MHA Announces Appointment of Barbara Bernstein, PhD, MPH to Role of Chief Planning Officer

The Mental Health Association of Westchester (MHA) is pleased to name Dr. Barbara Bernstein to the newly created position of Chief Planning Officer.

Dr. Bernstein has been a long-time member of the MHA family, providing valued expertise and leadership of agency-wide initiatives, initiation of innovative practices, and development of the critical area of staff and professional development.  She has brought a specific focus on suicide awareness, prevention and postvention to our extended community.

“Dr. Bernstein will be a tremendous resource to our leadership team during this time of rapid change in health care delivery,” said MHA CEO Charlotte Östman, LCSW-R. “Dr. Bernstein brings a wealth of knowledge, clinical expertise, meaningful external relationships and sincere passion for our work.”

Dr. Bernstein’s early work with MHA included a substantive revision and expansion of the Good Touches/Bad Touches Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Curriculum published in 1995, and subsequent training of school districts in its use. Through Project Liberty, New York State’s public health response to mental health needs arising from the September 11th terrorist attacks, Dr. Bernstein created material to prepare parents and childcare staff help young children manage trauma. Among our agency-wide change initiatives, she co-led a Person-Centered Care Transformation and is currently co-leading a transformation to the delivery of Trauma Informed Care across services. Addressing suicide risk and prevention in a multitude of ways, Dr. Bernstein initiated the integration of emerging suicide-specific protocols into routine practice, championed the creation of a position offering suicide-specific bereavement support, and has been a driving force behind MHA’s Community Conversation series that addresses suicide risk and prevention through a variety of lenses. Currently, she co-leads an agency wide approach toward implementing the “Zero Suicide” model – a model embraced by the New York State Office of Mental Health.  

Dr. Bernstein co-chairs the Westchester County Suicide Prevention Task Force, serves on the Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Suicide Prevention Leadership Team and its Regional Crisis Team, and works closely with the New York State Suicide Prevention Center.  She is a member of the New York State Department of Education Mental Health in Schools Advisory Committee, addressing implementation of new legislation that requires mental health education instruction in schools. Dr. Bernstein has extensive experience training and speaking on a wide range of topics related to mental health and wellness, and is a credentialed  trainer in the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, safeTALK, Motivational Interviewing and Brief Action Planning.

Dr. Bernstein holds a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University, a Ph.D. in Psychology from the City University of New York, an M.P.H. in Health Policy and Management from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and a postgraduate certificate in the treatment of child and family sexual abuse from Fordham University.

“I believe in the values, the people and in the work of MHA,” said Dr. Bernstein. “I am looking forward to my new role with our Leadership Team as we take on today’s challenges, while always focusing on MHA’s core mission of serving individuals who experience mental health challenges, and supporting our staff who do the work.”