First Responder Wellness values and supports a culture where employees are encouraged to take ownership of their actions and grow through encouragement and support. We are a team of passionate people with a shared purpose to support the first responder and public risk community. Our team is composed of culturally competent professionals who have extensive experience working with first responders, families, and public agencies. Many of our staff members have even been first responders earlier in their careers, and many have come from first responder and military families.
First Responder Wellness upholds the highest standards of integrity. We earn the trust of our clients, community, and agency partners through transparency, security, compliance, privacy, and performance.
Joel is the Chief Executive Officer of First Responder Wellness and has over a decade of experience in the Behavioral Health space. He started his career as a Case Manager and quickly found a niche for integrating experiential and outdoor education into his clinical work. He created Adventure Programming for Extended Care programs and integrated outcome measures to validate the success of utilizing the outdoors to enhance clinical care.
He has grown professionally having different roles throughout organizations including clinical, business development and marketing, compliance, and Executive Level Management. Joel has successfully guided programs through the CARF and Joint Commission Accreditation process as well as State level licensing and certifications. Along the way, he integrated his education in business and clinics to grow programs and utilize outcomes measures to guide that growth. Joel has a passion for clinical and experiential-driven programs. He believes that quality outcomes data collection help guide staff in creating extraordinary programs ultimately leading to successful clinical outcomes for clients.
Joel holds a CADC-II certification from CCAPP and has a BS in Business and Marketing from California State University-San Luis Obispo as well as a certificate from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo for Human Services.
Dr. Stephen Odom is a notable healthcare and addiction treatment professional with more than 30 years of expertise in the field. He is the founder and Chief Clinical Officer of First Responder Wellness.
He possesses an educational background in organizational behavior, clinical psychology and healthcare administration. This valuable combination allows him to integrate current research knowledge, clinical and administrative practice understanding, and practical, directly relevant experience. Dr. Odom holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior from Covenant College, a Master’s in Experimental Psychology (University of Tennessee), a Master’s in Clinical Psychology (Palo Alto University), and a Doctorate (Ph.D.) with a focus in Healthcare Administration (Capella University). He is also a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of California.
Dr. Odom has served in multiple roles during his career, including CEO & Chief Clinical Officer of New Vista Behavioral Health, a Director’s post of Program Development for CRC Health and multiple Administrative and Clinical Director posts at various behavioral health and chemical dependency treatment centers and hospitals in California, including Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach and El Camino Hospital in the San Francisco Bay area. Moreover, Stephen served as a university adjunct faculty member in Psychology and Child Development and continues to work in private practice. Dr. Odom has been coined as a wellness and behavioral health expert with peer-reviewed articles published on mental health, substance abuse and technology; was presented the national Behavioral Health Champion award in 2018; has appeared on The Today Show; the 2016 documentary film California High, and multiple print, radio, and podcast media channels.
Dr. Odom’s focus on First Responder Wellness was born of his family’s career backgrounds with the military, healthcare, law enforcement and public safety, and was honed as he created and led specialty programs for physicians, nurses, first responders and their families. In his distinguished and extensive career in behavioral health and addiction treatment, Dr. Odom’s empathetic and therapeutic approach has allowed him to connect not only with his clinical teams but each first responder who walks through the door.
Devin is the Chief Development Officer and is responsible for the strategic direction of First Responder Wellness. He formulates both short and long term goals to further the overall mission of our organization. Devin comes to us with a tremendous amount of experience in the behavioral health field after founding a residential mental health primary facility. Having achieved long term sobriety since 2010, he now finds a passion for helping others with substance abuse and mental health issues. Devin was drawn to our mission to help First Responders after experiencing first hand several family members that have suffered from post-traumatic stress and alcoholism due to public safety employment.
Michael started working in the substance abuse field approximately 10 years ago. Possessing a B.A in Management from Gettysburg College and a Master’s Degree from New York University, Michael is able to provide the First Responder Wellness team with the proper support and guidance needed to help make it a premier provider of substance abuse treatment. Michael also brings qualities of understanding, compassion, and empathy that are integral in creating an environment of care that is supportive and conducive to working on long-term recovery. Michael has successfully opened and developed substance abuse treatment facilities throughout the Southwest including Texas, Nevada, and Southern California and draws upon these experiences to help strengthen and improve the overall services that First Responder Wellness provides its clients. In his free time, Michael enjoys exploring all that Southern California has to offer with his wife Mary, son Cameron and their dogs Bodhi and Rudy. Michael is also an avid fisherman and enjoys rooting on his beloved New York Rangers, Giants, and Yankees.
