Meet the Team

SIU School of Medicine Team

Kari M. Wolf, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry at SIU SOM
Co-Executive Director, SIU Neuroscience Institute

Dr. Kari M. Wolf joined SIU School of Medicine in 2016 to serve as Chair of Psychiatry. Previously, she served as an Associate Professor of medicine at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin as well as President and CEO of the Seton Mind Institute in Austin and Chief Medical Officer for Seton Shoal Creek Hospital. Dr. Wolf also served as the chair of the Austin campus for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas-Southwestern. She completed a psychiatry residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City (2001) after earning her medical degree at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine (1997). She earned a bachelor’s degree at William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y. (1992).

Since coming to SIU, Dr. Wolf has served as a content expert for numerous pieces of legislation, created innovative psychiatric services to expand access in the region, served for 3 years as the Psychiatric Director for Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service’s Behavioral Health Division, and participated in numerous national and regional talks on medical education, leadership, mental health policy, telehealth, and behavioral health workforce development.  She currently serves as the PI or co-investigator on several grants related to workforce development and is actively working with multiple partner organizations to enhance the behavioral health system of care in the region.

The Evanston, IL native is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She is a member of numerous organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the Association for Academic Psychiatry, the American Association of Medical Colleges Group on Women in Medicine and Science, and the American Association of Chairs of Departments of Psychiatry where she serves in a leadership position. Dr. Wolf has experience as a prior residency program director, medical student clerkship director, and has significant expertise in curriculum development, mentoring, quality improvement processes, health policy development, change management and strategic planning. Dr. Wolf’s interests include workforce development, population health, and health delivery science.

David Akers (They/Them/He/Him)
Program Coordinator: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, BHWC

David Akers graduated from DePaul University in 2022 with a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. They have previous professional experience working in Community Mental Health. David co-founded and chaired the first EDI Committee at a previous agency to assist in building organizational cultural competency and proficiency through interactive activities, and facilitating group discussions on advocacy, being an ally vs an accomplice, and others. They are interested in advocacy for the LGTBQIA+ community and orienting their work through an anti-racist lens.

In the Behavioral Health Workforce Center, David is working as an advocate for underserved and unserved communities within the mental health care field, as well as ensuring clinicians are trained to work with some of the most vulnerable populations while being culturally proficient.

Erica Austin
Deputy Director, BHWC

Erica Austin is a native of Springfield, Ill. She graduated from Lincoln College with an Associate of Arts Degree in social sciences, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Drake University, and a Master of Arts Degree in Human Services specializing in children and family services from the University of Illinois Springfield. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Illinois State University in the Higher Education Administration program.

Having over 15 years of experience in community, family, and youth engagement, Erica is committed to improving her community by decreasing the disparities, specifically among persons of color, by providing education, social support, and policy development, and by addressing social and environmental justice issues. Her areas of expertise are health, youth development, community organizing, volunteer development, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

She is a strong believer in health is wealth because anything can be achieved when you have good health especially mental health!

Taylor Blakeley, PhD (He/Him)
Training and TA Program Coordinator, BHWC

Dr. Blakeley completed his doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Liberty University. He graduated with his Master’s in Applied Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Liberty as well. He is a current Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) and former CRSS supervisor. He received certification from the National Council on Mental Wellbeing as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, providing MHFA to various populations. Dr. Blakeley has worked in multiple leadership roles in community mental health centers, health systems, and behavioral health projects. He creates, develops, and facilitates various training programs, for instance, a CRSS training program for mental health professionals pursuing their certification.

Dr. Blakeley’s passions are looking at training programs and retention strategies for behavioral health and healthcare professionals. Within the Behavioral Health Workforce Center, Dr. Blakeley works on all of his passions to help build the behavioral health workforce in Illinois, ensuring trainings follow current evidence-based practices and reviewing retention methods.

Karen Broquet, MD
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry & Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education at SIU SOM

Dr. Karen Broquet completed her residency in Psychiatry at the University of South Alabama and is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at SIU SOM. As the Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education for the past 20 years at SIU SOM, she has guided the development, implementation and expansion of all of the SIU SOM residency and fellowship programs.

Dr. Broquet is retiring from the Associate Dean position to oversee GME activities for the SIU SOM Department of Psychiatry and to support the development of education and training programs as part of the BHWC.

