Plenary Speakers and Panelists at the Northstar Conference

Wednesday, September 13

9:00-11:00am – Plenary 1

Fact vs. Fiction: The Intersection of Guns and Mental Illness

Dr. Amy Barnhorst, MD, graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Environmental Earth Sciences and Evolutionary Biology. She attended medical school and completed a psychiatric residency at UC Davis, and joined the faculty soon after graduation. She is now the Medical Director of Sacramento County Crisis Unit adjacent to a 50-bed inpatient psychiatric health facility. She continues in her role as an educator supervising medical students and residents clinically, and teaching seminars about substance abuse, chronic severe mental illness, catatonia, psychopharmacology and personality disorders. Dr. Barnhorst’s academic interests include suicide, firearm law and mental illness, violence, and community mental health delivery systems. She serves on the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Mental Health Task Force, and is a member of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy. She has written multiple papers on firearms, mental illness and the law, and has testified as an expert before the California Senate on these issues.

Dr. John Finnegan Jr., PhD, has served as Professor and Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health since 2005. He began his career as a journalist.  He joined the faculty in 1985 with a research portfolio centered on public health interventions and campaigns engaging community partners in prevention and health promotion.  He recently served as board chair of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) where he helped lead theFraming the Future” initiative rethinking the composition of public health education at the undergraduate, graduate levels.  As part of that initiative, he co-leads an effort with Dr. Robert Dittus (Vanderbilt University) exploring how primary care and public health can work closer together for the good of population health. Dean Finnegan will moderate this plenary.


Joshua Horwitz, the Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, also serves as visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where he teaches public health advocacy and is a regular blogger for The Huffington Post. He has spent more than two decades working on gun violence prevention issues. In 2013, he was one of the founders of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, a group of mental health and public health experts who have examined the intersection of guns and mental health.  He will be joined by two other Consortium presenters, Jeff Swanson, Ph.D, Duke University, and Amy Barnhorst, Ph.D, UC-Davis.


Rep. Dave Pinto is an assistant minority leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he represents 40,000 constituents in the Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods of St. Paul. He also serves as an assistant Ramsey County attorney, specializing in prosecuting crimes of gender violence, including domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. He received an inaugural Aspire award from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. He is the House author of a number of bills to reduce gun violence.

Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, PhD, is Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine and the author or coauthor of over 200 publications focused on the epidemiology of violence and serious mental illnesses, as well as laws and policies to reduce firearms violence. He is principal investigator of a multi-state study on firearms laws, mental illness and prevention of violence, co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Program on Public Health Law Research (PHLR), and the Brain and Behavior Foundation, and has served as a consultant to policymakers at the state and national levels, health care institutions, foundations, corporate research and legal firms.

11:15-12:40pm – Lunchtime Panel Discussion

Minnesota Mental Health Leaders Share Their Views

Sue Abderholder has devoted her career to changing laws and attitudes that affect people with disabilities and their families. For the past 15 years she has served as the executive director for NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) where she has grown the organization to be the largest provider of family and public education and support in the state and the state’s strongest advocacy organization. She has held leadership positions with Arc of Minnesota, U.S. Senator Paul D. Wellstone and PACER Center.  Sue has a B.A. in political science from Macalester College and a master’s degree in public health administration from the University of Minnesota.  Ms. Abderholden has received numerous awards for her advocacy including the 2013 Gaylord Anderson Leadership Award from the U of M School of Public Health and the National Council for Behavioral Health 2013 Advocacy Leadership Award.

Dr. Glenace Edwall, PhD, PsyD, recently retired as the Acting Assistant Commissioner for Chemical and Mental Health Services at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. She was Director of the Children’s Mental Health Division beginning in 2000, and in 2013, became Director of DHS’ Adult Mental Health Division. Dr. Edwall has earned doctorates from the University of Minnesota (Ph.D., educational psychology) and from the University of Denver (Psy.D., clinical psychology), and a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. She was tenured at Baylor University, where she directed the clinical psychology training program and won teaching and public service awards. Returning to Minnesota in 1991, she held clinical and administrative positions in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and Fraser Community Services before assuming her state agency position. Dr. Edwall is a past chair of the Children, Youth and Families Division of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and served as vice chair of the board of directors of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. She was presented with the Diversity Leadership Award by the Minnesota Psychological Association, the Distinguished Service Award of the Minnesota Council of Child Caring Agencies, and the Outstanding Provider Award of the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health.

Jennifer J. Polzin became Chief Executive Officer of Tubman in 2015, having first joined Tubman (formerly Family Violence Network) in 1992. Throughout her tenure at the organization, she has served in a variety of capacities working with clients, volunteers, community members and staff, and most recently was Chief of Resource Development and Communications. She has demonstrated leadership expertise in strategic planning, professional collaborations and community engagement initiatives. Jennifer has extensive experience working with individuals and families who have experienced relationship violence, homelessness, addiction, and mental health challenges, and has worked in both shelter and community-based programs. She taught in the Department of Human Relations at St. Cloud State University as adjunct faculty for eight years. She has a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications, and earned her Master’s of Arts in Organizational Leadership from St. Catherine University. Her graduate thesis focused on integrating therapeutic humor into nonprofit organizations and direct service work with clients.

