Services for Teens At Risk

Who We Are


David Brent, MD.
Director, STAR-Center
Professor of Psychiatry, Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
Dr. Brent was born in Rochester, NY and grew up in the Philadelphia area. He received his undergraduate education at Pennsylvania State University and graduated from Jefferson Medical College of the Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Brent trained in pediatrics at the University of Colorado, in general and child psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and completed a master’s degree in psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. He is currently Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics & Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Brent co-founded and now directs Services for Teens at Risk (STAR), a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania-funded program for suicide prevention, education of professionals, and the treatment of at-risk youth and their families. In 2002 he was appointed as the first Endowed Chair in Suicide Studies and in 2009 a Professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

His work in the area of suicide has focused on the epidemiology of adolescent suicide, and has helped to identify the role of firearms, substance abuse, and mood disorders as risk factors for youth suicide. Consequently, he and colleagues at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic have helped to establish the role of cognitive therapy as a treatment for depressed adolescents in NIMH-funded clinical trials, and developed national practice guidelines for the treatment of and management of adolescent depression and suicidal behavior. Other areas of work have focused on bereavement after suicide and how suicidal behavior is transmitted within families. Dr. Brent’s work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD). He has been recognized for his research by NARSAD, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Association for Suicidology, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In 2007, he became a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.

Tina R. Goldstein, Ph.D.
Co-Director, STAR-Center
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

Tina R. Goldstein, Ph.D. received her Bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and went on to receive her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She completed her clinical internship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine/Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (UPMC/WPIC) and subsequently a post-doctoral fellowship in pediatric mood disorders. She is a licensed psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, where she also serves as Director of the NIMH-funded postdoctoral training program for clinical psychologists, Co-Director of the Predoctoral Clinical Psychology Internship Program, and Director of Psychotherapy Training in Pediatric Mood Disorders. She has been integrally involved in the STAR clinic since coming to WPIC in 2004, and joined the leadership team in her current role as Co-Director in 2017. In her professional roles, she enjoys conducting clinical research, providing clinical services to youth and their families, teaching, training, and mentoring trainees from diverse disciplines.

Dr. Goldstein’s clinical and research interests focus on understanding the etiology and treatment for youth with, and at-risk for, mood disorders and suicide, with a particular focus on pediatric bipolar disorder. Her work aims to develop improved prevention and intervention strategies for this population informed by an enhanced understanding of the relationship between biological and psychosocial determinants of mood disorder and suicide.

Dr. Goldstein’s research program is supported by grant funding from federal and private foundations including the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters on the topics of suicidality and mood disorders in youth, and is co-author of a book on the treatment of depressed and suicidal youth with Dr. Brent and Ms. Poling. Her contributions have been recognized with numerous prestigious awards, including the Mental Health Research Award from Mental Health America, the Klerman Young Investigator Award from The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Paula S. McCommons, Ed.D.
Director, STAR-Center Outreach and
Mental Health Liaison for Allegheny County Student
Assistance Program
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

Dr. Paula McCommons received her B.A. in psychology from Seton Hill College in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She studied in London for six months and interned in a psychiatric day hospital there. In 1992 she received her M.Ed. in Educational Counseling from the University of Pittsburgh where she later received her Ed.D. in Educational Administration. Dr. McCommons is a nationally certified counselor with specialties in school and career counseling. She is also a PA certified guidance counselor and post-secondary student personnel specialist. Dr. McCommons interned at a middle school for international studies and a college counseling center. In 2000 she completed a Gestalt Training Program for Professionals. Her previous experience includes teaching, research, and presenting.

Dr. McCommons is currently a behavioral health liaison for the Allegheny County Student Assistance Program provided by Allegheny County and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside. She also serves as the program manager for the Student Assistance Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside.

In the fall of 2010, Dr. McCommons took on the role of Director for STAR-Center Outreach activities. Dr. McCommons also provides crisis intervention, postvention assistance and consultation to school districts and communities across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Training and special topic presentations related to school safety, crisis prevention/intervention/management, and postvention are provided upon request. In addition to the variety of duties she has at STAR-Center, Dr. McCommons works as an independent contractor creating and facilitating workshops on conflict mediation training, student leadership development, staff development, stress management, and career life planning. Dr. McCommons has also co-taught graduate level courses in Group Dynamics and Conflict Management at the University of Pittsburgh.

For the past four years she has served on the executive committee of the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (PAYSPI) and has assisted with the development of state-wide symposiums, conferences and legislative initiatives. Dr. McCommons has also co-chaired the task force subcommittee for PAYSPI and has facilitated regional workshops related to suicide prevention, schools and communities. Along with her STAR-Center colleagues, Dr. McCommons has provided technical support for the SAMHSA sponsored Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant for Pennsylvania focusing on screening in primary care.


