New Orleans Mental Health Collaborative



New Orleanians have equitable access to a robust, well-coordinated mental health system of high-quality care.



Between major natural disasters, economic insecurity, pervasive community violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. The New Orleans Community Health Improvement Plan, New Orleans Youth Master Plan, and other research outline needs and strategies to improve behavioral health outcomes citywide.



Next Steps 

The Mental Health Collaborative (MCH), founded in 2023, is a group of healthcare 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 the backbone of the collaborative, helping to guide partners, source funding, develop shared goals and strategies, and drive policy change. 

MHC works to identify and fill gaps in mental health care in the city, with an overarching goal of coordinated care. As part of its ongoing work to identify mental health needs in the community, the collaborative is dedicated to involving the community in its work, recognizing that communities are best suited to identify the most pressing needs in their neighborhood, revealing trends and treatment populations in advance of other reporting bodies. 



Join & Donate

To join the collaborative, click here to sign up.  You will also be added to our quarterly newsletter.

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



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 City of New Orleans, Health Director

Ms. Jessica Diedling, MPH, PMP Ochsner Health, Associate Program Manager, Community Benefit

Ms. Lisa Gentry, LMSW, MPH Ochsner Health, AVP – Behavioral Health Service Line

Dr.  Darvelle Hutchins New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, VP Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion 

Dr.  Julie Kaplow Trauma and Grief Center, Executive Director

Dr. Brandi Kelly, PhD Louisiana OCDD, Clinical Director

Mr. David Kulick, MPH The Focus Group, Managing Director

Ms.  Angela Lockley Institute for Women and Ethical Studies, Sr. Program Manager of Community Engagement

Mr. Ron McClain, LCSW, JD Institute of Mental Hygiene, Executive Director

Ms. Kristian Mollow Beacon Behavioral

Ms. Mary Ambrose, LMSW United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Chief Equity and Impact Officer

Ms. Mayra E. Pineda Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, President and CEO

Mr. Michael Williamson United Way of Southeast Louisiana, President and CEO

Dr. Myo Thwin Myint Program Director of Fellowship/Residency Training, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (CAP) & Triple Board (Peds/Psych/CAP) Programs

Dr. Torin T. Sanders, LCSW Sixth Baptist Church, Pastor and Southern University at New Orleans, Associate Professor of Social Work

Dr. Denese Shervington, MPH Institute for Women and Ethical Studies, Founder & CEO and Tulane School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Professor

Dr.  Avis Williams NOLA Students, Superintendent




September 2022
Initial Presentation to New Orleans City Council | MHC created | MHC Co-Chairs secured

October 2022
First membership meeting | Submitted app for SAMHSA ReCAST grant for mental health first aid

November 2022
MHC Steering Committee recruitment begins

December 2022
Awarded SAMHSA grant for $1.9 million

January 2023
First steering committee meeting

February 2023
Steering committee identifies MHC focus areas

March 2023
First SAMHSA ReCAST grant partner meeting

April 2023
Presentation to city council

May 2023
MHC and Behavioral Health Collaborative coordination discussion

June 2023
Contracts completed for ReCAST grant partners | Service delivery begins on grant

July 2023
Project director of SAMHSA ReCast grant meets with all partners 

August 2023
MHC strategic planning discussion – Confirmed focus priority

September 2023
MHC vision statement confirmed 

October 2023
Comprehensive community needs assessment completed