New Orleans Mental Health Collaborative


The New Orleans Mental Health Collaborative (MHC) was created to identify and fill gaps in mental health care in the city. The initiative was launched during a special City Council session on mental and behavioral health convened by New Orleans City Councilmember Joe Giarrusso on Sept. 15, 2022.  



Between the COVID-19 pandemic, major natural disasters, economic insecurity, and pervasive community violence, it’s no surprise that the mental health crisis in New Orleans has only worsened in recent years.  


Our city’s expert mental health providers have worked tirelessly to support as many residents as possible and improve outcomes. And the New Orleans Community Health Improvement Plan, New Orleans Youth Master Plan, and other research outline needs and strategies to improve behavioral health outcomes city-wide. But to create systemic change, we need alignment and funding. 


The MHC is a group of health care providers, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and businesses committed to addressing the mental and behavioral health crisis for children, youth, and adults in New Orleans. United Way of Southeast Louisiana is serving as the backbone organization for the collaborative to guide partners, source funding, develop shared goals and strategies, and drive policy change. 


Steering Committee 

Co-Chair: Joseph I. Giarrusso III, New Orleans City Councilmember 

Co-Chair: Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham, Executive and Medical Director, Metropolitan Human Services District 

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, New Orleans Health Department

Lisa Gentry, LMSW, MPH, Ochsner Health

Dr. Darvelle Hutchins, New Orleans Saints & New Orleans Pelicans

Dr. Julie Kaplow, Trauma & Grief Center

Dr. Brandi Kelly, Louisiana Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities

David Kulick, MPH, The Focus Group

Ron McClain, LCSW, JD, Institute of Mental Hygiene

Kristian Mollow, New Orleans East Hospital

Dr. Myo Thwin Myint, Tulane University School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital New Orleans Behavioral Health, and Crescent Care

Mayra Pineda, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana

Dr. Torin T. Sanders, LCSW, The Sixth Baptist Church and Southern University at New Orleans

Dr. Denese Shervington, MPH, Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies

Dr. Avis Williams, NOLA Public Schools

Michael Williamson, United Way of Southeast Louisiana



Mary Ambrose, United Way of Southeast Louisiana

Christopher Belser, University of New Orleans

Amy Bosworth, OHL

Lucy Cordts, CrescentCare

Sherrard Crespo, VIA LINK

Charlotte Cunliffe, Children's Bureau of New Orleans

Madeline Davet, NOHSEP/NOLA Ready

Ayame Dinkler, LCMC Health

LaVondra Dobbs, VIA LINK

Karen Evans, New Orleans Children and Youth Planning Board (CYPB)

Elizabeth Garland, Start Corporation

Daniela Gilbert, Vera Institute of Justice

Meghan Goldbeck

Judge Calvin Johnson

Kelli Jordan

Melisse Meza, United Way of Southeast Louisiana

Amanda Schroeder, Communities In Schools of the Gulf South

Victoria Schwandt, VIA LINK

Gyl Switzer, NAMI

Gordon Wadge, YMCA of Greater New Orleans

Liz Marcell Williams

Priscilla Williams, Goodwill Industries of SELA


Join & Donate

Please email Melisse Meza, United Way SELA VP of Health and Fund Distribution at for information on joining and/or donating to the MHC. 


The Facts  

Mental health issues and lack of access to care affect New Orleans residents of all ages. 

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children ages 10-14 in our area. (New Orleans Health Department
  • The city’s leading federally qualified health center has nine-month waits for individual therapy and six-week waits for psychiatric care. (
  • New Orleans is considered a mental “health provider shortage area (HPSA)” due to the fact that there are one or fewer mental health providers for every 30,000 people. (Louisiana Department of Health)  
  • 85% of New Orleans Public Schools reported that over 25% of their students have behavioral health needs, and 62% reported that they do not have resources to meet these needs. (Safe Schools NOLA)  
  • An estimated 23,000 adults in New Orleans had a major depressive episode in the past year. (New Orleans Health Department