Rapid-fire talks from national thought leaders will offer perspective for tackling the challenge. 

Susan Dreyfus

President and CEO
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

Susan N. Dreyfus is president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a strategic action network of social sector organizations that has a national reach in thousands of communities across America.

She is dedicated to advancing equity in society through access and opportunity so all people can reach their full potential. She believes in the power of the social sector to be influencers of larger systemic change through its excellence, distinction, innovation, and influence.

Prior to joining the Alliance in 2012, Dreyfus was secretary for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. She was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in May 2009 and approved by the senate. She served as a member of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet. She had responsibility for Medicaid, aging and long-term care, child welfare, behavioral health care, juvenile justice, economic assistance, and other human services.

Before her work in Washington state, Dreyfus served as senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Alliance.

In 1996 she was appointed by the Gov. Tommy G. Thompson Administration in Wisconsin to be the first administrator of the Division of Children and Family Services. Her responsibilities included child welfare, child care quality and licensing, youth development and an array of emergency assistance and other community programs.

Dreyfus is chair of Leadership 18, a coalition of CEOs from the largest and most respected nonprofit organizations in America, and was also the chair of its 2016 Executive Committee. She serves on the governing boards of the American Public Human Services Association, Generations United, the National Human Services Assembly, and the International Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers. She was appointed through the Speaker’s office in the U.S. House of Representatives to serve on the National Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities from 2013-2015.

In 2015 and 2017, Dreyfus was named to The NonProfit Times’ Power and Influence Top 50 list of nonprofit leaders. The American Public Human Services Association awarded Dreyfus its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 for her contributions to the field of health and human services in both the public and private sectors.

Catherine K. Anderson

Senior Vice President of Policy & Strategy
UnitedHealthcare Community & State

Catherine Anderson is the senior vice president of Policy and Strategy at UnitedHealthcare Community & State. UnitedHealthcare Community & State proudly serves more than six million Medicaid members in 25 states, plus Washington D.C. UnitedHealthcare is a division of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), which is a diversified health and well-being company with a mission to help people live healthier lives and help make the health system work better for everyone.

In this role, she is responsible for working with state and federal policy makers to shape programs to serve Medicaid and Medicare. Anderson has extensive expertise working with policy makers to address the complex needs of individuals served by government health care programs and leverages the UnitedHealthcare’s experience with the most complex individuals served by government-funded health care programs and delivery systems. She works closely with a broad spectrum of providers, advocates, and stakeholders to assist policy makers in creating enrollee-centered approaches that thoughtfully include comprehensive healthcare and social services solutions.

Anderson has been with UnitedHealth Group for more than 19 year in roles focusing on both Medicare and Medicaid programs and developing solutions for states for complex populations. 

Prior to joining UnitedHealth Group, Anderson worked with a national long-term care provider in program development roles focused on how to better serve individuals in institutional settings. She began her career working for Congressman Craig Thomas serving as his communications specialist and legislative assistant.

Anderson has a bachelor's in political science/sociology from Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma and holds a master's of public administration in public policy from the University of Colorado, Denver. 

Michael Shafer

Center Director & Professor
School of Social Work
College of Public Service and Community Solutions
Arizona State University

Michael S. Shafer is a professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions where he also holds affiliate appointments in the Center for Health Information Research and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Shafer is the founding director of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy which has, for the past 25 years, conducted cutting edge research on the adoption and implementation of innovative practices in behavioral health care. Shafer has authored more than 40 peer-reviewed research articles and generated more than $45 million in grants and contracts that target capacity building and innovation in behavioral health services. Shafer earned his doctorate in education in 1988 from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has received numerous awards and citations, including recognition from the U.S. Department of Justice for the development of crisis intervention training for law enforcement personnel. Shafer is a frequent contributor to professional literature and he consults with behavioral health agencies throughout the country.

Research interests:

  • Effectiveness of telemedicine in training substance abuse counselors
  • Effectiveness of mental health courts
  • Organizational and patient level mechanisms affecting implementation of Medication Assisted Treatment
  • Implementation or substance abuse treatment services within correctional and child welfare systems

Current Research

Shafer is a co-principal investigator on the Robert Wood Johnson-funded Systems for Action program. The Financing and Service Delivery Integration for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse project {Arizona State University’s School for the Science of Health Care Delivery and School of Criminology and Criminal Justice} is one of three Collaborating research Centers funded through the Robert Wood Johnson’s Systems for Action program to test innovative ways of integrating medical, public health, social, and community services. Collectively these studies aim to solve vexing problems of fragmentation, duplication, and variation that currently exist in the delivery and financing of services that address social determinants of health and well-being.

The ASU project is integrating rich data sources from Arizona’s medical, mental health, and criminal justice systems in order to explore opportunities for better coordinating services for persons with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. This study is identifying how people and dollars move between and within the state’s medical, mental health, and criminal justice systems and how changes to funding streams and service delivery models can produce improved health and social outcomes.

Susan Mende

Senior Program Officer
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Susan Mende is a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). In this role, she helps to manage initiatives related to health care system transformation and transparency, avoiding overuse, consumer engagement, better care for complex populations, trauma-informed care, and global learning.

Mende was formerly the COO for Tsao Foundation, Singapore, where she focused on community-based care of older people, professional and caregiver training, and regional and international aging issues for the World Health Organization and the U.N. While living in Australia, she consulted with national and international organizations on successful aging and inclusion of older people.  


Richard Cohen

President and CEO
Public Health Management Corporation

Recognized nationally as an authority in the public health management arena, Richard J. Cohen, Ph.D., FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), has led the organization since 1980. Under his watch, the organization has expanded more than 75-fold and continues to grow, with a current operating budget of approximately more than $250 million. Dr. Cohen has devoted his professional life to the needs of Philadelphia and the surrounding region, while playing a critical role at a national level as well.

Prior to joining PHMC, his career took him to Temple University as Instructor of Psychology and Assistant Director of Project Upward Bound, then to St. Luke’s and Children’s Medical Center and to the City of Philadelphia Coordinating Office for Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs, where he held increasingly senior positions managing drug and alcohol treatment and prevention programs. Dr. Cohen also has consulted with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institute on Drug Abuse. He holds a Ph.D. in Social Sciences and Psychiatry from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Temple University and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maine.

Regionally and nationally, Dr. Cohen is sought not only for his depth of experience in public health delivery and management, but also for his insight into the underlying issues. This is evidenced by his more than 30 publications and conference presentations that get to the heart of addressing public health dilemmas, with insight into the marketing of human services, developing leadership, establishing public/private partnerships, assessing long-term verses short-term costs, understanding hospital utilization patterns, and many other critical topics. This is knowledge born not simply of theory, but of a life in the thick of urban public health, experiencing obstacles firsthand and innovating to overcome them.