Safety Net Health Plan Staff: Making a Difference In the Lives of Plan Members and Their Communities

Each year, ACAP presents its annual Making a Difference Award to an employee at an ACAP-member Safety Net Health Plan who goes far beyond the boundaries of their job description in efforts to improve their community, support underserved populations, and fulfill community needs. Awardees are judged by a committee of human resources directors from ACAP-member health plans on how well they support ACAP’s principles of advocacy for beneficiaries, care, access to quality health care, and a commitment to the public good.

The winners of the Making a Difference Award provide a snapshot of the many ways in which employees of ACAP-member Safety Net Health Plans bolster their communities every day. They take the mission of community service common to all ACAP plans and make them real through ongoing commitment and action.

For more about the award, contact Hannah Lascano.

2024: Tanitra Adekeye, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island

Tanitra’s unwavering commitment to both the members served by Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (Neighborhood) and her community at large has ensured that while her name may not yet be known by all, her story and actions echo throughout the halls of her organization. 

Her nomination for the Making a Difference Award was inspired, in part, by her work on a particularly challenging case last year. During that time, Tanitra worked tirelessly to coordinate care for a critically ill young member. From aligning community resources, utilizing a translator to communicate and educate, and even setting up transportation and a car seat to increase the family’s access to providers – Tanitra’s ability to identify barriers and provide support were notable. Her approach not only resolved the situation but also elevated it to a documented best practice, reinforcing Neighborhood’s mission. 

Beginning as a Clinical Coordinator in Utilization Management in 2013, Tanitra has since been promoted to Senior Community Care Coordinator, and most recently elevated to Lead Community Care Coordinator – evidence of her leadership and commitment to the Safety Net Health Plan. Tanitra also serves as a liaison for the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families and is involved in numerous health programs and initiatives across the state. 

In addition to working full-time at Neighborhood, she serves part-time as a medical assistant at a pediatric urgent care center, and is a full-time student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business administration and healthcare management. 

Her dedication to positively impacting her community, personally and professionally, makes her 2024’s Making a Difference Award recipient. 

2023: Ana Stenersen, CenCal Health

Ana Sternersen serves as CenCal Health’s Utilization Management Associate Director. Ms. Stenersen embodies the health plan’s mission by improving the health of our diverse membership and advancing health equity both inside and outside the clinical setting. Promoting access to pediatric care for young, disenfranchised community members is a calling that has defined the course of Ms. Stenersen’s career. Her specialty in this discipline began in the early 2000’s and has fueled the successful implementation of programs for distinct county agencies and CenCal Health.

In January 2023, Ms. Stenersen was promoted to CenCal Health’s Associate Director of Utilization Management, a well-deserved recognition of her dedication and talent. Throughout her 25-year career in nursing and healthcare administration, Ms. Stenersen has remained committed to addressing the needs of vulnerable individuals; 21 of those years have been devoted to serving vulnerable children and youth with complex needs. Her vocation is unwavering as she continues to provide members with exemplary care, advocate for them, and lead other like-minded professionals to put compassionate service principles into practice.

2022: Miriam Roman, Community Health Group

Ms. Roman’s calm communication and caring do not end, however, with her employee relations capabilities. Ms. Roman is a Certified Master Customer Service Trainer, and, to a large degree, she is single-handedly responsible for the service we provide to our members in a deliberate, intentional, and consistent manner. Delivering consistently excellent, caring, and culturally sensitive customer service is a trademark value of CHG, part of our DNA. Our authentic culture of service is what makes our non-profit Medi-Cal managed care health plan stand out in a competitive market that serves the same membership demographic while offering the same benefits as several commercial plans.  

Ms. Roman’s specialty is developing the MAGIC™ (Make a Great Impression on the Customer) mindset in our new employees and sustaining that mindset in our existing employees. She is committed to helping all of our employees develop a service mindset through an integrated system of initial assessment, and training, improving our staff’s skills when dealing with members in person or by phone, and reinforcing standards by modeling a MAGIC™ mindset of service. 

