2022-2023 Children’s Mental Health Champions

AUCD’s efforts of the year two Champions, 2021-2022 National Center on Disability in Public Health continues its work with the Children’s Mental Health Champions project for a third year. This project is made possible through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Supporting the mental health needs of children starts early in childhood and can have lifelong impacts on overall health and wellbeing. AUCD/CDC’s Children’s Mental Health Champions focus on creating partnerships, identifying concerns, intervening early, and promoting children’s mental health by working with prevention programs in different settings. Building on the efforts of the year two Champions, 2021-2022, twelve Champions were selected for 2022-2023 to continue to provide timely support for children and their families. The Champions developed state-specific work plans to implement effective strategies for mental health promotion, prevention supports, and the creation of networks (e.g., school, healthcare, and community) to promote better connections between these systems. The 2022-2023 Champions represent California, Connecticut, Georgia, New Hampshire, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

The summaries below include information on the 2022-2023 Children’s Mental Health Champions. Learn more about their projects highlighted during Mental Health Awareness Month of May 2023. To learn more about the Children’s Mental Health Champions project, please contact: Luwam Yohanes , MPH, Program Specialist, Public Health.

2022-2023 Children’s Mental Health Champions

California: Micah Orliss, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Champion: Micah Orliss

Micah Orliss, PhD, is a licensed psychologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Dr. Orliss specializes in trauma psychology, working primarily with youth in the foster care system. Dr. Orliss is the developer of the CHLA Safe Surrender Clinic, the first clinic dedicated specifically to addressing the unique needs of infants who were placed in the Safe Surrender program. Dr. Orliss is also an agency mentor for the Incredible Years program, leading trainings nationally and internationally for other clinicians.

Project Summary: Micah’s CDC/AUCD Children’s Mental Health Champion project is aimed at expanding the reach of the CHLA Safe Surrender clinic, helping build partnerships train and disseminate our clinic model to other communities to better address the unique needs of Safe Haven children and their adoptive families.  My second goal is to continue to expand the reach of the Incredible Years program, bringing the evidence-based practice to more children in order to help them overcome the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connecticut: Bethanne Vergean, University of Connecticut Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

Champion: Bethanne Vergean

Bethanne Vergean graduated from Quinnipiac University and St. Joseph College. Her career in Early Childhood began while working at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Head Start to support children’s health and wellness, focusing on children with special needs and medically fragile children. Bethanne joined the University of Connecticut, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCONN UCEDD) in 2013 to provide professional development and technical assistance throughout Connecticut. Her areas of professional development interest include inclusion, autism, social and emotional curriculum, and medically fragile children. Bethanne also worked as part of several community outreach and mentor coaching grants within early childhood programs. She currently provides training and technical assistance for early childhood systems.

In March 2019, Bethanne was selected to be the Connecticut Act Early Ambassador for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Act Early is a national campaign aiming to improve early identification of children with autism and other developmental disabilities so children and families can get the services and support they need. In August 2021, Bethanne was selected to represent Connecticut for a 2nd year as the  Children’s Mental Health Champion for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Project Summary: Within this 2nd year of funding, UConn UCEDD collaborated with Connecticut Children’s Hospital and Medical Center to develop mental health resources for families across the state. Children have faced almost two years of unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. Connecticut Children’s has seen a tremendous increase in patients seeking behavioral health services via the emergency department. In 2021, 12.6% of children ages 3-17 in Connecticut received mental health care; compared to the national average of 10.8%. Currently we do not see a decline in families seeking care which has put a strain on the healthcare system causing delays in services. 

To address the growing need, the General Assembly’s Committee on Children championed Public Act 21-116 . The act requires a list of (A) providers of such resources, including, but not limited to, mobile crisis intervention services, (B) the physical location of each provider, if applicable, (C) the types of services offered by each provider, and (D) contact information for each provider to be given to all families in healthcare and school settings. The free resources developed by the UConn UCEDD and Connecticut Children’s

Georgia: Emily C. Graybill Center for Leadership in Disability, Georgia State University, UCEDD

Champion: Emily C. Graybill

Emily Graybill is a Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. She is also the Director of the Center for Leadership in Disability and the Program Director for the HRSA-funded Maternal and Child Health Graduate Certificate (MCHGC) program. Her specific interests include infant and early childhood mental health, school mental health, universal behavior screening in schools, individualized positive behavior support in early childhood and schools, and evaluating the implementation and sustainability of initiatives for underserved populations, including children with disabilities. Dr. Graybill is the principal investigator on an OSEP-funded interdisciplinary early intervention training program at GSU for students in the physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology programs. Dr. Graybill also serves as the Director of Georgia’s HRSA-funded Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program.

