OUR T E A M
Donald Richard is the program director for the Strengthen your Mind Initiative. He has provided treatment and training to first responders, active duty military, and combat veterans in stress management and resiliency techniques for over a decade, in both clinical and non-clinical settings.
Donny has presented nationally on the topic of stress reduction for first responders and has conducted critical incident debriefings for departments throughout New England and New York. He has trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and has been practicing and teaching mindfulness for over 20 years. Donny served with the 318th combat support company United States Army Infantry.
Carol Verrochi is the outreach and development coordinator. She comes from a lengthy nursing background working in intensive care units, emergency rooms and pediatrics, and most recently in her career, as the risk manager for hospitals. Needless to say, Carol has witnessed trauma in her career. Carol has several family members who are first responders, with her sister recently retiring as a Battalion Chief in our nation's capital.
Since leaving her career in the medical field, Carol has continued to put her time and effort into helping others. She has spent countless hours in the charitable field assisting the needs of children and families in both health and education prior to joining our program assisting first responders. Carol has stayed connected and involved in the hospital setting, as she volunteers on several community benefits committees.
Dr. Frank J. Gallo “It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to work with law enforcement professionals,” says Frank J. Gallo, Ph.D., the owner of Blue Life Behavioral Health and creator of the Blue Life Academy.
Since 2009, Dr. Gallo has been working with uniformed service professionals struggling with all sorts of behavioral health conditions and problems getting in the way of valued living and peak performance at work, home, or wherever they are in life.
As an experienced healthcare administrator and senior leader, Dr. Gallo has designed and implemented specialized and dedicated trauma, addiction, and anger treatment programs for uniformed service professionals in residential, partial hospital, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment settings. He served as a civilian psychologist in the United States Air Force, directing the psychological health program at the Massachusetts Air National Guard 104th Fighter Wing.
Dr. Gallo was also a Joint Commission Behavioral Health Surveyor. He surveyed behavioral healthcare organizations throughout the United States. And applied various skills to determine an organization’s compliance with applicable standards and functionality of behavioral health care delivery systems. He engaged the organization staff in interactive dialogues to assess and identify opportunities for performance improvement.
Besides Dr. Gallo’s behavioral healthcare experience, he is a retired Rhode Island, municipal police officer. His police experience included uniformed patrol, community policing, detectives, training division, and the special reaction team, using specialized tactics and weapons to resolve high-threat situations. “My police experience has been extremely valuable in helping law enforcement professionals,” says Dr. Gallo.
Dr. Gallo was also a tenured Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Western New England University, where he taught a range of courses in policing, criminal behavior, and research methods. He left his academic position to dedicate his work to psychology in uniform service settings.
Dr. Gallo is the author of numerous articles on police psychology, police training manuals, and the book Bouncing Back from Trauma: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide for Police Readiness. He’s provided recruit and in-service training for uniformed service professionals. He has presented and consulted internationally on policing and the use of force and nationally on acceptance and commitment therapy and training in uniformed service and healthcare settings. “I’m excited to create and deliver high-quality, innovative, web-based behavioral health education, training, and courses that simply work for law enforcement professionals,” says Dr. Gallo.
Tony Parmenter grew up as a child of an active-duty military firefighter. Now as a military veteran himself and an experienced counselor, Tony has chosen to use his knowledge of co-occurring mental health and substance use issues to help uniformed professionals and their families live full and meaningful lives. With a focus on post-traumatic growth, he employs Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy along with Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), nervous system regulation therapies, and other evidence-based models for aiding mental and physical resilience.
Tony is the founder & Clinical Director of Counseling Without Walls & Seiyu I.H.T., serving trauma therapy clients in Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, & California. In addition to this and working with SYMI, Tony has served as the managing clinician with a statewide first responder peer support program in Vermont, served with Vermont’s statewide first responder-focused EAP program, and was the lead therapist for the Uniformed Services Program of the Brattleboro Retreat. He lectures part-time in the behavioral sciences and has received specialized and advanced training from the Parnell Institute for EMDR, the Center for Deployment Psychology, and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF). Tony is a graduate of Antioch University New England and holds a professional certification in Critical Incident Stress Management (CCISM) from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He is an EMDR Certified Therapist and Consultant with the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), and has held leadership positions with the Vermont ESGR program of the DoD. Additionally, Tony developed and published the first-ever integration of evidenced-based trauma therapy with nature, and in his spare time can be found chasing native brook trout in Vermont and New Hampshire
Susan Stember Buhlmann is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who resides in southern Vermont. She has been in the field of social work for over 40 years in a variety of mental health settings. Graduating with her MSW from Fordham University, she focused on group work and mental health. Most recently she worked for the Brattleboro Retreat as the Clinical Outreach Rep as well as in the Uniformed Services Program facilitating groups and teaching mindfulness along with Frank, Donny, Ryan and Outreach with Jim. In addition to supporting the Strengthening Your Mind Initiative, Susan presently works part-time as a Hospice Social Worker.
James McKay is a third-generation firefighter. He has been a Firefighter/EMT for 39 years and recently retired as a firefighter from Manchester- Fire- Rescue- EMS. He is a member of the Connecticut Firefighters Peer Support Network and an active member of the Brattleboro Retreat USP Alumni.
He serves as co-chair for a first responders weekly Mindfulness Peer Support Group. He is also on the board of directors for the Honor Wellness Center, where he conducts weekly peer support meetings. In addition, he has worked with the Brattleboro Retreat Uniformed Services Outreach Program. He is a 2012 founding member of the Manchester Fire Rescue EMS peer support team and received the 2016 Lamplighter Silver Award of Excellence.
