at life from both sides, rarely straying… Read More

It’s 4:00 a.m. Some habits die hard and some, I’m learning, never die. My first clue that I was retired was when the secretary ushered me into my financial planner’s office with a completely serious, “Leaving for warmer weather and some shuffleboard this winter?” As a child of working class parents and grandparents (and farmers… Read More

Supreme Court

The GAINS Center interviewed Judge Christine Carpenter, Circuit Judge of Division One in the 13th Judicial Circuit, Columbia, MO about what it’s like presiding over a trauma-informed court. Judge Carpenter is the supervising judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit Alternative Sentencing Courts: Adult Drug Court (since 1999), Mental Health Court (since 2003), Re-Entry Court (2007-2013),… Read More


Gelato for lunch. I thought, no I felt, I had earned it. I am in the midst of one of the stretches of travel that you have to face day by day; otherwise, you might scream, or worse. Other than counting on a good breakfast at the Silver Diner, I find BWI is just a… Read More


As has been the tradition at PRA for 8 years, the word of the upcoming New Year was revealed by Hank Steadman, President of PRA, during his State of the Firm address on the day of our company holiday party.  And this year’s word is…TRANSITIONS!  Here are some transitioning moments PRA is about to experience… Read More

Conference Room

Alternatives 2013 – A 500-person conference covering practically all aspects of the recovery movement; and there I was, right in the middle of it and ready to learn all that I could.  Never before had I been in a room full of so many people who wanted to talk about mental health and were unashamed… Read More

Last month we heard a presentation from the Marines on the SMVF TA Center team who provided us with additional insight into their perspectives and experiences.  As a civilian, I have always found it helpful to hear from service members, veterans, or their family members because the fact is, from the moment they enter the service,… Read More

Gingerbread Housing

I was recently invited to attend the 2013 Homeless and Travelers Aid Society (HATAS) Home Sweet Gingerbread Home – Evening in Winter Wonderland. This event is an annual fundraiser for the local, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending homelessness in Albany County ( HATAS was established in 1983 and has assisted over 155,000 households in need… Read More

When I graduated high school my parents gave me the Dr. Seuss book Oh The Places You’ll Go; this is a somewhat common graduation gift and at that point in your life everything seems possible.  October 21st marked the one year anniversary of my tenure at PRA; I can hardly believe it’s been over a… Read More


In my first 10 months at PRA, I have gone on business trips to Alaska, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wyoming – and I travel relatively infrequently for the SMVF TA Center.  Through these trips, I have seen so much of America, and so many of America’s airports.  I’m one… Read More

City Blur

Auditory disorders are common disabilities among the general public; approximately 17 percent of American adults report some degree of hearing loss,[1] and 10 percent of adults report tinnitus[2] of a severity to seek medical attention.[3] Eighty percent of hearing loss affecting adults is sensorineural,[4] involving the inner ear, and is generally irreversible. Causes include acoustic… Read More


At PRA, we are fortunate to get a day of reflection each year to reflect on our careers, futures, and the path we would like to establish for ourselves. The great thing is, PRA encourages us to be as creative as we can with our days of reflection; some of us get massages, some go… Read More


Since my employment at PRA, I have visited several states in the Midwest.  I have visited Idaho, Missouri and Oklahoma to name a few.  As a lifelong New Yorker, my perspective of my county was north to south as opposed to east to west.  The most that I knew about the Midwest was that during… Read More


Photo: Clasped Hands by Rhoda Baer for NCI/NIH – Public Domain image The Statewide Family and Consumer Networks Technical Assistance Center (FCN TA Center), operated by Policy Research Associates since 2009, is very excited to welcome and begin supporting 29 new Statewide Family Network and 15 Consumer Network Grantees (2013 cohorts below). These grants, providing funding up to $70,000… Read More

As I considered what I wanted to write for this month’s blog I drafted several concepts. Throughout the month, none of the versions felt right to me, and then yesterday, at the end of the Friends of Recovery-NY 2013 Rally for Recovery in Albany, I realized that I was trying to come up with a… Read More

Triathlon Swimming

  A triathlon is a multiple sport event involving the completion of three sequential endurance disciplines (swimming, biking and running). Triathlon in the United States has its roots set in Southern California and can be traced back to 1974. The early races were held in San Diego’s Mission Bay where a group of friends (runners,… Read More

