Meet the Team
Orange County Mental Health Treatment Center
Additionally, our Orange County Residential Psychiatric Treatment Facility has strengthened its executive management team. This has shown early positive results with a significant success rate. These appointments and their staff play a key role in advancing D’Amore Healthcare’s mission of serving thousands suffering from mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorders.
Chief Executive Officer and Founder
Britten brings her knowledge of change management, social science, public policy, and business analytics to healthcare. Completing her Master of Science in Addiction Counseling while working as a Clinical Supervisor, then Managing Director, Britten ensures patients are treated with dignity and that services focus on positive reinforcement. “Individual mental health is the axis point to family stability, marketplace innovation, and overall wellness.” As a Licensed Advanced Drug and Alcohol Counselor, Britten has her MAC from the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals and is committed to research and outcome-based care planning, “Healthcare is complicated, requiring several linkages between patient history and patient goals. Listening to others is the most important part.” Outside of D’Amore Healthcare, Britten enjoys the outdoors, music and fitness.
J. JOHN EMMA
Chief Financial Officer and Founder
John has over 30+ years of financial experience working in both non-profit and for-profit businesses. In the first 20 years of his career, John directed $18 million in growth and acquisitions. Today, John brings his wisdom, accounting expertise and operational transparency to ensure D’Amore’s ethical and fiduciary practices.
John has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from San Diego State University and a Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Disorder Certification.
In his spare time, John volunteers at his church and the recovery ministry, hangs out with his sons and enjoys crossing items off his bucket list which includes traveling to all 30 major league baseball stadiums.
Originally from Chicago, Rick fell in love with California while serving in the United States Marine Corps. After his service, he moved back to Chicago until 1978, when Rick relocated to Costa Mesa, California and eventually to Huntington Beach, California. Early in his career, Rick worked as a counselor at Phoenix House. Quickly, he enjoyed the rigor of social services. Although his success took him in different directions, Rick knew he would work in recovery services again for two reasons: one, he loved it and two, he was determined to give back. In 1986, Rick’s life took a dramatic turn for the good when his recovery began. His plan to pay it forward was underway.
In 1995, Rick married his lovely bride, Vicki. They are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, Nicole who attends college in San Luis Obispo and Noelle, studying in Santa Barbara. After years of labor and success, Rick sold his company in 2012, beginning his new journey: looking for the perfect team. In Rick’s words, “It has taken me 3 years, but I have found the best 2 people to create the best in recovery.”
Chief Operating Officer
Jennifer serves as the Admissions Director for D’Amore Healthcare and has almost 12 years experience working in the recovery field. Before landing at D’Amore Healthcare, Jennifer worked for a local nonprofit organization ranging in positions from Healthcare to Financial Administrator before finding her true passion in Admissions. Jennifer’s own personal journey has led her to want to help others struggling with mental health and substance abuse and allows her to be the point of contact to individuals and their families looking to start their recovery.
Jennifer is responsible for making sure that clients are aware of the individual care they will receive while at D’Amore Healthcare, the screening and assessment prior to admission and following through with the patient’s intake from start to finish. Jennifer strongly believes that “your present circumstances don’t determine where you go, they merely determine where you start.”
DR. MOHAMED EL-GABALAWY, MD
Psychiatrist & Addictionist
Dr. Mohamed El-Gabalawy, MD is an addiction psychiatry specialist and has been practicing for over 30 years. He graduated from the University Of Cairo, Faculty Of Medicine in 1978 and specializes in Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. El-Gabalawy did his Psychiatric Residency at Winnebago Mental Health Institute and Loyola University Medical Center, and his Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in their Substance Abuse Treatment and Research Center. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry and Addiction Psychiatry, and through American Society of Addiction Medicine in Addiction Medicine. With fluency in English, Arabic and Spanish, Dr. El has substantial affiliations with Hospitals and societies that fight addiction and help individuals face mental illness.
Dr. El-Gabalawy has four children, 2 of which are following his footsteps and pursuing careers in medicine. His favorite books are An Unquiet Mind and Feeling Good, movies Beautiful Mind and Sound of Music, favorite foods are seafood and French pastries.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Joseph grew up in farm country in Illinois then migrated to Urbana where his father practiced medicine and taught at the University of Illinois. Joseph moved to Utah in the early 1980’s and worked for Deer Valley Resort for ten years, then moved to California with his wife Patti who accepted a position at UC Irvine. Joseph drove a school bus in the early 1990’s in order to be able to be home and present for his daughter. Someone suggested that he could park the bus at Irvine Valley College during the long lunch break and take a class — he did that and eventually finished undergraduate work with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services from Cal State Fullerton.
