State Leaders Honor Behavioral Health Professionals for Addressing Critical Needs Amid Mental Health Crisis

Richmond, VA – November 9, 2022

The Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) welcomed state leaders to mark its 30 years of service to uninsured and medically underserved Virginians and to honor behavioral health organizations and professionals across the Commonwealth for their expertise, success, and dedication to bring critical services to Virginians amidst a state-wide mental health shortage.

“The already high demand for services has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and related stressors and the professionals who have been stepping up to meet the need deserve to be celebrated,” says Deborah Oswalt, VHCF’s Executive Director. “Mental health is every bit as critical as medical and pharmaceutical services for the quality of life for adults and children alike. These awardees are champions for us all.”

During the Cheers for Champions event, VHCF presented highlights of the work accomplished throughout the state to address the great demand for and shortage of mental health services; its Medicaid enrollment results; and the quantity and value of its prescription assistance initiatives. To help shine a light on the champions, a powerful line up of presenters joined in to elevate their work including Virginia Governor Glenn A. Youngkin, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources John E. Littel, Virginia Senators Jennifer L. McClellan and George L. Barker, Delegate M. Keith Hodges, and VHCF Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher M. Carney.

The lineup of “Champions” included: 

Virginia Robinson of the Central Virginia Health Services who earned the You ‘Rx’ceptional Award.  Ms. Robinson is the leader and sole employee of CVHS’s medication assistance program that serves uninsured patients from its 20 different medical practices that span from Charlotte County to Fredericksburg.

“There would be no medication assistance program here without Virginia,” says David Christian, Pharmacy Director of Central Virginia Health Services.

Virginia has helped 2,810 uninsured patients fill more than 16,000 free prescriptions over the past seven years, including during the pandemic. While the $28 million value of those medicines is impressive, the biggest value is in the difference it has made for her patients.

Denise R. Parker, a recently retired Health Educator at the Norfolk Department of Public Health was honored with VHCF’s Enrollment Excellence Award: During her 14 years as a Project Connect Outreach Worker, Denise Parker changed the lives of 4,458 children, 1,358 pregnant women, and 1,175 adults in the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area by helping them enroll in Virginia’s Medicaid/FAMIS health insurance programs. Throughout her tenure, Denise embodied the Project Connect philosophy to “meet people where they are,” both physically and emotionally.

To start its fourth decade, the Foundation presented the six winners of its inaugural Mental Health Champion Awards. Information about each follows.

Shannon Raybuck, LPC, Mental Health Care Coordinator of the Fauquier Free Clinic: Shannon has served as the Mental Health Care Coordinator for Fauquier Free Clinic’s tele-mental health services program, since it was established in 2016. Under her leadership, the program has grown and now provides more than 1,500 sessions each year.

“Thanks to Shannon’s leadership, clinical skills, case management, and unrelenting patient advocacy, the Fauquier Free Clinic is now the exemplar for truly integrated care in our community,” Andy Johnston, Director of Programs of the PATH Foundation (Fauquier County).

Tori Pierce, LBSW, Behavioral Health Care Coordinator of Central Virginia Health Services (CVHS): Tori graduated from VCU in 2019 and is the first Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker at CVHS. During that time, her responsive resourcefulness has demonstrated her value to the organization and led to the hiring of two additional LBSWs. Tori is an expert in case management. She both effectively and compassionately handles internal and external behavioral health referrals.

Trauma-Informed Mental Health Team Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS): Members of the 19-member Trauma-Informed Mental Health Team at NVFS literally meet refugee and immigrant clients where they are. Comprised of the Multicultural Services and Youth Initiative teams, these dedicated clinicians offer culturally appropriate mental health services in six languages to over 1,200 clients each year. They travel across the region to schools, private homes, and other sites to provide individual, family, and group therapy in any setting that is accessible, safe, and convenient for their clients.

Marcy Rosenbaum, LCSW, CSAC Behavioral Health Director of Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems, Inc. (SVCHS): During the last 14 years, Marcy has grown SVCHS’s behavioral health department from 7 to 21 full time employees; championed behavioral health integration; and contributed to the implementation of the Patient-Centered Medical Home model across four primary care sites. Marcy also spearheaded creation of New Day Recovery, a 3-site substance abuse program offering comprehensive treatment and case management services to over 150 currently active patients. This is the first program of this type at a community health center, and Marcy has become a leader and coach for other centers aiming to launch similar programs throughout Virginia.

“Marcy saved my life. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today,” a SVCHS patient.

Linda Saltonstall, LPC, Director of Clinical Services of St. Joseph’s Villa: Linda’s 32 years at St. Joseph’s Villa have centered on supporting the well-being of youth and families, no matter the obstacles. Her ability to grasp community needs, combined with her talents as a relationship builder and advocate, have paved the way for innovative programs that are life-changing and lifesaving. For example, Linda led the establishment of a Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU), which diverts youth experiencing mental health crises from hospitalization and provides them and their families with immediate care. It is the first of its kind in Central Virginia. More than 1,700 youth have been served by the CSU, with nearly 90% diverted from hospitalization.

Heather Harper Gunn, LPC of Director of Community-Based Services for Child, Youth & Family Services at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare: Heather began her career as an intern at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare 18 years ago. Since then, she has worked her way up to become Director of Community-Based Services for Child, Youth and Family Services. At a time when the need for behavioral healthcare services is skyrocketing, Heather has been instrumental in launching new programs and services to benefit at-risk youth in the Roanoke Valley. She is committed to serving the community as an advocate for people of color, as well as children and families. 

More about VHCF’s Work to Address the Behavioral Health Shortages in Virginia 

“Behavioral health is a top priority for us,” said Deborah Oswalt, VHCF’s Executive Director. “We are delighted to celebrate and fund organizations and professionals like these champions who work to ensure Virginians have access to the behavioral health care they need.”

VHCF has invested heavily to increase the availability of mental health services in the Commonwealth during the past 12 years. The Foundation has funded the addition of behavioral health professionals in Virginia’s healthcare safety net and local human service organizations and the addition of tele-mental health services; provided full scholarships for aspiring Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners; and led the work to integrate the delivery of mental health services with primary care in the state’s health safety net clinics. It has also introduced and supported the implementation of a trauma-informed approach to providing care within the health care safety net.

Recently, VHCF launched Boost 200, a special pilot program recently funded by the General Assembly that pays for licensure-required Supervision for motivated Masters-prepared Social Workers and Counselors to help them become LPCs or LCSWs in Virginia. The program already has more than 100 successful program participants. Learn more at

The Virginia Health Care Foundation is a non-profit public/private partnership with a mission to increase access to primary health care for uninsured and medically underserved Virginians. The Foundation was initiated by the General Assembly and its Joint Commission on Health Care in 1992. Since its inception, it has funded 512 community-based initiatives throughout the Commonwealth. VHCF’s programs and partnerships have touched the lives of more than 800,000 uninsured and medically underserved Virginians. For more information about VHCF and its programs, visit or call (804) 828-5804.

Last Updated on November 9, 2022