Retired Health Commissioner honored by Independent Living

Posted 1/8/20

Retired Orange County Health Commissioner Chris Ashmean was honored at Independent Living’s 18th Annual Chris Ashman Wellness & Recovery Conference themed “Breaking the Cycles of …

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Retired Health Commissioner honored by Independent Living


Retired Orange County Health Commissioner Chris Ashmean was honored at Independent Living’s 18th Annual Chris Ashman Wellness & Recovery Conference themed “Breaking the Cycles of Trauma, Addiction & Incarceration.”

Doug Hovey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Independent Living recognized Ashman for his vision, dedication and passion to those served in Orange County at the conference attended by 150 at Anthony’s Pier 9 in New Windsor.

Ashman had a 39 year career in the mental health field and spent 31 of those years working in the Orange County Department of Mental Health until his retirement in 2012. Ashman launched the very first Mental Health Wellness and Recovery Conference in 2002. This year he was recognized for his vision.

Additionally, Orange County’s current Commissioner of Social Services and Mental Health, Darcie Miller was recognized for her on going leadership since 2014. She was recently reappointed to her position by the County Legislature for five years.

This Conference focused on today’s critical Mental Health and Wellness issues with two Keynote Presentators, Lindsey Sizemore, State of Georgia Consumer Mental Health Network, shared her story of recovery, surviving 12 years of addiction, 1 year of homelessness and 3 years of being incarcerated. Luis Lopez, MA, MS, coordinator for Fidelity & Best Practices at the ACT Institute, NYS Psychiatric institute Columbia Psychiatry, also shared his journey and how he became expert in the areas of Trauma informed care, Motivational Interviewing, Dual Recovery, Harm reduction and Forensics Intervention Team.

Two panel discussions were held. The first “Responding to the Opioid Crisis” was moderated by Chief Operating officer of Regional economic Community action program, Michele McKeon.

The panelist included Orange County ‘s Commissioners. Darcie Miller, of Social Services and Mental Health; Dr. Irina Gelman, Orange County’s Commissioner of Health Department; CEO of Cornerstone Family HealthCare, Linda Muller, amd Daniel Maughan, VP of Transportation at Montefiore Saint Lukes Cornwall Hospital.

Topics and facts addressed included local, state and national epidemic of addiction in every sector in our community; awareness in breaking sterotypes, and the need to eliminate the stigma in order to effectively impact early intervention, services and long term outcomes. We were also reminded that access to transportation is also a key component to treatment.

For example, the Methadone Treatment Center at the Newburgh’s Cornerstone Family Health Center requires transportation across county for those out of the immediate area to receive services.

Second panel, “Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration: Innovations in Diversion, Rehabilitation and Re-Entry” was moderated by Martin Gromulate, NYS Certified Peer Specialist. The panel included Steve Miccio, CEO of People USA, David Duncan, RECAP Parole Re-Entry Coordinator, Lindsey Sizemore, Georgia State Mental Health Consumer Network.

Critical topics discussed in this session included 2020 NYS bail reform and its impact on local law enforcement communities. As well, solitary confinement as a method of inhumane treatment or ‘torture’ was discussed.

The conference attendees included those from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, various mental health systems including recovering individuals, mental health professionals, executive level staff, peer specialists -professionals, medical professionals, family members, and services providers from Orange, Sullivan Ulster, Rockland, Dutchess and Westchester Counties.

Independent Living, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. As a consumer-directed, cross-disability advocacy and service organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for persons with disabilities. Our vision is a barrier-free society with opportunities for all persons to achieve their maximum potential. For more information, call 845-565-1162 ext. 202.


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