Our Team

Gary Blau, PhDExecutive Director, The Hackett Center for Mental Health

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 BlauChief of Staff, The Hackett Center for Mental Health

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 BramlettDirector of Community Engagement

Gary joined MMHPI as Director of Community Engagement. 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 five 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 years, 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 stretch to over two hundred counties in total. Gary has an undergraduate degree in social work from Southern University in New Orleans and a Master of Social Work from The University of Texas at Arlington.

Since beginning work at MMHPI, Gary has worked on multiple projects on both the adult and children’s teams, such as the Lubbock Community Assessment, Texoma Community Assessment, The Depelchin Project (Harris County Foster System), and the Trauma Informed San Antonio project. Outside of assessments, Gary has led multiple organizations and groups of organizations in strategic planning and fostered cooperation across multi-organization consortiums and committees. In addition, Gary has worked to ensure community engagement by making multiple visits to Local Mental Health Authorities, Non-Profit Organizations, Health and Human Services, and Department of State Health Services.

Becca BruneChief Strategy Officer and Regional Executive Director, South Texas

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.

Sean HannaSenior Director of Veteran Initiatives

Sean is the Senior Director of Veteran Initiatives at MMHPI, where he leverages his experience and knowledge of statewide peer network development to spearhead innovative projects and policy development focused on meeting the mental health needs of Texas veteran and their families.

Before joining MMHPI, Sean served as the Director for Veterans Mental Health for the Texas Veterans Commission, and he has played an instrumental role building and supporting the military veteran peer network across the state. Sean spent eight years in the Navy, serving as a Hospital Corpsman, where he deployed to multiple international locations and saw combat action in support of Operation United Shield (Somalia). He also earned his Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree from the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin (AOMA), and is a licensed acupuncturist in the state of Texas.

Since joining the Institute, Sean has helped thought leaders at the local, state, and national levels develop creative solutions to improve access and quality of veteran mental health services. He has helped local communities implement both novel and established technology solutions to increase collaboration and outreach at the community and state levels, worked closely with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission on improving the delivery of the Texas Veterans and Family Alliance grant, and participated in state and national conversations to help guide and inform veteran mental health initiatives and broader system development.

Michelle HarperExecutive Vice President of State Policy

Michelle Harper, MPA, is based in Austin and has over 20 years of experience in health and human services research, policy, and program operations. In her role as Executive Vice President of State Policy, Michelle oversees projects and initiatives aimed at improving the mental health care system for children and youth, and provides leadership on the Institute’s local and state policy initiatives.

Previously, she worked at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for 10 years. While at HHSC, she served as the associate commissioner for community access and services, overseeing the operations for programs that connect Texans to social services through partnerships with faith- and community-based organizations, and as the deputy state Medicaid/CHIP director for the Office of Policy, where she oversaw the development of Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Texas Women’s Health Program policy. Michelle also served as a government relations specialist and in several policy advisor roles during her tenure at HHSC. She has also 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 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.

Tegan HenkeDirector of Program Implementation for Child and Family Policy

Ms. Henke has a substantial background working in the public mental health system, both as a therapist and as a policy and program implementation specialist. As a therapist, she wore many hats, working with children and youth, as well as adults, with serious mental health needs. Most notably, Ms. Henke provided crisis intervention and follow-up services to children, youth, and their families. This work allowed her to witness, firsthand, the challenges faced by both families and service providers as they strive to obtain and deliver, respectively, the highest quality services for children and youth. As a result of this work, she shifted her focus to policy, in the hopes of improving the mental health system of care so those seeking services have access to high quality care when they need it.

Prior to joining MMHPI, Ms. Henke held several key positions within the Texas Health and Human Services System (HHS) where she found her niche in system transformation efforts. In her time with HHS, she served as the manager of the NorthSTAR Services Unit, working in partnership with organizations in Dallas and Collin County to redesign the infrastructure under which public mental health and substance use disorder services are delivered. She 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 and several evidence-based practices into the Children’s Mental Health system. These positions set the foundation for her to understand and help address the unique challenges faced by local organizations when implementing changes.

