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. She has worked on several project implementation and evaluation efforts targeting activities designed to enhance services for youth with mental health needs,  including those associated with the efforts of the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Action Network (MHJJAN),  the Texas Recovery Focused Learning Community (RFLC) and the ASSET planning grant. 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. She currently serves as a key  collaborator for The Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change, providing technical assistance and training  alongside a select group of local and state leaders in the juvenile justice and mental health fields.

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.

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.