The AU Team
Deron Drumm, Executive Director
Deron joined Advocacy Unlimited in 2010 as a member of the Recovery University team. Shortly thereafter, he was named Director of Recovery University. He was appointed Deputy Executive Director of Advocacy Unlimited in early 2012 and promoted to Executive Director in February 2014.
Kelvin Young, Assistant Executive Director
Previously the manager of Toivo by Advocacy Unlimited, Kelvin is now AU's Assistant Executive Director. He is a state certified Addiction Recovery Coach, Recovery Support Specialist, and Sound Healer. Kelvin was featured in the powerful documentary "Meditation: The Journey Within." He also Organized MedMob in Hartford,CT and served as Ambassador for the Healthy Lives Campaign by Wisdom In New Dimensions, Inc. Kelvin also serves on the DMHAS Multicultural Advisory Council, and was co-facilitator for the Incarceration and Community Reentry workshop at The Connecticut Women's Consortium in Hamden, CT.
Kelvin has received numerous awards including the 2014 Professional of the Year Award from the Bridgeport Reentry Collaborative, and he received special recognition from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for being a positive role model and directly contributing to the success of reentry efforts. Kelvin has one daughter and sustains his health by eating a vegan based diet, practicing yoga, meditation, spending quality time in nature, exercising, and building healthy relationships with others.
Hilary Bryant, Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coordinator
Hilary Bryant is Advocacy Unlimited's Toivo Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coordinator. Hilary is a 200-hour certified yoga teacher. Her yoga journey began ten years ago when she took her first class while seeking treatment for depression. Hilary practiced on and off until, three years ago, yoga became a central part of her life.
Martin Burke, Recovery Support Specialist
Martin graduated AU's Advocacy Education Training Course in 2009 and AU's Recovery University in 2009. Martin was recertified as a Recovery Support Specialist in 2012 and joined the AU team part time.
Martin initially worked on a joint project with AU and DMHAS called the Olmstead Initiative: Older Adult Peer Engagement Project. The project primarily focused on referrals from nursing home Transition/Diversion Programs. Today he is actively working on the Silver Lining: Taking Back Twenty-Five project funded through a grant awarded to AU by SAMHSA. The Silver Lining project focuses on helping seniors in their recovery and transitioning them into the community. Martin works directly with many seniors who are currently in nursing homes, including ADRC, Wheeler Clinic, and other community organizations.
Prior to joining AU, Martin worked for the Chrysalis Center as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist/Case Manager for over a year. Earlier, as an Easter Seals of Greater Hartford program participant, Martin worked at the Dept. of Public Health.
Adam Chambers, New Media Coordinator
Michaela Fissel, Director of Policy and Research
Michaela I. Fissel has been actively involved in the behavioral health field since achieving recovery in 2007 at the age of 21. Since that time, Michaela has risen as a highly recognized advocate who actively seeks to ensure that the opportunity of recovery is available to all young people within Connecticut. Through her eight years of extensive research in the area of emerging adults as a behavioral health service population, Michaela has identified the need for including consumers of direct care services as equal members of the decision making process when planning, implementing, and evaluating services. It has been made clear that their perspective is critical for ensuring that services and supports are effectively tailored to the unique experience of achieving recovery, while transitioning to adulthood, in the 21st Century.
In 2010, Michaela received a top research award upon graduating Cum Laude from Central Connecticut State University, while she has also received honors through the Keep the Promise Coalition, Senator Blumenthal, the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association of Connecticut, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition of Connecticut, amongst others. In addition, Michaela was selected to work with other young adult leaders from around the country to launch the national organization Young People in Recovery and is an elected member of her Local Board of Education.
Jennifer Henry, Administrative Assistant
Jennifer has an Associate degree from Capital Community College. She is a Recovery University graduate, and also a graduate of the Advocacy Education course.
Dr. Karen Kangas, Director of Recovery and Family Affairs at Hartford Healthcare and Recovery University Instructor
Dr. Kangas has been a national force in the mental health field for over 30 years. Karen is now Director of Recovery and Family Affairs at Hartford Healthcare, but remains as an instructor for Recovery University and has a long history with Advocacy Unlimited. Working closely with AU's founder Yvette Sangster, Dr. Kangas was very involved in the start up of Advocacy Unlimited, successfully advocating for and obtaining statewide support and funding. She first joined the staff at Advocacy Unlimited in December, 2007 and was named Executive Director in July, 2008. She subsequently became Director of Recovery University from 2015 through October 2016.
Prior to working at AU, she held the position of Director of Community Education and Communications at the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), and was a member of the Commissioner's Executive Group.
Dr. Kangas has also been a teacher, school administrator, education consultant, lecturer, and producer of video presentations on mental health which have been distributed throughout the United States.
Dr. Kangas' strong advocacy for people with psychiatric disabilities has made her the recipient of national and local awards, including:
- The Clifford Beers Award in association with the National Mental Health Association;
- The Roger Sherman Award, an annual Connecticut Human Rights Award;
- The First Annual Excellence in Advocacy Award in 1998, an award that has been subsequently renamed the Dr. Karen Kangas Award for Excellence in Advocacy;
- Additionally, Dr. Kangas was honored in the National Council of Jewish Women "Dare to Be Different" millennium calendar.
Linda Lentini, Director of Advocacy Education
Linda values her walk in recovery and acknowledges the people with lived experience that walk, and have walked, beside her during her process. Linda speaks to people about her experiences with addiction, her experience in the mental health system, and her time in prison. She co-facilitates "Healing Trauma by Stephanie Covington" at York Correctional Institute to support other Women as they heal. Linda had facilitated Recovery University for the past 5 years, co-facilitated a "Moving Beyond the Offender Stereotype" workshop at the CT Women's Consortium, and has received several awards including the ADA Spirit award. As a member of the incredible team at Advocacy Unlimited and one of the managers, she brings her hope and encouragement to Toivo's Run/Walk, the Recovery Group for Women, and the Beyond Anger and Violence group for women.
Joanie Masot, Problem Gambling Coordinator
Joanie Masot is a state certified Recovery Support Specialist and a person in recovery. Prior to joining the team at Advocacy Unlimited as the Problem Gambling Coordinator, she worked as a Recovery Support Specialist at a local mental health agency. Joanie shares her experience as a problem gambler at events throughout the state. She also works with state legislators, testifies at the legislative office building, and speaks at rallies about opposing gambling expansion.
Joanie has been featured in many videos including "Sharing Hope and the dangers of Problem Gambling" and is a member of the National Problem Gambling Council. In addition, she is a committee member on the Community Advisory Group for The Hospital of Central CT/MidState Medical Center.
Annette Medero, Toivo Hispanic Initiative Director
Annette has been at AU since March 2004. Formerly the Director of Multicultural Affairs, Annette now translates Toivo materials into Spanish and informs the logistics and activities of the holistic health initiative through the lens of Latino culture. In both 2013 and 2014, Latinos United for Professional Advancement (LUPA) recognized Annette as one of Connecticut's top 50 most influential Latinos. Advocacy Unlimited was also awarded the LPRAC Community Service Award for advocacy efforts and support in the Connecticut Latino community. In addition, Annette hosts "La Hora De Toivo con Annette," a 2-hour long radio program on Es La Cosa radio (www.eslacosaradio.com). The broadcast is hosted live each week in Spanish and is focused on promoting holistic health practices and all Toivo offerings.
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