Direction Home Akron Canton is a compassionate organization that takes a person-centered approach to care. This is in part due to the dedicated people who lead us.

Gary L. Cook, President and CEO

Mr. Cook has broad-based management experience and success at the strategic and operational levels in both non-profit and for-profit (Fortune 500) business sectors. At Direction Home Akron Canton, he has been responsible for the development and oversight of new service areas and business lines, including the Community-based Care Transitions Program (CCTP), a major CMS initiative. Under Mr. Cook's leadership, Direction Home Akron Canton was chosen as one of the first in the nation to carry out the CCTP program. In addition, he has been instrumental in the development of formal business collaborations with Managed-Care Organizations (MCO) to provide comprehensive care management of both acute care and long-term care. This move to private sector partnerships has allowed Direction Home Akron Canton to expand our long-term care management and other supportive services to MCO members of all ages with physical or behavioral disabilities.

Abigail Morgan, Chief Operating Officer

Mrs. Morgan joined Direction Home Akron Canton in 2013 and now leads a dynamic team responsible for managing our network of 200+ service providers, as well as the Agency’s planning functions. Mrs. Morgan collaborates across divisions to identify program needs and pursue new funding opportunities to support our strategic initiatives. She began her career as a case manager in the largest homeless shelter in Philadelphia. After graduate school, Mrs. Morgan worked with the National Aging Services Network. In the wake of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, she joined the staff of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) and worked with AAAs across the country developing enrollment strategies for Medicare beneficiaries in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. While at n4a, Mrs. Morgan contributed to the national survey of AAAs and the development of n4a's business acumen for AAAs.

Rebecca Newman, Chief Financial Officer

Ms. Newman joined Direction Home Akron Canton in 2016 after 10+ years of experience in the health care industry, providing health care advisory services focused on reimbursement related analyses and revenue cycle management.  As the Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Newman is responsible for strategic oversight of all fiscal related activities of the organization and oversees Information Technology and Security for the Agency.  Rebecca obtained her Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in Health Care Administration from the University of Akron after graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Finance. Ms. Newman volunteers as the Treasurer of Grace House, a non-profit providing a loving home for indigent, homeless and abandoned individuals at the end of life.

Ljudmila Burchfield, Vice President of Compliance and Legal Affairs

As VP of Compliance and Legal Affairs, Mrs. Burchfield uses her extensive legal healthcare experience to work with all divisions at the Agency in developing and maintaining our culture of compliance. Prior to this role, she served as legal counsel and compliance officer to hospitals, healthcare systems and healthcare plans. Her experiences include physicians' and corporate contracts, research, Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement, acquisitions, HIPAA, Fraud/Waste/Abuse and corporate compliance. As the enactment of the Affordable Care Act and HITECH brought new challenges to the healthcare industry, Mrs. Burchfield assisted affected corporations in revising their practices to comply with the regulatory requirements. She is a registered nurse and licensed attorney with a certification in healthcare compliance.

Christopher D. Fagerstrom, Vice President of Long Term Services and Supports

Mr. Fagerstrom began his career as a nursing facility social worker. He has been with Direction Home Akron Canton for the past 20+ years serving in a variety of positions within the care management department. Chris works diligently to maximize the health outcomes of members served, while keeping program costs low and client satisfaction high.  Chris is known for his work in implementing the Assisted Living Medicaid Waiver program and for working collaboratively with United Healthcare and CareSource to lead the successful launch of the long-term services and supports components within the MyCare Ohio program. Chris currently assists in overseeing the Long Term Services and Supports Division, which includes 100+ divisional staff serving 7,000+ members in our four-county area. Chris has a Certificate of Gerontology, a Certificate of Therapeutic Activities, a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Akron, and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Malone University.  Chris utilizes his Lean Six Sigma Green Belt to continuously lead and guide others through process improvement initiatives.

Sam McCoy, Senior Vice President of Elder Rights

Mr. McCoy has been responsible for the operations of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at Direction Home Akron Canton since 1993. Prior to that, Sam supervised the start-up of Direction Home's Care Coordination Program from 1988 to 1993. Under his leadership, the Regional Ombudsman Program has utilized innovation and evidence-based practices to successfully address consumer rights issues in an expanded thirteen-county region. Mr. McCoy's experience as the manager in one of the first specialized dementia care units in Ohio in the 1980s has provided valuable insight into the delivery of quality services to consumers and families. His broad consumer rights perspective has been demonstrated in many program initiatives including the development of essential roles for the Managed Care/MyCare Ohio Ombudsman, Veteran's Transition Program and the very successful HOME Choice transition program.

Matt Reed, Senior Vice President of Communications and Administration

Mr. Reed has been with Direction Home Akron Canton for more than 15 years. He spent his first five years with the Agency as a Long-Term Care and Family Caregiver Consultant, designing programs and training for informal caregivers. Mr. Reed then transitioned to our Communications Manager, providing executive direction on public relations, marketing, fundraising and advocacy. In 2011 he was promoted to Vice President of Communications and Quality, adding provider network management, strategic planning, aging network funds management, and training and education to his responsibilities. As the Senior Vice President, Mr. Reed now supervises Acute Care Transitions, the Aging and Disability Resource Center, Communications and Human Resources. He has an undergraduate degree in Business and Organizational Communication from The University of Akron and a Masters in Public Administration from Kent State University. Mr. Reed volunteers on the Board of Directors for Regina Health Center, a faith-based nursing facility.

Susan B. Sigmon, Senior Vice President of Long-Term Services and Supports

Ms. Sigmon has been employed at Direction Home Akron Canton for more than 20 years. She has held a variety of positions at the Agency, starting as the Quality Assurance and Senior Friends Coordinator. Promoted to a leadership role, Ms. Sigmon developed the first Adult Protective Services program for Wayne County. During that time, she created the Wayne County Elder Alliance, which still meets to problem-solve challenging situations for the community's elders. Ms. Sigmon was then promoted to Vice President of the Managed Long-Term Care Division and created Direction Home Akron Canton's Community Services Division. Currently, her responsibilities include the clinical oversight of the Agency's Care Management unit, which includes 6,000+ members in a four-county area. In 2017, Ms. Sigmon was named the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging (o4a) Service Person of the Year.

Board of Directors


David B. Reynolds, M.D., Board Chair
Charles L. Greene, Vice Chair
James Masi, Vice Chair
Fran D. Rice, Vice Chair
Julia T. DiFrancesco, Treasurer
Jack T. Diamond, Secretary
Jennifer Drost, D.O., MPH, Chief Medical Officer
David J. Peter, M.D., Immediate Past Chair


Julie Aultman, Ph.D.
Pamela Banchy
Stephen Colecchi
Iris E. Harvey
Horace Highland, Sr.
Nancy A. Istenes, D.O.
Tom Keathley
Michael A. Novelli
Jon D. Oliverio, D.P.M.
Deborah Rutherford
Harvey L. Sterns, Ph.D.
Karen L. Talbott
Lorrie A. Warren
Matthew Wayne, M.D.

View Meeting Schedule

Foundation Board of Directors


Lee S. Walko, Board Chair
David B. Reynolds, M.D., Vice Chair
Fran D. Rice, Secretary
George F. Sesock, Treasurer


Margaret F. Medzie
Natalie E. Lindsay-Smith

View Foundation Meeting Schedule


Learn more about who we are and what we do as an organization.