Shelby has over 17 years of experience in communications, public relations and branding. In her previous role as Senior Communication Director for Skanska USA, she oversaw communications and public relations efforts for the company’s Central U.S. region, securing positive media coverage in top U.S. media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Modern Healthcare, Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News. She also launched the company’s Building What Matters campaign and created its national crisis communications program.
Shelby has also spent the last two decades volunteering for numerous non-profit organizations, including the Children’s Medical Center Foundation (Dallas), I Have A Dream Foundation (Dallas), Junior League of Nashville, and St. Luke’s Community House (Nashville), and serves on the Rotary Club of Dallas Board of Directors. In addition, Shelby is the co-creator of Nashville’s Top 30 Under 30, an annual fundraiser benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that has raised over $1.2 million since its inception. Shelby is a graduate of Lipscomb University. She lives in Dallas with her husband, Eddie.
Julie has 14 years of experience in documentary film and video production, and has contributed to content ranging from small passion projects to large scale, multimillion-dollar programming for online, television and cable broadcast, and theatrical distribution. She is a Lone Star Emmy-winning producer of the Mental Health Channel’s 12-part series, Stories of the Mind. Julie’s work has centered around cause-driven content with a focus on positive social impact and effective communications. Julie received her BA in Fine Arts from Sewanee (the University of the South), and earned her MBA from Wake Forest University School of Business, where she focused on Marketing and Social Enterprise. She is grateful for the opportunity to put her unique combination of experience and education to good use at the Institute. Julie lives in Austin and serves on NAMI Austin’s Board of Directors.
Christopher spent 18 years in the United States Army, from 1995-2013, as an Indirect Fire Infantryman, with numerous overseas deployments in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. After being medically discharged in 2013, Christopher went to work for the Military Veteran Peer Network as the Austin / Travis County coordinator, managing a team of volunteers responsible for connecting veterans to resources. He also assisted the State Veteran Mental Health Office on numerous projects across the State of Texas that were integral in improving the mental health of Texas veterans.
In 2017, Christopher became the Director of Community and Veteran Services for Easterseals Central Texas, where he helped develop and implement a multi-agency collaboration to improve access to a variety of resources for veterans and their family members. Christopher’s passion for helping veterans transition from the military has become his driving force, and he looks forward to continuing that work.
Dr. Blau is a licensed clinical psychologist who joined MMHPI as Executive Director of The Hackett Center for Mental Health in September of 2019. Prior to that he was Chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) where he provided national leadership for child, adolescent and young adult mental health, and created “systems of care” across the United States.
Dr. Blau also served as the Bureau Chief for Quality Management and Director of Mental Health at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the Director of Clinical Services for the Child and Family Agency of Southeastern, Connecticut. He has been acknowledged as the “father” of Youth MOVE (Youth Motivating Others through Voices of Experience), which now has over 60 chapters nationwide, and for creating the “National Building Bridges Initiative (BBI),” which is focused on improving outcomes for youth who receive residential interventions.
Dr. Blau is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Connecticut Governor’s Service Award, the Phoebe Bennet Award for outstanding contribution to children’s mental health in Connecticut, and the Making a Difference Award presented by Connecticut’s Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. He was also proud that upon the occasion of his leaving Connecticut, the Governor proclaimed December 12, 2003, as ‘Dr. Gary Blau Day.”
For his national, Dr. Blau received the HHS Secretary’s Award for Meritorious Service for his national leadership in children’s mental health, and he was the first recipient of the Rock Star Award, presented by Youth M.O.V.E., National for “being a true champion for the youth movement and advocate for youth voice.” This award has now been named the “Dr. Gary Blau Award” and is given yearly to a mental health professional who has distinguished themselves as a voice for youth.
Dr. Blau has over 70 professional publications and is the editor of eight books. He received his B.A. degree in psychology from the University of South Florida and his doctorate from Auburn University.
Gwenn Blau, MS, works closely with the Executive Director of the Hackett Center for Mental Health to support program planning and development, and the coordination of efforts to improve services, expand the use of evidence-based best practices, and put policy into practice.
Prior to joining the Center, Gwenn worked as the High School Education Director in a private, non-profit organization serving individuals with a wide range of disabilities. Throughout her 38-year career as a public and private school classroom teacher and administrator, Gwenn provided a positive educational experience for children with language and learning disabilities, autism, intellectual disabilities and/or other health impairments. She worked at all levels – elementary, middle, and high school, as well as with youth transitioning to adulthood. She played an instrumental role in the development and opening of a special education high school program by creating curriculum, writing policy, implementing best practices, addressing regulatory requirements and coaching staff. Gwenn is a highly organized professional with expertise in operations and management, program development, and relationship building. She has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Lucille Coker Award, selected by the executive management team at the Treatment and Learning Centers (TLC) for exemplary performance, and the Outstanding Teamwork Award from the TLC Board of Directors.
Gwenn received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education from the University of South Florida and a Master of Science, Special Education, from the University of Central Connecticut.
Gary joined Institute as Director of Community Engagement and works closely with John Petrila, Vice President of Adult Policy. A major focus of his work includes engaging communities around Texas on projects and programs that are greatly needed in their areas and bringing new business opportunities to MMHPI. With a statewide scope of work, Gary will identify opportunities for MMHPI with Community Center CEO’s, The Texas Council of Community Centers, and health care providers.
Gary has more than thirty years’ experience in the mental health field. Beginning in direct care, he has held an array of positions such as: Director of Special Programs at Rusk State Hospital; Mental Health Director at a Mental Health Authority; Deputy Executive Director of a Community Mental Health/Developmental Disability Center; and for the last 12 year he was the Executive Director of East Texas Behavioral Healthcare Network (ETBHN), where he expanded its membership to eleven Community Centers covering over seventy Counties in Texas, with services that stretched to over two hundred Counties in total. Gary has an undergraduate degree in Social Work from Southern University in New Orleans and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington.
Rebecca “Becca” Brune has a long history of philanthropic leadership and innovation in San Antonio and was instrumental in the founding of our Bexar County and South Texas work in the earliest days of MMHPI as a key partner at Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. She most recently served as president and chief operating officer at the San Antonio Area Foundation, where she oversaw the Area Foundation’s daily management and operations, and development and execution of strategic planning, community investments, and public policy initiatives. Becca has more than 24 years of experience working at the local, national and international levels building public-private partnerships to support innovative programming leveraging community investments. As a trained facilitator and mediator, she has facilitated community conversations around natural resource management issues, economic development, strategic planning and community engagement.
Becca has worked in Bangladesh, India, Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua, studying local community and economic development projects, entrepreneurial programs and health service delivery programs.
Prior to joining the Area Foundation, Becca was senior vice president of strategic planning and growth at Methodist Healthcare Ministries, vice president at Goodwill Industries, and director of family self-sufficiency at the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County where she successfully designed, implemented and raised money for several new community development initiatives. Throughout her career, she has sought to build innovative, strategic partnerships and promote public-private collaborations to improve programming and inspire systems change within the organizations she serves.
As a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Becca earned a master’s degree in public affairs from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. As a Bill Greehey scholar, she earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Bill Greehey School of Business at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. In May 2017, she graduated from the Andeavor Leadership Fellows program at the San Antonio Area Foundation. And in December of 2017 Becca was inducted into the 2018 San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame, an honor she shares with her mother, Jill Parker, making this the first mother, daughter duo to be inducted.
Allison Castle, president of Castle Communications, has a career that spans the worlds of business, government, nonprofits and politics. Allison previously served as a senior advisor to the Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller, and at the Texas Department of Insurance. Allison directly advised Gov. Rick Perry for more than six years in her role as his press secretary and communications director. She crafted and guided the execution of a strategy that gained global attention for the Governor’s priorities, ranging from health care and public safety to establishing Texas as a biotech hub. She and her team garnered untold volumes of coverage for the state’s successful economic development efforts to bring global corporations and jobs to Texas. Focused and diligent in times of crisis, Allison has helped guide the state’s media response through everything from public health emergencies and natural disasters to the Governor’s Mansion arson, renovation and grand reopening. Allison and her team also deftly handled the media strategy, messaging and stakeholder engagement of some of the state’s most important legal cases before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Coby Chase has an extensive background in state and federal government affairs, communications, and coalition building. In his previous position with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), he oversaw the agency’s expansive state and federal portfolios, statewide communications operations, and international relations. He also oversaw the Texas Transportation Forum, one of the nation’s largest transportation conferences. Before TxDOT, Coby worked in government affairs for the Universities Research Association’s Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory and the Texas National Research Laboratory Commission. At MMHPI, Coby oversees governmental relations, communications, local systems work, Engage & Excel conferences, and the award-winning Okay to Say™ public awareness campaign. He’s a member of the College of Liberal Arts Advisory Council at The University of Texas at Austin and on the Board of Directors for the Austin Clubhouse.