Chris joined the First Responder Wellness team in 2014, and is currently the Program Supervisor. His position focuses exclusively on education, counseling interventions, and is a co facilitator of the First Responder Family Program. Chris also oversees the day to day operations of the program and is a Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CADC-II). Chris has worked with adolescents, adults, military veterans, first responders and families and held positions as a case manager, counselor, crisis interventionist, residential program manager and currently program supervisor. After battling his own alcoholism and addiction for over 15 years, Chris became sober in February 2006. Seeing the benefits of his own recovery and new outlook on life, he began helping others find themselves and see there is truly a better way to live life. Since entering the field of addiction counseling in 2008, Chris furthered his education as a certified drug and alcohol counselor, certified first responder associate counselor and has become an invaluable member of our team.
Tiffany Atalla is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 15 years of professional experience. Her extensive background makes her a culturally competent clinician for First Responders. Tiffany’s role at First Responder Wellness is to provide trauma treatment and education providing EMDR, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Training and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
Tiffany earned her B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Marriage Family and Child Counseling from the University of San Diego. Before joining the treatment team at First Responder Wellness, Tiffany worked as a clinician for the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team in San Diego. During the 40 hours a week in a police unit, Tiffany learned a great deal about the needs of the law enforcement community, while gaining valuable hands on emergency response experience. She also continues to work with a specialized First Responder EAP, The Counseling Team International and has her own private practice.
Tiffany started as a therapist for high risk youth in juvenile diversion and substance use cessation programs, became a supervisor for a program with Child Protective Services and then worked as a Clinical Director for an inpatient mental health and dual diagnosis treatment programs.
Her genuine understanding for First Responders and their family life comes from her own life experience as she is married to an Anaheim Fire Captain and they have two children together.
Tiffany is actively involved with First Responder family wellness in her spare time. She founded the Southern California Fire-Wives Connect group, is a Co-Founder of a Fire Family Support Services group and helps lead First Responder Spouse Retreats.
Tiffany also enjoys volunteering with Canine Companions for Independence. She has a Facility Dog from Canine Companions for Independence named Bey, that is trained to work with First Responders and has over 43 commands that assist in her client’s treatment. Tiffany has both a passion for people and animals and loves helping clients heal at First Responder Wellness.
Mi Yun Greenberg is a Trauma and EMDR therapist with First Responder Wellness. Since 2015, she has been active in the community working with adults in treatment for mental health and substance use, and treating at-risk adolescents and children. She has also collaborated with Orange County’s Sheriff’s Department on a variety of inmate behavioral health topics. A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) and EMDR International Association certified EMDR therapist practicing in Orange County, California. She received a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) from Alliant International University, an M.A. in MFT from Hope International University (HIU), and her B.A. in English from The University of California Irvine (UCI). Her philosophy is to shift redundant patterns and restrictive narratives, in such a way as to overcome suffering and symptomatology. Her passion quintessentially speaks to her methodology of intensifying individual strengths and amplifying once-silenced narratives. At home, Mi Yun shares quality time with her husband and their German Shepherds, Oenomau and Ragnar.
Dr. Meghan Marcum is a board-certified clinical psychologist and serves as Chief Psychologist for First Responder Wellness. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Arizona State University and a doctorate in clinical psychology from The American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. She completed her pre and post-doctoral training in the specialty field of chemical dependency and has also achieved specialized training in treating traumatic disorders with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Dr. Marcum previously worked in the Neurosciences Institute at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California where she continues to hold privileges.
Vera Rodriguez is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Vera earned her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Southern California after completing her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Applied Psychology from UC Santa Barbara. Vera worked with United Firefighters of Los Angeles City’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, where she provided individual, couple, and family therapy to members of the LA City Fire Department and their families. In her time, she also worked closely alongside LAFD peer support and mental health professionals, assisting in debriefings for critical incidents as well as participated in educational workshops on topics for “first responder culture.”
In addition, Vera works in private practice and has facilitated individual and group therapy for other treatment centers in both the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. Coming from a first responder family, Vera’s passion for working with first responders is both professional and personal. Vera believes everyone’s experience is unique and provides an individualistic approach to meet the client where they are. As a part of the First Responder Wellness team, Vera is dedicated to helping first responders overcome addiction and traumatic events in life.
Kimberly L. Statham is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Kimberly possesses a Masters Degree in Marriage Family Therapy and is completing her MFT Doctorate Degree from Alliant International University, an APA accredited Professional School of Psychology. Kimberly has dedicated her professional career to gaining a comprehensive understanding of client’s needs and applying therapeutic methods that produce change. She is well versed in working with addiction and trauma in the first responder community. As a treatment professional, Kim brings a uniquely authentic approach to the first responder clients that allows a safe space for healing to happen.
Destinee is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and Associate Professional Clinical Counselor. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in clinical counseling, both from California State University, Fullerton. Destinee has completed training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and she has attended conferences and speaker-meetings focused on the understanding and healing of trauma from a holistic and body-based lens.
