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2023 Fellows

The 2023 inaugural cohort of Reaching Rural fellows represented 80 communities from 14 states. The cohort of 67 fellows was composed of 18 individuals and 8 teams, including participants from across the criminal justice system and public health, behavioral health, and nonprofit organizations.


Photo of Cocke County team
Cocke County
Photo of Del Norte County team
Del Norte County
Photo of Harnett County team
Harnett County
Photo of Montevideo/Chippewa team
Photo of Navajo County team
Navajo County
Photo of Panhandle/South Plains team
Panhandle/South Plains
Photo of Polk County team
Polk County
Photo of Stevens County team
Stevens County

Individual Fellows

Photo of Al Sims
Al Sims
Director, California
Solano County Department of Veteran Services

Alfred Sims is a third-generation veteran with more than 20 years’ experience in management and veterans’ services. In the past 9 years, he has worked in organizations supporting veterans and providing critical stabilization services to these populations, with a primary focus on homeless veterans and veterans with complex health and mental health challenges. Prior to leading the Solano County, California, Department of Veteran Services, he led the San Francisco, California, Office of Veteran Services. Mr. Sims is an army combat veteran who served in the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He holds a master’s degree in security management.

Photo of Ashlie Muhvich
Ashlie Muhvich
Social Worker, Minnesota
Todd County Health & Human Services

Ashlie Muhvich is a social worker at Todd County Health and Human Services. She plays a huge role in coordinating the new Todd Integrated Dispositional Alternatives project. This project has been created to address a dramatic increase in the number of inmates in Todd County who are mentally ill and/or have a substance use disorder. Ashlie enjoys building collaborations between local law enforcement, jail staff, Human Services, Community Corrections, and the County Attorney's Office. Ashlie graduated from Iowa State University and has a passion for working in crisis situations and connecting with individuals with a mental health and/or substance use disorder.

Photo of Becky Graham
Becky Graham
Public Health Nurse, Minnesota
Wright County Public Health

Becky Graham has worked for Wright County Public Health in Minnesota for more than 10 years as a public health nurse. She began her substance use-related work in 2018, when Wright County was selected to pilot opioid programming using Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) funds. Since then, her work has grown to include other substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, under a Drug-Free Communities grant. Ms. Graham also serves as a chief strategist for the Wright County Opioid Settlement Advisory Council, a countywide council aimed at ensuring that national settlement dollars are spent efficiently and effectively.

Photo of Danielle Prather
Danielle Prather
Community Health Worker, Kentucky
Marshall County Health Department

Danielle Prather is the Certified Community Health Worker at the Marshall County Health Department in Benton, Kentucky. Her responsibility, as the trusted liaison in the community, is to help patients and their families navigate and access community services and available resources while promoting healthy behaviors and advocating for a healthier community. She is excited to expand partnerships with community leaders to address the persistent challenge of substance use and misuse in her rural community.

Photo of Denise D. Waff
Denise D. Waff
Director, Virginia
Riverside Criminal Justice Agency

Denise Waff is the Director of Riverside Criminal Justice Agency, the pretrial services and local probation department serving the city of Hopewell and the counties of Prince George and Surry in Central Virginia. She has dedicated her career to public service through various roles in local government, and she desires to bridge the gap for substance use and mental health resources in rural communities. Ms. Waff graduated from James Madison University, where she earned her bachelor of science degree in psychology and criminal justice.

Photo of Jamie Styons
Jamie Styons
Community and Justice Program Director, West Virginia
Community Connections, Inc.

Dr. Jamie Styons serves as the Director of Community and Justice Programs at Community Connections, Inc., a Prevention Lead Organization in Southern West Virginia. He is committed to developing and strengthening substance misuse prevention efforts in rural Appalachia by addressing the environmental insecurities impacting communities. A native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he transplanted to the Mountain State during his adolescence. In his professional life, Dr. Styons has held positions in behavioral health, higher education, and primary prevention. In his spare time, he enjoys being a lifelong nerd, holding academic degrees in forensic psychology, sociology, philosophy, criminal justice, and communications technology.

Photo of Jennie Hill
Jennie Hill
Executive Director, West Virginia
Laotong Yoga, Inc.

Jennie Hill is the Director of Laotong Yoga, Inc., a yoga service organization in West Virginia. She shares her experience with yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and recovery in state correctional facilities. Ms. Hill recently served as the assistant director for the state certification agency for recovery housing, the West Virginia Alliance of Recovery Residences. She has 10 years’ experience working in behavioral health care as a peer professional and 11 years in her personal recovery. Ms. Hill graduated from West Virginia State University with a bachelor of arts degree. She envisions creating a recovery yoga school in West Virginia.

