State Leaders Honor Medicaid + Mental Health Milestones Across Virginia’s Health Safety Net

For Immediate Release

Debbie Oswalt, Executive Director
Virginia Health Care Foundation
(804) 828-5804


Richmond, VA – June 6, 2024 – During its Cheers for Champions! event, The Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) welcomed state leaders to honor the hard work of behavioral health organizations and other health care safety net professionals throughout the Commonwealth for their expertise, success, and dedication to help uninsured and medically underserved Virginians obtain the health care they need.

VHCF and its partners dedicated significant resources and attention to increasing the availability of basic mental health services throughout the state over the past year, via VHCF’s three-pronged, behavioral health initiative, Brighter Days Ahead: Addressing Virginia’s Mental Health Crisis.

“Virginia is fortunate to have both executive and legislative branch leaders for whom access to mental health services is a priority,” says The Honorable Margaret G. Vanderhye, VHCF Board of Trustees Chair and master of ceremonies for the event.

Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel, introduced and recognized VHCF’s six Mental Health Champions, who went above & beyond to improve the mental health of their organizations and/or their patients/clients, communities.

Senator Barbara Favola presented the Excellence in Enrollment Award to an outstanding Medicaid/FAMIS outreach worker, who enrolled more than 8,000 eligible Virginians in Medicaid during the past 11 years and serves as a model and mentor to many.

The past year was particularly significant for Virginia’s Medicaid program and the many stakeholders involved with it, because Virginia resumed annual Medicaid renewals after 3 years of continuous coverage triggered by the pandemic. Many present during the event were an important part of the Herculean effort to redetermine eligibility of 2.1 million Virginians in the short span of 12 months.

VHCF’s You “Rx”ceptional Award was presented by Delegate Carrie Coyner to a prolific Medication Assistance Caseworker from the Orange County Free Clinic, who has helped more than 2,000 uninsured patients with chronic diseases fill 12,000+ prescriptions with a value of $17 million for free over the years.

Delegate Mark Sickles closed out the event by recognizing and thanking VHCF’s many financial supporters, including the Collis Warner Foundation, which gave VHCF $500,000 as a 3:1 Challenge Grant for VHCF’s Brighter Days Ahead initiative.

“Behavioral health continues to be a top priority for us,” says Oswalt. “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.”

More about all of these “Champions” follows: 

Crystal Nisley, Senior Medication Assistance Program Caseworker for Orange County Free Clinic earned the You ‘Rx’ceptional Award: During the 12 years Nisley has been with the clinic, she’s obtained 12,000+ chronic disease medicines with a value of $17+ million for the clinic’s patients. Crystal works long hours, including evenings and weekends, and obtained training and certification as a pharmacy technician six years ago to better enable her to serve her patients. On top of that, Nisley is bilingual and a trusted advocate and resource for the area’s Spanish-speaking community. She is also a mentor to other medication assistance caseworkers throughout the state. Her dedication and diligence inspires those around her and has made significant improvements in the lives of more than 2,000 clinic patients over the years.

Miriam Kadhim, a Project Connect Medicaid Enrollment Specialist for Neighborhood Health in Arlington, Virginia was honored with VHCF’s Excellence in Enrollment Award: Kadim is a problem solver who has used her many skills and talents during the past 11 years to help more than 8,000 people in the Arlington area obtain Medicaid/FAMIS health insurance coverage. Throughout the community, Kadim is known for her intelligence, compassion, and perseverance in working with both her clients and local eligibility workers. At Neighborhood Health, she is known for her ability to streamline systems, train new outreach workers and eligibility staff, and nurture teamwork through potluck celebrations for key occasions.

ARROW Project Executive Director Sabrina Burress in Staunton: After noticing the lack of behavioral health treatment options in her hometown of Staunton, Burress left her career in business administration to work at a mental health agency. She ultimately determined she could do even more to remove barriers to mental health care in her community, so she formed the ARROW Project, an organization that works to identify and address behavioral health needs in Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro. As executive director, Burress works tirelessly to form community partnerships and secure funding that allows ARROW to provide care to those with no insurance. Burress also developed a model that pays Master’s-level students working towards their degree or licensure for their services — uncommon in the world of therapist training.

Therapist and Resident in Counseling at The Heart Leaf Center Matt Beebe in Fairfax County: Beebe is combining his expertise with creativity and compassion to help troubled children and their families in two Fairfax County elementary schools. He has forged crucial connections with school staff and proactively reached out to families who are typically difficult to engage. All of this has led to a 40% increase in referrals and a 15% engagement rate with approximately 40 children and their families being helped. To become even more effective, Matt is independently studying Spanish to achieve fluency and meet the demand for bilingual therapy services.

Youth For Tomorrow Vice President of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services Carl Street, Jr., LPC, LSATP, MAC in Fairfax County: Street is known as the Energizer Bunny as he is constantly on the move developing and expanding the availability of mental health services in northern Virginia. The results are a testament to his dedication and effectiveness. In the last nine years, Street has grown YFT’s outpatient counseling services from one site to seven. Located in Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, and Fauquier counties, the 50 clinicians Street leads served more than 5,400 clients via more than 34,000 sessions last year. Street has also dedicated himself to addressing the shortage of licensed behavioral health professionals. He created a licensure supervision program which is now training 20 therapists and he has developed a play therapy program that now has 15 play therapists under supervision. 

ChildSavers Administrative Assistant Pamela Jackson in Richmond: Known affectionately by staff and clients as “Ms. Pam,” Jackson is currently the longest-serving staff member at ChildSavers. A lifelong Richmonder, Jackson grew up in the same neighborhood where ChildSavers serves its clients and families. She joined the agency in 1998 as an administrative assistant—a critical role, as she is the first-person clients and families meet when they walk through the door. Her warmth and kindness make all visitors feel safe, welcomed, and valued, regardless of their age or language barriers. In her 26 years of service, Jackson has helped countless children and their families navigate trauma, depression, and anxiety.

Virginia Telemental Health Initiative Team (VTMHI): As Virginia continues to be in a statewide mental health crisis, this first-of-its-kind statewide free telemental health clinic has provided critical care to uninsured and under-insured patients. The dedicated team implemented their program within a year of conducting the surveys, focus groups, and research that informed its concept. During its pilot, VTMHI scheduled nearly 1,000 patient visits, offered multilingual services; and successfully onboarded ten referring clinics across the state. It also brought on six clinical supervisors and 43 volunteer pre-licensed behavioral health professionals. This year, it aims to exceed 30 additional free and charitable clinic sites.

Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare Crisis Stabilization Unit Clinical Manager, Polly Boone, LCSW in Roanoke: Boone’s passion is supporting those who need a hand up, and she demonstrates this both in her role at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare (BRBH) and as a community volunteer. Since becoming the inaugural clinical manager of BRBH’s Crisis Stabilization Unit, she has made significant improvements by introducing evidence-based practices in daily services and ensuring treatment plans are individually specific to client needs and preferences. Boone is also mindful of her staff’s well-being, and her open-door policy makes sure they have the support they need when working overtime or are in need of a break. 


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 536 community-based initiatives throughout the Commonwealth and established multiple programs and partnerships. Combined, they have helped more than 800,000 uninsured and medically underserved Virginians obtain the health care they need. For more information about VHCF visit

Last Updated on June 6, 2024