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Panel Discussion on LGBTQ+ Care in Substance Use Treatment


Published Date: 04/24/2023

CE Credit: No CE


To increase access to high-quality and stigma free substance use disorder treatment in NYS, this training will share information on key elements of LGBTQ+ affirming programs with providers. It will provide an overview of clinical care in programs that are LGBTQ+ affirming and provide further justification on the importance of LGBTQ+ affirming care.


Carmelita Cruz,JD

Carmelita Cruz is the Executive Equity Officer, leading the newly created Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI). Serving in this role since June 2022, she leads development and execution of the agency’s vision and strategic plan, centering internal equity and trauma informed organizational change. The JEDI Office also leads work to reduce institutional racism through the creation and implementation of equitable practices and policies within internal agency operations. The Office supports external collaboration and continuous improvement with OASAS providers to develop and implement innovative JEDI strategies that provide measurable results. Carmelita has been with OASAS since 2016, previously working as an attorney in the Counsel’s Office where she worked on various projects—including diversity, equity and inclusion priorities for the agency—as well as policy, regulatory and legislative development. Prior to joining OASAS, Carmelita served as the Director of Advocacy and Community Organizing for Housing Works Inc., focusing on the development and implementation of New York’s Plan to End the AIDS Epidemic as well as a wide variety of social justice issues. She is a graduate of The Sage Colleges and New York Law School and the proud mother of two beautiful children.

Samantha Kawola,LMSW

Sam Kawola has been with OASAS since 2014, currently serving as Youth and Young Adult Services Coordinator in the Division of Addiction Treatment and Recovery (ATAR). Her contributions to the agency’s equity efforts include developing the LGBTQ-Affirming Program Designation, contributing to development of LGBTQ-related policy and guidance, and participating in the Governor’s LGBTQ+ Task Force. Sam is a graduate of Siena College and Fordham University, a proud queer woman in recovery, and a staunch defender of the Oxford comma.

Antonio Ruberto, Jr.,MS, LCSW-R, CASAC

Antonio Ruberto, Jr., MS, is a licensed clinical social worker and joined The Center in 2011. In this role, Antonio currently oversees youth and adult substance use treatment, youth prevention services, crystal meth harm reduction services, TGNC/NB harm reduction services, and recovery support including the youth clubhouse, along with strategic planning related to telehealth and mental health expansion and integration at The Center. Antonio initially served as Director of Center Recovery, the first and only LGBT-specific, OASAS-licensed outpatient substance use treatment program in New York and worked in both substance use and mental health treatment as a clinical social worker. Prior to his career in social services, Antonio worked in flagship retail management and for seven years at Columbia Business School as a Program Manager for executive education programs. Antonio is a member of the New York State OASAS Clinical Advisory

Panel and the ASAP Diversity Equity Inclusion Committee. Antonio has provided workshops and trainings for the ASAP Conference, the NASW Addiction Institute Conference, the New York Criminal Justice & Treatment Conference and The Gay Men’s Health Summit and SYNChronicity Conference, both in Washington, D.C. In addition, he maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Manhattan and is Chair of the NASW Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Specialty Practice Section. He received his Bachelor of Art degree in Psychology and Art History from NYU and his Master of Science in Social Work degree from Columbia University.

Brandon Titus,CASAC-T

Brandon Titus is a CASAC. He received an AAS from Clinton Community College and a BS in Environmental Science from Keuka College. Brandon has completed the CASAC 350 at St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers where he is employed as the Director of Housing and Community Supports. He has also completed the CCAR Recovery Coach training. As a human services professional he has worked in multiple capacities including residential youth services, case management, and oversight of housing, residential and outpatient services. Brandon chairs his agency’s JEDI committee and is the agency’s LGBTQ Liaison. Brandon also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for a public benefit corporation in Franklin County.

Continuing Education Credit Information