Women in leadership - Taking the reins
Profiles of nine women leaders who are taking leadership roles in their fields.
CEO LSF Health Systems Jacksonville
Cauffield leans on former substance abusers and those who’ve struggled with mental illness to help those in need now.
Since taking the helm of Jacksonville-based LSF Health Systems seven years ago, Christine Cauffield has become a leading advocate for certified peer recovery specialists — non-clinical professionals who use their own experiences with substance abuse or mental illness to guide others toward recovery.
Led by Cauffield, LSF has trained more than 320 peer specialists who provide mentoring and coaching to people coping with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness. The peers work in hospitals, clinics and private offices, where they often can connect with patients in ways that doctors and nurses cannot, she says.
“We’re able to place them in OB/GYN offices, for example, where they work with women who may be substance using and pregnant,” she says. “We place them in emergency rooms, so that when someone comes in in an overdose status and is revived, the recovery peer specialist is the first person they speak with.”
Cauffield, who grew up in Orlando, got her bachelor’s degree in communications broadcasting from the University of Central Florida and began her management career at Delta Air Lines, where she held executive management positions for 13 years. She then decided to become a licensed clinical psychologist. “My colleagues thought I had lost my mind because I had a wonderful job with excellent benefits, but it really was a calling,” she says.
Cauffield got master’s degrees from Georgia State University and Florida Institute of Technology, as well as a doctorate from FIT, and did her post-doctoral residency in geriatric neuropsychology at Harvard Medical School. She eventually established her own behavioral health firm, Sarasota-based Cauffield & Associates, which she still owns.
In 2014, Tampa-based Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) hired her to lead LSF Health Systems, a non-profit managing entity that contracts with the state Department of Children and Families to provide behavioral health services in 23 counties across Northeast and North-Central Florida. With an annual budget of $170 million, LSF Health Systems serves more than 1.2 million people a year.
Cauffield also is president of the Florida Association of Managing Entities and the Florida Council on Aging and is a member of a national panel of experts advising the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.
She says the need for substance abuse and mental healthtreatment has never been greater. Last year, 7,579 people died from drug overdoses in Florida, a 37% increase over 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s truly heartbreaking,” she says. “Some people are turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms — drinking and drugs — and that often goes hand in hand with domestic violence. It’s really impacted communities in very profound ways.”