Ed Sawicki has been nationally registered as a Paramedic since 1988, a Hazardous Material Specialist since 1997, and served as a member of FEMA's National Disaster Medical Assistant Team since 2001. He has responded to many disasters including the Springfield, MA Chlorine Spill, the attack on the World Trade Centers, Hurricane Katrina/Rita, and the Asiana Airline crash in San Francisco. Most recently he ran the COVID Vaccine Operations for Sonoma County’s Department of Public Health Services in Santa Rosa, Ca.
Mr. Sawicki has over 35 years of experience working in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). He served as both Operations and General Manager in the private sector. He has experience with the private and public sectors which plays an important role when it comes to system design and development. In addition to his management skills, he also served as a lead instructor for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics. He played a key role in the merger of the San Francisco Department of Public Health Paramedic division into the Fire Department. When he was not teaching in the academy, he was clinically supervising 30 EMTs and Paramedics as a Paramedic Rescue Captain. He is actively involved on the national level with disaster planning and improving the profession for the next generation.
Mr. Sawicki has authored several articles for the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) and EMS Insider Magazines. He served on the Editorial Advisory Board for JEMS, has been an expert witness, as well as volunteered with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) as their Treasurer, and chaired numerous committees. He has also served as an instructor and Affiliate Faculty for American Heart Association's ACLS, PALS, and BCLS. And as an instructor of Advanced Trauma Life Support and Springfield College's Paramedic Program
Alistair Sweeney served in the New Zealand Army for over a decade in various combat oriented, leadership and training roles that included active duty tours to East Timor and Afghanistan.
After leaving the military, Alistair found Yoga a great way to heal the tension in his body after years of harsh physical activity. As he continued to practice Yoga and Mindfulness, Alistair also became aware of the significant benefit of these practices for providing a greater sense of mental and emotional wellbeing.
Alistair is a certified 200 hour, Trauma-Conscious, Restorative Yoga, Veterans Yoga Project (VYP), Connected Warriors, Warriors at Ease, VEToga and Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT) 100 Hour Teacher as well as Sierra Club Military Outdoor Guide.
Ryan Heck's passion for helping veterans and first responders started when he began working for the Uniformed Service Program at the Brattleboro Retreat. There, he led a variety of groups such as mindfulness, peer council, meditative movement, and wellness-based outdoor activities. Ryan helped develop the Uniformed Service Program's therapeutic fly-fishing program and weekend wellness retreats. He said, "I enjoy sharing the opportunities the outdoors offers. It can be naturally engaging and a great place to take some respite from our daily routines."
Ryan has been in the human service field for close to twenty years, after receiving his Bachelors Degree in Human Services from Southern Vermont College. Ryan enjoys the outdoors, spending much time in the Alleghany National Forest and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Ryan currently manages one of Vermont's state parks in the Northeast Kingdom.
Jeffrey Dende has been fly fishing the Finger Lakes Region of New York and beyond for more that 25 years. He is a highly sought after fly tyer who can often be found guiding an individual or two within the Finger Lake tributaries. It is on the water with one-on-one attention where skills are truly honed and lifelong passions are born. Jeff is a co-founder of the Lansing Rec Fly Fishing Program. Besides fly fishing recreationally, Jeff has dedicated a significant portion of his life's efforts to conservation and restoration, building a life around his passion. Through his work with Ducks Unlimited, he has worked to help maintain the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge as well as procure, rehabilitate, and re-designate as public lands marsh and grasslands in Louisiana and throughout the migratory fly way.
Jeff comes to us through his guiding work for the Brattleboro Uniformed Services with the philosophy that "no one ever steps in the river twice, for it's not the same river and you're not the same man." Jeff believes that it is our duty to give back and provide support to those first responders and military professionals who willingly step into harms way and provide for us when we are in our darkest of hours. If his passion for fly fishing can somehow be used to this extent, then he is happy with his lot in life and you can consider him to be at your disposal.
Tim Houle is a Firefighter/Paramedic that has worked for Manchester-Fire-Rescue-EMS for 20 years. Has worked in fire and EMS as a volunteer and as a career for over 36 years. Is currently a member of the department's Peer Support team and is trained in Acute Stress Adaptive Protocol and Peer Support
Bob Thomas- Firefighter/EMT for 28 years at Manchester-Fire-Rescue-EMS. One of the founding members of the department's PEER Support team. Recently has retired. Bob is an active member of the Brattleboro Retreat USP Alumni and is also trained in Acute Stress Adaptive Protocol and PEER Support.
Katrina Lastih- A graduate of Boston University. Kat has been in the investment industry for over 15 years. Through her time as a hospice volunteer, she developed a passion for helping others. In 2017, Katrina became a Massachusetts state certified "family to family" course facilitator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Through this 8 week course, she helps to educate and provide support for families with loved ones with brain disorders. Spending much of her time in Southern Vermont in recent years, Katrina was introduced to Strengthen Your Mind Initiative and based on her other volunteer work, getting more involved with SYMI felt like a natural transition. "It's my honor and privilege to serve this organization and the mission to help the first responder and healthcare worker communities."
Jill Sachs, C-IAYT, Has been sharing Yoga since 2014 and became a Yoga Therapist in October 2020 through the Integrative Yoga Therapy program in Kripalu, with a passion for offering the subtle aspects of the practice that anyone can access. She is also a resident musician in the Deerfield Valley of Mt. Snow, Vt. and is always looking to discover new ways of infusing music and mindfulness.