Dr. Daniel J. Reidenberg, PsyD, is Executive Director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), a national non-profit agency working to prevent suicide and help suicide survivors and those suffering with depression. Before coming to SAVE, he was the Director of Family & Children’s Service in Minneapolis, overseeing 10 mental health and community-based programs.  Dr. Reidenberg’s unique background includes working extensively with adolescents and adults who are seriously and persistently mentally ill, chemically dependent, and diverse personality disorders in a variety of in-patient, out-patient, partial-hospitalization and day-treatment and residential programs. Dan has been interviewed by the media on various topics including: children, adolescents, mental and chemical health issues, suicide, parenting and child maltreatment issues, custody, and prostitution. He also consults with psychologists, attorneys, and businesses on healthcare and legal matters. He has been a keynote speaker and guest lecturer and presented numerous workshops locally and nationally. He is the author of Sports Talk, a book chapter for professionals on helping clients with communication issues and is currently helping edit a book on anxiety disorders. He helped create the Open Door support group and continues to be active in the suicide prevention community.

Dr. Michael Trangle, MD, is the Senior Medical Director for Behavioral Health at HealthPartners Medical Group. He is active in regional quality improvement initiatives and collaboratives, including depression guidelines, improving depression outcomes throughout Minnesota, improving care and life expectancy for patients with serious mental illnesses, and improving the civil commitment process.  He is an Adjunct Assistant Professor for the University of Minnesota Medical School for Psychiatry.  He is on the Board of Directors of Mental Health Minnesota, Mental Health Governors Advisory Group, Mental Health Association of Minnesota , and Mental Health Resources.  He was instrumental in initiating and chairs a collaborative where the pschiatric leaders throughout Minnesota meet to discuss issues and share solutions to improve psychiatric care. He was a leader of a group that won APA’s Gold Award for best community project (DIAMOND) in 2010.

Thursday, September 14

9:00-11:00am – Plenary 2

Preventing Urban Gun Violence: What Doesn’t Work, and What Does

Erica Ford, CEO and Founder of LIFE, Camp Inc, grew up in Jamaica, Queens back in the 1980s, where crack use and gun violence was an everyday occurrence. Since then she has dedicated her life to bringing about change, founding the Black Consciousness Youth Movement in New York City high schools, co-founding The Code Club to prevent black crime and imprisonment with her friend, the late Tupac Shakur, and co-coordinating the Million Youth March, where tens of thousands of young people from across the country assembled to rally against injustices and strengthen their platforms. In 2002 Erica and others created LIFE Camp (Love Ignites Freedom Through Education), providing at-risk youth, ages 13-24, the valuable tools they need to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. An offshoot of LIFE Camp is Erica’s Peace is a Lifestyle program, featuring holistic guru Deepak Chopra. Her current Bury Da Beef campaign has put together a citywide coalition/campaign to reduce gun violence. Another recent brainchild, her NY Peace Week, occurs each January and honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of non-violence. Through the years, Erica’s dedication to reducing violence among young New Yorkers has garnered countless awards, accolades, praise and recognition. Her recognized leadership has brought extensive travel and speaking gigs in prisons, community centers, high schools, college campuses, and conferences throughout the country and internationally, as well as numerous appearances in print, television, radio and Internet outlets. Her 2016 TED Talk is entitled “From Angry Peacemaker to Heart Leader.”

Pastor Michael McBride, (“Pastor Mike”), is a native of San Francisco and has been active in ministry for over 20 years. In 2012, he became the National Director for the Lifelines to Healing/LIVE FREE Campaign with the PICO National Network, a campaign led by hundreds of faith congregations throughout the United States committed to addressing gun violence and mass incarceration of young people of color. In 2013, Pastor McBride was selected as the #9 Top Clergy Leader to Watch in the US by the Center for American Progress.  He has served on a number of local and national task forces with the White House and Department of Justice regarding gun violence prevention, boys and men of color and police-community relationships.

Amber Goodwin, is the Founding Director of Community Justice Reform Coalition (CJRC) a national advocacy coalition that promotes and invests in evidence-based policies and programs to prevent gun violence and uplift criminal justice reforms in urban communities of color. CJRC is built on the idea that strategic long-term investments in evidence-based programs and policies that are developed and implemented by communities of color will prevent gun violence and help fix our broken criminal justice system. Their message is that to truly free ourselves from trauma, we must reimagine and redefine what safety and security mean for those at the margins of society.

