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16th Cafritz Awards Winners

Individual Winners:

Reena Chakraborty, Ph.D.
Reena Chakraborty
Supervisory Statistician/Chief of Strategic Planning and Analysis
Management Support Division
Department of Corrections
Not long after she joined the Department of Corrections (DOC), Dr. Reena Chakraborty set out to enhance the Department’s analysis processes, with the goal of utilizing funds more effectively and consequently producing a budget surplus for the District. Now in her fourteenth year with the Department, Reena’s efforts have resulted in DOC acquiring $17 million in innovation funding, saving $15 million, and generating over $9 million in revenues, as her role has changed from Statistician, Forecasting when she began, to Chief of Strategic Planning and Analysis.One of Reena’s biggest accomplishments at DOC was helping to develop an operating cost model for the (then-) proposed Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), a center where inmates could better themselves through apprenticeship and other work programs. Her earlier work requiring manual formatting of over 19,000 text records about inmate employment, one-at-a-time, even today helps inform program planning. The operating cost model that she produced was used to justify the business case for this year’s CTF transition – calculating that over $4 million would be saved in the case of a successful transition, provided inmate population level remained steady.Another notable effort led by Reena was the research that paved the way for the Correctional Surveillance Center (CSC) at the DC Central Detention Facility. Helping to implement the CSC has been an especially significant contribution, considering the major impact it has had on facility safety and security for inmates and guards alike. The CSC has significantly reduced the impact of jail blind spots by providing secure surveillance space and a dedicated staff.
Other meaningful accomplishments include establishing DOC’s performance reporting system and working with her peers to develop a data quality assurance framework. If one looks at all the data collected by the DOC, more likely than not it was Reena and her team who were responsible for its quality and analysis.Reena’s achievements stretch beyond cost savings – she is also a mental health advocate. Recently, she has been working on a proposal to develop a model to predict the prevalence of mental illness in local jails. “I found Reena to be passionately committed to using her skills and talents to make a positive difference for DOC and the District,” stated former DOC (Interim) Director, Thomas Hoey. This proposed mental illness prediction model would have a positive impact on many lives in and around DOC and its facilities through the observation and treatment of unhealthy behaviors.Reena regularly works with her direct reports to ensure DOC statistical analysis procedures are constantly expanded and improved. Former Director Hoey added, “As a manager, she motivates staff to commit to excellence and build on their strengths.”  In addition, Reena’s colleagues noted that “She and her team are ever ready to help colleagues through demonstrating friendship and showing that data are friends.”Dr. Reena Chakraborty has gone above and beyond what is expected in her role with DOC and we thank her for being a vital member of the community and having such a positive impact on so many individuals in the District.

Theresa P. Donaldson-DePass
Theresa P. Donaldson-DePass
Program Director (retired)
Mental Health Services Division
Department of Behavioral Health

In a heavily populated city like Washington, DC, it can be difficult to get emergency and urgent care when someone gets injured or falls ill. For someone who needs quick medical attention for a mental illness, however, it can be even more challenging.

Theresa Donaldson-DePass, the recently retired Program Director for the Mental Health Services Division (MHSD) at the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), has helped solve this problem by championing and managing the first and only behavioral health urgent care program in the District of Columbia. The program helps people when they’re not able to obtain the care and treatment they need in an urgent situation.

It also provides on-demand psychiatric and pharmacological services to patients who cannot get help from private, community-based programs in a pressing situation.

At her last assignment with DBH, Theresa oversaw a multi-disciplinary staff of 28 who are fluent in many languages, including American Sign Language. With over 30 years of professional experience in public administration and training for state, county, and city governments, she has become a vital resource in her community. Some of Theresa’s valuable knowledge is based on her policy work, research, and programs and practices that affect the delivery of behavioral health services to impoverished, bi-cultural people who suffer from severe mental illnesses.

“Her positive attitude and collaborative leadership has resulted in long-standing and trusted partnerships with public and private sector entities,” said Oscar Morgan, Deputy Director, Adult Services in DBH. “This resulted in humane, cost-effective public policies that address the needs of some of the most challenged individuals within the public behavioral system.”

Under Theresa’s leadership, the MHSD team has been able to provide services to roughly 10,000 to 15,000 adults per year. This has helped keep the community safe and has reduced the likelihood of seriously mentally ill adults going to jail. This past year was especially impressive for Theresa’s agency – the MHSD team also provided over 13,000 urgent care services to a combined 5,777 children, youth, and adults in Fiscal Year 2016.

