Our Staff

MEJI staff include legal and advocacy staff committed to empowering low income older adults and people with disabilities and assuring their dignity and autonomy.

Ahnuh Hayes

Ahnuh serves as the local long term care ombudsman for Region 2 (Jackson, Hillsdale, and Lenawee Counties) where she advocates for residents of nursing facilities, adult foster care homes, and homes for the aged. Ahnuh works out of Legal Services of South Central Michigan's Jackson office. Ahnuh previously held a variety of positions working with children, families and people with developmental disabilities. These include work in many different systems including foster care, schools, and private not for profit agencies. In addition to being a licensed social worker in Michigan, Ahnuh has a special certification for advanced work with addiction. She received her bachelor's degree in social work at Michigan State University in 2001 and her master's in social work from MSU in 2005.

Ahnuh can be reached at ahayes@meji.org or (517) 990-0510 or 866-485-9393.

Alison Hirschel

Alison is the Director and Managing Attorney of the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative and the elder law attorney at the Michigan Poverty Law Program. She is also a consulting attorney for the Crime Victims Legal Assistance Project-Elder Justice. Alison engages in systemic advocacy on behalf of older adults and people with disabilities on issues related to individual rights, long term care, public benefits, and elder abuse. Previously, Alison was a staff attorney at Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service (now Disability Rights Michigan); a staff attorney, director of the Elderly Law Project, and Director of Planning at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia; and served as a law clerk in federal district court.

Alison is co-editor and one of the authors of Advising Clients on Elder and Disability Law (ICLE, 2018). She serves as the co-chair of the Medical Care Advisory Council and was appointed to serve on the Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Task Force and the Governor’s Nursing Home Workforce Stabilization Council. She is serving her second term as President of the Governing Board of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care and was a Commissioner of the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging. Alison also served for seven years on the adjunct faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and for more than 20 years on the adjunct faculty of the University of Michigan Law School. Alison received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from Yale Law School.

Alison can be reached at hirschel@meji.org or (517) 827-8023.

Dan Wojciak

Dan is a supervising attorney and the MI Health Link Ombudsman. He served as the primary author of the Advocate’s Guide to Michigan’s new MI Health Link (MHL) program and has been a staff attorney with the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative since February 2015. In his role as MHL Ombudsman, he will advance the MHLO program's dual goals of individual and systemic advocacy. Dan has prior experience working on legal issues involving housing rights, disability law, immigration, and human trafficking. He received his JD from the University of Michigan Law School in 2014 and his BA from the University of Michigan in 2009.

Dan can be reached at dwojciak@meji.org or (517) 827-8014.

Ellen Sugrue Hyman

Ellen is a consultant with the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative.

Ellen Sugrue Hyman is an attorney and health policy advocate. As the Self-Determination Consultant to the State of Michigan for 15 years,  Ellen wrote policies, technical assistance manuals, and training curricula on self-determination and the person-centered planning process. She also researched and provided analysis on long term care rules, regulations, and waivers. As Executive Director of the Michigan Oral Health Coalition, she led the successful effort to expand the service array and increase rates for Michigan Adult Medicaid Dental program for the first time in 30 years. Ellen is an accomplished speaker and trainer. Ellen is the author of Hiring & Managing Personal Assistants and Field Guide to the Use of Medical Powers of Attorney.

Ellen has a JD from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan.

Karrie Craig

Karrie is the Assistant State Long Term Care Ombudsman for Program Quality Improvement. Karrie was the long term care ombudsman for Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton counties where she advocated for residents of nursing facilities, adult foster care homes, and homes for the aged. Karrie has extensive experience in health care and long term supports and services. She worked in outreach for the Capital Area Health Alliance which partners with area organizations to promote healthy lifestyles. She has been the administrator/director of two local assisted living facilities as well as working in management positions for a home health agency and a continuing care retirement community. She has helped to develop dementia curriculum for nursing students and facilitated Alzheimer's Support Groups. She has a master's in public administration with an emphasis in health care administration from Western Michigan University and a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University.

Karrie can be reached at kcraig@meji.org or (517) 827-8033.

