Supporting Community Members Since 1947

Partner for Mental Health has served the greater Charlottesville community as an affiliate of Mental Health America since 1947. As community needs have changed over time, our efforts have changed, though our goal has always been to help build a community best able to support its members living with mental illness.

Our 2023 Team:

Kate Acuff, JD, PhDExecutive Director

Sue Hess, MSN RNNavigator Supervisor/HART Community Navigator

Virginia Leavell – Justice Systems/HART/CARS Community Navigator

Veronica Espinosa, HCW, PRS – Therapeutic Docket Community Navigator

Kay Robertson, RPRS, iFPRS – Therapeutic Docket Community Navigator and PMH Administrator

Board of Directors:

Shaune McKinnon, DNP, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC – President

Wes Campbell, PhD, MHA, FACHE

Monte Glanzer, CPA

Edie Barbaro, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC

Helen Dunn, PhD

Julie Roebuck, DNP, PMHNP

Contributions through the decades…

1950s

Lacking a public mental health system, we coordinated the provision of low-cost and pro-bono delivery of care by private providers to community members who otherwise lacked access to services.

1960s

We advocated for the creation of and helped establish the local public mental health agency, Region Ten Community Services Board, to increase access to community-based care.

1970s & 1980s

With a focus on exposing and improving conditions within state-run psychiatric hospitals, our efforts culminated in a report on conditions within Western State Hospital—the state hospital serving Charlottesville area residents—that was credited with catalyzing the modernization of Virginia’s inpatient treatment system.

2000s

As an incubator of solutions to identify gaps in the community’s mental health service system, we helped launch initiatives serving the local Charlottesville community, including: 

• Crisis Intervention Training for local law enforcement officers and other first responders
• The Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition
• Georgia’s Healing House 

Currently…

We contributed to the Virginia Behavioral Health Service System Redesign Project, the impetus for the redesign Virginia’s publicly funded mental health service system into a seamless continuum of evidence-based care.

We consulted on the development of the Alternative Transportation for Temporary Detaining Order (TDO) policy and procedures, which prevents people in mental health crisis from the traumatizing experience being transported in a police car.

We served as an advisor to the Commonwealth’s Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, including revising the ECO/TDO statute after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. 

We are worked with Delegate Hope and the Deeds Commission to draft improvements to Virginia’s Mandatory Outpatient Treatment statute for consideration in the 2021 General Assembly Session.

In partnership with the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, Virginia’s Medicaid Office, and the Department of Behavioral Health Services, we are leading a project to propose policy and practice changes designed to facilitate more rapid entry into Medicaid funded residential substance abuse treatment services.

Today we are working with the Albemarle Charlottesville Therapeutic Docket to provide navigation services within the program.  Our two navigators, Raven Brooks and Veronica Espinoza, have successfully helped several individuals graduate from the program over the past five years.  Community navigator Kay Robertson stepped into Raven’s role in November of 2023.

We have partnered with the Albemarle Rescue Squad to form HART: Human Services Alternative Response Team: as an alternative to police being the first response to behavioral health and substance use emergencies.  HART partners with navigators to provide follow-up services to address referrals for treatment, continued home care, harm reduction supplies, and much more.  Sue Hess, our lead navigator, has taken point on this project in collaboration with part-time assistance from community navigator and Charlottesville Rescue Squad cheif, our newest hire, Virginia Leavell.

In November of 2023, we were approved by Col. Martin Kumer to offer community re-entry navigation at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail and began services in December.  Virginia has also taken point to offer her expertise as our Justice Systems Community Navigator.

Increasing Access to Justice for People with Mental Illness

During the 2021 Virginia legislative session, Partner for Mental Health was a key advocate in ensuring the final passage of one of the state’s most significant criminal procedure reforms in decades. The new legislation (HB2047 and SB1315) increases justice for those with a mental health, developmental, or intellectual disability by:

  • Allowing defendants with mental illness (as well as intellectual or developmental disabilities) to introduce evidence in court pertaining to their diagnosis and how it may have impacted their mental state at the time of the alleged offense.
  • Nullifying a Virginia Supreme Court ruling from 1985 that banned the introduction of such evidence during a trial.
  • Requiring judges to consider mental illness, intellectual disability, and developmental disability during the bail and trial process.
  • Requiring training for court-appointed lawyers to help them understand the unique responsibility of representing defendants with such conditions.
  • Requiring the defense to provide notice to the prosecution of their plans to introduce this evidence.
  • Allowing someone found not guilty under this provision to be civilly committed under a Temporary Detention Order if they meet commitment criteria.

This bill allows a person’s whole story to be told in the guilt phase of a trial. Its passage is one of the more remarkable changes we’ve made to criminal justice. If we are serious when we decry treating those who suffer with a mental illness as criminals, this bill is necessary and logical, and will help us build a more just society.”
–Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath)