4th Annual Older Adult
Mental Health Awareness
Day Symposium

May 6, 2021

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Program Committee

Program Committee members have met regularly since November 2020 to share their expertise and provide feedback on the content and structure of the symposium. These individuals volunteered their time to identify the broad educational needs of the older adult mental health awareness community to bring you the Annual OAMHAD symposium.  

Thank you to our the OAMHAD Program Committee members for your support in bringing this event to fruition.  

Kathleen A. Cameron, Co-Chair, NCOA

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Kathleen A. Cameron, BS Pharm, MPH has over 25 years of experience in the health care field as a pharmacist, researcher and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and caregiving. Ms. Cameron is currently Senior Director at the National Council on Aging (NCOA) where she oversees the U.S. Administration on Aging-funded National Falls Prevention Resource Center and National Chronic Disease Self-Management Education (CDSME) Resource Center. Ms. Cameron was previously with JBS International as director of a SAMHSA-funded technical assistance center aimed at educating the aging network, mental health providers and policy makers about behavioral health conditions among older adults. She has also held positions at the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists Foundation and the National Council on Aging. She has served as a consultant to various aging and health care organizations in the Washington DC area. Ms. Cameron received her BS degree in pharmacy from the University of Connecticut and her MPH from Yale University. The topic of her Master’s thesis was medication use and risk of falling among community-dwelling older adults. 

​Keri Lipperini, Co-Chair, ACL

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Keri Lipperini is the Director in the Office of Nutrition and Health Promotion Programs, within the Administration for Community Living’s, Administration on Aging.  For over 25 years, she has worked in health and wellness, 20 of those years she has been working specifically with the aging and disabilities populations. Prior to her work at AoA, Ms. Lipperini served as Program Manager for Calvert County Maryland where she oversaw Calvert’s health promotion and nutrition programs. Keri is a former United States Navy Hospital Corpsman. She holds Masters in Public Administration (MPA) with Health Care focus from Troy State University and Bachelors of Science degree in Health Care Administration from Southern Illinois University. 

Collette Adamsen, National Resource Center on Native American Aging

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Collette Adamsen, PhD is a Research Assistant Professor for the Center for Rural Health (UND) at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Grand Forks, ND.  In addition, she serves as the director of the National Resource Center on Native American Aging (NRCNAA), the Principal Investigator (PI) for the Native Urban Elder Needs Assessment Survey (NUENAS) project funded by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the PI for the Native Aging in Place Project (NAPP) funded by the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.   

As the director of the NRCNAA, Collette provides grant project direction and leadership, conducts research on health disparities among American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian elders throughout the nation, manages data for the NRCNAA, and functions as an American Indian content specialist.  Furthermore, in her role as PI for the NUENAS project, she is expanding her research efforts and serving as a resource for the Native Urban Elder population.     

Collette received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, a Master of Public Administration, with an emphasis in Health Administration, and a Doctorate in Educational Foundations and Research from UND.  She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and is originally from Belcourt, ND.   

Ellen Blackwell, CMS

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Ellen Blackwell is a senior advisor at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. She is a geriatric social worker with an extensive background in in aging, disability services, and long-term services and supports in Medicare, and Medicaid. At CMS she works on programs that support improved quality, program efficiency, and person-centered care. She joined the Federal service as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2001. Prior to joining CMS, Ms. Blackwell was a consultant at The Horizon Foundation, a philanthropic organization that promotes local health and wellness. She interned as a graduate student at The Hilltop Institute, a health research center at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and at the Howard County Office on Aging. Ms. Blackwell also founded a chapter of the Autism Society of America.  

Angie Boddie, National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc.

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Angie Boddie is director of Health Programs for the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc., (NCBA), a national aging organization whose major focus is to meet and address the social and economic challenges of African American and Black older adults.  Boddie provides technical assistance and programmatic expertise to plan, implement, and direct Title VII programs that impact African American health and wellness, vitality, and activity at a mature age.  