Project Summary: Emily’s Children’s Mental Health Champion project focused on expanding and improving childhood mental health services and supports. The mission of Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health: Birth to Five (GA-AIMH) is to promote family, infant, and early childhood mental health (IECMH) as foundational to development by: raising awareness of young children’s social and emotional needs; building culturally responsive preventive and therapeutic professional capacities; fostering interdisciplinary and cross-system collaboration by supporting professionals working with and on behalf of infants, young children, and their families; and advocating for and supporting policies in the best interest of infants, young children, families, and communities. 

Indiana: Katherine Herron, Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University, UCEDD

Champion: Dr. Katherine Herron

Dr. Katherine Herron, PhD is the Interim Director of the Early Childhood Center at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University. Prior to her appointment as Interim Director in June of 2022, Dr. Herron spent the last nine years as an Assistant Research Scientist with the Early Childhood Center.

Dr. Herron has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Her focus shifted to disability and early intervention during graduate school when her son was born with a disability. Since then, she has worked within Indiana’s early intervention system in multiple roles and has also served as a trainer for families around advocacy issues and practices. During her time at the Early Childhood Center, Dr. Herron has focused on improving the quality of early intervention and early education systems using evidence-based family-centered practices, including the promotion of high-quality family engagement, the promotion of high family expectations for young children with disabilities and the use of Universal Design for Learning. As Interim Director, Dr. Herron is positioning the Early Childhood Center to  incorporate current research on infant/toddler mental health into all current and future initiatives.

Project Summary: Dr. Herron will be working to increase understanding of the prevalence of infant/toddler mental health concerns and services in Indiana. First, she will compile relevant data from existing statewide needs assessments. She will then, in collaboration with two statewide advisory bodies, identify gaps in this existing data and craft family and provider surveys to address these gaps. Once the new and existing data has been compiled using data visualization, Dr. Herron will produce a series of brief videos for social media as well as two webinars that will highlight the landscape of infant/toddler mental health in Indiana and draw attention to existing resources as well as resource needs.

Nebraska: Jennifer Burt, Munroe-Meyer Institute University of Nebraska Medical Center, UCEDD/LEND

Champion: Jennifer Burt

Jennifer Burt, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the Munroe-Meyer Institute for Genetics and Rehabilitation at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Burt also serves as the Associate Director of Clinical Services in Psychology.  She received her PhD in school psychology from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and completed her internship and post-doctoral training at the Munroe-Meyer Institute. Dr. Burt provides mental health clinical services in an integrated primary care clinic. Her clinical and research interests focus on the integration of behavioral health into primary care and school settings, acceptance commitment therapy, screening in pediatric settings, and violence prevention and trauma. Dr. Burt also has an active interest in prevention and promoting parental knowledge of developmental milestones and positive parenting practices. She has received funding through the CDC’s Learn the Signs Act Early campaign (LTSAE) to assist with the development of resources for the campaign and served as the Nebraska Act Early Ambassador. Dr. Burt was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar and received training in leadership and health equity.  She works with a team at UNMC, UNO and the community on hospital and community-based violence prevention efforts in Omaha called ENCOMPASS. Dr. Burt serves as a Faculty Trainer in Integrated Primary Care with the Mid-America Mental Health Technology and Transfer Center.  She is the director of the postdoctoral fellowship training program at MMI and serves as a mentor/trainer for junior faculty, interns and postdoctoral fellows.

