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Nina Butler Starts Work as Project Coordinator of 15217 Neighborhood-based Teen Mental Health Initiative

Nina Butler, EdD.

Nina Butler, EdD, an educator with extensive experience in the nonprofit world, was named by the Foundation as Project Coordinator for the 15217 Neighborhood-based Teen Mental Health Initiative. She joined the staff on May 1.

The initiative, a collaboration among JHF, the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, and Jewish Family and Community Services, is based at the JCC.

"We must act with urgency to bring mental illness out of the shadows. In the aftermath of Tree of Life, that need is even greater within the 15217 community," Dr. Butler said. "Teens, their families, their teachers, and all who touch their lives must learn to recognize red flags and where to turn for help. It's thrilling that there is a coalition of organizations collaborating on this initiative as we strive to build a model that other communities can replicate."

"Nina Butler is uniquely qualified to lead this initiative. She brings a wealth of professional experience working directly with young people, and on health and mental health issues," said JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD. "She will help us realize our vision of a neighborhood safety net for teens, building from the bottom up."

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation launched its Adolescent Behavioral Health Initiative three years ago, in response to evidence that teens in crisis were not getting timely treatment and that families could not navigate an under-resourced mental health system.A new direction emerged last year when Jeffrey Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, pointed Dr. Feinstein to the work of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, which has been addressing youth mental health needs through its "We Need to Talk" campaign. Leaders from the Detroit program traveled to Pittsburgh to help inform and guide the work here.

Dr. Butler most recently served as Pittsburgh coordinator of Legacy Heritage OnBoard, a leadership development program for promising board members of Jewish organizations. As an independent consultant, she has provided strategic guidance to school boards, professional leadership such as developing online projects for teens at risk, and consulting to the United Way and UPMC Children's Hospital. In 2014, with a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, she developed a curriculum for genetic health and immunization for Pittsburgh's Jewish day schools. As a volunteer, she runs Bikur Cholim of Pittsburgh, which provides resources for Jewish observance by visiting patients and their families who are receiving medical treatment in the Pittsburgh area.

She has advocated for individuals with disabilities since the Special Needs Task Force, the first organized group within Pittsburgh's Jewish community, met over 30 years ago. "My interest and commitment was cemented after three of our sons were diagnosed with different special needs," Dr. Butler said. "And I'm proud that my uninterrupted activism has led to my being named the incoming Chair of the ARC of Greater Pittsburgh/Achieva."

Dr. Butler holds three degrees from the University of Pittsburgh: an EdD in Educational Administration & Policy Studies, a Master's in Special Education, and a Master's in the Art of Teaching. 

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