Our team brings unique skills and experience to our work, including:

  • Knowledge in best practices in mental health;
  • Knowledge in implementation science and transformational change;
  • Experience working in policy, program, and evaluation roles in state agencies;
  • Experience collaborating with diverse stakeholders in participatory frameworks to facilitate the identification and accomplishment of group goals;
  • Experience developing curricula and facilitating learning opportunities;
  • Experience conducting complex, rigorous research in real-world settings; and
  • Effective communication skills.

Molly Lopez, Ph.D., Director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, a licensed clinical psychologist and a research associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work. Her research interests include mental health services, child and adolescent service systems, the implementation of evidence-based practices, and cognitive behavioral therapies. Previously, Dr. Lopez served in several leadership roles within the Texas public mental health agency, the Texas Department of State Health Services. Read Molly’s full bio for more information.

Stacey Stevens Manser, Ph.D., is Associate Director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health and a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work. Her research interests include understanding the effect of organizational context on best practice implementation; interventions to facilitate system change toward recovery; and examining the effects of programs and policies on client outcomes. She previously served as the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Director of Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services at the Texas Department of State Health Services, and as a Research Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M System Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

Tina Adkins has an MA in Counseling and MS in Developmental Psychology and is currently a Research Associate with the Institute. Prior to this position, she was a clinical trainer and project manager for Cenpatico Behavioral Health and the Star Health Foster Care program where she created and delivered trauma-focused trainings for clinicians, professionals and parents. She has many years experience working within the mental health field and the child welfare community, both as direct care staff and as a researcher. Tina is presently finishing up her Ph.D. from University of London (UCL).

Jill Bellinger, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work and a certified school psychologist. Dr. Bellinger collaborates on research, evaluation, and project management activities related to the Via Hope Recovery Institute. Dr. Bellinger is currently working on the Recovery Leadership Academy, which engages organizational leaders in a process of learning about mental health transformation, how to cultivate a culture of learning in organizations, and key issues related to recovery-oriented practice.

Wendy Brooks, Research Associate for the School of Social Work’s Center for Social Work Research and the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health. Ms. Brooks collaborates on research, evaluation, and technical assistance activities related to strengthening the recovery-orientation of the adult mental health service system.

Erin Espinosa, Ph.D., is a Research Associate within the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health (TIEMH) in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently she serves as the Principal Investigator for state-wide expansion of the 1915c (Youth Empowerment Services) waiver and serves as the Implementation Lead for the Texas System of Care. She has worked on several implementation and evaluation efforts targeting activities designed to enhance services for children and adolescents with mental health needs with a focus on juvenile justice and mental health. Prior to joining TIEMH, Erin served as Co-Lead for Texas’ Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Action Network (MHJJAN). Her previous efforts include those associated with the development, implementation of the Front End Diversion Initiative (FEDI) through the MHJJAN coordinated by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice and funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She currently serves as a Key Collaborator for the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change and as a consultant to the Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch’s (CAFB) Children’s Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) providing technical assistance and training alongside a select group of local and state leaders in the juvenile justice and mental health fields.

Erin has published a variety of articles on issues related to youth with mental health needs and the juvenile justice system to include systemic responses and the implementation of evidence-based programs and practices. Her research interests include mental health and juvenile delinquency, juvenile competence, gender related issues, trauma and the implementation of evidenced based practices and programs

Laura Kaufman is a Research Associate within the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health at the Center for Social Work Research. She is currently the lead evaluator on the Via Hope’s Person-Centered Recovery (PCRP) Initiative, which facilitates the implementation of person-centered practices at mental health organization in Texas. Ms. Kaufman has collaborated on research and evaluation for several other projects including Veteran’s Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery, Peer Specialist Training and Certification, the Peer Specialist Learning Community, Assessment of Consumer Operated Service Providers and Local Mental Health Authorities, Peer-Provided Services and Medicaid Billing at the Local Mental Health Authorities in Texas, and a Compendium of Peer Specialist Training and Certification Programs Across the Nation.

