2012 Advocacy Leadership Directory



Richard Alexander is poised to begin a profession in addiction recovery management, having had a successful marketing career in the pharmaceutical industry. His career move reflects his understanding that addiction is a chronic illness for which treatment is just the first step towards stable recovery. With 22 years in recovery, Richard well understands what long-term recovery requires. He has served on a committee of a 12-step organization that allowed people in recovery to participate in alcohol- and drug-free activities. Fostering understanding about addiction’s chronic nature and the fact that relapse can be part of the process of recovery are two things he hopes to focus on as an Advocacy Leader.

Legislative District: 25; Team: 7


Donovan Allieriis determined to make the most of the second chance he has after nearly losing his life to an overdose. Having been an outstanding athlete, he now devotes himself to sharing his story and to helping however he can at 12-step meetings, including doing commitments at several times each week. His experience as an athlete has given him background as a leader, which he now intends to use to help keep youth from falling into drug use. His desire to be an advocacy leader steps partly from his understanding that by giving back he strengthens his own recovery. 

Legislative District: 25; Team: 7


Sue Allieri  is Donovan’s mother (see above) and her close role in her son’s recovery shows a parent’s determination never to give up on a child. Susan says of addiction that it is an epidemic that needs to be addressed at an early age. She has an innate understand of the need to tell the story of Donovan’s addiction so as to prevent use by youth and help any who are going through addiction. She said the Advocacy Leadership program is just the vehicle to help people such has her step forward as an advocate and educate state officials about addiction. The disease of addiction may not be going away tomorrow, Susan said, but "neither are we."

Legislative District 25; Team: 7



Abby Boxman founded the local Monmouth County chapter of Grief Recovery after Substance Passing after the loss of her loved one in 2011. She has a heartfelt belief in the need to raise awareness around addiction as well as the stages of recovery. Having been a large business owner for over 20 years, she is no stranger to dedication and hard work. By being a part of the Leadership Program, Abby hopes to be instrumental in advocating on the prescription drug epidemic, removing stigma, and positive movement towards prevention for adolescents.

 Legislative District: 11; Team: 4


Mary Brower has a long history as an addiction counselor and as a volunteer working with addicted individuals and their families. She notes the impact addiction has on family and community. Mary has recently turned her attention to the worsening problem of misuse of prescription drugs and urges that patients be educated about the dangers that attend prescription opiates in particular. She believes parents need to be educated about painkillers. Mary recognizes that she has "a duty to live by example," which is part of the reason she became interested in the Advocacy Program. As a Leader, she intends to practice the expression "Each one, teach one" and to "empower every life" she touches.

District 19; Team: 6



Cathy Brown is an associate professor at Montclair State University who has a deep passion on the issue of pregnant women who are criminalized for drug use. She has seen these women lose their children to the child welfare system, with prosecutors and judges alike overwhelmed by the "impulse to punish them for the sin of addiction." One of her students penned the statement "Addicts are like rats or bottom-feeders," expressing openly an attitude she believes many harbor but keep under wraps. In recovery since 1998, she may have been on the receiving end of such comments. Cathy greatly appreciates the second chance treatment has afforded her and intends to continue giving back through the Advocacy Leadership Program.


Legislative District: 34; Team: 7


Divya Buttan, a student at Rutgers University, has dedicated a good portion of her young life to preventing youth use of drugs and alcohol. In high school, she was involved in her school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions (SAAD) chapter. She has set her sites on such issues as addressing treatment capacity and quality, as well as confronting stigma facing people in recovery. Divya’s letter of recommendation for the Leadership Program came from Leader Linda Surks, who notes her dedication to creating a drug-free community. Divya has done a considerable amount of advocacy work at the local level and through the Leadership Program wants to move on to the state level.

Legislative District: 18; Team: 6


Ben Chin believes in the continuum of care and the need for increased recovery support services. He has a long-term commitment to advocacy that starts with his own personal recovery. He has been a steering committee member of the youth advocacy group, Young People in Recovery since 2010. As a student studying Health Policy, Benjamin also participated in the Rising Leaders Institute at Rutgers University.

 Legislative District: 37; Team: 6




Joshua Collins is in long-term recovery and hopes to create effective change through the channels of the Leadership program. He brings forth advocacy experience from the self-help program he participates in and is passionate about making a positive contribution towards the strong recovery message that the Leadership Program promotes.