Clinical Program Manager:

Kim Poling, LCSW
Clinical Program Manager, STAR-Center
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

Kimberly Poling received her Bachelor & Master Degree in Social Work, both from West Virginia University. Following graduation from WVU, Ms. Poling worked in Washington, Pennsylvania, providing individual and family therapy to at-risk teenagers. She continued her work with children, adolescents and their families by providing mental health services at the Beaver County Community Mental Health Center. Ms. Poling completed a year of additional training to become certified as a Cognitive Therapist, through the Cleveland Center for Cognitive Therapy in Cleveland Ohio. Ms. Poling completed intensive training with Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and specialized training in Family Focused Treatment (FFT) with David Miklowitz, Ph.D. at the University of Colorado. Additionally, Ms. Poling completed training in Well-Being Therapy with Giovanna Fava, M.D. in Venice Italy.

Kimberly is Clinical Program Manager at the STAR Center Clinic, which she initially joined as a therapist in 1987. During her years at the STAR-Center Clinic she has been involved in developing and implementing treatment protocols and supervising cognitive therapists both in Pittsburgh and throughout the country, for three major federally funded research grants. She is an expert in the areas of cognitive therapy, psychiatric diagnostic and suicide risk assessments. Ms. Poling provides numerous trainings throughout the country. She has also served as a faculty member of the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Psychology in Education Department of the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Poling is also the co-author of a book on the treatment of depressed and suicidal youth with Dr. David Brent and Dr. Tina Goldstein.


Sansea L. Jacobson, M.D.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, STAR-Center
Training Director, Child Fellowship and Triple Board
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

Dr. Jacobson was born and raised in Burlington, VT. She completed her undergraduate education at Dartmouth College and Oxford University, and received her medical training at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Jacobson trained in general and child psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) where she was a chief resident and the co-founder of the Academic Administrator Clinician Educator (AACE) Track. Dr. Jacobson is currently the Training Director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and Triple Board Program at WPIC. She is also the co-chair of the UPMC Graduate Medical Education WELL (Wellness, Environment, Learning, and Living) Committee, where she oversees initiatives to support the well-being of >1700 resident and fellow physicians across the UPMC health care system. Dr. Jacobson’s clinical and advocacy efforts are focused on the prevention of suicide in youth through her work at the Services for Teens at Risk (STAR) Center where she has been a core member of the team since 2007.

Nationally, Dr. Jacobson is the co-chair of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Training and Education Committee and a member of the AACAP Presidential Initiative Taskforce. In these roles, Dr. Jacobson has earned herself a reputation for creating and implementing innovative educational initiatives such as a toolkit to help support vulnerable youth exposed to sensitive topics in the media. Dr. Jacobson is the author or co-author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as a recipient of the WPIC Exemplary Faculty Teaching Service Award, Golden Apple Teaching Award, Samuel Gershon Teaching Award, Arnold P. Gold Foundation Teaching Award, Medical Humanism Award, University of Pittsburgh Excellence in Clinical Psychiatry Award, and a National Institutes of Health Research Training Award.


Dara Sakolsky, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Assistant Medical Director
Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center)
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

Dr. Sakolsky is a board-certified adult and child/adolescent psychiatrist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She obtained her MD and PhD in Pharmacology from Temple University. She has extensive clinical experience treating youth with mood and anxiety disorders. She is currently the Associate Medical Director at Services for Teens at Risk (STAR) clinic and sees patients as a psychiatrist at STAR, the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Spectrum Services (CABS), Robert Morris University Counseling Center, and Center for Advanced Psychotherapy. Dr. Sakolsky serves as a co-investigator on several National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studies examining the diagnosis and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in children, adolescents, and young adults. She is also the Pittsburgh site principal investigator on a NIMH grant, which examines the long-term outcomes of anxious youth who have received treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication or their combination (CBT + medication).


Clinic Staff

The STAR-Center Clinic provides assessment and outpatient treatment for teens and pre-teens who are at risk for depression, suicide or anxiety. The treatment staff performs complete psychiatric evaluations and risk assessments resulting in a comprehensive treatment program.

The Staff of the Clinic include:


Maria Anderson, MSW

Maria joined the STAR Clinic in July 2013 as an individual therapist.  She had previously worked as an individual, group and family therapist for three years at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic's Center for Psychiatric and Chemical Dependency Services (CPCDS), a program serving adolescents and adults with multiple, complex psychiatric and substance use problems.  Prior to coming to WPIC in 2010, she worked on a federally supported SAMHSA grant in Chicago's inner city at the largest substance abuse agency in Illinois.  She was one of two professionals recruited to implement the clinical portion of a project that provided HIV prevention services to high risk substance abusing women of color.  Maria earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at DePaul University in 2005 and her Masters in Social Work with honors from Rhode Island College in 2007.  Her MSW internships included working with Family Services of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Hospital's Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Unit, a facility associated with Brown University.


