At Citizen Advocates, we are committed to making lives better. The individuals, families and communities we serve receive a full range of health and lifestyle care through innovative, industry-leading services and programs. All of this is achieved through a person-centered approach that supports and celebrates each individual’s choices.
We are here to make a positive difference in the life of any individual needing help along the unique road to health, independence and fulfillment. The work we do is driven by respect for humanity and the rights of individuals as they explore what it means to define their own future. We are proud to provide quality, compassionate care and do so from the bottom of our hearts.
Our work may be difficult at times, but that’s what makes it meaningful. We will persevere with courage and optimism. We are Citizen Advocates.
Our mission & values
Mission: Making Lives Better
Our vision is to be the recognized leader of exceptional services and employer of choice. We do this by providing high-quality, person-centered care, through sound financial management, best-in-class customer service and fostering workplace culture that matters.
At Citizen Advocates, we are committed to making lives better throughout Northern New York. We offer mental health, addiction recovery and intellectual and developmental disability services and programs, along with a host of related support services, in Franklin, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex, Jefferson and Hamilton counties.
Originally founded in 1975, Citizen Advocates served as a work program for individuals with a need for developmental and behavioral health support. At the time, the organization had 12 employees serving 50 individuals. Today, Citizen Advocates employs 750 health professionals and support staff who provide a broad range of services with compassion and skill to 8,100 individuals and families on an annual basis. With administrative offices in Malone, Citizen Advocates provides developmental disability, mental health and substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout Franklin, Clinton, Essex, Hamilton and St. Lawrence counties.
Despite the prevailing uncertainty created by the pandemic, there is a new reality emerging. It is one that is revealing what we are capable of, not just as individuals, but as a community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise—our resiliency is what sets us apart in Northern New York. We band together, apply our ingenuity and overcome challenges.
Where the pandemic has created problems, Citizen Advocates is laser focused on applying solutions. This was the inspiration for our 2021 Annual Impact Report. Follow the link below to hear directly from our amazing workforce and the people we support. You’ll receive first-hand accounts of how our mission of Making Lives Better means we are here for one another as much as we are for those we support and the community. Thank you, and we hope you enjoy our story—please feel free to share with family and friends.
Every year, we publish an impact report highlighting the achievements, events and news from the prior year. 2020 was no exception. What was an exception, however, was the extraordinary circumstances we faced from the pandemic. Yet, we, as an organization, remained undaunted, embracing our role of providing critical services and supports that our communities so dearly needed. Read our 2020 Impact Report to learn more of how our concerted efforts helped Make Lives Better.
Community Health Needs Assessment
Citizen Advocates (CA) aims to make a positive difference in the life of any individual needing help along the unique road to health, independence, and fulfillment. CA positions itself on the leading edge of transformative health and well-being initiatives by focusing on enhanced health outcomes driven by high-quality, coordinated care for individuals and families receiving developmental disability, mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Work is driven by respect for humanity and the rights of individuals as they explore what it means to define their own future. To provide these essential services, CA must remain diligent in assessing the needs of the community continuously. This report summarizes findings resulting from a Community Health Needs Assessment targeted to identify behavioral health needs for the residents we serve in Franklin, Essex, St. Lawrence and Clinton counties, the unique region we call the “North Country”, in rural New York State.
James Button, President & Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Button began his healthcare career as a licensed master social worker, and gained extensive experience in the clinical setting as a case manager, psychiatric crisis clinician and a children’s residential supervisor. During his tenure at Citizen Advocates he has held a variety of progressive leadership positions over the course of a decade. Mr. Button gained a broad understanding of the industry during his experience as the Director of Corporate Compliance and Quality Assurance, where he led the agency to achieve its first national quality accreditation in 2014.
Pursuing his passion for public policy, he left the organization briefly to work closely with state healthcare agencies in Albany as the State of NY transitioned providers from ‘fee for service’ to managed care. During his time in Albany, Mr. Button was responsible for overseeing a statewide regional planning initiative aimed at preparing providers for the move to value based care. He also served as a key liaison between the respective regions and State healthcare executives. While this experience provided him with valuable knowledge of the community behavioral health industry, his deep ties to the North Country were calling him back.
He returned to Citizen Advocates in 2017 to accept the COO position. As COO, Mr. Button was responsible for launching Northwinds Integrated Health Network, IPA and was instrumental in moving the entire network into risk-bearing contracts with managed care companies. Mr. Button’s expertise is in CCBHC, contracting, team building, public speaking, systems change and growth initiatives. He was elevated to CEO in July, 2020.
