Recovery Forum Speakers

Representative Dave Baker, Minnesota State House of Representatives

Representative Dave Baker is in his second term in the Minnesota House of Representatives. A resident of Willmar, Baker represents District 17B which covers much of Kandiyohi County.

In the legislature, Rep. Baker serves as Chair of the Select Committee on Technology and Responsive Government and also is a member of the Rules and Legislative Administration, Health and Human Services Reform, Job Growth and Energy Affordability, Transportation Finance, and Ways and Means Committees. He is a leading advocate for reforms to curb opioid related overdose and death.

During his time as an elected official, he has authored and passed bills to provide first responders with the live-saving drug Narcan®, help doctors and dentists be more diligent when prescribing very powerful pain medication, limit dental patients to four days of opioids when a tooth is extracted, create new labeling on bottles to remind patients of the addictive nature of opioids, and increase funding for treatment centers to help individuals recover from addiction.


Lynn A. Blewett, Ph.D., Professor of Health Policy at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health and director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC)

Dr. Blewett has over 25 years of health policy experience including working for U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger, serving as Minnesota’s State Health Economist and an appointment by Governor Mark Dayton to serve on the Minnesota Health Care Financing Task Force. She works with state policy analysts and decision makers to better understand trends in health insurance coverage, Medicaid payment reform and pressing issues facing state policymakers. Dr. Blewett currently serves on the board of Portico HealthNet, a local coverage program for the uninsured. She is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and previously served on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the National Center for Health Statistics and on the boards of AcademyHealth and the University of Minnesota’s teaching hospital. Dr. Blewett has an M.A. in public affairs and a Ph.D. in Health Services Research and Policy from the University of Minnesota. 


Leslie R. Crutchfield, Executive Director of Georgetown University’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at the McDonough School of Business

Leslie Crutchfield is an author, educator, trainer and leading authority on social change. Her book, How Change Happens, describes how to build movements that can address today’s big challenges. Ms. Crutchfield’s two previous books are the bestselling, award-winning Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits with Heather McLeod Grant, and Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World with Mark Kramer and John Kania of FSG social impact consultants, where Ms. Crutchfield serves as senior advisor. A frequent media contributor and commentator, her writing and ideas have been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Stanford Social Innovation Review, and she has appeared on ABC News, PBS and other shows. She also worked with Shirley Sagawa and other early leaders in AmeriCorps in her creation of a Toolkit for Social Change.


Senator Chris A. Eaton, Minnesota State Senate

Senator Chris Eaton was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2011 and re-elected in 2012. She represents District 40 which covers much of Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park. Senator Eaton is the ranking minority member of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee. She also serves on the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Eaton is a registered nurse and Director of Health Services at Mental Health Resources. She has authored legislation to combat opioid addiction and make naloxone more available.


Liz Farmer, Fiscal Policy Writer

Liz Farmer is GOVERNING Magazine's public finance reporter covering state and local budgets, tax policy, pensions and all other sorts of money-related topics that keep our local governments ticking. Her writing is the driving force behind GOVERNING's landmark series, Finance 101, which seeks to break down complicated public money issues in ways that everyone can understand.

Ms. Farmer came to the magazine from the Washington Examiner where she covered D.C. city hall politics and local government. She also wrote extensively on the region’s economic development and rapidly changing socio-economic structure. 

Jeremiah Gardner, Director, Communications and Public Affairs, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Jeremiah Gardner has worked in communications and public affairs for 25 years, including the past five with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, where his responsibilities include media relations, strategic communication, public education and public policy. Formerly with The Associated Press, he was published in newspapers nationwide and was once named outstanding graduate at The Fund for American Studies Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown. Mr. Gardner is the co-author of Zero to Something (2014), a book about leadership development, and serves on the board of Dissonance, a nonprofit committed to creating conversation and community around wellness and the arts. He holds bachelor's degrees in journalism and political science and a master's degree in addiction studies, and is a licensed counselor in Minnesota.


Peter Gaumond, Chief of the Recovery Branch and Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
In his current role, Peter Gaumond plays a key role in the development and government-wide implementation of federal drug policy focusing on the public health and public safety sectors and their intersection. Inspired by his personal experience of addiction to alcohol and recovery from it and having grown up in a family affected by alcoholism, Mr. Gaumond has worked for more than 25 years to reduce the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding addiction and recovery by educating the public and policymakers about the science behind it.

Previously, Mr. Gaumond served as a Senior Associate at Altarum Institute, where he provided technical assistance to states and tribes implementing programs under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (SAMHSA/CSAT) Access to Recovery Program. He managed a team of 10 who implemented innovative projects through the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (DASA). Prior to his work with the State of Illinois, Mr. Gaumond served as a program director, family educator, and counselor in the addictions treatment field; as an English and French instructor; and, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina-Faso, West Africa, where he taught at the University of Ouagadougou.


Tom Horner, President, Horner Strategies, LLC

In his public relations career, Tom Horner has helped clients in diverse fields to manage crises, advance their business agendas and build strong relationships with key audiences. He co-founded one of the region’s best-known public affairs firms, Himle Horner. He sold that firm in 2010 and now is president of Horner Strategies, LLC.

 Mr. Horner also has had prominent roles in public policy and politics. He was chief of staff to former U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger, and in 2010 was the Independence Party candidate for governor of Minnesota. The Minneapolis StarTribune in its endorsement editorial, said Mr. Horner “loves Minnesota; he's a serious student of government and economics, and he feels called to service … Horner seeks to apply the lessons of a lifetime spent working in and around public policy to the restoration of this state's vitality.” He has also worked in community journalism and was an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas for more than 25 years.

Phil Rutherford, Director of Operations, Faces and Voices of Recovery

Phil Rutherford is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, a passionate member of the recovery community, and possesses a self-described doctorate from the School of Hard Knocks. He has a B.A. in Psychology with a specialization in Substance Use Disorders. Mr. Rutherford’s recent experience as Director of Operations at Recovery Is Happening in Rochester, Minnesota, offered a front-row seat into the world of recovery community organizations. Prior to that, he spent most of his career in corporate sales, marketing, and management at Microsoft, Micron Electronics, and companies within the Taylor Corporation.

Priscilla VanderVeer, Deputy Vice President, Public Affairs, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)

At PhRMA, the trade association representing America’s research-based biopharmaceutical companies, Priscilla VanderVeer leads the development and execution of communications strategies for the organization’s key state and international advocacy priorities. She serves as a lead media spokesperson and develops and manages projects and campaigns on issues such as trade; intellectual property; access to, cost and value of medicine; prescription drug abuse; health insurance coverage; Medicaid and the economic impact of the biopharmaceutical industry.

 Before joining PhRMA, Ms. VanderVeer served as a director at APCO Worldwide, providing public affairs, communication and health policy consulting services to corporations, nonprofits, associations and other domestic and international clients. Prior to that, she served as advocacy relations manager in the Washington, D.C., office of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She also previously served in communications roles at People For the American Way and the National Partnership for Women & Families.