Meet Our Team

Jolene Balancio, LCSW

Clinic Director

Jolene has 10 years of experience in community mental health across San Diego and Los Angeles Counties. A military spouse to an active-duty U.S. Army service member, Jolene says she is grateful to be able to bring the Cohen Clinic to Los Angeles and establish a presence in the community. She also looks forward to being a resource for mental health treatment and wellness and to give back to those who have served our country and their families.

Jolene is passionate about trauma treatment and trauma-informed care. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of California, Riverside and a Master of Social Work degree from California State University, San Bernardino, where she was a CalSWEC recipient.

She has worked in outpatient mental health settings, providing service to children, adolescents, and transitional aged youth. She also served as a program manager, where she developed and implemented a school-based suicide prevention program in North County San Diego in support of Assembly Bill 2246, growing the program across eight school districts. Additionally, she has held a position as a clinical supervisor for the Transitional Age Youth program for L.A. County’s Department of Mental Health contracted program. She has supervised multi-disciplinary teams and held roles as Intern Supervisor and Preceptor for MSW students. Jolene enjoys supporting the professional development of clinical staff and is trained in CBT, TF-CBT, and Signs of Suicide.

“The Cohen Clinic at VVSD understands that mental health does not discriminate and, in a population where mental health stigma is so prevalent, Cohen Clinics help decrease the stigma by reducing barriers to care and promoting access to high quality services among our veterans, active-duty service members and their families,” Jolene said.

In her leisure, Jolene enjoys spending time with her family and friends, grabbing coffee or boba, going to concerts, traveling, and exploring local cities with her husband and dog.

Leticia Acosta, LMFT

Lead Clinician

As Lead Clinician, Leticia provides treatment to veterans, service members and military families, and supervises clinical staff, while also assisting the Clinic Director.

Leticia received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at California State University of Long Beach, and a Master of Arts degree in Counseling at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has 18 years of experience working in a community mental health setting, working with victims of domestic violence in an emergency domestic violence shelter where she responded to crisis hotline calls, lead art groups for woman and children and provided community training on the effects of domestic violence on children. 

In addition, she has worked with foster care children and transitional age youth, providing comprehensive and community-based treatment. She is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), Seeking Safety (SS), Managing and Adaptive Practice (MAP) and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and utilizes a variety of these treatment modalities to ensure that she is providing the best treatment possible. 

Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Leticia served as the Clinical Team Supervisor for LADMH Full-Service Partnership Child and Full-Service Partnership Transitional Age Youth Program providing the highest level of care for high-risk clients. As a Clinical Team Supervisor, she has supervised multi-disciplinary teams and supported her team in their professional growth. She has also assisted her team by screening, assessing, and responding to client’s crisis and completed LPS holds, as appropriate. 

Additionally, Leticia served as Secretary and Board Member of Intercommunity Counseling Center for four years.  She also served as a committee member for her previous agencies’ Suicide Prevention Training and assisted in presenting this training. 

Leticia says, “The Cohen’s Clinic mission resonates with my personal values of providing accessible and quality mental health services to our most deserving veterans. It has been a population that is close to my heart and that I have always wanted to work with.  I am excited to have the honor of being able to give back to this population of well deserving heroes.” 

In her spare time, Leticia enjoys gardening, bike rides, watching movies and spending time with family and friends.

Rakiya “Rocky” Ruiz, LCSW

Clinician

As a Clinician at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Rocky’s appreciation for the military comes from being a daughter of an Air Force Veteran, and her time in the U.S. Air Force ROTC at Clemson University. She believes in access to mental health care for veterans and military families and is honored to be a part of the Cohen Clinic at VVSD team.

Prior to her clinical work, Rocky began her professional career in law enforcement, working as a police officer and victims’ advocate for 11 years. Now, as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she is certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma-Focused CBT, and CBT for Insomnia. Other background work includes law enforcement crisis counseling, LGBTQIA, diversity & inclusion and parenting skills.

Rocky holds an Associate of Applied Science degree in Information Technology/Web Development from ECPI University, a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology degree with a Minor in Spanish from Clemson University, and a Master of Social Work degree with an emphasis on Hispanic Families and Children from Our Lady of the Lake University.

In her spare time, she likes to play guitar, read, and spend time with her family.  

Jenny Rodriguez, LMFT

Clinician

Jenny is a mental health therapist at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, where she provides the veteran and military population a comfortable and supportive atmosphere along with a highly personalized and client-centered approach to assist them with attaining the personal growth and healing they are striving for themselves and their respective families.