Destinee also has a background in yoga and meditation, as she completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training program in 2020 and is currently studying for her 500-hour certification. For her master’s final project, she researched the use of mindfulness-based practices to address intimacy and sexual functioning in individuals with a history of abuse, and she has become increasingly passionate about working with this population. She is often humbled by the power of transformation that is possible through simple acts of connection and is grateful to work for an organization that creates space for such healing to occur.
Rose Maynard is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. She is a Doctoral student at Alliant International University. She received an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Alliant International University, and a BA in Psychology from Vanguard University. Rose is trained in trauma specific modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).
Rose comes from a family with a long history of military service and has focused her research efforts on military, first responders, and their families. She is passionate about her work with those seeking healing from their past experiences. Prior to becoming a psychotherapist, Rose worked for over a decade as a massage therapist and massage instructor. It is with this knowledge of the mind-body connection that she utilizes somatic/body techniques to aid in the healing processes.
Rose works from a place of respect, empathy, and transparency. She views her clients’ trust as a genuine privilege to be able to share in their experiences. She is honored to help first responders gain a deeper understanding of who they are and improve their relationship with themselves and those around them.
Michael joined First Responder Wellness in 2020 and is currently the Client Care Manager. In this role he is often the client’s first contact with our program and he works closely with our team of team case managers, therapists and treatment team. His team ensures each client is provided with information during orientation to guide them through their first few days, and that clients are also provided with resources to help with their continued success as they transition after program completion. Michael and his team also with return-to-work, workers’ comp, FMLA and other leave of absences, and with our alumni program and outreach.
Michael C. Koch is a former police officer and holds a Bachelor of Science from San Diego State University in Criminal Justice Administration, and he is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC-II). Michael spent 19 years serving the public as a police officer and undercover narcotics detective. He knows what life and death look like, and saw what addiction and untreated mental health issues can do to a person’s life. Michael understands first-dand the culture of being a first responder and experiencing post-traumatic stress, addiction and the stigma surrounding asking for help, and has since dedicated his life to assisting first responders.
In 2012, his career as a police officer ended and his life helping those dealing with substance abuse dependence began. Michael has worked as a counselor for drug and alcohol programs and intensive outpatient (IOP) facilities in the City of San Diego and was program director of a San Diego drug and alcohol detox.
In 2017 Michael became the founder of the First Responder Fellowship in San Diego North County, a confidential 12-step/peer-based recovery group that is open to all first responders and meets once a week. With the goal of reaching out to first responders, Michael started a podcast in 2018 named Positive Connections Radio. This podcast is designed to help break the stigma of mental health issues among first responders and to connect those suffering in silence with confidential help.
Additionally, Michael is a speaker at the San Diego Police Academy, SDPD wellness program, San Diego Fire Department, panel member for the GTA POST Management Course, SDDA Supervisor Investigations, PDATF Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, and he provides peer support for many first responder agencies.
Kirk spent many years working in the music industry and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. He has a passion for helping people with addiction problems and believes that all people deserve to live a drug-free and happy life. Kirk has lots of family members that have a military background and he has a passion for helping first responders. In his free time, Kirk enjoys riding his dirt bike, camping, and exercising.
James Blumenschein is a CCAPP certified CADC II Counselor/Case Manager who has been working in recovery since 2010 and received his certification as a drug and alcohol counselor with the state of CA through Intercoast College in 2010. He has experience in inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and has roles such as House Manager, Detox Lead Counselor, Primary Counselor, Lead Case Manager, and Program Director. James is passionate about recovery, is actively involved in Alcoholics Anonymous, and has been in recovery since 2009. James enjoys working with clients and gets satisfaction from seeing clients overcome their disease as well as accomplishing their recovery and personal goals.
Scott is a retired Sergeant who spent 23 years in a variety of assignments that included working as a gang & narcotics detective, field training officer, task force officer working meth labs, detective corporal working crimes persons/property, and working as a Patrol Sergeant until his retirement. Prior to law enforcement, he spent 12 years in the Marine Corps where he was an Infantry Platoon Sgt. During Scott’s law enforcement career, he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Master of Science degree in Clinical Psychology.
During Scott’s law enforcement career, he personally experienced many critical incidents, that included Officer Involved shootings and more tragically the loss of a fellow police officer murdered a result of a shooting and another to a suicide. Early in his career he was involved in a shooting and at the time, he realized he didn’t have the resources to address the cumulative negative effects of trauma to our first responders. Several years later, the idea of “peer support” and “culturally competent” therapists and counselors to help address these issues came alive.
Another officer and Scott, along with the support of their department, put together their peer support team and the healing began. With the resources now available, they were able to address trauma issues through critical incident debriefs, referrals to culturally competent therapists, as well as internal support by the peer support members themselves.
Scott’s passion for working with both veterans and first responders with substance abuse and mental health issues, brought him to First Responder Wellness.
Kendal is a RADT case manager, with a range of field experience in working with families and individuals experiencing all manner of crisis and hardship. She first received her BA, in Social Work, from Cal State Long Beach and spent years working with families and communities involved with juvenile probation, child protective services and those affected as victims of crime. Kendal spent another decade working directly as a first responder and knows the challenges individuals and their families face in maintaining love, connection and sanity in the face of so much chaos and trauma. Kendal received her MA in Psychology, with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2022 and found her way to First Responder Wellness through a series of fortunate events. She is honored to be a part of the change in first responder culture towards accepting help.
Meghan is a former ICU/Cardiac Critical Care medical assistant that worked closely alongside the COVID-19 pandemic assisting nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors/intensivists to provide advanced medical services to patients. Meghan moved to California from New Mexico in 2021 and began working at First Responder Wellness in November as a Case Manager. Meghan graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and concentration in substance abuse therapy and is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC-III), Level III. She has prior experience working with veterans who suffered from PTSD where she was able to help conduct a series of tests to bring into the research field. Meghan understands the culture of being a First Responder and is passionate to be involved in working with this population.
Dr. Alva is the Medical Director for First Responder Wellness. Dr. Alva is also the CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Pacific Neuropsychiatric Specialists. A single specialty medical group which focuses not only on psychiatric disorders but also on dual diagnosis conditions, which include alcohol and chemical dependence.
Prior to becoming the Medical Director for First Responder Wellness, Dr. Alva was involved in multiple endeavors including detoxification and rehabilitation work both inpatient and outpatient including the VA Medical Center In Long Beach, Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Chapman Medical Center in Orange, and multiple rehabilitation centers.
Dr. Alva’s focus is on the latest treatments available for psychiatric and chemical dependency. Dr. Alva has over 20 years of experience in serving the medical community in various capacities; as a patient advocate, clinician, researcher and medical director.
Dr. Alva is a member of multiple professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Orange County Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the California Psychiatric Association, the American Board of Forensic Medicine, the American College of Forensic Examiners, the American Board of Psychopharmacology, the California Hispanic American Medical Association, the New York Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of Hispanic professionals.
Shantel joined First Responder Wellness in 2021 after doing her psychotherapy rotation with the clinical team; she fell in love with the program and the “magic” that is done here. She was brought on as the Director of Nursing in which she oversees the day-to-day nursing operations of our program. She began her career as an EMT with McCormick Ambulance where she ran 911 calls alongside Los Angeles County Fire Department. Loving the adrenaline, she then began her nursing career 15 years ago as an Emergency Room Registered Nurse where she gained most of her experience; after two decades of emergency and trauma experience, she then shifted to EMS where she worked as the Division VI Nurse Educator for Los Angeles County Fire Department. Here is where she found her niche and realized her passion was to help the men and women who selflessly help others. She later obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing which furthered her knowledge in research, health promotion, safety, and quality. Her understanding of first responders not only stems from her professional career, but her personal life as well; she comes from a first responder family. She recently graduated, obtaining her master’s in nursing where she completed her degree as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. She is excited to continue helping our uniformed personnel with substance abuse and/or mental health disorders.
Sheena Patel, PA-C is a Physician Assistant for First Responder Wellness and has over a dozen years of experience in the medical field. She received her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of California in Irvine and graduated from Long Island University Physician Assistant Program medical school in 2010. Ms. Patel enjoys working with our patients and improving their quality of life by treating a wide variety of mental health issues including PTSD, Insomnia, Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Alcohol and Chemical Dependency.
Andrew Johnson, MMS, PA-C is a Physician Assistant for First Responder Wellness. Andrew works in psychiatric and addiction medicine and has a passion for working with first responders. He received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Prior to becoming a PA, Andrew served San Diego County as an EMT. He later went on to complete his master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies at Chapman University. Andrew has used his experience as a first responder to connect with his patients and help address any mental health or chemical dependency concerns.
Amber has been with First Responder Wellness as a Detox LVN since 2021. She comes to us with over a decade of experience in the medical field; she worked as a Surgical Technologist and Certified Nursing Assistant in various medical and surgical settings. She brings so much passion, empathy, and joy to our First Responders which comes from the love she has for her grandfather who was a Los Angeles County Fire Captain.
Stephanie attended American Career College and is licensed by the state of California as a Licensed Vocational Nurse. She became an LVN because she has always had the desire to help others. She has spent the last 7 years working in the addiction treatment industry. Stephanie is often viewed as an empathetic and calming source for clients, while always maintaining professional boundaries. She always offers support and encouragement to every individual’s unique journey in recovery. Stephanie believes that the most important part of her job is to be an advocate for our clients as she works closely with our medical professionals and clinical team to ensure that each client’s need is being met.
