Board of Directors

Keeping Our Organization Running

Our Board of Directors includes members from all walks of life and backgrounds. This team donates their time and energy into keeping the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi active and involved in our community.

Dorothy Smith Tinser, long time Board Member and supporter, delivers a message to Mental Health Association’s Board Members, both past and present.  Her mother, Opal Smith helped form this organization.  Both wanted to help people who are struggling to find a place where they feel safe and respected.  We thrive to fulfill their wishes.  History and Value to MHA Board Members 

Kimberly Nastasi, Certified Association Professional and Institute of Organization Management graduate, presents information on Board Goverance.  She has given permisison for this to be shared with other Boards.  Board Governance


Board Executive Committee

Sheila Farr

Sheila Farr

President, Gulf Coast Training & Education Services, LLC

Sheila Farr is an eternal optimist and the owner of Gulf Coast Training & Education Services, LLC,  where she helps small businesses and entrepreneurs develop business plans and strategies that work.  Sheila is a best-selling author, an educator, and a business strategist. A graduate of both the University of Georgia and Liberty University, she has a master’s degrees in education and health & wellness counseling.  In 2020, she founded Biloxi Reads!; an initiative designed to get books into the hands of underserved populations. She also serves her community as a literacy coach with the “Biloxi Reads!” program, providing job training as the Workforce Readiness Director for the Gulf Coast Human Resource Association,  bringing awareness to help stop Veteran suicides as an Ambassador for Mission 22, and advocating for mental wellness as a Board member for the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi. Sheila enjoys gardening, target shooting, yoga, UGA football, and writing her inspirational blog entitled, “Thankful and Blessed 365.”

Liz Hoop

Liz Hoop

Past President, Hoop Cares, LLC.

Liz Hoop, International Best selling author, is a tenured hospice community liaison where she spends her days educating communities , doctors and facilities on the benefits of hospice care.  She calls this job her calling and finds it very fulfilling. She attends The Springs church where she is a member of the choir, co-leads a single women’s  life group and is the  leader of the women’s ministry team.   She serves on the board of directors for the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi, Special Needs Organization of South MS , Anchored Hearts Community Resources, Adopt A Grandparent Day and Teen Challenge for Women in MS. She selflessly gives of her time in volunteer efforts that help others.  She enjoys spending time with her family and friends.  

Mental Health Association of South Mississippi Board of Directors portraits in Gulfport, Mississippi, on November 30, 2022. Photo by James Edward Bates.

Michael Mong

Vice President, The University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. Michael Mong is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi and a board certified, licensed behavior analyst and licensed school psychologist who specializes in behavioral therapy as well as academic and behavioral assessments. He enjoys working with a wide variety of clients and also works within schools offering therapy, psychoeducational assessments, staff training, and educator resources. Dr. Mong is a graduate of both Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University and has previously served as a trainer for the Mississippi Department of Education, an Associate Dean of the College of Education & Psychology at USM, and as the Director of the USM Autism Project. In his free time, Dr. Mong enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, fishing, and watching LSU and Saints football games.


Cliff Hermes

Secretary, Oceans Behavioral Hospital

Cliff has over 20 years of experience in the field of Healthcare that has included work in Radiology, Intensive Care, Emergency Care and Behavioral Healthcare. As an RN, Cliff cared for critically ill and emergent patients and became the Director of Emergency Services at Biloxi Regional Medical center in 2008. During his time as the Director, he obtained advanced degrees in Public Health and Business Administration. In 2013, Cliff made the move to Behavioral Healthcare. He became the Administrator of Psychiatric Services in January of 2013 for Gulf Oaks Hospital and remained the Administrator of the facility when it transitioned to Oceans of Biloxi in 2019. Cliff’s has worked with the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi since 2014 to promote their mission of championing positive mental health and wellness.

Mental Health Association of South Mississippi Board of Directors portraits in Gulfport, Mississippi, on November 30, 2022. Photo by James Edward Bates.

Christy Ireland

Treasurer, The Peoples Bank

Christy has been in the banking industry over 20 years, with the majority of her career devoted to The Peoples Bank. Her love of banking originally began in Hattiesburg while attending the University of Southern Mississippi. While at USM, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, majoring in Banking/Finance. She is also a graduate of Ole Miss School of Banking and Leadership Gulf Coast. She is currently a Senior VP and Chief Risk Officer at The Peoples Bank. Christy was born and raised here on the MS Gulf Coast. She attended St. Martin, which is where her children have also attended. She is happily married with three children. She enjoys kickboxing, pottery, and spending time with family and friends. She is also a member of Mosaic Church. She recognizes the importance of mental health and wellness and looks forward to being a part of this organization.