Jena Crim has a varied and eclectic combination of experience with business and operational procedures, having worked in the travel industry, fine arts museum management, and higher education department management. Before joining Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Jena served for ten years as executive assistant for the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She has a BA in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin and has studied business administration and human resource management. Jena recently relocated to the Dallas area to be closer to her daughter and three growing grandsons.
Stephanie Cunningham works with the Communications team to support messaging for the Institute and its programs. Prior to joining the Institute, Stephanie worked for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Her time there began with management of statewide recycling programs, as well as assisting with mandatory reporting of waste diverted from industrial facilities, and culminated in managing the Texas Environmental Excellence Awards. The TEEA program, an annual statewide recognition program of the TCEQ Commissioners and the Governor’s Office, refined her experience with inter- and intra-agency coordination along with communications, contract management, and event planning.
Stephanie is a graduate of the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin where she focused heavily on undergraduate research in the lab of Dr. Andrea Gore, Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Pharmacy, and was a coauthor on three publications prior to graduation. Immediately following work with Dr. Gore, she served as a research assistant with Dr. John Wallingford, Molecular Biosciences, UT Austin.
Kristina De Lattes is responsible for all areas relating to the Institute’s financial reporting. She has over 8 years of dynamic accounting experience. Kristina has worked in the client service industry managing a multitude of companies gaining a board knowledge and expertise in targeting specific business needs.
She is proficient in multiple accounting software platforms and applications. Kristina has knowledge of general, corporate and not-for-profit accounting, payroll, cash management. She has also assisted with the preparation of audits, tax work papers and tax returns.
Kristina is a graduate of Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting.
Timothy Dittmer, PhD, is responsible for all econometric analysis for the Institute. He has consulted as an economist regarding behavioral health and human services for nearly a decade and just left his position as tenured chair of the Department of Economics at Central Washington University in January 2014. Dr. Dittmer is expert in applied economic analysis across a wide array of public policy domains including health care, and has worked with a wide range of econometric methods for estimating the cost-benefits for behavioral health and human services interventions.
His interests include veteran issues given his service in the United States Army and National Guard (1984-1992, 2001-2009) that included two tours in Iraq (2004-2005, 2008-2009) and award of the Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star.
Jacqueline French manages grants and contract compliance for the Institute, and has an extensive background in grants management. In her previous role as grants administrator with Susan G. Komen, she coordinated peer review meetings, assisted applicants with RFA inquiries, and handled pre- and post-awards management. Prior to that, Jacqueline was a research project coordinator at the American Heart Association. Her professional experiences have given her a deep understanding of non-profit organizations as well as research grants policies, procedures, and protocol. Her work in the non-profit sector—ranging from domestic violence prevention advocacy, teen pregnancy prevention advocacy, abstinence education, and childcare assistance case management—has guided her passion for serving the community. Jacqueline is currently pursuing an associate of science degree from Northlake Community College.
Jennifer will work closely with John Petrila, Vice President of Adult Policy, to manage the Institute’s data portfolio. Her research interests include public health policing, data-informed public health and criminal justice practice and development of innovative methods for linking individuals to needed care. She is especially interested in developing and testing the effectiveness of real-world solutions to improve use of behavioral health services for those in need. She has published more than one hundred interdisciplinary articles focused on the health of those who come into contact with—and work within—the criminal justice system. Jennifer earned her doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Florida, and a M.S. degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati. Her research has been funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, SAMHSA, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Justice, and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.
Kelly is based in Austin and works closely with Phil Ritter, Chief Operating Officer, and Cynthia Riley, Vice President of Philanthropy. She is passionate about connecting people to the causes they care about through philanthropy. Kelly joined MMHPI with over eight years of experience in the nonprofit and public sectors.
Most recently, Kelly worked on the development team with The Trail Foundation, the nonprofit that cares for the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail in the heart of downtown Austin. Before that, she worked at several environmental and arts organizations including EarthShare of Texas, a nonprofit focused on raising unrestricted funds for 40 of Texas’ most respected environmental and conservation organizations, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, and the Serie Project, a nonprofit that has collaborated with some of the most influential Latino artists in the country. In all of these positions, she coordinated and managed grants, built and grew various membership levels, and worked with a variety of stakeholders including boards, corporations, funders, and individuals to help raise millions of dollars and advance each organization’s respective mission.
In May 2017 she received her Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs with certificates in Nonprofit Studies and Arts and Cultural Management and Entrepreneurship. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
Sean Hanna, LAc, MAOM, spent eight and a half years—from 1991 to 2000—as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman. While stationed at 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Sean deployed to multiple international locations and saw combat action in support of Operation United Shield, Somalia, in 1995. Since his military duty, Sean served as director of the Veterans Mental Health Program (VMHP) at the Texas Veterans Commission, where he worked with the Texas Department of State Health Services to co-create and coordinate the Military Veteran Peer Network throughout the state of Texas as part of the VMHP. Sean earned his Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree from the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin (AOMA) in 2005, and is a lifetime member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4443.
Michelle has 20 years of experience in health and human services research, policy and program operations. Previously she worked at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) where she spent over 10 years overseeing the operations for a number of social services programs and working on Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Texas Women’s Health Program policy. Michelle most recently served as HHSC’s Associate Commissioner for Community Access and Services connecting Texans to social services through partnerships with faith- and community-based organizations. While at HHSC, Michelle also served as the Deputy State Medicaid/CHIP Director for the Office of Policy where she oversaw the state plans, waivers and administrative rules, as well as the analysis and development of program and benefits policy. Michelle also served as a Government Relations Specialist and in several Policy Advisor roles during her tenure at HHSC. Michelle has worked for the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Health Plan analyzing legislation for the Health Plan and Hospitals and leading implementation projects for the Health Plan, the Consumers Union in San Francisco overseeing the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools’ policy agenda for increasing school-based enrollment in health insurance, and Child Trends, a non-profit research organization in Washington, DC, working on health and human services research projects. Michelle has a bachelor’s degree from the Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Marilyn will focus primarily on projects related to population health and data sharing alongside John Petrila and Jennifer Gonzalez. Marilyn has spent her career working to empower people to improve their lives through policy change. Prior to joining the Institute, Marilyn was a public health policy practitioner for the Florida Department of Health Tobacco Free Florida program. She was responsible for developing, implementing, and evaluating state and local health policy and systems change initiatives. Marilyn managed and maintained a local community coalition that successfully passed tobacco-free policies in the social, public, and private sectors. During her graduate studies, she worked at the Child and Family Research Partnership and interned with Results for America, a nonprofit with a mission to help decision-makers in government use evidence and data to solve challenges. Most recently, Marilyn was a senior staff member on the City of Dallas Legislative team where she was responsible for assessing the impact of State and Federal legislation. Marilyn received her Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin and her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Florida.
Tegan has a substantial background working in the public mental health system, both as a therapist and as a policy and program implementation specialist. Prior to joining the Institute, Tegan held several key positions within the Texas Health and Human Services System where she found her niche in system transformation efforts. Most recently she served as the manager of the NorthSTAR Services Unit, working in partnership with organizations in the Dallas area to redesign the infrastructure under which public mental health and substance abuse services are delivered. Tegan also had a leadership role in the 2012 redesign of the Texas Children’s Mental Health service delivery system, facilitating the statewide implementation of a behavioral health assessment tool for children and youth, as well as several evidence-based and promising practices. These experiences set the foundation for her to understand and help address the unique challenges faced by local organizations when implementing system changes. Tegan has a Master of Science in Child Development and Family Science (emphasis: Couple and Family Therapy) from North Dakota State University.
Nelson Jarrin is an attorney with an extensive background at the Texas Capitol. In his role with MMHPI, Nelson oversees legislative policy development and works with stakeholders, state legislative leaders, and key government officials to effect change that will have a positive impact on the delivery of mental health services in Texas.