Shannon comes to First Responder Wellness with almost 10 years of working in the field of substance abuse and mental health treatment. She has spent the last 9 years working with clients and families across the nation navigating the waters of mental health and substance abuse. Shannon brings her passion for wellness to those who struggle with addiction, trauma and other co-occurring disorders. Shannon has devoted much of her time to nonprofits, has helped to create family programs and worked for other nationally recognized facilities.
Working for Juvenile Justice in the early 90’s Shannon spent the early part of her career working with juvenile youth offenders. Working with inmates prior to their parole Shannon helped with structuring inmate days, oversaw the work experience program provided within the jail, family reunification building and assisted daily living skills. Moving into an entirely different field after corrections Shannon spent two decades as the Owner and Director of an Early Childhood Enrichment Program on the Central Coast before coming to Orange County. As the mother of five children and 2 grandsons and her first granddaughter she truly knows the joys of a healed family and makes it her mission to give away what was so freely given to her.
Jef Albach studied Psychology at Maryville University in his hometown of St. Louis Missouri. Jef began working in treatment in 2015 starting on the operations side before moving on to do intake assessments and utilization reviews. Outside of work Jef enjoys spending time with his growing family, going to baseball games, and collecting vinyl records.
Melissa spent 15 years rising through the ranks with West-Cities Police Communications (West-Comm) culminating with her managing the dispatch center. During her tenure at West-Comm, Melissa was the 2007 Dispatcher of the Year and was recognized by the California Public Safety Radio Association as the 2009 Runner-Up Dispatcher of the Year. Melissa was a founding member of the West-Comm Dispatch Peer Support Program and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.
Melissa and her husband (a police officer) have individual and shared traumatic experiences resulting in PTS. Without the assistance of Dr. Odom, Tiffany Atalla, and the other culturally competent therapists and advocates at First Responder Wellness, the trauma could have forever damaged an otherwise wonderful and loving marriage. Ensuring other first responders know about and take advantage of the support that First Responder Wellness provides is very important to her. Melissa supports her personal wellness by spending time with her family, kickboxing, and playing racquetball with her husband.
Tiffany works as Admissions Coordinator and studied health care sciences at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. She has been working in various healthcare settings since 2014, starting off as an EMT in New York, followed by working in pharmacies, and hospitals, and ending up in behavioral health after moving to California in 2019. After moving to California, Tiffany obtained her Master’s Degree in Health Care Administration. Tiffany’s passion for helping and caring for others brought her to First Responder Wellness.
Jillian comes to First Responder Wellness with years of experience working with the mental health care industry. She has earned her Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus of business, management, marketing and related support services from California Baptist University. With many law enforcement and military personnel in her family, Jillian has a passion for helping our first responders find their way back to a healthy lifestyle and to get them the help that they need.
Katie comes to First Responder Wellness through a deeply rooted passion to help others. Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and as a self-proclaimed “Neuro Nerd”, she has achieved advanced training and licensing through the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance in Neurofeedback.
While practicing neurofeedback, Katie realized she not only loves building stronger, healthier brains, but that she also loves building stronger businesses. Around this same time Katie also realized she had fallen in love with her future husband, who happens to be a career firefighter.
As Katie continued on her journey in business and brain health, always on the lookout for a new opportunity, she started to wonder if there might be an opportunity to help first responders. It was through this curiosity that a new passion was born.
Drawing on her professional experience and her passion for brain health, while leaning into her intimate understanding of the “lifestyle”, Katie now dedicates her work to collaborating, partnering, and educating department leaders to build better, stronger departments, a more resilient workforce, and healthier, happier first responder families.
Cassie has extensive Law Enforcement experience in dispatch, jail, and traffic divisions. Early in her career she became eager to learn new specialties, showing natural leadership, and a passion for teaching and presenting. With her diverse background, this opened an opportunity at the local college the last few years allowing her to be a speaker for Dispatch courses, most recently, specializing in wellness and PTS.
Cassie is passionate about helping first responders due to her own healing journey of dealing with PTS through wellness, meditation, and recovery. Cassie helps facilitate and lead peer-run Fellowship Support Groups for first responders twice a week. The support groups allow and provide a safe space for first responders to gather, share, and heal from the unique traumas we all face on the job.
Cassie enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Colt and Ruger. She enjoys traveling the world and loves to learn about other cultures and beliefs.
Scott is a Public Safety Advocate for First Responder Wellness and is a retired Chief of Police for a mid-sized police department in Washington state. His oversight included community police services as well as jail and dispatch services for several cities in the region. During his 26-year career, he served in leadership roles such as a narcotics detective, school resource officer, training officer, patrol sergeant, patrol commander, special operations team leader and special operations team commander.
