Meet Our Staff
Melinda Drake joined MFI Recovery as Chief Executive Officer in December 2018. This talented treatment professional has spent much of her career in behavioral health jobs at state agencies and nonprofits, on both the business and service side, overseeing programs and advocating and innovating on behalf of children and families. Dr. Drake has more than 20 years of experience as a social worker clinician, program director, clinical director, executive director, and CEO. Not one to sit back and watch, she always takes advantage of opportunities to improve treatment programs and processes, whether through writing grants or expanding programs to serve as models for other organizations. Throughout her career, she has always served others with compassion and care. Trained in Trauma-Focus CBT, EMDR, and Brainspotting, Melinda’s commitment to bringing evidenced-based and cutting-edge treatment to MFI. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in California, New York and Hawaii and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker for Clinical Practice and Advanced Practice in South Carolina.
Melinda studied at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and Limestone College, both in South Carolina and at the University of the Philippines. A lifelong learner, she earned a master’s degree in social work in 1997, followed by a doctorate in business administration in 2000 and then another master’s degree, this time in computer resources and information management, in 2003. Originally from the Philippines, Melinda arrived in New York when she was 17. Her work experience in the behavioral health field began with the Williamsburg County Department of Social Services and Continuum of Care. While working on the business side of social services, Melinda found it hard to watch foster children moved from one place to another, carrying their belongings in garbage bags. It inspired her to write her first grant, which she received. That experience motivated her to become a social worker. Melinda also worked with co-occurring psychiatric and developmental disorders at Willowglen Academy in South Carolina which provides residential, and day treatment services. At Willowglen, she initially acted as a clinician involved with day-to-day interventions, then as a program director for the day treatment, as a clinical director and, finally, as an executive director from 2007 to 2009. She was the director of outpatient services at The Canyon at Santa Monica from 2013 and became the dual director, overseeing Foundations Los Angeles at Encino and The Canyon at Santa Monica from 2016 to 2017. She was the Executive Director for Insight Health and Wellness, where she developed a truly integrated behavioral health system addressing the chronic nature of addiction and mental health illness.
With over 28 years of experience in Finance and over 13 years with MFI Recovery Center, Denise Arellano is our Chief Finance Officer. Her determination and drive ensure that not only is everything allocated correctly and timely but that we meet or exceed our contract requirements. This, in turn, makes it possible for us to help as many clients as we can and grow to be able to serve new communities. Denise’s favorite time of year is attending the MFI Graduation where she is able to see the many success stories of our clients and what it takes to help them achieve their goals. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids and solving difficult puzzles.
As the Chef Technology Officer, Jason Poplar is committed to solving problems. As a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) combined with over 20 years of experience in the Technology field, his solutions to various technology issues quickly and efficiently enable the staff at MFI to serve as many clients as possible. The most rewarding aspect of his career at MFI is seeing the ripple effects of his solutions being played out throughout our various locations, whether it is enabling someone to be able to print out a pamphlet educating a family on the disease of addiction or ensuring a presentation is able to be seen via a video conference, he ensures that his department makes it possible. When he is not coming up with clever IT solutions Jason enjoys dirt biking and riding with friends and family.
As the QA/QI Training Director, Terri Bader understands the importance of developing talent and ensuring that our staff is well informed starting at their onboarding. After 11 years at MFI Recovery Center, Terri has seen a variety of clientele, from newborns to senior citizens Terri has seen them all. She became a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor in 2010 and then earned a Master’s degree in Counseling in 2014. Initially hired as the Daycare Supervisor, Teri has dedicated herself to self-improvement and after hard work and dedication she became the QA/QI Training Director where she thrives off enabling our staff to be the very best they can so that we can serve our clients to the best of our ability. While not furthering her education or working with clients Terri enjoys spending time with her daughters and spoiling her cats The Captain and Princess Leia.
Terri Crawford is our Admissions Coordinator as well as the Client Advocate at MFI Recovery Center. Initially hired part-time to answer phones and assist at the front desk, Terri quickly became a full-time member of the team working side by side with our Psychiatrist. This experience invoked a passion to help clients, which cumulated in her becoming a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor in 2014. In her dual role, as Admissions Counselor Terri is there to help ensure our clients are not only eligible for the services we provide but to make sure that MFI Recovery Center is the correct fit for their needs. As the Client Advocate Terri investigates any complaints and negotiates a reasonable resolution for all parties involved. In her free time Terri enjoys riding quads in the desert with her family.
Rita Pacheco has been with MFI since 2012, starting her career here as an On-Call Counselor, her drive and passion for this field led her to quickly become a Senior Counselor then Program Coordinator and ultimately as our Program Outreach Manager. She graduated from the Drug and Alcohol Counseling program at Intercoast College in 2011 becoming an Internationally Accredited Drug and Alcohol Counselor. Rita has a passion for helping clients in the community and believes that everybody deserves a second chance. With over twelve years of sobriety herself, she understands the importance of helping people throughout their recovery and is passionate about reuniting families during this process. In her free time Rita enjoys spending time with her family, especially when they are at the beach.