Nelson previously served as the Legislative Director and General Counsel for Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner, where he managed the Senator’s legislative agenda and supervised all legislative activities of the office. There, he specialized in health-related legislation, Senate Finance Article II, and issues pending before the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services and the Senate Committee on Finance. During the 2014-2015 cycle, Nelson oversaw the Sunset Advisory Commission process for Senator Schwertner, which included a review of all state health agencies.
Prior to joining Senator Schwertner’s team, Nelson served as an attorney at the Texas Legislative Council, where he drafted legislation and provided legal advice for the members of the Texas Legislature. During his time at the Legislative Council, he drafted over 800 bills and amendments in the areas of health law, hospital law, occupational regulation, and criminal law.
Nelson received his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame Law School. During his time at Notre Dame, he served as the President of the Hispanic Law Students Association. He received a B.S. in Economics, summa cum laude, from Texas A&M University.
Calvonah began her career with the Institute as a Smart Justice intern in 2017 and continued in that role through the beginning of 2018. During her time as an intern, she created supporting materials for mental health, behavioral health, and criminal justice collaborates, provided research support for legislative interim study charges, and supported implementation of the Dallas County Caruth Smart Justice Project by developing technical assistance materials and providing data analysis.
Prior to her internship, Calvonah actively participated in student organizations and worked in various departments at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). As a Research Assistant in the Criminology Department, Calvonah collected qualitative data to contribute to the first complete and standardized database of school shootings in the United States. Calvonah simultaneously served as President of both the Black Student Alliance and UTD’s chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society (Alpha Phi Sigma). She was a distinguished panelist for the university’s Student State of Diversity and worked alongside other student leaders to develop and host the University’s first Community Conversations, an event featuring an interactive panel of criminal-justice officials aimed to educate students and encourage open dialogue about police-community relations. In recognition of her many contributions, Calvonah received the Leadership, Service and Academic Excellence Award from UTD’s Director of Multicultural Affairs.
Calvonah holds a Bachelor of Arts (Magna Cum Laude) and Master of Science Degree in Criminology. As a Smart Justice Project Assistant, Calvonah will continue to support work across the state aimed at reducing unnecessary justice involvement for persons living with behavioral healthcare needs.
Dr. Keller is a psychologist with more than 20 years of experience in behavioral health policy and is a recognized leader in health and human services integration, behavioral health financing, and implementation of empirically supported practices for adults and children. Dr. Keller was also a founding partner of TriWest Group, a national behavioral health systems consulting firm focused on human service evaluation, community collaboration and management. His work has centered on helping local systems implement evidence-based and innovative care, as well as helping local and state governments develop the regulatory and financial framework to support them. Prior to forming TriWest, Andy worked in Colorado at the health plan level with a leading Medicaid HMO and at the provider level with the Mental Health Center of Denver. He has directed and led a range of community-based programs, including assertive community treatment teams, adult and child outpatient clinics, school-based and early childhood programs, and specialty programs for older adults and Latino communities.
Peggy comes to the Institute with a background in children and family work. Prior to returning to school to earn her master’s degree, she worked as a paralegal for a family law attorney specializing in complex child custody and visitation cases, including court appointed cases. Peggy also worked with the Texas Office of the Attorney General with the Elder Law and Public Health Division prosecuting Civil Medicaid Fraud cases. Peggy is actively involved in public education and most recently worked for the Austin Independent School District with its Community Schools Initiative where she provided support to the administrative supervisor for the initiative.
Peggy earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and her Master of Public Affairs degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin.
Song is a licensed mental health professional specializing in project management, trauma-informed care, and implementing programs in hospitals, schools, and community-based organizations. Prior to joining the Institute, Song worked at the Houston Methodist Hospital, where she managed specialized administrative processes in central administration and operations for their research and education institute.
Song completed her undergraduate and master’s degree at the University of Houston in psychology and social work, including a graduate fellowship in child and adolescent trauma. Her concentration was in mental and behavioral health with a focus on delivering trauma-informed care to children and adolescents. Her field practicums focused on social services program management, delivering crisis intervention and evidence-based trauma therapy modalities to children and families, and developing culturally competent practices while working with minority populations.
Jessica Lim, LCSW, is a Project Manager who works closely with John Petrila, Vice President of Adult Policy, and Michelle Harper, Vice President for Child and Family Policy.
Jessica is a licensed clinical social worker. For nearly a decade, she has worked in a multitude of direct care settings, conducting focus groups and key informant interviews, delivering crisis intervention and case management across generations, and assisting programs targeting communities’ mental health needs. Prior to joining the Institute, Jessica worked on a NIH-funded clinical research project at The University of Texas at Austin serving homebound, minority older adults by providing depression treatment utilizing teletherapy.
She received her bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications from Indiana University, Bloomington and her master’s degree in social work from The University of Texas at Austin. Jessica lives in Austin and is a member of the Greater Austin Social Workers’ professional organization.
Meghan has over 10 years of grant and contract management, budget management, business development, and administration experience. She has managed over $200 million of county, state, and federal grant funding for the state of Texas. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked for Harris County Judges Lina Hidalgo and Ed Emmett as the Special Assistant for Finance and Grant Budget Manager, where she oversaw and administered the Mental Health Jail Diversion Grants and other major County budget projects. She has worked for MD Anderson Cancer Center, Rice University, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and Railroad Commission of Texas.
Meghan has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Concordia University, Texas, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Ohio State University in Communications. She has also received her Project Management Professional Certification.
Ms. Martinez-Parham, MEd is based in El Paso, Texas, where her work focuses on best practice dissemination and translation, training, and evaluation regarding mental health services, child and family systems of care, and child welfare involved children and families. She has broad experience with culturally and linguistically competent models of care, evidence-based and best practices in the areas of child and family mental health, including wraparound, school-based, and early childhood models. Ms. Martinez-Parham is bilingual in English and Spanish and a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas.
Dr. Mathias holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy, and is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor. With nearly 20 years of experience in both community social services and community mental health, she has served in various clinical and administrative capacities throughout her career. Her service throughout Texas has centered on the indigent, homeless, and underserved populations. In her clinical and programmatic development opportunities, Dr. Mathias has applied her focus to individuals living with serious mental illness, co-occurring substance abuse disorders, and physical medical conditions through evidence-based and innovative care. She has served, directed and led a range of community-based programs, including an innovative Super Utilizer project, homeless services programs, juvenile and adult forensic treatment and assessment, as well as provided the operational and clinical oversight for an inpatient mentally ill offenders rehabilitation center. Her concentration in program development has been in integrated, trauma informed, person centered treatment models while developing supervision/leadership models supporting the clinicians of these highly intense assertive treatment projects.
Dr. Mathias will be applying her expertise to transforming the assertive community treatment model in Texas as well as providing assessment and clinical implementation strategy to improving the local mental health systems. She looks forward to contributing to policy research that will evolve and expand the mental health care systems of Texas to serve all those in need.
Marcellina Melvin, MA, is licensed in the states of Texas and Tennessee as a Professional Counselor. She is an experienced and passionate clinician who for the past 20 years has successfully navigated and worked within a variety of clinical systems: residential, in-home, outpatient and school-based. She has worked as a clinician, clinical supervisor, administrator, and trainer. For 16 years she worked for a Community Mental Health Center in their School-Based Program. During this time she was able to expand mental health services received by children at school within Davidson County as well as the Middle Tennessee region. Marcellina has extensive clinical training and specializes in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Trauma Focus- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Marcellina is a Certified SAMA (Satori Alternative to Managing Aggression) Facilitator as well as a CANS (Children Adolescent Needs Strength) Assessment Trainer. She has provided trainings to several school systems across Middle Tennessee.
Most recently, Isra served as the District Director for a member of the Texas House of Representatives. During her time there, she gained experience in management, community outreach, communications, and public policy.
Isra graduated from Texas A&M University in December of 2018 with a B.A. in International Studies with a concentration in Politics and Diplomacy and a minor in French. She volunteers for a variety of nonprofits including the Aga Khan Foundation, the Texas A&M Association of Former Students, and the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation Professionals Against Domestic Abuse initiative.
