Our Team

The National Federation of Families (NFF) employs individuals dedicated to fulfilling the organization's mission with their skills covering a wide range of areas including social marketing, policy, leadership, and technical assistance. The majority of the team has lived experience as an individual or a parent/caregiver or family member who has navigated mental health and/substance use supports and services.

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LYNDA GARGAN, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Dr. Lynda Gargan serves as the Executive Director for the National Federation of Families. In this position, she leads the country’s largest national advocacy organization focused solely on supporting the families of children and young adults who experience mental health and/or substance challenges. Throughout her career, Dr. Gargan has worked across the nation providing technical assistance and training to ensure that all individuals are afforded the opportunity to live in the community of their choice. During her tenure as Deputy Special Master, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, Dr. Gargan oversaw the successful settlement of a class action lawsuit, returning 1000 children placed in the foster care system to their communities. Dr. Gargan served as the Project Manager and Project Director, respectively, for two Federal Supported Employment Technical Assistance Centers. She more recently served as CEO for an agency specializing in Intensive In-Home Family Therapy services for families navigating both the mental health and substance use systems. Dr. Gargan has a wealth of experience in community-based behavioral health at the local, state, and national levels. She has a rich background in field research, including longitudinal studies in multiple class action lawsuits.

Dr. Gargan serves as a tireless champion for the mission and vision of the Federation. Under her guidance, the National Federation has fully operationalized the Parent Support Provider Certification, an innovative peer support workforce initiative that utilizes the lived experience and specialized training of parents to assist and empower families who are raising children and youth with mental health and/or substance use challenges. Believing that mental health and substance use challenges are often inextricable, Dr. Gargan spearheaded efforts to expand the focus of the organization to embrace these dual diagnoses. Under her leadership, the Federation has expanded their focus to include family support in both mental health and/or substance use challenges. Dr. Gargan’s most recent accomplishment is the award of SAMHSA’s first National Family Support Technical Assistance Center, of which she serves as the Principal Investigator. This five-year award focuses on families who are supporting children who experience mental health and/or substance use challenges, across their lifespan.

Utilizing both her personal  and extensive professional experience to inform her work, Dr. Gargan seeks solutions to the challenges that families face as they attempt to navigate the complex systems that serve children, adults, and families. As a native of West Virginia, Dr. Gargan has personal experience and knowledge of the chaos that the opioid crisis has created in families and the challenges that Appalachian families face when attempting to locate services.

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GAIL CORMIER

Project Director, NFSTAC 

Gail brings over 25 years of experience providing national and statewide technical assistance and expertise working with families, youth and young adults. She is a proven national family leader with both professional and family-lived experience.

Cormier’s knowledge is demonstrated by her work at several levels. At the national level, she partners in the development of federal programs that serve at-risk and vulnerable consumers, families and their children and youth. For the last 14 years, Gail has served as Executive Director for North Carolina Families United, Inc., the North Carolina state affiliate of the National Federation of Families.

 

Cormier was a co-developer of the University of New Hampshire’s national best practice RENEW, a care coordination process for transition aged youth with Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED). She provided oversight for the SAMHSA funded Statewide Family Network grant in New Hampshire and then in North Carolina from 1996-2019. Gail has served as Project Director for seven federal grants funded by SAMHSA , the Department of Education and the Administration for Children and Families, leading the way in developing and supporting families who need services and supports for their children across the lifespan. She supports family organizations, family peer support, and policy making boards that aid the growth and the development of child, youth, and family-serving systems within peer organizations statewide and across the nation.

 

As Project Director, Gail manages the day-to-day activities of our National Family Support Technical Assistance Center (NFSTAC) and is responsible for all grant required reports, assurances, outcomes, and documentation demonstrating that project goals and objectives have been met. Gail will use her experience to support the provision of technical assistance and training for families, providers, family-run organizations and communities.

As a long-term advocate of social justice, Ms. Cormier strives to ensure that all individuals find mental health and substance use services in their home communities that best fit their needs  - no matter their age, gender identity, race or economic background.

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MICHELLE COVINGTON

Project Manager

For over 30 years, Michelle has been a dedicated advocate for children and families experiencing behavioral health challenges. She brought her life and professional experience to the Federation in 2017.  Michelle is passionate about social justice, believing firmly that every family should have access to the services they need for both their mental health and physical health. This commitment to parity shows in the work she does on behalf of the Federation in the evaluation of legislation, policy and advocacy at both the national and state level. Michelle serves as a liaison with Federation affiliates, working closely with them to addressing issues at the state and local levels.

