CFLR In Action

Our Clinical and EAP Team!

My name is Kaitlyn Rose. I am an EAP Counselor at Center for Family Life and Recovery. I started at CFLR as an MSW intern in 2019. I was grateful to become a part of the wonderful CFLR team following the completion of my Master’s in Social Work in 2020 from Keuka College. Prior to working in the counseling field, I worked in the Human Service field for over five years as a Care Manager working in the local community with individuals with severe Mental Health and Medical conditions. CFLR has helped me not only achieve my Master’s in Social Work but pursue my career dreams of assisting others within my community through counseling services. When I am not working, I am enjoying outdoor activities with my new fiancé! I also stay busy as a dog mom to two pit bulls as well as preparing for the arrival of my first child in December!

Crystal Faria joined the CFLR family in 2019 in the EAP department. She is the EAP coordinator for the Utica office. She has worked in the non-profit sector off and on for most of her career. Working for and within the community is very important to her. One of the things which drew her to working at CFLR is the agencies values of compassion, respect, learning and fun (at CFLR Crystal is known for her positive attitude, creativity and her vast array of obscure trivia so the fun part was significant). She appreciates CFLR’s the supportive atmosphere for personal and professional growth. This support was so welcomed, as Crystal recently earned her CASAC-T and certifications in Meditation, Mindfulness and Life Coaching.

When she is not at work Crystal is currently obsessed with learning the skills of needlepoint and cross stitch. During COVID she has discovered the joys of composting and spending ever day with her two youngest children, who she periodically forgets to feed.

Hello! I’m Nadine Zesky, I was born and raised in the Syracuse area and I am thrilled to be the new Part Time EAP Coordinator for the Syracuse area.

I spent 25 years in law enforcement, during that time I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Empire State College. My career was focused on how I best could serve my community. I spent the last half of my career as a family service officer, which allowed me to liaison with schools, service organizations and community advocates. I wanted to continue to serve my community after I retired so I decided to run for a position on my local school board. I was elected and served as a member for eight years. This solidified my knowledge that being involved in my community is my passion.

I have only been with CFLR for a short time and I have already learned so much. I love connecting people with services that will help them succeed and be the best they can be and this job is allowing me to do that!

I am married with two beautiful daughters and have the best dog ever! In my spare time I love to walk and spend time outdoors.

I am grateful for the opportunity CFLR has provided to me, allowing me to continue to serve my community. I look forward to growing with CFLR.

Bonnie Zweifel, LMSW

Over forty years of experience assisting individuals to deal with psychological, interpersonal, psychiatric, family and/or behavioral problems. Over thirty years of experience of providing individual, couple, family, and group counseling. Has provided specialized services to adults and teens – male and female- who have sexually offended and to children who have sexualized behavioral problems. Over fifteen years of providing supervision to MSW interns from a variety of graduate schools. Eleven years of working at the YWCA Rape Crisis Services in various roles such as a victim advocate, trainer, program coordinator and program director. 2004 Recipient of the Marilyn Etcheverry Award for Excellence. 2016 Recipient of the CFLR Advocacy Award. One of her greatest joys is thinking that she has helped people be more the people they want to be.

Hi, I'm Brittany Higgins. I strongly believe in the art of joining and meeting each individual that I work with where they are at. I also believe that everyone possesses the answers, qualities and skills to resolve their concern. I see my role in therapy as a guiding support to uncover the solution to each presenting concern. I come with a very diverse background in helping individuals with a wide variety of problems and believe that therapeutic trust and alliance is at the core of the therapy process.

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action

CFLR Administration and Leadership Team!

I am Cassandra Sheets and honored to be the CEO of Center for Family Life and Recovery.  I have had this honor since the inception of this Agency and truly believe that we all have the power to achieve and celebrate recovery!  I started out as a case manager many years ago and received my Masters in Social Work with a passion for working with Employee Assistance Programs.  This passion landed me at the Mohawk Valley Council on Alcoholism/Addictions and the rest is history of prevention, EAP and leadership growth but mostly embracing my family history of recovery and learning to appreciate it so much that we just needed to create an agency to help others find this joy in their lives. When I am not at work, I certainly keep busy with my family, husband, Bob of 26 years and our boys, Michael and Nicholas.  We love to hike, and ski.

My name is Michele Kohl. I am still considered new here at CFLR. I worked in Healthcare for 28 years and a friend saw the CFLR COO position advertised and told me this would be perfect for me. I do feel this was truly meant to be as I love all the wonderful work CFLR does every day. I am very inspired by our CEO Cassandra Sheets who has taught me so very much in a short time. I feel very blessed everyday with all the inspiring stories of people who have been helped by the amazing staff at CFLR.

I am Heather Youda, a little over 4 years ago, I was looking for a career change from the corporate world and found CFLR.  My heart always seems to feel best working at non for profits and this has been home since I walked through the door.  I am currently the Executive Assistant for the CEO and help with Human Resources and Fundraising, I love to facilitate events and meeting and engaging out in our community.

I have recently just enrolled back in school to complete my bachelor’s in social work and hope to concentrate on helping families be able to overcome their past and live a happy healthy life.  After having gone through some humbling experiences in my life, finding through CFLR and my family I have found that you can heal and live from all forms of damage to find a truly, happy, healthy life.  I hope to show other people that they can be a survivor from anything they have gone through.
I am the single mother of 3 beautiful children Jake, Martina and Salyscia , and have a fur-doggie Trooper.  I love to travel and see my family when possible, if there is a baby around I am usually trying to cuddle them up. When I am not at work you can find me by the water, standing somewhere in the sand, soaking up the sun, listening to music, or reading a book or watching sports by a fire outside.  I am an avid sports lover Go Bills! Sabers Hockey and SU College Basketball fa and usually try to enjoy as many live games as possible with my friends, smiling and enjoying life is the best self-care.

Hi everyone, I am Jodi Warren the Director of Prevention Services.  I am a Midwest gal born and raised in North Dakota, yes that is right, go UND Hockey and NDSU Bison Football.  Growing up playing sports and coaching the majority of my life has provided me with many opportunities and experiences in my life of leadership, team building, strategic planning and being a team player.  I have been able to take those skills and put them into professional practice.  I am a devoted to my family (that includes my tribe of friends too) as they all are so very important in my life.

As the Director of Prevention I oversee all of the prevention programming and services in our agency.  I am involved in many local, regional, and state coalitions.  My educational background and over 20 years of experience in Psychology, Human Services, Behavioral Analysis, Chemical Dependency and Trauma Informed Care has built a solid foundation for me to do what I love the most and that is to support, help, educate, and offer encouragement and HOPE to those that are struggling.  The great joy I get in my profession is seeing and/or hearing that I helped make a difference in someone’s life, that is why I do what I do!  I must also do shout out to my entire team of Prevention Specialists, Compeer Specialist, IDP Coordinator and Instructors, thank you for all you do each and every day!!!!!!!

“GO VIKINGS, YANKEES, RANGERS, and LAKERS,” I just had to get that in

Hello Everyone!  I’m Ambi, the Director of Family Support Navigation Services.  “They” say that you don’t choose this field, it chooses you, and I don’t think that sentiment could be truer about my life.  I never realized the impact that substance use of those I loved, through many years of my life, impacted me the way that it did.  I didn’t know how much I would learn about myself or how many amazing people would shape the way I see the world, because of the journey of Recovery.  I never said or knew I wanted to be in this field, until I was led there.  I didn’t know the passion and fierce love I’d have for making a difference and the people I’ve met, or even believing I could make a difference, would become a part of who I am.  I feel so lucky to be a part of a work family that shares this passion and joy of our community members and each other.  When I’m not playing hard with our CFLR team, I’m a yoga/pilates loving, puppy snuggling, ballroom dancing, nature loving, jump roping, book worm, photographer, health food nut, student of life, introvert who loves the people in my life fiercely and finds joy in each day in the little ways.

