NAMI CHICAGO BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Our board represents individuals living with mental illness and their families, who are passionately committed to our mission and uniquely positioned to guide and provide leadership to our organization.

Edmund Eisenberg, CPA

Board President

John F. Kennedy

Vice President

Brian Anderson

Treasurer

Jennifer Koehler

Secretary

Fred Friedman

Board Member

Sabrina Guthrie

Board Member

Theresa Hannon, CPA, CDFA

Board Member

Laura Hearn

Board Member

Alexa James

Executive Director

Colleen Kula Hopkins

Board Member

Maya Menon

Board Member

Lt. Jeff Murphy

Board Member

Chief Kenton Rainey

Board Member

Marcia Schumacher

Board Member

Mike Schumacher

Board Member

Dean Stork

Board Member

Dr. Shastri Swaminathan

Board Member

NAMI CHICAGO STAFF 

Our staff have diverse expertise in social work, policy, outreach, and educational programming. 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-Tomke 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.

Ashley Warren, MHP - Williams Outreach Project Director

Ashley Warren has managed outreach efforts under the Moving On Project since 2014. Ashley holds a Bachelors in Communication from The Indiana Institute of Technology, and before her current role, she worked as an Employment Specialist helping persons living with mental illness find competitive employment in the community. Ashley didn’t plan for a career in mental health, but when her sister got sick she was led into the field. She has made it her lifelong mission to help families get the services and supports that she and her family did not get, and to educate people on the importance of receiving treatment. Treatment works, but only if you get it!

Jim Poole, MSW - Director of Community Engagement

Jim Poole directs NAMI Chicago's Informaton & Referral Helpline, resource and referral network. Before NAMI Chicago, Jim was the Chief of Staff for Alderman Ameya Pawar in Chicago’s 47th Ward, where he oversaw city services and local decision-making for 56,000 residents and 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.

Edlyn Alcedo - Operations Manager

Edlyn Alcedo is our administrative manager and bookkeeper. She also co-facilitates our Spanish language support group for family members and persons living with mental illness, co-teaches de Familia a Familia, coordinates our Compartiendo Esperanza presentations, and provides presentations & outreach to Latino communities. Edlyn 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.

Rachel Bhagwat - Coordinator of Growth & Engagement

Rachel Bhagwat manages NAMI Chicago's communications, ambassador program, development and events. Rachel is passionate about improving quality of life for people with mental health barriers, and brings in nine years of experience working in youth development and homelessness. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development & Psychological Services from Northwestern University and is pursuing a Master of Arts in Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Tony Smith - Policy Manager

Tony Smith assists in the development and management of NAMI Chicago’s policy agenda, focusing primarily on federal legislation and policy that impacts individuals living with mental health conditions. Tony joined NAMI Chicago in 2018 after serving a term 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.

Maya Robbins - Engagement Manager

Maya Robbins supports NAMI Chicago’s communications, development and ambassador program. Maya is a graduate of the University of Oregon and most recently served as a volunteer through Lutheran Volunteer Corps at Chicago Jobs Council, a non-profit dedicated to creating pathways out of poverty and eliminating barriers to work. Maya believes that all people should have access to the tools and expertise that support mental and emotional wellness. Maya joined the team in January 2019 and is excited to support NAMI Chicago’s mission.

Dimitra Gianes - Executive Assistant

Dimitra Gianes coordinates administration, communication and travel for NAMI Chicago's executive team. Dimitra's years of experience with computers and imparting workflow strategies fuel her zeal for the tech ecosphere and the human brain. Dimitra earned her BA in Applied Behavioral Sciences from National College of Education and completed some post-graduate work at Loyola University Chicago. She joined the NAMI Chicago team in February 2019. Having been shaped by a mother affected by mental illness, she is passionate about dismantling the stigma of shame regarding mental illness. Her mantra: “Everyone has a Story.”

TRAINING & EDUCATION TEAM

Kasey Franco, MA - Director of Training & Education

Kasey Franco oversees and executes mental health training with law enforcement, corporations, faith and community based organizations, and other entities. Kasey joined NAMI in February of 2017. She earned a Master of Arts degree specializing in Forensic Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Northern Arizona University. Kasey has experience working with individuals who have experienced trauma and mental illness in the criminal justice system, residential settings, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, outpatient centers, and community mental health.

Courtney Johnson, LSW - Education Manager

Courtney Johnson leads NAMI Chicago's outreach to young people and schools, and manages the Ending the Silence program. Courtney holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Miami University with and a Master's from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Prior to working at NAMI Chicago, Courtney worked as a therapist with primarily youth and young adults, and conducted research on suicidality. Courtney is interested in the intersection of research and clinical practice and passionate about connecting youth to needed mental health information and resources.

