Richard I. Ries, Chairperson
Term: 7/01/16 – 6/30/24
Representing: Mental health providers
Richard Ries, Psy.D., M.S.Ed. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Trained in clinical work with emphases in bereavement, trauma, resiliency, personal growth, and hospice & palliative psychotherapy, his goals are to encourage policy with an eye towards compassionate and accessible care. He is well connected with professional service provider organizations and is a member of the City and County of Honolulu’s Public Health and Medical Advisory Board. He hosts a call-in, broadcast radio program that offers psychological and philosophical perspectives to callers who contact the station during the radio hour. His private practice is located in downtown Honolulu.
Christopher Knightsbridge, First Vice Chairperson
Term: 11/13/18 – 6/30/21
Representing: Consumers as an advocate and himself, as a mental health service recipient
Christopher Knightsbridge grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii and is a 2002 graduate of Kealakehe High School in Kailua-Kona. He is a recipient of mental health services and is a supportive family member of relatives struggling with mental illness and homelessness. Chris’s passion resides in advocacy for access to quality mental healthcare, filling Hawaii’s severe shortage of mental healthcare professionals, and combating the negative stigma surrounding mental health-related disorders, which often prevent those in need from seeking help. Chris holds a master’s degrees in both International Relations and Clinical Psychology and is currently a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology. He brings with him his experience in launching various advocacy and fundraising campaigns through social media.
Katherine Aumer, Second Vice Chairperson
Interim Term: 10/1/20 – 6/30/25
Representing: Family members of mental health service recipients
Katherine Aumer, Ph.D. earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Buddhist Philosophy from the University of Iowa. After completing her graduate studies, she earned her doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in social psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. In her role as the Chair of Hawaii Pacific University’s Psychology Department and Associate Professor, her focus continues to be on helping to increase the presence and usefulness of psychology as a science and on providing better educational opportunities and services to help maintain the health and welfare of Hawaii residents. Additionally, she is the Director of Research at Partners for Quality Health where she works with a dynamic team to support physicians and providers to improve the health and well-being of our community.
Eileen Lau-James, Secretary
Term: 6/05/19 – 6/30/23
Representing: Family members of mental health service recipients
Eileen Lau-James, DVM is a veterinarian and the owner of Purradise Cat Care Inc., a feline-exclusive veterinary hospital in Oahu. She is a loving devoted wife to a husband recovering from serious mental illness (SMI), and the mother of two young rambunctious boys. The struggles she experienced in trying to obtain treatment for her husband is what ultimately drove her to become a member of the State Council of Mental Health. Eileen’s husband’s psychotic disorder came about suddenly and without warning – making it impossible for him to lead a functional life. At once, she found herself as not only the sole provider, the protector of her two young boys but also the caretaker and advocate for a husband with SMI. Confused and terrified, not knowing the first thing about mental illness, she reached out to the mental health care system for help. She experienced many hardships in trying to get services for her husband, such as an inadequate system, and red tape surrounding patient civil rights laws, which prevented doctors from administering treatment against the will of psychotic patients. As a council member, she wants to be an advocate and a voice for all the family members.
Antonino P. Beninato
Interim Term: 10/1/20 – 6/30/24
Antonino Beninato is a graduate of Roosevelt High School and is currently a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the undergraduate psychology degree program. As a Habilitation Technician for a local home health care agency, he recognizes the challenges experienced by individuals who live with an intellectual and developmental disability in the community. He has learned to serve these individuals by adapting techniques that help clients to strengthen their independent living skills.
Charleen “Naomi” Crozier
Term: 5/08/18 – 6/30/23
Representing: Consumers as an advocate and herself as a mental health service recipient
Naomi Crozier was born and raised on Maui. She is very passionate about the community that she lives and works in. Naomi is a supportive housing case manager with Mental Health Kokua that serves the community of Wailuku, where she assists clients with mental health to find housing. She has been active in the mental health community for the past eight years, starting out as a Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist and later promoted to a case manager position. Naomi understands both the consumer and provider perspective on mental health issues. She is open to sharing her first hand experience with receiving mental health services and her skills in communicating with and advocating for consumers.
Term: 7/1/20 – 6/30/23
Representing: Hawaii State Department of Human Services (DHS), MedQUEST Division Medicaid Program and the Hawaii Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse and Controlled Substances (HACDACS)
Jon Fujii earned his bachelor’s of arts degree in finance and his master’s of business administration degree in finance and real estate from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has worked for the Hawaii State Department of Human Services, MedQUEST Division for the last 14 years and is currently the Acting Health Care Services Branch Administrator.