Kyle Fontaine (He/Him)
Education and Training Program Coordinator, BHWC

Kyle Fontaine earned a Bachelor of Education (2017) from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is a certified teacher in the state of Illinois, and prior to moving to Illinois in July 2023 he taught at an Adult Education Center and Alternative High School in Winnipeg. It was through these positions that Kyle solidified his passion for educating and helping others. Before entering the realm of teaching, he earned both a Bachelor of Science in Biology (2008) and Master of Science in molecular and population genetics (2013) from the University of Manitoba.

As the Education and Training Program Coordinator for the Behavioral Health Workforce Center, Kyle works with state organizations and institutions to correct and implement educational practices that strengthen the behavioral health workforce in Illinois.

His hobbies and interests include spending time with his wife, camping, hiking and appreciating nature, skating, watching hockey (Jets, Blackhawks), watching football (Colts, Giants), playing and watching golf, and watching movies or televisions series while eating popcorn or ice-cream.

Alexia Helmer (She/Her)
Marketing Associate, BHWC

Alexia Helmer graduated from Illinois College in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Literature. She has seven years of experience in marketing and communications, primarily working in higher education and freelancing with small, local businesses. Her expertise includes website design and management, social media management, content creation, search engine optimization, and writing and editing.

Alexia enjoys finding creative ways to build marketing strategies that grow brand-awareness and tell intriguing and well-rounded stories. She is very passionate about behavioral and mental health and wellness, and is excited to use her skills to assist in the growth of the Behavioral Health Workforce Center.

George Frank Houston
Director of Certification Strategies, BHWC

George “Frank” Houston has worked in K-12 education, nontraditional university degree and certificate programs, mental health services, and small business consulting for the past 30 years. Frank has a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Education from Knox College; Masters in Management and Organizational Behavior and Ph.D. in Organization Development from Benedictine University.

Frank synthesizes his experience and education to develop and implement certification programs through the Behavioral Health Workforce Center equipping community members to pursue new employment opportunities. He values helping people pursue their aspirations while also helping to ameliorate larger social inequities.

Gina Larkin
Director of Strategic Development, BHWC

Gina Larkin has built a career supporting executive leaders in the areas of public policy, contract compliance, and human resources. Her education and experience in state government, local government, and public pension administration has helped her navigate the complexities of public sector program work and personnel management.

As the Director of Strategic Development for the Behavioral Health Workforce Center, Gina assists in the strategic growth of the Center and applies her knowledge of workforce development to assist with program initiatives. She is a strong believer in reaching goals through collaboration, constructive conflict, and process improvement.

Joshua Laughhunn (He/Him)
Program Coordinator: Pathways, BHWC

Joshua Laughhunn graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Clinical Psychology. He has received professional experience as a Community Mental Health Worker. Joshua has also previously served his community as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT-Basic for four years. He has been through various pathways of education which ultimately led him to be the Pathways Program Coordinator for the Behavioral Health Workforce Center.

He is passionate about serving his community and recognizes the crisis that Illinois is currently facing regarding the behavioral health workforce shortage. He makes it a mission to ensure that individuals from all backgrounds have an opportunity to pursue career paths of their choosing.

Sean McGinity
Information Technology Technical Associate, BHWC

Sean McGinity graduated from Iowa State University in 2017 with degrees in Psychology and Philosophy. He studied Quantitative Psychology at Illinois State University. Sean has studied data analysis and programming for many years and has a passion for behavioral research. His desire to keep up with the latest statistical techniques and technology allows him to better communicate information and insights.

Joseph Milbrandt, PhD
Director, Center for Clinical Research at SIU SOM
Research Associate Professor, BHWC

Dr. Joseph Milbrandt joined the SIU School of Medicine in 2005. Previously he served as Director of the Center for Clinical Investigation at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL. After completing a Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1995, he completed a 2-year fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Dr. Milbrandt has been involved in the administration and conduct of research for more than 30 years. His experience includes investigator-initiated clinical research, quality improvement project design and implementation, industry-sponsored clinical trials, and institutional-level administration and oversight of research operations including statistical and data management support services.

He is currently Director of the Center for Clinical Research (CCR) at the SIU School of Medicine. The CCR is an institutional resource currently comprised of 54 faculty and staff with expertise in clinical research administration, research development, QI methods, study coordination, statistical analysis and data management. Dr. Milbrandt is the lead for the Behavioral Health Workforce Center research work group.