 

Michelle began her career as an intensive family preservation therapist and that core belief that family is the expert on their family and that they are essential partners in services has driven her work and leadership of others throughout her career.  Seeing a gap in services that was essential for families, Michelle worked with her agency and managed care organizations to create and fund a mobile therapy program that allowed for therapists to go into the homes and work with children in counties where there was not easy access to children’s therapists. Additionally, she brings experience in directing community-based services for children at a statewide level that included case management, respite services, mobile therapy and grant programs providing intensive in-home services to drug affected families.

 

Michelle has Bachelor’s in Social Work and a Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling. As the proud mother of two adult children, a Mimi to one, Michelle is dedicated to see that all children and families have access to the services they need to achieve their greatest potential.

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LACHELLE FREEMAN

Project Manager

Lachelle is dedicated to advocating for youth and families to receive appropriate services that meet their needs. Lachelle is trained in family systems and stands by System of Care values that ensure the system benefits the entire family. She wholeheartedly believes that treating the whole person yields the best results.

 

With over 25 years working in the mental health system, Lachelle has provided direct care in family preservation programs and therapeutic services for Pittsburgh children and families where abuse occurred within the family. Additionally, she provided clinical oversight, managed therapeutic group homes and assisted in work groups for block grants.

 

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lachelle has worked on mental health initiatives in Maryland and North Carolina and assisted in research projects at both the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Maryland's Systems Evaluation Center. For the past nine years Lachelle worked at a Managed Care Organization where she was most recently served as the Project Director for North Carolina’s SAMHSA System of Care Expansion Grant.

Lachelle comes to the Federation with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Geneva College. She is the proud mother of two children, Joshua and Madison. Lachelle is dedicated to family advocacy, whole-person care and policy change that meets the needs of the individuals being served.

Lachelle is a strong advocate for social justice. She believes mental health and/or substance use concerns should not impact how humans are treated. All individuals should be provided equal service, respect, and opportunities in our society. Social justice is a must for all of us.

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GENA FITZGERALD

Program Manager

Gena Fitzgerald has been focused on social justice and critical social issues facing children and families for her entire career: first, as a journalist covering national and local news, and then bringing that expertise to nonprofits specializing in children and families. She is a recovery ally with lived experience supporting family, friends, and colleagues and a longtime advocate for children with learning differences and disabilities.

 

Since 2007, Gena has directed national communications and storytelling efforts in the nonprofit sector. She was previously Senior Director of Family Support and Outreach at SAFE Project, where her portfolio included launching the first national Family Support Locator in 2022, and teaming with the National Family Support Technical Assistance Center on “Family Connections”, a virtual community for parents and caregivers.  As Senior Director of Strategic Communications, she also led communications efforts to inspire and help families coping with substance use and/or mental health challenges. 

 

Raised as a military child, Gena served as VP of Communications for the USO and then Operation Homefront to meet the special challenges affecting service members and military families. As Executive Director for the Journalism Center on Children & Families at the University of Maryland, she created training and resources for journalists on critical social issues affecting vulnerable families.

 

Prior to her nonprofit career, Gena was Senior Washington producer for NBC Nightly News overseeing national coverage of the White House, Capitol Hill, and breaking news.  She is the recipient of many of the most prestigious honors in journalism, including the DuPont, Peabody, and Murrow awards, as well as seven Emmy awards for her work. Contact Gena at gfitzgerald@ffcmh.org.

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DANA ASBY

Project Specialist

Dana Asby is a developmental and educational psychology researcher and author, as well as a mental health and transformational leadership educator. She has a passion for helping all members of the family use their strengths to find person-centered solutions to challenges. Dana applies her lived experience as a family member to those with mental health challenges, her own recovery from traumatic experiences, and a decade as a teacher in preschool to junior high school classrooms to her current work in behavioral health.

 

Before joining the National Federation of Families as a Project Specialist working on the National Family Support Technical Assistance Center, she worked primarily on school and youth mental health training and technical assistance. She was the Director of Innovation & Research Support at the Center for Educational Improvement and Education Coordinator of the New England Mental Health Technology Transfer Center for several years. Dana co-authored a book called Compassionate School Practices with her colleagues at the MHTTC. As a trauma-informed yoga teacher with Exhale to Inhale with neuroscience research experience from the Neurocognition, Early Experience and Development Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University, Dana shares her knowledge of how mindfulness and community can change the structure of the brain to help heal the effects of attachment disorders, mental health challenges, trauma, and toxic stress. You can reach Dana at dasby@ffcmh.org.