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Our Team


Sharon Hoover, PhD

Sharon Hoover, Ph.D.

Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

Sharon A. Hoover, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and an 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). 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 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, and Ukraine. 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. 


Nancy Lever, Ph.D.

Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

Dr. Lever has over 20 years of experience providing and leading school mental health services and programming efforts at the local, state, and national levels. She serves as the Executive Director of the University of Maryland School Mental Health Program, a long-standing and exemplar community-partnered school mental health program in Baltimore City. In her role as the Co-Director of the Center for School Mental Health, she is working at local, state, and national levels to advance research, training, policy, and practice in school behavioral health. In particular, she has worked with schools, districts and states to focus on building multi-tiered systems of behavioral health supports that have family-school-community partnerships as a foundation. She has extensive experience and leadership in advancing high quality and sustainable school mental health services and programming including serving as a leader for the National Quality Initiative on School Based Health Services.


Tiffany Beason

Tiffany Beason, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D., Clinical-Community Psychology

Dr. Beason’s research interests relate to strengths-based approaches to supporting psychological adjustment, academic achievement, and positive identity formation among youth. Dr. Beason seeks to understand factors that promote achievement and wellness to inform school and community-based programming for underserved youth and families. She currently serves as a school-based therapist in a Title I Baltimore City School, where she provides both evidence-based treatments for families and children with emotional and behavioral difficulties as well as services to promote wellness for all students. In her role at the National Center for School Mental Health, Dr. Beason primarily provides research and program evaluation support to the Prince George’s School Mental Health Initiative and the Promoting School Safety project.

Yourdanos Bekele

Yourdanos Bekele, B.A.

Clinical Research Assistant
B.A., Psychology, Biology

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.


Larraine Bernstein, M.S.

Policy Analyst
M.S. Community Health Education, Health Administration

Ms. Bernstein is a Policy Analyst and has worked more than 25 years coordinating efforts across agencies at the local and state levels to improve child and adolescent 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 operations of grant programs focused on suicide prevention in youth and young adults (MD-SPIN), treatment for adolescents and young adults with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders (MD-BHAY), and education and outreach concerning early intervention for psychosis (MD EIP).


Jill Haak Bohnenkamp, Ph.D.

Core Faculty
Ph.D., Clinical and School Psychology

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.


Taneisha Carter, B.A.

Clinical Research Assistant
B.A., Psychology

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.


Elizabeth Connors, Ph.D.

Core Faculty
Ph.D., Clinical and Community Psychology

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.



Jennifer Cox, LCSW-C

Program 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.


Dana Cunningham, Ph.D.

NCSMH Faculty Consultant
Director of the Prince George's School Mental Health Initiative
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

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.

Ellie Davis

Ellie Davis, LCSW-C

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 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.

Roshni Davis, B.A.

Clinical Research Assistant
B.A., Health Administration & Public Policy

Roshni graduated with a B.A. in Health Administration and Policy Program with a concentration in Public Health in 2017 from UMBC. Before joining the NCSMH, she worked at as a Research Associate for the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. Her duties included study recruitment, administering patient interviews, and data entry. In 2017, she held a position at University of Maryland Medical Center as a Research Intern, conducting research to develop psychiatry advances in treatment for severe cases of depression through a device study. She joins the Center as a Research Assistant for the State Opioid Response (SOR) program.


Melissa Grady Ambrose, LCSW-C

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.

Christina Huntley

Christina Huntley, M.S.

Budget Analyst
M.S., Human Services with Special Education concentration

Christina has been with the Center for over 17 years and specializes in finances and conference coordination. Christina is involved in the management of both our local (SHIP) and annual conferences and provides a wealth of logistical support related to financing and Center operations.


Sylvia McCree-Huntley, Ed.D.

Director, Professional Development & Continuing Education
Ed.D., Counseling Psychology
Sylvia McCree-Huntley CV

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.



Shawn Orenstein, M.P.H.

Research Project Coordinator
M.P.H., Prevention and Community Health

At the Center, Shawn primarily works on the National Quality Initiative on School Based Health Services project. Shawn also provides support to the Maryland Student Assistance Program, which trains school staff on how to identify students with substance use disorders and refer them to appropriate treatment. She is particularly interested in how state and national policies affect quality and growth of school-based health services.


Brittany Parham, Ph.D.

Core Faculty
Ph.D., School/Counseling Psychology

Dr. Parham’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.


Megan Prass, B.S.

Clinical Research Assistant
B.S., Psychology

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.


Joanna Prout, Ph.D.

Clinical Research Manager
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

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.

Elissa Robinson, B.A.

Clinical Research Assistant
B.A., Sociology

Elissa graduated in 2016 with a B.A. in Sociology and minors in Psychology and Family Studies. Also a licensed massage therapist, she is interested in studying health and well-being, specifically the connections between psychological and physical health. She joined the NCSMH in 2019 as a Clinical Research Assistant on the evaluation team for the State Opioid Response (SOR) project.


Perrin Robinson, M.S.

Clinical Research Specialist
M.S., Clinical Psychology

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. Perrin is interested in sexual and gender minority issues, and currently serves on the evaluation teams for Maryland Healthy Transitions and Kaiser Permanente Resilience In School Environments.

Natasha Link

Natasha Robinson-Link, M.A.

Graduate Research Assistant
Ph.D. student, Clinical-Community Psychology

Tasha is a clinical-community psychology doctoral student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. At the Center for School Mental Health, Tasha works as a graduate research assistant on the Maryland Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention (MD-SPIN) project. She is interested in the development, dissemination, and evaluation of school-based mental health interventions.


Kris Scardamalia, Ph.D.

Core Faculty
Ph.D., School Psychology

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.  


Cindy Schaeffer, Ph.D.

Core Faculty
Ph.D., Child-Clinical Psychology

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. Dr. Schaeffer’s focus is on effectively addressing the many complex clinical and psychosocial problems facing youth involved in these systems and their families, including: criminal offending; school dropout and expulsion; substance abuse; physical and emotional abuse; trauma symptomology; ineffective parenting; family conflict and family violence, including child witnessing of intimate partner violence; low social support; and deviant peer relationships. Dr. Schaeffer’s work has been highly influenced by Multisystemic Therapy (MST), an ecological, empirically-supported family-based intervention originally designed for juvenile offenders.


Rebecca Vivrette, Ph.D.

Core Faculty
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

Dr. Vivrette is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in psychological assessment and trauma-focused interventions for children and families. She has been trained in numerous evidence-based practices, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Child-Parent Psychotherapy. Dr. Vivrette has extensive experience providing education, training, consultation, and mental health services to community-based agencies and early childcare settings. Dr. Vivrette also has a strong interest in perinatal traumatic stress and substance use.


Kelly Willis, LCSW-C

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.

Marie Yuille, B.A.

Clinical Research Specialist
B.A., Psychology, Sociology

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.