Barbara Allen, Executive Director
Jim’s mom; Bill’s sister & Amanda’s aunt
Barbara is a leadership coach, yoga teacher, writer and bereaved parent. Her diverse business background includes 27 years experience in the manufacturing, sales, marketing, engineering, education, and government sectors. Barbara’s career was derailed by nearly a decade of debilitating illness. This gave her the opportunity to refocus her energies toward reducing suffering in the world. This new direction motivated her to establish Forward Flowing Consultancy in 2002.
Tragically her beloved son, Jim, died in February, 2003. He struggled with the disease of addiction for almost 22 years losing the battle to an overdose of heroin and alcohol. Since the disease began when he was 13, Barbara pushed herself to learn about addiction, to help Jim where possible and to let go when it was appropriate. This experience has been a life defining challenge. She considers Jim one of her greatest teachers. In his eulogy, she committed to learning even more about life and addiction as a result of his death.
Additionally, Barbara’s brother, Bill, and niece, Amanda, also lost their lives as a result of this disease. The ups and downs of these three important people and promises made at Jim’s death have led her to the work she does today. Establishing James’ Place, Inc. and its educational arm Shatter the Stigma are important means to share knowledge and help other parents know they are not alone.
Barbara is straight-spoken with a coaching and teaching style that is direct, open-minded, and collaborative. She intentionally integrates humor into her work. Barbara has been an active member of The Compassionate Friends (TCF) since 2003. She currently serves as Vice President of the TCF national Board of Directors and Chapter leader for the Patapsco Valley Chapter in Ellicott City, Maryland, and often speaks at conferences and other gatherings.
Thomas Allen, Financial Director
Tom, Barbara’s husband, is a fire protection engineer with one son, Ben, who lives in Arlington, VA. As Jim’s step-father they forged a strong bond. Jim loved to cook on the grill and often schooled Tom on the fine art of this kind of cooking. They also shared a love of working with wood. Items that Jim made can be found around their home. Also active within The Compassionate Friends, Tom serves as treasurer of the Patapsco Valley Chapter.
Board of Directors
Ronald (Ron) Byrd, Director at Large
Ron is a retired scientist for the U.S,. Navy. He has a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Richmond.
Why he’s here…
JPI is a means for me to honor my daughter’s journey and fight with addiction. Erika wanted to beat alcohol but couldn’t. Helping others who are in need is something she would want; I want that, too. It is a way for me to give back. Having seen firsthand the horror of living with this disease, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try to make a difference for others.
Johanna Dolan, Director at Large
The owner and founder of Dolan Research International, LLC Johanna brings decades of personal experience as an entrepreneur, professional life/recovery coach, and an ordained minister. Johanna is a member of the International Coaching Federation, a commissioner on the Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention, a member of the Behavioral Health Advisory Council, a board member of The Frederick Center, the 2019 recipient of the MD LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Leader of the Year award, and a columnist with Baltimore OutLoud.
Jonnie Elder, Director at Large
Joanie Elder, along with her husband, Mike Elder, opened the first sober living home in Howard County in 2004. Donleigh House has provided a safe haven to well over 100 men since it opened. Run as a “family model” home, the men are financially independent of each other, but function as a true family in every other respect, with no time limit on their residency. Based on personal interaction with alumni, Donleigh boasts over 75% successful continued long-term sobriety
Christy Hyatt, Director at Large
Christy is an IT Security Consultant with years of involvement in community and volunteering. She has spent over a decade with street outreach through meal delivery to the homeless and brought technology to women just out of prison and transitioning back into society. Christy was drawn to James’ Place through its “Shatter the Stigma” initiative after alcoholism has continued to play a growing role in the lives of her loved ones. The “No Shame or Blame – Just Love” resonated with her as she continues to be a stand for all those affected by addiction and for those left in its wake.
Why she’s here…
Christy lost a best friend to the disease of alcoholism. She lost what should have been another 50 years of a wonderful friendship with Erika. The overwhelming sadness, confusion, and a desperate need to speak out led Christy to first seek avenues of support and education. She hopes to focus her energy towards community, awareness and action.
Richard (Rich) Narcini, Board Secretary
Member, The Compassionate Friends
Trustee, Emley’s Hill Cemetery, Cream Ridge, NJ
Rich has a B.S. in Commerce (Finance) degree from Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. He spent most of his career working for the New Jersey State Judiciary.
Initially, his responsibilities with the courts included the management of purchasing and accounting operations. In 2001, Rich was appointed as the Chief of Probation Child Support Enforcement and was responsible for overseeing statewide support enforcement operations. He held this position until his retirement in 2014.
Although substance abuse is a recurring theme in probation, Rich would be the first to tell you that he is not an expert in the field of addiction – at least not in the traditional sense. His education began in December 2005 when his daughter Kristen admitted to heroin use and sought help from her parents. Over the next eight months, Rich and his wife experienced a crash course in the circular and chaotic word of detox, recovery, relapse and overdose. The insanity was exacerbated by obstacles such as the lack of in-patient treatment beds, medical insurance limitations, HIPAA rules and initial ignorance of the disease. Finally the merry-go-round ended in July 2006, when Kristen perished from an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl.
Through this family experience and subsequent recovery from the loss of a beloved daughter, Rich also became aware of the importance of education and community support in battling this disease. He credits family support groups such as Naranon and The Compassionate Friends as key components of his ongoing education and recovery.
Why he’s here…
Despite the loss of my daughter, I remain hopeful – hopeful that her legacy and that of all others lost will shed light on this terrible disease and help others. James’ Place is acting on this vision of hope by promoting better community education and helping addicted individuals get the treatment they desperately need and deserve.
Robert M. Politzer, MS, SCD, CAS, Board President
Member, American Counseling Association
Private practice, Certified Addictions Specialist
Bob joins the James’ Place Board of Directors with a lifetime of experience managing health and addiction care. He founded and directed the Johns Hopkins Center for Pathological Gambling, a pilot outpatient and inpatient treatment program funded by the State of Maryland. This innovative program was the first of its kind in the nation open to the general public. As Director, he was the lead author of the first article that estimated the costs to society of pathological gambling.
Dr. Politzer has presented his work at conferences on gambling and risk-taking, and has co-authored several articles and a book chapter on the impact of pathological gambling and the benefits of treatment. Bob also spent 27 years in the U.S. Public Health Service as Senior Policy Advisor and Director of the Office of Data Evaluation Analysis and Research on behalf of the nation’s health centers.
Why he’s here…
“After more than 30 years in the field of addictions I know that only a small percentage of those who need services obtain those services. I also know that the most significant barrier to care once an addict is committed to recovery is the cost of care. The mission of James’ Place is to fill that gap. I willingly and gladly devote my time and energy in support of this mission.”