Susan Stone was an employee of PRA for only a year or so.   For many years before that, her legal and psychiatric skills contributed to many site visits, grantee meetings, technical assistance events, and PRA social happenings.  She shared a love of horses with me and even took one of my retiring thoroughbreds off the… Read More

Pine tree

“Nuts” dealt with the impact of incest on a woman charged with murder. “Valley of Elah” dealt with a father’s quest to understand why his son, an Iraqi veteran, was murdered following his return home.  “Prince of Tides” explored the long lasting effects of trauma on Tom Wingo, who was the victim of a violent… Read More

Conference Room

“People fake a lot of human interactions, but I feel like I fake them all, and I fake them very well. That’s my burden, I guess.” – Dexter Morgan, Showtime’s Dexter (Manos & Cuesta, 2006) Fall semester of 2012, I wrote a paper entitled Psychopathy: A Study on Etiology, Treatment, and Future Implications for my… Read More

At the annual Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery – Priority to Veterans (JDTR) grantee meeting this year, each grantee site gave a brief report on their sustainability efforts. As expected, sites varied in terms of their challenges and successes, yet one observation became clear: the sites needed something innovative in their toolkits to kick their… Read More

Diverse high school students in the hallway

We now know that 65 percent to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Many of these youth are detained or placed in the juvenile justice system for relatively minor, nonviolent offenses but end up in the system simply because of a lack of community-based treatment options… Read More

Tribal Policy Academy

On May 21-24, I was able to attend and help facilitate our Tribal Justice Policy Academy in Chandler, Arizona. The Policy Academy was focused on aiding eight tribes in developing a plan for alternatives to incarceration for adult tribal members who might benefit from jail diversion opportunities, and particularly strategies related to individuals with co-occurring… Read More

“The climb will get steeper the closer we get to the summit.” – Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General (Ret.) Eric K. Shinseki Speaking at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in May, Secretary Shinseki used these words to describe the work ahead of us if we intend to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015. We… Read More

Camera Lens

SAMHSA Definition of Recovery: Recovery is the process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. In the context of our work here at PRA, I think of the SAMHSA definition of recovery in light of behavioral health. Recently, I started thinking… Read More

Photo: Clasped Hands by Rhoda Baer for National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health What do ALGEE and a koala bear have to do with mental health? I spent 5 days in Charlotte, NC learning just what a difference they both can make.   Mental Health First Aid USA is an interactive 12-hour… Read More

The date was July 4th, 2005. I was floating in an undisclosed location off the coast of Iraq somewhere in the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Kearsarge. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had been deployed for about four months at this time and we were getting to the point where we knew we were roughly… Read More

City Blur

The Statewide Family and Consumer Networks Technical Assistance Center (FCN TA Center) has been working closely with SAMHSA funded Statewide Family and Consumer Network grantees in an effort to inform them about the many changes that are occurring as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Part of this work involved… Read More

Last month we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the formation of the Cultural Competence Committee with a PRA seminar, “Cultural Competence at PRA: How Are We Doing?” In addition to providing a concise overview of the Committee’s formation and history, and reviewing past activities and the CC intranet page, we reviewed a list of the… Read More


Jefferson City, Missouri; the site of my first Strategic Planning Session with the SMVF TA Center and surprisingly, the site of my first Geocaching expedition. After a long day of note taking as the state team assessed their behavioral health services for service members, veterans, and their families, our team retired to Arris Bistro for… Read More

I was incredibly fortunate to attend the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) Policy Academy in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this month.  What an eye opening, valuable experience for me!  I am a “military brat” myself, so to meet and talk with current service members and veterans about military culture and the issues that they… Read More

In Flander’s Field by John McCrae In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky, The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead. Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were… Read More

Koosh Balls

Last month, I celebrated the milestone of 20 years of employment at PRA. I’ve worked for many employers in different places throughout my working career – some were not very enjoyable others were acceptable, but PRA has proven to be the most rewarding. I’ve learned so much here and continue to learn new things almost… Read More

Policy Research Associates, Inc. was named the #1 small employer Top Workplace by the Times Union.  This is such an honor in the same year when we celebrate our 25th anniversary.  To go from five employees to 49 and have folks working here who feel that they work in a supportive and positive environment is… Read More

Man and woman talking

How do you incorporate recovery-oriented principles in therapeutic services/environments? This is a great question. There are a number of values and practices to consider. In order to keep it simple, let’s consider five important principles and just a few of the ways they can be incorporated into any therapeutic service and/or environment: Hope – that… Read More

