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Our Staff

Our Staff

Meet Our Staff

Robert Lerma, MS


Robert joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2013 as the Director of Business Development. He was named Chief Executive Officer in April 2016. Prior to coming to Austin Lakes, Robert worked in Schizophrenia/Bipolar research, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. He has a Bachelor’s from California State University and a Master’s in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University. Prior to relocating to Austin, he worked as a law enforcement officer and with a residential treatment center for youth in California. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, American College of Healthcare Executives, Texas Psychological Association, Capital Area Psychological Association and Capital of Texas Counseling Association. He is also a member of the Austin/Travis County Crisis Services Implementation Committee, Austin/Travis County Mental Health Court, Williamson County Crisis Intervention Committee, Williamson County Mental Health Task Force, Hill Country Crisis Intervention Committee, Highland Lakes Suicide Prevention Committee and Burnet County Crisis Intervention Committee

Sara Kim

Executive Assistant to the CEO

Sara Kim joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2019 and currently serves as the Executive Assistant to the CEO. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Loyola University Chicago and her Juris Doctorate degree from The University of Texas School of Law. She has a diverse professional background in the government, non-profit and legal sectors with a focus on victim services and systems advocacy. Prior to joining Austin Lakes, Sara worked as a victim witness counselor specializing in intimate partner/family violence. She is active in our community and volunteers for various causes including social justice initiatives, Autism awareness/acceptance, disaster relief efforts, child abuse and domestic violence.

Shiva K. Lam, M.D.

Executive Medical Director & Clinical Director For Adult Services

Dr. Shiva Lam graduated from Gandhi Medical College in Hydeabad, India with his Medical Degree. He completed his residency and fellowship at Austin State Hospital. Dr. Lam was awarded the Capital Area Mental Health Center Award for his outstanding service to the Austin Mental Health community. He has supervised Psychiatry Residents from the Austin Psychiatry Residence program since 1999 and also provides psychiatric services to a wide range of individuals.

Dr. Lam is a Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, Board Certified in Psychiatry and has been an Attending Psychiatrist with St. David’s Pavilion since 1998. Dr. Lam is now the Executive Medical Director of Austin Lakes Hospital.

Vanajakshi Paturu, M.D.

Associate Medical Director

Dr. Vanajakshi Paturu began her career as a practitioner in general medicine and an instructor in the Dept of Pharmacology at Siddhartha Medical College University of Health Sciences & Research Institute in India. While earning her medical degree, Dr. Paturu also received a distinctive National Merit Scholarship. Her outstanding achievements have been noted in both her academic and professional endeavors working with adult and geriatric populations.

After moving to the United States, she performed research for Beth Israel Medical Center in NJ. Dr. Paturu then completed her residency in psychiatry at Bergen Regional Medical Center in NJ, and a fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in NY. Dr. Paturu is Board Certified. Dr. Paturu joins Austin Lakes Hospital after being in private practice since 2001 and working in various health care settings.

Derrick Ouzts, MBA

Chief Financial Officer

Derrick Ouzts joined Austin Lakes Hospital as Chief Financial Officer in 2019 after completing the CFO In Training program with UHS. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Financial Management from Clemson University and his Masters of Business Administration from The Citadel. He started working in the healthcare finance field in 2012, and has since worked in Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and now Austin, Texas. His experience is in both financial analysis and accounting with physician practices, medical/surgical hospital accounting and behavioral health finance. In his free time, Derrick enjoys drumming, pulling for his Clemson Tigers and spending time with his family.

Stacey Ward

Chief Nursing Officer

Stacey Ward joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2019 after relocating to Austin, Texas. Stacey has spent the past five years in nursing leadership for psychiatric units in an academic medical center setting. Stacey has extensive leadership training, and has received several awards for her nursing leadership including from the Governor of Vermont. Her prior nursing experience has primarily been caring for individuals with a variety of psychiatric conditions including those with co-occurring geriatric, forensic and medical/surgical needs. Stacey has presented nationally on her innovative patient centered care initiatives in the psychiatric setting.

Dan B. Smith, B.A.

Human Resources Director

Dan has worked in behavioral health since the 1970s, initially as a Mental Health Worker and Center Supervisor. He received his degree from Southwest Texas State University in 1976. In 1983 he began his career in Human Resources and has served with various behavioral health facilities and corporations at the director level since 1985. In 2007, after a 14-month Human Resources/Management Consultant adventure working with a Department of Defense contractor in multiple locations in Iraq, he returned to behavioral health, participating in the opening of Austin Lakes Hospital.

Julie Cooper, CCA

Director Of Medical Records

Julie joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2011 and currently serves as the Director of Medical Records. Prior to coming to Austin Lakes, Julie worked for a multi-physician private practice managing medical records and for a durable medical equipment company handling Medicare appeals. She has 11 years experience in the medical field and completed her Certificate of Medical Coding at Austin Community College in 2006. Julie is a Certified Coding Associate through the American Health Information Management Association since 2007. She began her career with Austin Lakes Hospital as a medical coder before becoming the Director in 2013.

