2008 Advocacy Leader Directory

Ana Patricia Ackermann-Blanco is Director of Clinical Services at Cura, Inc. in Secaucus. Her 20 years in the addiction field are marked by moments that stand out for the impact they had in treatment and prevention.  Her work began in her native Bolivia, where she and her husband traveled the country in a prevention campaign against the growing cocaine problem.  In her years working for Cura, she has recognized that the continuum of care is fragmented at best, resulting in many relapses.  Addressing this need and restoring clients’ respect and dignity are among the goals Ana has set for herself and her fellow advocacy leaders.

Karen Barnett is Director of the Bridgeton Municipal Alliance-Youth to Youth Program. Over her 19 years in this position, she has been committed to educating youth and families about alcohol and other drugs. She understands addiction’s reach, noting that its toll is on families and communities as well as the affected individual. Recovery from addiction, she maintains, is a tool of increased empowerment. Karen’s goal as a leader is the collective empowerment of people in recovery and those advocating for them, which will bring about access to treatment and widen understanding of addiction as a disease.

Bryan Bradford is the New Jersey State Director of the Gateway Foundation, Inc., in Yardville, managing eight sites within the state Department of Corrections. He sits on a Recovery Oriented Integrated Systems Committee, which is testing a pilot program involving inmates and re-entry participants in Newark.  A goal is to demonstrate that integrated and coordinated services hold the hope of seeing inmates returned to their families and communities. Bryan is prepared to advocate publicly for more resources for treatment, not wanting to look back at some point in his life and wish he had acted.  

Jennifer Carpinteri is an Addiction Services  Administrator and Supervisor of Youth Services in Morristown. She was instrumental in establishing Morris County’s Substance Abuse Homeless Outreach Inititative, a cross-systems approach providing treatment services to the homeless. This work contributed to her belief that New Jersey’s behavioral health system hinges on cross-systems collaboration. Jennifer describes her dream as helping to build a system where an individual can access services regardless of port of entry.

William Coleman is Coordinator and Outreach Minister with Parkside Recovery at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton. He has been an ordained minister for seven years and is President and CEO of New Lease on Life Ministries, assisting people affected by homelessness, addiction and incarceration. His experience as an advocate led to his becoming Coordinator of the Mobil Addiction Treatment Program. William calls himself “the face of the Trenton Program;” he is also the voice, speaking on drugs and their impact at churches, civic meetings, anywhere there is a need. He views the Advocacy Leadership Program as a “continuation” of what he is providing.   

Eliezer DeFranca is a care coordinator with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-New Jersey in Newark. In that position he advocates for treatment on a client-by-client basis. He also has worked with clients being treated with methadone and has seen many of those clients affected by stigma. To address this, Eliezer took it upon himself to speak to school officials, police officers, guidance counselors and others about how methadone benefits many individuals. He has a strong organizing background and relishes being “in the trenches” as a team member.

Kathleen Dennis, Program Manager of Family Service of Morris County, has oversight of 12 hours of mandatory education for DUI offenders.  She also works with adolescents on the perils of alcohol and drug use and how they can lead to addiction. She has seen the suffering alcohol and drug use and addiction bring about, noting that all too often one picks up the morning paper to see a headline announcing yet another tragedy related to alcohol or drugs, indirectly if not directly. Kathleen sees the Leadership Program as an opportunity to be part of the force that changes the headlines, stressing that there is power in numbers.

Scott Gliem is approaching a quarter century in recovery.  Over the past 20 years, he has worked professionally and volunteered to help establish recovery-based educational programs; for 15 of those years he has lectured at Recovery Houses on the “Basics of how to Recover.” He has been involved with Signs of Sobriety, an organization that assists deaf and hearing-impaired individuals with an addiction.  Additionally, Scott has aided people without health insurance enter treatment. Scott has a background that includes public speaking and management leadership, as well as professional experience dealing with various levels of government.

Carolyn Hadge is Director of Need to Know Communications in Toms River. She has abundant experience with the Toms River School District and at the state level helped to develop New Jersey’s Student Assistance Association. Carolyn advocated for the establishment of certification designating Student Awareness Coordinators. As chairwoman of the state’s first Alliance Committee for the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism, Carolyn was involved in the legislation that created the network of Municipal Alliances.

