Ms. Aguilar, a Licensed Social Worker, is a Sr. Associate at Lorio Forensics. Alena received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Georgia State University before pursuing her Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of Social Work. She concentrated on contemporary social issues, specifically in mental health, criminal justice and women’s issues. Her studies at Columbia University’s School of Social Work gave Alena the opportunity to intern at The Bronx Defenders which further ignited her passion in forensic mental health.
After becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker, Alena began working for The Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Practice in their Bronx and Manhattan offices. She has collaboratively worked with legal teams representing clients from diverse backgrounds as young as 15 and as old as 101. These clients have faced misdemeanors, felonies, and oftentimes, multiple crimes at once. Alena has worked with clients whose circumstances like substance abuse, mental health illnesses, intellectual disabilities and trauma were not properly addressed or understood by the parties involved in their case. She gave clients access to resources that met their needs, gave their voice a platform through written and oral advocacy, and ensured they were treated fairly during their involvement in the criminal justice system.
Utilizing her experiences and skills in the court system, Alena began working at the Bronx Legal Services Family and Immigration Unit in 2019. Her work at this organization focuses on the intersections of gender – based violence, community mental health and immigration. In addition to providing legal support and collaborations, Alena provides clinical support services incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing and solution – focused therapy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alena and her social work colleagues created and implemented a macro, client-focused COVID-19 emergency fund prioritizing their most vulnerable clients.
Alena has conducted trainings and workshops on topics related to practice – specific social work and legal collaborations including trauma informed interviewing, cultural competency, the effects of racial trauma, and de-escalation skills.
In addition to her work, Alena is a strong advocate against the stigmatization of mental health illnesses and racial healthcare disparities. She is actively involved in the NYC Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to help bring further awareness to these issues.