Children playing

Although the issue of children’s mental health should a focal point year round, this May we should pay particular attention because it is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the world many children and adults are struggling with untreated mental health issues. The Child Mind Institute has begun a month long Speak Up for Kids… Read More

Gray Cancer Ribbon

December 23, 2011 is not a day I will ever forget – Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Right Parietal Lobe.  Not words you hear every day and certainly not words you want to hear before you even turn 40.  But that is how my journey with brain cancer began.  Little did I know what that diagnosis meant… Read More

Success in a juvenile mental health court – what is it? Most people would say that success in a Juvenile Mental Health Court (JMHC) is successfully graduating from the program or “reaching maximum benefit.” Most JMHCs have different steps or levels toward completion of their program with requirements such as passing drug tests, attending school,… Read More


For those who don’t know a marathon is defined by Webster dictionary as a “long-distance race” usually 26.2 miles. However, the Olympic marathon distance was originally 24.8 miles. The distance was based on the Greek legend of Pheidippides, a Greek foot soldier, who was sent from Marathon to Athens (24.8 miles) to proclaim the victory… Read More

Conference Room

In the weeks leading up to attending my first National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (“National Council”) meeting, I frequently had a seconds-long panic that I hadn’t completed my presentation. That feeling passed as I remembered that I was going to the meeting as an attendee, not as a presenter (which is usually the case).… Read More

I sent my spit to 23&Me, a California-based “personal” genetics testing company started by two women. As I waited for the results, I felt like a kid waiting for the first day of school – part dread, part excitement. When I tell others that I have done this, there are two reactions – keen interest… Read More

Conference Room

The Annual Adult Treatment Court Collaborative “ATCC” Grantee Meeting took place in Bethesda, MD on March 13-15, 2013. This meeting convened participants from 11 SAMHSA-funded ATCC programs across nine states. A description of the ATCC goals and profiles of the 11 grantees can be found on the GAINS Center’s website. The meeting covered areas of… Read More


Believe it or not some of us here at PRA find that being out in the cold walking miles across frozen lakes and drilling holes through 2-3 feet of ice to catch fish is a lot of fun. My experience has been that it’s not only a lot of fun, but it’s also extremely challenging.… Read More


I have become fascinated by elephants. In mock preparation for my future fantasy career of working with these remarkable animals, I have been reading memoirs of conservationists who have devoted their lives to protecting and promoting the existence of this endangered species in its natural habitat. With every chapter I read, I become more convinced… Read More


On Sunday I had an appointment at the local “Genius Bar” to find out why my iPad is crashing. One of the Geniuses approached me and asked me what the trouble is with my iPad, and I explained the problem. He waved his hand over the screen, touching it here and there, and “voila,” he… Read More


Through the nature of my work, I have been focused on “limitations of disabling condition”. Recently I attended a concert performance that challenged the viewer to consider conditions that some may see as disabling are merely “different abilities”. On January 19, 2013, I attended a performance at the 7 Stages theater in East Atlanta, Georgia. … Read More


On Sunday, my uncle Stanley, my dad’s older brother passed away.  In the last weeks I have been reflecting on the time I spent with him and found myself sad at his loss but grateful and hopeful.  My sadness comes mostly because this man, who in his youth was described by my mom as “movie-star… Read More


My fourth week of work at PRA saw me flying off to Denver to attend a SOAR train the trainer. The training was taught by my colleagues – Kristin, Pam and Jen but being the newbie on staff meant that I was a full-fledged participant! The week long training was intense, informative and invigorating! I was able to… Read More


During the Opening of the SOAR program in Rome, Georgia, participants were asked what they expected to learn from the training and to tell the group one “Wow moment” they’d like to share. Earl Gourdine introduced himself. He worked at Highland Rivers CSB. His wow moment, “I filed my taxes yesterday for the first time after never… Read More

Just last Friday, I scrambled with the rest of the neighbors scrounging for milk and bread while schools and banks closed in preparation for the “winter storm”. There were no rain drops. No precipitation. No gray skies. No roars of thunder or sounds of golf ball sized hale plucking the roofs of buildings. Saturday morning, I watched… Read More


In past years I’ve often incorporated my Day of Reflection into family matters, addressing work/life balance issues. For example, last fall my sister and I helped my mom prepare for a transition to a senior apartment community after my dad passed away.  This year I was determined to keep the day for “just me;” in the… Read More

Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is a reaction exhibited by individuals who indirectly witness or are exposed to a traumatic event, are impacted, and exhibit symptoms similar to that of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other trauma disorders. In other words, the individual experiencing STS did not experience the trauma first-hand, but was otherwise exposed and… Read More

At the SOAR team meeting back in March 2012 we started brainstorming ways that we could engage with new communities and expand SOAR across the states in which we were already working.  We decided that the already existing HUD Continua of Care (CoC) structure would be a great way to reach out.  We released an… Read More

The professional world is small in Albany and an organization’s reputation tends to get around.  So when I decided to start looking to further my professional career I knew I wanted to look at Policy Research Associates.  After talking to many current and former PRA employees and applying not once but twice I finally landed… Read More

Movie theater

I am very critical of movies.  I complain about excessive head shots, lack of reality, unnecessary length, and many more things.  It is seldom that I am as enthusiastic about a movie as I am about the one I saw last weekend, Silver Linings Playbook.  See it! Rarely have I seen a film that depicts mental… Read More

25th Anniversary

Today is a special day for all of us at Policy Research Associates. Fully 25 years ago, on December 31, 1987, PRA opened its doors for the first time. At that time we had five employees and one federal grant, an NIMH research grant to study the impact of the shooting of President Regan by John Hinkley… Read More


Each year on the day of our holiday gift exchange and party, Hank gives a State of the Firm address during which he reflects on the year behind us and contemplates the year ahead.  As has been the tradition for almost the 25 years PRA has been in business, these addresses are typically born from… Read More

Barbed Wire

Indirectly, studies have illustrated that recidivism risk can be measured across multiple domains of “quality of life” (QOL). Most studies that consider QOL’s relation to recidivism risk examine individual components of QOL, such as employment, mental health, substance abuse, poverty level, homelessness, social relationships, etc.; however, discussion rarely looks at QOL as the “big picture”.… Read More

City Blur

A few weeks ago I returned from the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association.  After attending a variety of sessions developed by the Mental Health Section of APHA, doing a presentation on a multi-site mental health courts project we are heading, and perusing the full program, I was further convinced that a public… Read More

Hands Holding NewsPaper

8:30 am            Sit down at my desk with a steaming cup of vanilla-flavored coffee and sort through my emails. After I finish with the emails in my inbox, I move onto the GAINS Center inbox. We get inquiries of all sorts – from how/where to get help for criminal-justice involved persons with behavioral health issues… Read More

Conference Room

The Northern Tier Providers Coalition (NTPC) held their 15th Annual Conference in Lake Placid, Nov 6-8.  The NTPC Coalition is composed of chemical dependency programs (treatment and prevention) and Community Service Directors of Essex, Clinton, Franklin Hamilton, Lewis, St. Lawrence Counties and the Akwesasne Reserve.  I have always found their conferences beneficial because of their… Read More


During a Sequential Intercept Mapping, a team of facilitators will guide a group of community stakeholders (representing behavioral health and criminal justice entities from all five intercepts) through a map of the five intercepts of the Sequential Intercept Model. During this process, the community identifies various paths that a person with mental illness or co-occurring disorder… Read More

Marine Corps

November 10th, 1775: “Resolved, That two Battalions of Marines be raised, consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; and that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or inlisted… Read More

Fellow PRA staff member Lisa Callahan and I recently had the opportunity to work with the NYS Office of Court Administration (OCA) and the Queens Treatment Court (QTC) on a project to identify trauma screening best practices and to pilot the use of the recommended screening instruments across all five parts of the Court:  Treatment… Read More

Relatively few of the diversion programs developed in response to the overrepresentation of people with mental illness in the United States criminal justice system have targeted initial arraignment or first appearance courts. In 2010, the Legal Aid Society piloted the Misdemeanor Arraignment Project (MAP) in New York City Criminal Court through funding from the Langeloth… Read More

With support from SAMHSA, PRA, and the National Center for Trauma Informed Care launched the After the Crisis initiative following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The key activities of the initiative were focused on the development of technical assistance strategies and support networks that are dedicated to addressing the long term mental health and trauma needs… Read More