Legislative District: 27; Team: 7


Maggie Collins is a facilitator of the Choosing to Heal and Thrive group for female inmates at the Cumberland County Department of Corrections. She is an addictions counseling professional who assumes responsibility for educating her community to understand the disease of addiction. With her own family being affected by addiction, Maggie also hopes to play an active role in bridging the gap in treatment by participating in the Leadership Program.

Legislative District: 1; Team: 1


Laura Conners is a member of the Patient Advocacy Committee of Trenton’s New Horizon Treatment. She has a strong interest in medication assisted treatment, serving as a moderator for message rooms and chat rooms on the website MedicalAssistedTreatment.org. She posted stories of recovery from addiction on the website and has worked to spread understanding that addiction is a disease. Having experienced many types of treatment, Laura now has nearly 10 years in recovery. She has a firm understanding of the chronic nature of addiction, that although it does not have a cure, it does respond to treatment.

Legislative District: 14; Team: 5


Marilyn Cooper serves as a board member on The Solidarity Group which provides academic, leadership and mentoring programs. As an addictions MATI counselor at Paterson Counseling Center and a person in long-term recovery, Marilyn is passionate about advocacy and how policy shapes the recovery environment. She is a doctoral student who focuses on educating and empowering community members to understand how individual actions can have large effective impacts.

Legislative District: 28; Team: 8


Ron Culver is a recent arrival in New Jersey but is not new to recovery. He has volunteered at the South Beach Addiction Treatment Center in Staten Island. Ronald has spoken in a variety of settings and often touch on the subject of stigma and discrimination. He notes that during his corporate life he made a point of hiring people in recovery. Having spent nearly half his life in recovery, Ron was drawn to the Leadership Program to further share his experiences and use those experiences to advance policies related to addiction treatment.

Legislative District 15; Team: 5


Constance Dalton 's passion for addiction issues stems from seeing a loved one addicted to heroin. She went through counseling to better understand addiction and since then has spoken to addicted youth and parents of addicted children, sharing her experience with them. Through counseling, Constance found she was no longer alone with the disease of addiction and she wants to support others who have been confronted by a family member’s addiction and had nowhere to turn. While her loved one is currently doing well, she understands it is a lifelong disease for both the person with the addiction and those in that person’s life.

 Legislative District 14; Team: 5


Patty Direnzo has 20 years experience as a legal administrative assistant and is co-founder of the Camden Loss Support Outreach Group. She has had an active role in the National Anti-Heroin Rally. Due to the loss of her loved one, Patricia feels passionate about being an advocate and removing stigma.

Legislative District 4; Team: 2


MaryAnne Fougere has been in recovery for more than 25 years and for much of that time has taken a message of hope to jails and halfway houses. She currently coordinates a program of volunteers at the Somerset County Jail to bring meetings to female inmates. MaryAnn was heartened with Governor Christie’s plan to treat rather than incarcerate non-violent offenders, but she recognizes that stigma persists, with many still considering addiction to be a moral issue. With her teaching career on hold, she decided to seize the opportunity to take part in the Leadership Program, MaryAnn is currently working towards her CADC.

Legislative District 16; Team: 5



Steven French has taken the experience of his recovery to jails, detox units and treatment facilities to impart the message that recovery is possible and provides a second chance. He knows the issues that arise from stigma. Steve tries to impress on others that addiction does not omit people who have had a good education or are affluent; it impacts people from all walks of life. At one point in his active addiction, he felt he was sure to die from his drug use, but treatment gave him a foothold in recovery. Having had that experience, he wants to work to make treatment accessible for the many in the state who need it.


Legislative District 3; Team: 2


Marie Haverfield is a doctoral student and researcher at the Center of Alcohol Studies and Rutgers University. As a child of two alcoholic parents, Marie leads by example and is active in the educational arena. She includes a strong prevention component with regard to her advocacy work. Marie brings forth communications educational experience and believes that a collective effort toward addiction prevention is an important factor to healthy communities.

Legislative District: 18; Team: 6



Rich Kurdek is coordinator of Recovery Services for a Newark treatment facility. His own recovery of eight years is integral to this work, as he uses his story to deliver hope to the people with whom he works and volunteers. His volunteer work includes visiting Turning Point to bring a message of hope during the holidays. Richard also facilitates a recovery basics/literature-driven meeting at six residential reentry facilities. The Leadership Program represents another avenue that will allow him to "promote education and awareness about the disease of addiction."


