Kelly O’Connor, Executive Director, oversees the programmatic, fundraising and marketing operations of Maternal Mental Health NOW. Her goal is to ensure that all of Los Angeles County’s new families have the resources they need to address maternal mental health disorders so that they can grow and thrive. Kelly previously served as Maternal Mental Health NOW’s Development Director for 7 years. Before joining Maternal Mental Health NOW’s team (which coincidentally corresponded with her own transition to motherhood), Kelly worked for several nonprofit organizations in the human services and environmental fields in the US and the UK as a freelance fundraising consultant and staff member. Kelly is a graduate of Northwestern University, having received a BS in Communication Studies & Sociology. She also holds a MS in Elementary Education from Brooklyn College, part of the City University of New York.
Anna King, LCSW, PMH-C, (she/her) is a licensed clinical social worker and certified perinatal mental health specialist who uses an integrative, trauma-informed approach in her work grounded in reproductive and transformative justice. Her work centers on the embodied liberation of marginalized groups in reproductive spaces and is inspired by intersectional feminist and womanist theory.
Anna serves as Director of Training at Maternal Mental Health NOW, where she curates training events and curricula and facilitates live and pre-recorded online training to educate providers on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). Prior to joining the MMH-NOW team, she served as a full-time social worker in the emergency department and later transitioned to serving in a hospital birth center and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). With 10 years of mental health experience, she has facilitated support groups, supported the crisis and counseling needs of individuals and families experiencing mental health challenges, and served as a field instructor for MSW students.
She currently serves as an inaugural Health Advisory Board member with Babylist and is an active member of The Blacker The Brain™ cohort for decolonizing mental health. She is also a part-time psychotherapist with ARC Counseling and Wellness and a Ph.D. student in the Integral and Transpersonal Psychology program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). Her research interests include spiritual activism, the highly sensitive person (HSP) trait, birth and postpartum tradition, and the transition to parenthood as a rite of passage.
Kimberly Gray currently serves as Director of Development for Maternal Mental Health NOW. In this capacity, she works to cultivate strategic partnerships and create the infrastructure and vision to fulfill the funding objectives of Maternal Mental Health NOW. Kimberly’s passion for perinatal mental health is inspired by personal experience with pregnancy loss and motherhood. She is particularly interested in improving maternal health outcomes for Black women.
Kimberly serves on the Board of Advisors of the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance to advise MMHLA’s Board of Directors and staff on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion and to ensure that all policies and programs address racial inequities in perinatal mental health. She is a co-chair for the Funder’s Circle Workgroup for the South Los Angeles/South Bay African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Community Action Team (CAT). Additionally, she serves as Vice President, and founding board member for the E.M.B.R.A.C.E. Experience, whose goal is to promote leadership abilities and self-confidence in girls through cultural activity.
Prior to joining the Maternal Mental Health NOW team Kimberly worked for a decade as an advocate of change and improvement in the nonprofit education sector. Kimberly has a B.S. in Business Administration from UNC Greensboro, a M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and was a former Juris Doctorate Candidate at NCCU School of Law.
Alex Villalba, Community Resource Manager, is a bilingual Two-Spirit community organizer with ten years of grassroots organizing experience in the Borderlands. They hold a Master’s degree in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Oregon State University and continue to advocate for decolonial practices as pathways to individual and community healing. Alex is currently training to become a full spectrum birthworker and gender transition doula with the intention of providing culturally appropriate support for the queer and trans community.
Ivana Arteaga, Training Coordinator, is responsible for supporting the administrative, technical, and communication functions of the Training Department. Prior to joining Maternal Mental Health NOW, Ivana immersed herself in the public service sector as a community volunteer, Housing Navigator for a domestic violence agency and a program coordinator for a youth-based organization. Her passion for the perinatal mental health field stems from her personal commitment to building healthy communities and ending the stigma on mental illness by supporting parents and families. Ivana earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a minor in Political Science from California State University Long Beach and is eager to further her educational journey into perinatal care.
Erin Sricharoon, Storytelling Coordinator, is responsible for identifying, supporting, capturing and sharing the stories of Los Angeles-based individuals who have lived experience with depression, anxiety, trauma, loss and/or other hardship during the perinatal period in an effort to reduce stigma associated with perinatal mental health disorders. Her journey to motherhood includes miscarriage and postpartum depression, which deepens her personal commitment to the work of the organization. Prior to joining Maternal Mental Health NOW she led workforce development efforts for community health centers throughout Los Angeles County. Erin is a former middle school and high school English teacher. She holds a B.A. in Psychology & Child Development from California State University, San Bernardino.
