David O’Brien, President
Dale Watson, Vice-President
Trey Penny, Treasurer
Lyn Willis, Secretary
Nancy Gordon, Community Relations
Felix Wong, Programs
Mary Margaret Clay
Mary Ann Contreras
Jennifer Gilley has been involved in prevention for over 20 years. She has extensive experience in mobilizing stakeholders to create broad based community collaborations to address public health issues. She has served on numerous planning groups charged with assessing community need and providing viable plans to achieve change. Jennifer has served on both state and local advisory boards charged with developing implementation strategies to address issues relating to substance abuse prevention, intervention and treatment.
John Haenes is a Licensed Master’s level Social Worker and an International Certified Prevention Specialist with 22 years of experience with substance abuse issues, juvenile delinquency, and child welfare issues. Mr. Haenes is a recognized expert in addiction and adolescent brain development, and served as the Deputy Assistant Director for Specialized Programs at Tarrant County Juvenile Services. Mr. Haenes has been a trainer for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) the Texas Center for the Judiciary, the Texas Justice Court Training Center, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, Department of Family and Protective Services, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Tarrant County, and numerous Local Independent School Districts and police departments.
Melissa McCarthy holds an AA/Business, BAS/Psychology, MA/Counseling, and Ph.D./Counselor Education and Supervision. Dr. McCarthy is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) who is versed in Disaster Behavioral Health/Mass Causality, complex trauma, addictions, anxiety, and adjustment disorders. She has worked as a Mental Health professional at the state, county, and community levels providing services to juveniles and adults in the judicial system, college campuses, and private practice as well as taught undergrad and graduate level counseling courses at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) and Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC). Dr. McCarthy has published articles and presented at the community and state levels. Career highlights include working at Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in the Disaster Behavioral Health Services division (DBHS), as the Disaster Behavioral Health Response Coordinator, where she played an integral role in writing and implementing a state-wide Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to support all 256 counties through Texans Recovery Together. The grant continues to provide behavioral health support for those adversely impacted by Covid-19. As Program Administrator of Disaster Behavioral Health, at LifePath Systems she worked with the Collin County Medical Examiner’s office and McKinney police department to help create the Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team. She has served as a Disaster Behavioral Health Volunteer and Trainer to the Armed Services for American Red Cross for over 15 yrs. Dr. McCarthy serves as the Director of Prevention Programming at Challenge of Tarrant County, a non-profit agency whose mission is to confront substance abuse by identifying needs, educating the community, mobilizing resources, promoting collaborations and advocating for sound public policy.
Abbie Byrd received a bachelor’s of social work degree and holds a master’s of social work degree, both from The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). Ms. Byrd is a certified peer educator and was the social work undergraduate intern for the Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention (RVSP) program at UTA. While at RVSP, Ms. Byrd designed and implemented a program entitled, Take Back the Night, which is an emotionally charged, demonstrative march on campus that symbolizes the resiliency and strength that survivors of sexual and domestic violence possess by allowing them to unite with other survivors to publicly reclaim their power.
Ms. Byrd also was a social work graduate intern for the Department of Veterans Affairs at the Fort Worth Outpatient Clinic where she assessed Veterans’ overall health both mentally and physically and served as a case manager and link to resources either within the VA or through the surrounding community depending on the nature and severity of the Veteran’s presenting problem. During both practicums, Ms. Byrd was able to observe the direct impact and implications that drug and alcohol abuse and misuse have on both the individual who chooses to imbibe, as well as the surrounding community and nation as a whole. Ms. Byrd is currently the new program director for the SMART Arlington, Drug-Free Coalition, which is a program of Challenge of Tarrant County.
Erica Rena Castillo has 14 plus years of social work experience. Mrs. Castillo has considerable knowledge and experience in child protective services, and working with children, youth, and families. She has worked with clients dealing with substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence and homeless. Her professional experience includes working with the school, law enforcement, court, and correctional system. Mrs. Castillo was employed with the State of Connecticut, Department of Child and Family, as a Social Worker for 10 years. She received her Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Community and Administrative Practice at the University of Texas Arlington, where she gained advance knowledge in conducting program evaluations, program design, community mobilization, and grant writing. Her accomplishments at UTA includes: Member of UTA Social Work Council, Vice president of UTA Graduate Student Council, President of the UTA Social Work Honor Society, Outstanding Achievement for Student Leadership Recognition by UTA School of Social Work 2019, Outstanding Achievement for Graduate Student Council Member by UTA Student Government 2019, scholarships, and nominations.