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Jessica Carr Culpepper
Financial Coordinator, Mississippi
Rankin County Youth Court

Jessica Culpepper is the Financial Coordinator of the Juvenile and Family Intervention Courts in Rankin County, Mississippi, and the project director of four federal grants. She is a licensed attorney with a background in criminal law and a former adult drug treatment court coordinator. Ms. Culpepper is the cofounder of Brave New Girls, a nonprofit support group for teen girls, as well as president of Mississippi Harm Reduction, a nonprofit providing resources to those in recovery.

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Jessica Perusse
Director, New York
Camden Life Center of the Center for Family Life and Recovery

Jessica Perusse is the Founder and Director of the Camden Life Center, an impact center in Camden, New York. She works to partner with existing behavioral health and social service agencies to bring needed resources to her community all under one roof with highly coordinated care. She is eager to address stigma in seeking help and to identify the most pressing community gaps. Growing up in Lee Center, New York, Ms. Perusse developed a passion to address the rural resource gap and has focused her work on rural communities since. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a master’s degree in social work.

Photo of Kiera Lewellyn
Kiera Lewellyn
United Council on Opioids Director, Indiana
White County United Way

Kiera Lewellyn is the Director of the United Council on Opioids within the White County United Way in Indiana. She works to coordinate local agency collaborations in the field of prevention by focusing on mental health and wellness for all segments of her community. Ms. Lewellyn graduated from Purdue University, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in law and society.

Photo of Lisa Staggs
Lisa Staggs
Therapeutic Court Coordinator, Washington
Okanogan County District Court

Lisa Staggs is the Therapeutic Court Coordinator for the Okanogan County, Washington, District Court. She works with the DUI Court to gather statistics on current and past participants, as well as coordinating training and looking for new funding opportunities. Ms. Staggs grew up in Omak, Washington, and earned her bachelor of science degree in psychology from Washington State University.

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Michael Howard
Founder/CEO, Kentucky
ARCH Community Health Coalition, Inc.

Michael Howard is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Access for Rural Community Health (ARCH) Community Health Coalition. The coalition, established in 2017, is active in many areas, including health care access, housing, childcare, behavioral health, education, and more. After years in research and academia, Dr. Howard returned to his home of Madisonville, Kentucky, in 2016 to work in health care, where he could apply his experience and passion to improving the health and wellness of the people of Western Kentucky. He holds a doctorate degree in physiology and biophysics from the University of Miami and is a fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders program, a 3-year program to develop broad skills in community health.

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Mike Rentfro
Production Manager, Indiana
Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries

Michael Rentfro is production manager for Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries. In 2022, he founded the Vigo County Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (VigoDEC) in an effort to change the trajectory of the lives of children living in dangerous conditions because of caregiver substance use. By linking with the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, Mr. Rentfro plans to provide much-needed awareness and training to all disciplines that come in contact with these children, hopefully bringing an end to generational drug use throughout East Central Indiana.

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Mindy Rickabaugh
Coordinator of Reintegration, Pennsylvania
Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies

Mindy Rickabaugh serves as the Coordinator of Reintegration with Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where she has worked for 15 years administering workforce development and reentry programs/grants, which include federal, state, and local funders. She also has 12 years of experience providing drug and alcohol education and intervention in a jail setting. Ms. Rickabaugh is trained in motivational interviewing, moral reconation therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and trauma-informed care. She is a certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) through the National Institute of Criminal Justice and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

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Paul McDonald
4th District County Commissioner, Board Chair, Minnesota
St. Louis County

Paul McDonald is a county commissioner in rural St. Louis County, Minnesota. He spent 35 years in education prior to being elected as commissioner and has a passion for helping people. Mr. McDonald holds master’s degrees in education and health education.

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Peggy Galloway
Director, Nebraska
Jefferson County Diversion & Pretrial Release Services

Peggy Galloway is the Director of Diversion and Pretrial Services for Jefferson County, Nebraska. She is a member of the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA), Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR), the Reaching Rural Initiative with Rulo Strategies, and the Wellbeing Initiative, Inc.’s Consumer Family Advisory Committee. Spending the majority of her life in rural communities, Ms. Galloway is passionate about finding solutions to bring positive change to rural communities.

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Sue Grafstrom
Director of Emergency Management, Minnesota
Roseau County

Sue Grafstrom is the Emergency Manager for Roseau County, Minnesota, and works with the Minnesota Department of Health serving public health agencies in Northwest Minnesota. It has become her life’s mission to improve rural health. This opportunity for the Reaching Rural fellowship will enable her to leverage the expertise of the many stakeholders of the Roseau County Justice Coordinating Committee to choose a project to advance better health outcomes for a targeted population in Roseau County. Ms. Grafstrom has worked in rural health care throughout much of her career and most recently attained her master of public health degree.