About Us

About OBHW

The Office of Behavioral Health Wellness (OBHW) within the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) is the “A” team of prevention expertise, diversity of representation and inclusion, all undergirded by servant leadership! OBHW has been nationally and internationally recognized for a comprehensive outcome based state prevention system and community coalition development, Synar and tobacco innovations, Mental Health First Aid statewide infusion and record breaking numbers of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) number of trainings. OBHW is also known for its cutting edge approaches in addressing Behavioral Health Disparities, Refugee Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to include “Lock and Talk’ and our State Opioid Response prevention strategies. Our newest endeavors will focus on problem gambling prevention and marijuana misuse prevention which will also be driven by our focus on data driven decision making, evidenced based practice and ongoing workforce development! All of our initiatives are captured in the leading performance based prevention data reporting system so that OBHW can tell the story of changing the Commonwealth, community by community.

About OMNI

The OMNI Institute is a 501c(3) non-profit social science consultancy that accelerates positive social change by supporting the public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors with integrated research and evaluation, capacity building, and data utilization services. OMNI has partnered with Virginia across a variety of projects in the behavioral health wellness space. OMNI’s work to support Virginia DBHDS OBHW includes long-term evaluation plans at the state-level, conducting needs assessments and youth surveys, providing technical assistance to communities around planning and evaluation, and data system technical consulting.

To learn more about OMNI visit us at omni.org and to stay up-to-date on all of our work, subscribe to our newsletter.

Staff Profiles – OBHW

Nicole Gore (she/her/hers)
Behavioral Health Wellness Director

Nicole Taper Gore, Director of the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness at the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health provides leadership in the development and implementation of comprehensive prevention systems. She leads Virginia’s prevention efforts for the SAMHSA’s SABG Prevention Set aside, State Opioid Response Grants; Problem Gambling Prevention, Suicide Prevention, Mental Health First Aid, Behavioral Health Equity and Disparities and Refugee Mental Health statewide initiatives.

Ms. Gore graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor of Social Work degree (’93) and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree (’95). She is a certified Adult Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor, and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training Facilitator. She is married, with five adult children and one granddaughter. Her personal mantra is “I gain from what I give”.

Marfel Barnett (he/his)
Block Grant Data Manager
Reason to Contact?
DBHDS data system, Build Capacity channel in PBPS, SABG reporting requirements, Virginia Prevention Works! Portal access

Marfel Barnett has been with the DBHDS Office of behavioral health wellness since 2014. Marfel started out as a contracted employee in 2004 and moved into a full time position as the Block Grant Data manager. Marfel has been working alongside CPG, contracted vendor for the online database, to ensure all the Block Grant data requirements for the state are met. When Marfel is not working, he enjoys traveling out of the country and going on cruises, and family time.

Robert Cartwright (he/him)
Behavioral Health Wellness Consultant

Reason to contact?

Robert has worked in the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness since 2015. He leads a statewide effort to educate communities about the impacts of adverse childhood experiences (ACES). Prior to his current role, Robert spent 13 year working in residential treatment programming for at-risk youth, and led a community coalition grant project to reduce the impacts of alcohol related crashes among young people. Robert graduated from Ohio State University.

Jennifer Farinholt (she/her)
Behavioral Health Wellness Consultant
Reason to Contact?
Community coalitions, community engagement, and the “Activate Your Wellness” statewide media campaign.

Jennifer provides technical assistance for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG). Her program lead areas are coalition capacity building and community engagement. In addition to overseeing the SOR-funded statewide media campaign “Activate Your Wellness,” she manages collaborative projects with Community Coalitions of Virginia and CADCA. Prior to joining OBHW in 2018, she was on the Education and Prevention team at the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority with responsibility for the Virginia Office for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Education and Prevention Grant Program. Her interests include: volunteerism, art in all forms, and finding connection through storytelling-especially podcasts and documentaries. A proponent of physical activity, she’s been an aerobics instructor (hello ’90s!) and certified personal trainer, and is always game for a long walk-either immersed in nature or city trekking.

Glencora Gudger (she/her)
Behavioral Health Equity Consultant
Reason to Contact?
Equity-oriented trainings, behavioral health equity

Glencora creates programming and informs policy to reduce behavioral health disparities across Virginia through educational opportunities, coalition building, data analysis and grant opportunities.

