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Brain Injury: Effects and Interventions Training - March 22, 2018

On March 22, 2018, New Vitae Wellness Foundation in partnership with Action Recovery Brain Injury Services commemorated Brain Injury Awareness Month by welcoming guest speakers Briana Scurry and Frances Musto, PsyD, to detail recovery interventions and advocacy methods that assist individuals with brain injury. The training offered a review of the current best practices for treatment, and offered a first-hand look at the process of recovery from brain injury.

Briana Scurry, a two-time United States Gold-Medal winning Olympian and brain injury advocate, spoke about her early life, identifying her dream to participate in the 1996 Olympics. Her dedication and athletic ability resulted in a college scholarship and finally landed her a position in the NCAA semifinals in women’s soccer. Her talent resulted in two Olympic gold medals before transitioning to a professional team where she sustained a head injury during a game in 2010. Ms. Scurry reported a number of emotional, cognitive, and physical health challenges as a result of her injury. She also experienced a sense of disillusionment after multiple doctors informed her that she would get better in time and that there was no evidence of any additional injury. Finally, a top physician in brain injury recognized her occipital nerve damage, resulting in surgery and a recovery period that led Ms. Scurry to become an advocate for women who have experienced concussions or other brain injuries. Ms. Scurry offered insight into the process of recovery and ideas to offer support, particularly as individuals experience the emotional and cognitive challenges that can occur following a brain injury.

Following Ms. Scurry’s inspiring discussion, Dr. Frances Musto offered best practices regarding assessment and treatment following a brain injury. Following a review of the function of the four lobes of the brain, Dr. Musto provided an overview of the types of brain injury symptoms, including affective, behavioral, cognitive, and physical concerns. Dr. Musto utilized each type of symptom to discuss assessment practices and interventions associated with each. Additionally, the conversation included a full overview of functional behavioral assessments, including the steps required to identify the problem, collect and analyze data, and implement and evaluate a behavior plan. A thorough example was reviewed in order to put all of the information into context and apply these concepts.

Overall, the training offered participants the opportunity to learn more about the impact of brain injury and ways to best support individuals who have experienced concussion or more significant injuries. The morning’s conversation helped to commemorate Brain Injury Awareness Month. New Vitae Wellness Foundation and New Vitae Wellness and Recovery wish to thank Briana Scurry and Dr. Frances Musto for their expertise and counsel!


The Opioid Crisis: Understanding and Awareness Training for the Public - February 27, 2018

On February 27th, 2018, New Vitae Wellness Foundation hosted Lisa Wolff, Senior Manager of Special Programs for the Center for Humanistic Change, to facilitate a Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education presentation. Training participants were also invited to explore a mock teenage bedroom to learn of a variety of possible hiding places for substances.

Ms. Wolff reviewed the dangers of heroin and opioid use, combining statistics with the personal impact of local residents' stories of substance use. The interactive presentation included startling facts and trends pertaining to substance use, including:

  • Eighty percent of heroin users started their use via prescription drugs

  • In the United States, one person dies every 19 minutes from an opioid overdose

  • Substances used to cut heroin include fentanyl, other drugs, and household cleaners

  • In the United States, two million people are addicted to prescription opioids; Five hundred thousand are addicted to heroin

  • In Pennsylvania, overdose deaths increased 37% from 2015 to 2016

The presentation highlighted the dangers associated with the various methods of heroin ingestion, the day-to-day objects that can be used to conceal substance use, and the method of action of opioids in the brain. Ms. Wolff introduced Joe to the audience, a young man who has achieved over two and a half years of sobriety. Joe shared his personal story of heroin and other substance use. Both presenters offered behavioral and physical signs of opioid use as well as symptoms associated with overdose.

This amazing training opportunity was open to the community, with several professionals, parents, and school employees in attendance. Many participants took advantage of the training to obtain continuing education credits through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). We wish to thank Ms. Wolff and the Center for Humanistic Change for the opportunity to learn more about opioid use and prevention!


Recovering from Military Trauma - November 13, 2017

According to recent RAND Corporation research, approximately 20 percent of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan deployments experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Depression ( However, many experts suggest that the percentage of Veterans who experience stress and mood problems is actually much higher. Sadly, as a result of multiple stressors, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has suggested that 20 Veterans complete the act of suicide on a daily basis ( In an attempt to shed light on these difficult statistics and offer support for Veterans and their families, New Vitae Wellness Foundation, in conjunction with Lehigh Valley Health Network, Marywood University, Shamrock Reins, and New Vitae Wellness and Recovery, co-sponsored a complimentary training entitled, "Recovering from Military Trauma," on November 13th, 2017.

Guest speaker David Richards, PsyD, LSW, opened the training with a review of military culture, environmental stressors, and current resources for Veterans transitioning back into civilian culture. Dr. Richards made special note of the challenges encountered by men and women in the military, including multiple moves/assignments, family stressors, and the dangerous and crisis-driven work associated with military operations. Dr. Richards also reviewed the activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, including pensions, education, housing, vocational rehabilitation, and women's services.

Both Jacquelline Panellas, PsyD, ICADC, and Kelly Lewis, PsyD, continued the conversation by educating participants about the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as current supports and treatment. Dr. Panellas reviewed the "flight or fight" response associated with trauma and the resulting processes in the brain and body that are disrupted as a result. A review of common reactions to trauma, including fear, anxiety, increased arousal, hypervigilance, grief/depression, and avoidance were included in the conversation. Dr. Lewis offered explanations and examples of avoidant behaviors, encouraging attendees to be aware of possible environmental reminders that can result in increased anxiety, including smells, temperatures, sounds, and crowds/surroundings.

