2023 Advisory Board
Session programs and presentations for the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit are tailored to provide stakeholders timely and relevant information for their particular fields. Operation UNITE created a National Advisory Board to represent multi-disciplinary interests in the Rx drug abuse and heroin issues and to guide development of conference offerings. Members of the Advisory Board are:
As a person in long term recovery, I have always had a particular interest in working with the treatment of substance use disorders. I learned early in my career that striking a balance between lived experience and a solid education in counseling psychology was paramount. Additionally, through the guidance I have received from colleagues and managers, I have been fortunate enough to follow my passion for working with this population throughout the past several decades in a number of different roles and capacities in what I consider to be my true vocation.
As many clinicians can attest to, learning the business acumen required to engage in organizational strategic planning and subsequent implementation has been a steep but very rewarding experience. Through a blend of clinical expertise and comprehensive understanding of managed healthcare, I have been able to work effectively with multidisciplinary teams to consistently drive for excellence in whichever way the winds of change will blow.
I am currently a Licensed Professional Counselor in the states of ND and CO, a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor in the state of MN. My current position is supporting the Substance Use Disorder strategy at Anthem, Inc. in addition to teaching healthcare information technology at my undergraduate Alma Mater, Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.
Dr. Grant Baldwin is the Director of the Division of Overdose Prevention at CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. In this role, he is responsible for monitoring trends in the opioid epidemic and other emerging drug threats as well identifying and scaling up prevention activities to address the evolving drug crisis. This includes supporting local drug-free community coalitions too. Prior to this appointment in October 2019, Dr. Baldwin served as the Director of the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention for 11 years where he helped raise the profile of motor vehicle injury prevention, advanced work in older adult fall prevention and traumatic brain injury prevention, and established the initial CDC response to the prescription opioid overdose epidemic. As the scope, scale, and complexity of America’s drug overdose epidemic changed, the Division of Overdose Prevention was created to serve as a necessary and essential focal point to CDC’s more expansive and diversified work in the area. Dr. Baldwin has been at CDC for 25 years. Dr. Baldwin received his PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan. He received a MPH in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education from Emory University, and is currently an affiliated professor at Emory University. Dr. Baldwin has given keynote addresses or provided remarks at over 125 state, national and international conferences and meetings, has authored or coauthored more than 65 peer-reviewed publications, and has received awards of excellence for his leadership and teaching.
Michael C. Barnes is Chairman of the Center for U.S. Policy, a not-for-profit organization advancing solutions to the nation’s substance misuse, mental health, and incarceration crises. He is also Principal Attorney at Sequel Legal, where he practices health and drug law and policy.
Mr. Barnes previously founded and managed DCBA Law & Policy, a law firm recognized nationally for its work in health care and drug policy. He co-created and successfully exited a global health care and policy consulting firm and a private residential substance misuse treatment program.
Mr. Barnes has provided legal, political, and issue analysis for national news networks, including CNBC, CNN, and MSNBC. He has been a member of the advisory board for the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit since 2011, the National Sheriffs’ Association’s Drug Enforcement Committee since 2014, and the editorial board for the Journal of Opioid Management since 2015.
Mr. Barnes was a political appointee under President George W. Bush, having served as confidential counsel in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Daniel Blaney-Koen is a senior legislative attorney with the American Medical Association Advocacy Resource Center (ARC). The ARC attorneys focus on working with state and specialty medical societies on state legislative, regulatory and policy advocacy. In addition to his work in the ARC, Blaney-Koen has held several roles at the AMA, including serving as a public information officer, policy analyst and speechwriter. Currently, he focuses on state legislation and policy concerning the nation’s opioid epidemic, with particular emphasis on overdose prevention and treatment. He also covers other pharmaceutical issues as well as insurance market reforms. Prior to joining the AMA in 1999, Blaney-Koen earned his Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Colorado State University, and his bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona. He earned his law degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Blaney-Koen, his wife, two young sons and daughter live in Chicago.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Betty-Ann Bryce is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Regions, and Cities in the Regional and Rural Unit. She joined the OECD from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), where she served as a Special Advisor for Rural Affairs. She was detailed to ONDCP from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture where she held different roles including Senior Policy Advisor, Rural Health Liaison, and Financial Investment Specialist in the Rural Development Agency. Betty-Ann is a licensed Attorney with a MPA in Economic and Territorial Development from The Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences-Po) in France, and a MPA in Economic and Political Development from Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) in the United States.
