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Meet the Team


Our team includes seasoned prevention practitioners with extensive experience supporting prevention grantees through the delivery of quality T/TA and the development of user-friendly resources. Staff in our regional teams reside in the region, understand the prevention landscape, and have experience serving the varied demographic, language, and cultural groups present in their respective service areas.

SPTAC Core Team

SPTAC Regional Directors

Core Leadership

Gisela Rots, M.S
Gisela Rots is a public health expert, project director, and highly skilled TA provider, Gisela supports grantees and communities in using evidence-informed strategies to improve outcomes for under-resourced populations. Areas of expertise include preventing substance misuse, strengthening childhood and youth prevention opportunities, and building resilience. For more than 18 years, she has led and directed technical assistance (TA) projects, developed award-winning training programs, integrated trauma-informed approaches into prevention, designed successful social marketing campaigns, advised state agencies and community coalitions, and developed cross-sector partnerships to improve services. As director of SPTAC, Gisela supports a team of TA providers, epidemiologists, evaluators, writers, and researchers to translate research into practice to address implementation hurdles across community, social, demographic, and environmental contexts. She is a Certified Prevention Specialist.

LaShonda Williamson-Jennings, M.Ed.
LaShonda Williamson-Jennings brings 20 years of experience creating supportive environments that reinforce continuous improvement, creative thinking, and sustainable outcomes-based change. Her vision as SPTAC deputy director is to build a system that delivers the culturally responsive, equity-centered, high-quality T/TA that SAMSHA grantees need to build stronger communities. She is skilled in project coordination, face-to-face and online training facilitation, and TA delivery, In addition to her role on SPTAC, LaShonda is co- director of the South-Southwest Prevention Technology Transfer Center. Named Oklahoma Certified Prevention Specialist of the Year in 2015, she is a certified prevention specialist.

Maria Valenti, Ph.D.
Maria Valenti is the epidemiology services director for SPTAC and a senior research scientist and behavioral health expert at EDC. Areas of expertise include quantitative and qualitative research, evaluation, policy analysis, and strategic dissemination of epidemiological findings. She has extensive expertise in supporting the use of data to inform decision-making. Her research interests include school/community factors that ensure that LGBTQ+ youth thrive. She has authored articles on LGBT resilience, substance use among transgender and cisgender youth, cannabis use prevention, building evaluation capacity, and strategies to deter substance misuse.

Carol Oliver, M.A.
Carol is a nationally recognized leader and trainer in the field of substance misuse prevention. She has expertise in evidence-based methods, stigma reduction, instructional design, and in-person and virtual learning. She specializes in developing systems to solve complex health-related problems and to create effective behavioral health workforces. A certified prevention specialist with deep knowledge of and commitment to culturally responsive practices, Carol led the T/TA work of SAMHSA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies for eight years.

Jessica Goldberg, M.P.H., M.S.W.
Jess is a certified prevention specialist and highly skilled trainer who designs and delivers highly effective learning events, consultation, and coaching support. For more than a decade, she has specialized in building state and community capacity to improve health, mental health, and behavioral health. As Deputy T/TA Director for Specialized Services at SPTAC, she brings a deep commitment to health equity and mental health equity to her leadership of in-person and virtual T/TA supports programs. Areas of expertise include preventing youth substance use; promoting cross-sector collaborations; addressing health disparities; and supporting strategic planning, logic model development, and sustainability planning.

Petrice Post, M.A.
Petrice has more than 15 years of experience in strategic public health administration and project management. She specializes in supporting health and behavioral care systems in mobilizing communities to address social issues that impact sustainability and quality of life. As SPTAC Deputy T/TA Director for Tribal Services, she brings expertise in advancing local, state, tribal, and national public health initiatives, including conducting landscape analyses and identifying policy needs to strategically address suicide prevention and substance misuse. Working closely with public health programs within Indian Country, she acts as a liaison between government and nongovernment groups, advocates for community needs, assists in the implementation of necessary processes to help fulfill those needs, and develops plans and tools to guide change.