Sierra Petersen, MSW - Training Manager

Sierra Petersen assists in the development and management of NAMI Chicago’s training institute working with staff, community agencies, and first responders. Sierra earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in 2018 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Michigan State University. Sierra is passionate about reducing the stigma around mental illness and looks forward to working toward a system that is better equipped to compassionately assist individuals experiencing mental health conditions.

HELPLINE TEAM

Ben Frank, MSW - Clinical Coordinator

Ben Frank oversees clinical services and the Information & Referral Helpline. Ben has spent his career working with young people who deal with mental health struggles, criminal justice involvement, and past traumas. He graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in English and also holds a Master’s Degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Ben came to NAMI Chicago after 12 years managing residential and outpatient programming at Riveredge Hospital.

Jessica Pontis, MSW - Senior Helpline Manager

Jessica Pontis provides support and referrals to callers on the NAMI Chicago Information & Referral Helpline, and assists in implementing strategies to update resources and engage effectively with partners. Jessica joined the NAMI team full-time in July of 2018. Having recently graduated Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work with a mental health specialization, Jessica is excited to help individuals navigate the mental health system.

Jessica Zaehringer, LSW, MA - Helpline Manager

Jessica Zaehringer provides support and referrals to callers on the NAMI Chicago Helpline. Jessica holds a Master's Degree in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies (MA) and a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) with a specialization in Mental Health from Loyola University Chicago. She also holds a Bachelor's in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). Before joining the NAMI Chicago team, she was a Social Services Director at Alden Lakeland.

Anthony Guerrero Short, MA - Resource Manager

Anthony Guerrero Short manages NAMI Chicago's resource referral network, bringing together policy, communications and design to develop solutions that provide reliable connections to mental health services in Chicago and reduce access barriers. Anthony joined NAMI Chicago in 2019. Prior to NAMI Chicago, he worked at Edelman, The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and Pride Action Tank, and has a passion for LGBTQ+ and Latinx public health advocacy. Anthony is a graduate of Northwestern University, with a degree in Psychology and a Master's in Health Communication.

Marta Pocurull-Stein, LSW- Helpline Specialist

Marta Pocurull-Stein provides support and referrals to callers on the NAMI Chicago Information and Referral Helpline. Marta has been with NAMI Chicago part-time since January of 2019. Marta has worked in the Mental Health field for over 20 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Roosevelt University, Chicago and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

Ronisha Edwards-Elliott - Helpline Specialist

Ronisha Edwards-Elliott brings forth experience to the NAMI Chicago Helpline in medical case management, adolescent counseling/workforce development, and crisis intervention services. As a Certified Domestic Violence Professional in the state of Illinois and current medical social advocate, she is passionate about mental well-being, empowerment, and health equity for all.

Kelly Lewison, RN - Helpline Specialist

Kelly Lewison joined NAMI Chicago in April 2019 working to support callers as a part-time Helpline Specialist. She brings experience in health care and human resources, as well as public service in a first responder position. Along with a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, majoring in psychology, she holds a nursing license and certification in human resources and in wellness coaching.

Jessica Donada, BSW - Helpline Specialist

Jessica Donada provides support and referrals to callers on the NAMI Chicago Information and Referral Helpline. Jess has been with NAMI Chicago part-time since June 2019. She has a Bachelor's of Social Work from Carthage College and is currently working towards her Master's in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the NAMI Chicago team, Jess worked with youth and young adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses and substance use disorders in a residential setting at Thresholds.

Norma Castrejon - Helpline Specialist

Norma Castrejon provides support and referrals to callers on the Helpline. Norma holds a Master's Degree in Social Work from Dominican University and a Bachelor's of Arts in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University. Norma brings forth experience to the NAMI Chicago Helpline in adolescent counseling and crisis intervention services.

WILLIAMS OUTREACH TEAM

Outreach Workers for the Moving On Project work in various nursing homes across Illinois, providing information to residents of SMHRFs (Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities) about their rights under the Williams Consent Decree.

DaJuan Warren - Program Manager & Outreach Worker

DaJuan Warren has been an Outreach Worker since March of 2014. DaJuan received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007. Prior to starting at NAMI, he worked for the Upward Bound College Prep Academy at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Working at NAMI has been an excellent experience and has allowed DaJuan to assist others living with mental health challenges. He is so very grateful to be doing this work.