Term: 7/1/20 – 6/30/22
Representing: Family members of mental health service recipients and herself as a parent of a youth receiving Support for Behavioral and Emotional Development (SEBD)
Heidi Ilyavi has first hand knowledge and perspective about the needs, resources and service gaps faced by youth experiencing behavioral health challenges and their families. After working across the U.S. and internationally, she now lives full-time on Hawaii Island. She is a Parent Partner for ‘Ohana Support Services and Child and Family Services, working throughout the Kailua-Kona and Waimea areas in the Family Guidance Center offices. She is an advocate for parents of children and youth receiving services through the Hawaii State Department of Health, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division and the Hawaii State Department of Education.
Richard “Rick” Jackson
Term: 7/28/21 – 7/30/24
Representing: Consumers as an advocate, Oahu Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and himself as a mental health service recipient.
Rick Jackson is retired NOAA/National Weather Service/Pacific Region Headquarters employee and an outstanding mental health advocate with multiple Governor appointments to the Oahu Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse (OSAB). In addition to serving on the OSAB, Rick is dedicated to improving mental health care for all citizens. His years of volunteer service include working at CrimeStoppers Honolulu, Inc. and at The Air Force Association located on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH). This is his first term representing the OSAB on the State Council.
Interim Term: 10/1/20 – 6/30/23
Representing: Hawaii State Department of Human Services (DHS), Child Welfare Services (CWS)
Dina Koyanagi earned her bachelor’s of arts degree in Sociology and her master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has over 30 years of experience working with youth, adolescents and adults with undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues. As a current CWS Section Administrator, she joins the Council with a motivation to understand and assist this population in any way possible.
Beatrice “Kau’i” Martinez
Term: 3/31/17 – 6/30/23
Representing: Hawaii Public Health Authority (HPHA)
Kau’i Martinez started her professional career with the Hawaii Housing Authority, Homeless Programs Branch in 1994. In 2006, transitioned to the Hawaii State Department of Health, Adult Mental Health Division working with the Clinical Operations Team as a Case Management & Support Services Specialist. In 2015, Kau’i returned to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority (previously called Hawaii Housing Authority) as a Resident Services Program Specialist in the Property Management & Maintenance Services Branch. She comes with many years of experience in serving the people of Hawaii and is a constant advocate for improving service delivery. Her interest in being part of the State Council on Mental Health was borne from being able to provide consumers, who live in low-income public housing a voice, to bridge gaps in mental health services for residents of low-income public housing, and to ensure quality services are in place to provide continuity of care for all consumers and residents.
Kathleen Rhoads Merriam
Term: 7/28/21 – 6/30/24
Representing: Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH), Adult Mental Health Division (AMHD)
Kathleen Rhoads Merriam has worked in four states in various roles within mental health in both clinical and administrative positions. Since moving to Hawaii nearly 18 years ago, she has been an outspoken advocate for mental health consumers, their ‘ohana and friends, and the community at large. She takes a “walk the talk” approach to educating peers and modeling for staff what it means to live in Recovery. Her key interests are suicide prevention, trauma informed care, intensive case management, co-occurring disorders and systems improvement.
Term: 8/09/19 – 6/30/23
Representing: Hawaii State Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
Rusnell Pascual-Kestner received his master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from San Diego State University and a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. He has worked with the Hawaii State Department of Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation since 2005. He was a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the visually impaired and transition aged youth for eight years prior to becoming a Staff Specialist. His interest in serving on the State Council on Mental Health comes from his passion and belief that individuals with disabilities, given the opportunity, can be productive citizens in our community. He recognizes in order to build workforce parity for persons with disabilities we need public, private, and community collaboration.
Term: 6/1/20 – 6/30/21
Representing: Consumers as an advocate, Maui Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and herself as a mental health service recipient
Tara Reed earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is working on earning her Master’s degree. She has been involved in providing substance use services for 10 years and has been a consumer of those services as well. Having worked in the field of substance use challenges, she is acutely aware of the critical nature of the issues facing her community. She is committed to contributing innovative solutions to address substance abuse, and hopes to be a voice and liaison for the Maui community.
Term: 7/1//21 – 6/30/23
Representing: Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE), Office of Student Support Services
Jennifer Renfro is a certified educator and dedicated program administrator with over 30 years of experience in teaching (elementary through high school), mentorship and parent support, and administrative leadership at the campus, state and district education levels. She is outgoing and communicates effectively about school-based learning and behavioral health support services. As the Administrator for the DOE Student Services Branch (SSB), Student Support Section (SSS), her team is responsible for providing equitable access to prevention and intervention services and programs that address the physical health, behavioral, academic and social-emotional needs of all students in preparation for college and career readiness.
Term: 7/28/21 – 6/30/22
Representing: Consumer as an advocate, Hawaii Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and herself as a mental health service recipient
Renee Rivera is passionate about using her personal experiences with mental illness and substance abuse to help others gain access to appropriate services. She hopes her advocacy offers hope to others and gives them a chance to better their lives and realize their full potential. As the Chairperson of the Hawaii Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Renee looks forward to representing Hawaii Island as a member of the State Council.