Amy Lodge, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health. She conducts evaluation research for Mental Health Recovery and Resilience (MHRR) initiatives, including Person-Centered Recovery (PCRP), Peer Specialist Integration (PSI) and the Recovery Institute Leadership Academy (RILA). She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Michele Murphy-Smith, Ph.D., RN, RD, RD, is a Research Associate within the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health. Dr. Murphy-Smith worked with the Texas Department of Health in the 1990s to help primary care organizations provide evidence-based clinical preventive services. Through the work with community health centers and residency programs across the State, she learned about the essential role of the full spectrum of staff members in creating organizations that did excellent work. Measurable outcomes were exciting, but more so the creativity and joy that were unleashed when all staff members valued each other and started working together to create the workplace in which they and their patients could thrive. Following that work with program evaluation in addiction treatment, she became convinced of the value of having a recovery perspective in many different health arenas, as well as the essential nature of peer support. She is now proud to work towards the vision of ensuring excellent recovery support services for all Texans.

Tegan Henke, LMFT,  is the State Development Specialist for the Texas System of Care. In this role, she coordinates with state agencies, local communities and community members to shape the policies that will help sustain and support the system of care framework across Texas. Previously, Tegan worked with the Children’s Mental Health Team at the Department of State Health Services where she was a leader in the re-design of the Children’s Mental Health Service Delivery System in Texas. Tegan has her master’s in Couple and Family Therapy, and spent several years working as a crisis counselor for children, youth and their families. She is passionate about children’s mental health and partnering to create systems that can meet individuals’ needs and improve communities.

Deborah Cohen, PhD, MSW is a Research Associate for the School of Social Work’s Center for Social Work Research and the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health.  She currently serves as the Evaluation Lead on the Texas System of Care Implementation cooperative agreement and the Zero Suicides in Texas project. For both projects she coordinates the local evaluation, facilitates participation in the cross-site evaluation, and provides leadership and oversight to the state evaluation efforts. Debbie is an experienced mental health services researcher whose primary focus is on community mental health policies and practices, integrated healthcare, and healthcare information technology.

Robert Shaw, MPH, is the Community Development Specialist for the Texas System of Care. In this role, he is responsible for coordinating support for local implementation of the system of care framework. He provides strategic consultation and coaching to communities at different stages of system of care readiness. Previously, Robert was Executive Director of a rural, community-based organization that offers a variety of free, social services. At his previous job, he implemented a tele-health program where local community members were able to receive free mental health and substance abuse counseling. Robert received his Master’s in Public Health in Social and Behavioral Health from Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

Barbara Granger is the Family Involvement Specialist on the Texas System of Care Initiative. She also serves as the Family Coordinator with Via Hope, the Texas Mental Health Resource Center, where she is lead trainer for all family partner certification endeavors. Barbara has been in SOC work for more than 10 years. She joined the ASSET steering committee 2 years ago as a family representative, while serving as a family partner with Coastal Plains Community Center in south Texas. As a family partner, she walked alongside other families who have children with intensive mental health needs. Before moving back to Texas in 2009, Barbara was employed with the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children’s Mental Health as a Family Advocate and a Supervisor of family partners in Southern Maryland. She has served on various local, regional and state advisory committees to bring the family voice. Barbara brings her passion to ensure family voice is heard throughout the state of Texas as she serves with and on behalf of families who face similar challenges as herself.

Michael Cox, MA, serves as the Youth Engagement Specialist on the Texas System of Care initiative. Michael began his professional career with 14 years of full-time vocational ministry working with children and adolescents from all walks of life. In addition to this experience, Michael brings a wealth of expertise from his previous role as Youth Engagement Specialist for the Rural Children’s Initiative of West Texas. In this role he was able to establish strong leadership and youth involvement within the community and SOC project, eventually becoming Deputy Project Director of the initiative. Michael has served as a consultant for the Georgetown University’s National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health and served for two years on the planning committee for the Center’s summer institutes.

Victoria Yu is the Communications Lead for the Texas System of Care. In this capacity she leads social marketing to increase awareness and drive engagement for SOC’s core values through social media, video and web platforms, event marketing and earned media. Previously Victoria served as an Account Executive at a Washington, D.C. public relations agency. She led earned media campaigns for a variety of clients within the healthcare industry, including a New York Times best-selling author and a multibillion dollar integrated health systems provider. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University.