Mrs. Castillo is a member with the National Association of Social Work, NASW. She serves as the Communications Committee Chair for NASW Texas—Fort Worth Area Branch. Mrs. Castillo recently entered the authorship arena. She is an impressive co-author in the Women’s Anthology titled, "Emerging."
Michelle Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Stay on Track Coalition for Keller ISD. Michelle received her Bachelors of Social Work degree at Texas Woman’s University and also has received her Master’s degree in social work with a concentration with children and families, and a mastery in Community Administrative Practice at the University of Texas at Arlington. Michelle has an impressive background working with youth and adolescents, case management, counseling, event planning, college readiness, vocational training, and intervention implementation. Michelle has a strong drive for helping others and creating a change to benefit society.
In her spare time, she enjoys playing soccer, reading, and trying new foods. She believes connections and education are important for the growth and advancement of society. Michelle is described by the people close to her as a “mother figure” and “the person you go to” when you need someone to listen to you or provide comfort.
Katherine Neale-Thomas is the Program Director for the Follow Our Lead drug and alcohol abuse prevention program at Weatherford College. Katherine has a nurturing spirit which fueled her studies toward her Associates Degree in early childhood and education, and her passion for caring for others drove her to complete her Bachelors of Science in Rehabilitation Studies with a minor in Substance Use and Addiction from the University of North Texas.
Katherine has excellent interpersonal skills which have helped her with her prior endeavors which include her Prevention Services internship with Challenge of Tarrant County working with Tarrant County Drug Courts and several substance abuse prevention community coalitions. In this role, she assisted with client drug screenings and judicial reviews, participated on several coalition advisory boards, and helped facilitate youth prevention activities, including events related to Great American Smoke-Out and Red Ribbon Week activities. Katherine also has experience in working in rehabilitation service through Garden Terrace of Fort Worth, a skilled nursing facility; she served as a volunteer and then administrative assistant before being promoted to an admission and management position. She also served as a patient advocate in making sure that residents were being treated properly. This role required that Katherine collaborate with patients, their families and facility staff to ensure optimal care was given and protocol was followed throughout the center.
Claudia Perkins, program director for UTA SMART, is an alumnus of UT Arlington with a degree in communications. While at UTA she was a member of Alpha Phi sorority and was Shorthorn editor. She currently serves on the Greek Alumni Advisory Council. She is also part of the Hazing Prevention Week and National Night Out committees along with Phi Delta Theta’s Soberfest and Student Activities Halloween Casino Night.
She is a member of the board of directors for Arlington 4th of July Parade Association, Arlington Historical Society and Sam Houston High School Alumni Association. Last year she received the “Long Tall Texan Award” from the school, which recognizes the outstanding SHHS alumni. She is also a trustee at New World United Methodist Church in Arlington. She is one of four founding members and on the board of Keep Bolivar Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep Texas Beautiful.
Suzanne Lofton is Coordinator of the Family Drug Court, a collaborative program administered through Challenge of Tarrant County. Suzanne has been actively involved in the recovery community for over 26 years and has worked the last 20 years in the field of addiction. As the Past President of the Fort Worth Chapter of the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals and the President of the State Board of the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals, Suzanne has extensive experience in all facets of addiction treatment and recovery support.
During her career Suzanne has supervised multiple treatment programs, including a 91-bed facility for men and women coming from Substance Abuse Felony Punishment prison and a women and children's treatment facility, as well as directing the Access to Recovery for Recovery Resource Council. Suzanne holds numerous credentials including Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC); Alcohol Drug Counselor (ADC); Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), Certified Recovery Coach (CRC) and a Certified Life Coach (CLC) as well as a being a “ train the trainer” for Recovery Coaches and Life Coaches.
Challenge of Tarrant County
226 Bailey Avenue, Suite 105 Fort Worth, Texas 76107
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