The training ended with a panel discussion, moderated by Eric Johnson, Lehigh Valley Health Network's Veteran Health Officer. Panelists included: Barry Bowman, MAPC, CADC, CCPG, Navy Veteran and therapist at New Vitae Wellness and Recovery; Janet L. Brennan, the Founder and Executive Director of Shamrock Reins; Corporal Jared D. Kreiser, USMC Ret.; and Jared's mother, Peggy Kreiser. Each panelist discussed the challenges associated with military service, emphasizing the importance of giving Veterans the opportunity to heal using individualized means of coping. The panelists also reviewed the challenges associated with re-assimilating into civilian culture following the traumas that can be encountered in active duty. Corporal Kreiser reviewed his writing, The Darkness, as a means to communicate his experiences during and after his service. Attendees also had the opportunity to ask the panelists questions regarding their personal experiences related to healing following trauma.

New Vitae Wellness Foundation was pleased to host approximately fifteen Veterans for the training, with additional family members, behavioral health providers, and others in attendance. We wish to thank all of our speakers, panelists, and visitors for a thoughtful and powerful training.

Trauma and Addiction: Training with Dr. Joseph A. Troncale - August 10, 2017

Imagine standing in a pool with an overinflated ball. As the water sways, you keep trying to push the ball under the water's surface. Each time you try to submerge the ball, hiding it from view, the ball pops back up to the surface of the water. Joseph Troncale, MD, DFASAM, suggests that this image is a metaphor for trauma and addiction. The more individuals attempt to hide uncomfortable feelings related to past trauma, the more these feelings surface. In order to numb the pain associated with trauma, some people turn to prescription or illegal drugs to avoid dealing with painful emotions.

On August 10th, New Vitae Wellness Foundation and Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers, with the support of New Vitae Wellness and Recovery: The Mitchell Clinic, Marywood University, and Lehigh Valley Health Network, were honored to host Dr. Joseph Troncale for conversation focused on the intersection of trauma and addictive behaviors. With over 35 years of experience in the field of addiction, Dr. Troncale has been recognized by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and noted by his peers for his outstanding work. Dr. Troncale currently serves as the Corporate Medical Director for Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers.

Over the course of the training, Dr. Troncale provided an overview of trauma and addiction, reviewing the neurological basis for addiction via the structures of the limbic system. Troncale also identified treatment practices for healing trauma, emphasizing the importance of listening to learn which modality might be best suited for each individual. In addition to a review of treatments like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Exposure Therapy, Dr. Troncale discussed the value and possibilities associated with Medication Therapy in the treatment of addiction and trauma. Overall, he urged the audience to do "what's right" by using available resources and helping individuals feel safe following either a traumatic event or a pattern of addictive behavior.

Thank you to our training co-sponsor, our other supporters, and all who attended this fantastic event! New Vitae Wellness Foundation looks forward to offering additional trainings and supports in the future!

Surviving the Bridge: Hope, Healing, Recovery - Oct. 5, 2016

Featuring Kevin Hines, Survivor of a Suicide Attempt

New Vitae Wellness and Recovery was the primary sponsor for the first New Vitae Wellness Foundation event. The nonprofit organization New Vitae Wellness Foundation was honored to present behavioral health advocate Kevin Hines for two presentations on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Supported by co-sponsors NAMI Bucks County, NAMI Lehigh Valley, Marywood University, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and New Vitae Wellness and Recovery, Hines spoke of his experiences with behavioral health challenges and his recovery following his jump from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Hines is one of only a handful of individuals to survive the fall from the iconic structure and regain full physical mobility. He spoke of the need to discuss behavioral health symptoms and to fight the stigma associated with treatment and recovery.

Kevin delivered his message of hope to Quakertown Community High School Seniors earlier in the day; some students also returned later that evening with family members to share Kevin's powerful story. Almost 500 attendees listened to Kevin's story during the evening discussion, with many staying afterward to speak with Hines personally.

"It's not about what you say, it's about what you do," Hines advised the crowd, identifying ways to help a friend or loved one who might be thinking about suicide. Hines suggested initiating dialogue and finding effective care as critical actions to assist those in need. Hines also urged audience members, many of whom had experienced a loved one's death via suicide, to release any feelings of guilt. He spoke of the challenges associated with his own physical and emotional recovery, and of the coping and wellness skills he utilizes in order to manage behavioral health symptoms.

The evening's event was the first educational offering from the New Vitae Wellness Foundation. The Foundation will continue to provide complimentary supports, including community behavioral health, substance use, and educational services, with a special focus on helping Veterans, young adults, and local residents. Overall, Hines' story of hope, healing, and recovery was an incredible way to launch the Foundation's goals. In order to continue to share Hines' story of hope, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery has donated copies of Hines' book, Cracked, Not Broken, to the high school and local libraries. Hines motivated the crowd to take action, engage in challenging conversations with loved ones, and fight the stigma and apathy that can be associated with behavioral health needs.

About New Vitae Wellness Foundation

New Vitae Wellness Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established to provide educational and other life supports to improve the health and wellbeing of our community. The foundation offers a variety of low- or no-cost healthcare services contracted through the New Vitae Wellness and Recovery Center, including holistic supports, individual and group therapies, and other behavioral health and substance use services. Educational supports, including tutoring and professional development programs are available free of charge to promote health and wellness in a various life domains. Service to Veterans, young adults, and the local community is of particular importance in order to promote health, wellness, and hope.

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