Mental Health Champions



Virginia is in the midst of a mental health crisis, which is affecting an extraordinary number of Virginians of all ages. In response, many behavioral health professionals and others have valiantly stepped up to help.

VHCF’s Mental Health Champion Awards honor some of those who have taken extraordinary actions to make mental health services available in their communities. These awards were sponsored by the UnitedHealthcare. Videos were underwritten by Sentara Healthcare.


2024 Mental Health Champion Award Recipients
(click on recipients name to see award video)

Sabrina Burress
Executive Director
ARROW Project (Staunton)

After noticing the lack of behavioral health treatment options in her hometown of Staunton, Sabrina 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, Sabrina works tirelessly to form community partnerships and secure funding that allows ARROW to provide care to those with no insurance. Sabrina 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! When ARROW identified a need for a psychological assessment center in the area, Sabrina led her team through a two-year process to start one. Despite encountering funding roadblocks, Sabrina never gave up, and ARROW has now been providing comprehensive psychological assessments for two years.

Sabrina’s tenacity and infectious passion have earned her a reputation as a “do-er” with an intense drive to help her community.

Virginia Telemental Health Initiative Team (VTMHI)

It would be reasonable to expect that implementing a first-of-its-kind statewide free telemental health clinic for uninsured and under-insured patients would take years to accomplish. The dedicated team that established VTMHI understood that Virginia is experiencing a mental health crisis and needed help quickly. This inspired them to implement 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.

Carl Street, Jr., LPC, LSATP, MAC
Vice President of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services
Youth For Tomorrow (Fairfax County)

Carl Street is known as the Energizer Bunny at Youth for Tomorrow (YFT). 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, Carl has grown YFT’s outpatient counseling services from one site to seven. Located in Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, and Fauquier counties, the 50 clinicians Carl leads served more than 5,400 clients via more than 34,000 sessions last year.

Carl 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.

Carl’s energy and passion for serving those in need and caring for his team have made him a beloved supervisor at YFT and a valued community partner. Many lives have been changed, and – quite frankly – saved as a result of Carl’s leadership and dedication.

Matt Beebe
Therapist – Resident in Counseling
The Heart Leaf Center (Fairfax County)

Matt Beebe is a Resident in Counseling with a background and training in special education. He is combining his expertise with creativity and compassion to help troubled children and their families in two Fairfax County elementary schools.

Matt 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.

One parent has noted a remarkable transformation in her son’s confidence, when he initially struggled with insecurity and anxiety before working with Matt. Clients consistently express gratitude for the positive impact Matt’s therapy has had on their children’s lives.

To become even more effective, Matt is independently studying Spanish to achieve fluency and meet the demand for bilingual therapy services.

Polly Boone, LCSW
Clinical Manager, Crisis Stabilization Unit
Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare (Roanoke)

Polly 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. Polly 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.

Polly’s commitment to providing a hand up extends beyond BRBH. She volunteers for multiple organizations, including the Forest Park Church Food Pantry, the Roanoke Rescue Mission’s Bless My Sole program, Family Promise, and the Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare Social Club. Polly has also served as board president of the Franklin County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and as a board member and treasurer of the Virginia Society of Clinical Social Work.

There’s a reason that co-workers and community members all say, “To know Polly is to love Polly.” Her heart for community service and for individuals struggling with mental illness shines through in all that she does.

Pamela Jackson
Administrative Assistant
ChildSavers (Richmond)

Known affectionately by staff and clients as “Ms. Pam,” Pamela Jackson is currently the longest-serving staff member at ChildSavers. A lifelong Richmonder, Pam 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, Pam has helped countless children and their families navigate trauma, depression, and anxiety. Pam can get any job done with empathy and inclusivity, whether she is holding someone’s baby, helping upset grandparents, or encouraging caregivers. Many former ChildSavers clients still return to visit her, a testament to the lasting impact she has on every person she meets!

Last Updated on June 6, 2024