Illume is a collaboration of like-minded people and organizations who work to ensure that behavioral health evidence-based practices and treatments are available to all people in our region, and across the country. Our faculty of experts are available to lead consultations, trainings, and serve as mentors.

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Julie Blanco, LCSW, CRAADC

Director of Training and Technical Assistance

For the past 33 years, Illume Director of Training Julie Blanco has dedicated her career to supporting individuals living with mental illness and substance use concerns. Julie joined Community Alternatives in 1997 as a clinical supervisor, and has held numerous leadership roles since, including 11 years as Integrated Treatment Program Manager (first at Community Alternatives, then at Places for People following the two organizations’ merger). Julie joined Illume to oversee and present training and mentorship programs for the Center of Excellence. Julie is certified as a Trainer for TREM, is Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) member, a Certified Trainer of CRA, among other licensure and certifications. Additionally, Julie has been an adjunct professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis since Spring 2020.

Cara Zitko (Jacobsen), MSW

Illume Manager

Cara started her career in research at Siteman Cancer Center and worked her way to a clinical director position at a local stress management company, eventually finding her place as the manager of Illume. She earned her Masters in Social Work at Saint Louis University, specializing in Health Care Administration. Cara first joined Places for People as a practicum student on the PATH team in case management, working with individuals with HIV/AIDs experiencing homelessness. She rejoined PFP in 2017 as an Employment Services Specialist, eventually supervising the department, which gained exemplary fidelity status under her guidance. Cara joined the Center of Excellence as Director in 2020. She has participated on a number of committees and projects such as the System of Care Advisory Board, Cultural Competency Committee and Center of Excellence. Cara firmly believes in Illume’s mission for growth through steady leadership, engaging the community and fostering systems of change.

Nathan Dell, Ph.D., LCSW

Vice President of Knowledge Translation & Impact

Nathaniel A. Dell, Ph.D., LCSW is Vice President of Knowledge Translation at Places for People, Inc. and Illume: The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence. He recently earned his PhD from the School of Social Work, College for Public Health & Social Justice, Saint Louis University. His social work practice experience includes providing clinical services for adults experiencing homelessness with mental health and substance use concerns. His research interests include evidence synthesis methods, mental health recovery across the lifespan, philosophy of science, and personality functioning.

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Pallavi Nishith, Ph.D.

Staff Psychologist

Pallavi Nishith, Ph.D. has a primary appointment as Staff Psychologist at Places for People, Inc., a community mental health center in Saint Louis, MO. In this role, she has the joint responsibility for conducting clinical research and trainings. Her work is primarily focused on the utilization of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) models in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She is currently engaged in research investigating the utility of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for the treatment of PTSD in the seriously mentally ill (SMI).

Emily Dreher, M.Ed, LPC, NCC, DBT-LBC

Training Associate

Emily Dreher is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Linehan Board Certified DBT Clinician with clinical experience providing outpatient therapy and in home crisis counseling. Her specialties include working with individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder using Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Prolonged Exposure.  Emily is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the Applied Health Behavior Research graduate program at Washington University.

Caren A. Franke, MS

Training Associate

Caren A. Franke, MS, Training Associate with Illume, specializes in thanatology—the study of death, dying, and bereavement.  She holds her Master of Science in Thanatology from Marian University, Wisconsin and has worked with grieving individuals through hospice, organ donation, and children’s bereavement centers.  Caren is equally as passionate about behavioral health and has a decade of experience working in the field.  She has presented on a range of topics including, Grief in the Workplace, Supporting & Understanding a Grieving Community, Behavioral Health Workers’ Grief Following the Death of a Client, and Working with Grieving Persons Served.

Gary Morse, PhD

Illume Founder

Dr. Morse was a founding Member of Illume and served as our Director during our first year. While Dr. Morse no longer directly serves on staff we appreciate his continued contributions to our efforts.

Since 1981, Dr. Gary Morse has served in the mental health care field providing behavioral health services, researching and developing best practices, administering programs, consulting, and training. In 1995, he founded the mental health care organization Community Alternatives after Missouri privatized outpatient mental health services. CA joined with Places for People in January 2011 to provide more clients with expanded services.
The focus of Dr. Morse’s professional work has been to reduce the suffering and improve the wellness of people living with mental health disorders. His activities in support of this work can be summarized in four inter-related areas:
  • Helping to create, implement, and scientifically test the effectiveness of compassionate and innovative services for people with mental health disorders
  • Establishing and providing leadership to community-based behavioral health programs and agencies for individuals with low-income
  • Communicating to the profession about effective ways to serve people with severe and challenging mental health and psychosocial needs
  • Raising funds to support needed mental health services, research, and program development
Dr. Morse has served as the principal investigator on a number of large federal grant projects, and authored more than 50 professional articles.

Joe Yancey

Illume Founder

Joe Yancey was a founding Member of Illume and served as a consultant during our first year. While Mr. Yancey no longer directly serves on staff we appreciate his continued contributions to our efforts.

Retired Places for People CEO Joe Yancey has dedicated nearly 41 years to providing community behavioral health services in St. Louis. A community leader serving on numerous boards and commissions at the local and state level, Yancey guided Places for People through a historic merger with Community Alternatives in 2011 as Executive Director.
In 2016, Yancey received one of the highest forms of recognition in his field when he earned the Silver Key Award from Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri. The honor acknowledges the effort, values, and ethics that comprise the character of those who support improved treatment and care of people with mental illness.
Yancey has held leadership positions with many behavioral health care organizations, including the Missouri Department of Mental Health, where he served as Assistant Regional Manager for the Eastern Region, Interim Deputy Director of the Division of Comprehensive Psychiatric Services and lead adult policy director for the federally funded Mental Health Transformation project.
Additionally, Joe has a long history of leadership roles in St. Louis.
  • Current Chair of St. Louis Regional Health Commission Community Advisory Board
  • Current commissioner on the St. Louis Regional Health Commission
  • Current board member on SIRV (St. Louis Initiative to Reduce Violence)
  • Current board member (former chair) of Behavioral Health Network
  • Served as lead adult policy coordinator for the Missouri Mental Health Transformation Initiative

Get Involved

Cara Zitko (Jacobsen)

Call 314-535-5600 / Ext. 275