Ms. Henke joined MMHPI in December 2017. While at the Institute, she has played a key role in several projects. She has worked with teams to complete system assessments in Bexar County, Lubbock, Texoma (Grayson and Fannin Counties), and Nueces County. Most recently, she led MMHPI’s assessment of Dallas County’s mental health service delivery systems for children, youth, and families. She also served as a Project Lead on the Texas Coordinated Access to Recover Emotionally in Schools (CARES) Training and Texas CARES grants. Together, these grants brought training to school district staff to help them better identify mental health needs as well as services to students and staff experiencing mental health distress as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Ms. Henke has a Master of Science in Child Development and Family Science (emphasis: Couple and Family Therapy) from North Dakota State University.

Nelson Jarrin, JDVice President of Government Affairs

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.

Peggy KempProject Assistant for Child and Family Policy

Peggy Kemp comes to the Institute with a background in children and family issues. 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 work with the Texas Office of the Attorney General with the Elder Law and Public Health Division prosecuting Civil Medicaid Fraud cases. She is also actively involved in public education and most recently worked for the Austin Independent School District (AISD) with its Community Schools Initiative where she provided support to the administrative supervisor for the initiative. She served on the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) at AISD. 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.

While at MMHPI, Peggy was a contributor on the Mental and Behavioral Health Roadmap and Toolkit for Schools. She also has completed the Brain Story Certification and serves with two other team members as a facilitator. Peggy also led a team to complete the Region 4 Education Service Center Mental Health Strategic Framework, as well as supported schools in the Texas Coordinated Access to Recover Emotionally in Schools (CARES) and CARES Training programs funded by The American Red Cross. Peggy interned with the Institute during the summer of 2017 with the Child and Family Team.

Amanda Mathias, PhDSenior Director of Innovation

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 MelvinDirector of Program Implementation for Child and Family Policy

Marcellina joined Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in April 2018. She is the Director of Program Implementation for the Child and Family Policy team. Before joining the Institute, Ms. Melvin had over 18 years of experience in developing and implementing mental health programs, systems, and procedures in primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational settings. She is a child, adolescent, and family-trained Licensed Professional Counselor. She has over 25 years of experience in providing direct clinical and supervisory services to children, adolescents, parents, and young adults in a variety of clinical settings: residential, in-home, outpatient, private practice, primary, secondary, and post-secondary locations.

While at MMHPI, Marcellina was the project lead on the American Red Cross Texas CARES grant and supported the Texas CARES-Training grant. These grants helped to support the mental and behavioral health needs of teachers, students, and their families along the Gulf Coast that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. She assisted in leading a comprehensive environmental scan of the child welfare services in Harris county as well as assisted in the financial analysis of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department MST program. In addition to these projects, Ms. Melvin helped in the development of a Mental Health Strategic Framework for Region 4 ESC. She also co-lead the Rebuild Texas Dickinson Independent School District project, where she was instrumental in the development and delivery of curriculum for early childhood teachers, local early childcare center/daycare center staff, and parents in Dickinson ISD. The trainings were intended to improve the social-emotional health of young children.

Marcellina has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Xavier University and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Fisk University.

Samantha Miller, PhD, ABPPSenior Director of Clinical Implementation

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.

Kyle Mitchell, JDVice President of Adult and Veteran Policy

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.

Kendal PerryExecutive Chief of Staff
Kendal Perry, LMSW, is Executive Chief of Staff with the Institute, providing strategic programmatic and organizational support to the President/CEO and Institute executive leadership. In this role, she supports the planning and implementation of key projects and convenings and acts as the primary liaison to the Institute’s Board of Directors. Kendal joined the Institute in August 2015 as an Evaluation Project Manager and was promoted to Assistant Director of Evaluation in January 2017, working closely with the Senior Director of Evaluation to support Institute evaluation projects.
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. 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.
Phil Ritter, JDChief Operating Officer

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.