Kenny Wirth

Kenny works on special projects for the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.  He most recently worked at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a Policy Analyst for the Certificate of Need Commission where he was responsible for providing policy recommendations and analysis to a governor-appointed board of experts focused on the regulation of certain health services. He also provided support to additional state boards and led multiple special projects aimed at improving health outcomes in the state. Kenny has previously worked at MEJI where he served as the local ombudsman for Ingham, Clinton, and Eaton counties. He received a master's degree in Policy and Political Social Work from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree in Social Work specializing in Aging and Adult Services from Michigan State University.

Kenny can be reached at kwirth@meji.org or (517) 827-8030

Laura Kubit

Laura is a staff attorney and the Guardianship Diversion Project Coordinator. In this role, Laura is developing guardianship diversion pilot projects that help individuals who are the subject of guardianship petitions utilize other less restrictive alternatives. The goal of the project is to ensure guardianships are only used when necessary and appropriate.

Prior to joining MEJI, Laura worked as a staff attorney for CVLAP-Elder Justice Initiative, serving 14 counties out of Legal Services of Eastern Michigan's Saginaw office. Before that, Laura was a staff attorney at Lakeshore Legal Aid's Caro office, providing general civil legal assistance to seniors in the Great Lakes Bay Region (Region VII). Laura has also represented individual consumers through the American Arbitration Association in private practice and provided telephone advice, brief service, and referrals to seniors and low income people around the state with Lakeshore's Counsel and Advocacy Law Line.

Laura can be reached at lkubit@meji.org or (517) 827-8028.

Matthew Nagaj

Matthew is the staff attorney for the Home and Community Based Services Ombudsman Program.  Prior to joining MEJI, Matt worked as a staff attorney for Lakeshore Legal Aid handling a multitude of different legal issues including divorce, child custody, landlord- tenant, Social Security appeals, Guardianship and Conservatorship matters and Medicaid appeals. In addition, Matt worked as a civil litigator for over 15 years in matters involving No-fault claims, automobile accidents, medical malpractice and other related matters. Matt successfully tried numerous jury cases and Arbitrations to verdict during this time. Matt currently serves on the Advisory Board of the William Booth Legal Aid Clinic in Detroit, Michigan and has done so for over 20 years. Matt is also a certified CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for the Oakland County CARE House. CASAs advocate on behalf of neglected or abused children who have been removed from their home and are wards of the Court in Oakland County. Matt received his Bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in 1994 and his J.D. from University of Detroit-Mercy in 1997.

Matt can be reached at mnagaj@meji.org or at (517) 827-8036.

Michael Daeschlein

Michael is a Long-Term Care Specialist working on various assignments related to long-term care. Michael previously worked at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as manager of the Long-Term Care Policy Section, which is responsible for Medicaid policy for nursing facilities, level of care determination, hospice, Home Health, Private Duty Nursing, Brain Injury Services and the MI Choice waiver program. Prior to working at MDHHS, Michael worked at the Wayne State University Developmental Disabilities Institute conducting projects supporting self-determination for people with disabilities. Michael has also worked for local agencies providing residential and vocational services to people with disabilities.

Michael can be reached at mdaeschlein@meji.org or (517) 827-8038.

Mireille Phillips

Mireille is Legal Counsel to the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. She comes to MLTCOP from CVLAP-Elder Justice Initiative in Mt. Clemens, MI, where she was a Staff Attorney. Prior to that she was a Legal Research and Writing Instructor at Wayne State University. She was also in private practice where she practiced doing family, media, commercial and railroad litigation. She received her B.A. from University of Michigan and her J.D. from Indiana University School of Law.

Mireille can be reached at mphillips@meji.org or (517) 827-8037

Nicole Shannon

Nicole is the Systemic Litigation and Advocacy Attorney at the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative. Previously, Nicole was the Supervising Attorney and a Staff Attorney at Legal Services of South Central Michigan’s Lansing office, where she handled foreclosure, consumer, and elder cases for low-income and older clients. Nicole was also a Staff Attorney with Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service where she served adult clients with disabilities in civil rights matters. In her current position, Nicole is focused on systemic issues facing older clients and individuals with disabilities, such as guardianship, long-term care, and public benefits. Nicole has a B.A. from James Madison College at Michigan State University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, where she served as a Note Editor on the Michigan Law Review.

