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Program Staff: Mental Health Program

Mental Health Program Staff

Eve H. Byrd, D.N.P., M.P.H.

Eve Byrd became director of the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program in February 2017. Prior to joining The Carter Center, she was a faculty member of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University and served as executive director of the Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression, Department of Psychiatry at the Emory School of Medicine. 

She has held leadership positions both nationally and locally in work aimed at eliminating stigma and improving access to care for people with behavioral health disorders. She supported the Special Advisor to the Governor on Mental Health, engaging stakeholders in the process that resulted in a settlement agreement between Georgia and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Read full bio. 

Lei Ellingson, M.P.P., M.S.S.E. 
Special Liaison

Lei Ellingson joined the Mental Health Program in 1998 as the Assistant Director and eventually rose to Senior Associate Director where she participated in developing, planning, and implementing Mental Health Program activities, including the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, the Liberia Mental Health Initiative, and the Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum.

Currently Ellingson serves as Special Liaison for the Mental Health Program and acts as the primary program liaison to Mrs. Carter’s office for all correspondence and special projects. She works in collaboration with other members of The Carter Center to assist in drafting program materials, talking points, website content, and publications as liaison to Mrs. Carter’s office. Previously, Ellingson worked in the field of special education. She received a master’s of public policy degree from Duke University, a master’s of science in special education from The Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelor’s of arts from Mount Holyoke College.

Samhita Kumar, M.P.H.
Associate Director, Global Mental Health Programs and Liberia

Samhita Kumar is a mental health and development specialist who joined the Mental Health Program in June 2019. Previously, she was with the World Bank Group, where she designed and implemented programs to help address the psychosocial well-being of vulnerable groups and enhance human capital in low- and middle-income countries and fragile and conflict-affected situations. Kumar also supported World Bank efforts to address fragility, conflict, and violence. Prior to joining the World Bank, Kumar conducted research on severe mental disorders among youth and early learning and memory in childhood, working with leading academic and policy institutions. She holds a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology and global health from Columbia University and a bachelor’s in neuroscience from Emory University.

Helen Robinson, M.P.A.
Associate Director, Public Policy

As associate director for public policy, Helen Robinson analyzes federal and state policies that impact access to prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery support for mental illnesses. She leads the Georgia Parity Collaborative, a group of statewide stakeholders working to advance parity in insurance coverage for behavioral health in Georgia. She also represents the Center’s Mental Health Program in national public policy coalitions, working to ensure mental health care is covered and accessible. Prior to joining the Center, she gained extensive experience leading strategic policy change for nonprofit and governmental organizations, with a focus on public health and women’s issues. She also served as lead trainer for the award-winning Georgia Women’s Policy Institute. She holds a master’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree in political science with a gender studies concentration from Davidson College.

S. Benedict Dossen, M.Sc G.M.H., B.S.W.
Country Program Lead
Mental Health Program – Liberia

S. Benedict Dossen oversees all Carter Center behavioral health initiatives in Liberia. He engages in policy-setting, program-related global initiatives, and information sessions. Dossen represents the program at the national and international levels and makes public speaking appearances on the Center’s behalf. He works closely with Liberian government agencies, universities and other stakeholders in planning and implementing projects related to the national mental health agenda, while at the same time sustaining and strengthening the Carter Center’s initiatives. Dossen previously was director of gender and social inclusion with the Millennium Challenge Account Liberia. He developed the concept for and served as the interim executive director of the country’s national mental health center of excellence, called the Liberia Center for Outcomes Research in Mental Health. He holds a Master of Science in Global Mental Health from King’s College London and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Stella Maris Polytechnic in Monrovia, Liberia. He serves on two of Liberia’s leading research ethics bodies and is a research ethics fellow with New York University and Western Institutional Review Board’s ethics program.

Sadie Bazur-Leidy, M.P.H.
Senior Program Associate, Global Mental Health Programs and Liberia

Sadie Bazur-Leidy joined the Mental Health Program in September 2019 as the senior program associate for the Liberia and Global Mental Health Initiative. In this role she works to design, implement, and evaluate global mental health activities and collaborates with partners to meet program goals. Prior to joining The Carter Center, Bazur-Leidy worked with various nongovernmental organizations to build health workforce capacity, manage medical supply chains, and improve access to surgical care services in Malawi and Ethiopia. She holds a master’s degree in public health from New York University in community and international health, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Macalester College.

Michelle Rivera, M.S., B.Sc.
Senior Program Associate

Michelle Rivera is the senior program associate for the Carter Center Mental Health Program. She was previously program coordinator for the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, which promotes equity and economic opportunity in underserved neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C., region. She has also served as program manager at Unconventional International. Rivera has conducted field research with rural farmers in Colombia on building peace within their communities, consulted for World Vision International in Amman, Jordan, and worked with students in foster care as a residential case manager in New York City. She holds a master’s degree in peacebuilding and gender studies from New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and a B.Sc. in counseling psychology from Toccoa Falls College.

Susan Whisnant
Program Associate, Mental Health Public Policy and Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism and Media

Susan Whisnant develops, implements and coordinates mental health program activities, manages Carter Journalism Fellows social media channels, creates program communication materials, and manages grants and budgets. She leads the implementation of the annual Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum with over 200 participants; manages program support for the September Rosalynn Carter Journalism Fellowship Learning Lab; serves as the primary staff liaison to the Mental Health Task Force, a group of expert advisors on mental health policy; and provides support on projects involving Carter Center Mental Health Program founder Rosalynn Carter. Whisnant joined The Carter Center in 2008. She earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Ana Cunningham, M.S.S.W.
Program Associate, Public Policy

As a program associate for public policy, Ana Cunningham coordinates operations of the Mental Health Program’s School-Based Behavioral Health initiative and manages grants and project proposals for the public policy team. Prior to joining The Carter Center, Cunningham worked at the Atlanta Regional Commission and Core Services Group, Inc. In both positions, she helped coordinate medical and behavioral health care for individuals through administrative work, home visits, or service referrals. Cunningham holds a Master of Science in Social Work, Advanced Generalist Practice, and Programming from the Columbia School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts, Human Development from Eckerd College.

Tsion Horra
Program Assistant, Global Mental Health Programs and Liberia

Tsion Horra joined the Mental Health Program in January 2019 as the program assistant for the Liberia and Global Mental Health Initiative. In this role, she is responsible for departmental communications, financial processing, and logistical support. Horra previously worked for the Atlanta Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, where she managed a grant project and connected immigrant communities to city services. Horra received her undergraduate degree from Emory University in 2017.

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