In communities with a strong military presence, it’s important for any organization’s military liaison to connect with the military community at an authentic level. And, it’s even more critical when the organization is serving children and teens with mental health diagnoses.
Katie Ross, MSW, The Barry Robinson Center’s new military liaison, brings a wealth of understanding that comes from growing up in a career military family, marrying a career military service member and working with military groups for many years. Serving as an ombudsman for her husband’s command also reinforces Ross’ keen understanding of military families.
Ross joined the Center in September as associate director of business development for Hampton Roads, Richmond and northeastern North Carolina.
“I’ll be focusing on outreach to our military community, mental health professionals and families to help them understand The Barry Robinson Center as a resource – how we can help their children and be a liaison for them to meet their needs,” Ross said. “With about 70 percent of our residents connected to the military, we empathize with their challenges, and we help families recover and children be successful.”
Ross earned a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Norfolk State University and completed a clinical residency at the Hampton VA Medical Center. During the residency, she provided psychosocial assessments, as well as individual psychotherapy in the military sexual trauma program, group therapy for veterans with recent suicide attempts, and set up the VA’s Intimate Partner Violence program.
During her transition to The Barry Robinson Center and learning about its psychiatric residential treatment for youth, Ross said she has enjoyed spending time with the children and teens. As a mom of two, she values time to listen to children and hear what’s on their minds.
“My first two weeks, I ate lunch with the kids every day and really enjoyed getting to know them,” she said. “I’m impressed that they can still find joy and be lighthearted even when they’ve experienced trauma. They are not defined by their experiences. You can hear their hope and confidence, which shows the treatment program is helping them achieve a healthy, happy life.”
Ross also possesses an extensive non-profit background, which aligns with the Center’s non-profit mission. Previously, she served as a nationwide program manager and outreach coordinator for Give an Hour, which offers free mental health care for the military community and disaster response. Part of her role with Give an Hour involved developing a military spouse mental health professional network that grew to about 1,000 members, pooling resources and lobbying for policy changes to provide more reciprocity for licensure requirements among states.