Youth Skateboarding

Sitting through PRA’s Suicide Prevention for Community Corrections Professionals, I felt a comfortable distance since I do not work in probation or parole – I was interested but not affected. Or so I thought. The core message from this training is “ask.” If you suspect someone is considering suicide, ask him or her. Conquer your… Read More

Sun Shining on Field

The traditional Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) presents a framework for communities to examine the cross-systems “flow” of persons with mental health and co-occurring disorders as they come into contact with the criminal justice and behavioral health systems. Entities (i.e., such as law enforcement, hospitals, courts, jails, prisons, probation/parole, and community supports) within the systems are… Read More

Last month I had the privilege of being the keynote presenter for Utah’s first consumer conference. The conference, called the Utah Peer Conference, was held on September 14th, 2012 and was a daylong event aimed at stimulating Utah’s consumer community. The event was a huge success, with over 150 participants, a lot for an organization… Read More

On October 9, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two death penalty cases in which mental illness is at issue – Tibbals v. Carter (Ohio) and Ryan v. Gonzalez (Arizona). Both cases involve defendants who were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. And, in both cases, the defendant’s mental illness was an issue at trial… Read More


When I was in my early 20s, I became very good friends with a school art teacher. She was smart, funny, beloved by students and staff alike at her school. She showed her own work in area shows, including juried art shows (e.g., the Mohawk-Hudson Regional); participated in a well-known arts group; and sold many… Read More

While most veterans will never come in contact with the criminal justice system, a significant proportion may come into contact as a result of the symptoms of mental illness, such as PTSD, mild cognitive impairment, and substance use. Many communities have found that targeted strategies such as veterans treatment courts are effective responses for balancing… Read More

Group of women

This past July I had the great opportunity to attend the National CONFERence on Behavioral Health for Women and Girls that was held in San Diego.  Sponsored by SAMHSA, the conference covered numerous topics pertaining to women and girls including: prevention, addictions, mental health, trauma, criminal justice and recovery.  There were so many inspiring speakers… Read More

Homeless courts are special court sessions for homeless defendants that resolve outstanding misdemeanor offences and warrants.  Several states are operating homeless court programs within their jurisdictions, including: California, Colorado, Utah, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona and Washington. San Diego County started the first homeless court program in the country in 1989. In 2005, Houston’s Homeless Court was created uniting… Read More

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a Sequential Intercept Mapping of Albany (NY) County as part of the Albany County Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Project. The project is a partnership between the Albany Police Department, the Albany County Department of Mental Health and the Albany County Forensic Task Force to establish… Read More


Unplugging from technology seems for many to be either (a) impossible or (b) undesirable, so most people probably never try. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I always unplug for at least 2 weeks each August. Why is this beyond my control? Since I was 3 years old, I have spent my summer vacation in… Read More

The month of September has been designated suicide prevention and awareness month.  To support the goals and ideals of this national campaign, we need to focus on the suicide epidemic impacting our Nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. Historically, suicide rates have been lower for the military.  For the first time since 2008, military… Read More

Last week PRA staff traveled to Alexandria, VA for the 2012 Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Policy Academy meeting.  The meeting was an impressive event especially given the small window of time that was allotted for planning and preparation. In the end, all of those involved – PRA staff, presenters, subject matter experts, and… Read More

As part of ongoing cultural competence activities, PRA sponsors a film series where staff and their invited guests can participate in viewing selected films followed by a group discussion.  The most recent film selected by PRA’s Cultural Competence Committee was Ears, Open.  Eyeballs, Click, which presented “an unfiltered, fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the chaos and pain… Read More

It depends.   It depends on whether one asks this question as a criminal justice professional or as a behavioral health professional.  In this instance I am talking specifically about programs to divert persons with mental illnesses who usually have co-occurring substance use disorders. In the criminal justice (CJ) world, diversion is commonly used as a… Read More

There were a lot of factors that influenced my decision to become a social worker. It was in part my hope to affect real change in the lives of the people who had been forgotten.  I am grateful that my work with the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center gives me hope, gives our communities hope and… Read More


In a recent edition of the Albany Times-Union, a professor from Skidmore College wrote an op ed piece on the biased coverage of the 2012 Olympics by NBC.   He called it jingoism. The point being that the vast majority of all the events covered in prime time were events in which American athletes won medals—usually… Read More

dis•par•i•ty noun, plural -ties. lack of similarity or equality; inequality; difference: a disparity in age; disparity in rank What are the disparities that exist in the behavioral health system? Disparities in the behavioral health system exist when unjust inequities in access to and quality of treatment exist.  For example, Native Americans disproportionately experience PTSD and… Read More