For over 25 years, Ms. Miriam Roman has worked at Community Health Group servicing the people who serve our members, and she has been a certified master trainer since 2011. Her enthusiasm for training has never waned. Her dedication to providing quality training to our employees has helped our surveys, reviews, and positive word-of-mouth about our organization.  It is rare not to see her without a huge smile and a cheerful greeting for everyone she encounters. 

2021: Margaret Rivers, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare

Margarets devotion to serving others is felt not only by our members, their families, and our communities but also by every team member that interacts with her. She is—in short—an incarnation of ACAP principles.    

In 2020, a stunned world faced the COVID-19 pandemic, but Margaret’s compassion only grew. When congregate settings suffered COVID outbreaks, she led her team with a pilot program to bring cell phones to the front door of adult care homes. Using telephonic and video conferencing, our staff could conduct regular visits with members while remaining socially distanced. Not only were they able to stay connected to members, but they were also able to gain insight into the happenings inside each facility. This virtual access, only possible through Margaret’s initiative, helped us to identify what our members needed to remain on track in their journey to wellness and independent living. 

Margaret attributes her leadership and advocacy to her own lived experiences. With a family history of severe mental illness, and spending over three years in an institution because of her own serious mental health diagnosis, Margaret knows firsthand how challenging the road to wellness and independent living can be. She will tell you that she is “living proof that with hope and the right type of support and services, a person with a mental illness can live a full, rewarding life.”  

2020: Ann Oshel, Alliance HealthAnn Oshel of Alliance Health named 2020 winner of ACAP's Making a Difference Award

Ann Oshel oversees Alliance’s Community Health and Well-Being department, managing critical initiatives including System of Care, housing, jail diversion, training, education, and member engagement. Over the course of her 30-year professional career in community-based mental health and leadership, Ann Oshel has been committed to addressing the needs of her community’s most vulnerable citizens. She has spent her career advocating for them and developing the partnerships that have been uniquely successful in leveraging her principles into practice.

As part of Alliance’s commitment to addressing social drivers of health, Ann has been instrumental in establishing and nurturing partnerships that have resulted in thousands of individuals having access to safe, affordable housing. She built local relationships with the broader public housing system to secure set-aside housing vouchers and develop long-term arrangements so individuals with mental illness, and in many cases months of homelessness, would be prioritized for permanent housing options.

Ann has demonstrated exceptional leadership abilities in the face of natural disaster. In the wake of both Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence, Ann coordinated an extensive emergency shelter response by Alliance staff and members of our provider network. She spent hours outside her normal work day in shelters attending directly to the behavioral health needs of displaced citizens and worked to develop championed a child specialist team to conduct outreach and support to children in schools and community centers.

2019: A.J Farria, AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana

A.J. Farria (center) of AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana named 2019 winner of ACAP's Making a Difference AwardA.J. Farria supervises AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana’s Community Health Navigation team. She facilitates workshops and trainings that promote dialogue and break down barriers. She also helps to coordinate care and community resources for members. Ms. Farria works with people who struggle with substance use, mental health, transitioning from incarceration, and other difficult experiences. Her openness and honesty about her personal struggles in overcoming trauma, mental health challenges, and homelessness allow her to foster trust with people who may otherwise be hard to reach.

She also trains others, such as case managers, in mental health advocacy, recognition, and management to mitigate stigma and support people who may suffer from substance use and mental health challenges.

Ms. Farria’s strong commitment to advocacy began as a Community Health Worker and subsequently becoming a certified HIV testing counselor. This experience brought her to work with people from all walks of life. She has also been recognized for her volunteer efforts, being named the New Orleans Regional AIDS 2004 volunteer of the year.

2018: Amy Carrillo, Kern Health Systems

ACAP recognized Amy Carrillo, Member Services Supervisor at Kern Health Systems (KHS) in California as the organization’s Making a Difference Award winner.

Ms. Carrillo serves underrepresented and often silenced populations by actively collecting member feedback and taking action to find solutions to these members’ problems. For example, when a member with end stage liver failure lost her Medi-Cal coverage over an eligibility technicality, Amy worked alongside the family and county for weeks to restore the patient’s coverage so she could complete her treatment.

