Team / Background
Get Help Now
If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis,
click this banner to get help now.
Lynn Schultz is the Florida State Coordinator for a project called Building Healthy Military Communities. The BHMC pilot is aimed at better understanding and mitigating challenges faced by geographically dispersed service members (SMs), recruits, and their families to improve readiness, resiliency, and well-being.
Alfred (“Al”) Carter is Chief of Staff of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The retired Army Colonel provides operational and administrative oversight of a 1,500-member constitutionally chartered State Veterans’ Affairs department with a $160 million annual budget responsible for serving the nation’s third largest Veteran population.
Lauren Stentz is the Suicide Prevention and Research Specialist at the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) and is one of the leads of the FL Governor’s Challenge team. Lauren has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University (FSU) and is currently pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology at FSU focusing on military and Veteran psychology.
Ray Collins is the Executive Director of the Florida Defense Support Task Force. He is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who served for 28 years as an intelligence officer and both a Latin American and Russian/Eurasian Foreign Area Officer. He spent much of his career as a strategic planner, command & control expert and crisis manager.
In the public health field for more than 25 years, Rhonda Jackson serves as the Violence & Injury Prevention Director at the Florida Department of Health. Though she participates on many state and national committees to promote health and safety she is particularly honored for the opportunity to do more for those who give of themselves to keep our country safe.
Michael Hartford retired as a Navy Medicine Deputy Director in 2013. He was a VA healthcare executive and COS/COO at the Marcus Institute for Brain Health. He’s now a Consultant with the Gary Sinise Foundation and volunteers as VP for Manasota Veterans, Inc. He received his MHA from the University of Laverne. Military decorations include the LM and MSM w/Gold Star.
View full Bio.
Cory serves as the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Florida Department of Health’s Violence & Injury Prevention Section. We seek to build a comprehensive approach to something that affects us all. I come from a big military family filled from multiple branches, so it is an honor to take a stand with those fighting an invisible battle.
Nick Howland is Executive Director of The Fire Watch, Northeast Florida’s fight to end Veteran suicide. Nick is a Navy Veteran, defense industry executive, husband and father of two boys. After serving 4 years as a Naval Officer, Nick spent the next 20 years leading U.S. defense manufacturing businesses focused on protective products for soldiers, airmen and sailors, including body armor, life rafts and tactical boats. In late 2019, Nick helped found The Fire Watch. Having spent a career working to save the lives of soldiers and sailors, Nick now works to save the lives of Veterans. More information about the Fire Watch is available at www.thefirewatch.org
Walter Sachs is a Regional Managing Director for the Dept. of Children and Families. He leads a variety of social services programs throughout the Florida panhandle. He held prior duties as Inspector General at the Dept. of Management Services and Director of Contracting at DCF. He served for four years as an Infantry Officer with the Army.
Anna Gai is the Director of the Statewide Office for Suicide Prevention within the Department of Children and Families Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health where she focuses on propagating suicide prevention efforts throughout the state of Florida. As chair of the Suicide Prevention Coordinating Council, she works to implement the 2020-2023 Florida’s Suicide Prevention Interagency Action Plan.
Dr. Carri-Ann Gibson
Dr. Carri-Ann Gibson is the Chief Mental Health Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs VISN 8 Sunshine Healthcare Network. She is a physician by training with board certifications in psychiatry and addiction medicine. She is the spouse of a service disabled Army Veteran and the granddaughter of two World War II Veterans.
Chaplain Lt. Col. Emile Hawkins, Sr.
Chaplain Lt. Col. Emile (e-meal) Hawkins, Sr., is currently the Senior Florida Air National Guard Chaplain stationed at HQ/St. Augustine, Fl. He was an enlisted Marine Reservist for 6 years and has been a military Chaplain for over 20 years. He has also been a Law Enforcement Chaplain for a combined 18 years. Ch. Hawkins is considered to be an SME when addressing Suicide Prevention as well as Diversity and Inclusion in academic, military and law enforcement environments. Chaplain Hawkins is a full-time Professor of Organizational Leadership at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fl.
Governor’s Challenge Background:
- On March 5, 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order (13861) on a “National Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End Suicide” that served as a call to action
- The VA and HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) partnered to launch the city-level “Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families” and shortly thereafter the state-level “Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families”
- Jacksonville accepted the city-level Mayor’s Challenge
- Florida accepted the state-level Governor’s Challenge at the end of 2019
- Florida was in the second cohort of states in the country to accept this challenge
- Currently, there are 30+ states and counting that have accepted the Governor’s Challenge
Purpose of the Governor’s Challenge:
- Broadly – To help local leaders in community and state governments work together to prevent suicide among Veterans
- Specifically – To convene a state interagency military and civilian team of leaders to develop an implementation plan to prevent suicide among service members, Veterans, and their families that will advance the VA’s National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and incorporate evidence-based strategies from the CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices
- This state-level initiative works in conjunction with the President’s national PREVENTS Office and Task Force
- Each Governor’s Challenge Team develops strategic action plans to implement Veteran suicide prevention efforts in a manner tailored to their state’s unique needs and resources
Governor’s Challenge Process
Florida has currently entered the “Follow-up and Collaboration with Mayor’s Challenge Cities” phase.
- January 2020: Pre-Site Visit
- February 2020: Policy Academy in DC along with 7 other participating states
- May 2020: Post-Academy Virtual Site Visit
- August 2020: National Virtual Reconvening of Florida’s cohort of 8 states
- January 2021: Implementation Academy Planning Call
- April 2021: 3-day Virtual Implementation Academy
The Florida Governor’s Challenge Team is comprised of dedicated and passionate individuals from agencies and entities including: