Holly O’Donnell – CEO
Holly O’Donnell joins the Bazelon Center from America SCORES, a national youth development organization operating in urban public schools, where she served as the National Executive Director. Prior to America SCORES, O’Donnell served as the first leader of the After School Department for Pittsburgh Public Schools, overseeing all after school and mentoring programs and partnerships. Before that, she was Director of Career Learning at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation in Pittsburgh, PA, where she helped launch the organization’s Center for Career Learning, a national K-12 career education reform effort.
As Executive Director of DC SCORES, one of DC’s largest after school programs for 700 public school children, O’Donnell was honored by President George W. Bush for “Outstanding Service-Learning Opportunities,” the Washington Business Journal for “Exceptional Involvement of Corporate Volunteers,” Meyer Foundation for “Innovative Fundraising by an Executive Director,” and the DC Public Schools and Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers as a “Community Based Organization Partner of the Year.” Previous to DC SCORES, she was a Presidential Appointee to the Department of Education’s White House America Reads Challenge under President Clinton.
Holly’s commitment to the mission of the Bazelon Center is deeply personal. Her lifelong advocacy for people with disabilities is inspired by her brother Brendan who has an intellectual disability. Her parents worked tirelessly and creatively to give him the same opportunities as Holly and other children. As often as possible, Brendan was taught in the same setting as his non-disabled peers. He received a high school diploma, served in AmeriCorps, and completed coursework at Bunker Hill Community College. Following the early deaths of their parents, Holly and Brendan became a co-dependent sibling team supporting each other. Brendan lives an independent, fulfilling, and fun life in Boston, his favorite city. On March 23, 1999, then-Senator John Kerry delivered a speech on the Senate Floor that Brendan wrote describing what it’s like to have a learning disability. Download Storm in My Mind (PDF).
O’Donnell received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University. She is a native Washingtonian and currently resides in the city with her husband and daughter.
IRA BURNIM – Legal Director
Ira A. Burnim is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, who joined the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law legal staff in 1988 and became the legal director in 1989. Formerly, Burnim served as legal director of the Children’s Defense Fund, senior attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, and law clerk to the Hon. Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Burnim is a member of the executive committee of the Disability Rights Bar Association.
He is recognized for his expertise in policy and legal issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, community mental health care, Medicaid, and children’s issues. He consults with federal agencies, state policy makers, and advocates. Working with Disability Rights International and the Mental Disability Advocacy Center, he has advised advocates and policy makers in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Albania, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, and Japan.
JENNIFER MATHIS – Deputy Legal Director & Director of Policy & Legal Advocacy
Jennifer Mathis is Deputy Legal Director and Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy of the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law where she engages in litigation and policy advocacy to promote community integration of individuals with mental disabilities, other non-discrimination work under the ADA and Section 504, and the Medicaid rights of adults and children with disabilities.
Ms. Mathis helped coordinate the amicus briefs filed in the Supreme Court in the case of Olmstead v. L.C. She also served on the team of disability community negotiators who worked with the business community to craft what became the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
Ms. Mathis left the Bazelon Center for one year to serve as special assistant to EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum in 2010-2011; in that role, she helped draft regulations implementing the ADAAA. Before joining the Bazelon Center, Ms. Mathis conducted litigation involving ADA, Section 504, the Fair Housing Act, and Title XIX claims with the Disabilities Law Project in Pittsburgh. She also practiced with a private law firm where she pursued litigation on a broad range of civil rights issues.
Ms. Mathis holds an A.B. from Harvard University, an M.A. from New York University, and a J. D. from Georgetown University Law Center.
LEWIS BOSSING – Senior Staff Attorney
Lewis Bossing works on a broad array of issues affecting adults and children with mental disabilities, including community integration, special education, and criminal justice.
Before joining the Bazelon Center in October 2007, Bossing worked as a staff attorney in the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice, and at the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center in San Francisco, where he represented clients in Americans with Disabilities Act litigation in employment and education settings.
A former modern dancer, Bossing holds a B.S. in performance studies from Northwestern University and his J.D. from the New York University School of Law.
BRIT VANNEMAN – Fellow
Brit Vanneman is the David and Mickey Bazelon Fellow. She works on a variety of policy and litigation initiatives to increase community integration and access to services for people with mental disabilities. She also works on criminal justice reform and to expand the educational opportunities available to children and higher education students with mental disabilities.
Brit graduated from Georgetown University Law Center as a Public Interest Fellow*. While completing her J.D., Brit interned with The National Health Law Program, Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), National Women’s Law Center, Children’s Law Center of D.C., and the National Center for Youth Law. She also assisted public interest clients through Georgetown’s Civil Litigation Clinic, served on Georgetown Youth Advocates’ leadership team, and was a research assistant to Peter Edelman, Faculty Director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Katie Keith, Faculty Professor with the Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms.
Before law school, Brit worked at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. There, she led the Dance Marathon program, a student-driven fundraising program supporting 170 children’s hospitals across North America. She was later appointed to Senior Director of Market Research. Her time with CMN Hospitals ignited her commitment to expand and reform health care access. An Indiana native, Brit graduated from Purdue University with a B.A. in Communication.
*Application for District of Columbia Bar pending
KATHY CHAMBERLAIN – Deputy Director of Development & Special Projects
Kathy Chamberlain is the Deputy Director of Development & Special Projects for the Bazelon Center, using her background in organization development, knowledge management, and communications to promote and connect the work of the Bazelon Center to funders, donors, and the public.
Before joining the Bazelon Center, Kathy was a communications and organizational strategy consultant and mentor to nonprofits, social enterprises, and small businesses. She was also a communications and data specialist at the Social Innovation Fund of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and spent nine years at Mental Health America (MHA), first as the manager of its public awareness initiative, Campaign for America’s Mental Health, and then as the Director of Affiliate Services, providing peer networking opportunities, organizational capacity trainings and technical assistance for its more than 200 member non-profit organizations. Her years at MHA kindled her passion and commitment to furthering the goals of the mental health movement.
A long-time Northern Virginia resident, Kathy graduated with a BA in Liberal Studies from American University and an MS in Organization Development and Knowledge Management from George Mason University. She is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Organization Development Network and was the managing director of the volunteer organization, UnSectored, which facilitated online and offline conversations, training and experiences related to social innovation and social enterprise.
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