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Martha Adams Sullivan


Pioneering Contributions: Martha Adams Sullivan has been committed to serving the multi-ethnic senior communities of New York City through her efforts to train city staff in cultural competency and expanded access to language resources. In the 90’s, Sullivan served as both the Director of Social Work and the Director of Behavioral Health at Gouverneur Health. While at Gouverneur, she helped to expand the effect that they have has on the community by receiving grants and building strong networks with various community agencies. Sullivan started a program at Gouverneur to help mental health of the increasingly diverse and complex senior communities in New York City. Sullivan went on to become the Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2001 and was the president of the NASW NYC Chapter from 2011 to 2013, where she began the Task Force for Social Workers of African Descent and had a large impact on the work that the chapter does to alleviate poverty in the New York. Sullivan became the Executive Director of the Fordham Tremont Community Mental Health Center, later becoming the Vice President of the affiliated medical center, St. Barnabas. She returned to Gouverneur Health in 2013 as the Executive Director, which now serves large populations in the New York area, and provides rehabilitation and nursing home services. She is the Founder and Chair of the Citywide Mental Health Coalition for the Black Elderly.

Career Highlights: Sullivan served as Chairperson of the Citywide Geriatrics Committee and the Manhattan Geriatrics Committee at the New York City Federation for Mental Health, Mental Retardation & Alcoholism Services, acquiring funding for vital services for the city including a variety of treatment programs for homebound elderly. Sullivan has devoted a significant part of her career to informing the next generation of social workers. She has been serving as an advisory editor for the Family Process journal since 2004. She was an adjunct professor of social work at the Hunter College School of Social Work from 1993 to 2009 and was a visiting faculty member at the Minuchin Center for Family from 1998 to 2004. She has served as a consultant for a variety of organizations including the Ackerman Institute for the Family, the HHC Institute for Family and Community Care, and the State University of New York at Albany’s Center for Women in Government.

Biographic Data: Sullivan received her BA from NYU in 1974, her MSW from Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work in 1976, and her DSW from the City University of New York in 1991. She has previously been a fellow at the Council on Social Work Education and received an advanced certificate in Family Therapy and Supervision at the Minuchin Center for the Family.

Significant Achievements & Awards Received: Hall of Fame, Hunter College of the City University of New York - 2013; Distinguished Contributions to Social Justice Award. American Family Therapy Academy - 2004; Service to the Elderly Award, The Walburg Center - 2002; Leadership and Community Service Award for contributions to mental health and social services development on the Lower East Side,  St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church – 2001

Significant Publications: No Ways Tired: Perspective of Clinicians of Color on Culturally Competent Crisis Intervention. Journal of Counseling Psychology: In Session. First author. August, 2006.

Kum Ba Yah: The Relevance of Family Systems Theory for Clinicians and Clients of African Descent, in The Voices of Color: First Person Accounts of Ethnic Minority Therapists. Mudita Rastogi, Elizabeth Wieling, eds. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publ., 2005.

African –Americans and Mental Health:  Bridging the Gap and Making the Connection. Conference Proceedings. Published by the Black Psychiatrists of Greater New York. New York Society for Ethical Culture, NYC. April 26, 2003.

The Homeless Older Woman in Context:  Alienation, Cutoff and Reconnection.  Lead article, Journal of Women and Aging. Vol. 3, #2, Summer, 1991.

A Family Systems-Oriented Approach to the Homeless, Mentally Ill, Older Woman, Doctoral Dissertation. CUNY Graduate Center 1991.