National Caregiver Coalition

Health Leads is excited to announce the National Caregiver Coalition – an incredible group of caregivers and their allies, both institutional and care receivers. This team was created in response to the guidance of the caregivers who designed the 2021 Caregiver Summit. The coalition has been working together since January to incubate on solutions aimed at improving caregiver financial stability, the top issue identified by the caregiver community at the 2021 Summit.

The Coalition will be presenting their findings at this year’s National Caregiver Summit in December 2023. Be sure to check back for updates. 

Latavia Cooper-Bell (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Co-Lead
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver
Location: Michigan

Latavia is a dedicated community health worker and caregiver to her parents. Latavia’s mother is in the early stages of dementia, so she understands the challenges of being a caregiver while also maintaining a full-time job. Through her lived experiences, Latavia has developed a deep understanding of the importance of caregiving and is committed to making a positive impact and continues to advocate for accessible care for all.

Jamie O’Conner (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Co-Lead
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver
Organization: Family Voices of Minnesota 
Location: Minnesota

Jamie is a fierce caregiver and advocate for families raising children with complex medical needs and disabilities. As a single parent of two kids including a 12-year-old child with a rare genetic condition, Jamie understands firsthand the challenges of providing medical care, coordinating services, and advocating for inclusion in all aspects of community life. In addition to her caregiving role, Jamie is the outreach coordinator for Family Voices of MN, a family-run non-profit organization that provides information, resources, and emotional support to families in MN. Through her work with Family Voices of MN, Jamie has built collaborative relationships with professionals in various systems of care, schools, clinics, and other family-run organizations. Jamie has also attended and facilitated a variety of family leadership training programs, including Partners in Policymaking and the AMCHP Leadership Lab. She is an ambassador, presenter, and good life group facilitator of Charting the LifeCourse and has experience using other person and family-centered planning and communication tools.   

Geri Lynn Baumblatt (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver
Organization: Difference Collaborative Alliance 
Location: Illinois

Geri Lynn is passionate about advocating for family caregivers and understands the challenges of working while caregiving. She helped care for her father for 6 years and is the primary caregiver for her mother. Her lived experience as a caregiver has inspired her to advocate for a workplace culture that embraces the needs of caregivers including better benefits and resources, with a focus on building awareness and co-designing caring cultures where people can care, work, and thrive. Geri co-founded the Difference Collaborative Alliance, a non-profit organization that conducts research and partners with employers to achieve these goals. They published their study on double-duty nurse caregivers in Nursing Outlook, hosted a Nurse/Caregiver summit, and Geri presented their findings at the NIOSH Total Worker Health Symposium, the HERO Forum, and the Health Design Conference. Geri is a patient and family caregiver advocate on PCORI’s Patient Engagement Advisory Panel. She regularly speaks about caregiving on webinars and podcasts, and writes about caregiving – most recently a Journal of Health Design editorial on Identifying Caregivers as Preventive Medicine. Geri has firsthand knowledge of interacting with medical teams, transitioning family members from hospital to home, and navigating insurance and medical billing. She strives to raise awareness of the impact caregiving has on the workforce and to provide support and resources for caregivers to maintain their own health and well-being, so they don’t become casualties of caregiving. 

Laura Buckner (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver
Organization: Texas Center for Disability Studies, The University of Texas at Austin; TSC Alliance
Location: Texas

Laura is a licensed professional counselor and former special education teacher with 35 years of experience in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) field. She is her 34-year-old son’s caregiver, diagnosed at infancy with a rare disease causing IDD and medical complexity. Laura and her husband are invested in supporting their son to develop his unique skills and abilities, including 6 years of self-employment followed by his now 10 years part-time employment, and driving his beloved jeep. Laura is a frequent keynote presenter and trainer speaking on the state and national levels to a wide variety of audiences, including service professionals, educators, state agency staff, advocacy groups, and families of children and adults with IDD. Her areas of expertise include person-centered practices, leadership and advocacy, trauma-informed care, and supporting families and individuals with IDD to live lives they find meaningful with access to necessary support and services. Laura is a founding partner of The Institute for Person Centered Practices and a mentor trainer with The Learning Community for Person Centered Practices.

