© 2017 by Positive Directions - The Center for Prevention and Counseling, Inc.

90 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06880

Tel: 203.227.7644   |   Fax: 203.227.0037

Office hours:

Monday - Friday

9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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Staff Biographies

 
 
Jennifer Hrbek, LCSW

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Jennifer joined Positive Directions with a wealth of experience in the non-profit sector.  Prior to joining the agency, she spent nearly a decade at the Women’s Business Development Council where she was instrumental in leading program development and community partnerships in support of female entrepreneurs throughout the state.  Additionally, she spent time as a therapist in an outpatient counseling center conducting therapy with adolescents, adults and seniors.  Her clinical experience also extends back to her work at Silver Hill Hospital working with those struggling with mental illness and co-occurring disorders.

 

Jennifer enjoys a strengths-based approach to her work with clients.  She strives to create a safe and trusting environment that allows for self-discovery, healing and change.  Jennifer is passionate about helping individuals connect with their abilities, talents and resources to overcome personal struggles.  Her clinical experience facilitates her work with clients with anxiety and depressive disorders, substance misuse, trauma and personality issues.  In addition to being a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Jennifer is also a Certified Financial Social Worker.  She brings a unique psychosocial approach to helping clients examine their thoughts, feelings and attitudes towards managing their personal finances.  Jennifer graduated at the top of her class at Fordham University (MSW) and received special recognition for her contributions to the field from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

 

In her free time, Jennifer loves spending time with her family.  Jennifer proudly serves as the Board Chair for the Mary J. Sherlach Counseling Center in Trumbull and is also actively involved in the Alzheimer’s Association. Jennifer can be contacted via e-mail at jhrbek@positivedirections.org.

 
 
Denique Weidema-Lewis

DIRECTOR OF PREVENTION

 

Denique joined Positive Directions after years of experience within the substance

prevention field. Prior to joining Positive Directions, she was the Regional Action Council Director providing oversight, coordination, and technical assistance for the six communities comprising of the Greater Bridgeport area at RYASAP.

 

Denique infuses the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF), the Public Health model most commonly used in the prevention field, to continue to reduce rates of substance misuse within communities. A self-proclaimed data geek, she’s always ready to uncover the underlined factors which contribute to community conditions. With prior experience working within a youth service bureau, she is a strong believer in encouraging youth voice. She is a dynamic trainer and facilitator who is Dialogue Education-trained and holds multiple training certifications in evidence-based programs. Denique is a national and international workshop presenter, having provided workshops for the National Prevention Network and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).

 

In her spare time, Denique loves taking trips with her husband and their 4 children. She currently serves as Board Chair of the Southern Connecticut Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as well as serves on the Board of the South West Regional Mental Health Board. Denique can be contacted via e-mail at dlewis@positivedirections.org.

 
 
Angelina Miceli, LCSW

Assistant Clinical Director

Angelina joined Positive Directions with experience providing individual and group psychotherapy in the school system as well as in both the non-profit and private sectors. Most recently, she served as Assistant Director at Personal Growth Concepts, Inc in Stratford - a private counseling agency. In those settings, she has helped adolescents and adults to work through and overcome challenges such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, marital conflict, grief, loss and traumas.

Angelina utilizes a collaborative approach to help clients work toward their identified goals. She believes that her clients are the experts on their lives and, in turn, are the most important tool in their healing process. She adjusts her style to fit her clients and their needs as opposed to functioning from a one-size-fits-all approach. In doing so, she draws from her experience using Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT), psychodynamic, insight-oriented and strengths-based approaches. She offers to her clients an empathetic ear, a supportive environment, and the encouragement to realize their full potential.

In her spare time, Angelina loves spending quality time with her husband attending concerts and exploring nature or being a kid again with her niece and nephew. She can often be found in the kitchen baking a new egg-free confection, or curled on the couch travelling around the world through the pages of a good book. Angelina can be contacted via e-mail at amiceli@positivedirections.org.