Monty Burks, CPRS, PhD, serves as the Director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, where his role is engaging and connecting Tennessee's faith communities to the behavioral health care system, with the goal of expanding addiction and mental health support services across the state. He also oversees the Tennessee Lifeline Peer Project, a state program aimed at reducing the stigma associated with people who suffer from addiction and the Tennessee Faith Based Community Coordinators, whom seek to help congregations build their capacity to combat addiction and mental health issues in their respective community. Burks earned his master's degree in criminal justice from Middle Tennessee State University and his doctorate in theology from Heritage. Burks has more than 18 years' experience working with the criminal justice system in various roles, including adjunct criminal justice professor at Motlow State Community College, Criminal Justice Research Analyst at Middle Tennessee State University, and Criminal Justice Program coordinator at Tennessee State University, where he still serves as an adjunct professor of Criminal Justice.
Anne L. Burns is Vice President, Professional Affairs, at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). She is responsible for the Association’s strategic initiatives focused on advancing pharmacists’ patient care services in team-based care delivery models, as well as health care quality, pharmacy practice accreditation, and credentialing. She also works on APhA’s medication therapy management, medication safety, Rx drug abuse, and health information technology initiatives in addition to other key pharmacy practice issues. She has served on many medication therapy management and quality-related advisory councils. Ms. Burns joined APhA’s Education Department in 1997 and transitioned to the Professional Affairs Department in 1999 to focus on pharmacists’ patient care services and community pharmacy residency program accreditation. Prior to joining APhA, she served on the faculty at The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Pharmacy. She is a graduate of OSU and completed the Wharton Executive Management Program for Pharmacy Leaders.
Dr. Kelly Clark is board certified in both addiction medicine and psychiatry. She has focused her career on issues of addictive disease, evidence-informed behavioral health care and payment reform. She founded Addiction Crisis Solutions to focus on educating all stakeholders on addiction in the service of transforming addiction care to evidence-based, cost-effective practice. She has provided expertise about the opioid crisis to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Comptroller General; the Pew Trusts, National Safety Council, and National Business Group on Health; as well as numerous provider and payer organizations. Clark earned a master's degree in business administration from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and her medical degree from the University of Wisconsin. She continues her work as a founding member of the Advisory Board of the National Rx and Illicit Drug Summit.
David M. Dickerson, MD, is an anesthesiologist and pain medicine physician. He is the section chief for pain medicine at the NorthShore University HealthSystem. As a Clinical Associate Professor at University of Chicago, he teaches pain medicine and anesthesiology to medical students, residents and pain medicine fellows. His research and clinical endeavors focus on neuromodulation, pain care outcomes and implementing safe and effective pain care delivery systems. Dr. Dickerson served as the American Society of Anesthesiologist’s liaison to the Pain Care Coalition and currently serves as chair of the ASA Committee on Pain Medicine and co-chair of the North American Neuromodulation Society's Guidleines Committee.
John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, FACOEM is ts an Occupational Health Physician. From 2019-2021 he served as the first permanent director of the CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response, responsible for programs that comprised CDC’s public health preparedness and response portfolio including direct support of the COVID-19 response. From 2011-2019, Dr. Dreyzehner served in the Tennessee Cabinet as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. In that time he helped lead numerous policy, legislative, scientific and community efforts to stem the use disorder epidemic and joined the Rx Summit’s Advisory Board in 2012. His journey into the public health impacts of the substance use epidemic began when he served from 2002-2011 as health district director for multiple counties in the Appalachian region of Virginia. There he helped identify and described the opioid epidemic in public health terms, helped form and lead several community and regional coalitions and became a DATA-waived physician, providing use disorder care in a local non-profit community clinic. Dr. Dreyzehner began his health career as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force. Following his military service, he was residency trained and board certified in Occupational Medicine and practiced clinically in that field before turning full time to population health. He is married to his medical school sweetheart, a child psychiatrist, with whom he has two grown children.
