Board of Directors
Laurie Coker, Executive Director Winston-Salem, NC
After many years of state and local advocacy, Laurie accepted the role of interim volunteer director for the fledgling organization, North Carolina Consumer Advocacy, Networking, and Support Organization which became a nonprofit in 2009. Having worked as a psychiatric nurse in both public and private settings in the past, she realized she had a different perspective on working with patients in hospitals. When she was eventually diagnosed with a mental illness herself, it became obvious that she saw patients—and then herself—as persons who live either on a continuum toward better total health and a higher quality of life or toward chronic diseases and permanent disability.
In 2002 Laurie was chairperson of the Centerpoint CFAC which covered three counties. In 2003 she was appointed to the NC Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services and served for six years. In 2005 Laurie was presented with The Bell Award by the MH Association of Forsyth County and in 2006 the Excellence in Advocacy Award by North Carolina TASH. She received the NC NAMI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Tragically, Laurie’s son Peter committed suicide in 2009. In spite of all she and her husband, Mark, had learned, they could not help him overcome the serious challenges faced by so many in our culture who have mental health challenges or addiction issues. Stigma is so great. People are “clinicalized”, not challenged to reclaim their lives. And there are no resources to help so many pay for health care, not to mention mental health care. Peter’s loss re-fueled Laurie’s vision for a better state-wide community for people who need the support so they can rise above labels and live meaningfully. She got involved with helping to get NC CANSO on sound footing.
In 2010, through discussions with the Director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services, Laurie was instrumental in setting up monthly meetings between consumer leaders around the state and leadership of the Division and DHHS.
Laurie has served for two years on the Recovery Conference planning committee where she campaigned for scholarships for consumers who had never been able to attend. In 2012 Laurie was selected to serve on the legislative subcommittee on LME Governance with members of the General Assembly, County Commissioners, Division staff and government experts. Rep. Nelson Dollar, chairman of the subcommittee said that Laurie “brought a lot of good ideas, insight and perspective to this effort.”
In 2013 Laurie was asked to join the Transitions Planning Advisory Committee in response to the Department of Justice settlement with NC over appropriate placement of those with Mental Illness in the community. She has subsequently been asked by DHHS to participate on the Long Term Care Continuum Workgroup which will focus on the service continuum needed as well as infratructural issues to ensure a better coordinated system of care for people needing longer term system involvement. She also participated on the Supported Employment Committee and has attended the community level stakeholder discussions, offering input to clarify a vision of employment of a possibility and and a necessity for people to integrate back into community living.
Late in 2014, Forsyth County Commissioners appointed Laurie to the Board of Directors at CenterPoint Human Services. As a person known to be a strong advocate for people who have lived with having a mental health challenge, a substance use problem, or a developmental or intellectual disorder, her board placement is a responsible decision by the county.
Laurie’s current passion is working with her peers in Winston-Salem who participate in the Green Tree Peer Center which she has helped to found. She envisions a future where peer led centers all over NC offer the mutual support which helps people to heal while giving them a safe place to be with friends, even a crisis, with the support of caring peers.
Kenneth E. Blackman, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., CPSS Wilmington, NC
Prior to entering the field of mental health and substance abuse, Ken had a very successful 25 plus year career in upper and senior management in the biopharmaceutical industry. Ken served 4 years in the USAF Communications Intelligence, trained as an Arabic linguist. He received his BS from Georgetown University, and his MS and Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati, OH.
Dr. Blackman’s initial experience in working with alcoholics, drug addicts and individuals with mental challenges was obtained in Annapolis, MD 1997-2004. Ken carried the message of recovery and hope into the Anne Arundel County Detention Center and assisted inmates in finding meetings, shelter and work upon release from prison. He received the Chaplain Herman W. Fletcher Memorial Award as volunteer of the year 2002 for the above service.
Ken worked as a treatment assistant at Pathways Treatment Center, the only inpatient hospital based treatment center in Annapolis, MD. As a treatment assistant, he was responsible for delivering the JCAHO approved alcohol/drug addiction lectures, writing daily clinical notes, conducting informal groups and maintaining a recovery atmosphere on the unit. He worked alternating weeks on the adolescent and adult units, transporting patients to community AA and NA meetings.
In April 2004, Ken and his wife moved to Lake Gaston, NC, where he met Dr. Al Mooney, author of The Recovery Book. He was appointed to the Vance Granville, Franklin, Warren (VGFW) board and at his first board meeting (6/2005), VGFW absorbed Halifax County and became Five County Mental Health Authority (FCMHA). Ken served on the FCMHA Board of Directors from 2005-2009.