When she created the urgent care program for mental illness patients, Theresa wanted to make sure that everyone was treated with respect, regardless of their socioeconomic status, gender, education level or diagnosis.

“She reinforces staff to normalize mental illness for consumers in order to remove the stigma related to their diagnosis,” said one of her colleagues. “Overall, through her advocacy, public education, and long-term commitment to DBH, Theresa has demonstrated her desire to ensure that individuals with mental health issues are provided with effective, comprehensive services.”

Theresa continuously went above and beyond for her staff by providing appreciation luncheons to acknowledge their hard work, and continued to reward them during social work month and other discipline-specific celebrations. In return, her staff reciprocated the respect: “Anyone who has interfaced with Mrs. Donaldson-DePass left with the awareness that she has a calling to serve, lead, and make a difference.”

We thank Theresa for her outstanding service to the District and its residents.

Rahim Jenkins
Rahim Jenkins
Administrative Officer
Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services

Imagine being in a room with a group of young people who have dealt with sex and drug trafficking, mental illnesses, criminal disposition, gang connections, substance abuse and homelessness. These different types of personalities can lead to some challenging situations when they are going through rehabilitation. That’s where Rahim Jenkins comes in.

Rahim created the “Covenant of Peace” (COP) after Mayor Muriel Bowser’s call for a “Safer, Stronger DC” and recognizing how troubled the youth were in his career as the Administrative Officer at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). The COP is an anti-violence initiative geared toward dealing with the systemic issues in and around violence.

Rahim, a life-long District resident and graduate of DC’s Eastern Senior High School, set up the program in hopes of bringing peace in response to conflicts and anger issues among the youth in DC. It is a three-day lock-in (sleep-in) with local business professionals, celebrities, and community members, and returning citizens with a goal of solving youth violence issues in DC.

“I witnessed the COP in the past 18 months engage between 250- 300 adjudicated young people,” said Carmen White, president of Dramatic Solutions, Inc., an organization that works with high-end needs youth through drama therapy. “I want to specify that the young men and ladies under sponsorship of the DYRS have varying deficits. However, Jenkins’ charisma, never-ending passion, and commitment to justice commanded the space and directed everyone to move in a progressive and empowering manner.”

According to the DYRS website, after undergoing intense focus groups that explore and challenge the root causes of violence, committed youth at the DYRS will sign a “Covenant,” an agreement to abstain from, and speak against senseless acts of violence.

The COP is based on seven pillars to help youth identify where violence begins. These are:

The Power of the Tongue

  • What Love Looks Like
  • My Life Matters….
  • The Act of Forgiveness
  • My Family is My All
  • My Word is My Bond
  • The Impact of Absence

Youth arrests in DC hit their lowest point in 2014, but these improvements have been uneven across the city. Pockets of violent crime still exist in DC and with COP, it gives these different areas opportunities to make a difference by providing rehabilitative services like the Covenant. After the sleep-in weekends, the DYRS provides booster “Covenant” workshops to reinforce what the youth have already learned.

Rahim has also been a Youth Advocate, the developer of the District of Columbia’s Re-Entry strategy, Youth Policy Advisor to the Mayor and a Program Analyst for DOC. He also worked closely with DC Public Schools to help with on-site educational services to incarcerated youth.

“He’s committed and lives this work. He’s up early, stays late, visits community and still makes time to lead a normal life,” said David Lee Roberts, Jr., CEO and President of King David Productions. “To me, he’s like a modern Gandhi, living in peace and working to make the next generation live in peace.”

Laverne Plater
Laverne Plater
Nurse Consultant
Department of Behavioral Health/Saint Elizabeths Hospital

For people who deal with mental health issues and have criminal backgrounds, each day can be unpredictable. When they cannot live on their own, these individuals may sometimes get “stuck” at hospitals because long-term care facilities don’t want to take them. Laverne Plater, Nurse Consultant for the Office of Chief Nursing Executives (CNE), knows just what it’s like for the patients who are unable to live on their own.

