Postpartum Support International

New Jersey
PSI-NJ

Postpartum Support International (PSI) is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to helping those suffering from perinatal mood disorders, the most common complication of childbirth.

Our Mission is to increase awareness, education, prevention, and treatment of perinatal mental health issues affecting individuals, their families, and support systems in all areas of New Jersey.

Our Vision is that all pregnant and postpartum individuals and their families, including those from underserved communities, will have access to perinatal support, mental health/healthcare providers, education, and resources to improve overall well-being through advocacy, training, and increased awareness of perinatal mental health.

Katie McGowanChair: Katie McGowan

Katie McGowan, Ed.M, is founder and facilitator of Beyond the Baby Blues, a free virtual mom-to-mom support group for postpartum mothers. She is President of the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International, following her roles as Communication Chair and Advocacy Chair. After her own experiences with birth trauma and PMADs, Katie became passionate about helping women struggling in the postpartum period. She is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Masters Degree in Elementary Education and taught kindergarten through 2nd grade in the public school system for 9 years. She received her certification in Perinatal Mental Health through PSI. She is a 2022 honoree of the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award for her volunteer work. Katie is a proud wife and the mother of two beautiful children.


Vice Chair: Kristy Champignon Kristy Champignon

Kristy is a NJ and NY licensed counselor with over 15 years experience working in the mental health community and the founder of Meadowlark Counseling, Supervision, & Consultation. Since the birth of her son and her own experiences as a first time mom, Kristy has acquired additional training and certification in perinatal mental health with the mission and belief that all parents deserve the compassion and support of a village. Kristy is a passionate speaker and advocate educating her community on various mental health topics and stigma reduction. Kristy’s goal is to help moms and dads cherish and care for the person they become in parenthood.


PMHA-POC Chair: Shanita Alvarez-Crawley

Shanita Alvarez-Crawley, LSW (She/Her/Hers) is a Social Work Manager at AtlantiCare Women’s and Children’s Services.  She provides mental health and support services across the healthcare system to perinatal and postpartum patients during the pregnancy and up to one year after birth.  She also works with women prior to pregnancy and provides substance use support services.  As the Social Work manager, She also oversees the operational and day to day activities of the Safe Beginnings Program at AtlantiCare that provides in home medical and social service support to pregnant women and their infants up to one year of life.  She is trained in PMH and will be seeking PMH-C certification.  Shanita has worked in the field of social services for 17 years and has experience in trauma, grief, and loss.  Her background is extensive in preventing child abuse and neglect and supporting families that have experiences incidents of abuse and neglect.


The Climb Chair: Erin Begendorf

Erin is a licensed counselor with over 12 years experience working in the mental health community.  She is co-owner of Meadowlark Counseling, Consultation, and Supervision alongside Kristy Champignon.  Erin is a mom of two who experienced first hand, just how isolating being a new mom could be and was eager to find support.  Erin obtained her certification in perinatal mental health in 2020, and also has been a Climb leader for the past two years. Coordinating and leading a climb ignited a passion to help bring community support together to raise awareness and funds for PSI-NJ.  As The Climb Chair, Erin is responsible for coordinating and assisting in educating climb leaders and advocates around NJ to ensure that the message, “You are not alone,” is heard throughout the entire state, especially with mom’s and caregivers alike.


Community Outreach and Engagement: Deborah Flam

Deborah Flam, M.A., LAC, PMH-C, is a perinatal and reproductive therapist in N.J. and P.A. She has experience in providing psychotherapy to those struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, infertility, pregnancy and infant loss, and she works with sexual abuse survivors in their childbearing years. Deborah has training in EMDR therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention, Compassionate Bereavement Care from the MISS Foundation, and trauma-informed care for survivors of sexual abuse. In addition, she has her Perinatal Mental Health Certification from PSI. Since 2021, Deborah has been facilitating a perinatal support group for PSI, a primary infertility support group for Yesh Tikva, and has been a PSI NJ support coordinator. Deborah is passionate about helping others and ensuring that all birthing people and families have access to mental health support and quality healthcare.