Bonnie Evans serves as an Implementation Specialist/Research Associate within the Institute. Her role involves helping Local Mental Health Authorities implement the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Waiver Program. Bonnie is also a wraparound coach candidate, learning the skills needed to support wraparound supervisors and facilitators. Wraparound coaching includes actively assisting and leading wraparound trainings, onsite coaching at YES sites across Texas, and virtual coaching support. Back in Australia, Bonnie loved her job working as a School Psychologist in many different schools and as a psychology researcher. Bonnie received her Masters in Psychology (Education and Development) from Monash University, Victoria, Australia.

Rebecca Marquez serves as the Wraparound Implementation Specialist for the Institute. In this position, she assists agencies in their efforts to implement wraparound with quality and fidelity. She is a Wraparound Coach Candidate developing her skills by providing coaching support and training for the wraparound initiative. Rebecca has a background in statewide implementation efforts within large organizations and practical experience in the application of research and programs within a variety of caseloads. In her previous employment with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), Rebecca was intricately involved in the development and implementation of new treatment approaches and corresponding philosophy for the 2007 Texas Youth Commission reform initiative. While employed with TJJD, she began serving as a parent representative within the Texas Family Voice Network, a mission about which she is passionate and continues to be involved with today. Rebecca is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) and holds a Master’s degree in Education from Northern Arizona University and a Bachelor degree in Social Work.

Elisa V. Borah, PhD, MSW is a Research Associate at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work’s Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health.  She currently serves as the Evaluation Lead on the Texas Military Veteran Peer Network (MVPN) contract with the Texas Department of State Health Services. She is currently co-chairing the UT Austin School of Social Work’s Third Annual Military Social Work Conference. Elisa earned her MSW from George Warren Brown at Washington University and her PhD in Social Work from The University of Texas at Austin. From 2010-2014, Elisa served as Director of Research at the Ft. Hood site of the STRONG STAR PTSD Research Consortium, a Department of Defense clinical trials research consortium, and as Assistant Professor within the Division of Behavioral Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA). Elisa is a New Implementation Research Investigator in the NIMH-funded SIRC Network of Expertise within the Society for Implementation Research Collaboration (SIRC) and is a co-facilitator of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Special Interest Group on Implementation Science. Elisa is an experienced mental health services researcher whose primary focus is on improving the application of implementation science in social work practice to support effective practices within community-based mental health service organizations. Elisa has conducted research related to increasing access to evidence-based behavioral health treatments by examining: methods for reducing stigma among service members, the role of military unit cohesion in PTSD treatment gains, and the roles of military organizational culture, and behavioral health provider factors on effective implementation of evidence-based treatments for PTSD within military treatment settings.

Erica Shapiro, Ph.D. is a Research Associate at the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health within the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also a licensed psychologist in the State of Texas. Erica currently coordinates the Institute’s wraparound fidelity efforts and facilitates the community implementation of evidence-based practices on the Zero Suicides in Texas project. Erica also has experience providing clinical services to children and families within the private practice and hospital settings. Erica earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and she is passionate about supporting high quality, evidence-based mental health services for children and families.

Sarah De La Garza, MA serves as the Cultural & Linguistic Competency/Supported Employment Specialist for Texas System of Care. In this capacity, she works to eliminate disproportionality and disparity to promote inclusion for youth in recovery. Sarah has a background in education, primarily working with at-risk youth and families in transition. Her professional history has been focused on preparing youth for future success as well as community development, including serving with AmeriCorps, the Boys & Girls Club, YouthBuild USA and Upward Bound. She is passionate about helping people see the power and value in exploring cultural connections within System of Care.

Glenn Dembowski specializes in solutions.  An alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, he has worked for UT since 1996.  He currently serves as the Project Services Coordinator for the TX System of Care, operating largely behind the scenes to support the team as they work to ensure that Texas children have access to excellent mental health care.  Drawing on his experience in academic, service, and research departments at the University,Glenn facilitates purchasing, travel, event coordination, contracts, web-conferencing, data compilation, and occasionally rescues small animals in distress.  He is a writer, musician, poet, and martial arts enthusiast, and his favorite video game is MS Excel.  Glenn welcomes your queries at


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