Kati Jock, Vice President & Chief Operations Officer
As the VP and Chief Operations Officer, Kati is responsible for leading Citizen Advocates’ efforts to strategically align services under three main areas: Behavioral Health, Community Living and Community Supports. This leading-edge, whole health strategy strengthens Citizen Advocates’ position as a leading provider of exceptional, high-quality clinical services, programs and community supports. In addition, the Operations team includes Marketing and Communications, Facilities, Maintenance and Capital Projects, and Population Health.
Kati has over a decade of experience in Strategic and Business Planning for Hospital Health Systems where she played a key role in affiliations and mergers, designed business plans supporting primary care expansion, and collaborated with system executives to shape organizational vision to drive profitability and sustain growth. With a passion for strategy and analytics, Kati believes strongly in utilizing a data driven approach to transform information into a meaningful resource and tool for the enhancement of health outcomes. In addition to her current role, Kati has served as Director of Behavioral Health Services and Director of Population Health and Planning for Citizen Advocates.
Krista Bartlett, Chief Human Resources Officer
Prior to joining Citizen Advocates in 2021, Krista was a Senior Director of Human Resources Operations & Organizational Development for the Mohawk Valley Health System based in Utica. There she was responsible for the implementation and oversight of a rewards and recognition program, professional development, orientation, HR operations and workforce culture for over 4,000 employees. Prior to that, she held leadership positions in Compliance, Talent Development and Recruitment for Upstate Cerebral Palsy in Utica.
As Chief Human Resources Officer, Krista will support the enhancement of the department by partnering with employees to build positive, effective solutions that meet their needs. She is also very tuned into national trends and the seismic shifts taking place in the labor market and using this knowledge to focus on solutions that promote workforce resilience. To achieve this, her priorities include improving the overall experience for employees, and creating an environment for them to develop their capabilities and offer upward mobility within the organization.
Eileen Cavalier, Chief Financial Officer
As Chief Financial Officer, Eileen is actively seeking out opportunities for expanded revenue streams, innovative programs, and managing the expenses that are often created as a direct result of a highly-regulated healthcare environment. This is in addition to being responsible for the sound fiscal stewardship of the organization on a day-to-day basis.
Eileen has nearly 25 years of experience in fiscal stewardship at upstate New York non-profits. In addition to daily operations, she is experienced in evaluating the risks and benefits of new projects to help organizations thrive and grow. Most recently, she worked as the Vice President of Finance at East House in Rochester, an organization dedicated to supportive housing for individuals living with a mental health diagnosis or addiction.
Jennifer Dishaw, Chief of Staff
As Chief of Staff, Jennifer is directly responsible for managing the day-to-day priorities for the Executive Leadership Team. In addition to her duties related to the Executive Team, Jennifer has management oversight of Information Technology, Support Services and Communications & Government Affairs. Prior to becoming Chief of Staff in 2019, Jennifer led a major initiative to modernize Citizen Advocates’ Electronic Medical Record system, known as NetSmart. Jennifer is familiar with the billing aspects of healthcare delivery, having managed the Billing Department for 11 years.
Dr. Joshua Frank, Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Frank first worked for Citizen Advocates from 2010 to 2017, when he left to serve as Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Canton-Potsdam Hospital. In addition to providing treatment services at Citizen Advocates Behavioral Health Clinics and Crisis & Recovery Center in Malone, Dr. Frank has direct oversight over other physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nursing staff.
Heather Wenzel, Associate Vice President of Operations
As Associate Vice President, Heather is focused on Behavioral Health, Community Living, Community Support and Facilities. She’s dedicated to enhancing access to innovative services throughout Northern New York.
Heather brings over 25 years of operations expertise and is passionate about leadership development. She started her career as a Direct Support Professional and is proud to support the Citizen Advocates’ workforce and community. Heather is a life-long resident of St. Lawrence County and a credentialed leadership coach.
Daxia Board of Directors
Nick Eells, Chair
Deanna Smith, Vice Chair
Felix Tam, Secretary
Paul Goodrow, Treasurer
Citizen Advocates Board of Directors
Deanna Smith, Chair
Loretta Fowler, Secretary
Dallas Sutton, Treasurer
Harison Place Board Board of Directors
Paul Goodrow, Chair
Lori Tourville, Secretary
Mike Roesler, Treasurer