School Behavioral Health Professionals Honored

School employees who support the mental health of Delaware students are being recognized for their work.


The state will name its first Delaware Behavioral Health Professional of the Year later this month. Seventeen* school districts and the Delaware Charter School Network named local Behavioral Health Professionals of the Year for 2022. Following an application and interview process, one of those 18 will be named the state honoree.


“I am grateful that through this new recognition program we now have a way to spotlight the critical support these employees provide to our students and families,” Secretary of Education Mark Holodick said. “Due to the nature of their work, these professionals build close, trust-dependent relationships. They help students and families navigate challenges and find the supports they need so they can be healthy and successful in school and life. The trauma and challenges our students and families experienced through COVID-19 has only grown our state’s already great need for this work. Behavioral health professionals are critical to the success of our schools and communities.”

The Delaware State Behavioral Health Professional of the Year (BHPY) program is administered by the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE). The program recognizes outstanding service by school employees who are health care practitioners or human service providers who offer services for the purpose of improving an individual’s mental health. The Delaware Charter School Network also is invited to participate. Employees considered for the award include:

  • School counselors
  • School social workers
  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • School psychologists
  • School nurses

From those nominated at a local level, one behavioral health professional of the year moves forward to represent each district or the charter school community in the state program. Each district/charter network winner receives a $2,000 personal award from the winner’s district or charter school. The state program then chooses one person annually to serve as Delaware’s Behavioral Health Professional of the Year. State winners receive an additional $3,000 personal award from DDOE as well as $5,000 to be used for the educational benefit of his or her students.

The 2022 District/Charter Behavioral Health Professionals of the Year are:


  • Brandywine School District: Sheila Pickering, school nurse, Forwood Elementary School
  • Caesar Rodney School District: Maria Romanko, school psychologist, Caesar Rodney High School
  • Cape Henlopen School District: Felicia Kaas, school psychologist, Shields Elementary School
  • Capital School District: Andrew Royer, school psychologist, Capital Early Childhood Program
  • Charter School Network: Debbie Holstein, school nurse, ASPIRA Academy
  • Christina School District: Michelle Cain, school psychologist, Christiana High School
  • Colonial School District: Devon D. Stockton, school therapist, George Read Middle School
  • Delmar School District: Ilah Preston, school counselor, Delmar Middle School
  • Indian River School District: Amy Goodhue, clinical counselor, Long Neck Elementary School
  • Lake Forest School District: Jana Jarrell, school nurse, North Elementary School
  • Laurel School District: Catina Goff, school counselor, Laurel High School
  • Milford School District: Rosa DiPiazza, school psychologist, Mispillion Elementary School
  • New Castle County Vo-Tech School District: Tenika Jean-Paul, school psychologist, St. Georges Technical High School
  • POLYTECH School District: Peggy McKibbin, school nurse, POLYTECH High School
  • Red Clay Consolidated School District: Eric Pizzini, school psychologist, Cab Calloway School of the Arts
  • Seaford School District: Jordan Forston, school counselor, West Seaford Elementary School
  • Sussex Technical School District: Michael Firch, school counselor, Sussex Technical High School
  • Woodbridge School District: Dawn Ellis, school nurse, Woodbridge High School


Find photos of the nominees here.


*Appoquinimink did not participate in the 2022 program. Smyrna has recognized school counselor Toni Hendricks of John Bassett Moore Intermediate School as its 2022 District Behavioral Health Professional of the Year. The district selection was made after the state application and interview process so Smyrna was not included in the state program this year.


Media contact: Alison May,, 302-735-4006

Governor Carney, Lt. Governor Hall-Long, DSCYF Announce $16 Million Investment for Vulnerable Delawareans

WILMINGTON, Del. –Governor John Carney, Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF) on Tuesday announced a $16 million investment to renovate and remodel Wharton Hall on the DSCYF campus.

The new facilities will be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). ARPA was championed in Congress by members of Delaware’s congressional delegation – Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester – and signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021.

“Our Children’s Department showed up every day during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve our community. These ARPA investments will help us support the work these public servants do every day and address a gap in behavioral health services,” said Governor Carney. “Thank you to Senator Carper, Senator Coons and Representative Blunt Rochester for their advocacy efforts on the American Rescue Plan Act that will help Delaware recover from this pandemic and make our community stronger.”

The goal of this investment is to add more in-state crisis beds and create a state-of-the-art, trauma-informed behavioral health diagnostic center to meet the complex needs of adolescents.

“Investing in our children means we’re investing in our future,” said Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “Thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan, which we voted to pass in March of last year, the State of Delaware will be able to completely renovate Wharton Hall on the Delaware Youth and Family Center campus. With these improvements, Wharton Hall will once again be able to provide much-needed support for Delaware children and their families.”