Melissa Comeau (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver
Organization: Director of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network at the American Red Cross
Location: California

Melissa is a committed champion for military and veteran caregivers, with extensive experience in supporting those who care for wounded or ill service members. As a caregiver herself, Melissa has firsthand knowledge of the financial and emotional impact of caregiving, and has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of these issues and advocate for policy changes. Her expertise has been recognized by organizations such as the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the American Red Cross, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, where she serves as chair of the subcommittee for families and caregivers. Melissa is also an accomplished author, having published a memoir about her experiences as a caregiver titled “Sleeping with the War.” With a degree in accounting and a background in bookkeeping and taxes, Melissa brings a unique perspective on the financial challenges faced by caregivers. Her dedication to improving the lives of military and veteran caregivers has made her a respected voice in the community, and a valuable resource for those in need of support and advocacy.

Matthew Connell (He/Him)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Physical Therapist and Caregiver Ally 
Organization: Ivy Tech Community College
Location: Indiana

Matthew is a leader and higher education administrator with a passion for creating opportunities  to improve access and remove barriers for caregivers in Indiana. He serves as the vice president for healthcare and supports the School of Nursing and Health Sciences throughout the state. As a physical therapist by trade, Matthew has seen firsthand the critical work of caregivers and the obstacles they face, including low wages and limited professional mobility. Matthew is working to create opportunities for socio-economic mobility for caregivers, and help end generational unemployment and underemployment. 

Beth Connor (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver
Location: North Carolina

Beth is a full-time caregiver for her son who has special healthcare needs, and also works outside of the home. As a mother of a disabled child who is African American, she is deeply committed to promoting equity and inclusion in society. Beth is a strong advocate for her child, and is dedicated to educating herself and others about disabilities and the policies that affect them. She has connected with other caregivers in support groups and online communities, and is involved in advocacy efforts to promote greater awareness and understanding of disabilities, particularly those affecting marginalized communities.

Emily Cowen (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Care Receiver
Location: Connecticut

Emily is a trailblazing care advocate who lives with cerebral palsy. Her family has been her primary caregivers throughout her life.  Through her own experiences, Emily is approaching the problem of caregiver financial stability from an academic lens  Emily believes in the importance of equity in caregiving and recognizing that individuals have unique needs and circumstances that require tailored support. Emily’s perspective on caregiving emphasizes the vital importance of promoting independence and respecting the autonomy of care receivers.

Mallory H. Cyr (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver / Care Receiver
Organization: Association of Maternal Child Health Programs (AMCHP)
Location: Colorado

Mallory is a highly skilled and experienced program manager specializing in improving opportunities for children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN). She holds a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal & child health and a Bachelor in Fine Arts in creative writing. With over 14 years of experience, Mallory has a strong understanding of the CYSHCN population, national policy initiatives, program development and management, creative problem solving and innovation, public speaking, training, technical assistance, and facilitation. Mallory is driven to improve opportunities for meaningful youth engagement and leveraging social media for stakeholder engagement. At AMCHP, Mallory supports the Autism Community of Learners and other activities to support the CYSHCN workforce.

Fiona Douglas (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Family Caregiver/Institutional Partner
Organization: FD Consulting
Location: Georgia

Fiona is a healthcare professional with over seven years of experience in long-term care and related services. She is currently the project manager for long-term care within an international regulatory authority, where she advocates for policy change, strategic planning, and implementation support. Fiona’s personal experience as an informal caregiver for her father and grandmother has given her a unique perspective and understanding of the challenges that caregivers face on a daily basis. Throughout her various roles in the long-term care sector, Fiona is aware of the various needs of caregivers. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in public health, to create caregiver education programs to help elevate the caregiver profession and intrinsic value in healthcare. 