For 50 years, Robert L. DuPont, MD has been a leader in drug policy, addiction treatment, and substance use prevention. He was the first Director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-1978) and the second White House Drug Chief (1973-1977). From 1968-1970 he was Director of Community Services for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. From 1970-1973, he served as Administrator of the District of Columbia Narcotics Treatment Administration. In 1978 he became the founding President of the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc., a nonprofit research and policy organization that identifies and promotes powerful new ideas to reduce drug use and addiction. A graduate of Emory University, DuPont received a medical degree in 1963 from the Harvard Medical School. He completed his psychiatric training at Harvard and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. DuPont maintains an active practice of psychiatry specializing in addiction and the anxiety disorders and has been Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine since 1980. He is the author of Chemical Slavery: Understanding Addiction and Stopping the Drug Epidemic.
John Eadie is the Public Health & Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Project Coordinator for the National Emerging Threat Initiative of the National HIDTA Assistance Center. He previously served as Director of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Center of Excellence at Brandeis University (2010-15). For 52 years, Mr. Eadie has served in management, executive and consulting capacities in the field of public health. As Director of the Division of Public Health Protection in the New York State Department of Health (1985-95), he directed the state’s pharmaceutical diversion program, including the PDMP. He co-founded both the Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs (ASPMP) and the National Association of State Controlled Substances Authorities (NASCSA), served as President for both organizations and held other posts. Since leaving New York state service in 2001, Mr. Eadie has served as a consultant on PDMPs, including serving as the Administrative Reviewer for the Massachusetts PDMP. Mr. Eadie has published multiple articles, made numerous presentations, and served in many different arenas as an expert.
Douglas J. Edwards, C-ATM, is the director of the HMP Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Learning Network, the behavioral healthcare field’s largest media and event producer. Its signature events include Rx and Illicit Drug Summit, PsychCongress, National Conference on Addiction Disorders, and Treatment Center Investment & Valuation Retreat. He has been serving the behavioral healthcare community since 2000, and previously served as editor-in-chief of Behavioral Healthcare and Addiction Professional magazines. Edwards has moderated high-level panel discussions at conferences across the country with VIPs such as members of Congress and the White House. He presents on marketing best practices for the field and in 2018 earned the Behavioral Health Association of Providers’ Certificate in Addiction Treatment Marketing (C-ATM). He earned an MBA from Franklin University and his undergraduate degree in English and Sociology from the University of Akron.
Judy Fitzgerald was appointed Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) in 2016 and served in that position until November 2022. She had been with DBHDD since 2012, previously serving in the roles of Chief of Staff and Deputy Commissioner. Fitzgerald is a social worker with a career-long focus on behavioral health and public service delivery systems. Prior to joining DBHDD, she worked in a variety of health and human service settings. She served as Vice President of Strategy for View Point Health, one of Georgia’s twenty-five community service boards. She has also worked as a consultant on child and adolescent services in several states and was the Executive Director for the Mental Health Association of Georgia. Fitzgerald was privileged to begin her career in the Mental Health Program of The Carter Center, working for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter on domestic and international advocacy and policy efforts to promote mental health and reduce the stigma of mental illness. Fitzgerald earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. She and her husband Tim Gould live in Cobb County with their two children, Abbie and Jack.
Following 34 years as a teacher, career counselor, and administrator, Nancy Hale joined Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) as Co-Program Director for the UNITE Service Corps (AmeriCorps) Program. In February 2015, she was named UNITE’s third President and CEO.
Hale currently serves on the advisory boards for the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit and National Recovery Month Planning Partners. In addition, she is a Board member for RECON Kentucky, and serves on the Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health, the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Substance Use Disorder Advisory Council, and the Southeast Kentucky Advisory Council for Volunteers of America. Very involved in her community, Hale has served as an Executive Board Member and volunteer with the Rockcastle County (KY) UNITE Coalition for the last 18 years and volunteered for 31 years with the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association.