Debra Gardener Morris, M.P.H.
Debra is an expert in advanced T/TA, helping to build strong systems to promote health and support substance misuse prevention. To her role as Deputy T/TA Director for High Needs Community Services at SPTAC, she brings extensive experience in evidence-based prevention strategies, cultural competency, effective methods to address health disparities, school-based prevention, management of large national public health centers, and systems change. Drawing on a deep understanding of the needs and challenges of the public health workforce, she specializes in guiding agencies in coordinating their services to enhance efficiency and improve outcomes. She is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES).

Chelsey Goddard
Chelsey Goddard is a recognized leader in evidence-based substance misuse. She was the first SPTAC director and, formerly, was director of SAMHSA’s CAPT for 9 years where she over 100 staff, partners, and consultants in designing and delivering training for 44,000 substance misuse practitioners and TA to 14,000 clients nationwide. With 30 years of experience in public health and prevention, on SPTAC she now provides conceptual and technical leadership to the Director and overall team. She has a strong track record of effectively overseeing complex T/TA systems and monitoring service delivery and fiscal allocations to ensure accountability and exceptional performance and meet objectives within budget. A hallmark of her work is her ability to anticipate challenges and identify opportunities for collaboration, forging partnerships that build synergy and result in responsive and successful services and systems.

Regional Directors

Ivy Jones Turner, M.A.
Ivy is an experienced program leader, TA specialist, applied researcher, and evaluator, and an expert in behavioral and mental health promotion and prevention. Her expertise includes building the capacity of schools and organizations to research, implement, evaluate, and sustain interventions to prevent substance misuse, suicide, youth violence, and bullying, and to promote social-emotional and mental health. She delivers culturally competent, comprehensive support that helps federal, state, community, and school district programs address system-level issues, incorporate evidence-based practices, monitor progress, and support staff in achieving program goals. She currently serves as a member of the Safe States Alliance Anti-racism and Health Equity Work Group. She is a certified specialist in prevention and conflict mediation in Massachusetts.

Nicole Augustine, M.P.H.
Nicole is a behavioral health and public health expert, social entrepreneur, and social justice advocate. As SPTAC Region III & IV Team Lead, she is dedicated to using innovative strategies to strengthen communities, address health inequities, and drive change. An experienced T/TA specialist, she specializes in integrating equity throughout the strategic prevention framework. She is a certified substance use prevention consultant and a master-certified health education specialist. She is the author of Prevention Specialist Exam Study Guide (Routledge), a book that helps readers understand the competencies and knowledge necessary to become a certified prevention specialist.

Erin Ficker, M.P.A.
Erin Ficker is an expert in substance misuse prevention, an accomplished T/TA provider, an experienced project leader, and a certified senior prevention specialist. As SPTAC Team Lead for Regions V & VI, she brings extensive expertise in supporting continuous quality improvement (CQI), designing and delivering engaging professional learning, and providing comprehensive TA. Erin is also the prevention co-manager for the Great Lakes Prevention Technology Transfer Center.

Karen Abrams, M.P.H.
Karen has 25 years of experience catalyzing transformative prevention outcomes through effective change strategies. She is committed to public health, social justice, and community well-being. Karen’s strong foundation in systems thinking and strategic planning help accelerate national, state, and local progress, build coalitions, and expand community capacity. Her expertise in project management, collaboration, technical assistance, and training empowers states and coalitions to achieve evolutionary change. Karen has a track record of centering health equity and anti-racism and amplifying the lived experiences of individuals. She brings a holistic approach, research-based insights, and a deep commitment to prevention. As an inspiring and collaborative leader, Karen fosters partnerships, facilitates engagement, and drives meaningful impact.

Alyssa O’Hair, M.A., M.P.H.
With more than 10 years of experience providing and supervising T/TA, Alyssa has extensive subject matter knowledge in training design and facilitation, TA and consultation, conducting needs assessments, data-driven decision-making, risk and protective factors, evidence-based interventions, SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework, and evaluation design and methodology. In addition to leading the SPTAC Region IX & X Teams, Alyssa is also a Senior Manager for Workforce Development at the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is a Certified Prevention Specialist.

Last Updated
Last Updated: 01/08/2024
Last Updated