Glencora offers a series of rotating trainings to external and internal audiences on topics pertinent to health equity, especially those that examine the role of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, classism and other social forces in the behavioral healthcare system. Reach out for more details about upcoming opportunities.

Contact Glencora about equity-oriented trainings, programs and grants for Community Services Boards (CSB) and local organizations. Also for questions about Partnership for Equity Advisory Committee (PEAC), the Behavioral Health Equity Index (BHI), or opportunities to collaborate and educate external audiences about behavioral health equity.

Colleen Hughes (she/hers)
Behavioral Health Wellness Consultant and Virginia’s SYNAR Lead
Reason to Contact?

Colleen Hughes is a Certified Substance Abuse Prevention Consultant and Synar Coordinator employed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Service as a Behavioral Health Wellness Consultant in the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness.

She has been working in the field of prevention since 2007, coming from North Carolina where she worked for Partnership for a Drug Free NC as a Prevention Program Manager and Center for Prevention Resources Consultant. She has been involved with developing, implementing, and evaluating programs, practices, and strategies for youth, adults, and communities.

As part of her roll with the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness, Colleen has made the prevention of youth retail access to tobacco products a priority. She has renewed the state’s merchant education initiative and has launched a state-wide retailer verification project which includes individual store audits that will help shape the retail environments of the communities across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In addition to this, she is also a trainer and presenter on topic areas for Prevention Professionals, including ACEs, Mental Health First Aid, Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training, Lead & Seed, Keys to Sustainability, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Alisha Jarvis (she/her/hers)
MHFA Program Coordinator
Reason to Contact?
Mental Health First Aid

Alisha is the Mental Health First Aid Coordinator in the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness at the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. Alisha is responsible for coordinating Mental Health First Aid Instructor Training courses for Community Services Boards (CSBs) prevention teams and community partners to increase mental health awareness across the Commonwealth. Working in partnership with CSBs, Alisha’s primary focus is to ensure communities across Virginia have access to Mental Health First Aid Training so they can learn how to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems; how to offer and provide initial help; and how to guide the individual to professional help and resources. Prior to joining the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness, she was the Community Systems Coordinator in the Injury and Violence Prevention Program at the Virginia Department of Health.

Alisha received her Master’s Degree in Public Health from Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University’s joint program and she received her Bachelors of Science Degree as a double major studying Psychology and Health Sciences at James Madison University.

Contact Alisha to learn more about ways to get connected to local Mental Health First Aid Services in your area.

Anne Rogers (she/her)
Responsible Gambling Coordinator
Reason to Contact?
Problem gambling and gaming prevention work

Anne currently leads the problem gambling and gaming prevention efforts in Virginia. In these roles she is responsible for overseeing all problem gambling and gaming assessment, capacity building, making data-driven plans, implementation, evaluation, and building connections in gambling program resources and activities with other prevention work across the commonwealth. Anne received her masters in health education from the University of Houston and is ABD status towards a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in the public health and prevention fields for over 25 years. In her free time she  enjoys hiking, reading, and getting together with family and friends.

Focus Areas: Problem Gambling and Gaming Prevention.

Eva Stitt (she/her)
Refugee Behavioral Health Coordinator
Reason to Contact?
Partnering with refugee communities 

Dr. Stitt has served in public, private, and non-profit sectors here and abroad. She has presented workshops and research papers in national and international conferences. She has also developed several psychological assessments and curriculum materials to support individual’s work ability, college assessment tests, literacy, community-based intervention, and language access for refugees and limited English proficient populations. She has been working with multi-sectoral groups to develop, implement, and evaluate programs to foster intercultural understanding and professional collaboration. She sat on several public and non-profit advisory boards to help build sustainable community-based intervention programs, strengthen health equity and access to care, and to promote social justice. Currently, she coordinates the Virginia Refugee Healing Partnership, a statewide initiative to establish sustainable public-private collaboration to insure refugee access to mental healthcare, to develop pathways to support behavioral health providers prepared to serve refugees, and to strengthen refugee mental wellness and capacity building measures. This initiative has produced the Virginia Behavioral Health Interpreting Curriculum (BHIC), a pioneering tool that was developed through collaborative action of providers, clinicians, interpreters, and educators. It is designed to train behavioral health interpreters to provide service in behavioral health settings. Dr. Stitt holds a Master’s in Education degree major in Guidance and Counseling and a PhD in Public Policy and Business Management.

