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Our Team


Sharon Hoover

PhD, Clinical Psychology
Co-Director & Professor of Psychiatry

Sharon A. Hoover, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Co-Director of the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH). She currently leads NCSMH efforts to support states, districts and schools in the adoption of national quality performance standards of comprehensive school mental health systems ( Dr. Hoover also serves as Director of the NCTSN Center for Safe Supportive Schools (CS3), focused on building trauma-responsive, comprehensive school mental health systems that attend to social determinants and injustices and engage and support marginalized populations, including youth of color and newcomer (refugee and immigrant) youth. Dr. Hoover has led and collaborated on multiple federal and state grants, with a commitment to the study and implementation of quality children’s mental health services. Creating safe, supportive and trauma-responsive schools has been a major emphasis of Dr. Hoover’s research, education and clinical work. She has trained school and community behavioral health staff and educators in districts across the United States, as well as internationally, including consultation on building safe and supportive school mental health systems in Canada, China, Northern Ireland, South Korea, Ukraine, and New Zealand. As an advisor to the World Health Organization, Dr. Hoover has provided consultation and technical assistance on comprehensive school mental health in several countries, including developing and implementing a student mental health curriculum for teachers throughout the Middle East and developing and evaluating a school-based intervention to support immigrant and refugee youth in Canada and the United States. 

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Nancy Lever

PhD, Clinical Psychology
Co-Director & Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Nancy Lever is a licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Co-Director of the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH, As Co-Director of the NCSMH and Executive Director of the University of Maryland School Mental Health Program, Dr. Lever has worked to advance innovative training and technical assistance efforts that aim to improve school mental services and supports. For over 20 years she has led the advancement of interdisciplinary school behavioral health training for advanced graduate psychology, psychiatry, and social work students, as well as for the current education, health, and behavioral health workforce. She has helped to advance a school mental health multi-tiered framework that is based on school-family-community partnerships, and culturally responsive, high-quality behavioral health services. Dr. Lever serves as a leader for National Quality Initiative on School Based Health Services (funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration) supporting states, districts, and schools in advancing school mental health policy and adopting national school mental health quality performance standards ( She co-led the development of a national school mental health curriculum ( and is currently collaborating with leaders from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Mental Health Technology Transfer Centers to develop an online mental health literacy training curriculum for educators. She has had leadership roles on numerous federal and state research projects related to school mental health quality and sustainability and has represented the school mental health voice on national, state, and local committees.


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Maria Alvarez

School Mental Health Senior Counselor

Maria Alvarez is a Licensed Certified Social Worker- Clinical who joined the Prince George’s School Mental Health Initiative in 2018, as a Senior Counselor. Maria received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland. Maria has clinical expertise working with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of settings including an outpatient-mental health clinic, treatment foster care program, domestic violence agency, and community hospital. Maria seeks to create a supportive environment for students and works collaboratively with school staff.

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Jacqueline "Jackie" Atunrase

MEd, School Psychology
Pre-doctoral Intern

Jackie is a pre-doctoral intern at the Center and is a doctoral candidate in clinical and school psychology at the University of Virginia. Jackie has worked as an elementary school teacher; a clinical research coordinator on a study implementing evidence-based mental health programs in schools; and as a mental health service provider in public schools, a residential therapeutic school, and outpatient settings. She earned her Master of Elementary Education degree from Wilmington University and her Master of Education in Educational Psychology with a concentration in School Psychology degree from the University of Virginia. Her clinical and research interests focus broadly on advocating for equitable access to high quality mental health services for underprivileged minority youth and the implementation of evidence-based services in school settings. 

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Carol Bazis

School Mental Health Senior Counselor

Carol has been a member of Prince George’s School Mental Health Initiative (PGSMHI) team for the past ten years, providing group, individual and family counseling in a specialized program for students with social, emotional and behavioral challenges.   Carol provides training on a variety of mental health issues to staff in her high school as well as staff throughout Prince George’s County Public Schools.  She works closely with the special education department, transition team and general education teams to provide clinical support, training and consultation.  Carol is a Board Approved Supervisor for social workers and has provided on site supervision to social work interns and psychology externs which has given her the opportunity to build relationships with teachers and admin throughout the building, while strengthening the skills of a future therapist. One of her greatest passions is to empower students with disabilities to develop their academic and social emotional skills so that they not only graduate from high school but also have a plan in place for their future success in college, in vocational training or in the work force.