Bonnie Carr joined the team at CFLR a little over 2 months ago as Director of Recovery Services. She is a Licensed Master Social worker in New York State and a Credentialed Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counselor.  Bonnie is also a MINT trainer (Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers) trained by Miller & Rollnick.  She has almost 39 years working in the field of behavioral health care as a clinician, supervisor and an administrator.  Bonnie has worked in child welfare and both the addiction and mental health treatment settings.  She has seen the behavioral health care field evolve over the years and she continues to promote and believe in the resilience and well-being of the individuals who seek our assistance.  She is an animal lover owning two cats & a dog, loves her garden, watching it grow, feeding the birds and taking in beautiful sunsets.  Her belief is that “Just a drop of kindness could make a difference in a person’s life”. [anonymous author]

Jennifer D’Amico-Director of EAP/Clinical Counseling Services

I have been working within the mental health/social services field for approximately 8 years.  I started as an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and quickly realized that I wanted to do more for others.  I went back to school where I received my MSW designation and quickly got licensed with plans to extend this licensing to become an LCSW.  My passion is working with the community, families, and couples which I what I started out doing when I came to CFLR as an intern working with our EAP and department of social services counseling programming.  I recently took over the EAP/clinical services director position in 2019 after the birth of my son Geno so I could continue to do even more communal work while still providing the counseling I love.  I will shortly receive my CFRC designation (certified first responder counselor) so that I may continue to help those who need it most.  My most favorite part of my time outside of work is spending it with family and especially the walks and adventures I take my son on!  I absolutely love the Mohawk Valley and plan to spend the rest of my days here working to serve others through mental health assistance and support.

My name is Richard Rinko. I am the Director of Finance at Center for Family Life and Recovery.  I started at CFLR in August of 2015.  I was born and raised in the Valley and moved to New York City to attend College and after school I started working in non-profit accounting and decided to stay in the city.  I relocated to upstate New York back in December of 2014 to care for my Mom which was a big decision to make after living downstate and New Jersey for over 30 years.  It’s one of the best choices I made for her at the time and won’t regret it.

My passion when I was younger was to go into childcare/teaching I always had a desire to help and work with children.  I guess I made the right choice with a change of heart and was able to get my first job in the central New York area when I relocated.  CFLR is my first job in this area and it’s such a pleasure to work with such a great team.  Later in years my dream came true with the option to be able to adopt my son back in 2002 and he will turn 18 this year.

My name is Melissa Kleek.  I am the Administrative Assistant at Center for Family Life and Recovery.  I started at CFLR as a part time program assistant in the front office in June of 2018.  I was told to find a new line of work after I had injured my back working in health care.  While this was a scary transition as heath care was all I had known I found a job I liked, I found a way to help people in a less physical way and a work family who supported me in through this change.  Four months into my employment with CFLR I accepted a full time hybrid position working still as a Program Assistant but also a Finance Assistant.  I worked in this position for about 6 months before transitioning to my current role as an Administrative Assistant working closely with Finance and Human Resources which I have been in for a year and three months.  I am very thankful to have been offered the opportunity to grow in an agency that makes such a positive impact on our community.

In my free time you can find me spending time with my animals and my family.  I look forward in continuing to learn and grow within the agency.  I would like to continue and complete my education in Human Services so I could be more of an asset to my team.

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action

Our Program Assistants and Office Coordinator!

My name is Pam Houck and I've been with CFLR for a little over a year.  I have been married to my husband for 38 years and have lived in 3 different States in our life together. We have one daughter Danielle and she is in her 3rd year of college.  I enjoy helping others and have worked mostly in healthcare doing scheduling and reception.  I am a Christian and am active in my church.  I really don't have time for hobbies, but I love history and true stories.

First of all, I love semi-retirement.  Working since I was 15yrs, following in my mothers’ footsteps.  My mother was a switchboard operator in Cornwall, Canada.  When I started at 15 yrs., I was working at Massena Central High school during the summer as a switchboard operator.  Going forward, working as a secretary, customer service, short order/prep cook, I was working at Hinsdale Hospital, Il.  Then I transferred to Doctors’ Answering Service and worked the switchboard at the hospital.  Was there for 11 years. Moved to North Carolina and worked in a sewing factory making rugs.  I have a few rugs that I made, they are still holding up… lol I loved to travel, from Virginia to Hawaii and in between.  Now my feet stay on the ground.  When my fiancé was here, we did a lot of camping up north (Alex Bay) and down south (Finger Lakes).  Now I am working at CFLR, (8yrs) I love my job.  My boss, Cassandra and all my co-workers are wonderful to work with.  Great experience.  Last of all, stay positive and smile 


Hello, my name is Dominica Liscio. I am originally from Herkimer, NY. I have been the Office Coordinator here at CFLR for about 8 months and absolutely love it! CFLR is such a great place to work, we are like a big family. I was supposed to get married in September but due to Covid we unfortunately had to postpone. We however, are trying to make light of this crazy time. I love spending time with my fiancé, my friends and my little, long haired Chihuahua.

