RUTH H. SIMERA, M.ED., LSW
Ruth Simera joined the Department of Psychiatry in September 2011 and serves as the Executive Director of the Coordinating Centers of Excellence at NEOMED. She was previously Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence, where she worked for nine years strengthening and sustaining Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs in Ohio and coordinating the Ohio Cross-Systems Mapping Initiative to improve cross-systems responses to justice-involved persons living with mental illness. Prior to NEOMED Ruth worked for 26 years in community mental health, supervising emergency services, coordinating county-wide crisis response activities, overseeing and delivering conflict management and mediation services, developing and managing programming for victims of crime, and lastly serving as planning & development director and the staff liaison to the agency’s foundation. She was a part-time faculty instructor of applied conflict management courses at Kent State University, Department of Political Science, for ten years and worked three years in the juvenile justice system. Ruth received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Akron and master’s degree from Kent State University.
Emily “Em” Ribnik, M.Ed., LPCC-S, CTMH, CGCS
DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL JUSTICE COORDINATING CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
Emily “Em” Ribnik joined the Department of Psychiatry as the Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJ CCOE) in May 2021. Prior to her work with the CJ CCOE, Ms. Ribnik worked for five years in emergency psychiatric and crisis services. This work included being Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained in 2007 and serving as a CIT Coordinator for Portage County for several years. For the past ten years, Ms. Ribnik was one of the clinical mental health counselors at Kent State University at Stark’s Counseling Services providing individual and crisis counseling for college students. In her role as Director, Ms. Ribnik partners with community stakeholders in both criminal justice and mental health to improve cross systems responses to individuals in crisis and justice-involved individuals living with mental illness. Her work focuses on leading the initiatives of the CJ CCOE which include supporting and expanding Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) throughout the state of Ohio and assisting to coordinate the Ohio Cross-Systems Mapping Initiative. She works to provide consultation and technical assistance to promote program development and training opportunities for the criminal justice and mental health systems of Ohio. Ms. Ribnik is a member of the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Mental Illness and Criminal Justice. Ms. Ribnik received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her Master’s degree in Counseling from Kent State University. Currently, she is working on completing her dissertation, The Impact of Client Suicide on Counselor Supervisors, to earn her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Kent State University.
OHIO CIT COORDINATOR LAW ENFORCEMENT LIAISON
Jeff Futo is currently a police officer and CIT Coordinator for Kent State University Police Services. In his current assignment at Kent State University, he advises and assists with public safety initiatives on all Kent State University campuses. Jeff has his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Kent State University. As the Ohio CIT Coordinator Law Enforcement Liaison for the CJCCoE, he provides technical assistance and guidance to law enforcement agencies and community CIT programs throughout Ohio.
Chris Nicastro, LPCC-S
OhioMHAS LEAD FOR THE CJ CCoE
Chris Nicastro works for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and has been the Chief of the Bureau of Criminal Justice Services since 2012. In this position, he serves as the OhioMHAS lead for the CJ CCoE. Chris started his career in Cuyahoga County working with youth in a treatment program that served as an alternative to ODYS. He has worked in both urban and rural jails providing direct services and reentry planning. Chris has served as a program manager for a forensic ACT team, led a jail diversion treatment team, worked in the Franklin County Mental Health Court, and has trained CIT officers. He previously worked for The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction as a Mental Health Administrator for three Ohio prisons. Chris has a bachelor’s degree from Baldwin-Wallace College and a Master’s degree in Counseling and Human Services from John Carroll University.
Luke Russell, MHA
NAMI LEAD FOR THE CJ CCoE
Luke is the Deputy Director of NAMI Ohio. Prior to NAMI Ohio, Luke served as the Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs for AARP Ohio for the past 17+ years. Prior to that he worked in leadership positions in mental health and developmental disabilities organizations. In this role, Luke leads NAMI Ohio is areas of legislative advocacy, Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs, judicial and law enforcement interfaces, strategic alliances, and other efforts with local, state and national partners. Luke works with the CJ CCoE and the CIT Project as NAMI Ohio’s lead to ensure consumers and families are not just represented, but also active participants when interfacing with law enforcement. Luke is a graduate of The Ohio State University, and holds a Master’s Degree in Health Administration from Ohio University
Haley Farver, MPA
Haley Farver joined the Department of Psychiatry in June 2016 and serves as the Program Coordinator for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJ CCoE). At the CJ CCoE, she specializes in strengthening and sustaining Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs in Ohio by coordinating, promoting, and supporting key initiatives and program development activities. Her strong dedication to community health and advocacy makes her an excellent resource to stakeholders throughout CIT programs. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, minored in Human Development & Family Studies, and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Kent State University. She currently sits on the CJ CCoE Collaboration Board, and is a member of CIT International, the Ohio Attorney General Criminal Justice and Mental Health Task Force and Statewide Suicide Prevention Stakeholder Committee.
MEKAL BANYASZ, MPA
Mekal Banyasz is the research coordinator for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJCCoE), joining the team in 2019. She works to develop platforms for data collection to improve and preserve Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs across Ohio in collaboration with CIT Coordinators and local law enforcement agencies. These efforts produced the CIT Model Contact Sheet and continues as data collection and information sharing evolves. She developed an essential database comprised of all CIT trainings and regularly creates reports illustrating the performance of CIT. Mekal directly supports budgets and grants management and contributes to evaluation of ongoing projects and post-mapping exercises for the CJCCoE. She is passionate about restorative justice, continuous quality improvement, and data visualization. She also serves as a member of the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Research and Best Practices. Ms. Banyasz received her bachelor’s degree in Society, Ethics & Human Behavior from the University of Washington, and a Master of Public Administration degree from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance. She is active locally serving as Co-Chair for Women in NEOMED and as a commissioner for the Franklin Township Zoning Board.
Ashley Eads joined the Department of Psychiatry in July 2018 and is the Dissemination Coordinator for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJ CCoE). In this role, she supports the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence staff and consultants in all areas of Sequential Intercept Mapping, jail diversion, reentry and CIT dissemination. Ashley is responsible for the distribution of information and resources relating to the intersection of criminal justice and mental health. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Notre Dame College. Currently, she sits on the CJ CCoE Collaboration Board, the Ohio Attorney General Re-Entry and Diversion Committee, and is a member of CIT International.