Tiffany Beason

Tiffany Beason

PhD, Clinical-Community Psychology
Core Faculty & Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Dr. Beason is a faculty member who works with the National Center for School Mental Health team, where she has served as a postdoctoral fellow since 2018. Dr. Beason’s research interests relate to academic achievement, positive racial/ethnic identity, adaptive social and coping skills, and sense of community among youth and young adults. Dr. Beason currently works as a school mental health clinician in a Title I Baltimore City School, where she provides supports that promote positive mental health for all as well as early intervention and treatment services for youth experiencing significant mental health difficulties. Clinically, Dr. Beason is trained as a generalist with specialized training in providing trauma-informed treatment in schools that serve primarily low-income youth and families of color. In her role at the National Center for School Mental Health, Dr. Beason engages in research, training and technical assistance. She is currently collaborating on projects focused on teaching educators and school mental health practitioners on how to address the mental health needs of youth through the use of culturally responsive and equitable practices.   

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Yourdanos Bekele

BA, Psychology, Biology
Clinical Research Assistant

Yourdanos primarily assists on the Evaluating Promising School Staff and Resource-Officer Approaches for Reducing Harsh Discipline, Suspensions, and Arrests project. The project, implemented in Cecil County Public Schools, involves a multi-tiered approach to comprehensively reducing unnecessary student suspensions and arrests and increasing the effectiveness of School Resource Officers.

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Larraine Bernstein

MS, Community Health Education, Health Administration
Policy Analyst

Ms. Bernstein is a Policy Analyst and has worked more than 30 years coordinating efforts across agencies at the local and state levels to improve child, adolescent and young adult health. She has extensive experience managing and implementing grant programs focused on prevention, early intervention, and access to care, and policy development and efforts to improve the lives of youth and young adults in Maryland. Ms. Bernstein is currently responsible for managing outreach, education and training programs focused on the behavioral health needs of youth and young adults and the professionals who support and/or treat them.

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Jill Haak Bohnenkamp

PhD, Clinical and School Psychology
Core Faculty & Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Dr. Bohnenkamp has extensive experience in school mental health research, policy and clinical practice at the local, state and national levels. She works with individual school personnel, district, state and national leaders to advance high quality school mental health. Dr. Bohnenkamp builds on multiple years of direct clinical experience as a school mental health clinician in urban, suburban and rural school districts to inform her research and policy work. Her research focuses on behavioral, academic and school safety outcomes of school mental health service provision, mental health training for educators and pediatric primary care providers and ways to increase access to evidence-based mental health services for youth and families.

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Nia Caldwell

School Mental Health Counselor

Nia Caldwell is a School Mental Health Counselor with the University of Maryland School Mental Health Program (SMHP). Ms. Caldwell graduated with her Master’s Degree from the Morgan State University School of Social Work after training with the SMHP as MSW candidate. Ms. Caldwell has experience in providing individual, family, and group therapy to elementary and middle school students in Baltimore City Public Schools. In addition to providing counseling services, she also provides teacher consultations, staff in-services, classroom presentations, and family outreach activities. Her passion for mental health and education began early in her graduate program and she is committed to combating mental health stigma and helping children discover their full potential.

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Taneisha Carter

BA, Psychology
Senior Clinical Research Assistant

In her current position, Taneisha aids on various projects related to the advancement of the quality and sustainability of school mental health services. Primarily, she works on Maryland Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (MD-AWARE) which aims to increase awareness of mental health issues in school-age youth and improve current mental health referral systems in schools and communities. Additionally, Taneisha helps with Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network, School-Based Health Services National Quality Initiative (CoIIN-SBHS-NQI) that works to establish and facilitate Collaborative Improvement & Innovation Networks (CoIINs) to support School Based Health Centers, School Mental Health Programs, districts, and states to adopt and implement best practices, policies, and financing strategies that support and expand the numbers of quality, sustainable school health programs.