In September 2005, Ken accompanied Dr. Mooney to Baton Rouge, LA for Katrina relief and assisted in getting alcoholics and drug addicts out of the streets and into recovery using a temporary shelter they established.
Ken was instrumental with Mooney and Foster Norman in forming Lake Area Counseling Inc, (501 c 3). Lake Area Counseling has been involved in a number of community based programs designed to prevent underage smoking or drinking, as well as early intervention and recovery programs including a new recovery home in Norlina.
Dr. Blackman was Principal Investigator on the ICARE North Central Pilot project which had as one of its priorities the implementation of the SBIRT tool for the early detection of alcoholism. He made many presentations to hospitals, physician practices, health departments and schools.
Ken acquired and converted a “Gentlemen’s’ Club” into a recovery home which has now been licensed as a 13 bed halfway house (5600E). During the course of this project, he successfully handled the NIMBY problem through open communication with city council and all the neighbors and concerned citizens. I was responsible for all phases of this conversion and the establishment of the recovery home
Since moving to NC in 2004, Ken has continued to carry the message of hope into the Warren Correctional Facility, Manson, NC and assist the men in finding sponsors in the community, help arrange housing and recruit volunteers and other resources in an attempt to give these men a decent shot at a new life inside and outside the prison. He was honored as the Warren Correctional Institute volunteer of the year in 2010.
Ken has been a member of the homeless committee in Vance County and has established key community contacts in all five of the rural counties.
Ken is a NC Certified Peer Support Specialist and completed several additional certifications, including CIT, CISM group and individual, assertive engagement, CPR, and Red Cross First Aid.
In May 2013 Ken began working full time in Community Development at CoastalCare in Wilmington/Jacksonville, NC.
Gertie Crute (info to come)
Shirley Robinson-Flood Norlina, NC
Shirley has been utilizing her skills as an advocate since 1996 when she became the caretaker of her mother whose health had declined. Shirley was instrumental in navigating the public health system, ensuring her loved one received a continuum of treatment and care services, thus preventing her mother from being institutionalized. Through her challenges in accomplishing this task, she too, became a mental health consumer after receiving a dual diagnosis. Upon completion of treatment via medication management, psychological counseling, therapy and spiritual counseling, Shirley became an even stronger advocate for not only her mother, but for herself as well.
In 2009 Shirley retired from a 30-year career with the Federal Government, of which, the last ten years were spent in EEO and Cultural Diversity where she served as an EEO Investigator/Counselor. Shirley also has 15 years of service with the US Army Reserves in Retention where she counseled soldiers. Using her former experiences, coupled with her experience as an advocate, she became a member of the local LME CFAC, representing MH and SA consumers. She attended numerous workshops, trainings and conferences, increasing her knowledge in the Behavioral Health field.
Shirley started her own non-profit organization, Serenity Springs, which was chartered to provide peer support services, advocacy and shelter to homeless women who are – survivors of domestic violence. Shirley also organized and became the leader of the first “Celebrate Recovery” program in her local community. This is an international faith-based recovery fellowship. In 2011, Shirley began working as a MH/SA Consumer Affairs Specialist in the Department of Consumer Affairs with the local MCO, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions (formerly PBH). She received her certification from UNC Chapel Hill as a Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPSS) and later received her endorsement from the State to teach the CPSS curriculum.
She became an NC CANSO Board member in 2012. She holds a BS Degree and has completed two semesters of post-graduate courses in Seminary Studies. As an NC CANSO board member, Shirley brings with her a wealth of knowledge, dedication and experience in working with consumers and the public at large. It is Shirley’s hope to continue working to help others in empowerment, self-advocacy and spiritual freedom so we all can, “rejoice in the creation of vibrant, unified communities that honor and celebrate diversity, mind freedom, love, peace, joy and the full range of the human experience.”
Pamela Goodine (info to come)
Ed Rothstein (info to come)
Brandon Tankersley Wake Forest
Brandon joined our board in the spring of 2014. He is the coordinator of peer services for Monarch Behavioral Health Care. Brandon has extensive understanding of recovery after suffering a head injury in a car accident after he had been drinking years ago. He had to choose each step of his physical recovery while also coming to grips with a mental health diagnosis and a substance use background. So Brandon knows that recovery is very worth while though it also requires commitment and hard work. Brandon now does presentations to encourage people in their own personal effort.