NEC Staff & Consultants

NEC staff and consultants bring unique experience in organizing and developing consumer-run organizations, and helping individuals and groups develop the knowledge and ability to transform the mental health service system toward a more recovery-oriented and consumer-and family-driven approach. Each has experience running organizations, nurturing the process of recovery in individuals and groups, and strong skills as educators. This team is available to individuals, organizations, service systems, and family members looking for a speaker or for technical assistance, training, and consultation.

Oryx Cohen, M.P.A.
Chief Executive Officer

Oryx is working with NEC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to continue systems change state by state. The most important part of what informs his work is his lived experience with altered states of consciousness: being diagnosed, hospitalized, and subsequently finding a path to healing.

Work experience he brings to NEC includes co-directing the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (WM RLC) for the past four years. At the WM RLC he helped develop a system funded peer-run alternative to the mainstream system that has experienced amazing success ( He also co-founded the Freedom Center in 2001, the Pioneer Valley’s only independent peer-run support/activist organization. Freedom Center’s purpose is to empower and support people with psychiatric labels while challenging oppressive mental health policies and practices ( He has served on several boards and committees internationally, nationally and regionally, including the International Network Toward Alternatives for Recovery (INTAR) and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). He volunteered for several years with MindFreedom International, directing its Oral History Project. This project involved collecting and documenting c/s/x stories of abuse, empowerment, and healing in the mental health system. He is currently adjunct faculty in the Westfield State College Psychology Department.

Tanya Ryder, M.Ed.

Chief Operating Officer/Project Director, NEC TA Center

Tanya Ryder

Tanya’s lived experience with mental health diagnoses and trauma are at the center of her passion for transforming how we support individuals and change systems and services.In her roles as Director of Special Projects and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at NAMI National, Tanya led initiatives for individuals with lived mental health experience with a focus on equity, trauma-informed approaches, and culturally responsive content. As Project Director for the NAMI-STAR Center (formerly a National Technical Assistance Center for SAMHSA), she assisted peer-run organizations develop infrastructure, organizational sustainability and capacity in advancing peer-driven approaches in HHS Regions 2 and 6. Tanya also provided national technical assistance in youth leadership development and areas related to systems transformation towards recovery and peer-directed approaches. Tanya has a variety of experience working with underserved and multicultural communities. Her previous employment in program development and project management includes the Department of Family Services for Fairfax County Government, the Hispanic Committee of Virginia, and the American Red Cross. Tanya holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Sociology from Trinity Washington University and a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. Tanya is a wife, mother of two girls, four Boston Terriers and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Her passions are coffee, reading, running, and podcasts. As a person in recovery, her faith and family are her cornerstones. She believes that recovery and healing are possible for all.

Kimberly D. Ewing

Coordinator/Consultant of Emotional CPR

Kimberly D. Ewing joined the National Empowerment Center as the new Coordinator/Consultant of Emotional CPR in October 2021. As a person with lived experience and one who crosses many paths of intersectionality, Kim is passionate about mental wellness, racial healing, social justice, racial equality, human rights, bullying prevention, empowering allies and educating humans of all ages. Kim is an international eCPR Trainer, Implicit Bias Trainer, Anti-Racist Trainer, Diversity Trainer, a Certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Trainer, and a Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) Facilitator. Her favorite hashtag is #ImStillHealing and she believes that we all are doing some version of it. She believes in speaking truth coupled with compassion and that eCPR is the very foundation of being human. One of her only regrets is that she wished she knew eCPR as a young person because it would have made a huge difference with those she encountered along the way.

Kim holds a BS in Communications from the University of Indianapolis and a MS in Higher Education from Indiana State University.

Shira Collings, M.S.

Youth Coordinator

Shira Collings, M.S. is NEC’s Youth Coordinator. As a young person with lived experience of mental health challenges, trauma, and recovery, Shira is passionate about advocating for peer-led services developed by and for youth. They have played a key role in developing and implementing Youth Emotional CPR trainings as well as webinars on approaches to youth leadership within mental health services. Shira received their M.S. in Counseling and Psychology from Troy University and their B.A. in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. They currently reside in the Philadelphia Area.

Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.

