NCHRC Staff + Key Contractors



Jesse Bennett, GED, MSW, LCSW-A, LCAS-A, Statewide Overdose Prevention Coordinator, Raleigh, NC 

Jesse Bennett MSW, LCSW-A, LCAS-A is a former drug user and a formerly incarcerated person. He works as an outreach worker, overdose prevention coordinator and the statewide volunteer coordinator for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition and, as such, he participates in and advocates for harm reduction efforts in the community. These efforts include but are not limited to access to clean syringes, access to naloxone, safer drug use, and safe sex practices. Jesse helps operate the syringe access programs in Wake and Johnston counties along with his awesome coworkers Nicole and Tonya. Jesse has a Masters in Social Work from North Carolina State University and is a certified harm reduction psychotherapist.

Tel: 919-523-4303


TBH, Rural Linkage to Care Specialist, TBA, NC


Bernadette Calicchio, HIV/HCV Testing and Linkage to Care

Bernadette Calicchio was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Pender County. She's based out of NCHRC's Wilmington office, where she began as a star volunteer, and later progressing into a valued intern. Upon completion of her internship, Bernadette was hired as Disease Prevention Programming specialist. In the months to follow, Bernadette will embark on a journey where she will be offering rapid and confirmatory HIV and Hep C testing at four syringe exchanges across the state. In this position, Bernadette will be providing the same compassionate care that she has extended to syringe exchange participants to new friends that she'll meet in the field. 


TBH, Executive Director, NC


Jessie Garner, LEAD Outreach Worker, Fayetteville, NC

Jessie helps lead outreach to Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion participants and naloxone distribution and syringe exchange efforts for NCHRC in Fayetteville, NC.


Virgil Hayes, Appalachian Harm Reduction Services Coordinator, Waynesville, NC

Virgil Hayes serves as the Appalachian Harm Reduction Services Coordinator for the western region of the state. Prior to working at NCHRC Virgil was a macro social work intern for the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition (PAHRC). During his time as a social work intern at PAHRC, Virgil garnered experience in the areas of grant writing/research, event planning, and legislative advocacy. While interning at the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition, Virgil was enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where he received in master’s in social work. Prior to receiving his masters, Virgil attended the College of Staten Island where he received his bachelor’s in social work. During his time as an undergraduate student, Virgil presented research at the 2016 & 2017 Undergraduate Research Conference concerning the role of Social Work within criminal justice reform efforts and higher education. In 2017, Virgil graduated magna cum laude from the College of Staten Island and became the first student in the department's history to be nominated for class Valedictorian.

Melissia Larson, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Coordinator (LEAD-C)

Melissia currently serves as NCHRC's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Coordinator, where she oversees Fayetteville's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program, works on expanding LEAD and helps oversee NCHRC's law enforcement projects.  Melissia is a experienced public safety project manager with 16 years experience serving as lead on a variety of issues. During her work with the Pitt County Sheriff's Office, she implemented over 60 projects and served as project director for several innovative state and federal initiatives focusing on domestic violence, mental health diversion, and human trafficking. While it is difficult for her to pick her most rewarding project involvement, she has been at the forefront for law enforcement implementation in her state for installing permanent drop-off boxes for unwanted prescription pills and the law enforcement deployment of naloxone. In 1995, Melissia received her BS in Criminal Justice from Mount Olive College. She continues her professional training as a frequent attendee at seminars and conferences. As a law enforcement representative, she has served on various boards focusing on public health issues such as sex work & human trafficking, overdose prevention, child fatality prevention, substance use and misuse, and traffic safety.

Melissia's email:

Melissia's mobile: 252-341-5102

Karen Lowe, LEAD Peer Outreach Worker, Statesville, NC 

Karen is a Certified Peer Support Specialist with over 10 years harm reduction experience. She has served communities affected by HIV/AIDS , homelessness, substance use disorder and mental illness.  She has a long history of social justice advocacy including meeting with elected officials on the local, statewide and national level in order to affect policy change.   Karen is also the co-founder of a faith based harm reduction organization in Western North Carolina. She currently serves as a subject matter expert for the NC DHHS Injury and Violence Branch Syringe Exchange Academy.

Kayla Moore, LEAD Social Worker, Statesville, NC

Kayla currently serves as NCHRC’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Case Manager (LEAD) for the Statesville location; where she will provide intensive case management, develop individual intervention plans, and connect participants to comprehensive services. Kayla has a Master of Science Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice and comes to us with 6 years of case management experience in corrections. During her work in corrections, she has helped over 60 offenders receive their High School Equivalency Diploma and implemented a Combating Hunger Program inside the prison. Kayla has personal experience with addiction and is dedicated to helping those affected by substance use.


Mel Rausch, Administrative Coordinator, Wilmington, NC


Nicole Reynolds, Harm Reduction Outreach Worker, Raleigh, NC

Nicole is a former drug user, sex worker and a formerly incarcerated person.  Nicole is the Outreach Specialist in the Raleigh area, serving participants in Wake & Johnston Counties.  A long-time, dedicated volunteer turned full-time staff, Nicole shines in all areas of Outreach while keeping her focus on those who need the most compassion.  She has the innate knowledge of assessing an abscess under an overpass, delivering supplies to participants no matter their location, developing a rapport with people who have no trust left to give, and truly meets people where they're at.  Services include but are not limited to access to clean syringes, access to naloxone, safer drug use, safe sex practices, street wound care and rapid testing. Nicole also teams with local Public & Mental Health Facilities to deliver Naloxone/Harm Reduction Principles Trainings and operates the Raleigh Syringe Exchange Office. 



Loftin Wilson, Rural Program Coordinator, Durham/Greensboro/Vance County/Johnson County/Raleigh, NC

Loftin Wilson is a southern, queer, transmasculine harm reductionist originally from a small town in rural central NC, who now lives in Durham, NC. He started as a volunteer with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition in 2010 and then worked part-time as a Harm Reduction Organizer for NCHRC for five years, before starting as full-time staff with NCHRC in the fall of 2015. He does overdose prevention, HIV/hepatitis prevention, and syringe access work, with a focus on the transgender community, rural communities, and people who are incarcerated. During 2015-2016, Loftin led NCHRC's rural overdose prevention project in Vance County.  He also teaches regular harm reduction sessions at several jails and prisons across the state and runs NCHRC's Durham syringe exchange site. Loftin is a firm believer in harm reduction, sex worker and drug user rights, prison abolition, and gender self-determination.

Loftin's Email:

Phone: 919-370-0671  


Gariann Yochym, LEAD Social Worker, Waynesville, NC

Gariann is the LEAD Case Manager in Waynesville, North Carolina. She grew up on a small farm in rural West Virginia; and, as an adolescent, witnessed the debut of OxyContin in her economically disadvantaged community—a community that has remained largely resistant to harm reduction efforts and been remiss in addressing the underlying social issues that often precipitate problematic substance use. Over the course of 20 years, she has intimately experienced the devastating impacts resulting from misguided efforts to address problematic substance use on her friends, family, hometown, and community. Gariann credits her lived experiences throughout her formative years, where she faced numerous challenges related to her own substance use; familial hardships; and losses, with her decision to choose a career path in public service. In 2004, upon graduating from West Virginia University with a B.A. in English and a M.A. in Secondary Education, she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and taught high school English for 8 years in a school located within an underdeveloped, urban neighborhood. During her tenure, she became involved in a number of socio-political issues at the local, state, national, and international level; and, ultimately, decided to pursue a Masters in Social Work to further her efforts to effect change, with specific interest in criminal justice issues and reform. While in graduate school at Western Carolina University, she completed coursework to support her efforts to obtain the LCAS credential, and her research and projects were primarily focused on de-incarceration, re-entry, recidivism, and the collateral consequences faced by individuals formerly incarcerated; drug policy reform; diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration; justice involved youth and the school to prison pipeline; improving police-community relations; and the overrepresentation of minorities, people with substance use disorders, and people with mental illness in jails and prisons. She interned as a re-entry case manager at the Buncombe County Detention Facility and was instrumental in launching a successful Ban the Box campaign in Asheville-Buncombe County. After graduating, she worked as a TASC Care Manager in Asheville. Her studies and work enhanced her understanding of the impacts that the War on Drugs and the dominant abstinence only treatment paradigm have had on individuals, families, and communities. Consequently, she sought work that advanced evidence-based practices and that aligned more closely with her values and principles (i.e. harm reduction). Following the outcomes of the LEAD program in Seattle, Washington, and its successful replication in multiple jurisdictions across America, she was thrilled to learn that a LEAD program in Waynesville was slated to begin in 2018 and immediately applied for the case management position. Recognizing the complex issues folks are facing in North Carolina, she is honored to be a part of a multidisciplinary team using responsive, harm reduction approaches to address these issues. 




