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 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.
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.
Layla comes to MMHPI from the Behavioral Health division at Texas Health and Human Services Commission supporting the YES Waiver and the Home & Community Based Services Adult Mental Health (HCBS-AMH) programs. Prior to HHSC, she was with the national nonprofit Southwest Key Programs for 13 years as Director of Operations & Youth Justice providing oversight for 40 behavioral health and youth diversion programs in six states. Layla’s love for justice policy and programs can be traced back to growing up in the social safety net of the Boys & Girls Club wraparound services while seeing her family struggle with the impact of incarceration.
Prior to moving to Austin, Layla worked in London providing supportive housing case management to young adults returning home from UK prisons. She also managed policy research projects and wrote publications for the National Crime Prevention Council (McGruff:) in Washington, D.C. in the years prior to graduate school.
Layla has a Masters in Criminal Justice Policy from the London School of Economics and a dual Bachelors in Sociology and Studio Art from Rice University, earning a number of academic and service awards along the way.
Jennifer’s work involves managing 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. 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.
Michael Hadfield will work closely with Jenn Gonzalez, the Senior Director of Population Health. Before joining MMHPI, Michael worked as a consultant for TriWest, where he managed and analyzed health record data from various hospitals, including the Colorado All Payer Claims Database. He has provided data analytic support for multiple projects at MMHPI, including all prevalence estimates generated from the Texas Healthcare Information Collective. Before joining TriWest, Michael was a member of The National Civilian Community Corps and provided support for ongoing operations in Washington, DC; workflow analysis for Kansas City, MO; and disaster relief in Columbia, SC.
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 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.
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.
While at MMHPI, Marilyn has provided project management support on the Ending Depression Initiative and Nueces County Comprehensive Mental Health Needs Assessment, has assisted in the development of multiple grant submission proposals and manage the 2020 Summer Internship Program.
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 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 Smart Justice intern in 2017, and she currently serves as the project coordinator of adult policy. While at MMHPI, she has collected and analyzed data, engaged stakeholders, and developed technical assistance materials to support the improvement of mental health care across the state of Texas. Additionally, she has worked to assist law enforcement leaders with implementing pre-arrest diversion strategies as well as other criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing unnecessary justice involvement for people living with behavioral healthcare needs.
Calvonah attended UT Dallas, where she worked as a peer advisor and led two student organizations as president, the black student alliance and the criminal justice honor society, alpha phi sigma. As a volunteer summer research assistant, she collected qualitative data to contribute to the first complete and standardized database of school shootings in the United States. For her student leadership, she received the “Leadership, Service, and Academic Excellence Award” given by the Director of Multicultural Affairs. Calvonah graduated in 2017 with a BA in criminology and earned an MS in criminology the following year.
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 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.
Song is a licensed mental health professional specializing in project management, trauma-informed care, and program implementation in hospitals, schools, and community-based organizations. Prior to joining MMHPI, she worked at the Houston Methodist Hospital, where she managed specialized administrative processes in central administration and operations for the hospital’s 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 youth. Her field practicums focused on managing social services programs, delivering crisis intervention and evidence-based trauma therapy modalities to children and families, and developing culturally competent practices while working with minority populations.
While at MMHPI, Song has managed projects in Houston, San Antonio, North Texas and the Galveston area, and her work has been focused on the assessment of local child welfare systems, analysis of mental and behavioral health services for children and adolescents, and supporting strategic planning efforts for the implementation of trauma-informed care.
Jessica Lim, LCSW serves as Project Manager for Adult, Child and Family Policy for the Institute. As a clinician, she has experience in a multitude of clinical settings: in-home, hospice, school- and community-based. Prior to joining the Institute, Jessica provided teletherapy to older adults experiencing depression and other mental health needs as part of a NIH-funded clinical research project at The University of Texas at Austin. While at MMHPI, Jessica managed projects in the Rio Grande Valley and Dickinson area, and she currently coordinates project components and deliverables for the in-depth system assessments in Dallas and Nueces Counties.
Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications from Indiana University, Bloomington and a master’s degree in social work from The University of Texas at Austin.
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.
Katie is a licensed Master Social Worker who has worked in diverse nonprofit fields for over ten years, aiming to improve outcomes for those who are affected by socioeconomic inequalities, specifically issues which impact children.
Prior to joining MMHPI, Katie lived in Denver where she was the Director of Communications and Engagement for a research organization working to improve educational outcomes for students. Katie’s previous roles include managing fundraising teams, as well as supporting relationships to ensure ample resources were available for those organizations to grow.
Prior to her move to Colorado, Katie completed her Masters in Social Work at the University of Houston. As part of the program, her internships focused on public policy, education and community outreach.