Recovery From Mental Illness and Becoming a Commissioner – Dan is a person who has recovered from schizophrenia. He was hospitalized several times prior to becoming a psychiatrist. He is one of the few psychiatrists in the country who publicly discusses his recovery from mental illness. He is a role model for others who are struggling to recover, and his life dispels the myth that people do not recover from mental illness. His recovery and work in the field were recognized by his selection as a member of the White House Commission on Mental Health.

Education and Practice – Dan received his AB from Princeton University, his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin and his M.D. from George Washington University. He is a board-certified psychiatrist who completed his residency at Harvard Medical School. He is presently Executive Director of the National Empowerment Center.

Speaker/Teacher/Researcher – Dan travels to all parts of the country to conduct workshops, give keynote addresses, teach classes, and organize conferences for consumers/survivors, families, and mental health providers to promote recovery of people labeled with mental illness by incorporating the principles of empowerment. He has been featured on many radio and television programs, including CNN Special Report. In addition he is a researcher having carried out research into neurotransmitters at the National Institute of Mental Health and on the ways that people recover. Along with Laurie Ahern, he developed the Empowerment Model of Recovery and the PACE/Recovery program to shift the system to a recovery orientation. He was recognized for this work by being selected for both the Clifford Beers National Mental Health Association Award and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law’s Advocacy Award.

Author – Dan has written chapters in many books, as well as a number of articles in professional journals such as Hospital and Community Psychiatry and the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal. He has produced a video and booklet about important aspects of recovery, “Recovery is for Everyone” as well as a video on “Consumers Working as Providers.”

Joana Arcangel


Joana is a parent, writer, peer supporter, trainer, consultant, and disability rights advocate. She moved from the Philippines to the United States at the age of eight and speaks Tagalog fluently. She values finding ways to explore, honor, and celebrate neurodiversity, creativity, meaningful connections, and resiliency. Joana’s career journey includes having led peer support specialists, managing a peer-run mental health respite home in California where she worked from 2015 to 2020. She is currently employed by a mental health nonprofit organization working within a transition age youth (TAY) program. She is a Master Trainer of the Honest, Open, Proud program and Master Facilitator of Core Gift Discovery.

“My Core Gift is helping others find the courage to navigate their world. I give it by helping them to feel valued for who they are, express themselves from a space of authenticity, connect what is within and outside of themselves, and give from the heart to build strong foundations in their communities.”

Juan Vélez Court


Juan Vélez Court is a proud husband and mental health advocate who is open about his lived experiences and challenges from his past, with the purpose of motivating others towards a positive future. Residing in Puerto Rico, Vélez is a consultant for the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration of Puerto Rico, as well as the National Empowerment Center. His work focuses on the integration of Peer Support services, promoting inclusive work environments and promoting wellness in the workplace. Vélez also incorporates his digital production background to support the development of podcasts and social media content focused on motivating others to explore new adventures, expanding their perspectives, and increasing their quality of life and social connectivity.

With a passion devoted to educating and empowering others, he is a certified Peer Support Specialist trainer, eCPR trainer, and has been certified with other practices such as WRAP and ASIST.

Maria Ostheimer


Maria translated the eCPR program into Spanish, which has been embraced by Promotores (Community Outreach Workers) and in Puerto Rico. Her passion for her work comes from her own personal background as both a survivor of trauma and a family member. Maria is committed to support, strengthen, and promote projects like eCPR that promote community-based education of mental wellness. “I believe in dialogue to build a common path of humanity. eCPR gives us a voice individually and collectively and opens a sense of wonder and humility.” Maria was formerly the coordinator of eCPR.

Deborah Trueheart


Deborah Louise Trueheart is a nationally known educator, eCPR trainer, counselor, writer, artist, speaker, and change agent. She has transformed her own trauma experience through counseling, alternative therapies, spirituality and artistic expression.  Debbie is passionate about helping to birth a new paradigm in mental health care by moving away from a pathological, disease focus toward wholeness-based perspectives.  She has developed a curriculum called, “Living Into Wholeness” that teaches principles and practices to access and live from our authentic state of Beauty, Divinity, and Wholeness.

Deborah lives on the gulf coast of Florida and is involved in a grassroots county-wide trauma informed community development initiative called Sarasota Strong.  She is promoting eCPR  to enhance trauma-informed skills in this initiative.  She is former Director of the Technical Assistance Center at the National Empowerment Center and holds degrees in Human Services and Behavioral Science.  Debbie is the 2018 recipient of the Howie the Harp Arts award and the 2011 NYAPRS Faith & Fellowship award.