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Maria Contreras, Training Coordinator, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health
Maria Contreras, M.A., has been a public servant with Los Angeles County for almost 20 years and in her current role with the Department of Mental Health for the past 7 years. As the primary Training Coordinator organizing and hosting CBT trainings, Ms. Contreras’ work has resulted in approximately 2,000 clinicians trained in providing quality mental health treatment across Los Angeles County. She acts as the administrative ambassador for the practice, problem solving countless logical challenges such as waning leadership support, technology adoption, procurement, and scheduling. Ms. Contreras lives in the San Gabriel Valley with her husband and two sons.
Beth Cooney, Mercy Family Center
Beth Cooney, LCSW-BACS, has had a remarkable impact on trauma-exposed youth in New Orleans area schools through her passion and dedication to improve access to evidence-based psychological treatment. Over the last 15 years, her work has been centered around providing treatment, training, and clinical supervision to improve mental health care in schools. Through her collaboration with sites in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, she has created and developed innovative programming in schools with a focus on multiple evidence-based grief and trauma interventions and secondary traumatic stress.
Laura Danna, Mercy Family Center
Laura Danna, LCSW, has served as Director of Project Fleur-de-lis and Clinician at Mercy Family Center in New Orleans, LA. She is a certified trainer in Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) and provides training/consultation both locally and nationally. She has worked closely with the developers of this model and other evidence-based interventions to ensure fidelity and to promote effective assessment and implementation in a variety of schools. She has been a tireless advocate for the use of evidence-based trauma treatments to improve the quality of mental health services in schools for almost 15 years.
Christopher McMahon, CEO and Co-Founder of Passages Hospice; Co-Founder and Chairman of Longbranch Healthcare
Christopher McMahon struggled with addiction for a decade before finding recovery more than 21 years ago. In that time, he has founded two healthcare organizations that employ over 250 people who all work in service to provide evidence-based care to clients. Passages Hospice was founded in 2009 and Longbranch Healthcare, a network of substance-use disorder programs, was founded in 2017. Both companies were born out of a belief that our region deserved a higher standard of care than what was currently available. He has received numerous accolades for his efforts to innovate healthcare services in Louisiana.
Lesley A. Slavin, Chief Psychologist at the Hawaii State Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division
Dr. Slavin, Ph.D., Chief Psychologist, Hawaii State Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division (CAMHD), retired in August from her leadership role at CAMHD where she worked for 18 years supervising the division’s psychologists, training providers, developing policy, and promoting evidence-based practice and measurement-based care. Dr. Slavin’s work emphasized fostering interagency cooperation, including working with Child Welfare to develop a new jointly funded Residential Crisis Stabilization Program, and working with two other state departments to establish a new predoctoral psychology internship consortium. Dr. Slavin’s interest in trauma has informed much of her work, including a successful effort to minimize the use of seclusion and restraint in the system, and developing a model of gender-responsive care for girl’s exposed to trauma.
Glenace Edwall, Ph.D., Psy.D., M.P.P., Director of Children’s Mental Health, Minnesota Department of Human Services (retired)
Dr. Edwall has worked tirelessly to evolve the division of Children’s Mental Health toward an expanded role in the healthcare system, through the introduction of evidence-based treatment and related quality initiatives. Dr. Edwall was instrumental in implementing an expansion of Medicaid benefits through new programing and championed a vision of available research-informed interventions for all children needing them.
T. Lindsey Burrell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Clinician and Supervisor, Feeding Program at the Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Dr. Burrell provides clinical treatment to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, including supervision and mentorship of trainees. She trains and supervises practicum students and interns in evidence-based interventions and actively works to improve existing interventions. For example, she is working on enhancing a feeding treatment for children with developmental and other disabilities. Her work includes revising protocols and developing a phone-based app and website to make the treatment easier to disseminate and more palatable for parents. She is involved in numerous projects to promote innovation and increase the impact of family-based interventions.
Lanalle Darden, MS.Ed., LMSW, Children, Adolescents and Families (CAF) Services Director, Santee-Wateree Community Mental Health Center
Ms. Darden has spearheaded a number of evidence-based practice initiatives at the Santee-Wateree Community Mental Health Center. Ms. Darden has a demonstrated history of advocacy and support, as well as active engagement with prominent researchers. She has gone above and beyond agreed-upon research involvement to problem solve implementation challenges, participate in trainings, use evidence generated from research to inform her decision making around changes in her own clinic. Her influence on providers and supervisors is clear in the caliber of their work, and their capacity to both adopt and implement new evidence-based practices.