Throughout his career, Scott has advocated for increasing wellness and resiliency activities of his fellow police officers, corrections officers and dispatchers. As Chief of Police, he oversaw the implementation of a peer support team, renewed the chaplain program, encouraged on-duty workouts, and introduced on-duty access to a culturally competent therapist within the department. At the state level, he formed the first Wellness Committee for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) and facilitated a commitment between three major police associations within the State of Washington (WASPC, NOBLE, and FBINAA) to collaborate on wellness & resiliency activities. Scott co-chaired the Washington State Law Enforcement Mental Health Task Force which produced the 2021 Legislative Report on mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers in the state.
Scott has a bachelor’s degree in Society and Justice from the University of Washington, and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington. He is a graduate of the 241st Session of the FBI National Academy and served as president and other leadership roles for the Washington Chapter FBI National Academy Associates Executive Board.
Judy is a Public Safety Advocate for First Responder Wellness. Having worked for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for 40 years she has seen firsthand the need for culturally competent, mental health and substance abuse treatment specifically for first responders. Judy is also the current Chief of System Security and Law Enforcement for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro). She retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after 40 years in 2020 at the rank of Commander assigned to Special Operations Division. Her duties included oversight of the Emergency Operations Bureau, the Special Enforcement Bureau, including SWAT, K9, and HazMat, the Transit Services Bureau, the Aero Bureau, the Criminal Intelligence Bureau, and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, as well as Budget and Personnel responsibilities for the Special Operations Division.
Judy holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from California State University, Long Beach, and a Master of Arts Degree from Chapman University. She is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy (FBINA) and the Cornell University Leadership Development Program. She is recognized as a National Collegiate Scholar for Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. Judy is an active member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy Associates (FBINAA), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the Fraternal Order of Police. Judy comes from a family of law enforcement. She has a brother who is a retired LASD Lieutenant, another brother who is a retired Compton Police Department Lieutenant and her sister is a retired LASD Sergeant. Judy also has three adult children and a new granddaughter. In her spare time, Judy enjoys traveling, reading, and the company of great friends and family.
Patrick McCurdy has a long-standing passion for helping others, especially for serving those that courageously go into harm’s way to serve others. He grew up in a public safety family. His grandmother was a nurse, and his father, mother, uncle, brother, and wife all served in Law Enforcement.
Patrick grew up in California and his first job was in corrections before he moved to Seattle as a Deputy for the Sheriff’s Office. In his 32 Year career he served in patrol operations, FTO & MPO, was a trainer at the Washington State Basic Law Enforcement Academy, was in a bicycle patrol squad, and in the counter-terrorism team. Patrick also served as a Sergeant in patrol and as the Sergeant of several specialty teams, including metro transit, counter terrorism, explosive detection K9’s, and a special emphasis undercover team.
Patrick saw the toll that exposure to critical incidents and trauma had on his own family as he grew up. His first experience with a line-of-duty death occurred before he was even working in law enforcement, when a patrol officer assigned to work for his father’s squad was murdered on the same street where Patrick and his family lived. Over the years, Patrick lost numerous close friends to the violence, accidents, depression, and addiction that occurred in or because of the job.
Though he had taught officer survival skills for many years, Patrick quickly realized that tactical, physical, and legal survival were only pieces of the whole puzzle, and the most important piece, emotional survival, was missing. The once ‘invincible warrior’ began to realize that he had significant gaping holes in his own armor that were having a negative impact on him and his family and that he wasn’t actually ‘invincible’ after all.
Patrick became a member of the Sheriff’s Office Peer Support Team as a peer support counselor, critical incident debriefer, trainer, program developer and team leader. He assisted debriefing other police and fire departments after significant critical events throughout the region and helped numerous agencies to develop training and programs to provide peer support to their departments. Patrick continues to volunteer as a lead peer, trainer, and peer support counselor at retreats for police officers and firefighters battling against PTSD/ PTSI, and also helps to build effective teams and policies nationally.
Patrick retired in 2022 and lives in the Seattle area with his beautiful wife and three awesome children. Patrick is thrilled to join the team at First Responder Wellness to help others move through the fog of trauma to a clearer place where they can live in light once again, instead of darkness.
Alex Vernon has been working in the recovery field for over 5 years having started as a Clinical Support Specialist, advancing to Field Supervisor, then Operations Supervisor. Alex was raised on the east coast and worked in EMS in New York City before his own personal journey in recovery took him to Southern California. Alex obtained his associate’s degree in Psychology from Saddleback College and his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University- Fullerton. Alex is currently working towards obtaining a master’s degree in clinical psychology. In his free time, Alex enjoys hiking, reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and riding his motorcycle.