A native Washingtonian, and an employee of the DC Government for 40 years, one of Laverne’s most memorable accomplishments was her ability to build bridges with community facilities. When healthcare facilities would not accept patients from Saint Elizabeths Hospital (SEH), she was called upon to diagnose the barrier, develop a plan, and initiate and implement a system to transition the patients to an appropriate long-term care setting. Laverne is a highly respected figure in the community and was able to partner with the United Medical Center to train staff in other facilities on principles and best practices for treating incoming patients suffering from mental illness. “As a result of her innovation we were able to safely discharge one hundred patients, who had been institutionalized for many years, to community facilities,” said Crystal Waters, a colleague at SEH. “Mrs. Plater is known to be a valuable team member, always flexible and willing to go beyond the call of duty.”

Because of her background, Laverne has become an advocate for her nursing staff and patients. She not only has become the mediator between hospitals and facilities, but she also initiates and conducts special nursing care conferences throughout the Department for patients with complicated health problems. She also works with healthcare facilities to come up with a continual plan of care for the patients and their families.

Laverne also helped SEH gain freedom from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) oversight and sanctions. “She revamped the nursing department by creating a formal Nursing Education Division,” said Waters. “This action saved the hospital’s reputation, and the DC hospital received federal recognition for the sanctions being lifted early, and saved millions of dollars in potential litigation.”

On top of everything, Laverne inspires and motivates the staff through mentoring and leadership, puts the needs of the agency as her highest priority, and always treats those with whom she interacts with respect and a smile. “My goal isn’t to train or consult, it is to inspire.”

With that mindset, Laverne has been able to accomplish amazing things and has been rewarded for such accomplishments. Some of the awards she has earned in DC include: Ward 8 Women’s Impact Award, Employee of the Month, and one of the Nursing Honor Society’s 100 Extraordinary Nurse Awards. “The message I would give others would be to be a great nurse: make sure your heart is in it and find your passion,” said Laverne. “It is important to always be responsible, credible, respectful, honest, active, and involved. Lastly, join a professional nursing organization and demonstrate your commitment to excellence in your practice at all times.”

Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor
Recreation Specialist/Site Lead
Department of Parks and Recreation

If you were to head to the King Greenleaf Recreation Center during after school hours, you’d probably see a towering, 6-foot-6 man with long, silver-lined dreadlocks strolling the halls and greeting kids.

His name is Paul “Big South” Taylor and he transformed the Center from a crime-ridden locale to a sanctuary where kids can feel safe to do their homework and enjoy recreational activities.

In 2014, during his first two months as Site Lead, the Center doubled its cultural and performing arts programs, sponsorship and community special events. Paul, a native Washingtonian, also created partnerships with organizations such as Friends of SW, Sasha Bruce, Roving Leaders, and local law enforcement (First District) to help create a safe haven for Southwest youth. With the help of those partnerships, along with innovative programming, crime rates have since been on a decline over the past four years.

Among Big South’s most notable initiatives is the “Groups and Hoops” program, which provides workshops on life skills, resume writing, healthy living, and material values. The sessions end with late night basketball tournaments during the summer.

The Recreation Center has seen a positive increase in teen programs such as the 16-team youth basketball league for boys and girls ages 13 to 24. Paul was also responsible for developing educational and job training for over a hundred youth and adults in the community.

But his determination to make a difference didn’t stop there. “A few years ago, while working with young men and women in Southwest, Mr. Taylor recognized that many of them had been cast out from their families and were homeless as the winter months approached. It was a situation that could not continue,” said Councilmember Charles Allen. Paul advocated that the Center be used as an emergency shelter to bring these individuals out of the cold and into a safe space. He worked with Council member Allen, neighborhood leaders in Southwest, and partner District agencies until, one day, a truck arrived with bedding and other much-needed materials.

When Paul is not leading yet another initiative at King Greenleaf Recreation Center, or engaging with the youth and families that come through its doors, he finds other ways to serve his old neighborhood. Paul is also the founder and CEO of the Southwest CommUnity Forum (SWCF), which is a non-profit organization. This organization was started by a group of former and current residents of Southwest. Its mission is to provide mentoring, educational and recreational activities for Southwest youth. Paul felt they should have the same right to have a local place where they can be educated and exercise with leisure, just as he did at the local Boys and Girls Club when he was growing up.

“Mr. Taylor has always taken pride in serving the Southwest community,” said Wallace Perry, Program Analyst/Senior Advisor of the Department of Parks of Recreation. “[He] never sought to receive recognition or additional pay, only knowing the satisfaction that he has done his best to give back to his community.”

