Let’s Talk: A Roadmap for Families Dealing with Mental Illness

Dr. Robert S. Laitman
Dr. Ann Mandel Laitman
Michael Orth

Let’s Talk: A Roadmap for Families Dealing with Mental Illness

Run Time: 90 min.
May 18, 2023 at 7pm

Dr. Ann Mandel Laitman and Dr. Robert S. Laitman, authors of Meaningful Recovery from Schizophrenia and Serious Mental Illness with Clozapine – seeing the effect of mental illness through the lens of a caring mother and father along with their son who suffered deeply and now continues to triumph over the disease. A story of hope, perseverance, and the power of two parents who refused to give up on a medical establishment and the understanding that recovery from psychosis spectrum disorders is not only possible but probable with correct treatment.

Special appearance by Michael Orth, Westchester County Commissioner of Community Mental Health, and Michaela Rizzuto, social worker with Assertive Community Treatment.

About the Speakers:

Robert S. Laitman, MD is an internist specializing in the use of clozapine in an optimal manner for individuals with schizophrenia or other psychotic spectrum disorders. He identifies himself as a doctor, parent, husband, son and runner. Dr. Laitman trained in internal medicine, nephrology and geriatrics and received his BA and MS degrees from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL and his MD from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, the Board of Pibly Residential and is a former Board member of the NAMI NY. When his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006, Dr. Laitman became an expert on the treatment of psychosis and expanded his practice to include taking care of people with psychotic disorders. He uses a biopsychosocial approach in treatment and prescription of the antipsychotic clozapine and works to mitigate medication side effects with a wraparound approach including other medications. Dr. Laitman takes a holistic perspective, emphasizing the importance of diet and exercise, and he advocates for appropriate resources to be applied to mental illnesses.

Ann Mandel Laitman, MD practices internal medicine and optimal clozapine management. She received her BS in Biology at SUNY Stony Brook NY and her MD at New York University, NY. She serves on the Board of Mental Health Association of Westchester and the Board of Pibly Residential, which is supported housing in the Bronx and Brooklyn. With her husband, Dr. Mandel is co-founder of Team Daniel, Running for Recovery from Mental Illness, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization that promotes running and other forms of exercise as an important part of recovery, and advocates for integrated medical and psychiatric care. Team Daniel organizes 5K run/walk events to bring families and friends together in social support and proceeds are used to promote optimum clozapine use and the understanding that recovery from psychosis spectrum disorders is not only possible but probable with correct treatment.

Michael Orth, who has worked in the human services sector for over 34 years, joined the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) in 1993, and was appointed Commissioner January 2018 after serving as Acting-Commissioner from August 2017-December 2017 and Deputy Commissioner from 2009 to 2017.  The Department of Community Mental Health, a branch of county government, is responsible for planning, oversight, education and coordination of services and supports for individuals, and their families, with mental illness, developmental/intellectual disabilities and substance use challenges.  Under the general direction of the County Executive and in accordance with New York State Mental Hygiene Laws, Michael serves as chief executive officer and is responsible for the operation and administration of the department. 

In 2020, Michael was appointed by the Governor to serve on the New York State Behavioral Health Services Advisory Council, he holds the position of 1st Vice Chair of the NY State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors (NYS CLMHDS) Executive Board, Chair of the NYS CLMHD Children and Families Committee.  Locally Michael serves as Co-Chair of Westchester County’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness Task Force, Co-Chair of the Westchester County Opioid Response and Overdose Prevention Initiative (ORI), and Co-Chair of Westchester County’s Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative (CCSI) Planning Committee.

He has previously held several positions in Children’s Mental Health Services at DCMH since 1993 assisting in the development of Westchester County’s System of Care for children with emotional, social and behavioral challenges, and their families. This includes working collaboratively with other child-serving systems at a federal, state and county level. Michael graduated from the Iona College BSW program and MSW at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service. 

Michaela Rizzuto is a psychiatric social worker with ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) works as the patient’s and family therapist. Diagnosed in her late teens with schizophrenia, Michaela has been on both sides of SMI and healthcare provider.