Patricia Nygaard, Ph.D., Immediate Past Quality & Performance Manger, Children’s Mental Health, Minnesota Department of Human Services
Dr. Nygaard has served the Minnesota Department of Human Services in various roles for more than 15 years. During this time she has promoted the implementation of multiple evidence-based services across diverse levels of care ranging from school-based settings to residential services. She has been a strong and enduring advocate of measurement-based care and the use of evidence to improve the quality of children’s mental health service.
Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., Director of NIMH
Dr. Gordon’s own neuroscience research focuses on neural analysis and directly translates to furthering our understanding of schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety disorders. He also oversees a research portfolio at NIMH that seeks to promote preventions, recovery, and cure of mental health disorders.
David Chambers, DPhil, Deputy Director for Implementation Science, Office of the Director in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Dr. Chambers has been an integral part of advancing the field of implementation science by fostering dissemination and implementation research within the NIH portfolio, funding opportunity announcements, training programs, research activities, dissemination platforms, and enhancement of partnerships and networks to integrate research, practice and policy. He has also published several seminal papers advancing the field of implementation science to enhance translation of research to practice.
Arthur Evans, Jr., Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President
Dr. Evans served as the commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Service for 12 years. In this role, he served as a champion of implementation and dissemination of evidence-based psychotherapies throughout the city of Philadelphia and improved health outcomes and increased the efficiency of the Philadelphia system.
Rep. Joseph Kennedy, III, J.D. (D, MA)
Congressman Kennedy has a record of working towards bipartisan, comprehensive mental health reform. He has been an advocate for systemic reform of the mental health system, proposing the Fair Care for Kids Act to facilitate mental health treatment for children on Medicaid (signed into law in 2016), and introducing the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act of 2015, to hold insurers accountable for providing adequate mental health benefits and increase transparency for consumers.
Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby, M.D., Director, Division of Translational Research NIMH
Dr. Lisanby is one of the leading researchers in the area of neuromodulatory interventions for treating major depression. She has been an outstanding mentor to numerous investigators and as Director for the Division of Translational Research at NIMH, Dr. Lisanby has a major impact on the national research approach to mental illness.
Denise (Denny) Pintello, Ph.D., Chief of the Child and Adolescent Research Program, NIMH
Dr. Pintello previously oversaw the implementation of innovative scientific initiatives and special research dissemination projects, and currently supports implementation science research efforts within the NIMH portfolio. Prior to her time at NIH, she worked as a social worker and focused on child welfare, mental health, and substance abuse.
Jonathan Purtle, DrPH and MPH, Assistant Professor, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University
Dr. Purtle is a leader in the field of dissemination research, and has developed strategies to effectively disseminate mental health evidence to state policymakers, as well as identifying ways to reduce health inequities in US cities.
Joel Sherrill, Chief of the Psychosocial Treatment Research Program at the NIMH, Director of the Division of Services and Intervention Research at NIMH
Dr. Sherrill works to advance psychological research by identifying research priorities within intervention and services research. He regularly attends ABCT and consistently advises clinical researchers and supports investigator-initiated projects with targeted initiatives directed at specific populations or clinical practice questions to advance research on enhancing mental health care.
Pia Escudero, Director of the Los Angeles Unified School District School Mental Health
Ms. Escudero oversees more than 300 professionals (psychiatric social workers, psychiatrists, and clinical psychologists) and provides local and national leadership to assist in the development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of trauma-informed and trauma-specific services for children and families in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Mental Health. Ms. Escudero has also participated in the development of the California Mental Health Services Act and represented LAUSD, students, and school stakeholders in several local and state workgroups. She has also served as a champion for evidence-based mental health treatments in routine care in the Los Angeles community.
Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., Directors, RDoC Unit, National Institute of Mental Health
Dr. Cuthbert previously served as the Chief of NIMH’s Adult Psychopathology and Prevention Research branch, as the Director of the Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development, and the acting director of NIMH. He has also spearheaded the Research Domain Criteria project (RDoC) which has had a major impact on the national research agenda. The primary goal of RDoC is to gain a better understanding of mental disorders by providing a new classification system that incorporates many levels of information (from genomics to self-report).
