Teen Mental Health Advisory Council to Support Statewide Work

pictures of Teen Mental Health Advisory Council

This month NC YMCAs are applying to the Alliance for funding through June 2026 to expand or launch teen programming with a consistent, intentional and repetitive focus on mental health. Data shows the need for this work is great. With our connections to teens in the communities we serve, YMCAs are well positioned to support teens and their families by recognizing the signs of mental health challenges and to providing resources to get help when needed.

The Alliance has formed a Teen Mental Health Advisory Council to support this work statewide. The Advisory Council will provide guidance, advice and expertise to the Alliance staff team around this emerging work and enhance the effectiveness of this work by leveraging specialized knowledge and facilitating connections with external stakeholders and experts.

Join us in thanking these leaders for bringing their diverse range of perspectives and experience to our work!


  • Ruby Brown-Herring, MEd, BSW, CEO of RBH Wellness Solutions and Youth/Teen MHFA Project Lead (Consultant), Child Behavioral Health Unit, NC DHHS Division of Child and Family Well-Being, Whole Child Section 
  • Karen Friedman, Director of Strategy and Quality Practices Mental Health, YMCA of the USA
  • Kate Gross, Association Director of Teen and Family Engagement at the YMCA of the Triangle
  • Pamela Hempstead, M.A., LCMHCA, Association Director of Mental Health, YMCA of Greater Charlotte
  • Nina Leger, MSW, Director of Contracts and Grants, National Alliance on Mental Illness, North Carolina (NAMI NC)
  • Ebone’ Mitchell, Director, Strategy and Quality Practices – Teens, YMCA of the USA
  • Sejal Patel, MS, LMFT, Director of Behavioral Health, Cleveland County Family YMCA

Learn a bit more about their backgrounds.

Ruby Brown-Herring is the CEO of RBH Wellness Solutions, where she assists businesses, government agencies and nonprofits with creating employee well-being strategies that support mental health at work while improving belonging, engagement, and retention. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from UNC Wilmington and a Master of Education in Student Personnel Services from the University of South Carolina. Ruby has over 20 years of experience in program management, adult, and higher education. She is also recognized as a state and national leader in corporate well-being and community mental health education that helps organizations build the foundation for a healthier workforce.

Karen Friedman is the Director of Strategy and Quality Practices Mental Health at YMCA of the USA (Y-USA). Karen provides leadership to advance community-based services in local YMCAs and YMCA State and Regional Alliances across the US. She supports Y-USA in unifying collective strategies; activating leading practices; socializing growth strategies; sourcing national partnerships; supporting advocacy and public policy; and identifying industry trends to inform continuous quality improvement and emerging innovation for Mental Health.

Prior to Y-USA, Karen was the Senior Director for Inclusion at the Hockomock Area YMCA in Massachusetts where she provided support and inclusive opportunities for members with disabilities and their families. 

Kate Gross is the Association Director of Teen and Family Engagement at the YMCA of the Triangle. Her focus is on creating equitable and accessible programs for all teens and families through strategic partnerships. She provides leadership and vision to association teen programs and the North Carolina Youth and Government programs, which allows her to better understand the needs of youth in our communities. Additionally, Kate served on the Y USA mental health cohort and Y USA CDC mental health grant. She is passionate about helping youth find a sense of belonging and believes that teens have the ability to make our future bright.

Pamela Hempstead, M.A., LCMHCA, Association Directo of Mental Health for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, is fired up excited about life! Born in Detroit, MI, Pamela and her family relocated to southern California. Pamela is a health and wellness enthusiast, two-time author and licensed therapist. She has her own private practice and works with clients who are living with obesity, anxiety, depression, unaddressed trauma and/or grief. Pam has been creating and facilitating workshops for over twenty years and thoroughly enjoys what she does! Pam enjoys cooking healthy foods, gardening and spending time with her nieces.

Nina Leger, MSW, is Director of Contracts and Grants for NAMI North Carolina. She has been with NAMI for nearly two years and also has served as Chief of Staff and Director of Programs and Affiliate Support. Nina graduated from NC State University with a bachelor’s in social work and earned a master’s in Social Work- Community Management and Policy Practice Concentration. Prior to joining NAMI, she was with the Alliance of Disability Advocates for more than four years. 

Eboné Mitchell was introduced to a career at the YMCA as an undergraduate student. Ebone’ spent 2 years working for the YMCA of the Triangle in a variety of part-time roles. After graduating, she began working full-time for the YMCA of Greater Richmond, where she served as a Teen and Camp Director, Association Teen Director and Senior Director of Community Engagement. In 2021, Eboné joined the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA as an Associate Executive Director at the Central City YMCA. In October 2023, joined YUSA as Director of Quality and Strategy Practices, Teens 

As a champion of DEI work, Eboné has been involved with several national and local YMCA initiatives. Eboné is a passionate champion for the work we do surrounding youth and proudly serves as a staff volunteer for Blue Ridge Leaders’ School, Y Achievers Summit committee member, local Leaders’ Club volunteer and spends a lot of time advocating for and elevating the voices of young people. A graduate of NC State, with a BA in Communication-Media, Eboné is a self-proclaimed “YMCA lifer.”

Sejal Patel was born in Western part of India but calls Shelby, NC, her hometown. She graduated from Shelby High School (Go Lions!) and in 2014 graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a BS in Psychology and BA in Criminal Justice. In 2018, she graduated from Capella University with a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Certification in Mental Health Counseling Services. She is licensed in North and South Carolina as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and is a national AAMFT Approved Supervisor Clinical Fellow. 

She has years of experience and the privilege of providing individual, couples, family, and group therapy to children, adolescents, adults, and families. She has specialized training in EMDR therapy, crisis intervention, assessments, and diagnosing. Sejal’s greatest life-achievement is she is a proud mother of two amazing, young-adult daughters, both of whom have expressed interest in the psychology-related field.
(January 9, 2024)