She earned a Master of Science degree in Psychology, with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She started her career in a non-profit organization where she worked primarily with populations of low socioeconomic status, providing psychotherapy to individual, family, children, adolescents, and adults. Also, she assisted with co-facilitating a Dialectical Behavior Therapy group for young adults dealing with high-risk behaviors, interpersonal challenges, and difficulties with regulating emotions.

Jenny also has experience facilitating parent education classes with the purpose of helping court-mandated parents acquire effective parenting skills for implementing with their respective children. Moreover, she has trained and assisted therapists with assessing and managing suicidal ideation and related behaviors with the children and teenage population. Additionally, she has worked with middle-aged and older adults suffering from pain indexes and psychological conditions by providing Biofeedback therapy sessions.

She has experience working with veterans and their families and has close friends who are veterans or who have served in the military. “What resonates with me the most about the Cohen Clinics at VVSD is the client-centered approach and high quality of genuine care towards the veterans and their families strongly supported by evidence-based practices, which has allowed many veterans and their respective families live more fulfilling and meaningful lives,” she said.

In her spare time, Jenny enjoys reading Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf books, along with any psychology articles or books she comes across. Also, she loves hiking, going on walks, and meditating, which helps her remain grounded and balanced. Additionally, she likes to travel to different states or countries around the world, which has increased her knowledge, earnest interest, and connection with other cultures and traditions.

Mark Shideler, M.D.

Medical Director/Psychiatrist

Mark Shideler M.D. serves as a Prescribing Psychiatrist at the Cohen Clinic at Veterans Village of San Diego. He joined the Cohen Clinic after 28 years in the Air Force and served as an operational physician in Aerospace Medicine (aka “Flight Doc”) and Group Surgeon for the 548th ISR Group. He also served as a psychiatrist teaching and mentoring at the 60th MDG at Travis AFB, CA.

Dr. Shideler earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology at the U.S. Air Force Academy, went to medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), served as an operational, medical physician and later went on to complete psychiatry training at Wright State University.

He enjoys treating and helping people with psychological trauma and posttraumatic stress and, most importantly, helping them get their lives back. Dr. Shideler is trained and clinically experienced in Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) for nightmares.

In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his daughter and wife. He was raised by a family that moved a lot and has called the following places home: Alaska, Ohio, New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado, Northern California, Alabama, Maryland and South Korea.

Sadie Tollberg, RN BSN

Outreach Director

As the Outreach Director for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Sadie says she gets to live out her passion daily by meeting new people, creating community through events and spreading awareness far and wide!

Sadie is a U.S. Army veteran and a spouse to an active-duty U.S. Army soldier. She served nine years with two deployments to Iraq in active and reserve as a Chemical Operation Specialist. After serving, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. Throughout her career, she has worked in a Level 1 trauma emergency department, a clinic setting and in-home care. Currently, she keeps her nursing license active with part-time concierge IV Nursing. And, now she enjoys pursuing her passion for preventative healthcare to include mental health education and awareness.

She said, “Cohen Veterans Network caught my eye not only for the mission it serves, but also the population that is so near and dear to my heart. With my own health journey, and the obstacles I have faced, I am now able to help clear a way for the next person reaching out for help.”

When she is not working on something health related, Sadie loves to travel with her family and see different cultures and nature throughout the world. She loves being outdoors and under water! “I am grateful for every day I am on this earth,” she said.

Vanessa McDonnell, ASW

Intake Coordinator

As Intake Coordinator, Vanessa provides support for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles as the first contact for services. She conducts screenings and intakes for veterans, service members and their families. Vanessa graduated from Florida State University and has experience working with active-duty service members in military treatment facilities, as well as children. She is also a military spouse of a U.S. Air Force service member, who has served for more than 18 years.

Vanessa says she believes mental health is as important as physical health. “It is important to have access to high-quality mental health. Our veteran, active- duty service members and their families deserve an easy path to those services. I believe the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles provides a path to break down the barriers within the military community,” she said.

In her spare time, Vanessa likes to spend time with friends, travel and attend her kids’ lacrosse and baseball games.

Wendy Ochoa

Business Office Manager

As Business Office Manager at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Wendy is responsible for office administration at the clinic, overseeing the office coordinator and supporting the entire clinic staff. She has worked in community mental health since 2015.

Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Wendy has worked at other mental health facilities, where she started as a Front Office Clerk and was then promoted to Program Administrative Coordinator, where she worked closely with the Program Director and the Office Manager. In these roles, she would greet clients, help with questions and concerns, answer incoming calls, as well as schedule intakes and medical appointments. She also ran various billing reports, scheduled trainings for clinicians, and helped coordinate clinic events.