Yvelisse GonzalezFundraising and Development: Yvelisse Gonzalez

Yvelisse Gonzalez, MSW, LSW, has dedicated over 16 years to serving New Jersey women, children, and families. Yvelisse is passionate about working with people experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS). Yvelisse received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Special Education from York College and a Master’s in Social Work from Rutgers University. Over the years, she has provided education and training to professionals and consumers about PMADS. Yvelisse has served as a subject matter expert participating on panels facilitated by First Lady Tammy Murphy and 2020 Mom and presenting at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and the PSI Annual Conference.

Yvelisse works at the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health as Manager of the Emotional Well-Being Program for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders funded by the NJ Department of Health. She and her colleagues developed the Emotional Health Phone Support program, a phone follow-up service for those in the perinatal period. The program also offers perinatal support groups, professional education to healthcare providers, and workshops for families in Northern NJ. Yvelisse’s mission is to educate professionals and families, empower and support families in the perinatal period, and advocate for increased awareness and equitable access to treatment and services for families.


Emily ReachCommunications Chair: Emily Reach

Emily brings over 15 years of experience in creative direction and communications, specializing in digital and social strategy, to her role at Postpartum Support International. Her career has been marked by her commitment to working for brands that educate, inspire, and empower women.

Currently at L’Oreal, Emily has also held key positions at other renowned companies such as Seventeen Magazine, Victoria’s Secret, Cosmopolitan.com and Ralph Lauren. Through all of her roles, she honed her expertise in marketing communications targeted toward women from diverse backgrounds, demonstrating her ability to craft impactful messages that resonate across various platforms.

However, it was Emily’s personal postpartum journey that ignited her passion for supporting women during the period following birth. Having navigated her own challenges with birth trauma, perinatal anxiety, insomnia, and depression, Emily understands firsthand the importance of mental health awareness and support during this vulnerable time.

Now, as a part of the PSI team, Emily’s goal is to turn her personal pain into purpose, channeling her experiences into advocacy efforts that make a tangible difference in the lives of women and to help create a community where women and families feel empowered to seek help and support.

Outside of her professional endeavors, Emily is a proud wife and mother to her daughter. She values time spent in nature, finding solace and rejuvenation in the outdoors.


Kara KushnirEducation and Training: Kara Kushnir

Kara Kushnir is a psychotherapist/LCSW, licensed in NJ, PA, FL and SC. As a clinician she founded A Work of Heart Counseling in Bergen County, where she and her team focus on the needs of families – including new parents – navigating a variety of life challenges ranging from perinatal mental health conditions, to NICU stays, infant loss or stillbirth, termination for medical reasons, and parenting children with disabilities. Kara’s journey into perinatal mental health and obtaining her PMH-C was inspired not only by her work with families but also by her own personal experiences with birth trauma and perinatal anxiety/obsessive-compulsive disorder (PPA/OCD). These experiences led her to pursue specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), equipping her with a powerful tool to help clients heal from trauma and regain emotional well-being.

In addition to her work at A Work of Heart Counseling, Kara serves as an adjunct at Montclair State University, where she teaches Child & Family Policy to MSW students, instilling in them the importance of mental health support for women, children, and families. Moreover, Kara is the proud owner of Nurtured Nest Consulting and Education, a platform through which she trains other professionals dedicated to supporting women, children, and families.


Janine CookAdvocacy Chair: Janine Cook

Janine Cook, MA, LPC, TF-CBT, PMH-C is a New Jersey licensed professional counselor with in over 17 years working in community based mental health programs. For the past 15 years, Janine has been employed by The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, working in adoption, child welfare and maternal health services. Janine is certified in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and has experience working with children and adults who have experienced various forms of trauma.

Janine became passionate about maternal mental health services after witnessing so many parents and caregivers struggle with connections to resources and quality mental health care that is affordable and obtainable. Janine received her PMH-C in July of 2022 and has been a strong advocate for the development of more maternal mental health services within the non-profit agency where she works and the community where she lives. Janine is excited to take on the role of Advocacy Chair and to continue to work for more services within the State of New Jersey. Janine is a mother to three boys, her youngest just turning one-year old. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her children and family.