Durga Shaddock, Peer Supporter, is a Two Spirit/Queer person of Chickasaw and Arabic decent. Taking their lived experience and passion for social justice, Durga became a certified Trauma Conscious Yoga teacher, completing her RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training and going on to take additional courses, supporting students and community members in their unique journeys of recovery and self-discovery.
Durga studied communications and art in college before taking numerous trainings with Hala Khouri, Off the Mat Into the World, Zabie Yamasaki (Transcending Trauma with Yoga), Nervous System Reset with Jessica Schaffer, Black Lives Matters, Indigenous Circle of Wellness, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Rising Hearts, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, and more.
Durga has one child and experienced the need for perinatal support, leading her to transition from her former career into a role that would allow the utilization of their dynamic skill set and deep desire to support birthing folks.
Eynav Accorrt, PhD is a clinical psychologist specializing in perinatal mental health and the Director of the Cedars-Sinai Reproductive Psychology Program. Her clinical research focuses on mood and anxiety disorders during the female reproductive life course and in response to chronic illness. She studies the physiological processes that are associated with higher risk for depression and anxiety in pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, and following diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and heart disease in women. She is also interested in the association between maternal mental health and adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, with a long-term goal of developing and testing effective interventions.
Dr. Accortt earned her Masters (2004) and Doctoral (2009) degrees in Clinical Psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. She completed her clinical internship at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2009 and was an assistant professor of psychology at Miami University in Ohio from 2009-2012. She completed her NIMH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biobehavioral Issues in Physical and Mental Health at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2014 and joined the faculty at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in 2015.
Mallika Bhandarkar is a policy analyst at RAND. Her primary interests include public health, community health, health disparities, and vulnerable populations. Bhandarkar earned her M.P.H with a concentration in health promotion from Columbia University, and B.A. in anthropology from Boston University. Prior to working at RAND, she worked with First 5 LA-funded home visiting programs for pregnant and new families, providing technical assistance and training for staff, and at UCLA on a variety of public health intervention research projects.
What is a fun fact about you? I have been studying Odissi, a classical Indian dance form, since I was twelve. I had taken a six-year break but the pandemic has helped me reunite with my dance teacher through Zoom dance classes every weekend.
What is your favorite self-care technique? Painting, drawing, or any type of art project.
What inspired you to join MMHN’s Governing Council? After leaving a job that was explicitly in the maternal child health sphere, I wanted to stay connected and continue contributing to the community. I am inspired by the depth of support and knowledge provided by the network.
Joshua Cohen is a Certified Public Accountant with over eleven years’ experience in accounting. As a CPA Joshua provides a mix of tax compliance, planning, business management and consulting services with specialties in Entertainment, Real Estate, Family Businesses, Entrepreneurial owners and individuals and families. Joshua loves being an accountant as he gets to help individuals every day and is constantly solving new, often complex puzzles. Joshua is a CPA at Mann Gelon Glodney Gumerove Yee LLP in Century City.
Joshua got involved in Maternal Mental Health Now alongside his wife Jaclyn, a rabbi in West LA. Together their family survived postpartum depression following the birth of their son Avi. Joshua’s goal is to support families who were not as fortunate to have the incredible support his family had and normalize an illness that affects far more families than many realize. The Cohens live in Culver City and are proud to contribute their time and energy to supporting Maternal Mental Health NOW.
Jenna Haeflinger-Kurtz is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Director of Early Intervention & Community Wellness at Wellnest in Los Angeles. She is an endorsed Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist focusing on birth to five issues such as trauma, parent-child relational issues, and developmental delays. Jenna has a Bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University.
Jenna’s most important role is being a mother to two beautiful children, a 3 year old and 1 year old. She enjoys spending her free time with her family traveling and exploring the wonderful city of Los Angeles. Jenna has a passion for children and wants to participate in making a difference in the lives of mothers in this community through the mission of MMHN to ensure mothers have an opportunity for mental health support, so they can positively engage in their role of motherhood.