Kristi Patterson
Grants & Contracts Manager, BHWC

Kristi Patterson has over 20 years of experience writing and implementing state and federal contracts and grants. Working in the Workforce Center at McHenry County College, Ms. Patterson focused on workforce development across the continuum of business and industry including healthcare. In her three years at SIU SOM, Kristi has secured over $20 million dollars in state and federal grants for health related projects. As part of the BHWC, she is responsible for identifying grant opportunities, writing, submitting, and standing up new grants to grow and expand workforce development, education, and training programs for the behavioral healthcare workforce.

Susan Tinsley
Administrative Assistant

Susan Tinsley brings over thirty years of administrative experience to the Behavioral Health Workforce Center. She has worked for more than fifteen years at SIU Medicine in both Telehealth and the Office of External Relations. Susan’s experience in office management and customer relations has provided her the skillset to work with a diverse group of people while remaining highly organized and detail-oriented, allowing her to manage multiple tasks and various office operations. Her positive personality and get it done attitude are unmet alongside her keen insight and workflow, which help to keep the Center running smoothly.

As the Administrative Assistant for the BHWC, she supports the team in all capacities while using her abilities to problem-solve, prioritize, organize, and communicate effectively and efficiently.

Lori Williams
Associate Provost, Office of External Relations at SIU SOM

Lori Williams has spent over 30 years working on behalf of rural health, community, and economic development in Illinois.  She spent 14 years in state government working in the Office of the Governor, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, and as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council.  Since leaving state government in 2004, Lori has served as the Executive Director of the Illinois Rural Health Association, Vice President of Membership for the Illinois Hospital Association and is currently the Associate Provost for External Relations at SIU School of Medicine.  In that capacity, Lori oversees the business operations of the Behavioral Health Workforce Center.

university of Illinois Chicago Team

Rose Anderson, LCSW
Research Specialist, BHWC

Rose Anderson, LCSW, serves as a research specialist for the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC, primarily focusing on the needs of Integrated Care behavioral health providers across the state. Her desire to help improve the delivery of and access to behavioral health services was fostered by past roles as a social worker in community mental health as an outpatient therapist and as a behavioral health consultant in FQHCs. Rose is dedicated to the complex and multi-layered work of the BHWC to support behavioral health providers and improve access to services for everyone.

Sam Carpenter
Program Evaluator, BHWC

Sam Carpenter, MA, serves as an evaluator for the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC. She has a background in social science research, holding an MA in Cognitive and Social Processes. This, along with her experience in evaluation consulting, allows her to provide research methodology support for all of BHWC’s initiatives, contributing evaluation insights that empower organizations to create a lasting impact on behavioral health services and workforce development.

Judith A. Cook, PhD
Professor, Department of Psychiatry at UIC
Project Director, Center of Mental Health Services Research and Policy at UIC
SMI Training Director, BHWC

Judith A. Cook, PhD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of UIC’s Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy. She is an internationally recognized authority on mental health services research focused on the study of clinical and rehabilitation outcomes of children and adults receiving community-based care. She directs a federally funded research center along with numerous grants and contracts focused on intervention science, psychiatric epidemiology, and outcomes research. She designs and implements innovative programs to enhance the health and behavioral health of vulnerable populations, and works with federal, state and local authorities on behavioral health service system reconfiguration and alternative financing strategies. Her recent work focuses on randomized controlled trials of evidence-based practice treatments for serious mental illness, and outcomes of individuals with co-occurring mental illness and chronic medical conditions. She consults with federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health, Social Security Administration, Department of Labor, Government Accountability Office, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Veteran’s Administration. Over the past three decades, she has provided education, training, and policy briefings on serious mental illness in academic settings, community programs, and in state, local and international governmental agencies.

Ray Eads, PhD
Assistant Professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC
Consultant, BHWC

Ray Eads, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago and serves as a consultant on the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center. His areas of focus include strengths-based interventions for mental health and trauma and supporting a diverse workforce through quality higher education in social work. Dr. Eads is involved with the Behavioral Health Workforce Center (BHWC) initiative on integrated behavioral health and primary care, including research on training needs and best practices in integrated care settings. Dr. Eads is currently leading a pilot study through BHWC on the implementation of solution-focused brief therapy as an evidence-based brief intervention in integrated care settings.