Juan Pablo Rivera, CRSS - Outreach Worker

Juan Pablo Rivera began his employment with NAMI Chicago in October 2011. Juan Pablo began his career at Pilsen Wellness Center Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services facilitating wellness and recovery groups, and was later promoted to roles in the Ready to Work and Project Assistance Transition from Homelessness (PATH) programs. From 2007-2011, Juan Pablo worked at DHS Division of Mental Health, Cook County Central Region as a Wellness Recovery Action Plan facilitator, Mental Health Educator and Certified Recovery Support Specialist. Juan Pablo enjoys spending time with his daughters Savannah and Scarlett. His favorite pastime is listening to his collection of Salsa music and dancing.

Sherrie Martin - Outreach Worker

Sherrie Martin has been at NAMI Chicago since August 2011. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Chicago State University and is currently working on her Masters’ Degree in Clinical Mental Health. Sherrie has always had a passion for helping people. Her career path was in the nursing field until her son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and she shifted her focus from to mental health. Her goal is to counsel children and adults, providing services pro bono or for those who are low income.

Larry Quinn - Outreach Worker

Larry Quinn began working at NAMI Chicago in June 2019. Larry grew up on the West Side of Chicago and attended North Lawndale College Prep High School. He holds a Bachelors' in Criminal Justice Sciences from Illinois State University. Larry enjoys working in mental health because he thinks it is important to help bridge the gap for those who cannot by themselves.

RECOVERY SUPPORT TEAM

The In Home Recovery Support (IHRS) program supports class members transitioning out of SMHRF’s into independent community living under the Williams Consent Decree.  Recovery Support Providers provide one-on-one peer support services that empower class members and instill a strong sense of hope.

Andrew Kaufman, LSW - Recovery Manager

Andrew Kaufman manages recovery programming, including the In Home Recovery Support Program and recovery support groups. Andrew joined the NAMI Chicago team in June 2019, coming to us from the United Nations, where he worked with genocide victims from Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Prior to that role, Andrew held social work roles in various medical and mental health settings around the world, supporting those living with mental illness. Andrew holds a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Arizona.

Charles Mack, CRSS - Recovery Support Provider

Charles Mack became a Recovery Support Provider at NAMI Chicago in 2017. Prior to this role, Charles worked at Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, Lake County Healthcare Department as an ACT Team Counselor, and HRDI as an Intake Specialist assigned to Jackson Park Hospital. He received a Bachelors’ from NIU in 1978 and is pursuing an Masters in Public Health from Southern State University. Charles is committed to providing the type of quality services that one comes to expect from a counselor in a behavioral health setting. Charles was honored to received The Carol Valendorff Peer Leadership Award in 2018 while working as a Peer Support Provider at NAMI Chicago.

Eric Cowgill, CRSS - Recovery Support Provider

Eric Cowgill joined NAMI Chicago in July 2017. Eric has spent his career working with people who deal with mental health struggles, criminal justice involvement, hospitalizations, housing transition and past traumas. As a Certified Peer Support Specialist by the state of Illinois, Eric uses his personal history of mental health and addiction recovery to inform and support those he works for.

Pooja Nagpal, CRSS - Recovery Support Provider

Pooja Nagpal has been at NAMI Chicago since 2017. In her role she mentors, advocates and encourages individuals living in recovery to be empowered. She has her Bachelor's degree in Business and started out working in marketing. She hadn't planned on pursuing a career in mental health, but realized that her interest in psychology and her passion for service might be a better fit somewhere else. She began volunteering with NAMI DuPage in 2011 and hasn't left the NAMI family since.

Abel Lumas, MSW, CRSS - Recovery Support Provider

Abel Lumas joined the NAMI Chicago team in January 2019 with seven years of experience in the mental health field at Trilogy and Volunteers of America. Abel earned his Masters' in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016. Abel is passionate about working in mental health because of his own lived experience and strong belief that recovery is possible. He looks forward to working with class members by assisting them with achieving their goals.

Betty Frazier - Support Specialist

Betty Frazier 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.

Mydalia Cotto, CRSS - Recovery Support Provider

Mydalia Cotto joined NAMI Chicago in October of 2017. Mydalia began working in mental health as a peer supporter at Metropolitan Family Services in 2009, and went on to work as a Community Support Specialist and Recovery Support Assistant for Thresholds drop-in centers from 2010 to 2017. She obtained her CRSS credential in May of 2018. Her goal is to continue to support, advocate, educate, empower and work alongside individuals who are living with mental health challenges. Mydalia loves to spend time with her family and friends, dance and watch a great movie. Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilent.

INTERNS

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. To apply for an internship, contact Ben Frank, Education Coordinator.

 

NAMI CHICAGO FRAUD REPORTING

This fraud reporting form applies to any irregularity, or suspected irregularity, involving employees as well as shareholders, consultants, vendors, contractors, outside agencies doing business with employees of NAMI Chicago and/or any other parties with a business relationship with NAMI Chicago.

 

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