Samantha Miller, PhD, ABPP has collaborated with many of our nation’s leading child and adolescent psychologists, psychiatrists, and learning specialists, implementing evidence-based treatment programs in both clinical and school settings. Samantha consults with psychiatric hospitals, outpatient mental health programs, and therapeutic school settings on the implementation of evidence-based treatments and behavior management protocols.
Samantha has been awarded ABPP specialty board certification in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. This board certification attests to excellence in meeting the advanced education, training, and professional standing established by the specialty, as well as examination by peers attesting to expertise in the specialty. She has expertise in comprehensive diagnostic evaluations and delivering empirically supported treatments, including: Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT International; L1 Certified Trainer), Teacher Child Interaction Training (TCIT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (Linehan Institute|Behavioral Tech; Intensively Trained in DBT-A and DBT-C), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy (AEI advanced certificate), Motivational Interviewing, and exposure plus response prevention.
She earned her doctorate in clinical forensic psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Her educational background also includes a master’s degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Stanford University in California.
Prior to joining the Institute, Kyle Mitchell served as the Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Veterans Commission – the state agency that supports Texas veterans and their families through its programs of claims assistance, employment services, education, and the Fund for Veterans Assistance.
Kyle joined the Texas Veterans Commission from the Office of Governor Rick Perry, where he served as a Governor’s Advisor in the Office of Budget, Planning and Policy. In that role he was responsible for military, veterans, criminal justice, and public safety issues.
Kyle is a native Texan who returned to Texas after serving the State of Florida in both the executive and legislative branches. He served as Special Counsel to the Secretary at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He also worked as a committee attorney for the Florida House of Representatives. Prior to his government service, Kyle worked at a law firm with a focus on representing clients before the Florida Legislature.
Kyle is a Major and Judge Advocate in the Texas Army National Guard. He is currently serving as the Brigade Judge Advocate for the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade in San Antonio. He previously served the Chief, Operational Law, for the 36th Infantry Division and in the United States Army Reserve.
Kyle’s passion is his beautiful and talented wife, Amy, and their precious son, Jack.
Misty has more than 15 years of experience in the accounting industry. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked as a Senior Accountant at a public firm assisting in the preparation, review, and issuance of financial compilations. Misty has previously held accounting positions with several large corporations in the Dallas area, equipping her with extensive experience in all areas of financial preparation. She is proficient in many accounting software platforms and applications. Misty has extensive knowledge in financial reporting, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and corporate accounting. She has assisted in the preparation of tax work papers, tax returns, and both state and federal audits. She is also experienced in financial reporting for mergers and acquisitions.
Misty is currently in pursuing a Master’s in Accountancy from Western Governors University. She resides in the Fort Worth area with her husband Aaron, and their children.
Lacrica Olson, MPA, joined the Institute in June 2016. Prior to joining MMHPI, she served as the Community Impact Director for Health and Mental Health Initiatives at United Way of Denton County. There she was responsible for management and facilitation of a 34-member Behavioral Health Leadership Team, which formed in 2015 to guide system level change in Denton County.
Before moving to Texas, Lacrica worked for the Oklahoma State Department of Health as the Accreditation Coordinator for Cleveland and McClain County Health Departments, where she was responsible for public health accreditation and quality improvement. Other prior positions include, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services-Division of Aquaculture, Florida Department of Health, and Buffalo County Community Health Partners, in Kearney Neb.
Lacrica received her Master’s in Public Administration, and her Bachelor’s in Social Work from Florida State University and has significant experience as a trained facilitator with the development of grassroots partnerships to improve the health of local communities in the public and nonprofit sector.
Lacrica resides in Denton County with her daughter and serves on the Denton County Public Health Advisory Committee.
Kendal Perry, LMSW, works closely with the Senior Director of Evaluation and the policy team to support program planning and the coordination of evaluation projects conducted by the Institute.
Prior to joining the Institute, Kendal held a fellowship position as a Program Evaluation Fellow with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. During the fellowship, Kendal assisted with grant program development, acted as a liaison to external evaluators, and worked with the evaluation unit to communicate the impact of foundation grant programs through reports and briefs based upon key evaluation findings. She completed a graduate-level practicum with the Texas Parents as Teachers program within Mental Health America of Texas, and an undergraduate field placement with the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Bea Salazar Alternative School. She is a member of the American Evaluation Association.
Kendal received her Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in community and administrative leadership from The University of Texas at Austin, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of North Texas with her Bachelor of Social Work.
John Petrila was a member of the founding Board of the Policy Institute and is a committed member of our team. He is an attorney with 40 years of experience in mental health law and policy. Before joining MMHPI, he chaired the Department of Health Policy & Management at the University of South Florida College of Public Health. Prior to that he chaired the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy at the Florida Mental Health Institute where he built a department that worked extensively with administrative data to inform policy at the county and state level. He also was the first Director of Forensic Services in the Missouri Department of Mental Health and was Chief Counsel and Deputy Commissioner in the New York State Office of Mental Health.
He received his law degree and an advanced degree in mental health law from the University of Virginia School of Law. He is a national expert on data sharing and wrote the chapter on confidentiality for the 1999 Surgeon General’s report on mental health. He was a member of the John and Catherine MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Mandated Community Treatment and is past President of the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services. In 2011 he was named a Fulbright Scholar to the Netherlands and taught and conducted research at the Forensic Psychology Program at Maastricht University.
Making a difference is what inspires Ms. Riley to work tirelessly with non-profit organizations to achieve transformational results in philanthropy. She has served for 30 years as an institutional advancement leader in healthcare, higher education and public broadcasting with significant results in fundraising campaigns, operations and financial management, donor stewardship, board relations and communications.
Prior to joining the Institute, Ms. Riley served as a Senior Consultant at Dini Spheris. Before beginning her consulting practice, she concluded the Faith in our Future Campaign for the University of St. Thomas raising $146M in its most ambitious campaign to date. Prior to this campaign, she served as the Vice President for Development at The Methodist Hospital System from 2007-2012, building the organization’s first strategic development program and completing its first major $200M fundraising campaign. Ms. Riley has also worked for the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, KUHT Channel 8 and KWGS 89.5. Cynthia earned her undergraduate degree from the Southern Methodist University, and her Master in Liberal Arts degree from the University of St. Thomas.
Mr. Ritter joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute on May 1, 2014 as Chief Operating Officer. He oversees the judicial, university research, commercial insurance, and resource development activities of MMHPI.
Prior to joining the Institute, Phil served as Executive Vice President for Government and Stakeholder Affairs at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Before joining the airport, Phil held the position of Senior Vice President, Public Affairs with Texas Instruments Incorporated, with global responsibility for government affairs, community relations and corporate political activities. Prior to joining Texas Instruments, he served on the staff of the Texas Senate Jurisprudence Committee and as an attorney with Sun Exploration and Production Company in Dallas
Phil currently serves an elected Trustee of the Dallas County Community College District. In 2004 he led a successful campaign to secure voter approval for $450 million in real estate purchases and facility construction for the DCCCD. He is past Chairman of the Development Board of the University of Texas at Dallas and was a member of the Board of Governors of the Dallas Symphony Association. Mr. Ritter served as Campaign Chair and Chairman of the Board for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. As a member of the Board of Governors of The Dallas Foundation, he chaired the Advisory Board for the $12 million Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment (TRIAD) Fund.
Mr. Ritter earned an undergraduate degree with honors in Urban Studies, a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Maryland and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is admitted to the practice of law in Maryland and Texas.
Prior to joining the Institute, Linda worked as a District Coordinator of PBIS Multi-Tiered System of Behavioral Support/School Behavioral Health for Pasadena ISD. She has built her career in education working with at risk children and youth for over 30 years. Linda is a former bilingual elementary teacher, counselor, assistant principal, principal, Director of Education for a career and vocational training school, and district coordinator for PISD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless program. She has worked at all school levels – elementary, middle and high school as well as in traditional, charter and alternative school settings. Linda has also written and coordinated several awarded grants that total over 4 million dollars.
Linda received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University, her first master’s in counseling from the University of Houston, a second master’s in educational leadership from University of St. Thomas, and her doctorate in administrative leadership and supervision from the University of Houston. Linda is also an adjunct professor for the University of St. Thomas where she teaches graduate coursework in counseling and is a certified youth mental health first aid instructor.
