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Our Staff

The principal office of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council is in Nashville, Tennessee. Staff and contractors pursue our ambitious agenda in research, training, education, organizing, and advocacy from offices in various locations. Staff members include:

 

 

Bobby Watts

Bobby Watts, MPH, MS, CPH

Chief Executive Officer

G. Robert “Bobby” Watts is the chief executive officer of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and oversees all aspects of the Council’s activity in advocacy, training, technical assistance, research, peer support, organizing, and fund development.

A nationally recognized advocate and leader in meeting the health needs of people without homes, he has more than 25 years of experience in administration, direct service, and implementation of homeless health services. He began his work with people experiencing homelessness as a live-in staff member of the New York City Rescue Mission in Manhattan. Learn more about Bobby.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: bwatts@nhchc.org

 

Hugo Aguas, MA

Research Associate

Hugo works with the research team to research health outcomes using data driven methodologies, Hugo collaborates with other community health partners throughout the country to develop educational materials pertaining to medical care for those experiencing homelessness. Hugo also disseminates data and provides ease-of-access to community partners throughout the nation, and assists in writing publications and scheduling educational seminars on public health amongst those experiencing homelessness.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: haguas@nhchc.org

 

Lauryn Berner, MSW, MPH

Research Manager

Lauryn works with the research team to support the Health Care for the Homeless field by developing and disseminating knowledge, increasing visibility of HCH-related research through publications and external collaborations, and providing data-driven support to inter-departmental teams and workgroups. Lauryn serves as the Council’s subject matter expert on housing and HIV, and her work has focused on the social determinants of health.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 230 | Email Address: lberner@nhchc.org

 

 

Alaina Boyer, PhD

Director of Research

Alaina provides oversight and guidance for the research activities of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, which include quality improvement projects and providing educational resources for health care clinics that serve individuals experiencing homelessness. She coordinates and facilitates the Research Committee and Practice Based Research Network initiatives, which are currently focused on improving health outcomes and providing quality care across systems for vulnerable populations.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 233 | Email Address: aboyer@nhchc.org 

 

Lily Catalano, BA

Clinical Manager

Lily coordinates the work of the Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network and develops resources to improve access to and quality of health care for people experiencing homelessness.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 231 | Email Address: lcatalano@nhchc.org

 

 

Katherine Cavanaugh, MSW

Consumer Advocate

Katherine staffs the National Consumer Advisory Board (NCAB), helps to coordinate consumer initiatives, and further develops Council relationships with local Consumer Advisory Boards (CABs).

Contact Information

Phone Number: (443) 703-1320 | Email Address: kcavanaugh@nhchc.org

 

Andrea Crowe, MA

Advancement Coordinator

Andrea maintains the Council's donor and membership database; manages fundraising lists of individuals, organizations, and foundations; and provides a range of administrative services in the areas of philanthropy and member relations.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 234 | Email Address: acrowe@nhchc.org

Brandon de la Cruz, MM

Media and Technology Manager

Brandon manages media-based communication activities for the Council -- including webinars, videography, photography, and music production -- and provides guidance and support for information technology services.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 249 | Email Address: bdelacruz@nhchc.org

Barbara DiPietro, PhD

Senior Director of Policy

Barbara directs the policy and advocacy activities for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. This includes conducting policy analysis, providing educational materials and presentations to a broad range of policymakers and other stakeholders, coordinating the Council’s policy priorities with national partners, and organizing staff assistance to the Policy Committee and the National Consumer Advisory Board.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (443) 703-1346 | Email Address: bdipietro@nhchc.org

 

 

Jennifer Dix, BBA

Communications Coordinator

Jenn provides assistance with the Council’s marketing and branding efforts. This includes supporting effective communication strategies via email communications, newsletters, marketing materials, website content, and social media.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 225 | Email Address: jdix@nhchc.org

 

 

Julia Dobbins, MSW

Director of Medical Respite Care

Julia joined the Council in 2012 and leads our work on medical respite care. She provides guidance and oversight for medical respite activities including training, technical assistance, and resource and program development. Additionally, she is the staff liaison to the Respite Care Providers’ Network (RCPN) and coordinates and facilitates the activities of the RCPN steering committee.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 232 | Email Address: jdobbins@nhchc.org

