Behavioral Health and Diverse Communities

Saturday, September 24
10:30 - 11:30 AM
Bodek Lounge Houston Hall 100 - 3417 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
About this Session: Substance use disorder and mental health concerns disproportionately affect diverse communities, including people of color, LGBTQ+, youth and collegiate populations, and those involved in the criminal justice system. This panel discussion will explore ways to promote successful intervention, treatment, and long-term recovery outcomes for diverse communities, as well as potential solutions and resources available to them at Penn and beyond.

Featured Speakers

Robert Ashford SPP'17, BSW

M.S.W. Candidate
University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice


Born in North Texas and raised in North Eastern Pennsylvania, Robert Ashford devotes his time behavioral health recovery and social justice advocacy, and exploring the impact of substance use disorders and mental health concerns on young adult populations. Robert most recently served as the National Program Director for Young People in Recovery, and as the Founding Program Director of the University of North Texas Collegiate Recovery Program. Robert holds a Bachelor of Social Work with minors in Addiction Studies and Psychology from the University of North Texas, and is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2). Robert is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Renew Magazine, as well as the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy. Robert has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, most notably NADAAC’s Young Emerging Leader Award (2014), Young People in Recovery’s Advocate of the Year (2014), and the University of North Founders’ Award (2015). Robert also serves on multiple non-profit organizations’ board of directors, and is a current national planning partner for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Nisha Botchwey,  PhD MCRP MPH

Associate Professor, School of City and Regional Planning
Georgia Institute of Technology


Botchwey is an Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology. An expert in health and the built environment as well as community engagement, she holds graduate degrees in both urban planning and public health. Dedicated to effective pedagogy, Dr. Botchwey spent eight years as a professor at the University of Virginia, jointly appointed to the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning and the Department of Public Health Sciences, before arriving at Georgia Tech. Dr. Botchwey has published and researched widely, and currently focuses on topics including health and the built environment, public engagement methodologies, faith-based and secular organizations, and health equity. She is co-author of Health Impact Assessment in the USA (in press), convener of a national expert panel on interdisciplinary workforce training between the public health and community design fields, and author of numerous articles. Dr. Botchwey has won distinctions including an NSF ADVANCE Woman of Excellence Faculty Award, a Hesburgh Award Teaching Fellowship from Georgia Tech, and a Rockefeller-Penn Fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. She also serves on the Advisory Board to the Director of the Centers of Disease Control Prevention and is co-Director of the National Academy of Environmental Design's Research Committee.


Meeta Kumar, Ph.D. GR'99

Director of Outreach and Prevention
Counseling & Psychological Services
University Of Pennsylvania


Dr. Meeta Kumar is a psychologist and an experienced professional in the field of college mental health. She currently serves as the Director of Outreach and Prevention Services at the Counseling and Psychological Services as well as adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. She is responsible for coordination, development and delivery of university wide programs that support mental health and wellness of students. She works closely with all campus constituencies including faculty/staff, student groups and parents/families. She is a national presenter on an array of college mental health topics. She is adjunct faculty in the Asian American Studies department. She received her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania.

Chad Dion Lassiter MSW, SW'01

Co-Founder and President
Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc.


Chad Dion Lassiter is nationally recognized in the fields of American race relations and violence prevention among African American males. He has worked with resilient and vulnerable families, youth, and communities as they experience normal developmental transitions in challenging environments. Chad Dion Lassiter’s work attempts to contribute to a more informed analysis of the diverse ways that adolescents and families, especially people of color cope with socioeconomic challenges and institutional racism.

He received his Masters Degree at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Social Work where he was the “A. Phillip Randolph Award” winner (2001). Mr. Lassiter was chosen by Ebony Magazine as one of the “Young Leaders of the Future Under 30” in February, 2003. In May of 2004, Mr. Lassiter was named “Who’s Who Among African Americans 17th edition” along with such notables as Colin Powell and Michael Jordan. He is a former research fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Collective Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where he worked on two nationally successful research projects (P.L.A.A.Y.- Preventing Long-term Anger and Aggression in Youth) and (H.I.P.P.- Health Information Providers and Promoters). In 2008 he was the recipient of the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Involvement Award” at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Lassiter is one of the co-founders and current president of the Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc. at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. The group seeks to recruit black males into the profession of social work as well as provide anti racism and violence prevention trainings to urban and suburban schools around the country. He is an appointee of the Mayor to the Board of Trustees for the Community College of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Prison System and provides diversity training for penal systems throughout the United States of America.

He has worked on race, peace and poverty related issues in Africa, Israel, and Haiti. He is called upon often to provide commentary to various media outlets and lectures widely. Most recently, he was invited to Bergen Norway to provide a series of workshops and lectures on ethnic discrimination. Presently, he is an adjunct professor at West Chester University.

Devin Reaves SPP'13

Clinical Outreach Coordinator
Life of Purpose


Devin is a person living in recovery since 2007. He is a tireless community organizer and grassroots advocacy leader. As such, Devin has worked on expansion of access to the lifesaving drug Naloxone and implantation of 911 Good Samaritan policies in his community. He wants to build constituencies of consequence that will lead to meaningful public health policy changes around substance use disorders. Devin works as the Clinical Outreach Coordinator for Life of Purpose the only treatment center in the nation on a college campus. Devin established and operates Brotherly Love House, a recovery residence in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Devin received a Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice with a focus on community and organizational change and has a BA in Human Services from Lynn University.

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