“Our children are faced with challenges every single day that affect their mental and physical health. Since the pandemic, mental health related visits for teenagers has increased 31 percent and suspected suicide attempts has increased 39 percent,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, PhD, RNC, FAAN. “Ensuring we have a top-tier equitable system in place to support the behavioral health needs of our youth, especially when they are most vulnerable and in crisis, is one of the most critical investments we can make. These enhancements, made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act, will help us deliver quality care to make Delaware families stronger and healthier. I am grateful for the leadership of our Governor and congressional delegation.”

“One in three high school students are reporting that they feel persistently sad and hopeless,” said Secretary of DSCYF Josette Manning. “This adolescent diagnosis center and expansion of crisis beds will allow us to provide better services to youth and adolescents while we keep them closer to their homes and closer to their communities, with targeted interventions to help stabilize them so that, ideally, they can return to their homes and their communities sooner. Thank you to the Governor, Lt. Governor, Federal Delegation, and the General Assembly for their support.”

Watch the press conference here.

Learn more about Delaware’s American Rescue Plan Investments here.

Department of Correction to Present “Insider Series” Webinar On Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Register online at

Dover, DE – On Tuesday, April 26 at 1:00 p.m. the Delaware Department of Correction invites you to join its next “DOC Insider Series” webinar with a focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  The DOC Insider Series provides members of the public with an inside the walls look at Delaware’s correctional programs, practices, and policies.  Each 90-minute webinar includes a live informational presentation by DOC staff and partner organizations followed by an interactive question and answer session with attendees.

The April 26 Insider Series webinar focuses on what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is, how it works, and a review of the types of CBT programming that are offered to incarcerated persons.  The DOC Insider Series Webinar: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” is facilitated by the Department of Correction Office of Planning, Research and Reentry and is presented by Michael Records, Bureau Chief of DOC’s Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health (BHSAMH), Vanessa Bennifield, BHSAMH Behavioral Health Treatment Services Director, and Bradley Owens, JD, Senior Consultant.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is employed by the Delaware DOC in its prison facilities and community corrections centers and by Probation and Parole and has been shown across the country to reduce recidivism in both juveniles and adults.  In practice CBT helps participants become conscious of their own thoughts and behaviors and then make positive changes to impact their decision-making.  CBT programs address a variety of problems associated with criminal behavior and works to help participants develop and improve critical reasoning, problem solving, moral reasoning, social skills, self-control, and impulse management.

“The Delaware Department of Correction is committed to engaging with the community about how our correctional system operates and provides treatment, programming and training to meet our dual mission of public safety and offender rehabilitation,” Department of Correction Commissioner Monroe B. Hudson Jr. said.  “Please join us and get an insider’s perspective on how DOC’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs support reentry by addressing some of the root causes of criminal behavior.”

DOC Insider Series Webinar: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Register in advance at
Webinar Presenters:
Michael Records, Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health
Vanessa Bennifield, Behavioral Health Treatment Services Director, Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Bradley Owens, JD, Senior Consultant

Previous Insider Series webinars have focused on prison education, Substance Use Disorder treatment, reentry, sentence calculation and release dates, Probation and Parole, and inmate intake and classification.  All Insider Series webinars are posted on the DOC’s YouTube channel for viewing anytime:

Additional Insider Series webinars are planned for 2022. Follow DOC’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn social media channels for upcoming dates and registration details.


Dover Health Care Provider Expands Behavioral Health Services for the LGBTQ Community

NEW CASTLE (Feb. 21, 2022) – A Dover primary care office is expanding behavioral health services for LGBTQ individuals thanks to federal grant funding. A Peaceful Place Integrated Care is using the grant to support the addition of a certified drug and alcohol counselor, a licensed clinical social worker, and a peer navigator to help treat patients with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. The funds also support the use of telehealth to help patients continue accessing treatment.

A Peaceful Place is a minority-owned, woman-owned primary care office run by Ericka Daniel, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner. Daniel decided to open a practice that focuses on the unique needs of the LGBTQ population after she completed training in transgender health and non-binary gender education and realized there are few service providers with this specialized knowledge in Delaware.

“I would go to refer patients to LGBTQ-affirming health providers and realized there were hardly any,” Daniel said. “So, I decided to start my own practice.”

Daniel’s office provides primary care and wraparound behavioral health support services. Although she accepts all patients for primary health care, she seeks to create an environment that is especially LGBTQ-affirming. For example, the practice provides gender-affirming hormones for transgender individuals.

The practice also welcomes those who have substance use disorders and those diagnosed with hepatitis C. Daniel prescribes buprenorphine in both the oral and injectable forms, as well as naltrexone and vivitrol.

The Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) oversees the $37 million State Opioid Response (SOR) grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the source of the funding for A Peaceful Place. Rick Urey, Chief of Addiction Services at DSAMH, said that partnering with LGBTQ-friendly health care providers is critical to ensuring a pathway for all patients who need treatment for substance use disorders.

