Getting you ready to win business
Writing compelling proposal responses
Winning and retaining new business
Successfully implementing your promises
Provider Network Services
Helping you build a compliant network
Contracting your provider network
Getting your team of providers credentialed
Managing your network
Compliance and Quality Services
Auditing your specialty network for billing compliance and quality services
Data extrapolation for CMS required rebilling
Clinical business audits and program development
Crestline Advisors consulting team differentiates us from other consulting firms, representing over 500 years of health care experience.
We offer more than consultative services; we are Subject Matter Experts.
Crestline Advisors Subject Matter Expertise:
- Accreditation programs
- Behavioral Health and Substance Use Disorder treatment
- Care management, disease management, population health management
- Child Welfare (i.e., foster care and juvenile justice)
- Clinical Program Development
- Crisis intervention services (e.g., mobile crisis and stabilization)
- Data analysis and visualization
- Employment First
- Family and Peer services
- Health Plan and provider network operations
- Health Plan implementations
- Integrated Care
- Intellectual and Developmental Disability
- Housing Services
- Long-term services and supports
- Medical Service Delivery
- Person-centered approaches
- Program evaluation
- Provider Network Services and network adequacy
- Principles of recovery and resilience
- Program evaluation
- Six Sigma
- Social determinants of health and health disparities
- Strategic planning
- Statistical Analysis
- Systems and models of care
- Utilization and Quality Management
- Waiver programs and State Plan amendments
Crestline Advisors Team of Executive and Senior Consultants
Susan Dess, R.N., M.S. – Chief Executive Officer
Susan (Sue) Dess is a veteran health care management professional and the Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of Crestline Advisors, L.L.C. Sue founded Crestline Advisors, L.L.C., in 2013. Her background includes over 25 years of managed care experience, holding executive management, business development, operational, and clinical leadership positions in large heath care systems and national managed care organizations. Examples of past roles include Senior Vice President of Health and Wellness of ValueOptions, Inc.; Chief Executive Officer of ValueOptions of Arizona (the largest Managed Behavioral Health Organization contract in the country at the time), and Vice President of Care Management and Emergency Room Services at St. Agnes HealthCare.
Sue is also a Registered Nurse who spent 25+ years as a Public Health, Emergency Room, and Critical Care Nurse. Her experience gives her an understanding of the social determinants, medical, and behavioral health issues that impact the “big picture” of health care and the importance of integrated care.
As the C.E.O. of Crestline Advisors, Sue works closely with clients and consultants, valuing collaborative teams, ensuring the best resources, and driving high-quality outcomes for each Crestline Advisors project. She received her B.S.N., M.S. in Administration and Certificate in Managed Care from the University of Maryland. Sue serves on the Board of Directors of several community organizations and, throughout her career, has received multiple service awards.
Tim Mechlinski, Ph.D., M.H.A. – Managing Principal
Tim Mechlinski is the Managing Principal of Crestline Advisors. Tim is a well-rounded health care management consultant with experience in R.F.P. response development, project management, program design, workflow development, operational review, and compliance auditing.
Tim leads most of Crestline’s proposal response development team, assisting clients with all facets of the R.F.P. response process, including pre-opportunity review, pre-RFP release work, and R.F.P. strategy and review. He is an experienced researcher with extensive experience in both qualitative and quantitative approaches. By specializing in data analysis and visualization, Tim uses his skills to drive successful R.F.P. bids and to assist clients in presenting the data that demonstrates the value they bring to their clients and customers.
Tim joined Crestline Advisors in February 2014. His previous roles include working as a lecturer and professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR), and California State University Long Beach. Tim also worked as a senior program evaluator for federal grants.
Tim earned his Bachelor of Arts in French and Sociology and Master of Health Administration at the University of Southern California, and his Ph.D. in sociology at UCSB. His academic work has appeared in both theoretical and applied peer-reviewed academic journals. Tim is also an alumnus of the Peace Corps.
Shannon Blackham, M.C., L.A.C.
Shannon Blackham, M.C., is a versatile professional with more than 25 years of experience in the health care industry. She has worked in both provider and health plan organizations and held leadership positions in the utilization management, provider relations, and network operations departments, and crisis assessment. Shannon has been responsible for the management and director-level oversight of large departments in which she developed policies, procedures, workflows, improved processes, and developed intense employee training and supervision protocols. These efforts lead to increased employee satisfaction and performance.
Shannon has supported national Medical MCOs with pre-RFP release work, such as a review of the bidder’s previous responses and analysis of competitors’ recent responses to identify potential differentiators and gaps requiring mitigation. Her areas of writing expertise include care management and network management.
Shannon joined Crestline Advisors in 2015. Since that time, she has assisted Crestline’s health plan, and provider clients with Medicaid managed care Request for Proposal response writing, process improvement, policy and workflow creation, implementation of new programs, and strategic planning.
Shannon received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Counseling degrees from Arizona State University. She is a Licensed Associate Counselor in Arizona and has lived in the Phoenix metropolitan area since 1985.
Carol Bruce-Fritz is a seasoned healthcare management consultant and former not-for-profit administrator. She draws on insight and skills gained through broad and varied professional experience to assist health plans and healthcare providers in crafting compelling responses to competitive procurement opportunities. Carol’s consulting expertise focuses on providing proposal project management, writing, strategy, and program development services to clients responding to competitive procurements.
Carol’s experience spans the range of functionals related to R.F.P. response development, including opportunity assessment, capture management, content management, strategic analysis, proposal development and management, quality assurance, and production. Carol’s areas of writing expertise include integrated care, healthcare system transformation, and serving at-risk populations.
Carol was formerly a principal with Health Management Associates (H.M.A.), a national healthcare consulting firm specializing in Medicaid and other publicly funded healthcare programs. While at H.M.A., Carol advised providers, health plans, and foundations serving at-risk populations in proposal development, governance, strategic planning, healthcare system transformation, integrated care, and innovation. She also established policies and processes for proposal development and oversaw H.M.A.’s national proposal team, which produced more than 1,000 competitive and noncompetitive proposal submissions annually. Carol’s healthcare experience includes both behavioral and physical health, integrated community-based healthcare systems, and collaborative provider coalitions. Carol join the Crestline team in 2019.
Carol received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and has developed and implemented marketing and communications strategies for United Way and the American Cancer Society.
Alan Gavin is a relationship and goal-driven management professional with experience in project and program management. His experience with large health care systems includes designing, facilitating training, and managing a request tracking system in QuickBase used by leadership and operation teams for State, provider, and internal issues/requests. Creating and presenting leadership reports for tracking of internal and State requested audits, provider contract migrations, and operational units. Alan provides operations management leadership to address immediate tactical business needs while working on strategic planning to help drive revenue growth and exceed business goals.
Alan joined Crestline Advisors in March 2019. Before that, he worked for over 20 years as a project and program manager on efforts domestic and globally that varied from $150K to $650MM budgets with a strong focus on achieving goals for business development, target expensed reductions, and managing budget goals. During that time, Alan also designed and led training modules for executives and operation teams.
Alan received his Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems from the University of Phoenix and is Six Sigma Green Belt Certified. Alan is very active in several non-profit organizations in Arizona, California, and Africa, serving as a mentor for over 15 years.
Michele Grignon, M.C., L.P.C.
Michele C. Grignon, MC LPC, is a seasoned health care management expert who has 21 years of experience in managed care consulting, health care accreditation, clinical operations, and call center environments. Michele has served in management and executive roles for national managed care companies and provider organizations, overseeing utilization management functions, training programs, and behavioral health and nursing crisis intervention services.
Michele joined Crestline Advisors in October 2016 with a primary focus on completing utilization review and data validation projects, request for proposal writing, and managed care operations projects.
Michele received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and her Master of Community Counseling from the University of Phoenix. She became licensed as a professional counselor with the Board of Arizona Health Examiners in July 2004. She is certified to provide clinical supervision to Arizona-based counselors and social workers seeking independent licensure.
Elizabeth Harken, J.D.
Elizabeth Harken, J.D., is a seasoned compliance executive with experience in a broad array of health care programs throughout the United States. Elizabeth served as the chief compliance officer for a national managed behavioral health organization. During that time, she oversaw compliance with 15 state Medicaid programs, as well as Medicare Advantage, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), state insurance requirements, federal contracts, and Employee Assistance Programs. She has developed and managed: the fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA) prevention and detection program; privacy program, including implementation of Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) amendments; compliance training and education; and internal audit and ethics hotline. In addition to her compliance experience, Elizabeth served as the director of grievance and appeals. She was responsible for developing and operationalizing policies, workflows, and staff training materials consistent with state and federal requirements.
Elizabeth joined Crestline Advisors in January 2015, with a primary focus on compliance programs, fraud, waste and abuse prevention, and detection, and operationalizing health care regulations, accreditation standards, and licensing requirements. She also provides proposal response development services, primarily focusing on legal and regulatory functions.
Elizabeth received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cornell College and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa. She is a member of the State Bar of Arizona.
Melissa Lahr Thomas
Melissa is an accomplished executive with more than two decades of experience in local and national health systems and managed care operations. In her consulting work, she has led teams in implementing data-driven strategies for both for-profit and non-profit entities, including planning, proposal and grant writing, policy development, implementation, evaluation, oversight, and monitoring. She brings a unique blend of industry knowledge with the ability to navigate complex regulations, manage processes, and provide actionable outcomes.
Before her consulting career, Ms. Thomas was the Branch Chief of Program Operations at the Arizona Department of Health Services, responsible for leading the clinical, network, and operational management of behavioral health. She integrated care services throughout the State of Arizona. She is experienced in both healthcare and government with a strong background in working with the legislature, State and federal regulatory agencies, health plans, providers, advocates, and members. Melissa began her career as a Principal Consultant with a focus in healthcare in 2012; she began working with Crestline Advisors in 2014.
As a consultant, Melissa specializes in proposal writing, policy, procedure, and training development; managed care innovation; project management; program implementation, monitoring, oversight, and evaluation; group facilitation and strategic planning.
With over 25 years of health care experience, Jeanna has worked with managed care organizations, state agencies, and providers in over 20 states. She brings to the table a unique perspective of having consulted with multiple types of entities. These include not-for-profit and for-profit providers of service, county and State governmental entities, and not-for-profit and for-profit national and regional managed care entities, as well as serving on the leadership team for a national managed care organization in Arizona.
Jeanna has extensive knowledge of Medicaid/Medicare managed care and health plan operations. Specific areas of expertise include provider network design, development, and management, contract negotiation, provider relations; credentialing; member services, regulatory compliance, and policy development.
As a proposal writer, Jeanna has worked on over 100 proposals ranging from local program development, and service delivery to statewide Medicaid/Medicare managed care contracts. She works collaboratively with accountable owners and subject matter experts to design and develop solutions to address R.F.P. specifications and requirements, which then informs the development of the proposal response. She also has experience serving as the proposal manager responsible for producing and delivering compliant proposals within complex business environments. Responsibilities included scheduling and running proposal kick-off meetings, leading solution design sessions, facilitating key review meetings, final document review, and coordinating proposal governance/sign off. Jeanna’s writing expertise includes network development and management.
Additionally, Ms. Thorpe has been part of the “on the ground” implementation team for several statewide Medicaid health plan implementations. Jeanna has over 20 years of experience as a Principal Consultant with a focus in healthcare; she began working with Crestline Advisors in 2014.
She received her Bachelor of Arts from Arizona State University.
Pat VanMaanen, M.S., B.S.N, R.N.
Pat has over 30 years of experience in health care. As a public health nurse and healthcare consultant, Pat lends her expertise to business development and proposal strategy development. She supports clients’ understanding of health needs by analyzing public health data, identifying how diseases, conditions, and social determinants affect specific populations and geographic areas. Pat uses this information in R.F.P. response strategy and writing, when developing and evaluating health projects, during grant writing, and when creating health policy and managing programs. Her clients include State and national not-for-profit organizations and government agencies as well as private foundations and businesses. She also serves as Adjunct Faculty for the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions at Grand Canyon University.
She serves on several boards and advisory committees, including the Arizona Public Health Association Board (President 2012-2013), American Nurses Association P.A.C. Board (2015-2016), First Things First State Health Advisory Committee (Co-Chair), St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center Community Health Integration Network, and the Arizona Nurses Association.
Her expertise includes coordination of care, covered services, health disparities, member services, and population health. Pat began working with Crestline Advisors in 2014.
She holds a Master of Science from Texas Women’s University and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Michigan.
Jennifer’s career in healthcare began nearly 25 years ago. She worked in state government for over 15 years in Medicaid, CHIP, TANF, and Behavioral Health. During the last six years in state government, she served as Bureau Chief of Policy and Division Chief of Compliance. Her experience in state government includes financial eligibility, policy development, State Plan/1115 Waiver maintenance, legislative liaison assistant, contract compliance, and licensing and accreditation. She served as the Director of Compliance at a non-profit behavioral health crisis provider where she managed the licensing and The Joint Commission Accreditation of a new crisis center, as well as driving policy development for call center and in-person crisis center services.
Jennifer began her career as a Principal Consultant with a focus in healthcare in 2012; she began working with Crestline Advisors in 2014. Her consulting experience includes Business Development in healthcare from R.F.P. response writing on over 50 Requests for Proposals and Grant Applications for both national and local managed health care plans and providers through new program implementations. Additional consulting experience includes managing integration of physical and behavioral health for a local behavioral health provider, policy development, network development and management, operations, and audit programs.
Jennifer’s specialty areas of expertise include proposal and grant writing, Medicaid/Medicare requirements, program model development, behavioral health care, crisis services, quality improvement, evaluation and data management, grievances and appeals, contract compliance programs, policy and procedure development, implementation, audit programs, accreditation requirements, and licensing standards.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology with a minor in Sociology from the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
Christine Wells, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Christine Wells is a clinical psychologist with over 25 years’ experience in the health care sector. She has held executive leadership positions in clinical and operational management in community-based provider organizations and a managed care organization.
In her role as a regional executive director with a managed behavioral health organization, she had responsibility for the management of comprehensive mental health services for a commercial health plan, including member services, provider network, claims management, and utilization review. As a non-profit executive, Christine was the lead for a team that developed the first facility licensed in Arizona to offer integrated primary and behavioral health care and wellness services exclusively to individuals living with serious mental illness. Christine has served as interim executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Arizona.
Since joining Crestline Advisors in 2017, Christine has assisted Crestline’s health plan and provider clients with RFI/proposal response writing, implementation of integrated care processes and policies, facility licensing, process improvement, delivery system transformation, and strategic planning. Her writing expertise includes mental health and substance use, care management, and integrated care.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology from Mount Holyoke College. She earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Clark University along with a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Vermont. She is currently a licensed psychologist in Arizona and has lived in Tucson since 2006.