Mon - Thurs: 9:00am - 5:00pm | Fri: 9:00am - 4:00pm

IDD & Mental Health Conference – Speakers

Randa Abdelrahim, MS

Randa is a Visiting Research Specialist in the Institute on Disability and Human Development, the University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disability (UCEDD) for Illinois, at UIC as well as a Disability Studies PhD candidate at UIC. Randa’s research focuses on factors that influence the well-being of family caregivers of individuals with disabilities, including the impact of race, culture, and language on access to disability and health services. Her dissertation examines policies in Illinois that contribute to access to services for Arab American caregivers of individuals with disabilities. Bringing her experience with curriculum development and environmental scan methodology, Randa serves as the Project Coordinator for this project.

Joan B Beasley, PhD

Joan is a licensed mental health counselor with a Masters degree in community mental health counseling from Northeastern University and has a Ph.D. in Social Policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University. She is the author of the START model and former Director of NCSS. Dr. Beasley’s work spans over four decades, with the first funded study of the START model published in 1999. She currently serves as a Research Professor and Director of the National Research Consortium in IDD-MH at NCSS, and is Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator on several research grants. Dr. Beasley also teaches master workshops on the START model and IDD-MH professional development courses, in addition to presentations at forums across the U.S. and abroad, and is the author of numerous peer reviewed publications. In addition to the START model, Dr. Beasley has provided technical support to state policy makers for over 20 years and currently conducts state sponsored systems of care analyses and technical support as part of her work at NCSS.

Charlene Bennett, EdD

Dr. Bennett has an extensive background in the field.  She  is the Co- Founder and CEO of IAG. Among the many programs that she created she is most proud of the establishment  over 23 years ago of the customized individually controlled small person homes for people that have complex needs.  These supports and services are provided in over 25 counties in Illinois and Washington DC.
She also created customized small living arrangements for DCFS’ most complex youth 18 and older including returning those youth from out of state.
Dr. Bennett also fought the discriminatory ordinances  that were in violation of the ADA and the Fair Housing Act.against people with disabilities that were living in the community.  A Federal lawsuit was filed and joined by the United States Department of Justice.  The case was won and provided new case law prohibiting discriminatory local ordinances.
Dr. Bennett had many other leadership positions prior to Co-Founding IAG.

Amie Burke, BCBA

Amie received her Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and Therapy from Southern Illinois University. Amie is currently serving as the Clinical Director and oversees the Rockford, Springfield and Chicago offices. Amie has been with ICPN for over 8 years and has been in the field of ID/DD for 30 year. Her experience is with all levels of disabilities across the lifespan.  Amie provides training on evidence-based practices such as Dealing with Challenging Behaviors, Data Collection, Management & Leadership, Caring for the Caregiver, and Empowering DSP’s. Outside of work she likes to sew, walk her dogs and spend time with her husband and daughter.

Candace Coleman

Candace Coleman is a black disabled woman from the South Side of Chicago. She works closely with disabled people affected by the justice system to organize around racial justice and disability. This work includes anti-bullying, the school-to-prison pipeline, restorative justice, police brutality, and deinstitutionalization. She is dedicated to teaching disabled people of color to take pride in all aspects of their identities so they can become leaders themselves.

Coleman has spoken around the country, and her pioneering work has been featured in news stories by the BBC, WBEZ, Newsy, and The Chicago Defender. She was named the ADAPT Woman of the Year in 2018, 35 Under 35 by Chicago Scholars in 2017, and also received the Van Hecke award for outstanding leadership and service in the disability community. In 2019 Candace was appointed to the Illinois Council on Women and Girls. In 2020 she was appointed to the City of Chicago’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee.

Coleman’s most notable work involves organizing around mental and behavioral health emergency response. She played an integral in passing the Community Emergency Services and Supports Act (CESSA) in 2021. She continues to work diligently to implement non-police alternatives to emergency response in these situations.