Hale received the "Golden Apple Achiever Award" from Ashland Oil, Inc. in 2000 as one of Kentucky's outstanding educators. In 2001, she was chosen as the "Kentucky YMCA Champion" and was among the first inductees into the Kentucky YMCA Youth Advisor Hall of Fame in 2010. The Kentucky Gazette named Hale one of its “2022 Notable Women in Kentucky Politics and Government” in June 2022. She has twice served as President of the Kentucky Association of Professional Educators.
Hale earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, a Master of Arts in Education, and Rank 1 in Administration from EKU.
She and her husband, John, are the parents of two grown sons, one of whom is in long-term recovery from the chronic disease of addiction, and they have four grandchildren.
David Hamby was appointed National Coordinator, National Emerging Threats Initiative (NETI) in January 2017. Before his current appointment, he was the Deputy Coordinator of NETI, previously known as the National Methamphetamine and Pharmaceuticals Initiative (NMPI)/Atlanta-Carolinas HIDTA. A member of the National HIDTA program since March 2008, Mr. Hamby serves as principle emerging threats advisor to the HIDTA program as well as State and local entities. He oversees specialized training, current trends, analytical support, best practices, innovative programs, and strategic planning for the program’s national approach to combat emerging drug threats. Mr. Hamby retired from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office in Chattanooga Tennessee as Captain after a distinguished 30-year career in law enforcement, serving 18 years in the field of narcotics enforcement. Mr. Hamby served five years as Director of the SE Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force. He has received numerous awards and citations, including the Appreciation Award as Project Coordinator in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Critical Incidence Stress Debriefing (CISD) for law enforcement officers in the State of Mississippi.
Christopher M. Jones currently serves as the Acting Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at CDC. In this role he provides strategic policy and scientific direction for the Injury Center’s work, leads the Center’s direction by shaping strategic priority goals, setting the scientific agenda, and coordinating science, research, policy, and communication activities focused on injury and violence prevention, including substance use and overdose, suicide prevention, and adverse childhood experiences. He received his Bachelor of Science from Reinhardt College, his Doctor of Pharmacy from Mercer University, his Master of Public Health from New York Medical College, and his Doctor of Public Health in Health Policy from The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
J. Kevin Massey is CEO of the Arlington Consulting Group which provides healthcare technology innovation, quality improvement, strategy and program development/support. Massey has been a member of the advisory board for the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit since 2013 and has co-published articles and presents at numerous conferences as an expert. For over 25 years, Massey has served in management, executive and consulting capacities in the fields of public health, healthcare and financial services.
Prior to the Arlington Consulting Group, he served as the Health Services & Court Compliance Administrator for Wellpath, which is a leading, national contracted provider of correctional healthcare services in the US. He lead an integrated clinical team of more than 100 professionals that served over 1,300 patients located onsite at the New Orleans Parrish Jail. Previously, as the Director of Strategic Business Development at the Community Health Center, Inc., he co-lead the development of clinical innovations that improved specialty healthcare access amongst underserved primary care patients across the US. Prior leadership roles include: Director of Violence and Injury Prevention in the State of Delaware, Department of Health where he lead health policy, clinical practice and executed broad-based prevention/population health programs, to include analyzing the PDMP; Chief Operating Officer at the Kent Community Health Center, a $20M outpatient primary care health center and Interim Director of Marketing/Community Engagement for United Healthcare, Delaware Community Medicaid Plan.
Michael Meit serves as Director of Research and Programs for the East Tennessee State University Center for Rural Health Research and as a Senior Fellow in NORC at the University of Chicago’s Public Health Research Department. Michael currently leads studies focused on the evaluation of rural health programs, health equity, opioid misuse, and food insecurity, among others. Recently, he led development of an Appalachian Regional Commission study, exploring Diseases of Despair in Appalachia, a companion Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool, and the national expansion of that tool, the Opioid Misuse Community Assessment Tool. Michael has also recently conducted work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to explore declining overdose rates in eastern Kentucky, and formative research for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to explore community assets to improve health and equity in rural communities. He is one of the co-investigators for ETSU’s recently funded Rural Health Research Center, the Rural Health Equity Research Center, for which he serves as Deputy Director.