Rebecca Textor (she/her)
Behavioral Health Wellness Consultant, Lock and Talk Virginia and State Opioid Response
Reason to Contact?
Suicide prevention strategies, Lock and Talk

Rebecca Textor is a certified Prevention Specialist for DBHDS Office of Behavioral Health Wellness. Her current role as Suicide Prevention Specialist includes supporting the suicide prevention program Lock and Talk Virginia. She earned her Master of Prevention Science degree from The University of Oklahoma. Rebecca has worked as a substance abuse prevention professional within the Virginia Community Services Board system since 2010, and prior to that, she was a Community Health Coordinator with Carilion Health System. She began focusing on regionwide suicide prevention in 2015. While coordinating suicide prevention efforts for DBHDS Region 1, she became one of the original developers of Lock and Talk Virginia, now a statewide program. She is a member of Rockbridge Bath Regional Crisis Intervention Team and Rockbridge Area Prevention Coalition since 2008, and a member of Virginia’s Suicide Prevention Interagency Advisory Group.

Charisma Dixon (she/her/hers)

Behavioral Health Wellness Consultant
Reason to Contact?
Behavioral Health Wellness Consultant

Charisma comes to VDBH with a wide variety of experience. She will bring to her new role 15 years of Special Education teaching and training, to include working with Hawaii Department of Education as a Student Services Coordinator for Special Education. Charisma has over a decade of experience in Mental Health working in community based services providing services as a Q.M.H.P. counselor and director for S.M.I. diagnosed adults. Charisma is lover of reading, documentaries, yoga, swimming, and travel.

Charisma received her B.S from Old Dominion University in Occupational and Technical Studies

Her graduate degree in Adult Education from Strayer University

Holds a Special Education license from Hawaii k-12 and is certified in Substance Abuse Counseling and holds a Q.M.H.P-A through Virginia Board of Professionals

Laura Robertson (she/her)

Suicide Prevention Coordinator
Reason to Contact?
Safe Talk Training, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), and to create partnerships to reduce suicide in Virginia

Laura Robertson joined the DBHDS Office of Behavioral Health Wellness in 2023. She has worked in the human services field since 2004 in the areas of family violence response and prevention, youth development, mental health education, mental health wellness and suicide prevention. She has worked in non-profit and local government settings with first responders, faith community, youth, parents, and incarcerated populations. Laura is a skilled facilitator and presenter. She is dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health. When Laura is not working, she likes to be outdoors, write, and spend time with her family.

Staff Profiles – OMNI

Amanda Seibel (they/them)
Research Associate

Amanda joined OMNI and Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant-Prevention set aside and State Opioid Response (SOR) prevention projects in May 2021. They document, research, and provide general support to the team.

Focus Areas: Documentation, research, general support

Becca Ruiz (she/her)

Becca began working at OMNI as a Research Associate in January 2022. She is a Technical Assistance Specialist for Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant Prevention and State Opioid Response (SOR) projects. Before joining OMNI, Becca was a Research Associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where her research focused on the payments system and underserved populations.

Focus Areas: Technical assistance

Bianca Gonzalez-De La Rosa (she/they)

Bianca joined OMNI as a Research Associate in June 2021. Bianca provides technical assistance to Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant-Prevention and State Opioid Response projects. Prior to joining OMNI, Bianca worked as a behavioral health provider in integrated health.

Focus Areas: Technical assistance

Cheryl Winston (she/her)
Research Manager

Cheryl joined OMNI in 2013. She is involved with evaluation projects in the areas of substance use prevention and treatment, racial and ethnic disparities in health care, and more. Her role on the Virginia Prevention project includes providing evaluation technical assistance and training to grantees, survey development, reporting, and more. Cheryl is also a lifelong musician with roots in western New York State, but has spent most of her life spent in her beloved Boulder, Colorado.

Focus Areas: Individualized technical assistance, evaluation related trainings, survey tool development.