Project Summary:

The Children’s Mental Health Champion Project for Nebraska focuses on the CMH priority areas of early identification and intervention and promotion of mental health. The first 5 years of life is marked by rapid development.  Early intervention has a significant impact on child and family health and well-being and sets the trajectory for positive outcomes.  Despite significant data indicating the importance of infant and early childhood mental health (IEMH), there are few providers who specialize in the identification and treatment of infant and early childhood mental health and many primary care providers cite a lack of knowledge on IEMH. Providing training to primary care teams on IEMH has the potential to increase early access to care and prevent future learning and mental health concerns. A training series is being developed collaboratively by MHTTC faculty trainers in IEMH and integrated primary care to build knowledge and capacity to address IEMH for pediatric primary care providers (e.g., nurses, physicians, social workers, behavioral health providers). This is a 7- part series of training modules that can be completed as a series or customized to meet primary care team needs. Modules include: Infant Mental Health in Primary Care Settings, Child Development, Surveillance and Screening, Strengthening Parent Child Relationships, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma, Addressing Common Mental Health and Developmental Concerns in Primary Care, Medical Trauma and Pain Management in Infants and Early Childhood, and Creating a Network of Care. A train the trainer series will be developed and offered to create capacity for trainings and individual support for primary care practices invested in strengthening IEMH support. These modules will be available to the general public on the MHTTC website and MHTTC faculty trainers are available to provide trainings tailored to the needs of the primary care practice at no charge in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. 


New Hampshire: JoAnne Malloy, Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire

JoAnne Malloy, PhD, MSW, Research Associate Professor, Institute on Disability, University of New Hampshire. Dr. Malloy began working at the UCED in New Hampshire in 1992 and is a nationally recognized expert in the field of adolescent mental health with expertise in school-to-career transition services for youth with emotional and behavioral disorders, school-based mental health services, dropout prevention, and family- and youth-driven wraparound.  Dr. Malloy has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and teaches in the UNH Social Work Department.

Project Summary: More to come

Featuring AUCD/CDC’s Children’s Mental Health Champions, this 90-minute webinar will be to identify specific strategies that address the mental health needs of students across the age span, including the needs of neurodiverse learners. Mental health challenges can be a barrier to inclusion and addressing these challenges can enhance opportunities for participation in educational activities. Our four presenters will touch on topics such as the impact of early stressors on the mental health of young children (preschoolers), working with school providers to address the social/emotional needs of underserved children (early elementary age) post-pandemic, and supporting school personnel to address the mental health needs of neurodiverse learners, with a focus on autistic students (school-aged) with anxiety. The final presentation will focus on supporting transition for adolescents with emotional/behavioral challenges through an introduction to the RENEW Model. This webinar is recommended for K-12 educators, including administrators, school specialists and mental health personnel, community mental health providers and family members.
Ohio: Elsie Bush, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center & University of Cincinnati LEND

Champion: Elsie Bush

Elsie Bush is a pediatric Occupational Therapist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). Elsie’s clinical work is focused around supporting children experiencing developmental delays, neurologic conditions, and visual impairment. She has supported national training efforts through involvement in Project SCOPE: Supporting Children of the Opioid Epidemic with roles in curriculum development, training planning, and facilitation. Elsie is a former trainee at the University of Cincinnati LEND program and AUCD’s Leadership Academy. Outside of clinical practice Elsie is a program champion for CCHMC’s Be.well program, facilitating community-based opportunities for adaptive gardening, martial arts, and fitness for children with chronic or complex medical needs

Project Summary: As the CMH Champion in Ohio, this program will focus on expanding training materials on youth mental health promotion for community-based programs. Community-based programs can play a vital role in supporting social-emotional development in their community’s youth, but ready-to-use plain language training materials for these organizations can be limited. Through interviews with community stakeholders, training needs around youth mental health will be identified to inform the creation of training materials. Materials created will be shared to help facilitate staff and volunteer training on mental health promotion in community-based programs such as community centers, libraries, and parks and recreation programs. In collaboration with CCHMC’s Be.well program, the materials created will be used to train high school youth volunteers to provide targeted support of youth mental health during participation in adaptive wellness programming.

Pennsylvania: Phylicia Fitzpatrick Fleming, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, IDDRC

Champion: Phylicia Fleming

Phylicia Fitzpatrick Fleming, PhD, NCSP is a licensed psychologist and researcher with the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) working across several school-based IES funded projects and a community-based PCORI funded project. Her work and research focus primarily on building collaborative partnerships between families/communities and researchers/clinicians with the goal of increasing access to evidence-based interventions in behavioral health. Central to this work is addressing the needs of low-income, marginalized, minoritized families and communities. Phylicia has extensive experience in consultation and community engagement as well as the delivery of behavioral interventions within a variety of contexts. She completed her clinical research postdoctoral training at CHOP, participating in their Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for Academic Diversity program. Prior to joining the CHOP team, Phylicia was a practicing school psychologist, having completed her PhD in School Psychology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and MA in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness at New York University.

