Community Consultants


Stephanie Small, LMFT

Stephanie Small is the co-founder and co-creator of the Erik's Cause Prevention Program.  She is a licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist with over 28 years of clinical experience, as well as a retired R.N. with two decades of nursing experience.  She specializes in the treatment of individuals, couples and families with a broad range of issues and is widely recognized for her unique work with children and adolescents.  A graduate of Antioch University in Los Angeles, she integrates the most effective and contemporary clinical skills (including EMDR and Integrative Somatic Therapies) to relieve the life-constricting effects of trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief and loss.  She is known for her warm, authentic, creative and compassionate approach and she integrates an extensive knowledge of the medical field into her psychotherapy practice.  Her considerable work with teens and curbing risk behavior drew her to work with Judy Rogg to co-found Erik’s Cause and co-create its training module.

Stephanie was founding Director of Children’s Education and Training for the Trauma Resource Institute and created the Child Resiliency Model for treating children and adolescents.  She has traveled extensively to train first responders (including teachers, psychotherapists, fire fighters, nurses and doctors) and has brought innovative approaches to healing trauma after catastrophic events such as the Columbine High School shooting massacre (Colorado), Hurricanes Rita and Katrina (Louisiana) and the 2008 fires in San Bernadino (California).  She was also called upon to consult with the Newtown school system in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut in 2012.

As a passionate child advocate, educator and therapist, Stephanie frequently speaks locally and nationally to communities, educators, parents and students on pressing contemporary topics that affect our youth.  Some topics have included: 

  • How to Deal with School Stress and Anxiety
  • Help Stop The Choking Game
  • How To Help Your Child Navigate Middle School
  • Fighting Peer Pressure
  • Dealing with the Death of a Classmate
  • Life Skills for Middle School and High School Students
  • Keeping your Child Safe in a High Tech World
  • Decoding the Internet for Non-geeky Parents
  • Peer Pressure, Sexuality and Drugs
  • Avoiding of the Power Struggle with Your Kids
  • Making Smart Choices

Patricia J. Russell, M.D.

Patricia Russell is a primary care and urgent care physician in Tacoma, Washington.  She earned her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society in 1993.  Dr. Russell is board certified in family medicine and is a member of the Washington State and Pierce County Medical Societies.  Trish first learned of the choking game when her son, Colin, died in the Fall of 2005. At that time, there were four primary research publications regarding oxygen deprivation activities in the medical literature and only a handful of county public health tip sheets and one statewide bulletin warning of the risks of the choking game.  Since then, she has worked to increase awareness and promote research and understanding of pass out games in the medical and public health communities.  She is responsible for bringing this topic to the attention of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and is a co-author of their subsequent formal study of this topic.

Trish's most recent achievement is the inclusion of an activity code for injuries from the choking game and pass out activities in the current version of the U.S. International Classification of Diseases' health care classification system, ICD-10-CM.  She proposed the code to the ICD-10-CM Committee in 2012, which was endorsed by a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics and approved by the Committee.  Implementation of the code was delayed until October 1, 2016 due to delays of the overall transition to from the ICD-9-CM to the roll-out of the ICD-10-CM.  While it will take time for this code to become known and used, it is an enormous achievement in that it (1) recognizes the choking game as a specified “activity” that children engage in, and (2) provides medical personnel a place to designate pass out activities as a cause for injury and begin to collect data related to these injuries. Kudos to Dr. Russell for her tremendous success!

With the achievement of the activity code for injuries, Trish would now like to approach the World Health Organization to ask that they adopt the choking game code to be used in coding unintentional strangulation deaths due to pass out activities.  To that end, she is inviting medical professionals across the globe to join her as a collaborative effort.  She can be contacted directly at [email protected] or thru her website,  


  • McClave JL, Russell PJ, Lyren A, O’Riordan MA, Bass NE. The Choking Game: Physician Perspectives. Pediatrics 2010; 125:82-7 [E Pub-ahead of print December 14, 2009].
  • Andrew TA, Macnab A, Russell P. Update on "The Choking Game". J Pediatr. 2009 Dec;155(6):777-80.
  • Toblin RL, Paulozzi LJ, Gilcrist J, Russell PJ. Unintentional Strangulation Deaths from the “Choking Game” Among Youths Aged 6-19 Years - United States, 1995-2007. J Safety Res 2008;39(4):445-8.
  • CDC. Unintentional Strangulation Deaths from the “Choking Game” Among Youths Aged 6-19 Years: United States, 1995-2007. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008; 57(6):141-144. 