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Elizabeth Connors

PhD, Clinical Child and Community Psychology
Core Faculty

Dr. Connors' work as a Clinical/Community Psychologist is driven by the central principle of improving access to high-quality mental health care for underserved children, adolescents, young adults and their families in critical access points such as schools and primary care settings. Her research focuses on the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices (namely, measurement-based care) in these settings where children’s mental health concerns are most likely to be identified and addressed. In addition to conducting community-partnered research, she also provides training, technical assistance, systematic quality improvement and evaluation supports to school-based clinicians, mental health agencies, school districts and behavioral health systems at local, state and national levels. She serves as the Improvement Advisor for the School Mental Health Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network.

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Jennifer Cox

Director, School Mental Health Program

Jennifer Cox is the Program Director and a senior Lead Clinician for the University of Maryland, School Mental Health Program (SMHP), a program whose mission is to enhance the learning environment of Baltimore City Public schools by removing the barriers to learning and actively promoting the social-emotional-behavioral well-being of students.  Mrs. Cox has over a decade of experience providing clinical services, resources, and consultation across a multi-tiered system of supports.  She provides administrative and clinical oversight to 25 SMHP schools and has worked to expand the SMHP tele mental health program to increase psychiatry services and access in schools. Mrs. Cox has a Certificate in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, is a board approved supervisor for social workers and is a state-wide trainer for Botvin’s LifeSkills.   Her work in schools, specifically with evidence-based practices and parental involvement in school, has been published and recognized by the field. She was the recipient of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Field Instructor of the Year Award and presents at local, state, and national levels.  Most importantly, she is the wife to a fantastic husband and mother to two amazing boys.

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Dana Cunningham

PhD, Clinical Psychology
Faculty Consultant, Adjunct Assist Professor of Psychiatry, & Director of the Prince George's School Mental Health Initiative

Dr. Cunningham has been the Director of the Prince George's School Mental Health Initiative (PGSMHI) since 2006. The PGSMHI is designed to provide intensive school-based counseling and support services to students in special education in Prince George’s County Public Schools. Dr. Cunningham has extensive experience providing direct clinical service in urban school districts and often provides training, technical assistance, and consultation to local and State-level education and mental health agencies. Dr. Cunningham’s clinical and research interests include trauma, resilience, children of incarcerated parents, and empirically supported treatment for ethnic minority youth.

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Ellie Davis

Business and Operations Manager

Ellie Davis has worked in the field of school mental health for more than 20 years, first as a clinician in Baltimore City Schools followed by Associate Director of the School Mental Health clinical program and currently as the Business and Operations Manager for the National Center for School Mental Health.  In her current role, Ms. Davis oversees all budgetary and fiscal aspects of the Center including proposal preparation and post award administration.  Ms. Davis manages faculty and staff effort on a complex portfolio of contracts, grants and service agreements.

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Pamela Dorman

School Mental Health Senior Counselor

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Kristina Floyd

School Mental Health Lead Counselor

Mrs. Floyd has provided direct clinical services, supervision, case management, and consultations to children, their families, and colleagues within non-public and public school systems since 2009. She is currently a lead clinician in the School Mental Health Program, providing a variety of services to promote social, emotional, behavioral, and academic success for students in a Baltimore City public school as well as supervising masters level trainees and licensed clinicians within the program. Mrs. Floyd has a Certificate in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, is a board approved supervisor for social workers and is a state-wide trainer for Botvin’s LifeSkills. She has presented at local, state, and national levels on evidenced-based curriculums and other issues related to school mental health. Since 2015, Mrs. Floyd has worked for the Association of Social Work Boards as a subject matter expert to write and develop questions for the Masters level national social work exam using current, evidenced-based references and resources.

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Kelly Foster

MS, Clinical Psychology, LCPC
School Mental Health Lead Counselor

Kelly has 20 years of experience providing counseling, consultation, and case management to children, adolescents, and adults in outpatient, hospital, school, and community settings. She has practiced for over a decade in Baltimore City Public Schools providing counseling services, as well as prevention services to promote wellness within the school. Mrs. Foster has extensive experience providing clinical supervision for staff and graduate level interns and currently serves as the internship coordinator for counseling graduate students within the School Mental Health Program. Mrs. Foster completed her MS in Clinical Psychology from Loyola University Maryland and a Post Master’s Certificate in Clinical Community Counseling from Johns Hopkins University. She is a Nationally Certified Counselor, a Board Approved Supervisor for counselors in Maryland, and is a statewide trainer for Botvin’s LifeSkills. Mrs. Foster has trained in several evidenced based programs such as Botvin’s LifeSkills and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).

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Melissa Grady Ambrose

Training Director

Melissa Grady Ambrose, LCSW-C, received her MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University and has over 20 years of direct clinical and supervisory experience working with children and families. For fourteen years Ms. Ambrose provided school-based mental health services through the University of Maryland School Mental Health Program working with students in grades K-12. She specializes in working with high risk youth, including youth with substance use concerns.  Melissa currently serves as the Maryland state trainer for the Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA), an evidence-based program to treat adolescent substance use. She is also a clinician specialist providing substance use counseling in a high school setting. In addition to providing A-CRA trainings, Ms. Ambrose coordinates additional evidenced-based training opportunities for Maryland school districts.

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Samantha "Sami" Hartley

MA, Clinical-Community Psychology
Pre-doctoral Intern

Sami is a pre-doctoral intern at the Center and is a doctoral candidate in the clinical-community psychology program at the University of South Carolina. She has worked with schools, health providers, and community coalitions in the field of adolescent suicide prevention and response, as a program evaluator for initiatives promoting resilience and integrated school mental health, and as a mental health clinician in public schools and outpatient settings. She earned a BA with Distinction in Human Biology (Area of Concentration: Neuroscience & Mental Health) from Stanford University and her Masters in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina. Her clinical and research interests focus broadly on building capacity for high quality implementation of evidence-based practices in school mental health, with a particular affinity for program evaluation, implementation science, and organizational readiness.

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Richenda Hobbs

BA, Psychology
Community Outreach Worker II

Ms. Hobbs has worked with the Prince George's School Mental Health Initiative since 2008. She has more than 20 years’ experience working with students and families in educational, home and community-based settings. Ms. Hobbs provides supportive services to students in Special Education in Prince George’s County Public Schools. She has a passion for helping others and is dedicated to supporting families reach their fullest potential.

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Opal Jones

MA, Psychology, LCPC
School Mental Health Senior Counselor

Opal Ellis Jones grew up in North Carolina and attended Warren County Public Schools. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and a Master’s degree in Psychology at the University of the District of Columbia. Mrs. Jones has over 30 years’ combined experience providing mental health counseling for adults, children, and families in several states and overseas. She is currently employed with the Prince George’s School Mental Health Initiative as a Mental Health Clinician at a Prince George’s County, Maryland, middle school where she provides individual, group and family counseling as well as professional development for staff.

Maddie Keleher

BS, Psychology, Biology
Clinical Research Assistant

Maddie recently graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a B.S. in Psychology and Biology. She is a clinical research assistant at the NCSMH, where she primarily focuses on the National Center for Safe Supportive Schools (NCS3) project. Prior to joining the NCSMH team, she served as the Program Coordinator for Health Outreach Baltimore. Maddie is interested in furthering her experience and education, focusing on social determinants of health and community equity.

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Jennifer Lease

School Mental Health Senior Counselor

Jennifer is a Senior Clinician with the School Mental Health Program (SMHP), providing targeted therapy services to children and families as well as broader supports to the whole school population. Jennifer has worked in schools in West Baltimore for over a decade and is trained in a number of evidence-based practices, including Botvin's LifeSkills Training, The Incredible Years, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy for Adolescents (IPT-A). Jennifer is a statewide trainer of Botvin's LifeSkills and has a Certificate of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. She received her Master's in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She is dedicated to providing empowerment and opportunities for underserved communities.