Caitlin Crabb, PhD, MPH

Caitlin is a Visiting Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at UIC. Her research primarily focuses on access to home and community-based services of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) within Medicaid. Currently, Caitlin serves as the UIC Principal Investigator on two Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities projects: Person-Centered Planning Evaluation and Direct Support Professional (DSP) Training Project. The evaluation of Illinois’ person-centered planning process also includes understanding service capacity for different groups of people with developmental disabilities in the state, including those with high behavioral support needs. These individuals often have a dual diagnosis of a developmental disability and a mental health diagnosis. Bringing her experience with research and policy, Caitlin serves as a Co-Investigator on this project.

Kristen Dahl

Kristen is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES). Kristen serves as a Program Manager for the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky. She is passionate about advocating for mental health and loves to collect and share all types of fidgets.

Donna Ennis

Donna Ennis is the Vice President of Community Living, Home-Based and In-Home Respite Services at Envision Unlimited.   Donna was part of the team at Envision Unlimited that developed the SSH homes.  A licensed social worker, Donna’s experience in the I/DD field is extensive, having worked with persons across the life span in a variety of programs including early intervention, CDS and in clinical services.   Donna particularly enjoys the opportunities for networking and collaboration with members, families/guardians other community providers and referral/funding sources in pursuit of optimal services and supports for persons with a dual diagnosis. 


Jeanne Farr, MA

Jeanne M. Farr is a respected nonprofit leader, recognized for her passionate advocacy, leadership expertise and business skill. She has been in nonprofit executive leadership positions for over 30 years and has multiple awards honoring her exceptional professional contributions to society. She has served as the Principal Investigator on a number of research studies and has had her written work published.

Jeanne currently serves as the CEO of NADD.  

Jeanne serves on a variety of nonprofit boards, university and state advisory committees. She is Immediate Past Chair of the Board of the National Alliance for Direct Care Professionals (NADSP), Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Ripple Effect Images and serves on the Advisory Boards for the School of International Studies at University of the Pacific, the National Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Training Center and the ARC Center for Future Planning Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Portland Pearl Rotary Club

In 2007, Jeanne completed a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Relations from the School of International Studies at the University of the Pacific. In 2008, Jeanne founded Coexistence Collaborative, a social enterprise, dedicated to fostering intercultural understanding and effectiveness focusing on organizational consultation, leadership, cross-cultural and diversity training, and intercultural executive coaching. Jeanne has completed executive leadership programs at Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School and the Kellogg School of Business. 

Jeanne speaks Spanish and has spent time in 25 countries. Throughout her life, Jeanne has been committed to working in ways that foster partnerships across cultural lines, building bridges between people and across difference. 

Susan Kahan, MA, LCPC

As a member of the clinical staff at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute on Disability and Human Development, Susan provides individual and group therapy for children through adults on a broad range of mental health, developmental and behavioral concerns, specializing in Autism and trauma.  Susan provides consultation on disability-related topics including trauma and trauma-informed care, sexual abuse prevention, and sexuality and healthy relationships, and training around the country for trauma centers, disability agencies, professionals, schools, and families. She is a certified Forensic Interviewer and serves as disability case consultant for the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and its clinicians, victim advocates, law enforcement, child protective services and Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office representatives.  In addition, Susan is a CIT instructor for the Cook County Sheriff’s Bureau of Education and Training and provides training on disability for Chicago Police Department new detectives. Susan presents nationally on topics related to disability and trauma, human trafficking, and sexual abuse prevention and intervention.

Tamar Heller, PhD

Tamar is Head of the Department of Disability and Human Development (DHD) at UIC and Director of its University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities for the state of Illinois. Tamar’s research focuses on policies that promote physical and mental health of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families throughout the life course. Tamar has led projects that developed evidence-based interventions using person-centered approaches that involved people with IDD throughout the research process and that have been replicated internationally. Tamar oversees DHD’s Family Clinic and its TAP Autism Program. Bringing expertise in bridging across state and disability networks, administering large projects, developing and disseminating training, and researching policy and practices across disabilities, Tamar is the Principal Investigator on this project. 