Alex chose to work at First Responder Wellness because he wanted to work with a company that puts clients’ needs ahead of itself and always asks, “What’s in the best interest of our clients”. Alex has found that here at First Responder Wellness.
Lisa has been practicing yoga since the age of 9 which began with the classical tradition of Ashtanga Yoga. She is certified in numerous styles of yoga: Hatha, Power Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Restorative, Yin, and Kundalini Yoga. She is a 500-Hour Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and is a Continuing Education Provider for Yoga Alliance. She has certifications in yoga therapy, chakra therapeutics, bodywork, and reiki in addition to a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. She is also an experienced meditation teacher and sound healer. She is passionate about wellness and the use of multiple styles of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to help facilitate healing and growth.
Art Therapy to Carolyn is a way of exploring life’s situations from a creative perspective. There is so much expression, emotion, and satisfaction that is the result of ‘artistic’ works. She has degrees in both psychology and fine art so it was only natural to combine them in this field. Her personal specialty is painting; watercolor, acrylic, and oil—landscapes, animal portraits, still life, and abstracts. Carolyn believes that some form of artistic expression, painting, collage, vision boards, or other right-brain creations is important for everyone.
She has found that in the various projects that we create with clients, each one is set free to explore the assignment from their personal viewpoint. It helps in understanding where we are today and thinking positively about the future.
Carolyn also has a business background, having been involved in the technology with Apple computers in the early days and other ventures in Silicon Valley. She also has a fond love of the wine country where I spent most of my life raising her children and extracting the beauty from the environment that inspires so many of my paintings. All of these environments, and experiences have well positioned her to share with my clients the benefits of expression, self-exploration, creativity, and individualism through art in its many forms.
Candice began her yoga journey in 2007 after years of searching for ways to get more flexible in a non-flexible body. After a few months of consistent practice, she began to notice a shift in not only how her body began to open up, but also how she felt physically and mentally. Yoga became a much deeper form of practice for her – offering relief from chronic pain due to autoimmune issues, as well as high stress and anxiety. Candice is a certified Vinyasa and Hatha yoga instructor and has well over ten years of teaching group classes, as well as coaching and leading a variety of programs, such as yoga teacher training, boot camp, and seasonal wellness cleanse programs. Years before becoming a yoga instructor, Candice studied Criminal Justice while working as a police cadet in Santa Monica, California. From there, she gained a greater understanding and appreciation for the work of the sworn and non-sworn officers – the physical and mental demands. Candice truly believes that yoga is an important element to help bring balance back into their lives. When Candice teaches a class, her intention is always to lead a nurturing yet powerful yoga class that blends her love of movement and ability to inspire through words. She aspires to have her students step off their mat feeling refreshed, nourished, and balanced.
Michael Davis is a neurofeedback technician at First Responder Wellness. Previously he had worked in sports medicine holding positions in physical therapy. Michael’s initial ambitions rested in sports science as he was fairly athletic growing up. He was raised on the east coast where he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware in Exercise and Sports Science along with a minor in biology. Michael eventually moved to southern California where he continued his education earning his master’s in Kinesiology from Cal State Fullerton. After working one on one with physical therapy clients, he soon found his passion for helping people extended into the mental realm as well. His professional career shifted course and he is now earning his master’s in counseling psychology from Fullerton. Michael is married and recently saw the birth of his first son. In his free time, Michael enjoys being outside with his two dogs, hiking, reading, movies, sports, and exercising.
Kimberly is an integrative life mentor who coaches top CEOs, entrepreneurs, celebrities, and world-class athletes around the world. She helps them accelerate and thrive, through mental focus, emotional fitness, and physical training. Her approach is perfect for people looking for more than just standard life coaching, in order to excel at the maximum level of their ability. Kimberly Lou’s own story was one of addiction, eating disorders, and professional and personal burnout. But she changed the story of her life and believes that every person has the same ability to take control of their own story. As a result of her success, Kimberly has appeared on E! Entertainment, MTV, HBO, ESPN, MSNBC, and ShowTime, among many others. But her greatest joy in life is acting silly with her daughter, Summer.
Carol Thompson is an Equine Specialist certified with EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) and she works in conjunction with the Equine Assisted Psychotherapist and horses to facilitate experiential group treatment for the clients at First Responder Wellness. Carol has over 40 years of professional experience working with horses and people. Carol’s background also includes years of working with the school district in Riverside County, working as a Flight Attendant, and riding on the Mounted Posse for Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in Temecula for 12 years.
Carol has worked with: First Responder Spouse and Trauma Retreats, dual diagnosis programs from various treatment centers in Southern California, corporate wellness team building events, and teen empowerment groups. Carol cares deeply about people and loves to share the healing benefits of her “Healing T Ranch,” and the horse’s behavioral interactions with humans that highlight both personal strengths and areas for improvement. Healing T Ranch has been passed down through her family for generations. With her grandchildren being the 7th generation to live on the land. She comes from a family of veterans and first responders and therefore providing service and care is close to her heart.