Lauren Roth works primarily on the Caruth Smart Justice Project, a Dallas-based project funded by the W.W. Caruth Foundation. The project focuses on the diversion of people with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system into evidence-based treatment. Lauren works closely with the Vice President of Adult Policy and her Smart Justice colleagues to assure the project’s success. Before joining the Institute, Lauren served as the Regional Resources Evaluator at The Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, coordinating data collection efforts of several coalition partners across a 19-county service area surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Prior to her appointment at The Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Lauren conducted research within the Purdue University Psychology Department’s Intimate Partner Violence Lab. Lauren has a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of North Texas, and graduated Phi Betta Kappa with her Bachelor of Science in Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. While at Purdue, Lauren was a two-time Honorable Mention All-America, three-time U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, and proud Team Captain as a member of the Purdue Women’s Swim Team.
Melissa Rowan is the Executive Vice President of Policy Implementation, where she brings a practical, real-world focus to the Institute’s work in health systems and with service providers.
Melissa has been a Partner at Wertz & Rowan, a health care policy consulting firm she founded in Austin, and she has worked in and around Texas (and national) behavioral health and health systems for 25 years, focusing on broad health care issues, managed care, and behavioral health. After consulting with the Institute for the last four years and taking on an expanded role as Senior Fellow of Policy Implementation in April 2019, Melissa has worked on a range of projects with a primary focus on service expansion and quality improvement in real world settings and health care financing.
She has previously served as Healthcare Policy Director for the Texas Council of Community Centers in Austin, working closely with the 39 community mental health centers across the state on innovation and design of behavioral health programs for adults and children. She has also been appointed to the boards of the TMF Health Quality Institute and LifeWorks, as well as serving as Vice Chair of the HHSC Behavioral Health Integration Advisory Committee. She earned her MSW from The University of Texas at Austin, and an MBA from Concordia University. Melissa will also serve on the executive management team of the Institute.
Tarryn Sanchez is MMHPI‘s Okay to Say™ Campaign Manager, based in Austin. Tarryn has more than five years of experience working for full-service marketing agencies, managing campaigns and projects for clients such as FedEx, University of Colorado, and Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce.
Tarryn earned her degree from Vassar College, where she majored in media studies with a correlate in economics and public policy. She has volunteered for a number of nonprofits in a variety of roles, including: Junior Board Member for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Memphis Chapter; Board Member for Volunteer Odyssey; and High-School Student Mentor for TNAchieves (Tennessee) and Minds Matter of Denver.
William Schnapp has been involved in the development and delivery of mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities services for more than 50 years. He is a past member of the Texas Board of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and past Chairperson of the Texas Council on Offenders with Mental Impairments. Both of these positions were gubernatorial appointments. He was the Chairperson of the Mental Health Needs Council from 1994 to 2008.
Dr. Schnapp teaches Community, Administrative, and Forensic Psychiatry, Health Policy, and Ethics. He has held faculty appointments at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, The University of Texas School of Public Health, The Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Houston. He was the Director of the Mental Health Policy Analysis Collaborative from 2007 to 2011. He is the author of numerous publications and has written and produced two documentary films.
Dr. Schnapp was the Mental Health Policy Advisor to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett from 2011 to 2018. He served as Senior Policy Advisor to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo in 2019. While working in the office of the County Judge, Dr. Schnapp played a significant role in jail diversion, interagency collaboration, children’s services and health and human services during and after Hurricane Harvey.
He has been the Senior Policy Advisor at The Meadows Mental Policy Institute since 2015. Recently, he was appointed a Commissioner in the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health. He has been the recipient of numerous awards for advocacy, community leadership, and excellence in teaching.
Sam Shore, MSW, focuses his consultations on creating recovery- and resiliency-oriented systems of care in publically funded settings at the state and local levels. Sam holds a Masters in Social Work from The University of Texas at Austin and is licensed in Texas. He has 35 years of experience in the field of mental health services and policy. Sam has served in several leadership positions in his career and has acquired extensive experience in public mental health services strategic planning, policy development, operations, and evaluation. In his career in the Texas mental health system, Mr. Shore held positions in community mental health, state hospital psychiatric inpatient services, and the state office. Sam served as the project director for several successful SAMHSA grant projects, including the Mental Health Transformation grant, which allowed the state to work with community collaboratives to build a strong foundation of recovery-oriented systems of care for people with serious mental illness and children with severe emotional disturbance. He also served as the state director of mental health services for veterans and their families, and project director of a jail diversion and trauma recovery grant. The jail diversion grant focused on developing state and local policies and practices to benefit veterans and their families. Sam has special interests and experience in self-directed care, integration of physical and behavioral health systems, and trauma-informed care.
Aaron is a member of the Institute’s Veterans Team and supports policy and technical assistance projects for Texas veterans and their families. As a Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (Fleet Marine Force) and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, he is intimately familiar with the military and post-9/11 veteran population of Texas.
Prior to coming to the Institute, he established the Community Outreach Program at the Texas Veterans Commission. In that role he was responsible for working with communities to build collaborations among local organizations, assist them in accessing state programs and help them connect with veterans that were unaware or uninformed about state and federal veteran benefits.
Since joining the Institute, Aaron has worked closely with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to develop and support the Texas Veterans and Family Alliance grant program. He continues to support innovative programs and communities that help veterans and their families receive the care they need and deserve.
Aaron received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Southwestern University and is an MBA student at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.
Bill Solomon came to the Policy Institute with extensive experience in managing the financial operations of nonprofit institutions. In his previous role, he served for twenty years as Chief Financial Officer of The Dallas Foundation, where he directed the financial reporting, investing, compliance and information technology activities of the organization. Bill is excited to be able to contribute his financial talents and experience to help improve mental health services for all Texans. He is an Eagle Scout and enjoys spending time with his wife and four kids, especially in the great outdoors.
Ms. Sternbach specializes in the design, implementation, and management of health and human service systems with strong emphasis on Medicaid managed care, health finance policy and delivery system design. With over 30 years of experience, she has held senior management positions at the federal, state and provider levels and been a senior manager for one of the largest behavioral health managed care organizations. Ms. Sternbach focuses on health finance policy, managed care capacity development, organizational assessments and mergers, and assisting provider organizations with implementing accountable care strategies related to health reform.
Paul is based in Dallas and works closely with John Petrila, Vice President of Adult Policy and BJ Wagner, Senior Director of Smart Justice and Adult Policy. He is a Marine and a 30-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department.
Paul rose through the ranks of the Dallas Police Department serving as Patrol Bureau Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief, Patrol Commander, manager of the Public Information Office, a DPD helicopter pilot, and Commander of the Violent Crimes Task Force. His most recent assignment included serving as Assistant Chief of Police over the Investigations and Tactical Support Bureau which includes Violent Crimes, Homicide, Crimes Against Children, Narcotics, Gang, SWAT, and Criminal Intelligence services.
Throughout his many areas of service Paul was widely known for his ability to establish collaboratives enhancing community relations and public safety for the communities he served. He oversaw the establishment of a regional law enforcement alliance focused on property crime reduction. This area wide effort linked 16 participating agencies across North Texas that utilized emerging technologies to reduce crime. He was instrumental in the establishment of RIGHT Care in Dallas as part of the Caruth Smart Justice Project, an approach to early intervention with people in crisis that is helping transform the care system in Dallas.
Throughout his career Paul, a Master Peace Officer, was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Award, 3 Life Saving Awards, 4 Certificates of Merit, the Kids and Cops Award, a Mayoral Proclamation, National Airborne Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award, along with over 85 additional Dallas Police Department and external commendations. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from the Southeastern Oklahoma State University and is a graduate of the Caruth Police Institute and the FBI National Academy.
Candace joined the Institute with extensive experience in school safety, emergency management, and public service. Throughout her career, she has been adept at developing and managing vertical relationships and collaborating on organizational and private sector issues. Prior to joining the Institute, Candace served as the Director for Emergency Management at the Texas Education Agency (TEA). She served as the project manager for TEA, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, assisting affected schools with their recovery efforts. Candace has provided guidance and support to public schools across the state on school safety issues.
Previously, Candace served in President George W. Bush’s administration as a director on the Homeland Security Advisory Council staff at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC. She oversaw all activities of the Private Sector Advisory Committee, consisting of industry leaders from across the country and led numerous task forces that focused on security, information sharing, and culture. Prior to her federal service, Candace was the Executive Director for the United Way of Midland, Texas where she managed all aspects of the organization, including fundraising, budget, program development, and staff management.