While completing her undergrad in Communication Studies from Texas Tech University, Katie volunteered with at-risk youth which influenced her career trajectory. She has served as a mentor as part of the Big Brother/Big Sister (BBBS) program, and enjoys engaging the community with programs and policies which will ultimately benefit the lives of children facing adverse childhood experiences.
Ms. Martinez-Parham is based in El Paso, Texas. Her work at MMHPI focuses on children’s mental health, evidence-based and best practices in child and family mental health, including Wraparound, school-based and early childhood models. She has participated in children’s behavioral health system assessments in North Texas and Dallas County. She was involved in a statewide trauma-informed care practice assessment and the development of a mental and behavioral health roadmap and toolkit for schools.
Prior to this work, Ms. Martinez-Parham worked for a local community mental health center in clinical supervision, utilization management and utilization review, program development and implementation roles and direct care roles.
Ms. Martinez-Parham is bilingual in English and Spanish and is 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.
Rachael has 10 years of experience working as a mental health clinician in a variety of settings. She has a background in mental health counseling and neuropsychology where she has assessed and treated multiple populations including adults and children with chronic physical and mental health conditions. Rachael joins the Institute from Dell Children’s Medical Center where she practiced as a Licensed Psychological Associate in a pediatric neuropsychology outpatient clinic and helped develop programs that integrated psychological care in medical settings to allow for more integrative and comprehensive care for the children and their families. She also has extensive experience in clinical research, including examining the association of psychological processes and healthcare outcomes to help develop effective mental health interventions. Through her experiences, she has developed a passion for improving healthcare quality and access, particularly for mental health.
Rachael earned her public health certificate from The University of Texas Health Science Center, her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College, and her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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 based out of Austin and serves as the Director of Veteran Initiatives at MMHPI, where he develops and implements the veterans team’s policy and technical assistance projects.
Prior to coming to the Institute, he served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (Fleet Marine Force) and deployed with the Army and Marine Corps in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After active duty service, he established the Community Outreach Program at the Texas Veterans Commission where he was responsible for working with communities to build collaborations among local organizations and coordinate state and federal benefits for their veteran population.
Since joining the Institute he has worked closely with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to develop and support the Texas Veterans and Family Alliance grant program, a $20 million per biennium program aimed at improving the quality of life of Texas veterans and their families by expanding the availability of, increasing access to, and enhancing delivery of mental health treatment and service. He has also worked on system-wide mental health needs assessments in the Panhandle, East Texas, and Coastal Bend areas, performed veterans program evaluations for nonprofit organizations and local government entities, and helped develop and integrate innovative veteran-specific mental health programs with nationally recognized organizations and thought leaders.
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.
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.
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 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.
Patrick Tennant, PhD, LMFT, is a Project Manager at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Hackett Center 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 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 his current positions, 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 work since joining Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Hackett Center has included a variety of evaluation and analysis projects that focus on the collection and application of high-utility data. Those projects have supported the efforts of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Hackett Center in the health services, education, early childhood development, and community wellbeing spheres.
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. Lisa’s primary responsibilities with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute focus on assisting with the implementation and coordination of children’s mental health service systems and preparation for child welfare systems change. She served as a co-lead for a comprehensive children’s behavioral health system assessment in Harris County. Lisa was the project lead for a statewide trauma-informed care practice assessment, a comprehensive children’s behavioral health system assessment in North Texas, and a system assessment and demonstration project in Dallas, Texas, for school- and community-based behavioral and mental health services for youth. Lisa was also part of a team that completed an environmental scan of Harris County to help the region prepare for changes in the child welfare system.
Prior to working with MMHPI, Lisa 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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
Kimberly Zabaneh serves as Chief of Staff for Adult, Child and family Policy at MMHPI. She works closely with the Senior Executive Vice President of Policy and the Executive Vice President of State Policy to coordinate the execution of strategic initiatives across both teams.
As Director of Human Resources, Kimberly oversees the Institute’s human resource needs. Kimberly has over fifteen years of human resource and organizational development experience with H-E-B Grocery Co. and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, a unit within The University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
She received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and is currently a SHRM Certified Professional and Professional in Human Resources with the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).
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.
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, 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 the Institute’s 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.
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.
Mr. Ritter joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute on May 1, 2014 as the founding Chief Operating Officer, and he transitioned to his current role as Senior Fellow for Strategic Partnerships on May 31, 2020. Phil is also the Chief Executive Officer of Green Light VitalSign6, a startup company which is scaling the deployment of depression screening and clinical support software developed by Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, Director of the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
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 as 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.