 

D. Michael Durham, MTS

Community Engagement Manager

Michael is responsible for strategic relationship-building and increasing representation of marginalized communities in all of the Council’s work. Leaning on these relationships, he coordinates the Council’s largely peer-to-peer technical assistance program, which provides support to health centers and other organizations serving people experiencing homelessness. He also supports the CEO in certain racial equity initiatives.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 246 | Email Address: mdurham@nhchc.org

 

 

Dorothy (Dott) Freeman, PhD

Senior Director of Advancement

Dott is the Council's Senior Director of Advancement and has more than 25 years of fundraising experience in a variety of areas, including service-oriented nonprofits, health care, and education. Heading the Council's Advancement Team, she leads our philanthropy, communications, membership, media, and technology initiatives.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (207) 333-8877 | Email Address: dfreeman@nhchc.org

 

 

Melanie Harper, BA, LSSGB

Director of Finance & Administration

Melanie is responsible for oversight of all the financial and administrative functions of the Council and staffs the Finance & Personnel Committee.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 229 | Email Address: mharper@nhchc.org

 

 

Darlene Jenkins, DrPH

Senior Director of Programs

Darlene oversees the work of the Education and Research Teams.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 228 | Email Address: djenkins@nhchc.org

 

 

Joseph Kenkel, BS

Research Assistant

Joey works with the research team to support the Health Care for the Homeless field by developing and disseminating information, increasing visibility of HCH-related research through publications and external collaborations, and improving the HCH field and community’s capacity for quality improvement and engagement in research. Joey also performs activities aimed to increase the knowledge base, skill set, and resources of health center staff engaged in supportive housing initiatives in partnership with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH).

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 226 | Email Address: jkenkel@nhchc.org

 

Kelli Klein, BA

Behavioral Health Coordinator

Kelli provides technical assistance and supports the Council’s work on behavioral health and homelessness, focusing on the integration of behavioral health into primary care settings. She works specifically on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Center of Excellence (CoE) for Behavioral Health Technical Assistance (BHTA), which includes the development and execution of webinars and peer learning opportunities through communities of practice.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 247 | Email Address: kklein@nhchc.org

 

Katie League, LCSW-C

COVID-19 Project Manager (Policy Team)

Katie works with the policy team to support the Council’s efforts surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic. She works to identify and promote promising practices, common challenges, and key policy issues faced by the HCH community. 

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: kleague@nhchc.org

Cindy Manginelli, BS

Director of Community Engagement

Cindy directs the Council’s efforts to engage and create a diverse community of individuals, coalitions, and programs that directly address issues at the intersection of homelessness and health care. She also manages the Council’s ongoing work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the community of those who experience and address homelessness.  

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 239 | Email Address: cmanginelli@nhchc.org

 

Julia Nettles-Clemons, BA 

Administrative Coordinator

Julia has a variety of responsibilities in the areas of finance and administration that include accounts receivable and accounts payable, office maintenance,  clerical work, operations, and database support.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 221| Email Address: jnettles@nhchc.org

Courtney Pladsen, DNP, FNP-BC, RN

Director of Clinical and Quality Improvement

Courtney leads initiatives to improve the delivery of primary care, substance use treatment, and mental health care nationally. She directs training and quality improvement initiatives, and contributes to research and policy recommendations on emerging clinical issues affecting people experiencing homelessness.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: cpladsen@nhchc.org

 

 

Brett W. PoeBrett Poe, BS

Research Associate

Brett works with the research team to support the Health Care for the Homeless field by developing and disseminating information, increasing visibility of HCH-related research through publications and external collaborations, and providing data-driven support to inter-departmental teams and workgroups.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 242 | Email Address: bpoe@nhchc.org

 

 

Regina ReedRegina Reed, MPH

Health Policy Manager

Regina is responsible for representing the interests of the Council to policymakers and organizational partners in Washington, D.C., working with the Policy Committee to advance the Council’s advocacy agenda, developing policy positions and analyses, and mobilizing member organizations, service providers, and other advocates to end poverty and homelessness.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (443) 703-1337 | Email Address: rreed@nhchc.org

 

 

Caitlin Synovec, OTD, OTR/L, BCMH

Medical Respite Manager

Caitlin is an occupational therapist with clinical experience working with adults experiencing homelessness to improve quality of life and engagement in their preferred communities. As the Medical Respite Manager, she works with the Director of Medical Respite on projects of the National Institute for Medical Respite Care (NIMRC) and the Respite Care Providers’ Network (RCPN).

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: csynovec@nhchc.org

 

Cecilia Willoughby, BA

Training and Meetings Coordinator

Cecilia manages logistics and educational content for the Council’s major training events, including our annual National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium, Regional Training, and Governing Membership Meeting. She serves as the point person for these major training events working in concert with the Director of Finance and Administration, Administrators Committee, other staff members, and other stakeholders.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 241 | Email Address: cwilloughby@nhchc.org

Cecilia Willoughby, BA

Training and Meetings Coordinator

Cecilia manages logistics and educational content for the Council’s major training events, including our annual National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium, Regional Training, and Governing Membership Meeting. She serves as the point person for these major training events working in concert with the Director of Finance and Administration, Administrators Committee, other staff members, and other stakeholders.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 241 | Email Address: cwilloughby@nhchc.org

Terri Woodmore, MS

Communications Manager

As part of the advancement team, Terri develops and coordinates ongoing communications and media strategies, and maintains high-quality communications including mass emails, newsletters, marketing materials, website design and content, social media, and audio/video packages.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 245 | Email Address: twoodmore@nhchc.org

 

Brenda Wright

Executive Assistant

Brenda serves as Executive Assistant to the CEO and is responsible for Board meeting preparation, special projects, and administrative support including scheduling, preparing executive documents and correspondence, managing travel itineraries, maintaining files, and other administrative duties.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 251 | Email Address: bwright@nhchc.org

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Part Two: Evolution of the Model of Care

HCH was first characterized as outreach-oriented primary care delivered by physician-nurse-social worker teams. The key questions posed to the presenters and participants of the HCH Pioneers Session in this section were: How has the HCH model of care changed in the past 30 years? What factors have contributed to the changes over time (e.g., McKinney Act; Health Center Consolidation Act; Affordable Care Act; managed care; new treatment options)? How does the HCH model fit with the current health care environment?

Jim O'Connell at the HCH Pioneers Session

(Credit: Ansell Horn)

In this section of the HCH Pioneers session, Dr. Jim O’Connell, from the Boston HCH Program, responded to Brammer’s comment about how she is sorry that after 30 years of this work she still has a job. He stated:

We had a different response in Boston which I kind of still hold onto. The Foundation (RWJ-Pew) made it really clear to us that we should be a catalyst within the mainstream and that we should be out of a job within four years. But not because homelessness would go away, but because the world would respond appropriately.  So I want to keep thinking—we do have jobs, but our job is still to change that damn system so that homeless people get taken care of. We’re always going to have the need to take care of people who are in really vulnerable spots.

O’Connell described the fall of 1984 in Boston, when,

88 people formed a coalition—a fierce homeless coalition—and they confronted the mayor. It was an issue of social justice and not charity. They were sick of charity. Advocates said: 1) we couldn’t use volunteers because it smacked of charity, 2) we couldn’t use students because they said students are coming out and practicing on them and then going on with their careers, 3) we couldn’t do research because at the time it looked like “blame the victim” type of research, and 4) we couldn’t do mental health services.

He added that this was after deinstitutionalization, which his colleague Bob Taube always reminds us was a good idea, but the necessary community-based services weren’t provided. O’Connell added that at the time in Boston the shelters were amassing a legal suit against the Department of Mental Health because of their lack of adequate community-based mental health services.

In Boston, they looked at St Vincent’s Hospital as a model program. O’Connell states, “It was the only model at the time. It was a remarkable model of nurses working with doctors. By the way, it was appropriate that the first panel (for the Pioneers session) was all nurses. It was very much based in the hospital but going out and doing services in the community. Homeless folk told us they wanted it to be hospital-based so if they got sick, we’d take care of them.” Their model evolved, providing services in soup kitchens, in detox units, and out on the street. “Then the challenge was how to provide continuity of care.”

O’Connell spoke of how wide and variable the conditions were in terms of responding to local-area needs surrounding health and homelessness. “We were dealing with pressures from the mayors and coalitions, while working within some guidelines of the Foundation. The richness of the thing was how wide and varied it was, and I think the challenge was how wide and varied it was and how do you come up with good models of care.”

It is interesting to note that the only numerical goal that the HCH demonstration projects were asked to meet was to provide services to at least 1,500 people without homes each year. The funders did not stipulate whether or not this was to be an unduplicated count. The original HCH program goals have been characterized as vague, and included continuity of care, coordination of services, and effective case management, without specific operationalized definitions of what these were or of how to measure progress towards these goals.[1] However, early in the administration of the federal HCH program by the Health Resources and Services Administration, HCH-funded programs were required to delineate and document specific primary care problems to address, along with goals, measurable objectives, and method/action steps.[2]

Vince Keane at the HCH Pioneers Session

(Credit: Ansell Horn)

Vince Keane spoke next in this section of the Pioneers session. He said the real pioneer from Washington, D.C., who was in the room was Dr. Janelle Goetcheus. He pointed out that he came into work with HCH when it was already established, in 1990 in Washington, D.C. Dr. Goetcheus and her team believed that “you go where the people were.” He spoke of CCNV (Community for Creative Nonviolence), which was and still is one of the largest shelters in the country. Mitch Snyder ran it “to the extent that anyone ran it. Mitch was the biggest opponent of us coming to the shelter. He believed it was institutionalization of health care delivery. He thought anyone who made money from health care was impure—he saw it as exploitation.” Snyder also insisted that volunteer doctors and universities “love to work with homeless people because they could experiment on them. It took time to earn their [CCNV’s] trust and approval. 30 years later the shelter [with an HCH clinic] is still there. There are 1,000 people currently living in the shelter. Success was developing that collaboration.”

Before Keane worked at HCH he worked at the NACHC (National Association of Community Health Centers) with Freda Mitchem who ran the homeless portfolio before the Council took it over.[3] “She believed in the concept, but it didn’t quite fit at that time under the NACHC umbrella. It wasn’t a right fit at that time with FQHCs.” Keane states that the technical assistance grant went to the National HCH Council instead. He was asked to be the CEO of HCH and “then John took over the contract.”

The Washington, D.C., HCH Project eventually took over for a faltering Community Health Center and became a CHC, Unity Health Care. Keane reports that the agency encountered challenges in “assuring our existing homeless staff we hadn’t lost our mission. We expanded over the years and became a full-fledged CHC.” Keane sees advantages to being a FQHC, especially in terms of being able to provide dental and mental health services. They’ve also expanded their services into the prison system. He spoke of the importance of a team-based approach and creativity within the 19 (original HCH) sites, which were based on the same principles, but were operationally different. The main guiding principles were “1) commitment, and 2) continuity of care. Plus, an integration of mental health/substance abuse/oral health.”

In conclusion he had this to say:

I think it’s ironic that 25-30 years later, that massive movement towards team-based health care delivery. That massive movement towards patient-centered medical homes. Where did this start? I think the health care system can learn from this. … Homeless health care programs were the ones that set the roots in which that was established. I’m excited that it’s happening now and I think we in HCH should be talking to people in the health care delivery system because I think they have much to learn about this model of 30 years ago.

Jean Hochron at the HCH Pioneers Session

(Credit: Ansell Horn)

Jean Hochron served as the HRSA point person for the HCH program in its formative years and beyond. She spoke of three phases of the HCH lifecycle from the federal perspective:

  • The early years, 1987-1995
    • Separate legislative authority— under Section 340 of the Public Health Service Act.
    • Relatively small cohort of grantees with very limited growth: 119 grantees, including the original 19.
    • Funding uncertainties from year to year. “How can we provide continuity of care if we can’t count on funding?”
    • Little recognition as participants in the Community Health Center Movement.
    • Early development of HCH professional standards.
  • Consolidation and growth, 1996-2002
    • Passage of the Health Center Consolidation Act of 1996. Congressional authority changed from Section 340 of the Public Health Services Act to Section 330(h), with ‘h’ as in homeless.
    • HCH becomes part of a larger set of programs addressing access to care.
    • Consolidated program expectations. She sat on a panel to decide this and would say, “Excuse me, that won’t work for the homeless programs.” Waiver for 51% consumer involvement[4]—“they hated us because we had the easy way out, because we didn’t have to have 51% consumers on our board.”
    • Emergence of the Council as a source of training, technical assistance, and community-building—“which didn’t come under the previous contractors like NACHC and Freda and John Snow—they did a wonderful job of education but not community-building. It was the Council that brought us together as a family.”
    • The Council published Organizing Health Care Services for Homeless People (1997, 2001) by Marsha McMurray-Avila, “the book—the HCH bible.”
    • The HCH Clinicians’ Network was started during that time.
    • The first national meeting of Medical Respite providers, in Chicago in 2000; the Medical Respite Providers Network later merged into NHCHC.
    • The National Consumer Advisory Board was organized soon afterwards.
    • Expanded numbers of grantees and people served.
  • The past 10 years or so
    • In 2004-2005, much more significant consolidation with the FQHC world occurred.
    • Finding our place in measurement and standards, including quality metrics.
    • Developing partnerships “or at least misery loves company with other special interest groups and National Cooperative Agreement[5]

What’s changed?

  • HCH has always lived in two worlds, the two families of health and housing. “We’re now moving much more towards our health care family … population health, migrant health, etc. Now we see HRSA and HUD and VA and SAMHSA all holding hands.” Hochron is somewhat skeptical, but she thinks they’re making progress.
  • HCH used to get pressure for “getting off easy” in regards to program expectations, but that is no longer the case.
  • Early HCH programs used to struggle to get funding for outreach, enabling services, behavioral health, and oral health. “We’ve moved a tremendous way in that area.”

What’s not changed:

  • The challenge of training/enlightening federal officials and their representatives, program officers, OSV (Operational Site Visits, HRSA’s current oversight for grantees) team members, policy staff, and grant reviewers.
  • Funding and programmatic silos and stovepipes, which tend to support discrete activities rather than addressing the whole person and the whole system. “We still have to chase funding in many different directions.”
  • We’re still seeing the same systemic challenges that created HCH—we cannot end it and are unable to prevent it [homelessness].

Hochron concluded:

There’s little recognition of HCH within community health. We don’t always look like our brothers and sisters in the community health world. But let’s not forget a few other things that have not changed and that are quite remarkable:

  • The commitment of thousands of people to this work continues.

  • The community created by the Council has just gotten better and better.

  • Our impact hasn’t changed. There are many people whom we have touched and healed and helped into recovery and into housing.

  • The leaders and advocates we’ve created among administrators, clinicians, consumers, and at least one fed.

In a recent American Journal of Public Health review article, the authors summarize the development of the HCH model of care and emphasize key elements of the HCH model: 1) outreach and engagement, including the development of patient tracking methods[6]; 2) community collaborations to provide HCH patients with a variety of social and health benefits and services; 3) case-management; 4) medical respite care; and 5) consumer involvement and patient-driven care.[7]


     [1] James D. Wright, “Methodological Issues in Evaluating the National Health Care for the Homeless Program,” New Directions for Program Evaluation 1991, no. 52 (December 1, 1991): 61–73, doi:10.1002/ev.1594.

     [2] Copy of Primary Health Care Section of HCH Grant Proposal from The Daily Planet, Richmond, VA, 1989. Document in personal files of Josephine Ensign.

     [3] HRSA has contracted with a succession of nongovernmental organizations to provide technical assistance, conferences, education, training and resources for its HCH grantees, including NACHC, John Snow, Inc., Policy Research Associates (PRA), and, for the last two decades, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

     [4] Community Health Centers are required to have Boards of Directors comprised of 51% consumers of the health centers’ services. The legislation allows stand-alone HCH grantees to use alternate mechanisms for consumer input into agency governance.

     [5] National Cooperative Agreements are the funding mechanism HRSA uses to contract with providers of training and technical assistance for health centers.

     [6] The Boston HCH Program was an early innovator of electronic medical records, used to maintain continuity in caring for a highly mobile population.

     [7] Cheryl Zlotnick, Suzanne Zerger, and Phyllis B. Wolfe, “Health Care for the Homeless: What We Have Learned in the Past 30 Years and What’s Next,” American Journal of Public Health 103, no. 2 (December 2013): S199–205.

This website is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,625,741 with 20 percent financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.

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