Ron Stretcher brings over 30 years of experience in the social, health and judicial services field to MMHPI. Ron recently retired after 26 years with Dallas County, serving the last eleven years as criminal justice director. Ron was instrumental in lowering and stabilizing the jail population, improving pre-trial release services and expanding jail diversion for special populations. Ron also served 10 years as deputy director of the Dallas County Juvenile Department where he developed and implemented family preservation programs, a charter school for local juvenile facilities, and an alternative education program for students expelled from school. Ron also managed several grant programs for Dallas County, including the Ryan White HIV Services and related programs. Prior to joining Dallas County, Ron worked for the Texas Department of Human Services (now part of the state HHSC) in the income assistance division (the former Food Stamps and AFDC programs).
Ron Stretcher represented the Dallas County Commissioners Court on the Board of Directors of the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority, and was chairman of the board during the transition from managed care to a community center model of providing services. Ron was a founding member of the Dallas County Behavioral Health Leadership Team, which coordinates behavioral health services. Ron also founded the Texas Criminal Justice Planners Executive Forum and is a past chair of the North Central Texas Council of Governments Policy Development Committee.
Patrick Tennant, PhD, LMFT, is a Project Manager at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy working on issues related to children’s mental health. Dr. Tennant has been working in the mental health field as a researcher, evaluator, and clinician for nearly a decade. His work has focused on combining methodological and analytic rigor with direct clinical experience to bridge the gap between research and practice. Prior to joining the Baker Institute, he was a research partner of the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing and a practicing family therapist with a non-profit counseling center.
His recent projects include a multi-phase, multi-site evaluation of child maltreatment prevention programs, an examination of the implementation and impact of an alternative approach to school discipline, and the exploration of county-level indicators related to children’s health and well being in the state of Texas. He has also consulted with a variety of social service organizations on issues related to measurement, data analysis, and the use of evaluation to support strategic planning.
Dr. Tennant has a BA in Psychology from Loyola University New Orleans, an MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northwestern University, an MA and PhD in Human Development and Family Sciences from The University of Texas at Austin, and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Texas.
Chris has more than a decade of experience as a graphic designer and art director working for both in-house creative groups and advertising agencies. Her prior achievements include designing the 2015 Growing Healthy Kids fundraising campaign for Whole Kids Foundation, which raised $3 million to help more than 500,000 children by funding school gardens and healthy food education. Chris also worked for six years at T3 Advertising Agency as Senior Art Director for the Dell Small and Medium Business Segment producing and art directing direct mail and monthly catalogs each with a circulation of over 3 million. She received her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in Fine Art.
Matt Thompson, of Castle Communications, is a messaging architect with an intuitive talent for crafting and shaping effective communications. He is the author of hundreds of speeches, letters, and opinion pieces for CEOs, U.S. Senators, presidential candidates, governors, and agency officials. An Ohio State graduate, he started his career in newspapers, writing everything from sports to crime to enterprise features at publications in Virginia and Ohio. After making the jump online, he worked on various websites produced by the Statesman and San Antonio Express-News.
In 2008, he joined the Office of Texas Governor Rick Perry as a senior writer, serving as Gov. Perry’s principal speechwriter for the final four years of his term. During his time with the Governor, he directed the publication of such projects as the annual reports for the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and Gov. Perry’s end-of-term report to the Legislature. He also served as Deputy Communications Director for the Texas Attorney General.
Matt’s work has appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times, and his speeches have been presented on three continents.
Monica Thyssen has more than 20 years of experience in both health and behavioral health policy and has held a variety of positions in Texas with a primary focus on Medicaid, Medicaid managed care, children’s mental health and the integration of physical health and behavioral health services. She has worked extensively at the national, state and community level on the execution of major systemic advocacy activities and the development and presentation of recommendations that impact health policy. Monica led the implementation of the integration of physical health and behavioral health services into Medicaid managed care in Texas and has provided technical assistance on integration at both the state and national level.
Lisa Tomaka, MS, MPA, has 25 years of experience in children’s mental health, wraparound, and systems of care. Ms. Tomaka’s primary responsibilities focus on assisting with the implementation and coordination of children’s mental health service systems. She has served as project lead for a comprehensive children’s behavioral health system assessment in North Texas, a statewide trauma-informed care practice assessment, and a system assessment and demonstration project in Dallas, Texas, for school- and community-based behavioral and mental health services for youth.
Prior to working with MMHPI, Ms. Tomaka was instrumental in redesigning children’s mental health service delivery in El Paso, Texas. She has also developed and implemented a college readiness program for at-risk minority high school students and several evidence-based prevention and early intervention programs for families at risk of child welfare system involvement.
Jessy has over a decade of experience in Texas criminal justice policy, with an extensive background in data analysis and visualization and policymaking. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked at the Council of State Governments Justice Center (JC). At JC, she worked on state and county level projects, specializing in Texas based recidivism and indigent defense assessment and analysis. She created and managed the Five County Recidivism project after authoring a proxy risk assessment, so counties could have reliable intra and inter-county recidivism comparisons to guide policy making at the pretrial and reentry points. The discoveries from this project were integrated in the key measures of the Stepping Up Initiative, a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail. She was also the lead analyst on the Harris County Public Defender assessment report, which lead to positions and presentations at state and national indigent defense data collection and measurement options.
Prior to JC, Jessy was the senior research analyst at the Office of Court Administration, a consultant with MGT of America, and on the research staff at Texas Workforce Commission where she tracked employment outcomes for participants in Project RIO (Re-Integration of Offenders). Jessy received her bachelor’s degree from University of Texas at Austin, her Master of Public Policy from the College of William and Mary, and her Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Houston.
Kate Volti has an extensive background working on health and human services issues for children and youth. Previously, Kate held several positions with the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), including as the Director of Community Access in the Office of Social Services, as the Senior Policy Advisor charged with designing the STAR Kids Medicaid managed care model for children with disabilities, as an External Relations Specialist, and as the lead for the Task Force for Children with Special Needs. Kate came to HHSC after serving in the Texas Senate as a Senior Policy Advisor where she focused on initiatives to: improve early childhood nutrition; increase coordination of services for children with special needs; require insurers to cover Applied Behavioral Analysis for children when medically necessary; and improve support for kin care providers of children involved with Child Protective Services.
Kate received her Master of Public Affairs at the LBJ School at the University of Texas and her Bachelor of Arts in Cross Cultural Anthropology and Political Studies from Pitzer College.
B. J. Wagner, MS, possesses a unique blend of first-hand law enforcement experience and a deep knowledge of police policy and operating procedures, program evaluation, technical advising and procedural reviews. A noted leader in law enforcement policy, her 2019 review of the Austin Police Department resulted in significant departmental policy improvements regarding the city’s audit response and its capacity to capably deal with mental health-related situations. And, as the primary architect of the RIGHT Care-Dallas program, and engineer of many of Texas’ prison reentry systems, her work has led to the development of nationally recognized and internationally awarded law enforcement, criminal justice, crisis intervention and response systems.
B. J. began her career in law enforcement as a county jailer and later as a law enforcement officer in rural, urban, and border areas of Texas. In response to the increasing number of contacts with persons with mental illness she experienced as a law enforcement officer, she chose to pursue studies in clinical neuropsychology and counseling psychology at Texas A&M and began working in community mental health clinics. She continued consulting with the field of law enforcement on best practices as she provided services to clientele through local mental health authorities, and has developed curriculum for disciplines across the criminal justice system on mental health awareness, symptom recognition, and verbal de-escalation techniques.
At the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), B.J. developed front end diversion and continuity of care systems for offenders with special care needs and guided Medicaid implementation for limited populations within the State’s prison systems. While there, B.J. worked closely with the Department of State Health Services to redesign the adult assessment for admission to community mental health services to include criminogenic risk factors to ensure all persons being assessed in the public mental health system also had criminogenic needs addressed. In 2015, after serving as Deputy Director for the Reentry and Integration Division at TDCJ, B. J. joined the Texas Veterans Commission during the regular legislative session. She worked closely with governmental relations analyzing proposed legislation and advising on emerging trends and state and local initiatives to address the needs of trauma affected veterans at risk of justice involvement.