Team Winner:

16th Annual Cafritz Awards Team Winners
Team Members from left to right: Mia Butler, Mary Devasia, Lourdine Jean-Francois, Jennifer (Jenna) Crawley, Gerald (Jerry) Kasunic, Katrice Jefferson, Sara Tribe Clark, Shante Trumpet, Becky Hazlett, Dominique Vinson

Medicaid Enrollment Team
DC Office on Aging/Department of Health Care Finance

Across the country and in Washington DC, older adults and people with disabilities depend on their caregivers, in-home services, health insurance, and other forms of support to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Without access to the right combination of community-based supports, many people end up moving to nursing facilities unnecessarily.

In 2014, the DC Office on Aging (DCOA) and the Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) began collaborating to improve access to the Elderly and Persons with Physical Disabilities (EPD) Waiver for two of the District’s frailest populations—older adults and people with disabilities. The EPD Waiver is a crucial and highly visible DC Medicaid program that helps people who need nursing-home level care obtain the support they need in their own home instead of having to go to a nursing facility.

Before the two agencies began collaborating on solutions to long wait times and difficulty accessing this Medicaid program, it would take six months or more for applicants to get on the EPD Waiver. Because it took so long, District residents would often remain in, or be admitted to nursing homes unnecessarily, or pass away while waiting to enroll in the Waiver.

DCOA and DHCF worked for over a year evaluating the current system, and mapping out how they could speed up the complicated enrollment process. One initial solution was to hand over the responsibilities of the pre- enrollment process from private care management agencies to DCOA’s Medicaid Enrollment Team. This team was formed to work directly with District residents on navigating Medicaid enrollment from the comfort of their own homes.

Commenting on the hard work it took to get this new program enrollment process off the ground, Garret King, Chief of Staff at DCOA recalled, “On countless nights you can see the team burning the midnight oil and making sure that our network has the technical support needed to continue providing direct services to the community.” Mr. King also noted, “Through their hard work, the team has established very personal and lasting relationships with people they serve.”

DCOA’s and DHCF’s years of collaborative work have led to impeccable enrollment tracking, inter-agency communication, clear messaging to stakeholders, and client-oriented public service delivery. Most importantly, a greater number of Washington, DC’s most vulnerable residents can now access the quality in-home care they need and deserve.

Individual Finalists:

Michelle Chin
Management and Program Analyst
Department of General Services

Thennie Freeman
Associate Director
Department of Employment Services

Jennifer Hancock
Trial Attorney/Assistant Attorney General
DC Office of the Attorney General

Erick Hines
311 Operations Manager
DC Office of Unified Communications

Grace Manubay
Environmental Literacy Coordinator
DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Damien Ossi
Fish and Wildlife Biologist
Department of Energy and Environment

Curtis Prince
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)

Howard Schwartz
Attorney Advisor
DC Office of the Attorney General

Willair St.Vil
Human Resources Specialist
Department of Human Resources

Peter Szegedy-Maszak
DC Rental Housing Commission

Team Finalists:

Team: Transformation of the District’s Capital Improvements Plan
Team Members: David A. Clark, Richard Dietz, John McGaw, Darryl Street

Team: DC Public Schools Family Engagement
Team Members: Vincent Baxter, Brandon Best, Natalie Foglia

Team: My School DC
Team Members: Aryan Bocquet, Michele DeSando, Patricia Etienne-Payano, Amy Lerman, Aaron Parrott, Catherine Peretti, Antoinette Williams

Team: RiverSmart Homes
Team Members: Erin Fenton, Andrea Herrera, Lauren Linville, Andrew Oetman

Team: Connect.DC
Team Members: Francisco Alacid,  John Capozzi, Michell Morton, Delano Squires

Team: DC Office of Federal and Regional Affairs
Team Members: Kimberly Afoakwah, Desiree Hoffman, Eugene Kinlow, Nikolas Nartowicz, Tomas Talamante

Team: DC Public Library Open Stories
Team Members: Janna Tanner, Lisa Warwick, Jamila Zahra Felton

Team: DC Surplus Property
Team Members: Keyana Alexander, Antonio Cadogan, Curtis Carroll, Jorge Delcid, Darrick Evans, Latrina Gross, Donald Jackson, Ryan Lewis, Marvin Manassa

Team: DCRA’s Small Business Resource Center
Team Members: Joy Douglas, Claudia Herrera, Jacqueline Noisette, Tamika Wood

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