Joseph followed his youthful dreams and went to work at the Glacial Garden Ice Arena in Anaheim where he worked as an Ice Hockey program administrator and scheduled ice time. (Joseph also drove the Zamboni a lot, a fact of which he is very proud.) After 8 years at the ice rink, Joseph was motivated by a friend to attend the Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology where he completed a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology. Joseph interned at Aspen community services, then remained on the team for 10 years, during which time he became a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and gained certification from the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Association as a Mental Health Provider in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.
Joseph worked in private practice and contracted with the Santa Ana Unified School District Special Education Department until 2017 when he joined the Team at D’Amore Healthcare.
Certified Life Coach
Elizabeth Stipher is a Certified Life Coach who has dedicated her professional talents to supporting helping professionals take care of themselves. Helpers not only serve the wounded, anxious and ill, but they also open their hearts with empathy and care. Endeavoring to combat burnout and compassion fatigue, Elizabeth focuses on integrating self-care, nature, mindfulness, writing, and problem-solving. Her support and guidance help her clients feel more centered in both their personal and professional lives.
Elizabeth received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from National University (2007), Bachelor’s degree from California State University Fullerton (2000) and her coaching certification through The Life Coach Institute of Orange County (2012).
Hanging out with her husband and two kids, in nature, is a top priority. But you can also find Elizabeth taking a yoga class, hiking with her dog, stand up paddle boarding at the beach, traveling or spending time with close friends.
Associate Social Worker, Clinical Supervisor
Meghan graduated from Rutgers University in August 2017 with a Master’s degree in Social Work and made a swift move across the country from Queens, NY to pursue her career in substance abuse treatment. Successful internships and volunteer experiences have led Meghan on her path not only to social work but to work with the dual diagnosis population. Meghan spent the previous 5 years coaching volleyball while completing her MSW and working at an outpatient addiction treatment facility located in Brooklyn, NY. She has found many parallels between her coaching and career experiences and integrates applicable parts of each into her work at D’Amore.
Meghan is passionate about the high level of care and dignity each patient at D’Amore Healthcare receives. “We are truly changing mental health care, and I’m both proud and honored to be part of it.”
Licensed Vocational Nurse
Wendy Corales was born and raised in Orange County, California. She began her nursing career in 2008. Growing up with parents and family in addiction, she has always had a passion for helping others. It is a great honor to advocate help and hope.
She feels that she has found her true calling and it is a privilege to be a part of the D’Amore team. Outside of work, Wendy enjoys going to the beach, attending church and spending time with family. Her favorite quote is, “You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.”
Blaine was born in the rolling hills of North Carolina, the youngest of three children. He began his journey in October 2016, when he moved to California to pursue the lifestyle of sobriety. He quickly discovered that he possessed a heart for serving others and wanted to bring his own experience, strength and hope to those affected with co-occurring disorders. During Blaine’s free time, he can be found bodysurfing at the Wedge or being active in the local recovery community.
Originally from Kodiak, Alaska, Ailana grew up and studied in the Philippines for 13 years. At the age of 21, Ailana graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Beda University, Philippines, with Latin honors as Magna Cum Laude. After graduation in 2016, she flew to Anaheim, California to start working and supporting her family – especially her little sister who stayed back home in the Philippines. Ailana started at D’Amore Healthcare as an overnight BHT and after a year and a half, she was promoted to BHT II. Three months later, she was blessed with the opportunity to take on the Program Manager role. Ailana lives by the phrase, “Blessed to be a blessing.” She is very passionate about helping other people, changing lives and making an impact even if it involves the simplest and littlest things like a smile, high five and wishing both staff and patients to have a great day!
Outside of D’Amore Healthcare, Ailana enjoys going to the gym, trying new food, journaling, singing karaoke, leading praise & worship at her church and coaching vocal lessons.
BENJAMIN W. SMITH
Advocacy and Compliance Manager
Ben comes to D’Amore from the mountains of Colorado. He earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Sewanee: The University of the South in 2006 and began his life in recovery in Los Angeles in April of 2010. After starting that journey, Ben eventually relocated to Orange County to go the Whittier College School of Law, completing his J.D. in 2016. As a person in recovery pursuing a legal education, Ben was intrigued by the role of the law in mental health and substance abuse treatment. He found that many nuances of that relationship are not discussed widely and feels strongly that people who live with those challenges should have access to all the tools available to them so they can be successful at rebuilding their lives. He has chosen to start that by helping to protect and nourish a place that provides loving care for those who are at their most vulnerable: D’Amore Healthcare.