Project Summary: Behavioral interventions, school interventions and medication are successful in treating ADHD. However, caregivers often do not initiate and sustain the use of these interventions. In response to the need to support families in seeking services for childhood ADHD and sustaining their involvement in care, our team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) developed the Bootcamp for ADHD Program (BC-ADHD), which has been offered in the clinic-based ADHD Center at CHOP since 2010. A quality improvement initiative in the clinic showed a pattern similar to those found in large scale research in which families who are marginalized by low-income and minority racial/ethnic status initiate and sustain the use of ADHD services less often than those who are advantaged. The primary goal of this project is to work in partnership with families and clinical providers associated with urban primary care practices to develop a revised version of the BC-ADHD program that will be accessible and feasible to low-income, Black families. This includes (1) revising the BC-ADHD treatment manual through an iterative collaborative process with caregivers and clinicians, (2) piloting the revised BC-ADHD program with families in urban primary care centers, and (3) offering ADHD resources and support for caregivers and clinicians in urban primary care centers. The second goal of this project is to advocate for increased access to group-based parent behavior management training for the treatment of ADHD, particularly for low-income and/or children receiving publicly funded health insurance in order to reduce inequities in access to mental health services for children and families.

South Dakota: Aimee Deliramich, University of South Dakota Center for Disabilities, UCEDD/LEND

Champion: Aimee Deliramich

Aimee Deliramich, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist at University of South Dakota, Center for Disabilities, in Sioux Falls, SD. In her role at the Center for Disabilities, Dr. Deliramich evaluates children and adults as part of an interdisciplinary diagnostic team within the Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Clinic. These training clinics allow LEND (Leadership, Education, and Excellence in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) graduate students across 12 disciplines to observe and participate under the direction, supervision, and mentorship of Dr. Deliramich. As a member of the LEND clinical faculty, Dr. Deliramich teaches courses related to mental health and disabilities, evidence-based treatments, and community resources. She is also part of the outreach education team working in partnership with South Dakota’s Department of Education, Department of Social Services, and the Department of Health creating continuing education opportunities for educators, mental and healthcare providers, community members, etc. within the areas of autism, intellectual developmental disabilities, mental health, and evidence-based treatment across the state of South Dakota. Dr. Deliramich instructs graduate level courses related to childhood mental health and disorders and treatment, as well as advanced applications in mental health, developmental disabilities, and challenging behaviors, focusing on treatment and support strategies. She is the project co-coordinator for a new ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) series with South Dakota Department of Health focusing on disability cultural competence within a community of practice, including mental health. Prior to working at USD Center for Disabilities, Dr. Deliramich worked many years in a multidisciplinary outpatient therapy setting where she developed their outpatient psychology program. She evaluated as part of a multidisciplinary team within a variety of clinics, facilitated and led social skills groups with children and adolescents, provided community, school, and parent education related to mental health, in addition to providing ongoing psychotherapy to children and adolescents and their parents across a myriad of diagnoses and presenting problems.

Dr. Deliramich received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of Wyoming, her master’s degree in counseling psychology from University of Hawaii, Hilo, and her doctorate degree in clinical psychology from University of South Dakota. Dr. Deliramich completed her pre-doctoral internship at the University of Kansas Medical Center and her post-doctoral training at LifeScape, an organization serving children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities, in Sioux Falls, SD. Dr. Deliramich has been working in the field of disabilities since her undergraduate career. She is a former LEND trainee, receiving a rich training experience within the areas of leadership and education in neurodevelopmental disabilities. She has had practicum training working with children in community mental health centers and inpatient residential facilities. Dr. Deliramich also completed several rotations at KUMC related to child health and development, child psychiatry, child mental health and psychology, and behavior.