CeCe Shabazz

Cecelia Shabazz

Executive Member, Memorial Hospital at Gulfport

Cece Shabazz is an award-winning Creative Director with over 20 years in the advertising industry. Passionate about the Advertising community and an Industry advocate, she’s the recipient of the American Advertising Federation’s Silver Medalist Award for her contributions to the industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Cece knows that the right marketing strategy for her clients can be an economic game changer. Her superpower lies in her ability to effectively identify a client’s pain points and provide custom creative solutions that will actually drive their results. Recognizing that businesses thrive through the power of impactful branding, she works to enhance their marketing, equity, loyalty, customer satisfaction, and potential. Cece has helped lead talented creative teams to numerous ADDY awards with consecutive “Art Director of the Year” and “Creative Director of the Year” recognitions. Cece is also a public speaker well known for her energetic presentations and industry insight.

Bridget Beck

Bridget Beck

Co-Secretary, Berkshire Hathaway Realty

Bridget Beck was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She studied Communications at the University of Southern Alabama. This is where she met her husband of 18 years, Michael Beck, an Electrical Engineer at Mississippi Power Company. They relocated to Biloxi in 1993 where they raised their children, Christopher, 2023 graduate of University of Mississippi and Brianna, 2024 graduate of Biloxi High School. With her husband they successfully buy property, renovate, rent and sell property along the Gulf Coast. As a full time licensed professional realtor, she specializes in residential properties.  She has 15 years’ experience in real estate where she stives to provide quality service to build and maintain relations by communicating effectively. Bridget has been part of the PTO at Biloxi Schools since 2019. She is a member of Port Side Fitness and part of the Mardi’s Gras group Cavaliers. Bridget selflessly gives her time to volunteer in many community events and participates in fundraisers that help aid and assist in the community.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors provides overall leadership and is responsible for defining MHASM’s mission and strategic direction. They set policy and actively ensure that the organization has adequate resources to carry out its mission. MHASM’s Board of Directors is passionate about helping people with steps of prevention, support and treatment of mental health challenges. They know that people should not feel ashamed or fearful of mental illness as it is a medical illness just like heart disease or cancer.

Amy Bateson

Amy Bateson

Trustmark National Bank

Amy is a graduate of Mississippi State University. She has 30 years of banking experience, with 23 years of dedicated work at Trustmark National Bank where she is a Vice President on the gulf coast. Amy has been a volunteer with Mental Health Association of South MS for several years. She is active in the community serving as Past Board President of United Way of South MS, Board Member of Biloxi Chamber of Commerce, Member Gulfport Rotary Club and on the Finance Committee with First United Methodist of Gulfport. Amy has participated in triathlons, marathons and more. She is married and has a growing family with the recent birth of a grandchild.


Laquita Brown

Vision Business Solutions, LLC

LaQuita Brown was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Growing up, she was often drawn to helping others and over time she has continued in this calling by offering her help in any way she can. She is the owner of Vision Business Solutions, LLC which specializes in assisting mental health business owners set up his or her private practice and develop foundational principles for that business. She is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi where she earned a Bachelor Degree in Child and Family Studies.  She has many years of experience as it relates to Mental Health and Private Mental Health Practices. She is a board member with Mental Heath Association of South Mississippi (MHASM) and an active board member for Mississippi Conference on Social Welfare (MCSW). She is an active church and community member here on the MS Gulf Coast. Her life is guided by Jeremiah 29:11 and helping bring ones vision to life.

Daniel Caridad

Daniel Caridad

Daniel is in the process of obtaining a master’s degree. He was previously employed by Back Bay Mission leading the Micah Center, a day center for people experiencing homelessness. Prior to that he was with former Gulf Coast Mental Health. Daniel has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Southern Mississippi, specializing in cognitive theory, the psychology of marketing, and behavioral modification. He is a lifetime member of both Psi Chi and Sigma Tau Delta, international honor societies in Psychology and English Literature, respectively. Daniel is also a proud member of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Daniel plays guitar, drums, a little piano, and is working toward being the Gulf Coast’s preeminent blues ukulele practitioner. 