Cynthia Handrup, , DNP, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN
Clinical Associate Professor & Director of the Psychiatric Mental Health Program and Director of the Primary Care Mental Health Concentration,
Department of Population Health Nursing Science at UIC

Dr. Handrup received her BSN from the University of Rhode Island, MSN from the Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Program from Xavier University Chicago, Ill., and a DNP from the University of Colorado Denver. She is a Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the PMHNP DNP program and the Primary Care Mental Health Concentration at the University of Illinois Chicago. In addition, she maintains an outpatient practice in psychotherapy and psychiatric evaluation and medication. Dr. Handrup is the Immediate Past President of the Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice. She was inducted as a Fellow into the American Academy of Nursing in Oct. 2021.

Throughout her career, Dr. Handrup has promoted nurse involvement in the interdisciplinary and global policy arena, leadership on behavioral health nursing and non-nursing boards, and helped define the psychiatric advanced practice nurses’ clinical role. She is passionate about setting policies and agendas for behavioral health and social justice, structural racism, human trafficking, justice reform, global mental health, and LGBTQ issues. Dr. Handrup has impacted policy and advocacy of persons with mental illness and social inequalities through her publications, webinars, podcasts; national and international presentations; and service on multidisciplinary boards and committees. This work demonstrates her strong commitment to social justice issues, health disparities, and promoting mental health.

Sean Johnson
Research Specialist and Program Coordinator, Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy at UIC
SMI Project Manager & Trainer, BHWC

Sean Johnson, MA, CRSS, is a research specialist and program coordinator at UIC’s Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy. He provides health coaching and financial education interventions as part of clinical trial studies at the Center. He coordinated a federally-funded project that introduced peer-led recovery wellness self-management education to older adults (aged 60+) across Illinois. He previously delivered supported employment services at a community mental health program in Chicago, where he contributed to program development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based models delivered to enhance employment and mental health recovery. He serves as a member of the IL DHS/DMH Brand New Day CRSS Statewide Steering Committee, and is a certified Wellness Recovery Action Plan facilitator. His training and education activities include presentations at national conferences, statewide trainings for Illinois’ behavioral health vocational service providers, and statewide training in mental health self-management to peer and non-peer providers.

Tanya Johnson, LSW
Initiative Coordinator, BHWC

Tanya Johnson, LSW, serves as an Initiative Coordinator for the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC, focusing on the needs of Support Specialists (CHW, CRSS, CPRS) across the state. Her passion for improving mental health services arose from other past roles as a social worker in a SMHRF (Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Center), community mental health center, and from providing home-based therapeutic intervention services. Ms. Johnson is committed to supporting behavioral health providers and improving the quality and availability of services for all those in need.

Jessica A. Jonikas
Associate Director, Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy at UIC
Research Specialist, Department of Psychiatry at UIC
SMI Training Co-Director, BHWC

Jessica A. Jonikas, MA, is Associate Director of the UIC Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy, as well as a Research Specialist in Health Systems Research for the UIC Department of Psychiatry. She is co-investigator or program director on federally-funded projects to promote wellness self-management, holistic health, and self-determination for people in recovery. Her recent work focuses on randomized controlled trials of health coaching, financial education, and psychoeducation on immune health for adults with mental illnesses. She serves as Co-Director of the UIC Center’s Practice, Policy, and Science Exchange that promotes knowledge translation through training, dissemination, and technical assistance for the behavioral health and medical fields.

Ms. Jonikas is the senior author or co-author of multiple research articles, book chapters, training guides, and other educational resources on recovery-oriented models of care. For over 25 years, she has been an influential force in preparing and mentoring the mental health workforce. 

Sonya J. Leathers, PhD
Professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC
Director, BHWC

Sonya J. Leathers, PhD, is a professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the director of the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center activities at UIC. Her areas of expertise include the development of effective behavioral health training programs, mental health services research in public service systems, interventions for children and adolescents with complex behavior problems, and implementation methods. She is the director of an evidence-based mental health practices training program and a recipient of the UIC Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her research is focused on the mental health needs of children and adolescents in foster care with complex needs and the development of more effective behavioral health service systems.

Over the past two decades, she has received continuous federal and state funding for multiple research projects and training programs funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the National Institute for Mental Health, the Illinois Division of Mental Health, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Administration for Children and Families, and private foundations.

