Dave Neilsen, joined Team CMHACY in 1985 as a graduate student in Social Work. His career allowed him to settle into the California Departments of Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Programs and Health Care Services. Prior to grad school, Dave worked in a variety of community based services including group homes, juvenile justice settings and rural substance use disorder inpatient and outpatient services. Dave has been fortunate to see many initiatives come on to the California’s behavioral health landscapes, and looks forward to serving on the CMHACY Board in the years ahead.
Dr. Steven Elson has been the chief executive officer of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families since 1994. Prior to coming to Casa Pacifica, Dr. Elson served as executive director of The Sycamores in Pasadena, California. Under his leadership, Casa Pacifica has grown dramatically and now serves more than 4,500 children and their families each year through 17 programs in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Steve has encouraged innovation and excellence in all programs and Casa Pacifica has received state and national recognition. Steve received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Michigan State University. He has been active in public policy efforts benefiting children in foster care and other public service systems. He has served on the CMHACY Board for over two decades including President of the Board and is the current treasurer. Steve has also served as President of the following national and state organizations: California Coalition for Mental Health, California Council of Community Behavioral Heath Agencies, California Alliance of Child & Family Services, and the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers.
Dr. Laura Heintz, Stanford Youth Solutions + Sierra Forever Families’ CEO, is a nonprofit executive with over 25 years of experience in the mental health and social services field. Throughout her career, she has worked tirelessly to help organizations to effectively serve children and families with a focus on family centered practice where youth and caregiver voices are central to the plan development and treatment. While focused on growth, results matter, thus Dr. Heintz provides technical support to organizations nationwide to develop outcome driven cultures. She received a Sacramento Business Journal’s 2019 Women Who Mean Business award for her leadership, entrepreneurship, perseverance, passion and commitment to the community.
With a M.S. in Education, Marty Giffin, Ph.D., taught school from 1972 thought 1977. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1982 and holds an active license in the State of California as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Giffin has worked in the mental health field for over thirty-five years. Over these years, he has served in the role of clinician, supervisor, administrator, and executive administrator. Marty is the board president for both the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY), and for the Family and Youth Round Table (FYRT). For five years Marty worked for the Federal Government (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – SAMHSA) as the Principal Investigator over a large five year grant that advanced the Children’s System of Care in Five Different California counties. Since the mid-eighties, Marty has been a leader at the county, state, and federal levels in the development of the Children’s System of Care. Currently, Marty serves as the Senior Vice President of Southern California Operations for Anka Behavioral Health. Marty is also the parent of a special needs young adult.
Melissa Jacobs is a Division Manager for Sacramento County Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health. She oversees County and Contracted services provided to children and families within the Sacramento County Mental Health Plan. She also oversees the work of the Mental Health Access Team. Melissa has over 28 years of experience in the mental health and social services field serving a diverse population of children, youth, adults and their families. In addition to her County service, Ms. Jacobs has worked in non-profit community based organizations in Sacramento and Yolo County and was a CalWORKs Welfare to Work Coordinator within the California Community College system.
Rich Weisgal, MA, LMFT, has 40 years of experience as an administrator, manager, supervisor, clinician and consultant. He currently serves as the Senior Advisor at Youth Homes, Inc., which provides behavioral health and social services to children, youth and families. As a consultant with the Child and Family Policy Institute of California, he has facilitated State work groups on psychotropic medication and adoption competency. He has provided technical assistance nationally to jurisdictions implementing the Children’s Mental Health Initiative (SAMHSA) and consults at the county level regarding Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). He has three young-adult children and four grandchildren.
Tanya McCullom is a Program Specialist for the Office of Family Empowerment at Alameda County Behavioral Health Care. She has been working in children’s public behavioral health for over 15 years as a family member. She has worked across the children’s system of care from early childhood to transition-aged youth. Prior to joining the Office of Family Empowerment, Tanya worked for a non-profit, family-run organization as a Family Partner and later the Program Director of the Family Partnership Program in Alameda County. Tanya, along with the Office of Family Empowerment, provide technical assistance to parent/caregivers, providers and other community members on working together in the best interest of children and youth. As one of the newest members of the CMHACY Board, she is looking forward to continuing to speak up on behalf of parents, caregivers, children and youth across the state.
