Our Team


Julie AlmendralCommunications and Multimedia ManagerJulie 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 Policy Institute. Julie lives in Austin with her family, and currently serves on the board of NAMI Austin.
Betty ArmaoExecutive AdministratorBetty Armao, Executive Administrator, has extensive knowledge of business and operational procedures and brings 25 years of experience with commercial real estate, property management, health care, education, media relations, publishing, software solutions, global communications, and civil engineering. Prior to joining MMPHI, Betty provided C-level support at NFI Intermodal, PO’B Montgomery & Company and UT Southwestern Medical Center. She also attended the University of South Florida with a concentration in Business Administration. At MMHPI Betty provides high- level support to the executive MMHPI team and manages administrative operations for the Institute.
Coby ChaseVice President for External AffairsCoby Chase, Vice President for External Affairs, 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 federal portfolio and extensive international work including border master planning; border crossing research; trade studies and assessing the state’s readiness when the Panama Canal expansion is complete. 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 external stakeholder outreach, governmental relations, communications and working with the Institute’s Collaborative Council.
Christie A. Cline, MDDirector of Collective ImpactDr. Cline is president of ZiaPartners and a board-certified psychiatrist who served as the medical director of the Behavioral Health Services Division of the New Mexico Department of Health from 1998 to 2003, responsible for the public safety net indigent mental health and substance abuse treatment system in that state. She also has a masters in business administration with an emphasis in strategic development within organizations. Dr. Cline has experience with systemic implementation of integrated services across adult, older adult, and child and adolescent services systems.
Jena CrimAdministrative AssistantJena Crim, Administrative Assistant, 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.
Timothy Dittmer, PhDPolicy Lead: EconomicsTimothy Dittmer, PhD, is a Policy Lead in the area of Economics, 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.
Jennifer EsterlineDirector of Development & Community ImpactJennifer brings a background in policy, philanthropy, and public service to Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. Jennifer started her career in the Office of Governor George W. Bush and has spent the last decade in the nonprofit space building connections between public officials, foundations, and nonprofit organizations. Jennifer has served as the head of a private foundation and built the largest consortium of Texas foundations to ever work together on public policy. A proud product of public education, Jennifer grew up in Dallas and received her BA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and her M.P.Aff. from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Over the past decade, Jennifer has volunteered in a number of capacities for a variety of nonprofits working in the fields of education and health and human services. Currently, she serves on the board of Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST) and Communities in Schools of Central Texas. Jennifer lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and three young sons: Gabriel, Leo, and Mateo. She hopes to carry on the family tradition by inspiring her boys with the passion for nonprofit work and a commitment to public service.
Jacqueline FrenchAdministrative Assistant and Grants/Contracts AdministratorJacqueline French, Administrative Assistant and Grants/Contracts Administrator, manages the grants and contract compliance at MMHPI. She 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.
Michele R. Guzmán, PhDSenior Director of EvaluationDr. Guzmán leads policy evaluation for the Institute. Previously, she was Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, which is part of The University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. In addition to leading and coordinating the Hogg Foundation’s evaluation efforts, Michele developed and managed grant programs related to mental health provider workforce issues and mental health research. 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.
Sean HannaSenior Director of Veteran EngagementSean Hanna, LAc, MAOM, spent eight and a half years, from 1991 to 2000, as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman. While stationed at 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Sean deployed to multiple international locations and saw combat action in support of Operation United Shield, Somalia in 1995. Since his military duty, Sean served as Director of the Veterans Mental Health Program (VMHP) at the Texas Veterans Commission. There he worked with the Texas Department of State Health Services to co-create and coordinate the Military Veteran Peer Network throughout the State of Texas as part of the VMHP. Sean earned his Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree from the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin (AOMA) in 2005, and is a lifetime member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4443.
Michelle HarperVice President for Child and Family PolicyMichelle has 20 years of experience in health and human services research, policy and program operations. Previously she worked at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) where she spent over 10 years overseeing the operations for a number of social services programs and working on Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Texas Women’s Health Program policy. Michelle most recently served as HHSC's Associate Commissioner for Community Access and Services connecting Texans to social services through partnerships with faith- and community-based organizations. While at HHSC, Michelle also served as the Deputy State Medicaid/CHIP Director for the Office of Policy where she oversaw the state plans, waivers and administrative rules, as well as the analysis and development of program and benefits policy. Michelle also served as a Government Relations Specialist and in several Policy Advisor roles during her tenure at HHSC. Michelle has worked for the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Health Plan analyzing legislation for the Health Plan and Hospitals and leading implementation projects for the Health Plan, the Consumers Union in San Francisco overseeing the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools' policy agenda for increasing school-based enrollment in health insurance, and Child Trends, a non-profit research organization in Washington, DC, working on health and human services research projects. Michelle has a bachelor's degree from the Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Nelson JarrinDirector of Government AffairsNelson Jarrin, Director of Government Affairs, 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.
Andy Keller, PhDPresident and Chief Executive OfficerDr. 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.