“We want anyone who needs treatment services to feel like they have places they can go where they are welcomed and respected,” Urey said. “Having an LGBTQ-friendly primary care office that also offers behavioral health services is a huge asset for our community. Not all health care providers understand how to prescribe medication for opiate use disorders, let alone how to integrate it with the specific health care needs of LGBTQ patients, especially those on hormone therapy.”

Daniel’s decision to integrate behavioral health services with primary care is driven by the frequent co-occurrence of mental health and substance use disorders in the LGBTQ community, as well as first-hand experience with her patients’ needs.

“LGBTQ patients have often suffered a series of traumatic experiences that can have a substantial effect on their physical and mental health,” Daniel said. “Due to perceptions about their lifestyle, it might have been separation, abandonment, and being ostracized by their faith communities. This causes a lot of trauma and people begin to self-medicate to numb that pain, which can lead to addiction and other risky behaviors.”

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sexual minority adults are nearly twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to suffer from substance use disorder. Moreover, there were huge treatment gaps: less than 14% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults with SUD reported not receiving treatment during the 2019 survey. A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh found that nearly 1 in 10 gay/lesbian youth reported a history of heroin use compared to 4.1% of bisexual and 1.1% of heterosexual young people.

Some of the contributing factors to a higher prevalence of substance use among sexual minorities may include social exclusion, physical abuse, rejection by family or community, or other types of discrimination. A widely cited study from the University of Michigan found that LGB adults who have experienced multiple forms of discrimination are four times more likely to experience substance use disorder.

“I don’t want them to have to worry about facing rejection by another health care provider,” Daniel said. “It’s critical that they can have their needs met for their opiate use disorder and/or hormone replacement therapy in a setting that is respectful and nonjudgmental.”

Trust built over time is critical for developing the best health care plans with her patients. “Some patients initially try to hide their addiction from their primary care physician, but when they come to us, we take a holistic approach to talking about their health, and over time they become comfortable talking with me about more aspects of their health,” Daniel said.

When clients faced financial problems, Daniel has applied for the state’s Opioid Impact Fee Fund scholarships to ensure their recovery is not jeopardized. “I’ve used this fund for hotel stays and to pay for utilities for patients who were struggling financially,” she says. The fund, established through Senate Bill 34, was signed into law in 2019 and has been administered by DSAMH. Nearly 600 scholarships for housing, transportation, basic necessities, and other needs have been awarded to date to support the recovery of people with substance use disorders.

“This is a judgment-free zone,” Daniel said of A Peaceful Place. “Everyone has a messy life, so don’t let that stop you from coming in. We just want you to be healthy, to be well, to live how you want to live, according to your own yardstick.”

• • •

Learn more about health care services provided by A Peaceful Place at or by calling 302-264-9436.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, you are encouraged to call DHSS’ 24/7 free and confidential Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE or text CONNECT to 55753.

Funding for these initiatives is supplied by grant number 5H79TI083305-02 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Governor Carney, Lt. Governor Hall-Long Announce Community-Based Mental Health Services Fund

ARPA-funded program will provide support for community-level mental health services

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney and Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long on Wednesday announced the creation of a Community-Based Mental Health Services Fund to support the delivery of mental health services in Delaware communities.

The program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The federal legislation was supported in Congress by Delaware’s congressional delegation – U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester – and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.

Visit to learn more about how Delaware is investing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. 

“Now more than ever, we know the importance of providing access to quality mental health services for Delawareans in need,” said Governor Carney. “This Community-based Mental Health Services Fund will help community health care providers, nonprofits, and faith-based institutions provide those services, and strengthen the communities they serve. Thank you to members of our federal delegation and President Joe Biden for providing these important resources.”

Nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, and for-profit providers that provide community-based mental health services in Delaware may apply for funding through the program. Applicants should review Delaware’s Developmental Framework to make Delaware a trauma-informed state.

Click here to view the Community-Based Mental Health Services Fund application.

Applications must be submitted electronically by 6:00 p.m. on January 15, 2022 to be considered for funding.

“This fund provides much needed resources for persons with behavioral health challenges in order to give families access to early intervention and quality treatment to support their loved ones. As a nurse and Chair of the Behavioral Health Consortium, I am committed to making Delaware a leader in providing access to quality behavioral health services to truly help people. This investment is a critical support for our healthcare providers, non-profits and faith-based institutions to deliver services and breakdown stigma,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “Thank you to our federal delegation and President Joe Biden for their commitment to get Delawareans the help they deserve, and a behavioral health system that works for everyone.”

“Access to affordable, quality mental health services should be available to everyone – no matter their income or zip code,” said Carper, Coons and Blunt Rochester. “Far too often, we focus on the physical symptoms of the pandemic; however, we must not overlook the mental health challenges faced by so many during difficult times. As the pandemic continues to take its toll on our nation and here in Delaware, we are proud of Governor Carney’s commitment to helping all Delawareans get the help that they need.”