Project Summary:

This project will work to bridge the gap between education, healthcare, and community related to childhood mental health across the state of South Dakota. This project will work to provide digestible, accurate, and actionable information about mental health to those interacting and working with children. This initiative is vital to facilitate better understanding, support early identification, implement intervention that is evidence-based, and increase awareness related to the impact of mental health as it intersects between education, healthcare, and community. This will be done through all three pillars of connecting and creating family-school-healthcare-community partnerships, supporting early identification and intervention/evidence-based treatment, and working to prevent mental disorders and promote mental health.

In 2020, it was reported that 112,000 persons in South Dakota experienced mental illness, with approximately 30,000 experiencing serious mental illness. It is also reported that 47.5% of South Dakotans ages 12–17 with diagnosed depression did not receive any care within the last year. South Dakota was ranked 34th with respect to the prevalence of mental illness and rates of access to care for adults, and 24th for youth. Additionally, in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death in South Dakota for youth ages 10 to 19. It was reported that South Dakota had the 8th highest suicide rate in the United States, with the suicide rate of those identifying as American Indian being 2.5 times higher than those identifying as White.

A recent published special report states, “access to health care remains a serious challenge in much of rural South Dakota, where federal data show that residents tend to have greater rates of serious illness and death from diseases and far less access to providers than in the state’s few urban areas.” The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation. The South Dakota Department of Health reported of 66 counties, 19 experienced shortages in low-income areas and 31 in areas due to geographic distance from care, including mental health. Six counties reported shortages related to geographic factors in portions of their county. Only nine counties reported no shortage. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (2021), as of July 2021, 11 areas have been designated as mental health care shortage areas.

There are significant gaps across environments related to community members’ and professionals’ knowledge of mental health when working with children. Often community members and professionals do not know about mental health outside of what they have seen through the media or their own personal experiences, which may not be an accurate or true representation of mental health. Providing digestible and accurate information about mental health to those interacting and working with children is imperative. An additional challenge faced in South Dakota is the limited number of providers trained to work with children across our large rural state, limiting access to quality services for many. By increasing knowledge and availability of resources related to mental health across educators, healthcare providers, and community members, we can better meet the needs of our children because mental health support can be accomplished by all.

Tennessee: Verity Rodrigues, Vanderbilt University Medical Center & Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, UCEDD

Champion: Verity Rodrigues

Verity Rodrigues, PhD received her master’s degree in special education and her doctorate in school psychology, both from the University of Oregon, where she focused on implementing school systems-level frameworks, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and Social Emotional Learning. As a school and clinical psychologist and faculty member at TRIAD – the Autism Institute at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Dr. Rodrigues works across TRIAD’s school-based professional development team leading content development, training, and technical assistance around autism, mental health, and school-based autism evaluation. Much of her efforts focus on the intersection of autism and mental health, increasing understanding of autism among educators, healthcare, and community providers, and expanding the use of evidence-based mental health strategies in schools. As such, Dr. Rodrigues is either working with educators to help them better understand the signs, symptoms, and opportunities for support of individuals with disabilities and co-occurring mental health concerns, or she is working directly with children and families with disabilities and/or mental health concerns.

Project Summary:

Dr. Rodrigues’s Children’s Mental Health Champion project is focused on promoting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of autistic children and children with other neurodevelopmental disabilities by addressing two primary goals. The first goal is to increase the number of school psychologists and speech and language pathologists trained in best practice school-based evaluations for autism through the provision of state-wide training and technical assistance and to increase the awareness and knowledge of school-based professionals around the increased risk of mental health concerns for autistic youth. With increasing autism prevalence rates, families must be able to obtain timely access to diagnostic and intervention services for their children. Although emphasis has been placed on the diagnosis of autism as early as possible so that children can receive the benefit of early intervention, many children, particularly in rural and underserved populations may not be identified until they are of school age. Furthermore, the lack of school-based provider and leader knowledge and skills have been seen as barriers to supporting autistic students, particularly in rural districts. Through this project goal, state-wide trainings on autism evaluation have been conducted and follow-up coaching and technical assistance will be provided and a virtual state-wide webinar for school administrators will be conducted on mental health and autism.  