Negative media portrayals of veterans seem to be more common. Recent news headlines such as, “Police get help with vets who are ticking bombs” (USA Today, 1/26/12) and Dr. Phil’s recent show “From Heroes to Monsters” promote negative stereotypes of men and women who serve and are offensive and hurtful. As one veteran blogged on… Read More

All of us are affected by the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) whether we realize it or not.  At a recent family wedding, ACA was the topic of discussion at our table.  At our table of 10 cousins, we learned that we are all touched by this law in uniquely different ways.  When… Read More

As a result of the 2012 SAMHSA’s GAINS Center Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) solicitation, the GAINS Center conducted a unique cross-systems mapping at the Tribal community of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB)[1] in Northern Michigan. The SIM workshop brings together key stakeholders from local criminal justice and behavioral health systems in… Read More

Treatment courts – also called “problem solving courts” – have been around for a decades. The purpose of these courts is to use the power of the criminal court to get at the heart of recurring problems, rather than simply cycle people over and over through the courts and jails. Most everyone has heard of… Read More

On June 28, 2012 the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) ruled on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The ACA was undoubtedly one of the most polarizing pieces of U.S. legislation in recent history and the cornerstone of the Obama Administration.  While the ACA and the Court’s decision were at the forefront… Read More

On June 27-28, 2012 the kick-off meeting for Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders was held in Bethesda, Maryland. More than 100 were in attendance for this event, including teams representing the eight states participating in this initiative: Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York,… Read More

One of the biggest challenges in jail diversion work is engaging misdemeanants, especially repetitive ones.  In addition to all the behavioral health issues they may have, there often is little incentive to opt into diversion programs when they are facing only time served or very short jail sentences.  It is often an ethical dilemma for their legal… Read More

Today, our nation’s correctional facilities face an unprecedented challenge: Meeting the needs of a drastically increasing number of older inmates.  The percentage of prisoners age 65 and older has grown by 67% percent in the past four years (Jacob & Valeria Langeloth Foundation, John Jay College, & Policy Research Associates, 2012).  According to a recent… Read More

Persons in jail are more likely to be homeless and not to have health insurance coverage upon jail admission and various studies document high prevalence of comorbid medical conditions. Yet upon release few have Medicaid coverage and/or ability to access timely behavioral health and health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to… Read More

The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, at Policy Research, Inc., and the Technical Assistance Collaborative are coordinating an initiative aimed at increasing the number of youth with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders diverted out of the juvenile justice system to appropriate community-based behavioral health services, and to reduce the inappropriate and… Read More

As LaVerne mentioned in her Are You My Peer? blog post on 5/24, SAMHSA recently developed a working definition of recovery and established guiding principles that support recovery from mental and substance use disorders.  The following describes the components of this working definition through the lens of a person who is in long-term recovery from… Read More

Recognition of the high rates of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder among justice-involved individuals is vital.1  It is estimated that 85 percent of women in correctional settings have an early experience of physical and or sexual abuse.2  Other reports estimate even higher lifetime experience of traumatic events and show little difference between genders on the… Read More


Just when many states and communities were beginning to figure out how to improve access to health and behavioral health services for justice involved persons with mental illness, the health care landscape is changing. With the support of federal initiatives such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grants, BJA’s… Read More

Late last year SAMHSA issued a new definition of recovery and support services.  This definition includes peers with lived experience in the areas of mental health and substance use.  One of the unintended consequences of adopting this definition was to reopen the debate about who is a peer and what constitutes peer support in both… Read More

In these days of ever diminishing resources for public sector behavioral health services for justice-involved persons, there is a strong temptation to oversell jail diversion programs.  Unrealistic expectations can set the stage for perceptions of poor performance.  This tendency is often fostered by bad research methodology and by overly zealous advocates who are misled by… Read More

The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ), operated by Policy Research Inc., selected 10 sites to participate in a new training initiative designed to create sustainable mental health training capacity within state and local juvenile justice systems.  This effort, sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the John… Read More

Recently there has been frenzy in the media over the idea of Homeless Hotspots– much of which many have been tweeted, blogged about, or posted to your Facebook page.  Whether this idea infuriates or intrigues you, most will agree one good outcome is the attention brought to the very real problem of homelessness in our… Read More