In 2015, B.J. joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), leading its work in Smart Justice. In that capacity, she has helped expand its reach to larger behavioral and health systems and assisted communities across Texas to both increase prevention and intervention services and reduce chronic crisis cycles and justice involvement for people with complex healthcare needs.
In October of 2019, BJ was appointed by the University of North Texas Dallas through a unique relationship with MMHPI as the Interim Executive Director of the Caruth Police Institute. In this role, B.J. will set strategic goals and plans to shape the future of the Institute’s police training, education, academic offerings, and research, as well as determining the development of capacity for evaluation, policy analysis, and technical assistance.
She is currently pursuing a PhD in Qualitative Criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Prior to joining the Institute, Victoria Walsh worked for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), where most recently she was the team lead for statewide administration and leadership of the SNAP-Education Program. In this role, she developed and implemented statewide nutrition education and obesity prevention goals, objectives, policies and procedures in accordance with federal guidance. Victoria also served as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Medicaid/CHIP Division during her time at HHSC. Victoria has a background working on program implementation within community health centers, conducting research on child support and paternity establishment guidelines, and managing a process and outcomes evaluation. Victoria has a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Casie Wenmohs, MPA, is an experienced communication and public affairs professional with expertise in policy analysis, advocacy, community engagement, and project oversight. She has ten years of state governmental relations experience.
Casie has volunteered extensively with The Junior League of Austin, Con Mi MADRE, Terry Foundation, and Meals on Wheels. She’s been very involved with PTA at the local, city, and state level and has served Austin ISD on the District Advisory Council and Citizens’ Bond Advisory Committee. Casie is a member of the Leadership Austin Class of 2015 and was a McBee Fellow with the Austin Area Research Organization in 2013.
She attended The University of Texas at Austin where she received a Bachelor of Journalism degree with highest honors in 1993 and a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1995. With her husband Will Wenmohs, a CPA, Casie has three sons who attend Austin ISD schools.
Bill Wilson, MSW, has over 10 years of experience as an editor of technical reports and proposals in the area of behavioral health care. He also has over 20 years of experience as a clinical social worker, primarily in child welfare, chronic pain, and addiction treatment settings, with particular clinical and administrative experience with home-based family preservation programs. In addition, he has served in program development and quality improvement roles throughout his career. Bill earned his Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan.
With TriWest Group, Bill has served as a consultant and project coordinator on multiple projects in Texas, Washington State, California, Nebraska, and Colorado, mainly for projects targeting intensive services for children and families and behavioral health systems assessments. He also served as project coordinator for The Meadows Foundation feasibility study and subsequent development and launch of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.
Dr. Zahniser is responsible for the design of all quantitative and qualitative analysis by Institute staff and subcontractors. He is a licensed clinical psychologist with 25 years of evaluation research, consultation, and program development experience related to health and human services policy. Dr. Zahniser has extensive experience in both applied quantitative and qualitative methodologies, with particular expertise in the areas of primary care / behavioral health integration, community-level outcome measurement for adults and children, provider and local system data-driven innovation and performance improvement, and best practice fidelity. He also has particular skill in recovery promotion and stigma reduction, often working closely with consumers and family members on peer-driven evaluation.
Carol L. Alter, MD, is a psychiatrist with over thirty years experience in diverse settings including clinical practice, research, administration, healthcare delivery, and the pharmaceutical industry, with a focus on psychiatric care of patients with medical illness. She has been engaged in research regarding this topic, has helped to implement a number of integration programs across both public and private sector settings and has been an advocate for policy reforms aimed at insuring reimbursement and access to integrated and collaborative care. She is the author of numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts, monographs, and book chapters related to psychosomatic medicine, and value based psychiatric care.
Most recently she served as the Chief Medical Officer of Mindoula Health, the first national provider of technology enabled Collaborative Care. She led efforts at Georgetown University to implement a Collaborative Care program in safety net clinics, and partnered with the AIMS Center, the American Psychiatric Association and the Kennedy Forum to facilitate reimbursement for Collaborative Care.
Her work focusing on delivery of effective behavioral health services in primary care settings has expanded to include a focus on Value Based delivery models, one component of which is use of measurement based care (MBC) and quality measurement. She is the chair of the APA Committee on Performance and Quality Measurement and is leading efforts to ensure that MBC is delivered across all behavioral health services through work with provider and employer organizations and health policy makers.
Currently she provides consultation to several national and regional health organizations who are engaged in implementing integrated behavioral health care and other value based services.
In September 2019 she became the Vice Chair and Professor, Department of Psychiatry at Baylor Scott and White with responsibility for leading behavioral health system development across all of Baylor Scott and White programs.
Dr. Alter received her medical degree from the George Washington University in 1985 and did her psychiatric training at the Mayo Clinic, Cornell University Medical College, and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
David Brown is a nationally recognized expert on security, law enforcement and public safety in the inner city. He is the former and longest tenured (since the 1960s) police chief of Dallas, the nation’s ninth largest city. Brown currently serves as a contributor for ABC News where he provides on-air perspective on live security events and news impacting the country.
An active participant in causes impacting the Dallas community, Brown joined the board of Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and serves as a Senior Fellow. He also has been named senior advisor to The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, which focuses on grant giving to under-privileged and formerly incarcerated children.
Brown leads from an authentically grounded place of duty and service borne out of commitment to his hometown. Called to serve as an officer based on his upbringing in the inner city, Brown worked his way up through the Dallas police force onto the department’s SWAT team, which he led and served on for seven years (1996-2003.)
When Brown became deputy chief in 2003, Dallas had led the country in violent crimes for six years running. Working side-by-side with (retired) Chief David Kunkle, Brown created impact via accountability among the 3,500+ sworn officers comprising the force. Brown personally led and managed the change initiative, meeting weekly and daily with officers to establish new performance measures. The seven-year change effort led to the most significant reduction in crime in the city’s history, increased diversity and education levels within the department’s managerial ranks, and established clearer performance measures, and advancement and succession criteria.
Brown is perhaps best known for his steady leadership during the worst police shooting in the nation’s history (July 2016.) Direct challenges to protestors, combined with heartfelt commitment to surviving families of the fallen (five) and wounded (nine) officers, will remain etched in the minds and hearts of those impacted by the tragedy. Following the shooting, a news outlet called Brown “America’s chief who comforted a nation.”
Brown’s community-based approach has been recognized as a model for how to enforce laws and police the inner city. David is frequently invited to speak to groups both locally and across the country, including recent engagements at the Bank of America Senior Leadership Meeting, the United Talent Artists Executive Retreat, and the Southwest Airlines Power of Inclusion Meeting. David has been recognized locally in the Dallas community and received both the Nancy Lieberman Charities Trailblazer Award, and the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award, which was presented to Brown by the Maguire Ethics Center at Southern Methodist University (SMU.)
In June, 2017 Brown released Called to Rise: A Life in Faithful Service to the Community That Raised Me, which chronicles his life and professional experiences via personal memoirs.
Brown earned an MBA at Amberton University, Garland, TX (2001) and a bachelor of arts (B.A.) from Dallas Baptist University (1999.) He earlier attended the University of Texas (1979-1983) but left to start what would become a 33-year career in law enforcement.
David and his wife, Cedonia, reside in Dallas with their 10-year-old daughter. When Brown isn’t working or thinking through security issues, he likes to exercise, play golf, travel and spend time with his grandson.
Dr. Tony Fabelo is the Institute’s full-time, Austin-based Senior Fellow for Justice Policy. In this role Dr. Fabelo works with the Institute’s Smart Justice team providing strategic guidance and growing our capacity for local system assessment and system-wide reform. Fabelo was the executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council from 1991-2003. Before that, he served in other capacities assisting, since 1984, five Texas governors and 17 regular biennial Texas legislatures. In recent years he has worked on correctional system reforms in Texas, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana as part of the Justice Reinvestment initiative of the center. He served in 2010-2016 in the US Department of Justice Science Advisory Board. In early 2012 he was appointed to a prestigious panel of the National Academy of Sciences that issued in 2014 a national report on the consequences of high incarceration rates. He was one of the authors of Breaking School Rules, a landmark examination of school discipline policies in Texas that set in motion a national examination of this issue. In 2015 he completed the most comprehensive ever data-driven examination of the Texas juvenile justice system and was the main author of the related report, Closer to Home. In 2017 he assisted the Texas Governor’s Office Criminal Justice Division in the design and implementation of a statewide strategy to combat child sex trafficking. Most recently, he served as the deputy director of the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments. Among other recognitions, his career-long work with the Texas District and County Attorney Association earned him in 2015 the organization’s award for distinguished service to the association and the profession. Fabelo holds a doctorate in government from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
As the Senior Fellow of Community Engagement, Susan will be extending her many relationships in Houston and the wider Gulf Coast Region to help Cynthia Riley, Vice President of Philanthropy in broadening and deepening the reach of philanthropy for the Institute. She will in particular support strategic projects in that region, and also deploy her insights to support Cynthia in her leadership of our development capacity.
