Meet the Team
We Heal With Heart
D’Amore Healthcare Executive Management Team continue advancement of private, quality, affordable dual diagnosis, substance abuse addiction treatment and mental health treatment.
Additionally, the organization has strengthened their executive management team showing 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 substance abuse addiction.
Chief Executive Officer, CEO
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, CFO
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.”
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.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Group Facilitator, EMDR Referral
Michelle Frankley celebrates 20 years as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an EMDR Certified Therapist specializing in the treatment of adult patients struggling with trauma, eating disorders, substance abuse, anxiety and related disorders.
As a clinician, Michelle provides tailored treatment plans to fit each patient’s specific needs utilizing a comprehensive approach that may include EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, attachment theory principles, 12 step work/meetings, journaling, mindfulness meditation techniques, individual and group sessions. Her calling is to help individuals heal and recover from their painful experiences by supplying the necessary skills for them to navigate a new and fulfilling life journey.
Michelle enjoys being part of the team and allocates her time between D’Amore Healthcare and her private practice in Newport Beach.
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.
B.S. in Dietetics and Food Administration, Functional Medicine Nutritionist
Cindy has always felt that the human body is an absolutely amazing machine with an innate ability to heal itself, given the right tools. Her focus encompasses not only nutritional guidance and therapy but also includes other healing modalities to support the health of the mind as well as the body.
Her educational background includes a B.S. in Dietetics and Food Administration in 1985 along with many advanced courses in nutrition as it relates to addictions/recovery, depression, digestion, and hormone balancing.
Cindy’s professional background includes helping numerous individuals in their recovery from addictions, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, digestive dysfunction, fatigue, allergies, type II diabetes, infertility, and more. Guiding individuals to feel and look their best through balancing the body is her focus.
Cindy has two grown sons who bring her lightness and joy. She loves to cook, create new recipes that nourish and tickle the taste buds, blog about health and nutrition, and be outdoors!
CHRIS REILLY, CATC I
Chris Reilly began his life in recovery at The Beacon House Association on May 11th, 2012 and discovered a passion for helping others live a better life. He is a certified chemical dependency counselor and case manager who has been with D’Amore Healthcare since November of 2016. Chris is currently attending Arizona State University, studying Psychology to become a more effective helper. Chris’ number one priority is to help individuals and their families on the road to recovery.
NICHOLAS LAZZARESCHI B.A., MFT-TRAINEE
Nicholas brings passion coupled with research and clinical experience to D’Amore. He is most passionate about working with individuals and families to encourage and support a sense of emotional safety so they can make strength-based choices that will allow for a better outcome of therapeutic work. Nicholas’ versatility in the field is evidenced by his experience as a group facilitator, case manager, interventionist and sober companion.
Furthermore, his research experience at UCLA led to the presentation of his work on the relationship between trauma and various cultural constructs at five national conferences.
Nicholas is currently finishing his M.S. in Counseling at CSUF. He aims to integrate a strengths-based, recovery-oriented approach with current evidenced-based treatments to promote meaningful change at D’Amore.
Associate Social Worker, Program Manager, Group Facilitator
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.”
Director of Admissions
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.”
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Elliot was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. and earned his B.A. in Sociology from the State University of New York, New Paltz. He earned his M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Phillips Graduate Institute and began practicing as a therapist in 1987. He obtained his MFT License in 1991.
Since that time he has been in private practice. He served as a Social Worker for Los Angeles and Orange Counties, worked on staff at a children’s clinic in Santa Ana, founded a mental health clinic in Corona and for the past few years he has been working in the field of Rehabilitation. He joined D’Amore in March 2018. Elliot brings a high level of care and compassion to his work and demonstrates an absolute commitment to the people he serves. He doesn’t think there’s anything better to do in life than to make a difference in the lives of others.
Elliot enjoys writing, traveling when he can, practicing Martial Arts and spending time with his family.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Kristen is a champion for purposeful and meaningful relationships. She believes we all have a responsibility in choosing how we communicate and behave in those relationships. Having worked with various populations, including the chronically mentally ill and families in child welfare, Kristen has experienced how the power of communication can heal even the most distant of relationships. She has her M.A. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and strives to use her knowledge and experience to help others improve their quality of life.
It is Kristen’s purpose to assist others to think critically and make active choices to build purposeful, quality relationships. It’s easy to do what’s always been done. But if what’s always been done isn’t effective or doesn’t achieve the desired response, it’s time to try something new, which may feel a bit uncomfortable. As Albus Dumbledore would say, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Her desire is to affirm experiences and offer an alternate perspective with the hope of helping people step into an unknown space for the adventure of growth and learning. Kristen joined D’Amore’s team in August of 2018.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Crystal was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she found her love for helping individuals embrace life’s challenges and regain hope within their lives. Crystal strongly believes that individuals have the skills necessary within themselves to live a life full of meaning and gratitude. During her time in Orange County, Crystal received her master’s degree in Marriage Family Therapy at Alliant International University, and then continued on to complete her Doctoral degree in Psychology, with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Irvine. Crystal takes pride in treating every client with dignity, respect and compassion. Advocating for her clients and staying in the present moment to support them on their journey towards growth becomes of utmost importance during her time with clients.
