As Senior Policy Director, Connie Garner focuses her practice on policy development, implementation, and advocacy strategy related to vulnerable populations. In addition, she continues to serve as the Executive Director of “Allies for Independence” – a nonprofit coalition dedicated to addressing long term service and support needs in the disability and aging community.
Her areas of expertise include health care, disability, mental health and substance use disorders, long term care and education policy.
Connie's current consulting work involves advising state programs, health insurers, and provider groups on needed services and supports as they begin to include vulnerable populations in Medicaid managed care. Another primary area of consultation involves the implementation of mental health parity, and working with health insurers in the development of alternative payment models to address the national crisis of mental health and substance use disorders (MHSUD).
Connie also provides technical assistance to Congress, as requested, on policy areas affecting disability, aging, mental health, and HIV/AIDS. Currently, the implementation of new school mental health provisions, and policy development related to the upcoming IDEA and Higher Education reauthorizations have become a priority in her work.
For 17 years, Connie served as Policy Director for Disability and Special Populations to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and served as the primary consultant to the Democratic caucus on disability and special population issues.
Connie has worked with Sen. Christopher Dodd, Sen. Tom Harkin, and primarily with the late Chairman Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. She was the lead Democratic Committee architect for the CLASS Act, the major long-term care legislation that was part of the Affordable Care Act; enactment of the landmark Mental Health Parity legislation; the previous two reauthorizations of the $2 billion Ryan White CARE Act; the current reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); and the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act.
Connie also served in the U.S. Department of Education as Director of the Federal Interagency Coordinating Council for Children with Disabilities, and as the Secretary of Education’s principal liaison to HHS on interagency healthcare matters, including long term services and supports, and early intervention/prevention initiatives across the public health domain.
In addition to her work at the federal level, Connie has practiced as both a hospital and community public health nurse practitioner, as well as the nursing administrator for maternal-child health inpatient hospital units in the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. areas. She continues this work per diem at a regional medical center in the Washington, D.C. area.
Connie completed her ED.S in Education Policy from George Washington University, her MS in Nursing from George Mason University, her BS in Nursing from University of Pennsylvania.. She is also certified as a Pediatric and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.