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2017 Board of Directors Candidates

NAMI Georgia is pleased to announce the candidates for the 2017 NAMI Georgia Board of Directors election. Please review the candidates’ statements below, and look for your ballot in the mail!  Voting can be done by mail, or in person at the Annual Meeting in Savannah.

Bill Carruthers (Incumbent)

Residence: Chatham County, GA
NAMI Affiliate: Savannah
Occupation and Employer: Program Director for Gateway Behavioral Health Services

“NAMI was part of the process that led me to long-term recovery. I wish to serve because I believe in us as an organization and the power of our possibility. I would say communication is one of my skills, and the ability to speak out loud about NAMI’s mission, values, and signature programs. I am presently a Peer-to-Peer mentor, an In Our Own Voices Presenter, and Chair of the Consumer Council. I am an advocate for NAMI, CIT, and recovery at large.”

Monique Carter

Residence: Clayton County, GA
NAMI Affiliate: Clayton
Occupation and Employer:  Executive Director, New Vision Behavioral Health Center

“I have had the pleasure of connecting and working with some of the most inspiring individuals for the past 23 years in the  mental health field; people with mental illnesses from all walks of life, from diverse cultures, and super stars in their own rights. They are not just people with illnesses, they are people with uniqueness; created for greatness, but more importantly, they are my family. They have taught me some of the most valuable life lessons, including grace and humility. Service should not be looked at as a chore but more as a way of life. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. Being a servant leader, caring for your fellow man is an innate responsibility for us all. The question “Am I my brother’s keeper”, the answer is YES I AM!!! The skill set I possess is a natural innate willingness to use my talents to help and build others. My effective leadership skills include effective communication, time-management, organization, networking, persuasiveness, compassion, empathy, dedication, and creativity. NAMI is important to me because “Knowledge is Power.” NAMI equips people with not only the tools to impact life but the ability to change lives.”

Larisa Epshteyn

Residence: DeKalb County, GA
NAMI Affiliate: Dekalb
Occupation and Employer: Regional Recruiting Lead, (Altisource Portfolio Solutions)


“I wish to serve NAMI because I strongly believe in its mission of providing support, education, and advocacy to help build communities where all those affected by mental illness are accepted and understood. I believe that mental health is just as important as physical health. A lot of mental illness is misunderstood and individuals are ostracized. I hope to align my talents with an organization that is working to change that.

I am not a mental health provider or consumer of mental health related services (unless meditation counts), which I believe makes me uniquely qualified to serve. I will bring a different perspective- that of an outsider – which I hope will allow us to be more effective at advocacy, in fundraising efforts, and at education. In addition to an outsider’s perspective, I bring years of fundraising and sponsorship experience, which I hope to use to benefit the organization. I have excelled in event planning and building effective processes to help my own business and my former Homeowner’s Association be financially healthy for years to come. I hope to use those skills to help NAMI further its mission and positively impact the community in which I live.”

Susie Kyle (Incumbent)

Residence: Cobb County, GA
NAMI Affiliate: Northside Atlanta
Occupation and Employer:  Mental Health Advocate


“NAMI has been a life-changer for me and for my family. My husband, Vernon, and I joined NAMI in 2005. Since that time, we have been very active members and have met some great friends. It is so nice to be with others who know and understand and are there for you.

In facilitating Family-to-Family classes over the past 10 years, I have met many wonderful people and have gained a greater awareness of the world of mental illness. Every time I teach it, I come away with more insight and better ways to deal with the challenges of my son’s illness. Also, through Family-to-Family, I have come in contact with a variety of talented people. This connection has been a valuable tool in recruitment of volunteers to help build our organization.

As a former NAMI Northside Atlanta president and co-president, I have gained knowledge and developed leadership skills I feel can be used in my service with NAMI Georgia. During my tenure, NAMI Northside became a 501(c)3, established a website, received the top affiliate award in donations for the NAMIWalk, and will be hosting our 5th Annual Mental Health Fair in April. This event has been well-attended with over 200 attendees and 30+ community providers.

I would like to serve on the NAMI Georgia board to help and support our new leader and staff in our efforts to grow and move NAMI Georgia forward.”

Diane Marinelli

Residence: Rockdale County, GA
NAMI Affiliate: Northside Atlanta
Occupation and Employer:  Retired Public Relations Executive

“We choose our career. A mission chooses us. I retired early from my career in public relations, when my youngest was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. He was nine years old. I now had a mission; to get him the best treatment possible, so he could live a normal life. His behavior problems were a constant concern. When school became too much of a stressor, I became a homeschool teacher and taught him from sixth grade through high school graduation. We didn’t find NAMI until he was 18. He was in trouble with the law and we were looking for help. My husband and I took the Family-to-Family course and wished we had found NAMI much sooner! I became a NAMI Basics instructor and Family Support Group facilitator to help other families dealing with mental illness. Today, I am leading the development of a local affiliate in Rockdale and Newton counties. NAMI is an important resource for families and voice for those suffering from mental illness. I hope to use my professional communication skills and personal experience to help NAMI fulfill its mission. NAMI’s mission is my own- to improve the lives of those living with mental illness.”

Dr. Chuma Okere

Residence: Gwinnett County, GA
NAMI Affiliate: none
Occupation and Employer:  Self-Employed (President, Camville Corporation dba FirstChoice Franchise Consulting)

“I am connected to mental health, but NOT to NAMI. I hold a doctoral degree in Medical Sciences, with specialty in Neurosciences. For over two decades, I was involved with active research in understanding some aspects of brain function. This effort has resulted in more than 30 peer-reviewed publications in reputable brain research journals, as well as over 60 abstract presentations in biomedical sciences conferences. In addition, I have served and continue to serve as an expert on the editorial board and peer-reviewer on some biomedical research journals.

Having stepped away from academics, there is still a lot of ways that my experiences, skills, and training can be of benefit to the greater society. This platform can be one of them. Mental illness advocacy is dear to me on account of my background as a medical scientist.

Knowledge-wise, I bring considerable technical experience about mental health and illness, having been active in neuroscience research, teaching and mentoring. Skills-wise, I bring considerable experience with education, communication, grant-writing and dissemination.

Quite frankly, I only got to know about NAMI through my indication of interest in VolunteerMatch. My training has reinforced how much of awareness needs to be brought to the general populace regarding mental illness and the need to begin to address some of the basic disconnect between mental illness and public awareness. That NAMI addresses some of the basic issues of this disconnect makes NAMI important to me and therefore is a good platform to serve.”

Sarah Vinson, PhD

Residence: DeKalb County, GA
NAMI Affiliate: Dekalb
Occupation and Employer:  Child & Adolescent, Adult & Forensic Psychiatrist employed by Lorio Psych Group and Morehouse School of Medicine

“I consider it an honor and privilege to partner with consumers and their families in their mental healthcare. My goal for each of my clients is not merely diminished symptoms, but multi-faceted recovery that rings true to them as individuals. There is much, much work to do in the mental health advocacy space and I have frankly been disheartened by the absence of more concerted, consistent collaboration between providers and consumers. I’m a triple board certified psychiatrist who works in public sector, private, juvenile correctional, forensic consultation and primary care settings. I believe the perspective afforded by these experiences could be helpful in advocacy and educational efforts.”



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