Tessie Castillo, BA, Advocacy and Communications Consultant, Raleigh, NC

Since 2010, Tessie Castillo has served as Advocacy and Communication Coordinator and as a consultant for NCHRC. She is the agency’s only registered lobbyist and has successfully advocated for several new laws pertaining to overdose prevention, naloxone access, law enforcement needle-stick injury prevention, and the legalization of syringe exchange programs. She produces the majority of NCHRC’s media articles on harm reduction, drug policy reform, criminal justice and law enforcement issues and has been published in Slate, Salon, The Fix, and AlterNet. She is also a regular contributor on harm reduction topics to The Huffington Post.


Dr. Logan Graddy, Medical Director, Durham, NC

Dr. Graddy attended medical school at the University of South Florida, psychiatric residency at Duke University, and a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at West Virginia University. He is board-certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine. He is a member of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. At NCHRC Dr. Graddy directs the overdose prevention program and assists in NCHRC's education and advocacy work. 


Detective Sergeant Ronald Martin, Harm Reduction Policing Consultant, Raleigh, NC

Ronald Martin works part-time as one of NCHRC’s Law Enforcement Safety Advocates. He is a former Detective Sergeant and is a dedicated, committed Law Enforcement Professional with over 20 years of experience in the New York City Police Department (NYPD). At the NYPD, he trained officers to a highly proficient level of community patrol, enforcement and public security. He supervised narcotics teams and mid to high-level narcotic cases involving pen wires leading to extensive criminal prosecution. Ronald also consulted directly with the Chief of Police and the Mayor of New York City on issues of internal misconduct. He has also conducted and investigated various criminal offenses while working as a team member in conjunction with the Secret Service, DEA, ATF, and FBI.  At NCHRC, he advocates for needlestick and overdose prevention measures for officers in North Carolina and for more dialogue between drug users, sex workers and law enforcement to create a safer communities.

Captain Lars Paul, Special Law Enforcement Projects Consultant

Captain Lars Paul has served with the Fayetteville Police Department for Twenty One years. He is currently assigned to the Internal Affairs Unit. His past assignments include Emergency Response Team (ERT) (SWAT), Homicide, Traffic, Technical Services, and Patrol. He has attended numerous tactical and leadership schools during his time with the Department.  Prior to joining the Fayetteville Police Department, Captain Paul served in the United States Marine Corps for four years. He has a bachelor’s degree in History from Fayetteville State University and is a graduate of the of the 247th session of the FBI’s National Academy. 

Brandi Tanner, Rural Outreach Consultant, Henderson, NC

Brandi provides harm reduction services and naloxone to people who use drugs, do sex work and/or take bupe/methadone in the Northern rural counties for NCHRC.

Donnie Varnell Special Law Enforcement Projects Consultant

Donnie Varnell, a active member of the Dare County Sheriff, helped NCHRC set up its first Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program and currently helps NCHRC with law enforcement trainings and law enforcement organizing.  Prior to working for NCHRC, Donnie was the Special Agent In-Charge for the NC SBI Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit (DECU) where he developed policies, conducted and supervised investigations dealing with prescription narcotics and environmental violations. He was with the SBI from 1991 through 2015.  Donnie received his BS in Criminal Justice from Texas State University in 1985. Prior to joining the SBI he served as a Field Artillery Officer in the US Army, and worked for the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and Wilson Police Department. Donnie is also a long time high school and club soccer coach.  Donnie has been married for 29 years and is the father of two daughters. 

Donnie's Email:

Donnie's mobile: 336-338-1507