Larke Huang

This year's Nicholas Hobbs Award winner is an exemplary clinical-community psychologist dedicated to creating systems of care for youth.

By Sarah E. Beals-Erickson, MA, and Sangeeta D. Parikshak, PhD

Larke Nahme Huang, PhD, is the spotlighted advocate for this issue's Profile in Advocacy . At the APA Convention in Honolulu, Dr. Huang will receive the Div. 37 Nicholas Hobbs Award for her advocacy and policy efforts on children's mental health initiatives over the past 30 years of her career. Dr. Huang, an exemplar clinical-community psychologist, has dedicated her career to creating systems of care for youth and eliminating disparities for ethnic minority children.

Dr. Huang has worked as an advocate for children's mental health needs through a number of venues, including as a faculty member, clinical supervisor, consultant, practicing clinician, researcher, and, for a significant portion of her career, at the federal level setting policy agendas with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Her impressive ability to wear many different hats but still achieve her goals of children's mental health reform has been especially noted by her peers. “I have known Larke for about 20 years, and have just marveled at her talent and ability, her commitment to children, youth, and families, the incredible effort she puts into her work, her ability to bring together talented and diverse teams, and her enormous accomplishments,” wrote Dr. Bob Friedman regarding Dr. Huang's nomination for the Hobbs Award.

Since beginning at SAMHSA in 2006, Dr. Huang has worked as a senior adviser serving three different administrators (presidential appointees) to develop, review, analyze and prioritize pertinent policy initiatives to promote the mental health and well-being of children, youth and families. She currently serves multiple roles to shape policies for children's behavioral health including as special expert for children and families in the Administrator's Office of Planning, Policy and Evaluation, lead for the administrator's trauma and justice strategic initiative, and director of SAMHSA's Office of Behavioral Health Equity. Through these roles, whether she is tasked with developing grant programs at state and local levels to advance prevention, treatment and resiliency for children and youth, or coordinating agency policy and programs to address the role of trauma in mental and addiction disorders, Dr. Huang provides national leadership and guidance on mental health and substance use policy and program issues for children and families.

Dr. Huang's efforts not only to form policy, but also to disseminate information, have been remarkable. Across her career, Dr. Huang's vita boasts an epic number of publications, invited presentations and workshops (over 140 total).

Dr. Huang's work at the national level has earned her recognition and appointment to multiple federal committees. For instance, President George W. Bush appointed her to the President's New Freedom Commission from 2002 to 2003; this group was responsible for setting federal guidelines for establishing systems of care to provide improved mental health services and decrease gaps and barriers across the country. She was, as Pamela Hyde, JD, current SAMHSA administrator, stated, “guiding our nation's mental health policy at the highest level.”

Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter also sought out Dr. Huang's expertise to serve on the Carter Center's Mental Health Task Force from 2001 to 2006, and she continues to serve as a liaison between the Center and SAMHSA. Clearly, to be referred to as “always a trusted advisor” by the former First Lady is to have made a name for oneself and to be at the forefront on national advocacy for youth with mental health needs.

In addition to setting the tone nationally for children's mental health system policy, Dr. Huang has also become an expert on promoting cultural competence in mental health service provision as well as services for youth and families for dealing with trauma. Dr. Huang began her career working with refugee families in the 1980s, and since then she has continued her advocacy for underserved, ethnic minority and severely emotionally disturbed children.

As prolific, well-respected and busy as Dr. Huang is, she remains committed to student mentorship. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity Larke gave me to work with her as a graduate student intern at SAMHSA. Her mentorship has been instrumental in shaping my focus both in graduate school and as an early career psychologist. I continue to strive to emulate her work ethic and drive to shape policies to help disadvantaged communities and to promote the behavioral health of children and families,” said Sangeeta Parikshak, PhD.

Overall, Dr. Huang has clearly made an impression, not only on the field of psychology but also as a nationally-known expert. Indeed, colleagues, field leaders, policymakers and advocates seem especially excited for her to receive the Hobbs Award this year. “Larke seems such a perfect candidate for the Nicholas Hobbs Award that it surprises me that she has not yet received it,” said Dr. Friedman.

Author Bios

Sarah E. Beals-Erickson, MA, is a fifth-year doctoral student in the clinical child psychology program at the University of Kansas. Her research interests include evaluation of programs for at-risk youth, understanding barriers, gaps, and help-seeking in mental health services, and children's mental health systems.

Sangeeta D. Parikshak, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Her research interests include trauma and resilience, parenting across cultures and the impact of community programs on children and families.