Patrick Morrison is the Assistant to the General President for the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in the Division of Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine. The IAFF is an International Labor Union representing over 310,000 professional fire fighters in the United States and Canada. The Division of Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine provides IAFF affiliates with a comprehensive array of services addressing the occupational health and safety of fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. He is responsible for the daily operations of the Division as well as the development and implementation of fire service occupational health and safety standards, including those promulgated by federal, state and provincial governments, including crucial health and safety issues published by National Fire Protection Association, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and IAFF Wellness Fitness Labor/ Management Task Force. Mr. Morrison’s expertise is in the design and implementation of health, safety and wellness programs to improve fire fighters’ overall physical and mental health, address their medical needs and increase protections from the hazardous elements of firefighting. Prior to joining the IAFF, Mr. Morrison was a career fire fighter for 21 years with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Fairfax, Virginia.
Chauncey Parker serves as the Director of the New York/New Jersey HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), a federally-funded program that invests in public safety and public health partnerships designed to reduce drug abuse and its consequences. Mr. Parker also serves as Executive Assistant District Attorney for Crime Strategies in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. A veteran of more than 27 years in criminal justice, Mr. Parker began his career in the District Attorney’s Office in 1986, where he served for five years. Mr. Parker next served for 10 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In 2002, Governor George Pataki appointed Mr. Parker to serve as the Director of Criminal Justice for New York State, where for five years he oversaw all state criminal justice agencies.
Following the loss of her oldest son Richard, to an accidental drug overdose, Mrs. Perry co-founded NOPE Task Force, Inc. (Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education) a non-profit organization. Mrs. Perry has served in a voluntary capacity as Executive Director since its inception in 2004. Mrs. Perry’s major initiatives include the co-development and implementation of the NOPE Substance Abuse Prevention Programs and Training Curriculum. Other initiatives created and led by Mrs. Perry include the NOPE Annual National Candle Light Vigil and Support Groups. Additionally, Mrs. Perry has been a leading advocate for numerous legislative initiatives on the State and Federal levels in substance abuse.
Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, is a nationally recognized physician executive with extensive public and private sector experience and is the Founder and CEO of Tristela Strategies, a boutique strategic advisory firm for healthcare investors and operators.
Piercey served on Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Cabinet as the Commissioner of Health from 2019 until 2022, managing a $700 million budget and leading over 4,300 employees. One of the most significant contributions to her time in office was her leadership through the COVID-19 response, as Chairman of the Governor’s pandemic task force, where she represented state health officials across national and international media platforms and in multiple interactions with the White House during two presidential administrations. As commissioner Piercey provided licensure and regulatory oversight for the state’s 300,000 health professionals and 1,400+ healthcare facilities. She collaborated with TennCare, the state’s Medicaid agency, as well as legislators and policymakers, to advance pivotal policy and budgetary initiatives, such as rural healthcare access, dental care for the uninsured, and the overhaul of the state’s TANF reserve fund.
Prior to her public service, Piercey spent over a decade as a senior-level operations executive, providing clinical and administrative leadership in large medical group and health system operations. As Executive Vice President of West Tennessee Healthcare, the nation’s ninth largest public, not-for-profit health system with over $1 billion in revenue and 7,000 employees, she had fiduciary responsibility for all of the system’s rural hospitals, behavioral health service lines, and post-acute services and spearheaded the region’s population health initiatives. She organically grew the state’s largest telepsychiatry network and launched the system’s first medication assisted treatment program, including development of a first-of-its-kind residential MAT program for pregnant and postpartum women.