Suki Martinez-ParhamPolicy AnalystMs. Martinez-Parham is a Policy Analyst with the Institute based in El Paso, Texas. Her work focuses on best practice dissemination and translation, training, and evaluation regarding mental health services, child and family systems of care, and child welfare involved children and families. She has broad experience with culturally and linguistically competent models of care, evidence-based and best practices in the areas of child and family mental health, including wraparound, school-based, and early childhood models. Ms. Martinez-Parham is bilingual in English and Spanish and a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas.
Amanda Mathias, PhDDirector of InnovationDr. 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.
Dawn McKeehanSmart Justice Project ManagerDawn McKeehan joined the Policy Institute with extensive experience in mental health among those involved in the criminal justice system. Dawn served in a number of impressive capacities at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, including Parole Officer, for which she supervised caseloads of 75 – 120 offenders including sex offenders, super intensive supervision (GPS and electronic monitoring), and the mentally ill. During her tenure with Texas Correctional Office on Offender with Medical and Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI), as a Program Specialist she provided contractual oversight to the 38 Local Mental Health Authorities throughout Texas. As their Continuity of Care Supervisor she facilitated and linked newly paroled offenders with special care needs to services in the community. In her final position there as Manager, she led a team of Program Specialists, facilitated Special Needs Offenders training to both juvenile and adult criminal justice partners, and worked on reviewing, revising and implementing new legislation. While proudly serving in the United States Air Force Dawn received her Master of Arts in Counseling from Webster University, and her Bachelor’s of Science in Management/Human Resources from Park University. Dawn received recognition for Academic Achievement graduating the top of her class in the Parole Academy. Further honors include Parole Officer of the Year (Governor’s Award), and Presidents Volunteer Service Award for the 4,000 plus hours Dawn served as a volunteer Victim Services Counselor with the Austin Police Department.
Kenneth Minkoff, MDDirector of Systems IntegrationDr. Minkoff is a senior systems consultant with Zia Partners and a board-certified psychiatrist with a certificate of additional qualifications in addiction psychiatry. He is a dedicated community psychiatrist and currently a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on recovery-oriented integrated services for individuals and families with co-occurring mental health, substance use, and health conditions, plus other complex needs. He is also a leading national expert on the development of welcoming, recovery-oriented integrated systems of care.
Kyle MitchellSenior Director of Veteran and Military PolicyKyle Mitchell is the Senior Director of Veteran and Military Policy for the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. Kyle previously 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 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.
Lacrica S. OlsonLocal Systems ManagerLacrica Olson, MPA, joined the Policy Institute in June 2016 as the Local Systems Manager. 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 husband and daughter, and serves on the Denton County Social Services Committee, and the Denton County Healthy Communities Coalition.
John PetrilaVice President of Adult PolicyJohn Petrila is Vice President of Adult Policy and was a member of the founding Board of the Policy Institute. 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.
Kanani QuijanoDirector of CommunicationsKanani Quijano, Director of Communications, has an extensive background in health care management, communications, marketing, media relations and business development. In her previous role with Stanford’s University HealthCare Alliance (UHA), she managed all communication and marketing activities for the medical foundation. She also guided the implementation of various marketing and communication strategies across the organization. Prior to UHA, Kanani was the Director of Physician Services for Spring Valley Hospital where she directed physician relations, business development, and the recruitment and retention of physicians to the acute care facility. She earned both her bachelor’s degree in management and her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. At the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Kanani will oversee communication functions and develop strategies and programs to build the reputation and influence of our organization while conveying the Institute’s mission and priority messages to various audiences.
Phil RitterChief Operating OfficerPhil Ritter joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute on May 1, 2014 as Chief Operating Officer. Phil oversees the programs, staff and operations of the Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Phil served as Executive Vice President for Government and Stakeholder Affairs at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where he directed the airport’s government relations, communications, community relations and board support activities. Before joining the airport, Phil held the position of Senior Vice President, Public Affairs with Texas Instruments Incorporated, where he was a member of the corporate Strategy Leadership Team 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’s philanthropic and community involvement is extensive. He currently serves as 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. Phil served as Campaign Chair and Chairman of the Board for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and in 2004 he led a successful campaign to secure voter approval for $450 million in real estate purchases and facility construction for the Dallas County Community College District. As a member of the Board of Governors of The Dallas Foundation, Phil chaired the Advisory Board for the $12 million Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment (TRIAD) Fund. Phil earned an undergraduate degree with honors in Urban Studies and 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.
Peter Selby, PhDDirector of Child and Family PolicyDr. 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.
Aaron SmithManager for Veterans ProgramsAaron Smith joined the Policy Institute in December of 2016. As Manager of Veteran Programs, Aaron focuses on the partnership with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to help develop, guide, and support the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance grant. He is intimately familiar with the military and the veteran population of Texas. As a Hospital Corpsman Second Class (Fleet Marine Force) from 2004 to 2009, Aaron had the pleasure of multiple deployments to Iraq with both the Army and Marine Corps. Prior to coming to the Policy Institute, he established the Community Outreach Program with the Texas Veterans Commission where he created community collaborations with local organizations to assist them in accessing state programs. Aaron is a native Texan and a proud graduate of Southwestern University where he helped found the Southwestern University Veterans Association. He also serves as a School Board member for Grace Preschool in Georgetown, TX.