Patrick King is in long-term recovery and comes from a family with a long history of alcoholism. Some family members, such as his father, entered recovery, some did not. He knows first-hand the discrimination faced by people who have been addicted. He had been in recovery for 10 years when he was called an alcoholic who could not perform his job duties. He proved them wrong and even received an apology, which he considers one in a long list of amazing experiences. Patrick said his recovery has been a gift and it is his desire to give back to the community where he lives.

Michele Labaw is a Case Manager with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-New Jersey, which requires her to assess clients of the Substance Abuse Initiative for drug and alcohol issues. She was previously a Substance Awareness Counselor and developed materials educating parents about alcohol and drug use issues affecting their children. Her work as a case manager has made it clear that the state is lacking sufficient facilities to meet its treatment needs, and she knows of cases where an individual wanted treatment but could not afford it. Michele recognizes change to address this shortfall will not happen if we “just sit by and wait for it to happen.”

Kimberly Mounce heads Cape Assist’s Department of Community Initiatives. She also is coordinator of the state-wide Childhood Drinking Coalition. She chairs an Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug working group and is a member of the county health department’s Public Health Advisory Committee. Her work with Cape Assist has made clear the fact that there is a shortfall of treatment and recovery services. Kim has seen people treated differently because of an addiction, including by members of their own family. Over the years, she said it is always said “we have to do something.”  Now is that time, she said, and she wants to be a part of it.

Melissa Niles is an Alcohol Counselor with Cumberland County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services. She calls her work reducing the impact of addiction on families “her passion.”  She has seen some clients enter long-term recovery and others relapse. What they have in common is having experienced shame and guilt, the byproduct of stigma. In other cases, Melissa has witnessed people in need of residential treatment turned away because they could not afford it or lack of availability. She understands what is needed to reduce stigma and increase treatment: collective action. “A reed alone is weak,” she wrote, “but banded together with others is strong.”

Paul Ressler is a member of the Hamilton Township Alliance and is a member of the Board of Trustees for Daytop-New Jersey. His work includes speaking engagements to build awareness about Daytop’s program for adolescents. Paul has seen the effect of stigma on addicted and recovering individuals, and is determined that, despite its long history, this will not be allowed to stand.  

Beverly Sample is a Human Services Specialist with the Mercer County Board of Social Services. Her work includes casework for General Assistance clients, to whom she says she is “partial.” She works to address their homelessness along with mental illness and/or alcohol or drug problems. Her time in recovery has taught her to balance the connection she feels with her clients with the joy she takes from her family and “the wonders of life.” Having “traveled the same roads” that people still in active addiction are on puts her in the position of passing hope onto others.  Beverly is ready to continue the “second part of her journey,” which is to include issues advocacy.

Safiyya Sharif is Executive Assistant with Sisters Helping Each Other in Irvington. Her work history includes 20 years as a Manager in the Head Start program. She is a firm believer in an Empowerment Approach to assisting others. Safiyya sees a great need to reinvigorate public services entities to confront addiction and the other social problems that leave too many lives unfulfilled.

Linda Surks is the Coalition Coordinator of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Middlesex County. She has considerable experience testifying on addiction and prevention issues, including appearing before Congress. She founded and chairs a national organization of families affected by substance abuse. Linda lost her son to addiction, and has turned that tragedy into a commitment to be a voice on issues related to treatment, prevention and recovery.

Maria Varnavis-Robinson  is Supervisor of Co-occurring Disorders at Delaware House Catholic Charities. She played a key part at Delaware House in introducing Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment to the clients. Her supervisory and clinical duties include managing the facility’s Partial Care and Out-patient Program. She practices the “No Wrong Door” approach to treatment. Maria’s experience has given her a first-hand look at the systemic obstacles faced by people in need of addiction treatment. To overcome the scarce resources, she knows that more has to be done with less. Maria is also well aware that public attitudes are the key to attracting public dollars, and so building a strong constituency is a must.


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