Prior to joining the Institute, Susan served as President & CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston from 2011 through 2017. During her time there, the organization developed and expanded its programing for veterans’ services, school-based efforts, and increased its advocacy work for improving state-level mental health policy. Susan’s background is primarily in institutional strategy and advancement for medical centers and medical schools including U.T. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University.
Dr. Guzmán is a Senior Fellow with the Institute and brings expertise in integrated behavioral health, mental health workforce development, and evaluation. Dr. Guzmán coordinated policy evaluation at the Institute from 2015-2019, providing leadership for the Institute’s grant writing efforts and behavioral health systems assessments. During her last two years at the Institute, Dr. Guzmán oversaw human resources, operations, and grants/contract management as Vice President for Administration. Before coming to the Institute, Dr. Guzmán led evaluation and designed grant programs at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and taught at The University of Texas at Austin for 10 years. Dr. Guzmán received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University at Albany, State University of New York, and her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Vassar College.
In 2007, after a long career in the Washington, DC region, Kathy relocated to Houston to take the position of Chief of Staff and Policy Director to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. Her duties included working with the Judge’s individual project leads on all aspects of county initiatives from health care to transportation, budget and bond issues, and coordinating county legislative efforts with the staffs of County Commissioners.
Kathy worked on Judge Emmett’s priorities, including mental health for both adults and children. She assisted with the passage and implementation of the Jail Diversion Pilot Program. For children, she was able to secure funding for the Communities in Schools program that placed mental health counselors in public schools. She also worked on the Astrodome repurposing project. Kathy met with community leaders and civic groups seeking their support for the project to lay out a three-tiered funding plan. Following Hurricane Harvey, she again met with these groups seeking input for flood control bonds and to prioritize projects.
Quianta Moore, M.D., J.D., is the Fellow in Child Health Policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. Her research focuses on developing empirically informed policies to advance the health of children. Moore utilizes mixed methodologies, including community-based participatory research and surveys, to gain insight into the health needs of communities and to develop data-driven, tailored health policy recommendations. Moreover, she helps funders and community stakeholders develop strategies to support an equitable future for children and their communities. She was given a proclamation by Mayor Sylvester Turner acknowledging the impact of her work in the greater Houston area and is also a Robert Wood Johnson Interdisciplinary Research Leader.
Dr. Moore received an M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Cornell University.
Katie Olse was appointed executive director of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services in December of 2016. She formerly served as the Deputy Commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Prior to this she was Associate Commissioner for DFPS and Chief of Staff for the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). She served as the Senior Policy Advisor for DFPS and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services in the Office of Social Services at HHSC. She was previously the Director of the Center for Consumer and External Affairs at DFPS where she worked closely with the DFPS Commissioner and the Legislature on critical issues around Child Protective Services and children and family support.
Prior to joining the HHS system, she was the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Texas where she worked on health and human services issues as well as other issues including education, criminal justice, and voter education. Katie has a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and has completed graduate studies at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Dr. Selby leads all of the Institute’s work with child and family-serving systems, and has 20 years of experience with projects in mental health, child welfare and juvenile justice settings. He has worked as an administrator, consultant and evaluator across a range of institutional and community-based settings in juvenile justice, mental health and child welfare. Dr. Selby has specific expertise in fidelity-based approaches to evaluating and implementing evidence-based models, and he consults in the areas of evaluation, program development, and training with government and community-based agencies and foundations.
Seema Shah, MD, is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who has been involved in behavioral health care for over a decade. She completed her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Shah is board certified in both Adult Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. She completed her residency and fellowship at Brown University.
Prior to moving to Texas, Dr. Shah worked in a mental health clinic embedded in an alternative school setting in the Philadelphia area. She worked closely with a social work team as well as teachers and school administrators to treat the emotional needs of their students.
In 2013, Dr. Shah helped start an integrated behavioral health program at Children’s Health Pediatric Group affiliated with Children’s Health in Dallas. She led a team of 2 clinical psychologists and 11 social workers that provided behavioral health treatment, consultation, and education to 20 pediatric outpatient clinics that served approximately 80,000 children, most of whom were on Medicaid.
Dr. Shah currently serves on the board of the National Network of Child Psychiatry Access Programs (NNCPAP), and is a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA). She has presented nationally on the topic of integrated behavioral health care.
Judge John J. Specia’s career has been dedicated to public service for more than three decades and is defined by his commitment to children and the prevention of child abuse. He provided leadership in establishing the Texas Supreme Court Children’s Commission and forming Child Protection Courts throughout the state. Judge Specia further brought his experience and vision to the Texas judiciary as the first Jurist in Residence with the Children’s Commission in 2009.
Judge Specia established both the Bexar County Children’s Court, which provides specialized services for children and families, and the Family Drug Treatment Court, which handled Child Protective Services cases and became a model for the state. He was Vice-Chair of the Supreme Court’s Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families, and Chair of the Supreme Court Task Force on Foster Care. Judge Specia served as District Judge of the 225th District Court in San Antonio for 18 ½ years (1988-2006) and was the Administrative Judge for Bexar County District Courts for four of those years. He also served as Master of the 289th Family and Juvenile District Court (1985-1988). He was one of the state’s first Child Welfare Attorneys, serving as a Regional Attorney for the former Texas Department of Human Services (1980-1985), and he was a Family Law Attorney in private practice before becoming a District Judge.
In July 2016, Judge Specia resumed his Mediation, Arbitration and Private Judging Practice at Plunkett, Griesenbeck & Mimari, Inc. (formerly Plunkett & Griesenbeck, Inc.) Judge Specia practiced at Plunkett & Griesenbeck, Inc., from 2007 to 2012, where he conducted over 500 mediations and arbitrations. In 2012, Gov. Rick Perry appointed him Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, where he served until May 2016. Judge Specia spearheaded an overhaul of Child Protective Services, developed system enhancements, and significantly expanded the child abuse and neglect prevention and early intervention program. Under his leadership, Texas became a national leader in child welfare transformation efforts and research into child abuse and neglect fatalities.
Dr. Jacqualene Stephens, Ph.D., LMFT, joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy team in July 2017. Dr. Stephens is a clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with over 25 years of experience in both clinical and administrative roles. Her clinical career focused on ensuring access to mental health services for low-income individuals and historically underserved minority communities. Dr. Stephens will support successful change across MMHPI and evaluate topics for staff development. Jacqui will also work with Human Resources during the hiring and onboarding process to support new employees and newly promoted staff with acclimating to the Institute and their individual development plans.
She joins the Institute after having served more than twenty years as the Director of Behavioral Health and Social Services at Parkland Health & Hospital System where she was responsible for a full range of mental health and psychosocial services in a network of primary care clinics, homeless programs and women’s clinics that served a low income, culturally diverse patient population. Dr. Stephens also took the lead on innovative projects such as Shared Medical Appointments, Intensive Case Management of High Risk patients and Telemedicine. In addition to her clinical expertise in the area of integration of behavioral health and primary care, which she believes is essential, Dr. Stephens is also skilled in organizational consultation, executive coaching and cultural competency.
Dr. Stephens has been consultant to the Dallas Cowboys Football Team since 2004, working with players on mental health and family issues and also works with NBA teams and other athletes in the same capacity. She is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, in the departments of Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation Counseling Psychology.
Dr. Stephens has been the recipient of multiple awards including the CEO Award from Parkland Health & Hospital System, Distinguished Psychologist of the Year from the Dallas Psychological Association, the Prism Clinician Award from the Mental Health Association of Greater Dallas and was named Outstanding Alumni from the University of North Texas. For Dr. Stephens “shifting how we as a state think about mental health and ensuring it is seen as essential” is her passion and she is excited to be able to do so as part of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.