Cristina Keefe is a nonprofit executive with 20 years of experience in client-focused fundraising, marketing, and project management roles. As a strategic consultant with CCS Fundraising, she advises nonprofit clients in the human services, education, healthcare, and arts and culture sectors. She is passionate about advancing women and girls and co-chairs her firm’s Working Parents Community and a firmwide DEI committee. Cristina received her MBA with honors from UCLA Anderson School of Management and serves as the VP of Programming for the Anderson Women alumni board. In her free time, she enjoys travel, hiking, arts and crafts, and family dance parties. Cristina resides in the West Valley with her husband, daughter, son, and their beloved chihuahua.
What is a fun fact about you? I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!
What is your favorite self-care technique? Good conversation over good tequila.
What inspired you to join MMHN’s Governing Council? I have experienced pregnancy loss and postpartum anxiety, and I want to use my voice to help provide support, access to services, and a network for parents dealing with similar challenges under additional constraints.
Dr. Sarah Oreck attended medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and completed her Adult Psychiatry residency and fellowship in Women’s Mental Health at Columbia University. After graduation, she returned to her hometown of Los Angeles, California where she has a private practice focused on reproductive mental health and is a staff physician at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. She is passionate about women’s health and addressing gender bias in medical training and education. She has become an active member of Maternal Mental Health NOW and Postpartum Support International.
Amber Sheikh is owner and Chief Impact Officer at Sheikh/Impact (formerly Thurlow/Associates), where she leads an incredible team who tenaciously work to raise the capacity of organizations trying to solve the toughest issues and assist our Los Angeles communities through organizational development, fundraising and communications.
Outside of her professional life, Amber is a very active community advocate. In June 2019, Amber was appointed to the LA City Harbor Area Planning Commission by Mayor Eric Garcetti. She also coordinates the Council District 15 Working Group on Homelessness. Amber is also a board member of Maternal Mental Health NOW and the Assistance League of San Pedro/South Bay. She also proudly serves on the Harbor Neighborhood Relief Fund and Providence South Bay Mission and Community Health Committee, lending her expertise to support impactful grantmaking throughout South LA.
In 2019 Amber was chosen as LA City Council District 15’s Pioneer Woman of the Year for her work on homelessness and gender equity. She is also the 2019 recipient of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award for her work championing solutions to end homelessness in South Los Angeles.
Amber is a native Angeleno, first generation American, and a proud parent of two vivacious children. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of California, Davis and maintains active CFRE status.
Heather Tarleton is an Associate Dean for the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering and Professor of Health & Human Sciences at Loyola Marymount University. Dr. Tarleton teaches courses in Nutrition, Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Obesity & Behavior, Public Health, Health & Wellbeing in Homeless Communities, Health Services for Marginalized Populations, Healthcare Administration, Cancer Survivorship, and Medical Bioethics.
Her primary research projects examine the effects of exercise-based interventions as well as psychosocial interventions on reducing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and poor quality of life among cancer survivors. The interventions aim to improve cancer survivors’ overall capacity to engage in life by addressing fatigue, balance, musculoskeletal health and strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, neuropathy and psychosocial barriers.
Dr. Tarleton is also working with students to examine the issues concerning the ecology (sociocultural and political landscape) of homelessness and the marginalization of communities. Since wellbeing is a complex phenomenon for those living the homeless experience, Dr. Tarleton encourages students to become sensitive to diversity of needs, issues with access and availability of city and state services, and interpersonal communication in order to promote humanity and dignity. Individuals experiencing homelessness are socially and financially vulnerable and often struggling with barriers to stability (lack of educational attainment or job training, alcohol/substance abuse, and depression due to estrangement from support networks). Given the complexity of potential barriers, Dr. Tarleton believes that sustainable solutions will require attention to the details that govern the “efficacy” versus “effectiveness” of policy implementation.
Dr. Tarleton is a member of the National Institutes of Health Network of Minority Health Research Investigators (NIH NMRI).
What is a fun fact about you? I’m from Maryland so I love seafood!
What is your favorite self-care technique? Quiet moments in my backyard with a cup of coffee in hand.
What inspired you to join MMHN’s Governing Council? I am a foster parent and experienced my own mental health challenges during the abrupt transition into parenting.
Starr Thompson is the Chief People & Administration Officer for Nonprofits Insurance Alliance. Prior to joining the group, Ms. Thompson led overall human resources strategy, talent acquisition, leadership development, and DEI strategy as vice president of human resources for Fitness Club Management, the largest franchise company of Crunch Fitness Gyms. Prior to that, Ms. Thompson held positions as director of human resources at The Medical Group Executive Services, and human resources manager at Lemonade Restaurant Group.
