Office of Community and Faith Engagement (OCFE)
Faith-based 2021 Virtual Series 

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The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused much distress throughout Michigan communities, in many cases, worsening already negative and even dangerous situations. Generally, faith leaders are "first responders" when individuals and families face public health crisis, disaster, or mental health problems. This Faith and Mental Health virtual Presentation is a 5-part series that provides resources to help faith leaders identify some of our most prevalent and devastating public and mental health problems and know how to reach out for help for vulnerable congregants and community members. Experts in each topic will provide the information you need to better serve your community.

Dates and Topics

April 29 - Coping with Congregants' Challenges During Covid-19

May 25 - Mental Health Struggles Faced by Young People

June 24 - Domestic Violence - Help and Resources

July 27 - Human Trafficking - Does it Exist in Your Zip Code?

August 26 - Substance Abuse and the Opioid Factor

Time: 10:00 a.m.

Duration: 90 mins

Cost: Free

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Virtual Workshop Series

Coping with Congregants' Challenges During Covid-19
April 29 | 10:00 a.m. ET (9:00 a.m. CT) | 1.5 hour
Regional Faith Leaders Panel Discussion

Faith leaders around the state have been inundated with the overwhelming effects caused by COVID-19. From member isolation to delayed funerals and unprecedented bereavement. Many face these new norms and expect faith leaders to have the answers. This panel discussion is designed to talk about these concerns and to assist each other during this new paradigm.

Presenter: Bob VandePol

Mental Health Struggles Faced by Young People
May 25 | 10:00 a.m. ET (9:00 a.m. CT) | 1.5 hour

Workshop participants will gain insight into the increasing mental challenges that young people of all ages are currently facing. Tools and resources will be provided for faith leaders to share with their communities about his growing issue.

Presenter: Bob VandePol and Dr. Casilda Maxwell

Domestic Violence - Help and Resources
June 24 | 10:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. CT) | 1.5 hour

You spoke and we listened. Based on survey results from previous workshops, information about Domestic Violence was one of the most requested topics. This workshop will offer comprehensive and educational information, resources, and much more.

Presenter: Joyce Wright

Human Trafficking - Does it Exist in Your Zip Code?
July 27 | 10:00 a.m. ET (9:00 a.m. CT) | 1.5 hour

This workshop seeks to raise awareness and identify the who, the how, the why, and what to do as it relates to trafficking. Human Trafficking is growing at an accelerated pace. Does it exist in your community? Join us for this much needed faith leader conversation.

Presenter: Meredith Reese

Substance Abuse and the Opioid Factor
August 26 | 10:00 a.m. ET (9:00 a.m. CT) | 1.5 hour

This experience will provide an educational opportunity concerning substance abuse, use, and the Opioid crisis. In addition, resources and referral processes will be provided for faith leaders to assist their communities.

Presenter: Dwight C. Vaughter   


Speaker Bios

Casilda R. Maxwell, Ph.D. Casilda R. Maxwell, Ph.D.

Dr. Maxwell is originally from Baltimore MD and relocated to Grand Rapids MI where she works at Pine Rest Mental Health Services as a licensed psychologist.  She strives to work with clients by individually meeting them where they are by giving attention to their unique life experiences, psychological symptoms, cultural experiences, and spiritual/religious beliefs.


Meredith Reese, LPCMeredith Reese, LPC

Meredith Reese, LPC is the Chief Integrated Behavioral Health Officer at Vista Maria. She is a featured speaker, and trainer relating to human trafficking, and trauma. She is an active member and Board Member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Taskforce and raises awareness to stand against human trafficking through community advocacy and presentations. She is the former recipient of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services -Best Practice Award for her work and dedication to the anti-trafficking movement. 

Bob VandePol, MSWBob VandePol, MSW

Bob VandePol leads an organization that leverages behavioral health expertise to support the health and success of businesses and houses of worship. He formerly helped lead a startup into the world's largest provider of crisis response services to the workplace.



Dwight Vaughter, LMSWDwight Vaughter, LMSW

Dwight Vaughter has been active in the substance abuse and mental health field since 1980 and has served -providing leadership to several behavioral healthcare programs. He earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan in 1989; is a State of Michigan Licensed Masters Social Worker (LMSW) and possesses various certifications in addictions. In 2008, Dwight became the CEO of SHAR Inc. (aka SHAR House), a well-known and respected substance use and recovery agency with multiple sites. SHAR delivers the full continuum of services from withdrawal management through recovery support services to individuals with substance use and co-occurring disorders. As a person in long-term recovery, Dwight has participated in several local and national opioid-related symposiums, town hall meetings, and other forums designed to educate and increase the awareness of the public.

Joyce WrightJoyce Wright

Joyce Wright is the Director of Training in the Division of Victim Services/Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. Inspired over 30 years ago by victims seeking assistance and not finding it. She has dedicated her career to providing supportive services to adult and child survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, intervening with those who are perpetrators of these behaviors; and delivering training to professional, religious, and civic organizations on these issues. Through her consulting work and media appearances, she has reached thousands of people with her message of helping those who are victimized.