She is also a member of the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), a national organization representing American Indian and Alaska Native Elders; Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian older adults; Black and African American older adults; Hispanic and Latinx older adults; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults.  The DEC works promotes policy changes and programmatic solutions that respond to demographic shifts and barriers facing diverse communities.  

Boddie is the creator and contributing author to “The Caucus Corner”, an external newsletter published by NCBA that highlights employment, health, and housing national trends as well as federal and state policies affecting the advocacy, delivery of services, and technical assistance offered to older adults.  She is also a contributing author for “A Journey to Wellness”, an online health news magazine for African Americans, and the co-author of “How Aging Black America Lives,” a demographic report that examines the social and economic quality of life indicators for African American older adults compared to their counterparts. 

Boddie is a graduate of the University of Maryland, with a B.S. degree in Paralegal Studies.  She holds a master’s degree in Public Relations, Corporate Communications from Georgetown University.  She also serves an alumni instructor for the Master of Professional Studies, Public Relations, Corporate Communications program at Georgetown University.  

Michele Karel, Veterans Health Administration

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Michele Karel is a board certified geropsychologist who serves as National Mental Health Director, Geriatric Mental Health, in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of  Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. She coordinates the integration of mental health services in several VHA Geriatrics and Extended Care programs and partners on initiatives to optimize access to and quality of mental health services for older Veterans. 

Lauren Lowenstein, CMS

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Lauren Lowenstein is the program & policy lead for the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting Program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. Prior to joining CMS, Lauren received her MSW from the University of Maryland and her MPH from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. As a social work student, Lauren interned at Renaissance Treatment Center, where she provided mandated substance use counseling and case management to individuals on parole or probation, and at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where she focused on behavioral health emergency preparedness. Prior to pursuing her graduate education, Lauren worked as a legal and social services case manager at Bread for the City, a non-profit that serves Washington DC’s low-income community. 

Christy Malik, NASMHPD

Christy Malik, MSW, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors

Joel Miller, American Mental Health Counselors Association

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Joel E. Miller, M.S. Ed. is the Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer of American Mental Health Counselors Association. 

With over 30 years of experience in health care and behavioral health policy, Mr. Miller has advocated for the creation of federal and state policy – and regulatory solutions – to improve the delivery and financing of health care and behavioral health care in the U.S. 

In his current role as Executive Director and CEO of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) – headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia – Mr. Miller leads over 7000 clinical mental health counselors who have a critically important impact on the lives of Americans with behavioral health conditions. AMHCAs mission is to enhance the mental health counseling profession through advocacy, professional development, education and licensing.  Mr. Miller is responsible for all operations of the organization and implementing strategic initiatives in support of the Board of Directors.  He is the publisher of AMHCA’s Journal of Mental Health Counseling and its Advocate newsletter. He also serves as a member on the AMHCA Foundation Board of Directors.   

In his previous position at the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), he led the development and implementation of NASMHPD’s policy agenda and regulatory strategies, which were designed to support State Behavioral Health Agencies and the state public behavioral health systems.  He also served as Director of NASMHPD’s Financing and Medicaid Division. 

At the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mr. Miller led NAMI’s State Policy team and Public Policy Institute, dedicated to improving the financing and delivery of mental health services at the state level for people with mental illness, and addressing mental health issues across the lifespan.  He also was Staff Director to NAMI’s Veterans Council and the organization’s Scientific Affairs Council. 

Mr. Miller served as Senior Vice President at the National Coalition on Health Care, where he oversaw the evaluation, preparation and dissemination of innovative research and policy analysis about the nation’s health care system.  He also was the Director of Professional Affairs at the Health Insurance Association of America (now called America’s Health Insurance Plans). 

He has published over 50 articles and reports on behavioral health and health care delivery and financing, health care reform, Medicare and Medicaid policy, behavioral health integration, the health care workforce, cost management, medical practice assessment, quality improvement, health insurance exchanges, and health information technology.  