Marni R. Sandoval, Psy. D. is a licensed psychologist and the Deputy Director of Child & Adolescent Services for Monterey County Behavioral Health. Over the past 19 years she has developed, implemented, and managed programs within the Monterey County Behavioral Health system of care. In her current capacity, Dr. Sandoval provides oversight and management for the vast array of child & adolescent mental health programs provided through Monterey County Behavioral Health. She is committed to integrating a trauma-informed approach to community mental health services for children, youth, and families.
Dr. Sandoval has served as the Training Director since 2007 for the Doctoral Psychology Training Program in Monterey County Behavioral Health. As training director she provides administrative, fiscal, and clinical oversight to the agency training program, staff, and students. The program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and is an active member in the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC).
Rene Lozano is a parent of a child with special needs and has received several different mental health services for her family. Rene’s family successfully completed and graduated from Wraparound services with the collaboration of probation juvenile judicial services. Rene has worked for both System of Care and Wraparound as a Parent Partner & Child Family Specialist. She has also served as liaison for the Permanency program working with group homes, foster care, adoptive services, transitional youth services and IFCCS. Rene’s expertise in working with a diverse community led to a recruitment by the LGBTQ Los Angeles Agency as a Family Partner for their pilot program, R.I.S.E (Recognize Intervene Support & Empower).
Rene currently works for the Department Of Mental health Wraparound Administration Child Welfare Division, where she co-creates and facilitates the mandated Wraparound trainings. Rene facilitates the Parent Partner Academy for Los Angeles County.
Hathaway-Sycamores President & CEO Debra Manners has dedicated her career to improving the lives of children and families in our community. A licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Manners received a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Washington. Her first professional job, working in a children’s shelter, shaped her commitment to understanding and treating both the immediate and lifelong effects of childhood trauma. She joined Hathaway-Sycamores in 1987 and has served as President & CEO since 2015. Dedicated to innovative solutions, she has been key to the development of new programs at Hathaway-Sycamores that have become the industry standard. She serves on statewide and national boards focusing on behavioral health and child well-being public policy. Through her collaboration with other public, private, and governmental agencies her impact extends far beyond those served by Hathaway-Sycamores.
Christine Stoner-Mertz, LCSW, is the CEO of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, a 143 member association that serves as the collective voice for organizations that serve children, youth and families throughout California. The Alliance provides public policy advocacy, executive support, policy expertise and collegial support for members’ chief executives and senior staff, as well as advocating on behalf of children and families served through California’s public systems.
Ms. Stoner-Mertz served as President and CEO of Lincoln, an agency delivering a range of community-based behavioral health services in the San Francisco Bay area. She led the organization through a transformational period, moving from a residentially based services focus to designing an array of culturally responsive community and school-based services for children and youth ages 0-21. Her deep commitment to equity is reflected in the transformation of services at Lincoln.
A licensed clinical social worker in California, Ms. Stoner-Mertz received her MSW from the University of Michigan and began her career in California in 1985, as co-founder of Seneca Family of Agencies, where she was instrumental in the development of programs and oversight of operations for 15 years. In, 1999, she founded inFocus Consulting and Development, LLC and provided consultation to over 50 private behavioral healthcare providers as well as the California State Department of Mental Health, various county departments of mental health and social services, and to school districts. As a sought after expert on MediCal EPSDT program design and implementation, Ms. Stoner-Mertz developed one of the first Medi-Cal Specialty Mental Health Services Manuals.
Ms. Stoner-Mertz has served on the boards of directors of the California Alliance, the California Council of Behavioral Health Agencies, the National Council of Behavioral Health Organizations, and has been the recipient of numerous service and leadership awards during her career, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service.
Monica Nepomuceno is an Education Programs Consultant at the California Department of Education (CDE). Monica oversees the Mental Health Services Program, co-chairs the Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup (SMHPW), is the Project Cal-Well Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Coordinator and a YMHFA Instructor. She represents the voice of K-12 students on several committees, including the California Behavioral Health Planning Council (CBHPC) and the California Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY).
Monica is passionate about creating a better public understanding of the mental health needs of California K-12 students. She is committed to helping schools and districts build capacity to support student-centered mental health programs. She understands firsthand the effects that an undiagnosed and untreated mental health issue can have on a person’s life. Her experience has helped her advocate for students’ diverse needs and the ability for youth-serving adults to intervene timely, respectful, and culturally appropriate manner.
Monica is most proud of her ability to build relationships with local, state, and national partners to increase awareness of and supports for student mental health. Her role at the CDE helps foster connections and leverage resources to engage non-traditional partners with schools and students.