Our State, Our Wellbeing

Presenters

Stay connected as we continue building this listing of Summit presenters!

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Charlene Wong serves as the Senior Advisor for Health Strategy in the Immediate Office of the Director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this role, she is coordinating a collaborative approach to protecting health that brings public health alongside efforts in health care and social supports. She is focused in the areas of mental health, combatting the opioid epidemic and supporting young families. She previously served as the inaugural Assistant Secretary for Children and Families in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) where she launched a new Division of Child and Family Well-Being in 2022 and oversaw the Division of Early Care and Education. She led cross-Departmental work in child behavioral health, child welfare, nutritional security, and maternal and infant health. In the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Wong served as the Chief Health Policy Officer for COVID-19 at NCDHHS.

Kody H. Kinsley serves as Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services; appointed to the cabinet position by Governor Roy Cooper and unanimously confirmed by the North Carolina Senate.

Secretary Kinsley has identified three priority areas of focus:  Behavioral Health & Resilience, Child & Family Wellbeing, and Building a Strong & Inclusive Workforce. By focusing on these three areas, Secretary Kinsley believes the state can make smart investments that drive health for individuals and value for public resources.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic and national public health emergency conclude, Kinsley and the department have transitioned from emergency response to preparedness. Alongside this transition, Secretary Kinsley advanced the department’s key priorities through the passing of Medicaid Expansion and Governor Cooper’s $1 billion pledge for behavioral health services. The implementation and expansion of Medicaid extends healthcare coverage to previously underserved populations, providing critical access to health services for thousands of North Carolinians. Secretary Kinsley’s accomplishments exemplify his dedication to improving health equity throughout the state. More

Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH is the Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also directs the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. As Chair, Dr. Meltzer-Brody collaborates with UNC Health and the state of North Carolina on broad based initiatives to improve mental health. She is a passionate advocate for innovation and transformation of mental health care. Dr. Meltzer-Brody is an internationally recognized physician-scientist in perinatal depression. Her research investigates the epidemiologic and biological predictors of perinatal depression and innovative treatment approaches (pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic), which have taken her across the globe including to sub-Saharan Africa. She had led the MOMS GENES study—the largest global genetic study of postpartum depression (PPD) using app-based tools. She served as the academic PI for novel psychopharmacologic clinical trials to develop the first FDA approved medication for postpartum depression (brexanolone), and served as an investigator for the newly approved oral drug (zuranolone) for PPD. Dr. Meltzer-Brody has received numerous awards for her work. She was awarded the 2023 NIH Clinical Center Distinguished Clinical Research Scholar and Educator in Residence, named to the 2022 Forbes list of 16 Healthcare Innovators You Should Know, and received the 2020 UNC O Max Gardner award, a UNC System Award (17 universities) for the highest faculty honor. Dr. Meltzer-Brody was ranked in 2021 by Expertscape, as the number one expert in the world for postpartum depression and received the 2019 APA Alexandra Symonds Award in Women’s Mental Health. 

Hosts

Patrick Sullivan is a Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Genetics and Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. He is a founder and the lead principal investigator of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium as well as a Swedish national complex trait consortium and its extension to Denmark and Norway (focusing on psychiatric disorders). His labs investigate the molecular genetics of schizophrenia, suicide, major depressive disorder (including post-partum depression), and eating disorders. He has an outstanding track record of training post-docs and in advancing them to faculty positions and independent R01 funding. Dr Sullivan has 548 total publications including 485 papers (peer-reviewed: published, in press, or submitted) and 63 other contributions (reviews, editorials, comments, invited manuscripts, or chapters). Google Scholar h-index 164. In the past 10 years, essentially all of his empirical papers have had trainees as co-authors.  

In mid 2022, UNC received a gift from Bill and Dana Starling in memory of their sons who both died by suicide. This gift established the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute. From mid-2022 onward, Dr Sullivan has devoted most of his effort toward suicide prevention. 