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Janice Mace

Behavioral Health Program Coordinator

Janice Mace is a senior counselor at the University of Maryland’s National Center for School Mental Health. For nearly a decade, Ms. Mace has partnered with school districts to develop their Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) programming. She has extensive experience providing a variety of school-based behavioral health services, in both clinical and programmatic capacities. Currently, Ms. Mace serves as the project coordinator for Maryland’s State Opioid Response - Student Assistance Program, as well as co-developer and coordinator of a district-wide substance use prevention and early intervention initiative in Baltimore County Public Schools.  Her prior roles include the provision of program development and implementation support, training and professional learning, collaborative staff consultation, and direct client services in general education, self-contained special education, and residential treatment settings. In addition, Ms. Mace maintains a small private practice in her Baltimore, MD hometown, where she offers clinical and consultative services for personal and business growth.

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Sylvia McCree-Huntley

EdD, Counseling Psychology
Director, Professional Development & Continuing Education

Dr. Huntley has wide-ranging experiences in providing professional development, training, and conferences on a national level and throughout the state of Maryland. For over 20 years, Sylvia has worked on multiple projects for the National Center for School Mental Health. Sylvia’s doctoral degree is in counseling psychology, with an earned master’s degree in alcohol and drug counseling, along with a bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology. Her clinical experience has been built on internships and direct services at Mountain Manor Treatment Center, Focus on Recovery, Baltimore City Detention Center, St. Agnes Hospital, Baltimore School Mental Health Initiative, and the School Mental Health Program. Sylvia has her alcohol and drug trainee license. Her research interests continues to focus on trauma, alcohol and substance use disorders among adolescents, and the homeless population. She teaches psychology and addiction courses and is on the committee for redesigning and changing classroom settings into the flip model.

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Shawn Orenstein

MPH, Prevention and Community Health
Program & Policy Manager

At the Center, Shawn serves as a program and policy manager of the National Quality Initiative on School Based Health Services project, supporting the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Networks and the School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation (SHAPE) system. Shawn also provides policy-related support to the 2020 Bainum Family Foundation grant. She is particularly interested in how state and national policies affect quality and growth of school-based health services.

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Karah Palmer

MEd, Community Development & Action 
Research Project Coordinator

Karah Palmer started her career in education as a pre-school teacher and has a passion for working to improve learning conditions for all children. At The Center, she serves as the Research Coordinator for the Kaiser Permanente Resilience in School Environments (KP RISE) Formative Evaluation. Before joining the NCSMH team, Karah facilitated health services and equity research at Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine. She earned her M.Ed. in Community Development and Action from Vanderbilt University, Peabody College, and is primarily concerned with understanding how schools and communities can work together to create trauma-informed and culturally-responsive learning environments for students and families.

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Porsche Palmer

AS, Psychology
Community Outreach Worker II

Ms. Palmer has worked with Prince George's School Mental Health Initiative since 2018. Her passion for serving others and giving back to her community has allowed her over 13 years of experience of providing supportive services to families and children and ultimately led her to her role in PGSMHI where she provides transition support services to students in elementary and high school settings. 

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Nikita Parson

Assistant Director, School Mental Health Program

Ms. Parson is a proud Alumni of Morgan State University and University of Maryland, Baltimore. She is the Assistant Director and a Lead Clinician with the School Mental Health Program. She has over 10 years of experience providing comprehensive services including direct clinical care (e.g. individual, group, and family therapies), prevention activities, consultations, supervision, and crisis intervention in Baltimore City Public Schools. She is passionate about decreasing the stigma on mental health and promoting a healthy social/emotional wellbeing especially among youth and young adults in underserved communities. Ms. Parson also serves as the Trainee Coordinator with the SMHP and through this has a chance to help mold, nurture, and produce the next set of clinicians in this field. Ms. Parson has been trained in Trauma Focus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a board approved supervisor for Social Workers and a statewide Botvin’s Life Skills trainer.


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Brittany Patterson

PhD, School/Counseling Psychology
Core Faculty & Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Dr. Patterson’s current clinical and research interests involve trauma responsive schools and effective implementation of evidence based mental health programs in underserved schools and their surrounding communities. In her current role as a clinical faculty member with experience in school-based services at the Center for School Mental Health, Dr. Parham serves as a primary point person for developing and delivering training and technical assistance both within the school mental health clinical programs as well as to school stakeholders (including experience developing and delivering in-service curricula for teachers, school police officers, parents, and school staff). She currently coordinates a grant funded youth gambling prevention research project and provides direct school-based clinical care to a Title I Baltimore City School.