The second goal addressed through Dr. Rodrigues’s project is focused on developing family-school-healthcare-community partnerships to increase awareness and understanding around children’s mental health for autistic youth and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental health diagnoses for autistic individuals and youth diagnosed with autism are significantly more likely to have unmet mental health needs than youth without an autism diagnosis. These challenges require a coordinated, systems approach that increases awareness and the capacity for existing systems to serve youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autistic youth and their families. To address this goal, a state-wide needs assessment will be developed and disseminated to families of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to assess the needs, resources, and barriers to access mental health supports among this population. Additionally, a centralized location for online resources related to supporting the mental health needs of youth with developmental disabilities will be created. This webpage will include resources for educators, community providers, families, and youth. Lastly, to help increase coordination and assess systemic barriers to care, Dr. Rodrigues will hold meetings with representatives from various state-wide organizations to inform both immediate and long-term action steps related to increasing access to mental health care for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.     


Vermont: Cassandra Townshend, University of Vermont, Center on Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI)

Champion: Cassandra Townshend

With 20 years of experience in education, Cassandra has taught, consulted, coached, and trained school staff and district personnel to develop equitable and inclusive systems and practices that support all students’ social, emotional, and behavioral health and well-being.

Cassandra Townshend is the Co-Director of the VT BEST/PBIS Project, where she brings her passion for systems-level thinking, desire for educational equity, and ability to bridge educational theory with practical application. Recently, Cassandra worked as a Director of Special Education at Charlotte Central School and Director of Behavior Systems for Champlain Valley School District, where she developed and led a district-wide program that supports students with significant social, emotional, and behavioral needs within their home school community, minimizing the need for outside alternative placements.

Cassandra’s mission to create positive, equitable, and inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities, led her to complete her dissertation titled: “Vermont Special Educators’ Perceptions on the Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Universal Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).”

Cassandra is a certified Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) trainer and has extensive experience training and coaching school staff in de-escalation techniques, positive behavior interventions and supports, and crisis prevention and intervention. Her previous work experience includes time as a high school social worker, elementary/middle school behavior specialist, outpatient adolescent therapist, and behavior system coordinator/coach.

Cassandra earned her B. A. from Skidmore College, a Master’s of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Vermont.

Project Summary:

To increase PBIS Schools’ capacity and ability to meet all students’ needs, the BEST Project continues to participate in Project AWARE: Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education. Project AWARE supports an Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) to deliberately integrate mental health, community, school, and family partners through a single delivery system.

Using an Interconnected Systems Framework, this project aims to strengthen partnerships between current PBIS schools and supervisory unions (SUs), families/caregivers, and local designated agencies (DAs). DAs are designated providers for mental health, substance use, and developmental disability services.     

Virginia: Patrice Beard, Virginia Commonwealth University, Partnership for People with Disabilities, UCEDD

Champion: Patrice Beard

Patrice Beard is the Mental Health Specialist for the Center for Family Involvement at the Partnership for People with Disabilities (Virginia’s UCEDD located at Virginia Commonwealth University) where she has worked for the past 10 years. Patrice is certified to teach the following National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) topics: Basics; Family to Family; Children’s Challenging Behaviors; Ending the Silence, and Parent and Teachers as Allies. Patrice holds certifications for the National Council for Behavioral Health Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid USA, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), safeTALK-Suicide Alertness for Everyone; Surviving and Thriving: Trauma and Resilience Basics as well as a train the trainer certification She is a member of many state and regional advisory boards including the Virginia Behavioral Health Advisory Council where she served as chair for two years, the Virginia Early Childhood Mental Health Advisory Board, the Virginia Department of Health’s Suicide Prevention Interagency Advisory Group, and the Virginia Family Network Advisory Board. Patrice is also collaborating with a VCU Metropolitan Education Research Consortium study, Supporting Mental Health in Schools, where she represents the family voice. Her goal is to raise mental health awareness to as many people as possible.

Project Summary:

To create a space to amplify the voice of family-led mental health organization leaders to partner with the Virginia Departments of Education and Health on supporting access to existing, new, accurate and simplified mental health, self-harm and suicide resources for families of middle and high school children with social, emotional, and mental health needs

Through my work with the Center for Family Involvement at the UCEDD, I will build in the continued dissemination of current and new resources to Center staff and volunteers and to families seeking support, and through presentations and exhibit tables at VA Dept of Education conferences (e.g., special education directors, family engagement, Youth I’m Determined) and in VA Dept of Health Title V block grant Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs activities.

The Children’s Mental Health Champions are supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through a cooperative agreement (OT18-1802) with AUCD. The contents of this webpage does not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC/HHS or the US Government.

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