Piercey earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Lipscomb University, M.D. from East Tennessee State University, and M.B.A. from Bethel University. She is board certified in both General Pediatrics and Child Abuse Pediatrics and continues to actively evaluate children who are suspected victims of abuse and neglect. Piercey has been on the clinical faculty at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine since 2007 and also serves as adjunct faculty for the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. She and her husband, David, an industrial safety specialist, are west Tennessee natives and have four children.
Chief Rick Sanders has more than 40 years of distinguished service in law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels. He has extensive experience combatting drug trafficking, as well as connecting those with substance use disorder to treatment.
After 10 years as a police officer for the Jefferson County Police Department in Louisville, Sanders began a 33-year career with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1983. His DEA positions included Special Agent, Louisville Resident Office; Special Agent/Pilot, Miami Field Division; Supervisory Special Agent, Office of Aviation Support, Ft. Worth; Resident Agent in Charge, Louisville Resident Office; Special Assistant to the Administrator, DEA Headquarters; Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Indianapolis District Office; and Special Agent in Charge, Chicago Field Division. He retired as Assistant Administrator of the DEA in Washington, D.C. During his tenure with the DEA, he assisted with development of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and was elected Chairman of the Lake County, Indiana HIDTA and the Chicago HIDTA.
Following his retirement from DEA, Sanders returned to Kentucky and served as the Chief of Police for the Jeffersontown Police Department from 2007-2016. He was instrumental in preparing the department for launch of the Angel Program, which invites those with substance use disorder into the police department so an officer and/or volunteer can facilitate getting them into treatment. In 2012, he was elected Chief of the Year by the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police (KACP), and in July 2014, he was appointed as the President of KACP.
In 2016, Sanders was appointed Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police and led approximately 2,000 sworn and civilian personnel throughout Kentucky in 16 Post areas and Headquarters. He started the Angel Initiative, opening doors at the 16 Posts to facilitate treatment for those with substance use disorder. He served on the Operation UNITE Board of Directors.
In 2019, Sanders returned to the Jeffersontown Police Department and was appointed Chief of Police by Mayor Bill Dieruf. He currently serves on the IACP Narcotic & Dangerous Drugs Committee and the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit Advisory Board.
A native of Louisville, Sanders has a Bachelor of Science in Police Administration and a Master of Science in Justice Administration obtained from the University of Louisville. He and his wife, Deidra, have two sons.
Carla Worley Saunders has been a board-certified Neonatal Nurse Practitioner since 1991 and received her Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2017. Dr. Saunders has a dedicated passion in her work advocating for mothers and babies; which led her to her doctoral work that has now created a larger vision for improving communities and public health through empowering women. This passion was the inspiration behind the formation of the Transformational Wellness Initiative and the fulfillment of a promise to the mothers and babies she cared for who have been affected by the opioid crisis. Her mission is to inspire others to elevate the expectations of healthcare among individuals and organizations and initiate a movement that goes beyond healthcare reform to transformative healthcare.
In 2010, Dr. Saunders gathered a multidisciplinary team in response to the alarming rise in number of babies being admitted to the NICU suffering from the physical withdrawal of maternal opiate exposure, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The work done by her team is receiving local, state, national, and international attention, including: CNN Headline News, Anderson Cooper, ABC Nightline, and ABC affiliate Australia, and NPR StoryCorps. The focus of their work has work has gone beyond the bedside into community awareness, education, and prevention strategies with the Tennessee Department of Health. She is involved extensively in research surrounding Intrauterine Drug Exposure and NAS.
In 2014, Saunders attended the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) where she lobbied on behalf of the nursing community on multiple issues, including Rx substance use among women of childbearing age. She has provided expert testimony before the Tennessee State Senate Health, Welfare Committee in support of the Safe Harbor Act promoting addiction treatment and prenatal care in pregnant women with substance abuse. Dr. Saunders was summoned by the Tennessee Department of Health to be a member of the Opioid Prescribing Task Force responsible for writing Chronic Pain Guidelines for Tennessee and co-authored sections on Special Considerations for Women of Childbearing Age and Pregnant Women. Dr. Saunders and her colleagues published their work in an original research article in the Journal of Neonatal and Perinatal Nursing: Special Edition on Addiction. In 2017, Dr. Saunders was invited to co-author a chapter on NAS for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, “A Pharmacists Guide to Opioid Use Disorders”.