Anna began working at MFI in 2016 as a part time on call counselor. She came to MFI with little experience and was not sure if she was going to make it as a counselor but she did have a desire to help people and make a difference. She was working full time at a warehouse while earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She went on to specialize in addiction studies and gained her AOD certificate. Anna was the Frank Lewis Counselor of the Year in 2018. She is currently certified through The California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP) as a Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor III. She is currently working as the Outpatient Program Coordinator for the Banning and Hemet Outpatient Clinics. Anna enjoys training new counselors and helping them to reach their professional goals.
Rosa Alvarenga is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern and the Adolescent Program Coordinator at the Riverside Outpatient Clinic. She is also a Parent Facilitator in the Strengthening Families Program (SFP), a Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) Facilitator and a Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) certified supervisor who specializes in working with adolescents with substance abuse problems, delinquency, antisocial and aggressive behaviors, school and family problems, and emotional difficulties. She works directly with school districts within Riverside County to provide services to students referred by their schools to our clinic to complete a Drug/Alcohol counseling/treatment.
Rosa was born in El Salvador and came to the United States in 1990. She obtained her Bachelors in Sociology with a specialty in Social Services at California State University, San Bernardino in 2007. She later obtained her MS in Counseling Psychology, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy from California Baptist University in 2012. Her personal experiences and her education have led to her desire to work with adolescents, families and couples to find the way to achieve their goals. When she is not working with clients Rosa enjoys spending quality time with her family.
Justin Gatfield is a Licensed Vocational Nurse with over 10 years of experience in various healthcare settings. Justin has dedicated a significant amount of that time occupying a leadership role, while also maintaining roles in utilization review/management, risk management, compliance, and licensing. Justin has dedicated his passion for helping others to the Mental Health and Substance Abuse treatment milieu of healthcare, working amongst a team to create the most positive and comfortable experience for those searching for help. In his free time, Justin enjoys spending his time with his two sons who are active in sports and martial arts; Justin also maintains a full-time school schedule with plans to advance in his Healthcare profession.
Debbie Arias is our CAS and CADAC II credentialed Program Coordinator for the Woodcrest Men’s Treatment and Detox Center. She began her career with MFI Recovery Center in 2006 as a counselor for A Women’s Place and quickly moved up the ranks to become the Program Coordinator for the Woodcrest Men’s Residential and Detox Center in 2013. Debbie’s high energy individual that has a passion for helping individuals overcome
barriers and become loving and productive individuals. In her free time Debbie loves playing the piano and spending time with her mother, sister, children and grandchildren.
In 1996 Juli Kukulka had the opportunity to turn her life around by enrolling in the La Vista Women’s Recovery Program. As someone in recovery herself she understands the process of recovery from both sides and has been helping women just like her to see the hope and future they have ahead of them if they keep an open mind and stay the course. After completing her stay at La Vista, Juli’s passion for helping women cumulated in her becoming a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor in 1998. She ultimately obtained an Associate’s degree in Alcohol and Drug Studies from Mt. San Jacinto College in 2012. Juli’s mission in life is to give back to the community and to help those who are suffering from substance use and trauma. She does this by surrounding her clients with positive role models and professionals to begin the healing process and to help guide them on the new path of recovery to become the mothers their children need.
Elena started her career as a drug and alcohol counselor in 2013 with MFI at AWP. She spent the first 6 years at AWP. For the past two years she has been with the intake department learning screening, assessment and insurance utilization review. She was hired at AWP after completing her internship and within her first year of my employment she was promoted to senior counselor. She didn’t know then that she was really going to enjoy working with woman and children. In 2018 she became a CADC II and an accredited Triple P Parenting facilitator. Being able to teach and assist the mothers with parenting is extremely rewarding. She has a passion for family reunification. Coming from a family of addiction herself and knowing firsthand the separation caused by addiction. It really is special to be able to witness a parent being reunited with their child in recovery or a child being reunited with a parent in recovery. Even more so being able to witness generations of addiction being broken at MFI is absolutely amazing. Her passion is family. Family is everything to her. When she is not helping others she enjoys reading self-empowering books, doing self-care activities, and spending time with her family and friends. She also really enjoy bicycling. She also recently started school to further my education in child development and psychology.
Dawn Mount is the Residential Manager at our Mt. Rubidoux Men’s Residential and Detox Treatment Center. She started her career with MFI as a On-Call Counselor leading her to become the HR and Benefits Coordinator and then ultimately as the Residential Manager for Mt. Rubidoux. Her passion to ensure clients are not only successful during treatment but afterward is evident in her love for discharge planning and follow up. She loves setting up her clients for long term success. When Dawn is not looking out for her Client’s best interests, she enjoys dirt bike riding and camping with the family.