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action

Hello from our Prevention Department!

Cortney Kleek - Education MVCC Human Services and Chemical Dependency Dual Major.  Following college, I was offered the Prevention Specialist position at CFLR in March of 2019, in 11 months’ time I was promoted to Senior Prevention Specialist (my current position).  I have a passion for working with youth who have suffered traumatic experiences and addiction, which is why I love doing prevention programming for the schools and community.  In my free time, I enjoy hanging around family and friends.  I look forward to growing my career in the field and furthering my education.

Lauren Platt - Education - I attended Mohawk Valley Community College, where I graduated in 2013 with my AAS in Human Services.  Work history - I worked for a number of years for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield as a customer care advocate until deciding to stay home to care for my children for a few years.  Then in September of 2019 I accepted the position of part time Prevention Specialist at Center for Family Life and Recovery.  Just a few short months later I was offered the full time position, which I happily accepted.  I really enjoy working for this agency, and am thrilled to be making such a difference in our community.  I look forward to growing with this agency, and being able to reach even more people of our community with prevention services, as well as the parenting and family services that I provide through evidence based programming. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my two sons, ages 17 and 12, and my friends and family.

My name is Brandi Lyons.  I was born in Rome New York on April 8, 1987.  I was raised in Rome, New York along with my three siblings.  I graduated from Rome Free Academy in June of 2005.  I have always had a passion for working with people and making a positive impact on my community.  I jumped into the workforce directly following graduation and I have worked in the human service field ever since!  I am the proud mother of two amazing children (Tiana and Justyce) who keep me motivated and determined to reach my goals.  In my free time I enjoy spending time with my fiancé, our children, and our two poodles (Ginger and Stormy).  We love a good game of Skip-bo!  Motherhood has taught me many things including the importance of education and following through with the goals that I set for myself.  With that I went on to further my education and graduated from Mohawk Valley Community College in 2018 with an Associate’s Degree in Human Services.  I joined the Center for Family Life and Recovery Inc. family in September of 2019 as The Compeer Specialist.  I am Currently enrolled in SUNY Empire State college and I look forward to graduating in December 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services and Community.

David Garrett
Bachelors - SUNY Geneseo
Masters - Bowling Green State University, Ohio

Worked in universities for forty years.  Bowling Green, University of Wisconsin, SUNY Cortland, Wesley College, Delaware, SUNYIT (SUNY Polytechnic Institute) for the last 34 years.  Worked in Student Affairs as Director of Residence Life, Assistant Dean of Students, Director of Orientation, Director of Student Life, Director of Counseling, and Director of International Student Services.
Outside activities: American Pheasant and Waterfowl Association, Western New York Pheasant and Waterfowl Society, Adirondack Avicultural Society, Barneveld Horsemen's Association, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's - Ride for Missing Children and Community Outreach Speaker.


Hi Everyone!
My name is Miranda Carpenter, and I just recently joined CFLR’s Utica Prevention team this July.  I am very excited to begin my journey with each and every one of you.  I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to build endless relationships and to be able to provide some of the best tools in the shed to help our community members both adult and youth, make better choices so that you can live a higher quality of life.  During times of uncertainty we all could use some reassurance, and most importantly tools to balance our mental health.  Please be on the lookout for additional resources as I get started, as well as invitations for events!  Thank you for taking the time to read; and always remember, when there’s help, there’s hope.

Joe Passalacqua - Ed. MVCC and Utica college, work history, started at Neighborhood Center as a Case Manager – 2 years.  Went on to Oneida Co. Dept of Mental Health, - 5 years.  Mohawk Valley Psych. Center Intensive Case Manager – 30 years retired.  Started teaching the Impaired driving program for the Council on Alcoholism and Addiction in the mid 80s – present.  That agency rolled into our current agency CFLR.  After retirement I assumed the roll of coodinator for the IDP program.  I enjoy spending time with family and friends, and look forward to each season of Syracuse football.