Anita Brown-Graham

Anita Brown-Graham is the founder and director of the ncIMPACT Initiative at the UNC School of Government. This initiative seeks to expand the School’s capacity to work with public officials on complex policy issues including economic mobility, the expansion of prekindergarten, and extending the labor pool. In 2020, she was named the Gladys Hall Coates Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at the School.

Anita previously taught at the School from 1994 to 2006, specializing in governmental liability and economic development aimed at revitalizing communities. Anita served as director of the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State University from 2007-2016, where she led efforts to build North Carolina’s capacity for economic development and prosperity, working with business, government, and higher education leaders from across the state.

Speakers

Amelia DeFosset leads the Evaluation team in Abacus Evaluation. Previously, she led the Health Equity and Evaluation Lab within the Center for Health Equity Research and was the Chief of Health and Policy Assessment with the Angeles County Department of Public Health. DeFosset earned her MPH from University of California, Los Angeles with a concentration in community health sciences. She has 10 years of experience in using evaluation, organizational learning, and quality improvement to examine and address health disparities. She has used community-engaged and systems-informed approaches to evaluate initiatives within community, clinical, education, and justice system contexts. She is passionate about helping diverse teams collect, integrate, and interpret mixed methods data to solve hard problems, make better decisions, and ultimately improve wellbeing. 

In addition to her role at the state as a program consultant, Ms. Miller had been a board member with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-NC. 

Jane Ann Miller has a Master of Public Health degree in community mental health administration, a BS in psychology, and fourteen years of experience in community mental health programs. She served primarily as a child mental health case manager in urban areas of Pennsylvania and rural counties in NC. As a case manager, she served high-risk racially diverse children and adults and interfaced with medical providers, schools, court systems, detention centers, mobile crisis, and crisis bed programs Other duties included being a community and state hospital liaison and an outreach therapist. 

Since joining the state’s Division of Public Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Branch in 2000, she served as the state’s Project Director for the federal youth suicide prevention grant known as Garrett Lee Smith from 2008-2015. Currently, she is the Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Program Manager for the state’s CDC grant. Jane has conducted countless presentations and provided guidance to citizens, professionals and agencies about suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. 

In addition to her role at the state as a program consultant, Ms. Miller had been a board member with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-NC. 

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Andy MacCracken is the inaugural director of the NC Center on the Workforce for Health. In that role, he leads collaborative efforts to develop and deploy statewide strategies that tackle today’s severe health workforce shortages and prepare for the future. Andy joined the Center from the NC Pandemic Recovery Office, where he drove policy and research initiatives and managed $200 million in programs supporting the state’s education, workforce, and health needs. He previously cofounded and served as executive director of a national postsecondary education policy organization. Andy has an MPA and BA, both from American University in Washington, DC. He serves on the boards of directors of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle and the KJS Legacy Project. 

Timothy Reeder, MD, MPH earned a Medical Degree and residency in Emergency Medicine from Ohio State University. He obtained an MPH the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1998, he joined the Brody School of Medicine at ECU where he is an Associate Professor and Executive Vice Chair in the Department of Emergency Medicine. He is past President of the North Carolina Medical Society. He provides clinical care at ECU Health Medical Center. He was elected to the NC House of Representatives in 2023, representing District 9 in Pitt County. He serves on the Committees for Appropriations, Commerce, Education-Universities, Families, Children and Aging Policy, and Health. 

What is Our State, Our Wellbeing?

Our State, Our Wellbeing is a 12-month initiative to identify and implement strategies to improve mental health and reduce the number of suicides in North Carolina, launched by Carolina Across 100 and the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute

Understanding Suicide Prevention in NC

Our conversations and research about suicide prevention work led Carolina Across 100 and the UNC Suicide Prevention Instutute to a few clear conclusions. First, the issues of suicide and mental health are shared across the state, but they affect every community differently. In turn, every community brings different assets, resources, and relationships to this challenge. To address this issue effectively, we need local-level input and context alongside coordinated efforts across state-level partners and systems.

**If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.**