Stephanie SwaseyMembership Chair: Stephanie Swasey

Stephanie serves as a full spectrum doula who supports any pregnancy path and outcome. She is working toward a Certification in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH-C) and has a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Rutgers University, which led her to a career as a pharmaceutical research and development scientist.

As Membership Chair, Stephanie is responsible for the recognition and welcoming of new members and guests. She organizes and hosts special events for meeting and greeting prospective new members to share how the chapter supports families in New Jersey.


Juliana FondacaroSocial Media: Juliana Fondacaro

Juliana offers two decades of knowledge and experience in public relations and social media. Her past clients have been featured in/on: The New York Times, The TODAY Show, Rolling Stone, The Rachael Ray Show, The Huffington Post and NY Live, just to name a few.

With experience working for large PR & marketing agencies, and extensive work in the nonprofit sector, Juliana believes in the strength of small businesses, the impact that brands and campaigns can have on society, and in women who are breaking the glass ceiling every day.

Juliana currently resides in Bergen County with her high school sweetheart and their 2 children. Aside from being a mom and running her own business, Juliana is passionate about wellness and an avid ice hockey fan, having played all of her life!


Secretary: Ronnise L. White

Ronnise L. White is a certified Life Coach and graduate of the Art of Training and Development Coaching and Training Institute. She is the founder of Authentic Alignment, a coaching and educational organization that helps women identify their significance, strength, and influence. The concern for the well-being and positive outcome of families drives her attention toward familial issues. This passion has cultivated her focus on family programs that positively build the capability and capacity of individuals and collective family networks. Her advocacy efforts have significantly impacted youth, young adults, and women. Most recently, Ronnise has completed a DONA International Approved Birth Doula Workshop as well Community Lactation Educator Training.

Ronnise has worked in the education system for over 15 years and has been a recognized recipient of numerous awards for her contributions to the educational system of Buena Regional School District.  She also served as a Township Committeewoman in her local community serving on various advisory boards for many years. In September 2022, Ronnise became a co-author of the book, Released, which details women’s inspirational stories of freedom. She is the wife of a US Army Veteran and the mother of three adult children.


Mei ZhaoCLC: Mei Zhao

Mei Zhao, MPH is the Program Assistant and Adjunct Faculty in the Public Health Department working in an academic environment. With over 14 years working in Public Health, she brings six years of experience managing grant funded, health related programs. She is certified in Mental Health First Aid and is completing training/certification in Perinatal Mental Health. She is passionate to help more moms and parents to make a smooth transition to their parenthood, and create a happy family! As Chapter CLC, Mei is happy to be a bridge to better connect the NJ chapter with PSI.

Want to make a difference in New Jersey?

Become a member or donate today!

PSI relies on members and contributions from the community to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of maternal mental health issues related to childbearing.

All memberships are tax-deductible.

Join PSI Donate to the PSI-NJ Chapter

Become a PSI-NJ Volunteer

There are many ways to help and volunteer with PSI, and we would love to have you join us. All are welcome at PSI! Survivors, mental health professionals, doulas, clinicians, and anyone else interested and passionate about raising awareness about perinatal mental health can volunteer through the chapter in order to give back to their local communities.

PSI Chapters are made up of a variety of local advocates and stakeholders who further the mission of PSI on a grassroots level. Chapters work on a wide range of initiatives that they develop based on their communities needs. While some chapters may focus on passing legislation, others may create a robust network of peer support groups, and all chapters provide scholarships for PSI trainings and events.

Contact the Chapter to find out about volunteer opportunities near you. Explore other volunteer opportunities on the PSI website.

Training

Advanced Perinatal Mental Health Psychotherapy
July 28, 2023 – Edison, NJ
Learn More | Register

Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care
July 26-27, 2023 – Edison, NJ
Learn More | Register

Scholarships

PSI-NJ offers scholarships for PSI perinatal mental health trainings and conferences.

Please contact the Chapter for more information.

PSI-NJ News & Events

We gather as a community to walk and socialize. We meet fellow survivors, supporters & providers. #climbout