Until 2015, FOR-NY consisted of a volunteer Board of Directors committed to raising awareness and support for Recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs throughout New York State. Today, with the support of a professional staff, the Board remains dedicated to advancing the FOR-NY mission and guiding the continued growth of the organization.
President: CHACKU MATHAI, CPRPCPRP, President and CEO for the MHA of Rochester and Monroe County
Chacku Mathai is an Indian-American, born in Kuwait, who got involved in mental health and addiction recovery advocacy when he was 15 years old. Chacku’s personal experiences as a youth and young adult in mental health and addiction recovery in New York launched he and his family towards advocacy for improved services and alternative supports in the community such as the SOBER Barn, a recovery center for teens in Rochester, NY that was opened in November, 1985.
He has since accumulated over thirty-one years of experience as a person in recovery working with mental health and addiction community-based services in a wide variety of roles from youth leadership and community organizing to executive and board management.
Mr. Mathai currently serves as the President and CEO for the MHA of Rochester and Monroe County. He previously served as the Director for the STAR Center, one of five National Technical Assistance Centers funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the overall program is to provide technical assistance to facilitate the restructuring of the mental health system by promoting recovery and consumer directed approaches.
Prior to joining the STAR Center, Chacku was the Associate Executive Director for the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) and an implementation partner for the New York State Center of Excellence for the Integration of Care (CEIC), the SAMHSA Northeast Addiction Technology Transfer Network (NE-C ATTC), the SAMHSA Recovery to Practice Resource Center for Behavioral Health Professionals and the SAMHSA Bringing Recovery Supports To Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS-TACS).
Chacku was also appointed to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Credentialing Board and served as a founding board member and advocate for Friends of Recovery – New York, a statewide coalition of people in recovery from addiction. He is also a former member of the Commission that oversees the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA) Certification Program for Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioners (CPRP). Chacku was also a National Advisory Councilmember for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and continues to provide advisory leadership and support for a number of national projects.
Chacku is regularly invited to train across the country on youth leadership development, health and wellness activation, building collaborations across addiction and mental health recovery communities and systems, peer support, cultural competence, employment and economic self-sufficiency, organizational and community leadership, systems advocacy and implementing exemplary, integrated practices in supporting wellness and recovery for people with psychiatric disabilities, diagnoses, trauma related conditions and co-occurring substance use conditions.
Vice President: DEBRA M. RHOADESLCSW-R, CASAC-M
Debra (Deb) Rhoades has worked in the field of Addiction and Recovery since 1984 when she accepted a position as a Prevention Counselor working with Children of Alcoholics at United Hospital in New Rochelle, New York. As a young Social Worker, Deb never expected to be working with “drug addicts or alcoholics,” but once introduced and “exposed” to individuals in long term recovery from addiction, she never looked back. She continued to grow in her career, counseling in the addiction field and obtained her CASAC in 1987 and a Masters in Social Work in 1990.
For the next twenty seven years, Deb was employed at the Albany County Department of Mental Health where she held multiple positions within the addiction services arena. In 2005, Deb became the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Coordinator and was responsible for the oversight and contract management of all NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) licensed treatment and prevention programs in Albany County. In addition, Ms. Rhoades was responsible for assessing and planning the addiction prevention, treatment and recovery needs in Albany County. She has trained in the treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders and presented on the addiction epidemic impacting individuals, families and communities across the United States. Upon retiring from the Albany County Department of Mental Health in early 2017, Deb accepted a position as Associate Executive Director at Hope House in Albany where she worked to bring more of a culture of recovery to the agency. She left Hope House in April of 2019 to pursue other opportunities including training professional and peer workforce and providing consulting to Addiction and Recovery organizations in the Capital Region.
While “growing up” both professionally and personally, Deb’s younger brother developed an addiction problem that sadly resulted in significant family distress, child welfare involvement and legal problems. In 2007, Deb, her husband and young son became “a relative foster family” for her brother’s 16 year-old daughter, Kristina. As a family member of someone addicted, and as a professional working in the field, Deb recognized that it was very important to seek counseling and support for herself. “Family members must take care of themselves. Dealing with the force of addiction in the family is devastating, overwhelming and emotionally draining for all of the family”. Deb’s brother after being incarcerated as the result of his addiction and as a family member, Deb feels strongly that there needs to be more support and counseling (multiple pathways) for family members impacted by addiction.
In 2012, Deb watched the Kickstarter video for a new documentary called “The Anonymous People”. The movie, revealed what she knew was always the case; that Recovery is possible and real in the United States. She always felt that only those in “the field” and “in Recovery” were privy to the power and possibility of Recovery. She knew this movie would change how we as a society view and treat addiction and made the commitment to become more involved in the “new Recovery movement.”
In 2014, Deb was appointed to the Board of Friends of Recovery- New York where she is a passionate advocate in the recovery movement and works tirelessly to engage providers, family members and the community at large to support and become a part of the historical changes in the world of addiction and recovery. She was appointed Vice President of the Board in March 2017.
ERIC W. DYERJ.D., M.B.A., Associate, Casner & Edwards
Eric Dyer is an attorney and practices at the law firm Casner & Edwards, where he is an Associate in its Nonprofit Organization Group. Eric graduated from Albany Law School and Clarkson University in 2016 with a Juris Doctor and Masters in Business Administration in Healthcare Management. Prior to graduate school, Eric attended Union College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2013. Eric grew up outside of Boston, MA and now lives in Albany, NY. Eric is proud to be a person in long-term recovery.
DR. CHARLES MORGANMD, DFASAM, FAAFP
Charles Morgan, MD, DFASAM, FAAFP is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He completed his fellowship in Addiction Medicine at Willingway Hospital in Statesboro, Georgia and his Fellowship in Regional and Obstetric Anesthesia at the University of Pennsylvania. He did his graduate work in Human Genetics at Cornell University. Dr. Morgan has worked in the field of Addiction Medicine for nearly four decades and has published in both the anesthesia literature and the addiction medicine literature. He has lectured extensively regionally and nationally, and has taught fellows, residents and students for his entire medical career from as far away as as the former Soviet Union, and from universities from Florida to the Northeast. Dr. Morgan has worked in all modalities of treatment from outpatient to inpatient, including office-based practice to providing medical direction for a large health care system in addiction services, in both the private and public sectors. He is the Past Medical Director of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and currently sees patients at Wayne Behavioral Health Network, in the county where he was born and raised on his parents’ farm. He is a passionate advocate for people and families with addiction and for recovery. “Charlie” is deeply grateful for his own long term recovery from addiction, which began over 38 years ago, and which for all of the support and love from family, friends, colleagues and particularly the other people in recovery “some of whom I’ve met and some of whom I have yet to meet, but who have always accepted me unconditionally, warts and all, and with whom I’m always safe and home.”
“I’m excited to serve on the Board of Friends of Recovery New York. My hope is that I’ll be able to provide a strong voice for those who have not or are still not able to have a voice them-selves, in such a way that one day all families, loved ones and people with addiction can have their own voices,” expressed Dr. Morgan.
EDWARD L. OLSENLCSW, CASAC, I-CDAC, Director, United Veterans Beacon House, Northport Veteran’s Administration Residence.
Past President, Charles J. Devlin, Vice President of Substance Abuse & Development, Brightpoint Health, New York City
Past President, Laura Elliott-Engel, MA, CASAC-G, LMHC
“You just don’t know where the ripples are going to go.”
~ Laura Elliot-Engel
“You just don’t know where the ripples are going to go.”