Lauren RothSenior Project Manager

Lauren Roth, MS, is based in Dallas and is a Senior Project Manager working within the Adult Policy team. Lauren provides project management on initiatives aimed at improving the mental health care system for adults, including the intersection where the criminal justice and mental health care system meet. Since Lauren began working at MMHPI in 2017, Lauren has worked on several system assessment, evaluation, and implementation projects. Examples of her work include 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. She also worked on the San Antonio Area State Hospital Redesign project, a stakeholder engagement and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis report delivered to the San Antonio State Hospital Redesign Executive Committee. She works closely with her Adult Policy and Smart Justice team colleagues at MMHPI to assure each projects’ success.

Before joining the Institute, Ms. Roth 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 (DFW) Metroplex. Prior to her appointment at The Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, she conducted research within the Purdue University Psychology Department’s Intimate Partner Violence Lab. Lauren has also worked clinically in several mental health care settings, including a psychiatric inpatient hospital, psychiatric outpatient clinic, domestic violence shelter, community clinic, and currently within the private practice setting as an evening and weekend therapist at Upside Therapy. Ms. Roth 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, she 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.

Bill Schnapp, PhDSenior Policy Advisor

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 ShoreSenior Director of State-Local Collaboration

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.

Paul StokesSenior Director of Intervention and Diversion Policy

Paul is based in Dallas and works on the Smart Justice and Adult Policy team. 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.

Paul’s work with the Institute includes the review of the Austin Police Department in regard to the city auditor’s report. Working with the City Abilene’s police department and Behavioral Health Leadership Team as they launched a co-response model in the police department. Paul is currently working on needs assessment projects in Nueces County and the Texoma region.

Ron StretcherSenior Director of Systems Management

Ron Stretcher has coordinated the Caruth Smart Justice Project since joining the Institute in June 2017. He has led implementation of the Smart Justice Data System and provided support to the Dallas community in designing the initial funding plan for the SB 292 funds targeted for persons with mental health in the justice system.

Ron Stretcher brings over 35 years of experience in the social, health and judicial services field to MMHPI. Ron 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.

Jessy TylerSenior Director for Justice Research

Jessy Tyler has fifteen years of experience in Texas criminal justice policy, with an extensive background in data analysis and visualization and policymaking. During her tenure with MMHPI, Jessy has worked with data from a number of counties, e.g. Galveston and Dallas, to model their compliance with Texas laws related to identification of the mental health population within the criminal justice process and forecast the impact of county specific solutions to complex justice and mental health system changes. She has also worked with some Texas counties on assessments of indigent defense delivery options, e.g. Lubbock, Harris, and El Paso, and calculated the impact of specialized CIT programs on deflection of persons experiencing mental illness from the justice system, e.g. El Paso and Dallas. Ms. Tyler continues to work on recidivism measures and honed the calculation to the point of creating an interactive dashboard from El Paso County to explore their own outcomes for populations of interest.

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 including the creation of a proxy risk assessment for inter and intra-county comparisons and indigent defense assessment and analysis. Jessy was also 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

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. She is currently enrolled in a PhD program in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

Kate VoltiVice President for Child and Family Policy

Kate Volti, MPAff, is the Vice President for Child and Family Policy. Since joining MMHPI in September 2016, Kate has worked on assessments of children’s mental health systems in Houston, Lubbock, and Nueces County. She has also supported a number of other child and youth focused projects including an analysis on options to finance crisis mental health services, co-authoring a toolkit to help communities prevent and respond to child sex trafficking, and a project to support community efforts in Houston to prepare to strengthen the foster care system. Kate is currently leading an environmental assessment in a twelve-county region in North Texas to plan for the eventual transition to community-based foster care.

Prior to her employment at MMHPI, 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. She arrived at 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.

Ms. Volti 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. WagnerInterim Executive Director of the Caruth Police Institute at University of North Texas at Dallas

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.