She has also demonstrated a commitment to addressing the health care needs of KHS members from all backgrounds through providing staff with educational opportunities and advocating for members. She worked with the Executive Director of the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity to organize the first Member Services’ inclusivity training event. Her empathy and willingness to help others has allowed her to immensely impact Kern Health System members, especially for vulnerable populations.

2017: Brisa Guajardo, Community Health Plan of Washington

ACAP named Brisa Guajardo, a business development manager at Community Health Plan of Washington, the organization’s Making a Difference Award winner. Ms. Guajardo was selected because of her never-ending dedication to ensuring that disadvantaged populations have access to affordable health care.

Ms. Guajardo carries this mission with her in her community.  She has been a leader in various community organizations in eastern Washington, including the Grace Clinic, Tri-Cities Latino Professionals, After School Matters, Junior Achievement, and the Health Access Team.

Most notably, Ms. Guajardo housed a disadvantaged 18-year-old man while helping him secure Medicaid coverage, find employment, and enroll in a GED program. Brisa Guajardo lives the values of advocacy, care, access, and public good promoted by this award.

2016: Janette Conway, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island

On May 6, 2016, ACAP recognized Janette Conway, a housing specialist with Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (Neighborhood), as the seventh recipient of the  “Making a Difference” award.

Ms. Conway is a Housing Specialist on Neighborhood’s nursing home transition team. She supports Neighborhood’s members as they transition to independent living from long-term care facilities, including forging connections with social services vital to their independence. Ms. Conway was singled out for the extraordinary lengths to which she will go in an effort to advocate for the members in her charge, such as tracking down long-lost family members, advocating for members in court, and offering a compassionate ear to hear the challenges members face.

2015: Barry Rock, BMC Health Net Plan

On May 5, 2015, ACAP named Barry Rock, Director of Talent Management at Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan (BMCHP), the sixth recipient of the “Making a Difference” award. In winning the award, Mr. Rock was cited for his long track record of involvement with community-based organizations that support people with low incomes in and around Boston.

During his six years of service at BMCHP, Mr. Rock has reinforced the idea that the health plan’s members are best served by employees who understand member issues and are immersed in the communities we serve.

2014: Amy Vance, CareOregon

Amy Vance, the 2014 Making a Difference Award honoree, is a Health Resilience Specialist at CareOregon. She is pictured at right, along with Deborah Kilstein, ACAP’s Vice President for Quality Management and Operational Support.

Ms. Vance was noted for her extraordinary efforts to find affordable alternatives to narcotic management for patients who suffer from chronic pain. To do so, she went beyond the boundaries of her job description to nurture a relationship with Working Class Acupuncture, an organization dedicated to providing acupuncture therapy on a sliding scale.

2013: Mary Catherine Macik, UPMC for You

On June 5, 2013, ACAP announced Mary C. Macik as the fourth recipient of its annual “Making a Difference” award, in recognition of her leadership and advocacy for those living with mental illness in the Pittsburgh community.

Ms. Macik has worked as a case manager at UPMC for You since 2007, serving the plan’s most seriously and persistently mentally ill patients, not only connecting them to the best care they need, but ensuring they receive the consistency and quality of care that their behavioral health problems require.

2012: Marcelline Coots, Passport Health Plan 

On February 23, 2012, ACAP named Marcelline Coots as the third recipient of its “Making a Difference” award, in acknowledgment of her nearly 15 years of exemplary service both at Passport Health Plan and in her own community.

During her time at Passport Health Plan, Ms. Coots has embodied the mission of improving the health and quality of life of thousands of members. Her dedication to children has shown through her leadership in outreach initiatives dedicated to the health and well-being of children and their families.

2011: Bill Sweet, Neighborhood Health Plan

On January 25, 2011 ACAP named Neighborhood Health Plan’s (NHP) William (Bill) Sweet the second recipient of its annual Making a Difference Award in recognition of his outstanding service to underserved children with disabilities and their families in the community.

As a pediatric nurse practitioner and complex care management coordinator for NHP, Sweet has made an extraordinary difference in the lives of children with disabilities and their families who are among Massachusetts’ most vulnerable.