Nicole can be reached at nshannon@meji.org or (517) 827-8031.

Rachel Richards

Rachel is a Project Co-coordinator for the Michigan Guardianship Diversion Project which seeks to ensure that guardianship is used only when no less restrictive alternative is available. She is the primary staff person for the pilot projects in Muskegon and Grand Traverse counties and is developing  training, outreach, and policy materials to promote guardianship diversion. Before joining MEJI, Rachel worked with programs including foster care, home help, community placement, and adult protective services. Rachel spent 28 years in a variety of positions, including significant policy work, at the Department of Health and Human Services where she sought to improve the lives of older adults and people with disabilities. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Michigan State University.

Rachel can be reached at rrichards@meji.org or (517) 940-4388.

Salli Pung

Salli is the State Long Term Care Ombudsman. Salli brings over 20 years of experience to this position. Before joining MEJI in 2016, Salli served as the Nursing Facility Relocation Coordinator at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for 13 years. In that position, Salli coordinated nursing facility closures and ensured that residents were protected and empowered. Previously, Salli served as the Program Manager for MI Health Link, Senior Program Manager at the Center for Long Term Care at the Michigan Public Health Institute, and Director of Education and Shared Services at the Michigan Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (now called Leading Age). Salli began her career in this arena when she served as a nursing assistant in a nursing home during college.

Salli can be reached at spung@meji.org or (517) 827-8025.

Sara Gusler

Sara is a licensed social worker who has worked over 15 years in the service of those affected by acute and chronic illness with specialization in aging and dementia-related care. Her experience includes hospice and end of life needs, long term care services, home and personal care, small business ownership, policy cultivation and improvement, aging advocacy, and extensive involvement in the development and presentation of educational opportunities focused on improving the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities related to health and wellness. Before Sara joined MEJI to serve as the local long term care ombudsman in the Lansing area, Sara served as the local ombudsman in Region 9.

Sara can be reached at sgusler@meji.org or (517) 394-3027.

Sarah Slocum

Sarah recently retired from the Altarum Institute where she worked on government and philanthropy supported projects aimed at improving the quality of life and care for frail elders living with disability.  Before Altarum, Sarah served for 13 years as Michigan’s State Long Term Care Ombudsman.  She also worked at AARP, served as the director of the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program, was an Assistant  Ombudsman and a VISTA volunteer  working on eldercare issues.

Sarah has led legislative and policy efforts to improve the state Medicaid program, long term care regulations, and the Certificate of Need program.  She testified on nursing home quality before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and has been a board member of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care and a board member of the National Association of State Long Term Care Ombudsman Programs. 

Shelby Coolbaugh

Shelby is the Administrative Manager for the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. Shelby comes to Michigan Elder Justice Initiative and the State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program with over sixteen years experience in the health care field, eight of those years as an Operations Manager for a large Michigan based healthcare system. As the Administrative Manager, Shelby works closely with local Ombudsman staff to ensure all time-sensitive information, case reporting details, and referral requests are handled appropriately and efficiently. She also coordinates trainings, manages the office, and takes care of innumerable administrative details to keep MEJI running smoothly. Shelby has a strong passion for helping others; for many years she has volunteered at several local Michigan based charities, from serving meals to raising funds. 

Shelby can be reached at scoolbaugh@meji.org or (517) 827-8027.

Susan Steinke

Susan is the Individual and Systemic Advocacy Specialist for the MI Health Link Ombudsman project. Past positions include Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan Voices for Better Health, Project Coordinator for PHI Michigan's "Training to Prevent Adult Abuse and Neglect", and Community Based Ombudsman working with individuals receiving services in their homes after being transitioned from a nursing home. She was the first Executive Director for the Michigan Quality Community Care Council (QC3), an inter-governmental agency supporting consumers and individual providers of Home Help, Michigan's State Plan Personal Care Program. Prior to the QC3, Susan worked in a variety of outreach, advocacy, and organizing capacities.

Susan can be reached at ssteinke@meji.org or (517) 827-8026.