February 2, 2021
I am so honored to be the new Executive Director of the i2i Center for Integrative Health. As many of you know, I have been with i2i since its inception in January 2018 and with the legacy organization, the NC Council of Community Programs, since 1994. I have a family member who gives me the same reply every time we get into a discussion about whether a job can be a positive part of your life or drudgery, “Yeah, but you like your job!”. And, you know what? It is absolutely true! I am a policy wonk and health and human services is what I love most.
Growing up, I had the opportunity to work with seniors and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and I fell in love with this work. I worked in nursing homes as a dietary aide and weekend receptionist. I volunteered with Senior and Special Olympics events. I found the people I engaged with to be so interesting and have so much valuable experience to convey to me. When I graduated from college with my handy BA in Sociology and wasn’t quite ready to work full-time in a nursing home, my parents suggested I work on Capital Hill in Washington, DC—just a short distance from where I grew up in Maryland. That is where my love of health and human services and policy converged and my career path was forged. I did, in fact, get to become a nursing home administrator—a license I hold to this day. When I moved to North Carolina in 1994, I answered a two-line ad for a policy analyst and my career moved to the non-profit/social impact path I remain on today. During these 26 years that I have been working in North Carolina’s public MH/IDD/SUD system, my family has experienced firsthand the need and use of services. I learned through experience that individuals and their families cannot do this alone and that the level of community commitment through user-friendly access and services can be a life or death necessity.
I once read that, on average, it takes about two years for policy to be put into place. I’ve seen policy shifts gain momentum and move quickly because all of the stakeholders found a common goal in progress and innovation. There are other policy shifts that were in play when I began here in 1994 and still haven’t come to fruition. It isn’t that they are less worthy, it’s that it takes a collective to make a policy shift. It is the momentum that I see the i2i Center continuing to be a part of and assisting in the orchestration. Perhaps more importantly, it is the collective work that I see the i2i Center facilitating.
My predecessor and mentor, Mary Hooper, left two important legacy principles in my mind:
1) partnerships are the essence of our existence and our value to stakeholders;
2) every voice, every perspective is critical to the success of systemic changes.
I am committed to these principles and they are the litmus test for our work and engagement in the community. In the last few months, when I knew I would be taking over this position, I had to poke my head out of my policy corner and look at the larger picture for the i2i Center. I realized even more how important these principles are to our future. I also see that we are in a hopeful time as we expand our focus on integrated and whole person care. We have a lot of experience to offer but we cannot do our work in a silo. We will continue to offer high caliber conferences, trainings and educational information and we will continue to provide the same high level of customer service to all of our stakeholders. We are going to expand and strengthen the partnerships that we have and work to build new partnerships. I believe that our skills, combined with those of other organizations with like missions, can build out that collective impact and momentum that will benefit the public health and human services system.
To that end, I invite all of you to connect with me and all of the i2i Center staff on ways that we can partner. There are so many systemic changes going on and we have found our neutral position to be exactly what is needed to honor every voice and every perspective. We have grown our work in education and elevating the voice of consumers and family members at the same time that we are maintaining our historical knowledge of provider and plan manager operations. We are strengthening our partnerships with national organizations to bring their expertise to North Carolina. This pandemic has not been a friend to any non-profit organization. But it has given us the motivation to step outside of the box and look at different ways of collaborating. I look forward to working with all of you!