Office of Advocacy and Reform

Our Mission
Our Vision
Our Values
About Us
May 2022 Campaign: #WeHealUS
Meet the OAR Team
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Our Mission

Advocating for all people in our Commonwealth whose circumstances have made them vulnerable, across all state government agencies, convenings, and communities, to continuously reform our policies and procedures to achieve excellence in our outcomes and theirs.

Our Vision

Pennsylvania as a national model of equity, inclusion, and justice for, and in the wellbeing of, vulnerable people.

Our Values

  • Equity
  • Inclusion
  • Justice
  • Data/Science
  • Innovation
  • Communication
  • Accountability
  • Bravery

About Us

In July of 2019, Governor Wolf signed an executive order to create the Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR) to better protect and serve vulnerable Pennsylvanians. The Office consists of an Executive and Deputy Director, a Child Advocate, Policy Specialist, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and three-person Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team.

OAR works on behalf of vulnerable Pennsylvanians both internally across state agencies and externally in our communities. Using principles of Trauma-Informed Practices and Public Health Strategy, OAR seeks to reduce trauma to vulnerable populations through a focus on prevention whenever possible. That requires identifying and eliminating core causes of a problem, and not just indefinitely treating its symptoms.

View the Trauma-Informed PA: A Plan to Make Pennsylvania a Trauma-Informed, Healing-Centered State, which is guiding the commonwealth and service providers statewide on what it means to be trauma-informed and healing-centered in Pennsylvania.

May 2022 Campaign: #WeHealUS

There is a growing movement across the U.S. toward becoming healing-centered while raising awareness for mental health.

#WeHealUS is a national campaign involving every state. In Pennsylvania, the initiative is led by Governor Wolf’s Office of Advocacy and Reform. Pennsylvania businesses, organizations, associations, agencies, corporations, municipalities, and advocacy groups are helping build a unified, impactful, and consistent campaign throughout Pennsylvania for the month of May.

For additional details, view our toolkit and our calendar.

Meet the OAR Team

Eli Downie

Eli Downie has a background in teaching and local government as a former Township Auditor in northeast Pennsylvania. He graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Political Science from East Stroudsburg University, as well as an Associate’s Degree focused in sociology/history from Lackawanna College. Before joining the Governor’s Office as Executive Policy Specialist, Eli served the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Margaret Barajas

Margaret Barajas, Pennsylvania State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, brings over 25 years of experience in program development, constituent advocacy, diversity/inclusion, and aging services to her position. She has served the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 2015 and dually reports to the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

Maryann McEvoy, M.Ed.

Maryann McEvoy, M.Ed., has spent the entirety of her career advocating for vulnerable populations, specifically in the areas of educational access for women and children. She brings this knowledge to the Commonwealth as the Acting Executive Director of the Office of Advocacy and Reform, as well as Child Advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Maryann has held leadership roles in various public and private organizations dedicated to protecting the rights of people with disabilities. Her work experience spans boundaries, not just institutional but geographic, including experience in developing countries focused on the protection and empowerment of children in emergency contexts.

Venus L. Ricks, M.Ed.

Venus L. Ricks, M.Ed., is the Commonwealth’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is skilled in training and development in the areas of equity, diversity, social justice, leadership, and conflict resolution. She also brings strong skill in program and curriculum development as well as evaluation and assessment through administration positions in higher education, including adjunct professorship and work as a Human Research Technologist.

TaLisa Ramos, MSW, LSW, CCTP-I

TaLisa Ramos, MSW, LSW, CCTP-I was hired in July 2021 to serve as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Education. She is a licensed social worker specializing in trauma informed care and intergenerational trauma and has experience as a mental health clinician in outpatient, inpatient, and emergency room settings. TaLisa is a skilled DEI professional and workshop facilitator, has lead DEI strategic efforts at two Pennsylvania universities, and also serves as a faculty member at a local college.

Tyra Wallace

Tyra Wallace joined the Commonwealth in 2000 as an Administrative Assistant in the Pennsylvania Senate. She then served as the Director of Constituent Services in the Office of Congressman Scott Perry for eight years. Tyra was hired as Administrative Officer for the Office of Advocacy and Reform in July 2021.

Shannon Zimmerman, M.P.A.

Shannon Zimmerman, M.P.A., is the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Communications. She is a chief communications strategist with professional experience in non-profit, public, and private organizations. Most recently, Shannon was the Director of Communications for the largest K-12 suburban public school district in Lancaster County. Her professional experience involves internal communications, external public relations, and social media strategy with small organizations and large, global franchise brands.

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