Adrene comes to First Responder Wellness with more than 20 years of experience in Quality Control and Human Resources. As the Records Coordinator and Auditor she manages the processing of clients’ health records and history. Adrene’s main responsibilities include clinical chart auditing and assisting our clients with work status updates, HR leave paperwork, disability, workers’ compensation, and various other medical record requests. Adrene’s understanding of First Responders comes from her own experience, as her husband and son have chosen careers in law enforcement. Adrene’s philosophy centers around what role she can play in helping others. “My passion is to contribute, support, and make a difference.” In her spare time, Adrene enjoys volunteering at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, visiting new restaurants, escaping to the beach, and all things Disney.
Christine brings over 25 years of Human Resource management experience into the substance abuse field where she has worked for over seven years. Educated at Citrus College and California State University, Dominguez Hills majoring in Business and Human Resources management. Christine also holds several HRMGMT and HRBP certificates.
With expertise in all facets of Human Resource and personnel management, as well as a personal empathy for first responders having family in various uniforms, Christine supports all of the staff at every level throughout the entire organization to better serve our first responder clients. Away from work, Christine enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and cooking.
Brian is currently a Project Specialist for First Responder Wellness and brings with him Operational Management experience within the First Responder/Veteran nonprofit arena. Brian is a US Army Veteran, having served during the Gulf War era and retired from the Los Angeles Police Department. After more than three decades of service and his own personal journey of healing his own C-PTS through emotional wellness and meditation, Brian is deeply passionate and determined to continue paying it forward to the First Responder Community and what he has learned through embracing vulnerability and being of service to others.
Julie started her career in law enforcement in 2004 with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. She medically retired after a bad, on-duty traffic collision and after a long recovery, she represented deputy sheriffs at the Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS), in disciplinary actions and negotiating their policies and salary and benefit contracts for over 10 years.
Julie has a passion for advocating on behalf of First Responders and is dedicated to serving them. She is excited to join the First Responder Wellness Team as the Corporate Project Manager.
Michelle is the Administrative Assistant for First Responder Wellness. She assists the business development team in conference coordination, organizing travel for executives, and with day-to-day tasks. Michelle’s understanding of First Responders comes from her own experience, as her husband is LAPD, and is very passionate about working with our First Responders.
Eric joined First Responder as a Project Specialist and brings years of experience working in the behavioral health field and managing health care plans. His education consists of a Master’s in Business from the University of Redlands and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Cal State San Bernardino. He has a passion for promoting community events focused on mental health. Many of Eric’s closest friends work in a variety of first responder departments: from intensive care nurses to fire, all of whom assisted in his journey to join First Responder Wellness, providing him an opportunity to help those who serve.
With a passion for helping others, Nicole brings over 25 years of marketing and communications expertise from her past work in benefits administration, workers’ compensation, employee assistance programs, and specialized work with mental health and substance abuse treatment. With deep knowledge in understanding the family dynamics of mental health issues, she brings her caring insights with her current work at the Vice President of Marketing with First Responder Wellness. She describes this exciting new journey as a gift and feels that her past work has led her to continue her contributions to support the first responder community. Nicole has a BA in Business Administration with a specialization in Human Resources and Labor Law from California State University Fullerton. She has numerous continuing education certificates in digital marketing and has been a past volunteer with the American Red Cross.
Bey is a Canine Companions expertly trained facility dog, that works with Tiffany Atalla MFT at First Responder Wellness.
She has been trained in over 40 commands designed to motivate and inspire clients and support their treatment. Bey is a source of calm, unconditional love, and attention. She loves belly rubs, high fives, and shaking the hands of all of our clients. Bey at work is capable of a block command to create space when a client is triggered, lap and visit, and other social connection commands, as well as appropriate pressure, touch, and intervention.
As with all CCI Dogs, Bey was provided free of charge, and her role is to be in support and service of those that serve.
Although lacking actual clinical qualifications, Lola more than makes up for it with her pure joyous heart and gift of being happy to see absolutely everyone that she meets. Lola comes from a long line of very good sitters and prides herself with exceptional sitting and shaking capabilities. When Lola is not busy at work roaming the hallways and administering snuggles and licks, she likes to spend her free-time tormenting her big brother Monkey and doing zoomies up and down her parents hallway.
Reagan is a 2-year-old lab mix born September 18, 2020. He completed his certification training through the Stars and Stripes Service and Therapy Dog Training Program. He is a fun-loving boy who loves to play ball, give kisses, and get belly rubs. Reagan has a gentle way when interacting with the staff and clients, and proudly wears his vest when he shows up for work at First Responder Wellness.