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Megan Prass

BS, Psychology
Clinical Research Assistant

Megan assists on a number of projects within the center, but primarily focuses on the Brief Intervention for School Clinicians (BRISC), which aims to target tier 2 youth in high schools throughout Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota and to improve counseling services for high school students. She also dedicates her time to the Maryland Healthy Transitions, a program to raise awareness of mental health challenges faced by transition-aged youth (TAY) ages 16-25, and to provide services and supports to meet the needs of TAY as they transition into adulthood. Megan is interested in research focusing on psychotherapy processes and outcomes, along with research working to improve mental-health services for disadvantaged youth and young adults.

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Joanna Prout

PhD, Clinical Psychology
Clinical Research Manager

Dr. Prout has extensive experience in conducting evaluations of initiatives to improve behavioral health outcomes for children, youth, and families.  Prior to becoming an evaluator, she worked for over 10 years as a clinician in school and community settings serving underserved populations.   She has a particular interest in engaging diverse partners in evaluation and the use of evaluation for rapid-cycle quality improvement.

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Sumer Rahe

BA, Psychology
Clinical Research Assistant

Sumer graduated in 2019 with a B.A. in Psychology from Loyola University Maryland. Before joining NCSMH as a clinical research assistant on the State Opioid Response (SOR) project, she interned at the Center, lending help on various projects, such as the Brief Intervention for School Clinicians (BRISC) and Resilience in School Environments (RISE). Sumer is interested in furthering her education and studying community psychology, specifically focusing on social justice.

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Pamela Rakhshan Rouhakhtar

MA, Human Services Psychology
Pre-doctoral Intern

Pamela is a pre-doctoral intern in the University of Maryland Clinical High Risk for Psychosis track within the VA Maryland Health Care System/University of Maryland School of Medicine Psychology Internship Consortium. She is a doctoral candidate in Human Services Psychology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Pamela's interests include validation and development of psychosis spectrum assessments, application of advanced quantitative methods in the study of early psychosis assessment, and studying the role of cultural and contextual factors -- particularly race -- in our understanding of the psychosis construct, as well as illness presentation, course, and treatment.

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Sam Reaves

PhD, Clinical Psychology
Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Reaves works to integrate her research and clinical experiences to improve outcomes for children. Her research interests lie at the intersection of mental health and education and she often investigates how school or family factors influence student outcomes in underserved communities. As a clinical-community psychologist, she believes great prevention work can be done and realizes the importance of strengthening the systems children are nested in to promote wellbeing so she is committed to supporting schools, at multiple levels, to improve policies and procedures around student socioemotional functioning. In her work at the NCSMH she primarily support to the Promoting Student Wellness project, the RISE evaluation, and the National Quality Initiative.

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Perrin Robinson

MS, Clinical Psychology
Clinical Research Specialist & Communications Manager

Since 2016, Perrin has supported the NCSMH across a variety of research projects on teacher, student, and young adult/adolescent wellness. He enjoys his roles in qualitative and quantitative data collection, management, analysis, and reporting on program evaluations. As of 2018, Perrin oversees communications at the NCSMH, including management of the website and social media, as well as assisting with the Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health where he is a co-facilitator of the Cultural Responsiveness & Equity specialty track. He currently serves as the Evaluation Specialist for Maryland Healthy Transitions and is the advisory board liaison for the NCSMH.

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Gabrielle Sanchez

School Mental Health Counselor

Gabrielle Sanchez is a School Mental Health Counselor at the University of Maryland, School Mental Health Program (SMHP). Ms. Sanchez graduated with her master’s degree from Indiana University School of Social Work. Ms. Sanchez began working in the mental health field as a case manager at a residential facility shortly after finishing her bachelor’s in social work at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN. This opportunity allowed for Ms. Sanchez to work with children, families and various service agencies to support effective client change. Ms. Sanchez provides individual, family, and group therapy to students in Baltimore City Public Schools. She has been trained in Botvin’s Life Skills, Brief Intervention for School Clinicians (BRISC), and Trauma Focus Cognitive Behavioral therapy.