Ben joined the D’Amore team in November of 2016 and has worn several different hats, including Behavioral Health Technician, BHT Supervisor and now Advocacy and Compliance Manager. He has been privileged to see the company grow and blossom in that time.
Troy Matthews was born in Boston, MA and moved to the NY tristate area as a young child. He enlisted in the US Army in 1983 from Newark, NJ. He has had multiple stateside and foreign assignments in the military. He was eventually transferred to Southern California in 2014. He has over 28 years of military service.
He is a board certified Physicians Assistant with 19 years of experience. He graduated in 1999 from the University of Washington Medex NW PA program in Seattle Wa, and he has a Masters in Health Science from Touro University. He specializes in Internal Medicine working as a Hospitalist in underserved communities. He also has a correctional medicine background, where he treats numerous substance abuse and mental health patients.
He has been married for 30 years has three adult children. He enjoys physical fitness, reading non fiction books and is a music enthusiast.
Cynthia has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from California State University, Long Beach. Cynthia attended the University of Phoenix to study Marriage and Family Therapy while working in mental health care. She served as a Mental Rehabilitation Specialist at Project Jump Start (Mental Health America).
Although she likes to travel, play with her grandson, and her puppy, she takes extra time with patients and staff to help them feel seen and comfortable. Cynthia is a joy, a vessel of empathy!
Elena has her master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California Riverside. Elena has over ten years of providing social services to individuals and families from a variety of settings, including foster care, domestic violence, the correctional system, and in education.
Elena is a licensed clinical social worker who enjoys advocating and empowering others. Her passion for her work can be seen in the amount of time and care she puts into reviewing her clients’ detailed history before she dives into a case. Through this work, Elena ensures that her patients will receive the highest quality outcome. When she is not working, Elena takes care of herself by catching up on her television shows, enjoying a day at Disneyland, or walking her dog Elvis. Elena is a born advocate!
Associate Marriage and Family Therapist
Taylor was born and raised in Orange County, California. She knew that she wanted to help others from a young age. Psychology piqued her interest in high school when a teacher explained that it was “a way to understand why people are the way that they are.” Since then, she has made it her passion to continue to learn all that she can about Psychology and how it impacts our community.
Taylor received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from the Concordia University of Irvine in 2016. Taylor then received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from National University in 2019. During her practicum, she found herself working with low-income adolescents who were often dual diagnosis. During this period she was able to help them express themselves through creative measures. She continues to find new ways to help others understand themselves through creative outlets.
In her free time, Taylor enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching movies and cooking. She also enjoys camping throughout California, Taylor spends most of her summers camping along the coast. Another passion Taylor pursues daily is knitting and crocheting. They are her creative outlet that once resulted in making 10 blankets for her family in less than 4 months! She finds herself teaching others how to knit or crochet as a way to help them to develop healthy coping skills.
Narges completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Neuroscience from George Mason University and earned a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Southern California. As a licensed clinician, Narges strives to create a safe environment that can both guide and nurture patients to thrive and overcome obstacles.
Narges believes that when patients are treated with respect, dignity, and compassion; they are empowered to draw on their own strengths and realize their full potential to live fulfilling happy lives. She carries this philosophy into her practice. She believes that “healing is a collaborative endeavor that requires honest caring without judgment and needs to take place in a safe and holding environment.”
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Gary has a personal history of long-term recovery from addiction and has experienced struggles with mental health issues with close family members. These experiences inspired him to become involved in helping others who face issues with addiction and mental health. However, he felt that he could not abandon his career as a businessman. In 2009 an opportunity arose that allowed Gary to return to school, which led him to become a licensed psychotherapist.
He has now worked in the field for approximately 10 years. Gary finds his work to be incredibly fulfilling: “I can say without hesitation that the last 10 years have been the most emotionally rewarding of my life. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say being a part of someone’s journey dealing with mental health and addiction issues brings a sense of fulfillment that is hard to put in words.”
Emerson began his life in recovery in November 2014. He soon discovered a passion for helping others and began working in the treatment field shortly thereafter. He has years of experience in case management and counseling in a dual-diagnosis setting.
Emerson is constantly evolving and developing his skills to be more effective in the field. He loves to see people grow and be successful. In his free time, Emerson loves spending time with his family, being involved in his church ministry, and watching his favorite sports teams.