Meredith Lee, LCSW
Initiative Coordinator, BHWC

Meredith, LCSW, is the coordinator of the Serious Mental Illness Initiative at the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC. Meredith is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 14 years of experience working in community mental health. Meredith served as Director of Adult Case Management for one of Illinois’ largest non-profit organizations. She earned her master’s degree from Loyola University Chicago, specializing in mental health.

Marvin Lindsey, MSW
Consultant, BHWC
Adjunct Lecturer, Jane Addams School of Social Work at UIC

Marvin Lindsey, MSW, has over 40 years of experience in the fields of human service, social science research and advocacy. He recently retired as the CEO of a statewide behavioral health association in Illinois. Marvin is a consultant on the Illinois behavioral Health Workforce Center. Marvin is also an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Illinois Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work and in that role, he recruits, supports and mentor/ coach Black/African American male MSW students in the College’s We Are Men Program (WAM). He has served on numerous state committees and currently serves on two community non-profit Board of Directors.

Marvin attended Loyola Academy, received his bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and his master’s degree in social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. He has also completed an international personal and professional coaching program.

Catherine Melka-Kaffer, LCSW
Initiative Coordinator, BHWC

Catherine Melka-Kaffer, LCSW, serves as an Initiative Coordinator for the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC, focusing on the needs of Community Mental Health providers across the state. Her passion for improving mental health services arose from other past roles as a social worker in a youth agency, community mental health center, and group home. Ms. Melka-Kaffer is committed to supporting behavioral health providers and improving the quality and availability of services for all those in-need. Ms. Melka-Kaffer is also the Training Director of the Integrated Behavioral Health Care Training Program at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Lisa A. Razzano, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry and Deputy Director, Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy at UIC
Director of James Scholar Program, UIC College of Medicine
SMI Training Co-Director, BHWC

Lisa A. Razzano, PhD, CPRP, is Professor of Psychiatry and Deputy Director of the Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy at UIC, and Director of the James Scholar Program at the UIC College of Medicine. Dr. Razzano is recognized internationally for her funded research and workforce development programs focusing on mental health recovery, physical health co-morbidities, health literacy, mental health, and recovery among people with HIV/AIDS, and community intervention and services research. Her work has been recognized with awards including the American Psychological Association’s Neale Award for Career Contributions in Research, Teaching, and Mentorship in Public Psychology in the Field of Serious Mental Illness, the Institute for Health Care Advancement, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group (2012), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Bianca Schindeler, MSW
Research Assistant, BHWC

Bianca Schindeler, MSW, is a research assistant at the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC and a doctoral student at UIC. Prior to returning to school and joining this team, she held various research and evaluation roles in nonprofit and academic settings. She also has a direct practice social work background which informs her research, primarily in contexts related to the criminal legal system.

At the center, she supports various projects with tasks such as data collection, recruitment, and statewide survey initiative development.

Amy Starin, PhD, LCSW
Consultant, BHWC

Amy Starin, PhD, LCSW, with over 35 years’ experience working in and leading children’s mental health initiatives in Illinois. She serves as a consultant to the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC in the area of child mental health and the parent support initiative. She has worked as a clinician, supervisor, researcher, policy maker and teacher.

Amy specializes in the development of children’s mental health systems of care and integrating mental health care into medical and school settings.

Beck Stolberg, MSW
Visiting Research Associate, BHWC

Beck Stolberg, MSW, serves as a Visiting Research Associate at the Behavioral Health Workforce Center at UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work. Beck is an enthusiastic researcher with special interests in personality disorders, training in evidence-based practices, and clinician support and supervision.

After earning their MSW in 2018 in Advanced Clinical Social Work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Beck spent several years working in the field. Through this experience, Beck was inspired to pursue research while preparing for doctoral level study.

Carrie Welter, LCSW
Project Manager and Visiting Senior Research Specialist, BHWC

Carrie Welter, LCSW, serves as Project Manager – Visiting Senior Research Specialist for the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago. At the BHWC she supervises and coordinates operations including facilitation of the Parent Support Initiative.

Carrie has a background in collaborative curriculum development, staff management, project management and statewide training implementation. Prior to working in training and workforce development, Carrie provided direct services in a variety of practice settings with a focus on children and families.