Chris Huff

In April 2022, Chris Huff became the Diversion and Reentry Policy Analyst at Access Living, a Chicago based service and advocacy non-profit organization for people with disabilities. In this role, Chris leads policy efforts centered on supporting people with disabilities impacted by the criminal legal system.

Prior to joining Access Living, Chris led citywide community organizing efforts for Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago, which aims to reduce gun violence through cognitive behavioral interventions, employment, and wrap-around social services for high-risk individuals. In addition, Chris helped lead student civic engagement efforts at University of Chicago’s University Community Service Center, where he designed and developed social justice-based cohort programs for undergraduate and graduate students at the university. Through his work at the Vera Institute of Justice, Chris also led formerly incarcerated youth in developing policy and program recommendations for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. Last but certainly not least, Chris worked with the University of Chicago – Institute of Politics where he advised UChicago students on ways to use their educational experiences to meaningfully engage in social justice efforts on Chicago’s Southside.

Chris has served on the board of Chicago Votes, a nonprofit organization committed to empowering young people and engaging them in the political process, and on the board of the Cook County Detention Center where he supported efforts to eliminate solitary confinement.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in political communication and economic development from Oglethorpe University, and a master’s in social work from the University of Chicago.

Jen McGowan-Tomke

Jen is NAMI Chicago’s Chief Operating Officer and has led the NAMI Chicago team since 2016. Jen oversees all daily operations of NAMI Chicago, building processes and policies, and ensuring stability and growth. Jen also leads NAMI Chicago’s legislative advocacy and provides key support for NAMI Chicago’s role in the Williams and Colbert Consent Decrees. Jen is one of Chicago’s experts on insurance coverage for mental health, as well as mental health within the criminal court system. She served as co-chair of the Illinois Mental Health Task Force for Youth Mental Health, which focused on youth diversion from the criminal court system and early mental health intervention. Jen is originally from Skokie, IL. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Master’s Degree in Health Policy and Administration from UIC’s School of Public Health. Jen worked for 3 years as a policy analyst in former Governor Pat Quinn’s administration, where she served as a lead on implementing the Affordable Care Act in Illinois and specialized in health care reform for the Illinois Governor’s Office of Health Innovation and Transformation. She then served as a Health Planning Coordinator at UIC MidAmerica Center for Public Health Practice on the Illinois State Health Improvement Plan, before joining the team at NAMI Chicago.

Dosia Paclawskyj, MD, NADD

Dr. Paclawskyj is a clinical psychologist and a NADD Certified Clinician. She completed both her pre-doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, after which she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. At present, she is adjunct faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and has also taught at Towson University. Dr. Paclawskyj currently works as a consulting psychologist and professional trainer in the areas of autism, intellectual disability, and dual diagnosis.

Kim Shontz, LCSW

Kim is the Director of the Illinois Crisis Prevention Network (ICPN).  ICPN provides support service teams funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities experiencing behavioral and/or medical challenges in their current residential setting across the state.  Kim previously served as the deputy director of the Behavioral Health program at Trinity Services, providing residential and psycho-social rehabilitation day program services supporting people dually diagnosed with mental illness and intellectual disabilities.

Dr. Erin Wade

Erin has a Ph.D. in psychology from Marquette University, and is a Doctoral level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D). He is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Illinois. He has many years of experience conducting psychological assessments with, and providing behavioral consultation services for, adults and children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Dr. Wade has has experience providing assessment and consultation services for people across multiple settings, ranging from single family homes to schools, group homes, and large facilities. He has been working with people with developmental disabilities for the state of Illinois since 1997.

Thank you to our Sponsors!

Advocate Sponsor

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Inclusion Sponsor

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