Elizabeth “Liz” Babb, LCSW

Director Of Clinical Services

Liz earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Social Work from Texas State University San Marcos. She joined Austin Lakes in 2014 as a Therapist and succeeded into other roles as Lead Therapist, Interim DCS, and Assistant DCS. Prior to joining Austin Lakes, Liz worked as a Case Aide for the Children’s Shelter in San Marcos, TX and as a direct care provider to adolescents at San Marcos Treatment Center. While obtaining her Bachelors, she interned at San Antonio State Hospital and volunteered at Austin State Hospital after graduating with her Masters. Liz has extensive experience working with abnormal psychology, crisis intervention, acute psychiatric care, case management, and discharge planning.

Miriam “Mimi” Nelson, RN, BSN

Director Of Utilization Review

Mimi joined Austin Lakes Hospital in January 2013. She graduated from the University of Texas School of Nursing in Houston, Texas. She has worked as a psychiatric nurse in multiple Texas and California facilities, ranging from a methadone clinic, chemical dependency units, intensive care units and inpatient psychiatric units with children, adolescents and adults. Additionally, she has worked as a charge nurse, house supervisor, nursing manager and Director of Nursing. Mimi’s current role involves oversight over clinical care coordination of patients, ensuring medical necessity criteria is met.

Sarah Edwards, LCSW

Director of Risk Management, QAPI & Compliance Officer

Sarah Edwards joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2018 as the Director of Outpatient Services and shortly after transitioned into the role of Intake Director. Prior to joining the team, Sarah worked in public mental health for nearly 10 years. In this capacity she managed the 24/7 operations of a psychiatric crisis clinic, the crisis hotline and associated grants and contracts. Sarah spent years as a mobile crisis responder in Travis County, has worked in a local emergency department and also volunteered as a member of a sexual assault response team; all of which highlights her passion for the crisis services continuum of care. Sarah enjoys teaching and was certified as an instructor for Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid. Sarah earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work from Texas State University and is licensed as a clinical social work supervisor.

Carlos Briones, CRT

Director of Plant Operations

Carlos graduated from Southwest Texas State University in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy. He started his career in healthcare working as a Respiratory Therapist at Brackenridge Hospital and has worked in healthcare for over 18 years. His experience includes working in varying departments within healthcare that include: direct patient care, plant operations/environment of care, patient access, business office, utilization review and case management. Carlos began his work in behavioral health in 2012, as Environment of Care Director and Safety Officer for a privately owned company in Dallas that served pediatric, adolescent and the adult population. Carlos is a member of the National Board for Respiratory Care and the American Association of Notaries.

Courtney Stokes, BSW, MBA

Director Of Business Development

Courtney Stokes joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2018. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Tennessee and began her career as a case manager working with at risk children within the juvenile court system. She relocated to Atlanta, Georgia where she continued her work in case management for another five years and acquired her Master’s in Business Administration from Keller Graduate School of Management. Over a span of 15 years, Courtney broadened her professional experience within the healthcare field in roles spanning from marketing and sales to operations management. She has been a part of numerous outreach initiatives, such as inner city children’s mentoring programs, feed and clothe the homeless drives, hospice grief and loss support groups and a volunteer/supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Jerry Cypert II, LPC, LCDC

Director Of Outpatient Services

Jerry Cypert joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2018. Since entering the field in 2006, Jerry has accrued many experiences in the fields of psychotherapy, addiction recovery, psychiatric inpatient treatment, residential and intensive outpatient SUD treatment modalities. He has also facilitated 12-step programs with adult and adolescent populations. Jerry greatly enjoys helping people grow and heal. Professional development and education are also very important to him. Jerry has experience providing oversight of clinical counselors, team building, coaching, staff appraisals and performance measures, policy and procedure development, curriculum development and audit preparation. Jerry earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Counselor Education from Texas Tech University. Jerry is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. In his free time Jerry is also a blacksmith and a carpenter.

Valerie Slutz, LCSW

Director of Admissions

Valerie joined Austin Lakes Hospital in 2019 as an Intake Counselor before transitioning to the role of Director of Admissions. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Sciences from Texas Tech University, her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Lubbock Christian University, and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. Prior to relocating to Austin, she worked as a Social Worker at an acute inpatient behavioral health hospital as well as an outpatient behavioral health clinic in Lubbock, TX. Valerie further developed her passion for crisis intervention counseling while expanding her experience and volunteering with the Lubbock Police Department Victim Services Team. After moving to Austin in 2015, Valerie began working for the local mental health authority throughout the crisis division where she worked in residential units, a psychiatric crisis clinic, and helped to pilot the first Emergency Observation Unit in Travis County. She also has experience providing training to local law enforcement agencies on responding to behavioral health crises. Valerie specializes in providing comprehensive care and crisis intervention to adults with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse diagnoses.

We’re Here to Help

Talking with one of the mental health professionals at our treatment center could help answer your questions. Our team wants to identify how we may be able to help you or your loved one improve daily life with our mental health services. We offer no-cost, confidential assessments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 512-544-5253.

Our inpatient and outpatient programs can help individuals deal with mental illness or behavioral health issues whether they’re suffering from depression, anxiety or other disorders. If you are currently experiencing an emergency, please dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.