Hello my name is Kristina and I’m 22!  I graduated from SUNY Cortland with a bachelors in Psychology in 2019.  I worked for the Neighborhood Center in the PINS (Person in Need of Supervision) Unit for Oneida County shortly after graduating which focuses on youth with behavioral and mental health issues.  I eventually started working for CFLR in the PINS unit for Herkimer County until I was accepted to a masters program in New Jersey to continue my education in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in adolescent/childhood psychology.  I hope to get my PhD and own my own practice eventually.  Due to COVID-19 my classes were switched to online and CFLR worked with my schedule and allowed me to stay with the agency in the Prevention Dept. as a part time Prevention Specialist specifically for the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program while I start my grad program.  I’m so grateful they gave me this opportunity and have helped me grow so much!

Hello, my name is Kerina Herard and I am the Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator for Compeer Utica. I have a bachelor's in Chemistry from SUNY Oswego and am currently pursuing my Masters in Public Health. Since I was little, I always wanted a career in the healthcare field. I especially wanted to work with people affected by mental health disorders, and therefore I am quite excited to be joining the CFLR family!

I have two adorable toddlers at home who keep me on my toes, so when I am not at work, you can find me either doing homework or hanging out with my family.

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action

A little something from our Recovery Department :)

I believe everyone is in recovery from something.  To be human means to experience loss, heartbreak, disappointments, and failure.  My personal recovery has been learning how to love myself and embracing my inner Goddess amidst my heartbreaks, losses, disappointments and most importantly learning how to love myself in my failures.  Change is uncomfortable and I no longer have to use substances to numb the discomforts that change can bring, I am dedicated to helping others learn how to navigate through their own recovery journey and to achieve a sound, fulfilled and purposeful life.  Recovery is possible! Change is possible!  I am a person who is willing to do the hard work to make positive change and achieve a life only recovery can bring!  How can I help you in your recovery journey?

Hello everyone!  My name is Katie Burns and I’m a CRPA-P in the Recovery Department here at CFLR.  It is my own personal mission to strengthen and maintain my community connections in the recovery world and man does this profession help me show case that!!  I am a single mommy to a funny, smart, active 8 year old who I can hardly keep up with but I sure do try!  Since being on my recovery journey I have met the most amazing people who have really helped enhance my new way of life.  But, it’s not always serious.  I’m the class clown.  I enjoy being the reason someone laugh’s today.  I love spontaneous hiking trips, and beach days, really anything outdoors and with my family and friends!  I strive to do better for myself and my son every single day. 

My name is Michelle Engelbrecht and I work in the Recovery Department as a Recovery Peer Advocate.  I am new to the agency but I am loving my new role.  I have dealt with addiction and recovery in one form or another for most of my life, including my own personal experience.  I have been in recovery myself since 2009 and strive to help others suffering from addiction.  I have been blessed to build an amazing life for myself, through recovery, that I truly believe I can share my experience, strength, and hope to help others see that it is possible to find a new way to live.  I am excited to be a part of an agency that feels the same way.

My name is Tim Skinner. I am a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate employed at the Center for Family Life and Recovery.

I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I received my HS Diploma from Marshall University HS. After HS, I enlisted into the United States Army and I am a 10 year veteran.

Due to a bad decision in my life, I was incarcerated for many years. While incarcerated, I earned an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree.

I have successfully completed Adult Substance Abuse Treatment and have been in recovery since 1996. Other positive responsibilities that I held while incarcerated were College Tutor, preparing college applicants to take the entrance exams, working with inmates who had mental health and behavioral issues.

After my release from incarceration, I entered society unsure of what my future would be like. Society had changed in many ways without me. Technology was beyond my reach and I had no idea of how even a cell phone worked.

A therapist once told me not to stress over the things that are different, but to embrace the things that are the same, and that I will adapt to the changes over time. I had followed that bit of advice and it has served me well. I had adapted well in my reintegration into society. I asked for help when I needed it and always tried to maintain a positive attitude. I knew the things that I could control and the things I could not.

My involvement with CFLR started as soon as I was released as I was a client there. Everyone at CFLR was courteous and non-judgemental and really cared for my well-being. I decided that I would do some volunteer work for them and I signed up. I was involved in packing up Thanksgiving supplies for families in need and I also did some fund-raising mailings. But I wanted to do more and made that known. I received a call one day from a wonderful Peer advocate at CFLR and she interviewed me about my recovery journey and recommended me to join the Recovery Collaborative. I am now a CRPA-P and could not be prouder to be affiliated with the wonderful people at CFLR.

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action