Mohamed Elsamra, MD

Medical Director

Dr. Elsamra received his medical education and specialty training at the University of Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in psychiatry. He spent four years as a staff supervisor at the APT Foundation and at the Yale Substance Abuse Fellowship program in New Haven, CT. He is interested in helping individuals with addiction and mood disorders. He believes that mental healthcare and addiction help and medications should be available to all people as soon as needed to prevent complications and loss of lives.  

 
 
 
Jennifer Jacobsen, M.Ed.
 
Program Director- Fairfield CSC Grant
Jennifer joined Positive Directions after years of experience in the school system serving as a school guidance counselor.  She comes with a wealth of experience and expertise working with students in a range of capacities, including preschoolers, grade-schoolers, middle- and high-schoolers, under grad and grad students – including at-risk and special education populations.  In addition to classroom teaching experience in grades Pre-K through 12, she also is a pro at running groups, conducting individual and family counseling sessions, crisis intervention, and parent education seminars and assisting parents with behavioral intervention when indicated and working collaboratively within cross-discipline teams for youth program implementation and evaluation.
 
What does Jennifer love most about her job?  She loves serving the Fairfield community by addressing youth substance use prevention…a town she lives in, is raising her family in, and also a currently serving on the Board of Education.  Jennifer Jacobsen holds a Master’s Degree in Education and School Counseling from Florida International University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a focus on Child and Adolescent Development from University of Miami.
 
 
Bob Vietro, MS, LADC, ICGCII

PRIMARY THERAPIST

 

Since 1988, Bob has treated and studied substance misuse/disorders and process addictions, including gambling.  He has practiced in both residential and outpatient treatment settings.  Bob also has extensive experience in planning and facilitating family Interventions and mediation.

 

The focus of his treatment approach is to help his clients modify their presenting behaviors in order to reduce harmful consequences and to attend to the emotional and situational factors that underlie their actions.  Inherent in his approach and personal style, he creates an environment for his clients that is free of judgment and stigma.

Bob has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from NYU and a Master's Degree in Counseling and Addictions Studies. He is a Connecticut State Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and an International Certified Gambling Counselor (ICCGCII).   He has attended training and received certification from the Johnson Institute for Interventions.

 

In 2014, Bob received an award from the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling in recognition of his contribution to the field and work in problem gambling as well as a Certificate of Special Recognition from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Karen Krupnik, LPC

Primary Therapist

Karen joins Positive Directions with a wealth of experience providing counseling services in the non-profit sector. Her approach to counseling is to help her clients make sense of the difficulties they are facing and enhance their coping skills, so they can feel better and enjoy their lives more. She works together with her clients to figure out what’s interfering with their well-being and, in turn, how to address it.  She often utilizes a strengths-based approach, helping her clients to understand themselves better by discovering what strengths they have and developing new ones as well as by accepting or changing their problem areas.

 

Karen is experienced in working with individuals, couples, and families, ranging from adolescents to adults. She has worked with clients dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma, substance misuse, sleep difficulties, relationships, anger management, psychosis, and more. Additionally, she has helped clients through major life transitions: divorce, job loss, death of a loved one, medical diagnoses, and becoming a parent.

 

Karen has a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Fairfield University.  Her post-graduate training covered trauma, grief and loss, veterans’ issues, mindfulness, and gender issues, among others. She tailors her approach to each individual and draws upon many types of therapy including CBT, Solution-Focused, DBT, Stages of Change, and Schema therapy. Karen can be reached via e-mail at kkrupnik@positivedirections.org.

 

 
Ann Epifanio, LMFT

Primary Therapist

Ann joins Positive Directions with experience working with both adolescents and adults with substance use and mental health disorders through individual, couples and family therapy. In her most recent position at Recovery Network of Programs, she provided individual, couples and group counseling services to clients in a 30-day intensive inpatient rehabilitation facility. In this position, she treated clients with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders as well as trauma recovery. Additionally, Ann has experience providing individual and family counseling services to adolescents and their families through her work at Norwalk Youth Services. Ann is guided in her work by Structural Family Therapy, Bowenian Family Therapy, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) techniques. Through these frameworks and interventions, Ann helps her clients break unhelpful patterns, communicate effectively and seek solutions to foster a sense of hope, bring about change and help her clients achieve their goals.