Taking time to reflect on, admire and be with nature is one of her favorite pastimes. Aromatherapy, reading, listening to music and spending time with family, friends and loved ones are what keeps Crystal fulfilled. Crystal is passionate about innovative holistic approaches to health and learning more about the sacred connection between mind, body and spirit. Being in-tune with one’s mind, body, and spirit is the cornerstone of maintaining a healthy connection to life. When working with clients, Crystal incorporates evidenced-based approaches with a humanistic stance, which are tailored to each client’s unique life circumstances and needs.
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.”
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
As a graduate of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (M.A. in Psychology), Joe was able to bring his broad-based skills to help diverse populations in the Los Angeles area in both English and Spanish. After many years of working in L.A. County, he has joined D’Amore Healthcare to pursue his passion of helping in Orange County, where he grew up.
Outside of work his passions range from playing a game of volleyball in the sand, sitting down with the family for Board Game Night or singing Karaoke with some friends!
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Jamie Mantel is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, with a Psy.D. in Psychology. Jamie has worked for non-profits for over 20 years, working with agencies as well as her private practice in Huntington Beach, California. Bullying is a special area of interest to Jamie, as she has seen and worked with many young people who have been bullied, as well as those who have bullied. Jamie has helped teens and children learn new skills to cope with bullies, with bullies to stop their negative behaviors, and with parents to help their children survive and be protected. Jamie’s agencies have included foster care agencies, outpatient mental health, probation department and group homes working with both teen boys and girls, and their families.
After working with adults in a psychiatric, partial-hospital setting and doing research for her doctorate program, Jamie became interested in wanting to help patients suffering from mental illness and substance abuse addiction by focusing on how mental, emotional and social factors affect a person’s physical well-being. Jamie has had the opportunity to continue working with adults diagnosed with chronic and persistent mental illness in addition to substance use disorders at D’Amore Healthcare to assist patients in improving their insight, judgment and symptom awareness to help prevent long-term hospitalization and transition them to a less structured environment.
Licensed Vocational Nurse
Miroslava Cardenas Escalante is a LVN who currently works in both the Mental Health and Dual Diagnosis tracks here at D’Amore. Miroslava knew she had a calling and a helping nature. After raising her three beautiful daughters, she decided to go back to school in an accelerated course in nursing at American Career College. Miroslava became a nurse because she chose a career doing what she loves: taking care of others. Miroslava knows that being a nurse is to see firsthand and directly the positive impact we can have on another person. She joined D’Amore in April of 2018.
Daniel started his medical career in 2007 when he completed his CNA and MA courses through ROP. He discovered his passion of helping others while working with a wide variety of patients throughout the years. He completed his LVN courses in 2017 with a plan to go back to complete his Bachelor of Science in nursing. Daniel demonstrates a passion for helping others every day through the work he does at D’Amore. Daniel has been with the D’Amore Healthcare team since July of 2017.
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.
As a young adult, Michael learned early that serving the mental health community was in his future. Michael majored in psychology, where he caught his professor’s attention. His professor referred him for employment at an outpatient neuro rehabilitation facility. Michael began appreciating the application of psychology with his studies, as well as the interconnectivity of mind and body, as he facilitated physical, occupation and cognitive rehabilitation. Michael’s fascination with psychology crosses the spectrum. The journey continues with his goal of working towards his doctorate in psychology.
Michael currently has over 1,000 clinical hours completed and has worked 1:1 utilizing psychodynamic techniques, specifically Object Relations Theory. He also has experience working with various populations, which include children and adolescents with severe psychiatric illness, developmental delays, and autism.
Michael also has a deep appreciation of cultural psychology. Michael is biracial, of Japanese and Salvadorean descent, which gave him not only the pleasure of having sushi and enchiladas dinners in the same week but a profound admiration of cultural diversity. From a young age, Michael was fortunate to travel. It began with Japan and El Salvador, and after that, it was the world. He understands there’s a distortion between what people perceive versus the reality of mental health. Michael wants to do his part in narrowing the gap.
It’s not easy, but anything worth having never comes easy. At D’Amore, Michael wants to utilize his skills to ease suffering by offering dignity, respect, and the necessary skills to grow. Let us build you up!
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.
Jennifer has been a Registered Nurse since 1997. She has worked in acute care settings for several hospitals in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, including the Providence, Sharp and Scripps health care systems. She has been residing in Orange County since 2015 and shifted her focus to working in mental health and addiction/recovery. She has a lot of compassion and grace for our patients.
Jennifer is the proud mother of a daughter who graduated from the University of Santa Barbara just over a year ago, and who is now teaching in Thailand. Jennifer likes to play sports, especially Ping-Pong and Frisbee. During the summer, she likes to go swimming in the ocean.
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