CARES Conference

2023 CARES Conference Photo


The annual CARES Conference on Aging is a partnership between Tennessee Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services and Tennessee State University, College of Public Service Center on Aging Research and Education Services (CARES). It brings together nationally recognized experts and trainers from around the country focused on addressing challenges among aging and vulnerable adults in the 21st century.

This free conference will provide an opportunity to learn about best practices in the field, enhance job skills and elevate public awareness of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older and vulnerable adults. Law enforcement officers, district attorneys, service providers, health care workers, APS employees and anyone in the community who cares about older and vulnerable adults are invited.

2024 CARES Conference 

Healthcare Collaboration: The Desperate Need to Support Older and Vulnerable Adults Across Systems

Tennessee State University Avon Williams Campus Nashville, TN

Tuesday, May 21, 11:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. CST
Wednesday, May 22, 8:30 A.M. to 3 P.M. CST

Complimentary lunch will be provided as well as breakfast on May 22nd.

CEUs will be available at a cost of $15 (no certificate) or $20 (with a certificate) and can be paid via check or cash at the conference.

2024 Conference Information

Day One

12:30 -1:15pm: Welcome, Opening and Vendor Introductions

Provost Robbie Melton, Ph.D.

Provost Robbie Melton, Ph.D. | Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs

TN State University

Dr. Melton is Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. She is also a tenured professor and AVP of the SMART Center at Tennessee State University. Dr. Melton is also founder and CEO of ‘RobbieTech4Teach’ and a tenured full professor at Tennessee State University (TSU); formally (20 years) Associate Vice Chancellor of Mobilization Emerging Technology for Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) assigned to develop the system’s Strategic Emerging IOE Technology Planning and provide system-wide Professional Development and Faculty Training related to education technology support and services for teaching, learning, training, and workforce development, product testing, pilots and research. Dr. Melton also oversees research regarding the ‘Emerging Technology of The Internet of Everything (IoE) of Smart Connected Devices and Mixed Reality Technologies’ (VR/AR/Holograms/Wearables) for enhancing teaching, improving learning, and increasing workforce productivity; curating IOE Smart Educational Devices, Gadgets, and Tools; and primary investigator for HBCU OER Affordable Learning Solutions Pilots and OER Workforce Skills Commons Resources.

TDHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter

Clarence H. Carter | Commissioner

Tennessee Department of Human Services

Clarence H. Carter was appointed to serve as a member of Governor Bill Lee’s Cabinet as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) in January 2021. Mr. Carter leads the state’s second-largest agency with an operating budget of more than $3 billion and nearly 4,000 employees working in offices in all 95 counties. Through more than 17 programs and services, the Department partners with Tennesseans to facilitate nutrition programs, employment assistance, vocational training, and protective services to enhance their well-being.

Mr. Carter serves as chair of the State’s Families First Community Advisory Board and Child Care Task Force, and as a member of the State’s Coordinating Task Force; each dedicated to innovation in determining collaborative solutions to better serve Tennesseans. Mr. Carter is a National Academy of Public Administration Fellow and 2022 recipient of the Spirit of Fatherhood Judge David Gray Ross Award from the National Partnership for Community Leadership. Mr. Carter also serves as a thought leader on issues in human services; presenting at national conferences and testifying before Congress.

Mr. Carter has more than 30 years of experience in the public safety net space, including serving four governors, a mayor and in the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Donald Trump. Mr. Carter served as Director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security and Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. He also managed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and served as the Director of the Office of Community Services. On the local level, Mr. Carter served as Director of the Washington, D.C., Department of Human Services, where he led an initiative to transform the District’s shelter-based homeless system to one that assisted those served to finding permanent residency.

In 2015, Mr. Carter founded the Institute for the Improvement of the Human Condition. At that organization, he worked with state and local safety net agencies to meet the emergency needs of socially and economically vulnerable citizens.