Mike Bleak, Detective and Field Investigator

Field Investigator, Utah State Office of the Medical Examiner
Cedar City, Utah Police Department (Ret.)
County Commissioner, Iron County
Co-Founder and President of Leaders for Life Foundation

Mike Bleak is a recently retired Detective with the Cedar City Utah Police Department.  He worked in various departmental divisions in his 20+ years of service including Patrol Officer, Patrol Supervisor, Community Oriented Policing, and SWAT.  Mike is also employed as a Field Investigator with the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner.  He is one of a handful of Medicolegal Death Investigators that holds Board Certification as a Diplomat in the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (D-ABMDI).

Mike understands the critical role of law enforcement in raising awareness of deadly social media challenges, most notably re the Blackout Challenge aka the Choking Game.  He speaks both locally and nationally to educate law enforcement and medical examiners as to the difference between suicide and accidental asphyxia deaths, a recent emphasis as a result of investigating several of these deaths himself and coming to understand the distinct differences.  He recognizes the urgent need to promote awareness to law enforcement, medical examiners and the public on this much under-discussed and misunderstood topic. 

Mike has a passion for teaching.  He instructs for the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) in the areas of child abuse, sexual abuse, interview and interrogation, death investigation and in-custody death. Mike also has a passion for working cases involving children.  He is actively involved with the Iron County Children’s Justice Center Multidisciplinary Team and regularly conducts forensic interviews with children in which he manages those investigations to completion.  He has recently been appointed as the Team Leader of the Iron County Critical Incident Task Force, a group that is tasked with the investigation of Officer Involved Shooting cases as well as other in custody death or serious bodily injury cases.  He regularly lectures both locally and nationally to law enforcement, mental health, and education professionals about the investigation and prevention of child/sexual abuse, forensic interview techniques, and juvenile death investigation. 

Mike is also the Co-Founder and President of the Leaders for Life Foundation, a not for profit organization focused on creating and teaching risk prevention strategies for youth (which was a 2012 recipient of Characters Unite award presented by USA Network).  His passion for prevention stems from the darker side of life that he deals with on a daily basis.  He recognizes the important need to educate today’s children so they can make healthy choices as they grow to become our future leaders.

Mike has been a member of the Iron County Commission since January 2017 when he took over in an interim capacity for an outgoing member.  He was elected to a full term in 2018.  


Alex J. Packer, Ph.D

Educational and Developmental Psychologist

Alex is an author, educator and developmental psychologist.  He is a specialist in adolescence, substance abuse, and parent education.  Alex holds undergraduate and Master’s degrees from Harvard University , and a Ph.D. in Educational and Developmental Psychology from Boston College.  He was the president and chief executive officer of FCD Educational Services for many years and, after recently retiring from that position, he currently serves as president emeritus of FCD.  Prior to serving with FCD, for eight years, Dr. Packer was headmaster of Parkmont School in Washington , D.C., an innovative alternative school for children ages 11-15. He also served as Director of Education for the Capital Children’s Museum.  Alex is well versed in youth and risk behaviors.  He  served as a member of the Authors Advisory Council of the Hazelden Foundation, a leader for over 50 years in providing information, education, and recovery services to individuals, families, schools and communities. He has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, and is sought after by reporters and media personalities for his opinions on etiquette, parenting, adolescent development, and substance abuse prevention.  While still serving as CEO of FCD, Dr. Packer provided considerable input into the creation of Erik's Cause's video "Help Stop the Choking Game" and has been a passionate advocate of choking game prevention awareness/education since Erik's death.  He is ardent about seeing this issue being incorporated into school risk prevention programs.


  • Books:
    • How Rude! The Teenager’s Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out
    • Bringing Up Parents:  The Teenager’s Handbook.
    • 365 Ways to Love Your Child, Parenting One Day at a Time
    • The Nurturing Parent: How to Raise Creative, Loving, Responsible Children
    • HIGHS! Over 150 Ways to Feel Really, REALLY Good Without Alcohol or Other Drugs
  • Articles have appeared in:  McCall's, Child Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, and The Harvard Graduate School of Education Bulletin  


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