Joseph Santangelo

School Mental Health Counselor

Joseph Santangelo, LMSW, is a School Mental Health Counselor for the University of Maryland, School Mental Health Program (SMHP). Joseph graduated with his master’s degree from Morgan State University School of Social Work. He has worked in Baltimore communities for the past five years, helping connect families to affordable housing, training individuals to seek gainful employment, and advocating for those in crisis. Joseph was previously an intern with SMHP at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and is passionate about working in Baltimore City high schools. He provides individual, group and family therapy to students, and has been trained in Botvin LifeSkills and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  

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Kris Scardamalia

PhD, School Psychology
Core Faculty & Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Dr. Scardamalia has extensive experience working with high needs youth and their families as a school psychologist in both the public schools and juvenile services. Her research focuses on the intersection of the education, juvenile justice, and mental health systems and their contribution to the disproportionate number of minorities impacted by the school to prison pipeline. Dr. Scardamalia’s research addresses universal prevention and intervention through her work on the development of a classroom based, modularized social emotional learning curriculum and through her research on district-wide strategies to reduce exclusionary discipline practices.  

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Cindy Schaeffer

PhD, Child-Clinical Psychology
Core Faculty & Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Dr. Schaeffer's research focuses on developing, evaluating, and ensuring the successful real-world implementation of interventions for youth involved in, or at high risk of involvement in, the juvenile justice and child protective service (CPS) systems. She is particularly interested in family, school, and peer-based interventions that target issues such as school dropout and expulsion; deviant peer relationships; teen and parent substance abuse; low parenting skill; and family conflict / family violence. Dr. Schaeffer’s work has been highly influenced by Multisystemic Therapy (MST), an ecological, empirically-supported family-based intervention originally designed for juvenile offenders, and she has worked to adapt that model for new populations. She is also the developer of a linked parent-teen mobile phone app system, iKinnect, to improve parent-teen warmth and parental management of risky teen behavior.

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Erin Sisk

BS, Psychology, Sociology
Community Outreach Coordinator

Erin has been facilitating community outreach for the Prince George's School Mental Health Initiative since 2007. She has worked with both middle and high school students, helping them as they transition to high school and then onto post-secondary education and the workforce. Over the past decade, she has created and maintained an extensive resource directory that assists students and their families find the necessary resources to help them succeed.

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Rikki Spiegler

School Mental Health Senior Counselor

Rachel “Rikki” Spiegler is an LCSW-C and an ADHD Certified Clinical Services Provider. She received her Masters in Social Work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. For four years, Rikki worked in a non-public school providing individual, group, and family counseling services as well as social skills training to students ages 10-21 with diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, anxiety, depression, language processing challenges, and learning differences. In private practice, Rikki provided therapeutic services to children, adolescents, young adults, and their families. Rikki is currently working in Baltimore City Schools as a school-based clinician and is passionate about taking a supportive, strengths-based approach to providing comprehensive services to children and their families.

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Janai Springer

School Mental Health Counselor

Janai Springer completed her MSW program at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and is excited to contribute her skills and knowledge to providing mental health counseling for elementary school students in Baltimore City. After completing her social work internship at Furman Templeton Elementary School, and working with many other student populations, including special needs and ESOL students, she realized her passion for helping young learners thrive in all aspects of their lives. Ms. Springer is interested in pursuing her clinical license and making a lasting positive impact in the local community through providing mental health education and support to under-served children and families.

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Kathryn "Katie" Trainor

MS, Elementary and Middle School Education
Pre-doctoral Intern

Katie is a pre-doctoral intern at the Center and is a doctoral candidate in the school psychology program at the University of Florida. Katie has worked as a teacher and research clinician in Philadelphia, PA and obtained her Masters in Education from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her research and clinical interests focus on best practices for implementing integrative mental health programs within schools. She is particularly interested in teachers’ roles and experiences working with the social, emotional and behavioral needs of their students and how members within a system interact to promote healthy student outcomes.