Daniel Ferguson

Daniel Ferguson | Master of Ceremonies

Tennessee Department of Human Services

Daniel Ferguson has been with the Tennessee Department of Human Services since 2007, serving now as a Program Director 2 for Child Care and Community Services. A Graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology, he began his state service career as an eligibility counselor and eventually a trainer for Family Assistance and Child Support.  After 4 years, Mr. Ferguson accepted a position as a Training Center Manager for Vocational Rehabilitation. There, he worked closely with individuals with varying types of disabilities. He has over 17 years of experience in the Human Services sector, with an emphasis on training services for persons with disabilities, Family Assistance, Child Support, Child Care and Community Services as well as employee training and professional development. He manages 6 trainers within Child Care and Community Services, develops curriculum and trainings, establishes effective teams, and maintains compliance with state, federal, and program policies. He is a Nashville native and currently resides in South Nashville with his family.

1:15 - 2:30pm: Healthcare Collaboration Panel – Why is it so important and what can we do to improve our coordination?


Donna Owenby

Donna Owenby |  Rapid Response Team Investigative Support Coordinator

Adult Protective Services

Donna Owenby has been with APS for about 8 years working as an Investigative Specialist, Team Coordinator and Rapid Response Investigative Support Coordinator, her current role with APS.  She is grateful she found her passion late in life. 

She started her career in law enforcement as a dispatcher which it was called many years ago.  Donna transferred within the department and worked as a corrections officer, drug enforcement officer, and became a Certified 911 Telecommunicator.  She loved it so much she became certified to be a 911 Communications instructor nationwide.  She worked for local departments in TN where she served as communication’s officer, trainer and instructor for various departments.   Donna moved to Montana and worked as a 911 tele-communicator, trainer and was honored to be an adjunct trainer at their training academy in Helena, Montana.

Donna went back to college later than most college students receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Bethel University’s College of Public Service in McKenzie, TN.  She graduated Summa Cum Laude.  Donna wears many hats these days and her favorite is being a Nonna.


Kathy Cherry

Kathy Cherry, RN, BSN, MSN | Registered Nurse Specialist 4

Adult Protective Services

Kathy Cherry graduated from Nursing School Madison Wisconsin and later obtained MSN Clinical Specialty Forensic Nursing from the University of Colorado. She completed Death Investigation at the Davis Medical Examiner’s Office Miami Florida. Her work experience includes General Medicine, Acute Neurology, Intensive care and the Emergency Room. Ms. Cherry spent 17 years with Florida APS and 3 years with California APS. She started with Tennessee APS in August of 2022. 

Lisa Livingston

Lisa Livingston BSN, RN, CPC, CPMA, CEMA | TBI Registered Nurse Consultant

Tennessee Bureau of  Investigation

Lisa Livingston has 35 years of experience across multiple facets of the healthcare industry ranging from patient care, coding, auditing, compliance, and provider education. These are just a few of the areas that help to illustrate her broad expertise and versatility within the field. In her current role, Lisa works as a nurse consultant supporting the efforts of the TBI MFCD in investigating and prosecuting healthcare fraud. She is actively involved in cases involving healthcare fraud, patient abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of elderly adults. Lisa often finds herself working directly with State and Federal Prosecutor’s to help educate them on how procedures should be properly billed and performed in an inpatient or outpatient setting along with whether a provider deviated from the normal standards of care.

Kelly Nicholson

Kelly Nicholson F-ABMDI | Director of Investigations

Middle TN Regional Forensic Center

Kelly Nicholson is the Director of Investigations for the Middle TN Regional Forensic Center where she oversees 12 death investigators. She has been an ABMDI registered death investigator for 8 years. Kelly has a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and worked for the St. Louis County and St. Louis City Medical Examiner’s Offices in Missouri prior to moving to Nashville.

Shaina Champion Richardson

Shaina Champion Richardson | Licensed Clincal Worker

St. Thomas Rutherford Emergency Department

Shaina Richardson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing in Murfreesboro Tennessee. Mrs. Richardson began her current role in November of 2018 as Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford’s Emergency Department Social Worker. Mrs. Richardson is responsible for providing direct services to patients in the emergency room and their families. This includes assessing needs, assessing safety, abuse/neglect concerns, providing resources and support to caregivers, providing support and resources to families who suffer a sudden loss, and providing resources for housing, medication costs, substance abuse, outpatient mental health, domestic violence, etc.

Prior to the Emergency Department Mrs. Richardson provided case management and social work services to the main hospital from January to November of 2018, worked as a geriatric and medical Social Worker at a psychiatric hospital, and spent seven years working for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services as an investigator of abuse, and in an administrative role. Concurrent with her role in the Emergency Department, Mrs. Richardson provides outpatient therapy services to individuals in Assisted Living and Long-Term Care Facilities on a contract basis.

Mrs. Richardson received her Bachelor of Science in Social Work at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and continued her education obtaining her Master of Science in Social Work from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. Mrs. Richardson obtained her clinical licensure in 2022.

Carly Brown

Carly Brown LCSW | Geriatric Specialist

VA Midsouth Healthcare Network, USDVA

Carly Brown began serving as the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Geriatric Specialist for the VA MidSouth Healthcare Network (VISN 9) in January 2023. Ms. Brown is responsible for oversight and implementation of the HUD-VASH Aging and Disabled Veterans Initiative throughout Tennessee and Kentucky.

Prior to joining the VISN 9 team, Ms. Brown was the Grant and Per Diem Transitional Housing Program Supervisor at the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System for nearly 5 years. Ms. Brown began her VA career in 2012 at the VA Boston Healthcare System where she worked in HUD-VASH, Outreach, and Grant and Per Diem before moving to Nashville in 2015. Ms. Brown also has five years of experience in non-VA mental health services including outpatient therapy and child welfare services.

Ms. Brown received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Vassar College and her Master of Social Work from Boston University.

2:45 - 4pm: “The Impact of Trauma on Older and Vulnerable Adults”

Patricia M. Speck

Patricia M. Speck, DNSc, CRNP, FNP-BC, AFN-C, DF-IAFN, FAAFS, DF-AFN, FAAN | Professor, Coordinator Advanced Forensic Nursing, Department of Family, Community, & Health Systems 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing

Patricia M. Speck graduated from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Nursing in 1982 (BSN), 1985 (MSN), and 2005 (DNSc). After retiring from UTHSC College of Nursing as the DNP Public Health Nursing and DNP Forensic Nursing (FN) Concentration Coordinator, she joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing in the Department of Community Health, Outcomes, and Systems.

Currently, Dr. Speck is a Professor and Coordinator of the graduate Advanced FN program. She is internationally recognized as a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and expert in advanced FN care of patients experiencing an intersection with the legal system.

She is a subject matter expert, consulting with Department of Justice and State, and internationally (Africa, Eurasia, Caribbean, Central, South/North America with governments, universities, institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations) to design, evaluate and implement infrastructure change in response to victims of violence.

As a FN practice expert and published researcher, she develops policy, evaluates programs, and builds FN nursing workforce capacity through publication, education, and violence prevention initiatives. She was President of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) (2003-2004), Chair, American Public Health Association's Family Violence Prevention Forum/Caucus (2011-2013), and currently President of the Forensic Nursing Certification Board. Her awards include Fellow American Academy of Forensic Sciences (2008), Distinguished Fellow, IAFN (2001) and Academy of Forensic Nursing (2018), and Fellow, American Academy of Nurses (2002). Recently, she received notice of induction in June 2024 as Fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP). She is the recipient of over 25 awards and received the Lifetime Professional Impact Award from End Violence Against Women International in 2017, and the American Academy of Forensic Science Virginia Lynch Innovation Award in 2023.