Ann received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and obtained her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Fairfield University. She can be reached via e-mail at aepifanio@positivedirections.org.

 
Colleen Maloney

Advanced MSW Intern

 
 
Kimberly Falconer

Insurance Biller

Kimberly has been working with Positive Directions since 2016, assisting with billing and consulting for their clinical department. She has 16 years of mental health billing and practice management experience. Her specialty and primary focus is mental health. Kimberly owns and operates Falconer Billing. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge of the insurance industry.

 

Kimberly lives with her family in Burlington, CT

Kerry Grant

Receptionist

 
Emily Melnick

Evaluator- Fairfield CSC grant​

Emily Melnick, M.A. is an independent evaluation consultant and principal of Emily Melnick Consulting, LLC. During the past 20 years, Emily has conducted a wide variety of health and social service-related program evaluations at the federal, state, and community level. Emily has worked with diverse groups of non-profit agencies, local health departments and community coalitions, employing both qualitative analytic methods (focus group and structured interview facilitation and analysis) and quantitative methods (survey development and implementation) to assess progress towards multiple objectives over time. She works closely with her clients to establish realistic outcomes, and design systems to collect and analyze data to inform programmatic decision-making. As the local evaluation consultant for the Fairfield Cares Community Coalition, as well as three other community-based substance abuse prevention initiatives, Emily works with diverse stakeholders concerned with improving health outcomes throughout Connecticut. Emily’s recent work also leading local health departments through their national accreditation strategic planning process. Emily received a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration in 1996.

 
Nina Chanana

Evaluator- Norwalk PFS grant​

Nina Chanana, MPA, is principal of Chanana Consulting in Fairfield, CT. She enjoys helping clients understand the value of evaluation for documenting and demonstrating program value and building organizational capacity for internal monitoring and assessment. She loves working with committed, avid colleagues and clients who create exciting experiences for youth and their families. Most importantly, Nina is committed to being part of teams that work to improve the communities in which they work and live.

 

Since 2007, Nina has been providing evaluation services to a diverse group of clients at her time as a consultant for duBay Horton Associates, a community-based public health consulting firm located in Bridgeport, CT, and currently as principal of Chanana Consulting in Fairfield, CT. Over her career, Nina has worked with a wide range of clients including schools, non-profits, neighborhood organizations, foundations, and city and state agencies. She has conducted evaluations in formal and informal settings, and has experience with evaluation planning, needs assessments, resource inventory, data management, strategic planning, and program design.  

 
Natalie Ochoa

Youth Advocate- Norwalk PFS grant​

Natalie is a high school student in Norwalk and is excited to be a Youth Advocate for Positive Directions. With a personal drive for raising awareness on mental health issues, she plans on implementing new strategies to encourage early intervention in adolescents and ensure the development of healthy mindsets, habits, and ultimately a long-lasting healthy lifestyle for Connecticut’s future generation. 

 

On top of being a Youth Advocate, she is a member of the District Wellness Committee and mental health working groups, Vice President of her class, an executive committee member of Center for Youth Leadership, the largest youth activism organization in Fairfield Country, co-president of her school’s Model United Nations, and an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate, a rigorous academic program offered at her high school. 

 

Aside from her passion in politics and law, Natalie loves to sing as Deputy Head Chorister as part of the St.Paul’s on the Green Chorister Program. She also has a secret talent for writing persuasive essays, and was recently acclaimed as Senator Murphy’s 2019 MLK Essay Contest Winner. 

 

Natalie hopes to one day be able to build a fair law firm that is able to offer pro bono immigration services, and later in her career serve as a judge to promote minority representation in the judicial system.  

 
Sushmita Narayan​

Youth Advocate- Norwalk PFS grant​