Board of Directors
Rita Thrasher, President & CEO **
After retiring from teaching in Broward County 1988, Rita became an Americorps Fellow under the tutelage of Dr. Merrilee Middleton and later accepted the position of Executive Director for Boca Raton’s Promise - The Alliance For Youth. Her experience in alternative schools and in caring for a mentally ill daughter led her on a mission to address mental health. The new non-profit attracted community leaders who helped organize the PBC Action Alliance for Mental Health in 2011. Rita established the Annual Breaking The Silence Voice Awards in 2014 and the "I AM 1" Advocacy in 2015. With her daughter's support she hopes to encourage a Boca Raton Mental Health Collaborative.
Seth Bernstein, Psy.D., Vice President
Dr. Seth Bernstein is a Licensed Psychologist and an expert in behavioral and mental health prevention and intervention. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maryland at College Park, obtained his Doctorate of Psychology degree from the Florida Institute of Technology, and is a Certified Addictions Professional. He completed his internship at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, received advanced training in the Executive Leadership Academy at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, and is a published author.
Bruce Saltz, MD, PA, Secretary
Dr. Saltz earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Duke University and his Doctorate in Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He did an Internship in Internal Medicine at the George Washington University and his Psychiatry Residency at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. Dr. Saltz is active in the fields of clinical psychiatry and psychopharmacology, and his research has been funded by the extramural program at the National Institutes of Mental Health and University of North Carolina, the National Institute of Aging, and the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Maria Kovachev, Treasurer
Maria's Florida resume includes being the Marketing Director at Treasure Coast Hospice (a non-profit in Stuart, FL) responsible for launching consumer TV/print advertising/public relations, the Executive Director for Main Street (a non-‐profit in Vero Beach) responsible for creating Downtown Art/Antique District, Farmer’s Market,
3-‐day Hibiscus Festival, Downtown Merchant Association, and fundraising) . Additionally, Maria has been a licensed Florida real estate sales associate currently working with Lang Realty to assist both buyers and sellers through smooth real estate transactions.
Myra Levick, Ph.D.
Myra started the first graduate program in art therapy; became one of the five Founders of the American Art Therapy Association and the first president (1969-71). She established the South Florida Art Psychotherapy Institute offering consultation, supervision and lectures; worked as a part time art therapist with recovering substance abusers (Wellness Resource Center), survivors of incest (Fair Oaks Hospital) and Altzheimers patients (JCC program for this population). She taught Psychology and child development courses for 4 years at the New York institute of Technology on the Lynn Campus, Boca Raton and served on the Board of Donna Klein Jewish Academy for 10 years and is currently on the advisory board of that school.
In 1997, Dr. Merrilee Middleton, Clinical Director at the Elizabeth Faulk Center for Group Counseling, was appointed to the America’s Promise Summit by Gov. Lawton Chiles. In 1998 she established Boca Raton's Promise with support from Gen. Colin Powell, (Ret.) and Governor Jeb Bush who convened at FAU. The all volunteer organization, Boca Raton's Promise became a non-profit under the leadership of Dr. Middleton and four Board Members who pledged to keep 5 Promises to youth. She selected Rita Thrasher as a co-coordinator of the new non-profit and served as its president until illness forced her into retirement
Kimberly A. Mazauskas
Kim Mazauskas has spent the last nineteen years in the Department of Safe Schools acquiring an expertise in school safety and climate initiatives. She serves as the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Program Coordinator for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida. Kim has designed a District-wide Model Approach to Bullying Prevention recognized by the Florida’s Department of Education. Currently, she designs professional development components and training resources to ensure district adherence to both local School Board Policies and State legislative requirements addressing bullying and harassment.
Ro Rabozzi is a single mom of 4 (grown) boys, 32 year business owner in Boca Raton and a 5 Year board member of Boca Raton’s Promise. Ro has always been an active community member through business, school, athletics, and her children. She became involved with Mental Health in 2009 when her son, Tucker, 19 was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. Ro jumped into action to look for treatment and support. She took a NAMI Family to Family class and stayed on as a Support Group Facilitator. Ro quickly learned there is no “fix” and decided she would work towards education and advocacy for herself, her family, and others with loved ones living with a mental illness. Ro is our NAMI liaison. She often gets calls from moms like herself with children having their 1st psychotic episode. She is proud she can advise and guide them towards helpful steps.
Brian Schaflin, LCSW, PA
Brian graduated from City University of New York at Queens College with a degree in Psychology in 1980.
In 1982, he graduated from Hunter College with a Masters in Social Work and became Licensed and Board Certified in Florida in 1994. His experience is with issues related to depression, anxiety, addictions and managing stress and anger. Commitment and integrity are two of many qualities that Mr. Schaflin brings to his work. His love of people and the belief and hope for everyone to find settlement and well- being is his motivation.
Phil Heller, Psy.D.
Dr. Phil Heller is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist practicing in Boca Raton over 35 years. He also holds a Specialist’s Degree in Child Psychology, enabling him to advise on children and family issues. Dr. Heller has testified in various Courts on Family, Personal Injury, and Criminal matters. He is a member of the Florida Bar Grievance Committee and has assisted the Legislature on issues of Family Law. Dr. Heller has been a guest on various T.V. and radio programs discussing psychology and its effect on the family and community.
Abbey Strauss, MD
Dr. Strauss has been practicing psychiatry since 1985. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work. His interests are the interplay of the biological and psychological influences in a person’s life. He is the immediate past President of the Florida Psychiatric Society, has been involved with Boca Raton's Promise for many years, has worked in many clinical research trials, and been part of advocacy, political, and education projects with both the Florida Psychiatric Society and the Palm Beach County Medical Society. He also produces and hosts a podcast for the FL Psychiatric Society known as The Experts Speak, found at www.interviewlibrary.info
Patricia Thomas **
Pat Thomas is a Founding Board Member of Boca Raton's Promise and is delighted to see the results of many years of planning finally coming to fruition. She is Past President of the Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League at Boca Raton Regional Hospital as well as a Trustee of the Hospital and also serves on the Hospital Foundation Board where she Chairs the Community Outreach Committee. Pat also is a Founding Board Member and Past President of the Caring Hearts Auxilliary at the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center at FAU. She is also a Member and Past Chair of the Friends of the Conservatory at Lynn University.
**Indicates Founding Board Members
For more than a decade, Ed has been engaged by the Boca Raton’s Promise, to raise awareness and educate the community on mental health issues and opportunities. He is currently one of a handful of local trainers certified by the National Council for Behavioral Health to present Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Certification Courses in Palm Beach County. Ed also oversees the organizations e-communications, social media and web management. Through his membership in the PBC Action Alliance for Mental Health and the MHFA Coalition of PBC, he serves to help build bridges between community needs and local resources.
Gerda moved from Vermilion, Ohio to Boynton Beach in 1998 after a 30 year career that spanned education, mental health administration in public relations and development, and working as a consultant directing fund raising campaigns. She earned her MEd. at Cleveland State University. In Florida she served for six years as the Director of Development for The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, South Florida Region. In retirement, Gerda co-founded the Boynton Beach Mental Health Initiative, a grass roots effort promoting education and awareness about mental health and mental wellness, and serves a leadership role on the Boynton Beach Mental Health Committee.
Poppi received a BS degree in Education for the mentally challenged and in Arts Education. She served 17 years as the Executive Director of the Boca Raton’s Children’s Museum and was a vocalist with the Boca Raton Pops Orchestra before joining Boca Raton’s Promise to oversee business and development. Poppi believes creative expression will lead to positive social change and obtained a PBC Cultural Arts Council grant to support youth projects with the Information Television Network.