Project Director, JSI Providence
How long have you worked for JSI and in what capacity?
I’ve been working with JSI as a consultant for 17 years and counting. I was in the Boston office before relocating to the Providence, Rhode Island office. Initially, I worked primarily on tobacco control and HIV prevention, but since relocating, the majority of my work focuses on behavioral health, with a concentration on substance use and misuse and peer recovery supports.
Substance use and misuse is such a huge issue these days. What aspects are you working on?
I am the director of the Rhode Island Prevention Resource Center (RIPRC), which my colleagues and I built from the ground up. We modeled it after JSI’s New Hampshire Center for Excellence in Treatment & Recovery. The RIPRC allows me to do the kind of work that I wanted to do for years. Currently, we’re conducting a pilot evaluation for the MA Department of Public Health, collecting data on peer recovery supports in the emergency room. This is a new approach so we are very excited to see the results.
The RIPRC has led to a lot of smaller but very interesting work, including The Partnership for Success Grantees, a project focused on providing training and technical assistance on the prevention of underage alcohol and marijuana use. Another one is the RI Healthy Transitions project where we are developing a guide for providers serving 16 to 25-year-olds who have early onset psychosis.
JSI is also implementing a wide array of public health activities for the RI Department of Health, everything from assessing water quality and analyzing bacteria levels in beach sand to opioid overdose data abstractions. Another project, the Child Death Review Team (CDRT), highlights the connections between behavioral health and child death prevention. I serve as the CDRT coordinator of a multidisciplinary team that reviews cases and provides recommendations to prevent child deaths.
How do you unwind?
I talk a lot about self-care, but I’m not very good at it. I love being surrounded by trees rather than people. After a heavy child death review, I often find myself in Rhode Island’s Lincoln Woods. When I lived in Massachusetts my go-to getaway was Walden Pond.
Also, I have two wonderful children—11 and 12 years old. I’m originally from West Virginia where people are unapologetically friendly. My partner is from Massachusetts and he embarrasses easily when I strike up conversations with strangers. I think it’s important to connect and interact with others, acknowledging them and the human condition at large. Taking the time to hear people’s oral history improves my understanding of myself and the people with whom I work.
A special friend and colleague to remember:
The RI team recently lost a dear friend and colleague, Bob Hitt. We moved our office recently and have decided to name the new kitchen “Bob’s Kitchen.” He was an amazing cook and would bring lots of delicious surprises into work. The kitchen is the heart of the office and his memory will help warm it. Even though Bob was with JSI for such a short period, he was in the public health sphere for many years and had significant relationships outside of work with both JSI staff and funders.