As a strong advocate on health care for seniors, he currently serves on the Executive Committee of the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging.  Miller also has served on state health planning boards and committees, and was a founding board member of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.  

Shannon Skowronski, ACL

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Shannon Skowronski is the Team Lead in the Office of Nutrition and Health Promotion Programs, within the U.S. Administration for Community Living’s (ACL), Administration on Aging (AoA).  For over a decade, she has provided subject-matter expertise for AoA senior leadership, as well as managed a portfolio of federal grants focused on healthy aging.  Previously, Ms. Skowronski served as a health policy analyst with RTI International. A former McGregor Geriatric Fellow, Ms. Skowronski holds Masters in Public Health and Masters of Social work degrees from the University of Michigan. 

Janine Simmons, NIA

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Dr. Janine M. Simmons serves as the Chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes Branch within the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging. Prior to taking this position, she ran the Social and Affective Neuroscience Program at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). At NIMH, Dr. Simmons served as a representative to the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) working group, the Office of Basic and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), and the Common Fund Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) initiative. Dr. Simmons attended Yale University, obtained an M.D., Ph.D. in Neurosciences from the UCLA School of Medicine, trained in General & Adult Psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship within the NIMH Intramural Program.  

Eric Weakly, SAMHSA

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Eric Weakly is the Western Branch Chief in the Division of State and Community Systems Development, Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The Division manages the Mental Health Block Grant, which provides funds and technical assistance to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 6 Pacific jurisdictions. Grantees use the funds to provide comprehensive, community-based mental health services to adults with serious mental illnesses and to children with serious emotional disturbances and to monitor progress in implementing a comprehensive, community-based mental health system. Prior to his work at SAMHSA, Eric was a project officer at the Administration for Community Living working on the No Wrong Door/ADRC, Inclusive Transportation, and Supported Decision Making projects. Eric has also led collaborative efforts at the local level on mental health and long-term services and support programs. Prior to work in administration, Eric worked as a social worker with older adults and families. 

Joan Weiss, HRSA

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Joan Weiss, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN is an adult and gerontological nurse practitioner who serves as the Deputy Director in the Division of Medicine and Dentistry (DMD) at the Health Resources and Services Administration. She oversees all phases of management for workforce development in geriatrics, primary care, graduate medical education, preventive medicine/public health, and oral health. She advises on the development of performance measures for HRSA’s DMD education and training programs. Her experience in interprofessional practice and education spans 30 years. She is the immediate past Designated Federal Official for the Federal Advisory Committee on Interdisciplinary Community-Based Linkages. She is the HRSA representative on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Care, and Services; the Family Caregiving Advisory Council; and the Grandparent Advisory Council. She also serves on HHS interagency workgroups on palliative care, elder justice, and caregiving. She has served in many leadership positions at HRSA including Director of the Division of Public Health and Interdisciplinary Education and Acting Director of the Division of Nursing. She is a recipient of the 2015 Secretary’s Meritorious Group Award for taking important steps to find a cure and improve care for people with dementia. 

Kimberly A. Williams, Vibrant Emotional Health

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Kimberly A. Williams is the President and CEO of the Vibrant Emotional Health, a nonprofit organization which reaches over 2.5 million people each year to help them achieve emotional well-being through high quality, innovative programs. She began as a public policy intern in 2003, rising to President and CEO in 2017. She has served the mental health industry through various positions, including mental health advocate, administrator, educator, and consultant. Under her leadership, the 50+ year old organization rebranded to be better positioned for the future of mental health in our society and to communicate a positive vision for all who are impacted by mental health challenges. As CEO, Williams has overseen the expansion of Vibrant’s premier programs they administer, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Disaster Distress Helpline, and NYC Well, New York City’s leading edge, multi-lingual, multi-modal contact center program that responds around the clock to the mental health needs of over 300,000 New Yorkers every year. 

