Our Team

Who We Are

The Alabama Psychiatric Medication Review Team (APMRT) is a collaborative group of behavior analysts, a behavioral pharmacologist, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner who serve the behavioral and medication needs of children and adolescents in Alabama's Foster Care System. Our main goal is to address foster children's behavioral needs by teaching caregivers and stakeholders how to use behavior management strategies. We also work directly with foster children to address various other needs, such as teaching independent living skills and other necessary skills to promote success in various placement settings.

By addressing behavioral challenges, we hope to decrease the use of psychotropic medication as a treatment for challenging behavior displayed by children and youth in Alabama Foster Care. 

John Rapp headshot  Chris Newland headshot

John Rapp, Ph.D., BCBA-D and Chris Newland, Ph.D. are co-primary investigators for this project and both are professors in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Rapp is the Director of the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program at Auburn University and a BCBA-D. He has published extensively on the assessment and treatment of problem behavior displayed by children and adolescents with autism and related disabilities, as well as the application of single-case design methodology for evaluating the effects of interventions on specific problem behaviors. Dr. Newland has extensive experience in basic research on the psychopharmacology of drugs used therapeutically for the treatment of problem behavior. Most recently he has been investigating drug-behavior interactions in experimental models of adolescents using experimental laboratory models. His work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health.



Erica Kierce headshot

Erica Kierce, DNP, PMHNP, PMHS, is a psychiatric nurse practitioner and faculty in the Auburn University School of nursing. She completed her doctor of nursing practice at Vanderbilt University and completed her psychiatric nurse practitioner preparation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research and experience focus on child and adolescent mental-health treatment and drug-gene compatibility.





Peter Lusche headshot

Peter J. Lusche, M.D., graduated from the University of Southern California School of Medicine, and completed training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the U.S.C. - Los Angeles County Medical Center. For over thirty years, he has dedicated a significant amount of his practice to developing and coordinating community mental health programs for children, including children in protective custody and foster care. For his contributions in clinical and academic practice, program development and community service, he was made a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association in 2003.





Angelyn Harrell headshot

Angelyn Harrell, M.S., is a BCBA who graduated from Auburn University’s ABA Master’s program in 2015. Her expertise includes working with individuals with autism, severe problem behavior, foster youth, and caregiver training.






Jodi Coon Headshot

Jodi Coon, M.S., is a BCBA working with the APMRT. She graduated from Auburn University in 2018. Jodi’s areas of experience include working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders, foster youth, incarcerated adolescents, problem behavior, and staff training.






Amir Cruz-Khalili headshot

Amir Cruz-Khalili, M.A., is yet another BCBA working with the APMRT. He graduated from University of the Pacific in 2016. Amir's areas of experience include functional assessment, diverse populations, parent/family training, and intervention development.






Heatherly Williford headshot

Heatherly Williford, M.S., is a licensed Board Certified Behavior Analyst working with the APRMT. She earned her Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis and Developmental Disabilities (ABA-DD) from Auburn University in 2015. Her expertise includes the assessment and treatment of severe problem behavior in residential treatment facilities, schools, homes and clinical settings, as well as working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders, children and adolescents in foster and adoptive care, curriculum development and implementation, registered behavior technician staff training and parent-caregiver training. Outside of APMRT, her professional interests include the relationship between behavioral treatments and neural dysfunction, neural plasticity of individuals with autism spectrum disorders or trauma backgrounds, and operating an online publication.

Last Updated: June 09, 2020