Legislative District: 34; Team: 8


Marc McCreary is the clergy liaison with the Metuchen Municipal Alliance. He has also worked as an instructor at Morristown’s Market Street Mission drug and alcohol rehabilitation Program. Mark was also involved in establishing a prevention program in Metuchen, Town Talks. He understands drug and alcohol problems are rampant in both adults and adolescents and understands that those problems produce domestic and community disorder. Through the Leadership Program, Mark hopes to further hone his skills to reduce this problem ; as he puts it, "I want to become a better helper."

Legislative District: 18; Team: 6



Cindya Mercado has the position of Senior Peer Coordinator at Eva’s Village, New Jersey’s first Recovery Center. The Recovery Center offers abundant resources and support to those in all stages of recovery. As a person in long-term recovery, Cindya looks to the Advocacy Program as a way to promote the fact of long-term recovery and show how she has become a productive member of society. She would like to be a voice to the public and policymakers to raise awareness about addiction and recovery.


Legislative District: 35; Team: 8


Christine Michaels notes in her application to the Advocacy Leadership program that the word addiction is rooted in the Latin term for "enslave." She adds that the behavior of the addicted person confounds many, including researchers and clinicians in the field. Her knowledge of addiction is not an abstraction, as she will soon mark her eighth year in recovery and is a graduate of drug court. Christine wants to bring recovery to as many as possible, and toward that end helped implement Newark’s annual Recovery festival, held each August. She understands to change minds about addiction, advocates in recovery must both present statistics of lives changed through treatment and recovery supports and be the embodiment of that renewal.

Legislative District: 23; Team: 7


Benjamin Mitchell has spent the past seven years speaking to as many as a thousand inmates a week at facilities around the state, an experience he describes as a "privilege." He knows first-hand the challenges facing someone with a criminal record, having been turned down for one job after another once his past came to light. He is a graduate of the Prodigal Sons & Daughters Program and now mentors life skills training to people in the program. Benjamin sees the Leadership program as a way to further the work he has done with former inmates. His aim is to help people break the cycle of going in and out of prison.

Legislative District: 22; Team: 6



Aja Redmond is the Family Success Center Coordinator with the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health. In this position she has coordinated evidence-based addiction treatment as well as case management for women, children and families. Her work gave her experience working in an interagency setting to make the best use of resources so as to provide clients access to a continuum of care. Her professional experience will mean she can share her understanding about standards of care with the goal of producing the best possible outcomes. Aja views the Advocacy Leadership Program as an opportunity to lend her voice and knowledge to influence elected officials at the local, county and state levels.


 Legislative District: 34; Team: 8



Angie Smith graduated from the Prodigal Sons and Daughters Program in 2008 and immediately began to volunteer and mentor youth. She witnessed terrible fallout from addiction in her own family, losing two siblings as a result of their father’s heroin addiction. Angie’s strength is evident as she resolved to take the trials of her life to help addicted people and their families find recovery. As an Advocacy Leader, she will be able to further this effort to use her troubled past to help others emerge from addiction and rebuild their lives.


Legislative District: 34; Team: 8

Michele Smith leads by example as a Care Management Coordinator at Seabrook House. Additionally, Michele had an active role in development of a Camden County Family Drug Court. She is knowledgeable in advocating for patients and families around managed care issue and finding solutions to the obstacles that persist in health care coverage for addictions treatment. It is her hope that she can continue to advocate and educate both consumers and legislators about these challenges.

Legislative District: 3; Team: 1


Duane Williams is an anxiety coach, a youth counselor and life skills instructor with NJ Youth Corp/International Youth Organization in Newark. Much of his work centers on mentoring youth ages 16-25 on the perils of alcohol and drugs. Dwayne understands that to be a good leader, you must first be "a good follower, a good listener and a good helper," as he put it in his application to the Advocacy Program. Most importantly, he said, "you must be a good servant to the people you’re helping."


Legislative District: 28; Team: 8


Naomi Wright has given herself to the cause of addiction treatment and prevention over the past decade. In her mentoring work, she has been "the listening ears and supporter" her clients never had. Naomi understands that leadership begins with the self, and her volunteer work feeding the homeless has kept her grounded in seeing both humility and possibility in those she helps. The Leadership Program offers her a way to "stay in the trenches" in the fight against addiction.

Legislative District: 28; Team: 8














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