NAMI Chicago is supported by a board representing individuals living with mental illness and their families, who are uniquely positioned to guide our organization and provide leadership to grow. Board members are passionately committed to our mission, bringing their own experiences and expertise to everything we do and are strongly engaged in all aspects of our work, from programming to development.
|Edmund Eisenberg, CPA – President||John Kennedy – Vice President||Brian Anderson – Treasurer||Jennifer Koehler – Secretary|
|Fred Friedman||Sabrina Guthrie||Laura Hearn||Alexa James|
|Colleen Kula Hopkins||Lt. Jeff Murphy||Marcia Schumacher||Mike Schumacher|
NAMI Chicago maintains staff with expertise in social work, policy, outreach, and educational programming. With broad interests and capabilities, the NAMI Chicago team is driven by our mission to support individuals living with mental illness and their families.
Alexa James, MS, LCSW – Executive Director
Alexa James, a licensed clinical social worker, has devoted her professional life to serving people living with mental illnesses. In 2013, Alexa assumed the leadership of NAMI Chicago as Executive Director. In the 10 years preceding her appointment as Executive Director, Alexa worked with children and adults living with mental illness as well as those impacted by poverty and trauma. She earned her Master’s Degrees in Social Work from Loyola University and in Child Development from Erickson Institute. Alexa’s passion is to see that our community is equipped to support those in need of mental health support and to end the crippling stigma that attaches to those living with mental illness.
Jennifer McGowan-Tomke, MPH – Associate Director
Jen McGowan brings experience in health policy and public health to her role as NAMI Chicago’s Associate Director. Before joining NAMI Chicago, Jen worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health Illinois’ State Health Assessment and Improvement Plan with the state health department. Jen was a policy analyst in the Illinois Governor’s Office, working on health care policy and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act from 2012 to 2015. She has experience in policy analysis and implementation as well as training development. She earned her Master’s Degree in Health Policy Administration from UIC. Jen looks forward to working on addressing the needs and gaps of the current mental health system to improve access and quality of care for those living with mental illness.
Antonise Cox, MSW – Programs Manager
Antonise started NAMI Chicago as a clinical intern from 2012-2013. She holds a Master’s in Social Work from Loyola University School of Social Work. Antonise started working full time in September 2015. She manages all office services and programs.
Rachel Whybrow, LSW – Director of Education
Rachel Whybrow, a licensed social worker, is dedicated to serving individuals and family members impacted by mental illness. In the years prior to working at NAMI Chicago, Rachel worked with youth and their family members during inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations. Rachel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois-Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work with a concentration in mental health. In March 2014, Rachel was hired by NAMI Chicago as the Director of Education. Rachel’s spends her time at NAMI Chicago managing education programming throughout the city of Chicago. Rachel is committed to early intervention and reducing the stigma through education in our neighborhoods, schools and communities.
Edlyn Alcedo, BA – Operations Manager
Edlyn Alcedo has been with NAMI Chicago since 2011. She received a Bachelors in Psychology from Northeastern Illinois University and completed some post graduate work at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Edlyn co-facilitates our Spanish language support group for family members and persons living with mental illness, manages our volunteer efforts, co-teaches de Familia a Familia and provides presentations & outreach to Latino communities.
Kasey Franco, MA – Training & Outreach Coordinator
Kasey Franco joined NAMI as the Training and Outreach Coordinator in February of 2017. She earned a Master of Arts degree specializing in Forensic Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Prior to that she graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Kasey has experience in the criminal justice system, residential settings, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, outpatient centers, and community mental health. She has extensive experience working with individuals who have experienced trauma and mental illness.
Kate Bowker, MSW - Education Manager
Kate joined NAMI Chicago as an intern in the Fall of 2016. As Education Manager, she brings a passion and commitment to raising awareness about mental health, and advocating for Chicago's youth. She graduated from UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work with a Master of Social Work degree.
Amanda Espitia - Director of Development
Amanda has been involved in fundraising since 2004 when she worked for John Kerry’s presidential campaign and for the Democratic National Committee. After serving as a Chief of Staff to a Michigan state representative, she moved to Chicago where she lead an environmental political organization. To fulfill a desire to make a difference in the non-profit sector, Amanda spent four years as the Director of Development and Communications for a domestic violence agency called Between Friends. She then moved to North Park Elementary School, a private, independent school where she spent five years as the Director of Development and Communications. Amanda earned a Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University, a Master in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Education Administration from Concordia University.
Tony Smith - Policy Manager
Tony Joined NAMI Chicago in 2018. Prior to joining NAMI Chicago, he worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law supporting advocacy work on juvenile justice reform and other issues. Tony earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government and German from Lawrence University.
Jim Poole - Director of Community Engagement
Jim brings a broad range of experience in community engagement and social services to his role at NAMI Chicago. Before joining the team at NAMI Chicago, Jim was the Chief of Staff for Alderman Ameya Pawar in Chicago’s 47th Ward. In that role, he oversaw the operations of the ward office that coordinated city services and local decision-making for the the ward’s 56,000 residents. He also worked closely with the alderman on local and city-wide legislative initiatives. Before moving to Chicago to attend graduate school in 2009, Jim worked as a resident counselor in both Louisville, KY and Columbia, MD where he supported youth and adults living with mental illness. Jim holds a Master’s Degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Kentucky.
Betty Frazier, MHP – Support Specialist
Betty has been with NAMI Chicago since 2001. She runs the recovery-focused Social Support Group, coordinates Social Support Club events, and teaches our WRAP class.
Ashley Williams – Moving On Project Director
Ashley manages our outreach efforts under the Moving On Project, which is a part of the Williams Consent Decree. Ashley didn’t plan for a career in mental health but when her sister got sick she was led into the field. Her mission is to help families get the services and supports that she and her family did not get. In 2014 Ashley took over responsibilities as the Williams Outreach Project Director under the Williams Consent Decree. Before her current role at NAMI Chicago Ashley worked as an Employment Specialist, helping persons living with mental illness find competitive employment in the community. Ashley has made it her lifelong mission to educate people on the importance of receiving treatment. Treatment works but only if you get it!
Marlena Johnson, Sherrie Martin, Juan Pablo Rivera, and DaJuan Warren are all Outreach Workers for the Moving On Project. They work in various nursing homes throughout the Chicagoland area, providing information to the residents about their rights under the consent decree.
Kadijat Alaka, MA, LPC – Recovery Manager
Kadijat is a licensed professional counselor who brings 5+ years of clinical experience to her role as Recovery Manager for NAMI Chicago. Kadijat earned a Masters Degree in Community Counseling from Argosy University (Illinois School of Psychology) in 2012. Prior to joining NAMI, she started her career in Community Mental Health as an advocate for individuals living in IMD’s or independently, who identified with having a mental health condition. Kadijat has treated a wide variety of mental health disorders with a focus on the treatment of trauma and personality disorders. She provided case management support, individual & family therapy, facilitated psychoeducational groups and strongly advocated for class members to be housed or maintain their housing when faced with adversity. Her lifelong goal is to continue to be an advocate for those individuals living with a mental health condition by doing the work necessary to help them preserve their dignity and respect.
Pooja Nagpal, Charles Mack, Rosemary Callahan, Eric Cowgill & Mydalia Cotto are all In Home Recovery Support (IHRS) specialists who provide one-on-one peer support services to class members transitioning out of IMD’s into independent community living under the Williams Consent Decree. Through the peer support services provided by the IHRS team, class members have a sense of universality which is empowering and instills a strong sense of hope.
We host interns from a variety of graduate programs in the Chicago area, including the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work, Loyola University’s School of Social Work, the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, St. Augustine College, Elmhurst College, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, The Adler School of Professional Psychology, and others.