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Courtney Vaughan

School Transition Specialist

Mrs. Vaughan began her career as a clinical social worker shortly after graduating from the University of Maryland School of Social Work in 2005. Her passion for working with families and children in Baltimore City started when she joined the University of Maryland School Mental Health Program, as she provided clinical services in Baltimore City Public Schools for a number of years. Mrs. Vaughan's desire for supporting families and working with schools continued as she transitioned to her current position as a School Transition Specialist with the University of Maryland's BFAST Program (Bringing Families & Schools Together). The purpose of this program is to support students, families, and school staff as a student returns to their school and community following a psychiatric hospitalization at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

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Christina Walker

MS, Human Services-Special Education
Budget Analyst

Christina has been with the Center for over 18 years and specializes in finances and conference coordination. Christina is involved in the management of both our local (SHIP) and annual (ASMH) conferences and provides a wealth of logistical support related to financing and Center operations.

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Kelly Willis

Associate Director, School Mental Health program

Mrs. Willis graduated with her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Social Work. It was during this time of her field placement with the University of Maryland School Mental Health Program (SMHP) that Mrs. Willis knew she wanted her career to be devoted to advancing children’s mental health in schools. Mrs. Willis began employment with SMHP in 2009 and currently has a dual role with the program as the Associate Director and Lead Counselor. Mrs. Willis’ specialty has focused on enhancing the training model focused on best practices and service delivery for licensed social workers and professional counselors, doctoral interns, psychiatry fellows, and trainees at the graduate level. Mrs. Willis also provides a variety of services including evidenced based interventions to promote social, emotional, behavioral, and academic success for students in a Baltimore City public school.

Brandy Wimbish headshot

Brandy Wimbish

School Mental Health Senior Counselor,

Hi, my name is Brandy Wimbish. I am a Maryland licensed clinical social worker with nearly 15 years of experience. I graduated from Regis University with a degree in Applied Psychology (Children & Family Violence). Afterwards, I earned my Master of Social Work (Families & Trauma) degree from the University of Denver. I completed my clinical internship at the Department of Veteran Affairs. My experience includes counseling, therapy, and clinical supervision in programs serving children, adolescents, families, veterans, the homeless, and individuals struggling with addiction, complex trauma, and mental illness. In 2009, my family relocated to Maryland and I joined the National Center for School Mental Health where I have been able to advocate, celebrate and be a champion for the children, families and surrounding communities.

Ashley Woods headshot

Ashley Woods

School Mental Health Senior Counselor

Ashley Woods is a Senior Clinician for the University of Maryland, School Mental Health Program (SMHP). Ms. Woods has been working in under the Expanded School Mental Health Program for 8 years and has taken a special interest in working in Baltimore City high schools. She has been trained and certified in Botvin’s Life Schools, Brief Intervention for School Clinicians (BRISC), and Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA). Ms. Woods has a strong interest in supporting and developing the field of Social Work by training multiple Masters level students, as well as being a resource to colleagues.

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Jordy Yarnell

PhD, Counseling Psychology and School Psychology
Postdoctoral Fellow

Jordy’s work is driven by his belief that our successes are best defined by the actions we take to foster growth in others. Jordy has served youth by providing therapy, consultation, and psychological assessment in a variety of settings, including Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Duke TIP’s summer program, Yale Child Study Center’s Academic Skills Clinic, and in public schools of Northwest Florida and Houston, Texas. Jordy has consulted with schools to improve social-emotional skills, mental health literacy, and suicide prevention efforts in their learning communities. He has contributed to university and state-wide program development committees targeting mental health and social justice. Jordy currently serves elementary and middle school students by providing direct, school-based clinical care in Baltimore City Schools. His research interests involve the impact of resilience and social emotional strengths on student success.

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Marie Yuille

Clinical Research Specialist

Marie Yuille graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology in 2015 from UMBC. Before joining the NCSMH, she worked at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center for 3.5 years as a Clinical Research Assistant, and assisted with various intensive studies that focused on cognitive remediation in patients with schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia. Her duties included study recruitment, facilitation, and data management assistance. She joins the Center as a Clinical Research Specialist for the State Opioid Response (SOR) beginning in 2019.