Day Two

9am – 10:15 am: Physical Abuse and Neglect Case Studies: Interviewing, Gathering Evidence and Trauma Informed Care

10:30am – 12:15pm: Self Neglect Case Studies: Cognitive Capacity, Consent and a Tool for Caregivers

Patricia M. Speck

Dr. Patricia Speck – (reference bio from previous day)







Kathy Cherry

Kathy Cherry – (reference bio from previous day)







Raymond Romano

Raymond Romano, PhD, MPH, RN, FNP-BC | Nurse Practitioner

Vanderbilt Memory & Alzheimer's Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Raymond Romano is a family nurse practitioner with experience in research and quality improvement. His focus is on health services research, and his specific interests are in the detection, diagnosis and care of dementia in the primary care setting. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at Marymount Manhattan College, his master’s degree in public health from Boston University and his master’s degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University. He completed his PhD at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center during which he studied how alteration in the pain experience differs in those at risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Ray’s interest in dementia began as an undergraduate studying the role a certain protein plays in insulin-related neurodegenerative diseases. While at Boston University, he worked in clinical research at the school’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, then moved to Nashville to join the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center. He also completed a yearlong fellowship at the Department of Veterans Affairs, focusing on quality improvement.

Mary Griffin | Assistant District Attorney General

Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team (VAPIT), Office of the District Attorney General, 20th Judicial District

Mary Griffin is the 20th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney General (“ADA”) for the Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team (VAPIT).

Her career has been one of many firsts-first Spanish speaking Public Defender in Davidson County, first National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) securities fraud trainee asked to be a NITA trainer, first Public Defender to be appointed Special Prosecutor in two Tennessee Counties and only governmental attorney to complete the Baylor Litigation Management LLM (Masters of Law).

In her current role, ADA Griffin is focused on identifying and prosecuting abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.  She leads a dedicated team from agencies that serve elderly and vulnerable adults.  The agencies include law enforcement, Adult Protective Services (APS), the Office of Family Safety, the Office of Conservatorship Management and nonprofits like FiftyForward.  She is the proud mother of a thriving vulnerable adult and she uses her experience raising this independent and amazing kid to fuel her passion for prosecuting elderly and vulnerable adult abuse cases.

ADA Griffin  is passionate about working with victims of abuse and exploitation.  She has the greatest privilege of being an advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves.

1:15pm - 2:45pm: “Aging Matters Film and Discussion: Disparities in Health Equity”, hosted by Nashville Public Television

2:45pm – 3pm: Closing and Evaluation

TDHS Assistant Commissioner Jude White

Jude White | Assistant Commissioner for Child Care and Community Services

Tennessee Department of Human Services

In this role, Ms. White oversees licensing and subsidy support for childcare, the adult protective services program, child/adult care and summer food programs, and administration of the community services block grant.  Previously, Ms. White served as Executive Director of the Children’s Cabinet for Governor and First Lady Haslam.   With a law degree from Vanderbilt University, Ms. White brings a mixture of experience in judicial and private law practice, non-profit management, and state government service. Ms. White previously served as the executive director of Renewal House, a local non-profit agency in the Nashville community serving families in recovery from addiction. She worked formerly as an assistant general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, after practicing law and holding a judicial clerkship.

Ms. White has served on multiple boards in her capacity as a non-profit leader and attorney such as: Hands on Nashville, the Center for Non-profit Management; the Nashville Bar Association; and is a past-president of the Lawyer’s Association for Women.

Amy Vien

Amy Vien | APS Program Manager

Sherry Hall

Sherry Hall | APS Administrative Services Assistant 5

Patti Tosti

Patti Tosti, MBA, PMP | APS Director of Interagency Collaboration and Research

Rhonda Barnes

Rhonda Barnes | APS Intake and Grants Director

Cara Robinson

Cara Robinson | Ph.D., TSU Department Chair - Social Work and Urban Studies

Linda Robare

Linda Robare | TSU Administrative Assistant III, Department of Social Work and Urban Studies

Cynthia Douglas

Cynthia Douglas | APS Rapid Response Team, Team Coordinator