Nina Vinik manages grant making at the Joyce Foundation in support of evidence-based policies and practices to reduce gun deaths and injuries in the United States. Under Nina’s direction, Joyce has funded some of the nation’s most significant research into the impact of state prevention strategies. She also has focused on developing broad stakeholder coalitions to advocate for common sense gun laws to keep our communities safe. Prior to joining the foundation in 2008, Nina, an attorney, served as Legal Director of Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV), a non-profit organization providing legal and technical assistance in support of gun violence prevention policy efforts nationwide, and as Legal Director of the ACLU Foundation of Florida.


11:15-12:40pm – Lunchtime Panel Discussion

Minnesota Law Enforcement Leaders Share Their Views

John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, made history on January 3, 2011, when he was sworn in as the first Korean-American chief prosecutor in the country. Since taking office, John has become a state and national leader in the fight against sex trafficking and a champion of engaging men to prevent violence against women and children. He has successfully advanced legislation to reunite families when it’s in foster children’s best interest, implemented new performance-based outcomes for juvenile diversion programs, developed the use of lethality assessment protocols and GPS technology to keep domestic violence victims safe, created pre-charge diversion for adults, and established a Veterans Court. Prior to his tenure with Ramsey County, John served as Saint Paul City Attorney and spent a decade in private practice. John holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Marquette University, a J.D. from Hamline University School of Law, and he was a Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota.

Chief John Harrington was sworn in as the seventh Chief of Metro Transit Police in September 2012, having begun his law enforcement career in 1977 with the St. Paul Police Department. In 2004, he became Chief of Police for the City of St. Paul, where he served until 2010, when he was elected to represent District 67 in the Minnesota State Senate. In 2012, Harrington resigned from the senate and also stepped down as CEO of “Ujamaa Place” a not-for-profit agency he helped to launch that works with African-American men in St. Paul to transition them out of prison or gangs into productive community members. Harrington continues to serve as board chair for Ujamaa Place. Chief Harrington has been a faculty member at Metropolitan State University since 1986, teaching Community Oriented Policing and Gangs. He also serves on a variety of community boards including Metropolitan State University, DeLaSalle High School, the Minnesota Humanities Commission and the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute. He earned Bachelor of Arts Degree at Dartmouth College in Religion with a minor in Chinese, and a Masters Degree from the University of St. Thomas in Education. He has also graduated from the FBI National Academy, the National Executive Institute and the Police Executive Research Forum.

Sondra Samuels (Moderator) is the President & CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), a collaborative of over 40 partner non-profits and schools. Along with parents, students, partners, and staff, Sondra is leading a revolutionary culture shift in North Minneapolis that is focused on ending multigenerational poverty through education and family stability. Under her leadership, NAZ was named a federal Promise Neighborhood, and has become a nationally recognized model for community and systems change. Ms. Samuels is a 19-year resident of North Minneapolis and a national leader committed to results-based leadership and accountability. She serves on the boards of Minnesota Private College Council, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and the 2018 Super Bowl Host Committee Advisory Board, and is a member of the leadership team at Generation Next. She was also appointed by Governor Dayton to serve on the Hennepin County Forth Judicial Selection Commission.

Ben Schweigert is an Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, and as the Legislative Liaison for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has worked on a wide range of legislation relating to gun violence prevention, drug sentencing reform, voting rights, and other public safety and local government topics. He served for five years as a prosecutor in the HCAO’s financial crimes unit, and currently represents the county government on transit, housing, and other legal matters as an attorney in the HCAO’s Civil Division. Prior to joining the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, he was a litigation associate at Davis Polk and Wardwell LLP in New York and clerked for the Hon. Pierre Leval of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Swarthmore College. He currently lives in the Kingfield neighborhood in Minneapolis with his wife Samara and two children, and serves on the City of Minneapolis Workplace Advisory Committee.

Lt. Myron Taylor has been employed by the citizens of Minneapolis, working in the Minneapolis Police Department since 1989. His career started on the city’s North Side, the Fourth Precinct, where he worked as a Patrol Sergeant and Investigator, as well as serving as an Investigator in the Juvenile, Robbery, and Weapons units. A Lieutenant since 2011, for the past four years, he has led the Minneapolis Police Department Weapons Unit. Outside of the police department, Lt. Taylor is a Dad, a husband, a Bible study leader, a good friend and a volunteer firefighter.

Chief Mike Tusken, Duluth Police, was born and raised in Duluth, MN, growing up in the Morgan Park neighborhood and graduating from Duluth Denfeld High School. He holds an Associate of Applied Science in Law Enforcement from Hibbing Community College, a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Herzing University and attended Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, completing the 260th Session of the School of Staff and Command. Chief Tusken has served the citizens of Duluth since 1992 as a patrol officer, juvenile investigator, patrol sergeant, financial crimes investigative sergeant, lieutenant/area commander, patrol deputy chief and interim police chief before being promoted to police chief in May of 2016 by Mayor Emily Larson. During his tenure, the chief is responsible for implementing the COMPSTAT Program, building an assessment tool (JDAI) to reduce juvenile incarceration rates of children of color, created a performance measurement system and developed innovative approaches for engaging his staff in community policing. These strategies are responsible for building strong relationships within the community and reducing crime.





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