Cindy Vigil (she/her/hers)
Research Manager

Cindy supports Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant-Prevention set aside and State Opioid Response (SOR) prevention projects by leading a team of Technical Assistants in providing guidance, training and evaluation focused skill-building with communities across the commonwealth. This includes touching on topics such as data entry and reporting, accessing local needs data, and evaluation planning.

Focus Areas: Individualized technical assistance, evaluation related trainings

Eden Griffin (she/her/hers)

Eden currently leads the evaluation teams for the Substance Abuse Block Grant-Prevention set aside and State Opioid Response (SOR) prevention projects in Virginia. In these roles she is responsible for overseeing all evaluation planning and technical assistance activities across the commonwealth to ensure data quality and adherence to federal reporting requirements. Eden received her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. In her free time she enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her family and friends over a meal!

Focus Areas: Project management and oversight of all evaluation planning and technical assistance activities.

Jason Wheeler (he/him/his)
Research Manager

Jason supports Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant-Prevention set aside and State Opioid Response (SOR) prevention projects by providing technical assistance, researching prevention topics, developing prevention campaign materials, assisting with reporting, and helping community service boards staff build skills and plan intervention implementation.

Focus Areas: Research, SOR Activate Your Wellness Campaign, data collection and evaluation.

Jenniffer Paniagua Delgado (sher/her)
Research Associate

Jenniffer joined OMNI in May 2023 as a Research Associate. She is a Technical Assistance Specialist for Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant Prevention and State Opioid Response projects. Jenniffer has an MA in Public Policy and International Affairs from the University of Ottawa in Canada. Prior to joining OMNI, she worked as a Data Manager for a university in Puerto Rico.

Focus Areas: Technical Assistance

Kim Anh Tran (she/her)
Research Fellow

Kim is a part of OMNI’s 2022 Fellowship program and started her position in June 2022. She is a a part of the Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant Prevention and State Opioid Response (SOR) projects. She also supports the learning and development team for the Prevention Change Coach project. Before joining OMNI, Kim conducted environmental health research for non-English speaking populations related to heat and air-quality events. This experience led her to explore public health disciplines and research in her undergraduate education. After graduating, Kim supported a college mentorship program call Hey Mentor that served over 100 students from 55 schools.

Focus Areas: Technical Assitance

Len Bowman (she/her)
Research Fellow

Len is a part of OMNI’s second class of Fellows and began their work in June 2023 with the Virginia Substance Abuse Block Grant (SABG) and State Opioid Response projects. Prior to joining OMNI, Len completed their undergraduate degree in Public Health at Furman University in Greenville, SC. Len has had the opportunity to participate in internships within Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health, aiding in the evaluation of behavioral health initiatives within Magdalene Clinic, an affirming, collaborative care model for pregnant women who suffer from substance use disorder. They have also had exposure to qualitative research in working with Dr. Shaneice Criss in evaluating caregiver perceptions of No Hit Zone policies and posters in medical clinics.

Focus Areas: Technical Assitance

Leslie Garcia (she/her)
Research Associate

Leslie began working at OMNI as a Research Associate in June 2023. She is a Technical Assistance Specialist for Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant Prevention and State Opioid Response (SOR) projects. Before joining OMNI, Leslie was a Project Coordinator for the Social Environment and Health Program at the Institute for Social Research, where she coordinated the launch of a transdisciplinary research study on the effects of racial inequalities in sleep deficiencies.

Focus Areas: Technical Assitance

Swechchha Tripathi (she/her)
Research Associate

Swechchha joined OMNI in January 2023 as a Research Associate. She is a Technical Assistance Specialist for Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant Prevention and State Opioid Response projects. Swechchha is currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Denver and an internship at the Denver Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Prior to, she worked as a Foster Care Case Planner at Forestdale Inc. in NYC.

Focus Areas: Technical assistance

T Schweimler (they/them)
Research Manager

T enjoys working with Virginia’s Substance Abuse Block Grant Prevention and State Opioid Response (SOR) prevention projects and providing individualized technical assistance, evaluation related trainings, and additional evaluation and data-related support to help CSBs across the commonwealth thrive in their prevention work. T works across a variety of projects and content areas at OMNI, with a passion for raising up the voices of underrepresented and marginalized communities through research. T is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Madagascar ’16-’19) and is originally from Braunschweig, Germany.

Focus Areas: Individualized technical assistance, evaluation related trainings, data system support, survey tool development.