Bill Solomon, JrSenior Director of FinanceBill Solomon joined the Policy Institute as Senior Director of Finance. Bill has 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.
Jacqualene Stephens, PhDDirector of Systems TransformationDr. Jacqualene Stephens, Ph.D., LMFT, joins the Meadows Mental Health Policy team this July as the Director of Systems Transformation. 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 initially be focused on transforming the Dallas justice system to better identify, assess and divert persons with mental illness from the justice system. Additionally, she will assist and support communities throughout the State with developing and improving their local mental health system. 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.
Kathy SternbachDirector of Health PolicyMs. 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.
Monica ThyssenSenior Director of Health PolicyMonica 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.
Kendal TolleAssistant Director of EvaluationKendal Tolle, LMSW, works closely with the Senior Director of Evaluation and the policy team to support program planning and the coordination of evaluation projects conducted by the Policy Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Kendal held a fellowship position as a Program Evaluation Fellow with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. During the fellowship, Kendal assisted with grant program development, acted as a liaison to external evaluators, and worked with the evaluation unit to communicate the impact of foundation grant programs through reports and briefs based upon key evaluation findings. She completed a graduate-level practicum with the Texas Parents as Teachers program within Mental Health America of Texas, and an undergraduate field placement with the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Bea Salazar Alternative School. She is a member of the American Evaluation Association. Kendal received her Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in community and administrative leadership from The University of Texas at Austin, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of North Texas with her Bachelor of Social Work.
Kate VoltiDirector of Program Innovation for ChildrenKate Volti has an extensive background working on health and human services issues for children and youth. Previously, Kate held several positions with the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), including as the Director of Community Access in the Office of Social Services, as the Senior Policy Advisor charged with designing the STAR Kids Medicaid managed care model for children with disabilities, as an External Relations Specialist, and as the lead for the Task Force for Children with Special Needs. Kate came to HHSC after serving in the Texas Senate as a Senior Policy Advisor where she focused on initiatives to: improve early childhood nutrition; increase coordination of services for children with special needs; require insurers to cover Applied Behavioral Analysis for children when medically necessary; and improve support for kin care providers of children involved with Child Protective Services. Kate received her Master of Public Affairs at the LBJ School at the University of Texas and her Bachelor of Arts in Cross Cultural Anthropology and Political Studies from Pitzer College.
B.J. WagnerDirector of Smart JusticeB. J. Wagner, MS, joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in the Fall of 2015 as Director of Smart Justice. In her role with MMHPI she will lead the Policy Institute’s Smart Justice work assisting communities across Texas transform systems to increase prevention and intervention services and reduce justice involvement for special populations. B. J. began her career in law enforcement as a county jailer and later as a law enforcement officer in North East and Western Texas. In response to the increasing number of contacts with persons with mental illness she experienced as a law enforcement officer she chose to return to graduate school and completed 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. B. J. has developed curriculum for disciplines across the criminal justice system on mental health awareness, symptom recognition and verbal de-escalation techniques. B.J. worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) where she 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 at TDCJ B.J. worked closely with the Department of State Health Services to redesign the TRAG assessment 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. B.J. received recognition from the Texas Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council for contributions to elevating awareness of prevention and care needs for Texans living with brain injury. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Qualitative Criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Casie WenmohsExternal Affairs ManagerCasie Wenmohs is an experienced communication and public affairs professional with expertise in policy analysis, advocacy, community engagement, and project oversight. She has ten years of state governmental relations experience. Casie has volunteered extensively with The Junior League of Austin, Con Mi MADRE, Terry Foundation, and Meals on Wheels. She’s been very involved with PTA at the local, city, and state level and has served Austin ISD on the District Advisory Council and Citizens’ Bond Advisory Committee. Casie is a member of the Leadership Austin Class of 2015 and was a McBee Fellow with the Austin Area Research Organization in 2013. She attended The University of Texas at Austin where she received a Bachelor of Journalism degree with highest honors in 1993 and a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1995. With her husband Will Wenmohs, a CPA, Casie has three sons who attend Austin ISD schools.
Alexa WhiteEvaluation Project ManagerAlexa White, MPH, serves as an Evaluation Project Manager for Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. Prior to joining the Policy Institute, Alexa was a Senior Program Manager at The Jed Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting emotional health and preventing suicide among high school and college students. Prior to that, Alexa was an Evaluation Assistant for the Westchester (NY) County Project LAUNCH initiative, a SAMHSA-funded grant aimed at improving the overall wellness of and school readiness in children ages 0-8. Alexa received her Bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University and her Master of Public Health degree from New York Medical College.
Jim Zahniser, PhDDirector of Evaluation DesignDr. 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.