Victoria WalshAssistant Director of Child and Family Policy

Victoria Walsh, MPAff, is the Assistant Director of Child and Family Policy with the Institute, supporting projects and efforts of the Child and Family Policy team. While at MMHPI, Victoria has worked to with teams to complete system assessments in Bexar County, Dallas county, and Nueces County. Victoria also managed MMHPI’s work with the Texas Education Agency in response to Hurricane Harvey and helped lead the development of the Mental and Behavioral Health Roadmap and Toolkit for Schools. Most recently, Victoria has been helping with the implementation of the Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN) and Texas Health Child Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT) with Dell Medical School. Victoria joined the Institute in February 2017 as a Children’s Mental Health Project Manager, and was promoted to Senior Project Manager in March 2018 and Assistant Director of Child and Family Policy in January 2019.

Prior to joining MMHPI, Victoria worked for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), where 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. Prior to that, Victoria supported programs in federally qualified health centers in Massachusetts at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. Victoria has experience in program implementation, project management, 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 WenmohsDirector of Events

Casie Wenmohs is a public affairs professional with expertise in advocacy, governmental relations, stakeholder engagement and meeting and event coordination. Casie’s career experience includes roles at Raise Your Hand Texas, the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Department of Transportation; she joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute External Affairs team in 2014.

At MMHPI, Casie is a key coordinator of the Institute’s major events, including the statewide Engage & Excel Conference. She also manages many special events and ongoing activities like biannual Board of Directors meetings and all-staff retreats. Casie works extensively with other MMHPI staff members at all levels of the organization as well as with external stakeholders as part of her role.

A longtime Austinite, Casie is devoted to her community. She is past president of the Junior League of Austin, a member of the Leadership Austin Essential Class of 2015 and a 2013 McBee Fellow (Austin Area Research Organization). She has a special interest in education and has dedicated countless hours over the years in support of Austin ISD, Austin Community College, E3 Alliance, the Austin Council of PTAs, Con Mi MADRE, the Terry Foundation Alumni Advisory Board and her three sons’ schools.

Casie is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, where she received a Bachelor of Journalism degree with highest honors and a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Senior Fellows

Carol Alter, MDSenior Fellow for Medical Integration

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 BrownRetired Chief of Police, Dallas Police Dept.

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.

Tony Fabelo, PhDSenior Fellow for Justice Policy

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.

Kimberly Roaten, PhDSenior Fellow for Suicide Prevention

Dr. Kimberly Roaten is a clinical psychologist with over a decade of experience in community healthcare and academic medicine. She received her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and her Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology degrees from UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Roaten is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern and the Director of Quality for Safety, Education and Implementation for the behavioral health service line at Parkland Health & Hospital System (PHHS). Dr. Roaten is an attending psychologist on the Consultation/Liaison Psychiatry team at Parkland Memorial Hospital where she supervises psychiatry and psychology trainees and is the designated psychologist for the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Burn services at Parkland.

Dr. Roaten’s primary research interest is suicide prevention. She created and leads the universal suicide screening program at PHHS though which more than 3 million screenings have been completed since 2015. The design of the program included the creation of a novel clinical decision support system integrated into the electronic health record in order to standardize and optimize patient care in a system with approximately two million patient encounters per year. Dr. Roaten and her team members have been invited to speak locally, nationally, and internationally about the success of the program and have consulted with numerous healthcare institutions around the country about strategies for implementing similar programs in other locations. The data generated from the program has produced new knowledge about suicide prevention and led to numerous peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Roaten serves as an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple peer-reviewed journals and is a member of multiple national committees related to patient care and safety. She is a Past President of the Dallas Psychological Association, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Texas Psychological Association, and a consultant on the Behavioral Health Subcommittee for the Texas Medical Association.

The Honorable John J. Specia, Jr.

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.

Jacqualene Stephens, PhDSenior Advisor for Organizational Development

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.