Beverly Pringle, Ph.D., Chief of the Global Mental Health Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health
Dr. Pringle oversees scientific leadership for the institute’s global research activities, monitors NIMH’s international grants and activities, and provides consultation to the global mental health research community. Her work has supported expansion of mental health services to the global community.
David I. Sommers, Ph.D., ABPP, Scientific Review Officer, National Institute of Mental Health
Dr. Sommers has been a tireless champion for interventions research as a Scientific Review Officer for NIMH for more than 18 years. He is deeply committed to facilitating the development, testing, and dissemination of evidence-based psychosocial interventions, thereby serving an instrumental role in improving mental health outcomes. Dr. Sommers is also a practicing clinical psychologist, delivering evidence-based care to those with mood and anxiety disorders.
Kim Griffin Esperon, LCSW, Field Coordinator, Los Angeles Unified School District’s School Mental Health Department
Ms. Griffin Esperon provides administrative oversight to the LA Unified School District’s 15 mental health clinics and wellness centers, playing a critical role in strategic and operational management of implementation quality of student mental health services. Her 20 years of collaboration, leadership, and service have led to successful and efficient implementation of evidence-based interventions, affecting tens of thousands of students’ lives in one of the largest school districts in the country.
Mark Chavez, Ph.D., Division of Translational Research, NIMH
For nearly two decades, Dr. Chavez has been committed to the training and career development of clinician-scientists at the graduate, postgraduate, and early-career levels at the National Institute of Mental Health. Through his diverse portfolio, he has played an integral role in the research funding, promotion, and success of many of the emerging leaders in psychology and psychiatry in the country. In addition, he conducts an intramural program of research on the etiology, core features, longitudinal course, and assessment of eating disorders.
ABCT’s Champions of Evidence-Based Psychological Interventions
This award recognizes outstanding individuals who have shown exceptional dedication, influence, and social impact through the promotion of evidence-based psychological interventions, and who have thereby advanced the mission of ABCT. Importantly, the goal of the award is to identify individuals who translate the impact of research into community health and well-being beyond the scope of typical research and clinical job requirements. Nominations of state, city, and local community leaders and partners are strongly encouraged. Champions may not be members of ABCT at the time of their nomination.
Nominees should demonstrate the characteristics of champions, broadly construed, as recognized in the implementation science literature (see Knudsen, Gutner, & Chorpita, 2019, for examples relevant to ABCT: http://www.abct.org/docs/PastIssue/42n1.pdf). Champions are those individuals who support, facilitate, diffuse or implement the core assets of evidence-based interventions. Champions’ efforts expand the scope and impact of evidence-based interventions beyond the reach of researchers alone. They are “change agents”: they differentiate themselves from others by their visionary quality, enthusiasm, and willingness to risk their reputation for change. Ideal candidates should have demonstrated the following: (1) How the individual has recognized the potential application and impact of evidence-based psychological interventions; (2) How the individual has gone beyond their formal job requirements within an organization to relentlessly promote innovation; and (3) How they actively lead positive social change.
Nominees will be reviewed in June and October by the Dissemination and Implementation and Stakeholder Engagement Committee (DISEC), and those meeting criteria will be forwarded to the ABCT Board of Directors for approval. Recipients will be notified by the ABCT President, and their names and photographs will be posted on the ABCT website, along with the rationale for their recognition. Each year’s champions will also be acknowledged at our annual awards ceremony at the ABCT Convention.
How to Nominate
Email your nomination to [email protected] (link to nomination form is below). Be sure to include “Champions Nomination” in the subject line. Once a nomination is received, an email will be sent from staff, copying the DISEC Chair. The nomination will be reviewed by DISEC, and if deemed appropriate for our program, will be forwarded to the ABCT Board of Directors for final approval. Once reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors, the nominee will be contacted directly by the President, followed up with an ABCT staff member for a final review of the copy to be posted on the ABCT website.
Knudsen, K., Gutner, C., & Chorpita, B. F. (2019). Recognizing champions: Increasing the scope and impact of evidence-based therapies. the Behavior Therapist, 42, 4-8.