Mental health

It affects everyone. Persons with mental health issues are your neighbors, professionals and


Sara Benson
Sara Benson supervises school-linked mental health services at People Incorporated. She has 20 years experience in the field of mental health in settings including residential, children's day treatment, mobile crisis, outpatient, and school based therapy. Sara is a licensed independent clinical social worker and is committed to collaborating with the systems in which people live and advocating for mental health awareness and quality, accessible mental health services.

Cory Bowker

Cynthia Blesi
Cynthia Blesi (pronounced Blee See) is the current treasurer of the Mental Wellness Campaign, and a proud Disabled American Veteran. She joined the Board in 2007 because of her passion for greater understanding of mental illness. She also brings a unique perspective to the Board, as she was committed by Anoka County to the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center (AMRTC) for six months in 1998. She sees serving on the Campaign as a great way to give back to society.

Trevor Carlson
Trevor Carlson works as a behavioral analyst program assistant at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center. Over the past 10 years Trevor has worked across the continuum of care; in-home, group home, advocacy, community based services, and residential treatment settings. Trevor is dedicated toward the efforts of advocacy, erasing mental health stigma, and promoting the empowerment of people living to build and maintain chemical and mental wellness.

Jess Girard (Co-Chair)
Jess Girard works at Nystrom & Associates, Ltd (NAL) as the Community Outreach Manager, and Outpatient Mental Health Therapist. Jess has worked for NAL for over 10 years. She completed her graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy at St. Mary's University in Minneapolis. Jess has a passion to fight the stigma associated with mental illness and to advocate for those struggling with mental illness and/or chemical dependency.

Tamara Gregory
Tamara Gregory is the Manager of Executive Services at Connexus Energy. During her employment career, she has worked for both non-profit and for-profit organizations. Tamara has volunteered in the community over the past 25+ years in the areas of education, youth services, domestic abuse, adoption, and mental health.

Christine Harnack
Christine Harnack is the Director of Staff and Service Development at Therapeutic Services Agency (TSA) and has over 30 years of experience developing and supervising mental health programs for children and their families across the continuum of care; outpatient, in-home, group home, residential treatment, and chemical dependency settings. Christine is a licensed psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist dedicated to making quality and innovative mental health services available, accessible and culturally sensitive for children and their families.

Jill Harrison
Jill Harrison is a Counselor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Coon Rapids campus. She works with college students in the areas of both personal and career counseling. She joined the board to connect with others in the community on mental health resources and to gain a greater understanding of how to best help students with their mental health.

Christie Haustein

Carol Hendricks
Carol Hendricks is the current administrative coordinator for the campaign.  She joined the campaign to promote the importance of mental health awareness in the community and sees an opportunity for the campaign to partner with other organizations in the area to educate and collaborate on health and mental wellness issues.

Denise Kirmis
Denise Kirmis has been a member of the Mental Wellness Campaign for over three years. She holds a license in professional clinical counseling from the MN Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy. She has an extensive work history spanning almost 30 years in the field of mental health. She has been employed by Anoka County for the past 24 years, holding positions in children’s mental health case management as a school based social worker, an early intervention social worker, and as a case management supervisor. Currently, she is the Manager for Anoka County Behavioral Health and Adult Services, a service area serving children and adults in mental health case management, intake and civil commitment, chemical health, adult protection, senior and volunteer services. She feels strongly about improving access to services for all and reducing stigma for Anoka County, as well as in her local community.

Nita Kumar
Dr. Nita Kumar serves as the Mental Health Consultant for the Anoka-Hennepin School District where she is accountable for mental health planning and programming for the nearly 40,000 student population. She holds dual clinical licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and has earned a doctorate degree in clinical counseling. She has worked in the mental health field for 15 years in various settings including managed care, special education, community mental health, and private practice. Nita’s professional interests are improving access to mental health treatment, increasing public awareness of factors that impact mental wellbeing, and integrating health and mental health issues.

Nick Loehlein
Nick Loehlein works as the Manager of Engineering for Connexus Energy in Ramsey. He is a near-lifelong resident of Anoka County. Nick is concerned about the stigma that mental health issues carry in our society, and wants to work toward a day when mental health issues are treated with as much seriousness as physical health issues.

Donna McDonald (Co-Chair)
Donna McDonald is a Licensed Social Worker and has over 20 years’ experience in children and family mental health.. For the last 16 years, she has held the position of Violence Prevention Coordinator for Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services. In this capacity, she works with community groups to provide violence prevention awareness, resources and education/training to the Anoka County community.  She also has developed and given workshops on topics related to bullying, media, family violence and its effects on children, and Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Ryannaon Ninow

Leanne Patchen (Secretary)
As a member of the NAMI Anoka (National Alliance on Mental Illness) steering committee, Leanne would like to help coordinate their activities with the MWCAC. She is vice-chair of the campaign and is a consumer, family member and trained facilitator for a NAMI Connection support group in Coon Rapids. Educating the community about brain disorders/mental illness, reducing the stigma and providing support to people living with a brain disorder are her priorities.

Ron Peterson
Ron Peterson has been a resident of Anoka County for 30 years. As a consumer and concerned family member of both mental health and chemical health issues, he is the father of five and grandfather of six. He lost his sister to mental health issues, and wishes to promote the awareness of mental wellness in the county. A veteran, Ron is particularly interested in men’s issues. He is thrilled to be a part of the Campaign.

Leah Post-Ratliff
Leah works in the Community Health and Environmental Services Department of Anoka County as the Community Health Outreach Prevention Coordinator. Her focus is on mental health, chemical health and violence prevention programs and interventions throughout Anoka County. Leah completed her graduate programs at the University of Minnesota in the School of Public Health and the School of Social Work. Leah is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker and is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners. Leah is dedicated to ensuring the community has access to the services they need to live their best lives.

Anna Wessling
Anna Wessling became a resident of Anoka County in 2016 after getting married and settling into the area. She is the fourth of five children and has learned a lot about mental wellness through her own experience as a consumer of mental health services, and from supporting a sibling in their trek to achieve mental wellness. Her experience working as an employment specialist with individuals who have disabilities brings a perspective of educating employers on how to provide accommodations to create a healthy work environment. She is a firm believer that one of the key factors to a healthy mind is making time for the things that bring you joy. Anna spends her free time weeding her garden and researching plants that survive in the sandy soil of Anoka County, and loves exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog. She looks forward to learning from others on the Campaign, and meeting people from the community she calls home.

Erica Stene Winkler
Erica Stene Winkler is the counselor at Anoka Technical College where she provides support to a diverse student population. Previous to this role, Erica has held a variety of professional roles within the mental health field, including in-home services, outpatient therapy, and community programming. Erica holds a master’s degree in counseling and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in counseling education and supervision. Erica’s professional interests include advocacy, proactive strategies for promoting mental wellness, and self-care for mental health providers and advocates.



50% of all sick days are for mental health reasons