She said she prides herself on great customer service. “I have friends who are Veterans. Hearing their stories and what they have gone through made me want to help those who have served our country,” she said.

In her leisure, Wendy likes to spend time with her family, which includes her husband, 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter. They stay busy with sports, including baseball and softball.

Adriana Toledo

Case Manager

As Case Manager for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles, Adriana finds areas of need for the military community and creates bridges to connect veterans, service members and their families to resources.

Adriana has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from California State University, Los Angeles. Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, she spent five years in the Case Management field, working with different demographics, including high schoolers, families and the homeless.

“Being part of the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles is so exciting because it allows us to support and assist the veteran population that may not have access to services,” she said. “The ability to support our veteran and military families means so much to me because I am a military spouse and understand some of the challenges faced. My husband was active duty in the Navy for four years and continues to serve, now for over 11 years, in the Reserves.”

In her spare time, Adriana enjoys crafting, sewing, and knitting – all while wrangling two young children.

Randy Furbush

Office Coordinator

As Office Coordinator, Randy facilitates front desk responsibilities, including answering incoming calls, scheduling therapy appointments for clients, and supporting the various other roles within the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, Los Angeles.

His professional background includes working at one of the top Dental Labs as a Scheduling Coordinator. From working in the dental field to transitioning to the medical field, Randy has experience working with providers to create better care plans for patients, which includes providing overviews of benefits, and processing and updating claim information. Randy was also inspired to step into the hospital setting when he worked in the emergency room, providing exceptional care and information to patients, as well as providing essential resources like health coverage plans, financial counseling, and explaining consent forms.

A sibling of military service members, Randy said, “What resonates with me about the Cohen Clinics at VVSD is that they are making a change in mental health care, being able to provide the necessary support so that our clients can have the tools to take care of their mental health.”

In his spare time, Randy loves to cook, travel, and hike.

D. Christine Winicki, MHA

Outreach Coordinator

As the Outreach Coordinator for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD, San Diego, Christine shares her passion for providing superior mental health treatment options with veterans, service members and their families. She is focused on expanding the clinic’s strong relationships with San Diego business,  veteran organizations, and the greater San Diego County community.

Prior to her role at the Cohen Clinic, Christine developed a wealth of experience. She served four years as an Intelligence Officer specializing in Soviet nuclear weapons, where she studied the last vestiges of the Cold War. Later, as a U.S. Marine Corps military spouse, she transitioned into the healthcare administration field with a focus on implementing electronic medical records and bedside data collection. Once she moved with her family to Monterey for Naval Post Graduate School, she left the workforce to focus on raising their four sons. This gift of ”time working in the home” allowed her to hone leadership and organizational skills as a military spouse network coordinator, school fundraising manager and youth outdoor leader.

Once she and her family settled in Oceanside, she chose to re-enter the workforce as a U.S. Marine Corps Family Readiness Officer aboard Camp Pendleton, providing education, resources and vital communication between the commanding officer and military families. The past 13 years in that role filled her life with people and experiences that reflect the pride, joy, and pain of the active-duty military lifestyle during wartime, and in her words, “illustrated the need for strong, clinically proven mental health treatment.” She said, “the Cohen Clinic’s core values of community-based excellence and the desire to ‘do what we say’ as we strive to heal military families resonates with. Working at the Cohen Clinic is my way to help heal the scars and create stronger military members and families.”

In her leisure, Christine enjoys walking and swimming in the ocean with her youngest son and dog on the beaches of Camp Pendleton. In the last year, she became a proud San Diego Zoo volunteer and receives great joy in sharing her love of wildlife conservation with Zoo visitors. She is also a board member of a foundation that provides funding for the education of children who lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic in Uganda. Lastly, visiting ALL the National Parks is a personal goal of hers!

 

Ashley Tatum, MHA

Case Manager & Substance Use Disorder Counselor

After serving in the Navy for nine years, Ashley obtained her Bachelor and Master of Science in Healthcare Administration from National University. During this time, she also worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs office at National University in the Benefits and Enrollments Department.

While on active duty, Ashley was able to work alongside great people and see many amazing places. Her passion for wanting to help veterans with their mental health started after going through the transition from the military to civilian sector herself and realizing the importance of having a strong support system. As a Case Manager at the Cohen Clinic, she helps other veterans with their needs by connecting them to resources in the community that will ensure their success. And as a Substance Use Disorder Counselor, she provides addiction severity assessments, treatment goals and relapse prevention plans for clients, followed by tools to obtain and maintain sobriety.

Ashley is originally from Findlay, Ohio but thanks to the Navy, she has lived in Southern California for 20 years and is currently living in San Diego, California. She loves to spend her spare time with her family and reading.