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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Cara Zitko (Jacobsen), MSW

Director of Illume

As Illume’s Director, Cara oversees leadership for department planning and development, quality assurance and improvement activities, managing staffing and budgets; monitoring and achieving department outcome goals.

Prior to joining Places for People, Cara started her career in research at Siteman Cancer Center. She earned her Masters of Social Work at Saint Louis University, specializing in Health Care Administration. She joined PFP in 2017 as an Employment Specialist, becoming the Employment Services Team Leader in August 2017 where she gained Exemplary fidelity status for the department in 2019. Cara held that role until joining the Center of Excellence in September 2020. Cara Lead’s Illumes Advisory Board and is serving on various regional committees including BHN’s Older Adult Council, STLCC’s Prevention Coalition, The Kauman Fund’s Mental Health Collaborative, including a committee member of Places for People’s Employee Development Committee and Operational Infrastructure – Strategic Plan steering committee.


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.

Charvonne Long, MPH

Program Manager for Research and Evaluation

As manager of research and evaluation, Charvonne oversees research and evaluation staff, and leads and supports collaborative research and evaluation efforts within Illume and at Places for People. She guides research efforts to improve social work practices, identify service gaps, workforce needs, and quality of care for persons with behavioral health conditions.    

Charvonne joined Places for People as a practicum student. She was hired as a Health Informatics Specialist on the Research team following the completion of her Master’s in Public Health in January 2019. As a Health Informatics Specialist, she helped develop a routine outcome reporting system for Places for People. In 2021, her role changed to Data Analyst. She has also managed and supported various evaluation activities for local, state, and federal grants. Charvonne has supported research efforts through journal publications on topics ranging from happiness and well-being to substance use among others. In July of 2023, Charvonne became the Manager of Research and Evaluation. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Social Work at Saint Louis University. She serves on several committees at Places for People including Zero Suicide, Continuous Quality Improvement, DEIB, and Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities. She is also trained in suicide prevention intervention (QPR) and Zero Suicide. 

Allison Murphy, MSW, LCSW

Team Leader of the Evaluation Department

Allison Murphy, MSW, LCSW, graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia and joined Places for People as a Research Interviewer in 2017 after completing her Master’s level practicum with the agency during 2016. She has worked as a Research Specialist and became Team Leader of the Evaluation department of Illume in 2020. She has managed a variety of local and federal grants, including grants to promote physical and behavioral health integration, increase social support for older adults with serious mental illness, and expansion of services for those who are uninsured. Allison has had her research and evaluation work published in several peer reviewed academic journals such as the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, Journal of the Society of Social Work and Research, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, and Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness. Her research topics range from happiness, recovery and well-being of adults with serious mental illness, experiences and recovery of older adults with SMI, and serious mental illness and recovery of the unhoused population. She has her certification in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and has facilitated groups in a wide range of evidence-based practices prior to and during working with Places for People. 

Dr. Pallavi Nishith, PhD

Staff Psychologist, Expert Researcher & Trainer 

Dr. Pallavi Nishith has 24 years of experience working in the field of trauma and PTSD. She is currently working in the capacity of Staff Psychologist at Places for People, Inc., and in this capacity is conducting clinical, research, and training work in Trauma, and PTSD in Serious Mental Illness (SMI).

Alida Moore, LCSW

Program Evaluator 

Alida Moore, LCSW, joined Illume’s Research and Evaluation Team in 2020 after receiving her Masters in Social Work from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. As a Program Evaluator, she manages evaluation activities for a variety of local, state, and federal grants at Places for People. She has worked on projects related to housing access, HOPES social skills training, and occupational therapy interventions for adults with SMI. Prior to joining Illume, Alida worked in community mental healthcare with adults experiencing homelessness on an ACT Team, in psychiatric social work at Barnes Jewish Hospital, and in college access as an advisor to high schoolers. 

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.

Emily Mouyard

Mental Health Training Associate

Emily Mouyard started her career in 2013 as a behavior modification counselor at Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center, addressing substance misuse and criminality. After working in the correctional setting, Emily worked as a clinician at Chestnut Health Systems in the integrated outpatient department providing mental health and substance use counseling, in addition to conducting DUI evaluations for the state of Illinois. Emily went on to coordinate a behavioral health outreach project on public transit through a partnership between Chestnut Health Systems and SCCTD/Bi-State/Metro. Emily is also a member of the St Clair County Continuum of Care-Homeless Action Council (CoC-HAC). Emily is currently chairman of the Project Homeless Connect- Point in Time Count committee and sits on the Planning Committee of the CoC-HAC. Emily holds a bachelor’s degree (BA) in Psychology from McKendree University and is a Certified Reciprocal Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselor (CRADC) with a Co-Occurring Disorder Professional (CODP-I) board registration through the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association. Emily is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Certified in the Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA).

Rashma James

Program Coordinator 

Rashma James is Illume’s administrative guru, specializing in all things from training organization to promotional support through social media and email marketing. Rashma has a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and experience providing direct services, which gives her a unique perspective and instilled her passion to support the field of behavioral health.

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