Cynthia Baca, RN, MSN


Cynthia Baca earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Nursing from Waynesburg University. She has been a nurse for 25 years, with 15 years of experience in child and adolescent psychiatry.  Cynthia joined Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center) in 2008.  She completed CBT training at The Cleveland Center for Cognitive Therapy in Cleveland OH.  As a nurse clinician at STAR, Cynthia provides medication management, psycho-education, and individual therapy, while also assisting with group therapy sessions.



Danielle Capon, MS, NCC

Danielle has served as one of the core therapists at STAR, both as an individual therapist and as a group leader for the STAR-Center Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) since she joined the team in September 2016.  She played an integral role in the creation of the psychotherapy curriculum for the STAR-Center's college age IOP (i.e. Co-STAR), and served as the senior group therapist in the roll-out of this new program in 2017.  Danielle completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland in 2014 with a BA in Psychology and minor in Human Development.  She then graduated with honors from Johns Hopkins University in 2016 with a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  Before moving to Pittsburgh, Danielle completed her Master level internship in Maryland providing individual, group and family therapy to young children, adolescents and adults at an outpatient community mental health organization.  Danielle has not only earned herself the reputation for delivering high-quality, patient- and family-centered care, but has also taken on numerous administrative projects with the intention to improve systems for our clinical center.


Sara Goodyear, MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Goodyear joined the STAR Clinic in January 2017 as a clinician. Prior to STAR, she worked as an individual, group and family therapist in school, home, and community settings. She has worked with diverse clientele, including at-risk/high need populations, for over 10 years.

Sara's previous experience includes work as a School-Based Therapist working through an agency partnered with several Pittsburgh Public Schools' Emotional Support classrooms, providing individual, group and family therapy.  She specialized in grades K-8 clientele with mood and behavioral disorders. In addition, she has worked extensively in wraparound settings specializing in children with Autism and behavioral disorders, to implement positive behavioral supports and interventions.

Sara is a dedicated PA Licensed Professional Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor and PA Certified School Counselor for grades K-12. Ms. Goodyear is also certified in Student Assistance Program (SAP) and School Violence Prevention and Intervention. She is currently working towards completing certification in CBT training at The Cleveland Center for Cognitive Therapy in Cleveland, OH.

She completed her undergraduate degree at Duquesne University and her Master's degree at Duquesne University in counseling with a concentration in school counseling. She completed internships at Mayview State Psychiatric Hospital (prior to its closure) and at several local schools including Upper Saint Clair High School and Pittsburgh Public Schools.


Kelsey Johnson, MSCP

Kelsey Johnson joined STAR Clinic in June 2018 as a Behavioral Health Therapist.  Prior to joining STAR as a therapist, Kelsey completed a year-long internship at STAR as Graduate Intern, providing individual therapy, group therapy, and assessment services.  Kelsey received her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Chatham University.  During her graduate studies, Kelsey participated on a research team for Gender Research Studies and assisted in implementing a youth participatory action research project for local adolescents.  Prior to joining STAR, Kelsey worked at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic as a Milieu Therapist for an adult inpatient program where she provided group therapy and unit support services.  Kelsey also earned a Bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience.


Brian W. McKain, RN, MSN

Brian has been with STAR-Center since February of 1999. He has served in various capacities over the years including clinician, trainer and the Assistant Director of STAR-Center School and Community Outreach. Brian currently works as an individual therapist, medication nurse and co-leader of the adult Survivors of Suicide Group. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh in 1978, and a Masters of Science in Nursing with a specialty in child psychiatry from Yale University in 1986.


Brittany Moriarty, LPC, NCC

Brittany joined STAR Clinic in July 2017 as an individual and group therapist for children and adolescents.  Brittany completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Delaware in 2010 and her Master's Degree in Education with a concentration in Professional Mental Health Counseling at William Paterson University of New Jersey in 2013.  Prior to joining the STAR staff, Brittany worked as a child and adolescent therapist at a community mental health center in New Jersey from 2012-2017, and worked as the lead intake coordinator from 2016-2017.


Joseph Park, LSW

Joe joined the STAR-Center in June 2018 as an individual and group therapist for children and adolescents. Joe completed his undergraduate degree in Sociology at the University of South Carolina in 2006 and his Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh in 2017. Joe completed an internship at the STAR-Center in 2017, providing individual and group therapy for adolescents. Prior to working at STAR, Joe was a research coordinator in child and adolescent psychiatry.


Monica Yeater, Psy.D.

Monica joined the STAR-Center Outpatient clinic as a therapist in the summer of 2004. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University and completed her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology at Xavier University. She has experience providing individual and group therapy with children and adolescents in community mental health, school-based, and residential treatment settings. Before coming to STAR-Center, Monica completed postdoctoral training in psychotherapy and psychological testing at an urban community mental health agency for children and adolescents in Cleveland, OH.