Jennifer Gonzalez (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role:Team Member
Caregiver Type: Community Health Worker/ Doula
Organization: Health Leads
Location: New York

Jennifer Gonzalez is a mother, doula, and community health worker. Jenn’s vision for caregiver advocacy is for those in leadership to listen to caregivers and see their value and contributions to the community. She also hopes caregivers are paid an equitable wage so they can thrive and continue to serve their communities.

Ryan Kuyers (He/Him)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Community Health Worker
Location: Michigan

Ryan is a community health worker and a registered nurse. He brings a unique combination of skills and experience to his role as a caregiver, allowing him to provide education and support to individuals who need it most. Ryan has experienced homelessness and unemployment, which has helped him relate to patients in a way that few can. With his compassionate approach and deep understanding of healthcare, Ryan is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of the people he serves.

Nanfi N. Lubogo (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Certified Community Health Worker (CCHW)
Organization: PATH CT
Location: Connecticut

Nanfi is a highly experienced co-executive director with a background in non-profit organization management, specializing in healthcare navigation, parent-to-parent support, and community cultural brokering. With certifications as a community healthcare worker,Youth Mental Health Aider (MHFA), and Telehealth Coordinator (CTC), Nanfi is well-equipped to provide top-notch care for those in need. Nanfi has also completed a fellowship in maternal/child health Public Health Leadership Institute (MCH-PHLI). In addition to their professional experience, Nanfi is a dedicated caregiver for her  23-year-old daughter with multiple health and mental health needs, as well as her spouse diagnosed with a chronic medical condition. With her expertise and firsthand knowledge of caregiving, Nanfi is uniquely positioned to provide compassionate support and guidance to those navigating the caregiving sphere.

Tim Niyonsenga (He/Him)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Institutional Partner
Organization: Michigan Health Endowment Fund
Location: Michigan

Tim is a Senior Program Officer at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and leads caregiver-related work under the Healthy Aging Initiative. He is an expert on caregiver issues, including knowledge of local, state, and national policies, funding, and programs. He has a master’s degree in social work focusing on gerontology. Tim has a wide range of experience in the field, from working as an in-home and institutional-based direct care worker with older adults to serving as deputy director at a local Area Agency on Aging. Additionally, Tim was a caregiver to his neighbor for several years before she passed away, providing him with a personal understanding of the challenges faced by caregivers.

Fienishia Wash (She/Her)

Caregiver Coalition Role: Team Member
Caregiver Type: Home Health Aide/ Family Caregiver
Location: California

Fienishia is an experienced caregiver and home health aide with hands-on experience navigating the challenges and complexities of providing care for children with complex needs. She has been caring for her son, who was diagnosed with special needs 13 years ago, with unwavering dedication and expertise, helping him thrive and achieve his potential. In addition, Fienishia’s daughter began having seizures at the age of 12, and Fienishia has been providing her with the best possible care to ensure her well-being. Fienishia’s expertise and insights have been invaluable in helping her children thrive with their diagnoses. Fienishia’s dedication and commitment to her children’s well-being, coupled with her experience as a home health,  have made her a skilled caregiver and a valuable resource for other families navigating similar circumstances.

Anonymous Caregiver

(One of our coalition members wishes not to be named.) She is a devoted caregiver and is currently caring for her father who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and multiple comorbidities. Her education in healthcare has enabled her to understand medical terminology, coordinate her father’s care, and tailor his nutrition needs. She has also volunteered in four different countries, working with vulnerable groups such as refugees, school-aged children of various economic backgrounds, and rural communities in West Africa, which has helped her develop the compassion that is essential in caregiving. Despite the challenges she has faced, she is ardent about providing high-quality care for her loved ones and is committed to making a difference in the lives of those around her.