In addition to her professional work, Ms. Thompson is a member of the Society of Human Resources Management, the National Human Resources Association, and Professionals in Human Resources Management; and she enjoys sharing her expertise in human resources management as a mentor to young professionals.
Carolyn Yancey is an adjunct Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC and recently retired from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a Senior Clinical Reviewer. Dr. Yancey is a pediatrician and pediatric rheumatologist by training. In her armamentarium of drug and biological product development and review, she reviewed the development program for the first product approved by the FDA focused on postpartum depression and mood disorders of depression in the perinatal period and postpartum.
Dr. Yancey is certified by the African American Board Leadership Institute and joined the MMHN Governing Council in May 2022. As a pediatrician with hands-on experience with the critical need for pregnant women to be emotionally supported throughout pregnancy and postpartum, Dr. Yancey brings robust understanding of the implementation and content of prenatal visits with a pediatrician screening for maternal postpartum risk factors. She helped implement general pediatric best practices at Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic region educating providers and screening pregnant women and adolescents about prenatal care and mood disorders of anxiety and depression during the prenatal period to prepare for the arrival of a newborn. Her experience with implementing clinical best practices, engaging in provider education, and navigating in healthcare delivery systems positions her to contribute to the mission and outreach of MMHN.
Dr. Yancey received her undergraduate degree in biology at Spelman College and her Medical Doctorate degree at Howard University College of Medicine. She completed her residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric rheumatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She resides in the Washington, DC area.
What is a fun fact about you? I am a twin.
What is your favorite self-care technique? Brisk walks are a winner for mind, body, and spirit.
What inspired you to join MMHN’s Governing Council? My passion for health equity and educating women of diverse backgrounds on how to manage their healthcare attracted me to the tremendous work of MMHN in public awareness, policy, and advocacy. The MMHN provider training and compendium of storytelling form a platform of collaboration of over 15 years of work that help diverse communities become more healthy and better supported.
Carol Berkowitz, M.D. FAAP, FACEP, is currently Division Chief of General Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and did her pediatric residency at the Roosevelt Hospital in New York. She is a Past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2006, she was the recipient of the Joseph W. St. Geme Jr. Leadership Award, and in 2007, she received the Abraham Jacobi Memorial Award, an acknowledgement by both the AAP and the AMA of her numerous contributions to the health and well-being of children and to the pediatric community. She is the author of several hundred articles and book chapters and is the editor of Berkowitz’s Pediatrics: A Primary Care Approach, a textbook now in its 5th edition.
Ellie Berkowitz-Handler, PhD, is currently the Executive Director at Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay. In her former life before children, Ellie was a Professor of Art History, specializing in Chicano and Latin American Art. After suffering two bouts of severe postpartum anxiety with her first two children, Ellie decided to dedicate her life’s work to destigmatizing the issue of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and helping all women suffering from this disorder. In addition to rearing her three children, Ellie both sits on and chairs several other non-profit boards.
Elyse Springer is a Marriage and Family Therapist, licensed in California and Oregon and is currently a board member for Postpartum Support International’s newly formed California chapter and serves as the Established Organizations Chair. She is an emeritus Governing Council member for Maternal Mental Health NOW (formerly The Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force) after serving an eight year term, in addition to her ongoing role as training faculty for the organization. Elyse served as a Board Member of national maternal mental health policy and advocacy group 2020 Mom Project from 2014-2019, and currently sits on the organization’s Clinical Advisory panel. In addition, Elyse is a current Clinical Advisory Board Member for national perinatal loss organization Return to Zero: H.O.P.E. Elyse is a past co-chair of the Los Angeles County HIV Mental Health Task Force and is affiliated with CAMFT, Postpartum Support International, certified in Interpersonal Therapy by the the IPT Institute, certified in EMDR Therapy by EMDRIA, is an EMDRIA-approved Consultant-In-Training (CIT) with Deany Laliotis and was among the first clinicians with the national PMH-C (Perinatal Mental Health Certification) designation.
Penny White has an MSW degree in clinical social work, with a concentration in health care, from USC. She was a maternal/child health social worker, specializing in NICU, at Northridge Hospital Medical Center for ten years. She teaches psychosocial issues/skills to second-year medical students at UCLA. She co-created and co-directed an embedded maternal mental health assessment and treatment program at the USC/Eisner Family Practice Clinic.
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