Pre-Conference Workshop Presenters

Ken Averill

Ken Averill was recently promoted to Senior GameSense Advisor at Plainridge Park casino in Massachusetts.  He has worked as a GameSense Advisor at each of the three Massachusetts casino properties and as a casino employee all over the United States including Connecticut, Louisiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, and Las Vegas.  His prior managerial roles were in table games and gaming operations and included oversight of a sportsbook.  And, you may or may not be surprised to know, Ken is also an avid sports fan and played hockey at Fitchburg State. 

Jody Bechtold, ICGC-II, BACC

Jody Bechtold, ICGC-II, BACC is a highly regarded gambling addiction expert working extensively across the globe with individuals, organizations, and associations. She is the CEO of The Better Institute, a group practice located in Pittsburgh. She is the co-author of The Gambling Disorder Treatment Handbook: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals and 2 chapters in the Social Work Desk Reference v 4 on Gambling and Gaming Disorders, published in 2021. She serves as the Vice President of the board for the International Gambling Counselor Certification Board (IGCCB). Jody holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work and has certifications as a Board-Approved Clinical Consultant (BACC) and Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor Level II (ICGC-II) with the IGCCB. When Jody isn’t working, you can find her providing pet therapy with her dog, Hanna, and supporting her husband’s business, Pittsburgh Guitars. 

Robert Bumbaco

Robert Bumbaco is a licensed clinical social worker and certified mental coach. Rob earned his master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2018, Rob co-founded The Better Institute. The Better Institute provides professional expertise, cutting-edge innovation, and research-informed strategies to get better. In addition to his clinical background, Rob is a former Division 1 athlete. Rob is the founder of Back in the Game. Back in the Game is a program within The Better Institute designed to support athletes in the following areas: sports performance, recovery from injury, addiction, and mental health.

Shannon Dictson

Shannon Dictson was born and raised in Mescalero, NM. She graduated from NMSU with her bachelor’s degree. Shannon is the Coordinator for the Mescalero Responsible Gaming Program for the Mescalero Apache Tribe. She has worked in the Responsible Gaming field for 13 years. Shannon is the Vice-Chair of the Responsible Gaming Association of New Mexico. During this time, she has worked closely with the New Mexico Council on Problem Gaming, the Evolution Group, and the Responsible Gaming Association of New Mexico to increase awareness, provide education and assist those who may be in need of help due to their gambling problem. She also keeps a proactive approach to underage gambling through creative prevention projects.  

Kara Fox-LaRose

Kara Fox-LaRose has 25 years of experience in the casino and hospitality industry, including many high-profile roles. Currently, Fox-LaRose is the President and General Manager of ilani in Ridgefield, Washington, where she is responsible for the overall directional planning and operational results of the property. She led all aspects of opening the $500+ million high volume casino and entertainment complex in 2017 and has been a driving force of the award-winning property ever since. She has strived to continue developing ilani into a world-class destination, adding the Cowlitz Ballroom in 2018, the Cowlitz Crossing Fuel & Convenience store in 2019, and the 2,600 space parking garage which opened last year. Fox-LaRose is an active member in the Southwest Washington community where she currently serves as a board member for the Columbia River Economic Development Council. She is also a strong proponent for responsible gambling, serving as a board member for the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling. 

Wiley Harwell, ICGC-II

Wiley Harwell is an LPC, an International Certified Gambling Counselor-level 2, and a Board Approved Clinical Consultant for gambling counselors. Wiley is the Ex. Dir. Of Oklahoma Association on Problem Gambling and Gaming. OAPGG is the official state affiliate for the National Council on Problem Gambling of which Wiley has been a board member for 6 years and the board president for two years. OAPGG offers advocacy for problem gambling clients and their family members, provides the problem gambling helpline, works with all the tribes for responsible gambling programs, and trains all the counselors in Oklahoma to become certified. 

Brian Hatch

Brian Hatch is the Creator and Host of All In: The Addicted Gamblers Podcast and the Co-creator/Co-host of The Bet Free Life. Brian threw away his dreams of being a comedian to spend his nights in casinos. After a 14 year battle with gambling and relapses, he decided to try another way- TALKING about his FEELINGS. In January of 2015, he started the world’s first gambling addiction podcast. Since that time the podcast has grown to over 270 episodes with interviews from the lived experience community, affected others, clinicians, academics, advocates, public health workers, and RG managers. He speaks from the heart about his own recovery and hopes it helps. 

Jennifer LeBlanc

Jennifer Topash LeBlanc was raised in Buchanan, MI, and she is a 1980 Buchanan High School graduate. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Services with minors in Counseling, Sociology, and Child Development from Lake Superior State University in 1985 located in Sault Sainte Marie, MI.  Jennifer remained a resident of Sault Sainte Marie, MI for the past forty-one years where she was employed as a Behavioral Health Counselor for the Bay Mills Indian Community and Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians equally over thirty-two years of experience in this field.  She has possessed a Certified Alcohol & Drug License from the State of Michigan for the past twenty years. Her treatment focus has been on building recovery skills for the chemically dependent and gambling rehabilitation clients.  Returning to Southwestern Michigan in August of 2021, Jennifer is currently employed as the Medical Social Worker for the Pokagon Band Health Services with her finding much satisfaction in serving the members of her own native tribe, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.  She experiences much joy visiting two of her three adult children who reside in Lansing, MI along with her five grandchildren. Personal interests of Jennifer’s include bird-watching, cheering for Notre Dame athletic events, walking for exercise, reading, church involvement, cooking, and visiting family members, and especially holding her newest grandson, Zion,  who is now six months old.

David Ledgerwood, PhD

David Ledgerwood, PhD is a clinical psychologist, Director of the Nicotine and Tobacco Research Division, and Professor in the Substance Abuse Research Division, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, MI. He has published several research articles on problem gambling focusing on co-occurring psychopathology, impulse control and executive function, treatment outreach, and treatment effectiveness. He is also past president of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling.

Michelle Malkin, JD, PhD

Michelle Malkin, JD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Criminal Justice at East Carolina University. She received a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, a Juris Doctorate degree from Northeastern University School of Law, and her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in criminal justice from Michigan State University. Michelle’s research interests include a focus on problem gambling and gambling-motivated crime. In 2018, she received a research fellowship for her research on women and gambling-motivated crime from the Center for Gaming Studies at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  

Kitty Martz

Kitty Martz is the executive director of Voices of Problem Gambling Recovery in Portland, Oregon. She is the current chair of the NCPG state affiliate Oregon Council on Problem Gambling and, as a person with lived experience in gambling harm, a member of the National Council on Problem Gambling Recovery committee.  Martz is a Certified Gambling Recovery Mentor, Certified Gambling Addiction Counselor II, Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist, and longstanding SMART Recovery facilitator. She oversees Oregon’s HOPE Peer Program, where she works directly with dozens of peers to promote gambling recovery, trains other peers, and establishes best practices/policies to share with other developing gambling peer programs. Her passion is participating in the evolution of legislative policies as they relate to mitigating gambling harm.  

Cheryl Moss, JD

Judge Cheryl Moss has served on the bench for over 19 years. In 2001, Judge Moss was the first judge to implement problem gambling assessments in domestic relations cases. In November 2018, Judge Moss became the first judge to preside over Nevada’s first Gambling Treatment Diversion Court (GTDC). In addition to her judicial duties, Judge Moss has volunteered her time to serve as a member of the Subcommittee on Legal Issues, created by the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling. Judge Moss graduated from the George Washington University, Washington DC, then attended the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University 

Jodie Nealley

Jodie Nealley has a BA from St. Lawrence University, an MS in Education from Indiana University, and the UMass/Boston Addiction Counselor Program. Jodie joined the Massachusetts Council on Gaming & Health in 2012 where she works as the Recovery & Outreach Liaison. She provides gambling-related training nationally for community and service providers and serves as the liaison for voluntary self-exclusion follow-ups and telephone recovery support for people working to reduce or stop their gambling behaviors. Jodie works to increase knowledge of at-risk and problem gambling among people in recovery from SUD and other behavioral health issues. Jodie uses her life experience as a problematic gambler to raise awareness and compassion wherever possible. In 2019 she received the NCPG Jeff Beck Recovery Ambassador award. 

Brian Ward

Brian Ward is President of Voices of Problem Gambling Recovery, a certified gambling recovery mentor, and he serves as a young-adult peer mentor specialist in Portland, Oregon. As a SMART Recovery facilitator, Brian continued to host in-person SMART meetings, with precautionary measures in place before, during, and through the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also the host of Voices….The Podcast.

Jeremiah Weinstock, PhD

Jeremiah Weinstock, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, and Chair of the department of psychology at Saint Louis University. His research focuses on the assessment and treatment of substance-related and addictive disorders with over 65 peer-review publications and funding from the National Institutes of Health and the International Center for Responsible Gaming. His scientific contributions include the use of contingency management in the treatment of substance use disorders and the conceptualization, assessment, and treatment of gambling disorder, including the use of cognitive behavioral therapy. He regularly provides clinical trainings on gambling disorder and contingency management.

Alyssa Wilson

Alyssa N. Wilson is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Applied Behavior Analysis at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Southern California. Dr. Wilson has published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on interdisciplinary approaches to gambling etiology, assessment, and treatment. She has delivered over fifty national and international presentations related to gambling assessment and treatment. Dr. Wilson serves as an Associate Editor for Behavior Analysis in Practice and is an editorial board member for Journal of Contextual Behavior Science and Perspectives of Behavior Science.