Edit Page

Institute for Disaster Mental Health

Institute for Disaster Mental Health



Connect With Us
Points of Pride Logo

Amy Nitza, Ph.D, LMHC, Institute Director

Amy Nitza, Ph.D., LMHC, is a psychologist who specializes in mental health training and group counseling in international contexts, with a particular interest in the role of cultural factors in group dynamics and group-based interventions. Dr. Nitza was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Botswana in 2008-2009, where she studied the use of group counseling interventions in HIV/AIDS prevention among adolescents.  In 2014, Dr. Nitza was a sabbaticant at the National Referral Hospital in the Kingdom of Bhutan, where she provided direct service to patients and training to hospital staff and substance abuse counselors. Currently, she is consulting with the University of Notre Dame in Haiti to develop trauma-related interventions for children in domestic servitude, and to provide training for teachers in dealing with traumatized children in the classroom. Dr. Nitza is President and Fellow of the Association for Specialists in Group Work.  She also serves on the Executive Board of the Society for Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy (Division 49) of the American Psychological Association.  She is the author or co-author of numerous articles, book chapters, and two books, as well as the co-editor of two handbooks of group work activities. Dr. Nitza received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University.  She formerly served as an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Professional Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).  


Karla Vermeulen, Ph.D, Deputy Director

Dr. Vermeulen is the Deputy Director for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) and an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department of SUNY New Paltz, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in disaster mental health, grief counseling, and lifespan developmental psychology among other topics. She holds a Masters in Psychology from SUNY New Paltz, a Doctorate in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham, and a Certificate in Mental Health in Complex Emergencies from the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation. In addition to teaching and research, she has coordinated the development and production of IDMH training curricula for the New York State Department of Health and Office of Mental Health, the American Red Cross, the United Nations, United States Agency for International Development West Bank/Gaza, and other organizations. She is co-author of the upcoming textbook, Disaster Mental Health Interventions: Core Principles and Practices, to be published in 2017 by Routledge.


Rebecca Rodriguez, Program and Operations Manager

Rebecca Rodriguez is the Program and Operations Manager for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Disaster Studies and a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from State University of New York at New Paltz. Rebecca is a certified American Red Cross Volunteer and has been with IDMH for 5 years, serving as coordinator and principle investigator on numerous grants and activities, including projects for USAID West Bank/Gaza, United Nations Emergency Support Team, NYS Office of Mental Health, Department of Health, Office of Victim Services, and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. In March 2017, Ms. Rodriguez's research team of SUNY New Paltz students presented a poster session on Group Interventions in Disaster Mental Health at the American Counseling Association Conference and Expo in San Francisco. Ms. Rodriguez is the New York State Coordinator for the Star Behavioral Health Provider program.  


Cynthia Stewart, Graduate Assistant

Cynthia Stewart is the Graduate Assistant for the Institute for Disaster Mental Health. Cynthia advises undergraduate students enrolled in IDMH's minor in Disaster Studies. She is pursuing a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling and IDMH's Advanced Certificate in Trauma and Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the State University of New York at Purchase. Cynthia is a certified American Red Cross Volunteer. In 2011, she assisted efforts to mitigate the damage of Hurricane Irene in Prattsville, New York. Along with a SUNY New Paltz Research team lead by IDMH Staff, Rebecca Rodrguez, Cynthia presented on Group Interventions in Disaster Mental Health at the 2017 American Counseling Association Conference & Expo in San Francisco, California. At the conference, Cynthia was presented the Vicki E. Bowman Outstanding Graduate Student Award. 


Dan Oles, Star Behavioral Health Administrator

Dan Oles is the Star Behavioral Health Administrator at the Institute for Disaster Mental Health. Dan Oles is a Junior at State University of New York at New Paltz and is pursuing a degree in Digital Media Production with a minor in German. Dan Oles holds an Associate's of Science in Communications and Media Arts from Dutchess Community College. Dan is a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps Reserves.