Dr. Saunders is a member of multiple community and professional organizations including: Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care (TIPQC), Tennessee Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (TADEC), Tennessee Recovery Coalition, Inc. (TRC), East TN Prescription Drug Task Force and is on the Advisory Board for TDOH Chronic Pain Guidelines. She has served as an Advisory Board member for the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit since 2011.
Dr. Saunders has received multiple awards for her leadership in quality improvement and patient advocacy, including: 2010 Advanced Practitioner of the Year and 2013 Margaret Steinbach Excellence in Leadership Award for Pediatrix Medical Group, 2016 Medical Staff Award for Outstanding APN East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and has been honored as a Hometown Hero by Great American Country Television’s Great American Heroes. In 2017, she and her colleague E. Kyle Cook, MSN, APRN, NNP-BC, were featured on NPR StoryCorps which chronicled their transformational personal and professional journey and has been logged in the Library of Congress.
Judge Slone, a former drug trafficking prosecutor, was first elected to the 4th Judicial District Circuit Court in 1998 and in 2009 he co-founded his judicial district’s Drug Recovery Court. He is recognized nationally as an effective collaborator and innovator for his efforts to address the Opioid Driven Addiction Crisis. Currently, Judge Slone serves as Chairman of the 8 State Appalachian-Midwest Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative, the Substance Misuse & Addiction Resources for Tennessee “SMART” Justice Network, and the Tennessee Judicial Conference Problem Solving Court Committee. He is a steering committee member of the National Rural Justice Collaborative and “SMART” Policy Network. Additionally, Judge Slone is a member of the National Institute of Drug Addiction JCOIN Practitioner Advisory Board, the SAMHSA Advisory Committee for Women’s Services and the White House ONDCP National SUD Strategic Advisory Panel Criminal Justice Workgroup. Judge Slone has been honored as the recipient of many state and national awards for his innovative work addressing the Opioid Crisis including the 2019 National Center for State Courts William H. Rehnquist Judicial Excellence Award, the nation’s highest state court judicial honor in recognition this work.
Cecelia “Cece” McNamara Spitznas (Cece) has been Senior Science Policy Advisor in the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the Executive Office of the President and is now a Senior Policy Analyst for the ONDCP’s National Opioids and Synthetics Coordination Group (NOSCG). She provides policy analysis and scientific advice to the ONDCP Director and Chief of Staff and on special matters concerning public health related issues. She is ONDCP’s subject matter expert on Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, decreasing barriers to Medication Assisted Treatment for opioids, policies to reduce the negative consequences of prescribed and illicit opioids including those to address neonatal abstinence syndrome, overprescription, alternatives to opioids for pain management and messaging to user populations on overdose prevention. She also helps to develop legislative responses to problems of national scope, particularly on Rx drugs, heroin and fentanyl and provides advice concerning regulatory matters having to do with public health and opioids. From 2000-2012, Dr. Spitznas was a program official at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), where her research portfolio concerned developing and testing new screening, brief interventions and treatments for people with substance use disorders, including pregnant women, and all forms of illicit drug use by adults, and developing provider training. She received her clinical and research training in psychology at the University of New Mexico and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine. She worked as a research professor at UAB, conducting research on relapse and treatment for crack cocaine use in homeless cocaine users prior to joining the NIH.
Robert J. Valuck is a Professor in the Departments of Clinical Pharmacy, Epidemiology, and Family Medicine at the University of Colorado Schools of Pharmacy, Public Health, and Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Dr. Valuck is Director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, created by then-Governor John Hickenlooper to address the prescription drug abuse problem with a collaborative, statewide approach. The Consortium has evolved over the past eight years to include ten work groups, with over 850 members across the state, focusing on key areas relating to education, prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. The Consortium has gained recognition as a model for the development of collaborative, coordinated responses to the opioid overdose epidemic in the United States.