Dean Doty

Dean Doty

Gulfport Behavioral Health System

Dean has worked in the mental health and substance use disorder fields for almost 30 years. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Belhaven University and his Master of Social Work from the University of Southern Mississippi. He has worked as a counselor, therapist, clinical director, primary care director, interventionist, and administrator prior to becoming CEO of Gulfport Behavioral Health System. He is a lifelong MS resident who has called the MS gulf coast home for the past 20 years.


Darvis Gill

Darvis Gill

Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort

Darvis Gill is the father of 6 amazing daughters, husband to his wife of 8 years Sheena Robinson-Gill and grandfather of a 3-year-old baby girl.  He enjoys spending time with his family and watching college football.  Darvis, originally from West Point, MS, now calls the Mississippi Gulf Coast home. His passion is people and that passion landed him into the hospitality field where he could build positive relationships and impact the lives of others.  Darvis is currently the Director of Hotel Operations for Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort located in D’Iberville.  He has worked for over 18 years as a leader in the hospitality industry. Key experiences – facilitating processes and procedures in service-oriented cultures, Kaizen (Continuous Improvement), financial management/cost controls and team building.   

Mental Health Association of South Mississippi Board of Directors portraits in Gulfport, Mississippi, on November 30, 2022. Photo by James Edward Bates.

Jocelyn Gavin-Lane

Premier Professional Counseling Services

Jocelyn has worked in the social service field as a licensed social worker for more than 20 years. She is the owner and Clinical Director of Premier Professional Counseling Services, LLC. Jocelyn has a Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work from Jackson State University and a Master’s in Public Health- Healthcare Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is the CEO & founder of The Pink Lotus Project a national nonprofit focused on empowering women and mentoring girls. Pink Lotus hosts the Gulf Coast Youth Leadership Symposium which empowers over 150 students in leadership and service. Jocelyn has received several awards, is an arthor and graduate of leadership programs. She previously served as a board member of the MS Chapter of National Association of Social Workers, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Gulf Coast (MS) Chapter of The Links, Inc., MS Gulf Coast Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. 

Cynthia Helwig BOD

Cynthia Helwig

Cynthia Helwig DNP, PMHNP, GNP

Cynthia Helwig DNP, PMHNP, GNP is a board-certified Nurse Practitioner (NP) in Psychiatry and Geriatrics, and specializes in the care of ages 18 years old and up.  Her background includes 33 years of providing medical and psychiatric health care to our country’s veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She has been practicing as a NP for 25 years and has been in the medical profession her entire career. After retirement she began working at MindWorks Psychologist in Pass Christian, MS as a prescriptive provider. Helwig received her Bachelor of Nursing from William Carey College. She received her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP), Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) from the University of South Alabama. NP Helwig also became a Certified iRest Yoga Nidra Teacher while working on her DNP and completed a study at the VA implementing iRest Yoga Nidra for treatment of chronic pain and PTSD.  She has continued her educational endeavors by receiving ongoing training for treatment of multiple conditions and advanced prescriptive provider training. 


Megan Lockley

Ex-Officio, Gulf Coast Family Counseling

Megan Lockley, LCSW has been providing mental health therapy for individuals, couples and families for the last ten years.  She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Masters in Social Work in 2010 following her Bachelors in Psychology in 2008. She worked as a therapist on the inpatient adolescent unit at Merit Health Gulf Oaks (now Oceans Behavioral Health) from 2014-2016 with previous experience in individual and family outpatient therapy at the Gulf Coast Mental Health Center. She began practicing at Gulf Coast Family Counseling, a United Way Agency in Ocean Springs in 2016. She is passionate about mental health and wellness and advocating for social justice and equality in both professional and personal respects as a member of the Human Rights Campaign and volunteering with community organizations like the South Mississippi AIDS Task Force, Special Olympics, and, since 2015, as a board member for the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi.

Mental Health Association of South Mississippi Board of Directors portraits in Gulfport, Mississippi, on November 30, 2022. Photo by James Edward Bates.

Tillie McCoy

Singing River Health System

Tillie has lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast her entire life.  She graduated from Vancleave High School and achieved her Associates Degree from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.  She has been a Certified Professional Coder since 2011 and an active member of the American Academy of Professional Coders.  Tillie has worked in the healthcare field since 2000.  Most of her career has been with Singing River Health System, where she is currently the Practice Administrator for Behavioral Health Services. Tillie has been married for over 20 years and has three children.  She enjoys helping out in the community and meeting new people.