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.
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 our outreach efforts under the Moving On Project, which is a part of the Williams Consent Decree, since 2014. 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. Before her current role, 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!
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 coordinates NAMI Chicago's communications, volunteer 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. 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.
Jessica Pontis, MSW - 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.
TRAINING & EDUCATION TEAM