Williams serves on a number of advisory committees and boards including the New York State Interagency Geriatric Mental Health and Chemical Dependence Planning Council, the New York State Health Foundation Community Advisory Committee, Mental Health News Education Inc., United Community Schools, and the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging, for whom she is immediate past chair. Her leadership in the field has been recognized by City and State New York, New York Nonprofit Media, Mental Health Association in New York State, and the National Association of Social Workers NYC Chapter. Williams has been an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work and NYU Silver School of Social Work. Her voice has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CBS Evening News, The Today Show and more. 

NCOA Program Staff

Michelle Mai

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Michelle Mai joined as the Program Associate with the Center for Healthy Aging in March of 2020. She brings experience conducting outreach and organizing large health events for the community. In this role with NCOA, she provides technical assistance to chronic disease self-management education and falls prevention grantees, striving to help them reach their grant goals as they implement evidence based programs into their community. Michelle is excited to start her next chapter with NCOA and the Center for Healthy Aging team to help improve the lives of older adults. Michelle received her Master’s degree in Public Health and Bachelor’s degree in Community Health from George Mason University. 

Laura B. Plunkett

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Laura B. Plunkett is a Program Specialist with the Center for Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging. In this role, she works with chronic disease self-management education and fall prevention grantees across the country to provide information, support, and resources to strengthen, expand, and sustain the delivery of evidence-based programs. Prior to joining NCOA, Laura spent four years at an Area Agency on Aging in North Carolina, where she coordinated the implementation of evidence-based health promotion programs in 12 counties. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Bachelor of Social Work from North Carolina State University and a Master’s degree in Public Health from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She’s a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Certified Health Coach (CHC). Her professional interests include the integration of community-based services and healthcare, sustainability of evidence-based programs, and continuum of care efforts. 

Binod Suwal

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Binod Suwal is a Senior Manager at the Center for Healthy Aging, National Council on Aging (NCOA). He manages the general office administration of the Center. He works closely with the Center Staff, Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging (ACL/AoA), and Partners on CDSME and Falls Prevention grant-related matters. He also manages consulting contracts and budget of the Center and provides administrative support to the Center staff, as needed. He has been with the NCOA since 2001.


Dorothea K. Vafiadis

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Dorothea K. Vafiadis, M.S., FAHA, is the Director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging (NCOA) where she oversees two national resource centers focusing on falls prevention and chronic disease management programs, driving social impact and improving health and wellness for older adults at the community level. Her experience of more than 20 years in public health and non-profit organizations includes shaping policies and environments to promote health, establishing public and private partnerships and overseeing volunteer panels and non-profit boards. She currently leads NCOA’s 100 Million Healthier Lives Aging Hub initiative, a collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  

Prior to joining NCOA, Ms. Vafiadis served as the National Director of Healthy Living for the American Heart Association (AHA), where she directed strategy for systems change at the program and policy levels. She played a major role in the creation of the HEALTHY FOR GOOD initiative, a consumer campaign delivering science-based recommendations to drive behavior change and reach millions of Americans. At AHA, Ms. Vafiadis forged partnerships with multinational food companies and co-developed initiatives, including an annual leadership summit-series designed to transform the food supply and promote healthier foods and better health outcomes. One such effort resulted in a successful five year, multi-million dollar initiative called Healthy for Life® 20 By 20 with Aramark Corp, serving underserved communities across the country and improving their diet quality.  

Prior to joining AHA, Ms. Vafiadis served as a Nutritionist in the Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she co-led a team of scientists deliberating on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ms. Vafiadis is a member of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Food Forum. 

Kathleen Zuke

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Kathleen Zuke was privileged to grow up with eight loving grandparents and developed a passion for supportive services for older adults as a caregiver for her grandfather. She has been a Senior Program Manager with the Center for Healthy Aging since 2015. In this role, she works collaboratively with community-based partners across the country to identify, implement, and sustain evidence-based programs that support older adults in staying well and aging in the community, including chronic disease self-management education, falls prevention, and behavioral health. She has a Master’s degree in Public Health from Hunter College and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.