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Advocacy Unlimited - Recovery and advocacy education for people with mental health and/or addiction issuesAdvocacy Unlimited, Inc. - Comprehensive education in recovery and advocacy skills for people in recovery from mental health and/or addiction issues

About Us

The AU Team

Deron Drumm, Executive Director

Deron Drumm, Executive Director

Deron joined Advocacy Unlimited in 2010 as a member of the Recovery University team. Shortly thereafter, he was named Director of Recovery University. He was appointed Deputy Executive Director of Advocacy Unlimited in early 2012 and promoted to Executive Director in February 2014.

Deron is also the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA), vice-chair of the PAIMI Council, a Qigong practice leader, and the founder of Toivo. After years spent seeking to escape difficult emotions in unhealthy ways, Deron found inner peace and strength by intentionally incorporating holistic healing practices into his life. Deron writes and speaks passionately about the innate ability people have to reshape their lives by tapping into the healing and creative power that lies within.

Kelvin Young, Assistant Executive Director

Kelvin Young, Assistant Executive Director

Previously the manager of Toivo by Advocacy Unlimited, Kelvin is now AU's Assistant Executive Director. He is a state certified Addiction Recovery Coach, Recovery Support Specialist, and Sound Healer. Kelvin was featured in the powerful documentary "Meditation: The Journey Within." He also Organized MedMob in Hartford,CT and served as Ambassador for the Healthy Lives Campaign by Wisdom In New Dimensions, Inc. Kelvin also serves on the DMHAS Multicultural Advisory Council, and was co-facilitator for the Incarceration and Community Reentry workshop at The Connecticut Women's Consortium in Hamden, CT.

Kelvin has received numerous awards including the 2014 Professional of the Year Award from the Bridgeport Reentry Collaborative, and he received special recognition from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for being a positive role model and directly contributing to the success of reentry efforts. Kelvin has one daughter and sustains his health by eating a vegan based diet, practicing yoga, meditation, spending quality time in nature, exercising, and building healthy relationships with others.

Kelvin believes that healing comes from within. After many years battling drug addiction and depression, Kelvin began his healing process in prison. While incarcerated, he learned about the transformative powers of meditation to find inner peace in a very restrictive environment. Kelvin sustains his health by eating a vegan-based diet, exercising, practicing meditation, spending time in nature, and building healthy relationship with others.

Hilary Bryant, Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coordinator

Hilary Bryant, Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coordinator

Hilary Bryant is Advocacy Unlimited's Toivo Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coordinator. Hilary is a 200-hour certified yoga teacher. Her yoga journey began ten years ago when she took her first class while seeking treatment for depression. Hilary practiced on and off until, three years ago, yoga became a central part of her life.

Loving the clarity of mind, body, and spirit that a regular practice brought, she decided to make it a career. Stepping onto the mat every day is now the most important part of her approach to peaceful daily living. Hilary is overjoyed to bring the healing power of yoga to everyone she can.

Martin Burke, Recovery Support Specialist

Martin Burke, Recovery Support Specialist

Martin graduated AU's Advocacy Education Training Course in 2009 and AU's Recovery University in 2009. Martin was recertified as a Recovery Support Specialist in 2012 and joined the AU team part time.

Martin initially worked on a joint project with AU and DMHAS called the Olmstead Initiative: Older Adult Peer Engagement Project. The project primarily focused on referrals from nursing home Transition/Diversion Programs. Today he is actively working on the Silver Lining: Taking Back Twenty-Five project funded through a grant awarded to AU by SAMHSA. The Silver Lining project focuses on helping seniors in their recovery and transitioning them into the community. Martin works directly with many seniors who are currently in nursing homes, including ADRC, Wheeler Clinic, and other community organizations.

Prior to joining AU, Martin worked for the Chrysalis Center as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist/Case Manager for over a year. Earlier, as an Easter Seals of Greater Hartford program participant, Martin worked at the Dept. of Public Health.

Martin is active in the community as well. He volunteers for numerous profit and non-profit agencies, is a member of the CT Coalition for Environmental Justice, CT Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), and the Ryan White Planning Council of Greater Hartford.

Adam Chambers, Human Rights Advocate

Adam Chambers, New Media Coordinator

Adam is a person with lived experience of both the devastation of mental illness caused by trauma and the amazing renewal and hope which comes from recovery. Over the past few years of his recovery journey, Adam lost more than 160 pounds, finding ways to heal from trauma through tools such as creative expression (poetry, art, filmmaking, and music) as well as ultra-marathon running, nutrition, and other holistic healing modalities that were the most helpful in his own life. His life goal now is to spread the hope he has found through his own engagement in these activities to others so that they may find healing as well. Currently, Adam coordinates Advocacy Unlimited's documentary filmmaking efforts and also conducts workshops in creative writing as a tool for healing.

Michaela Fissel, Director, Director of Policy and Research

Michaela Fissel, Director of Policy and Research

Michaela I. Fissel has been actively involved in the behavioral health field since achieving recovery in 2007 at the age of 21. Since that time, Michaela has risen as a highly recognized advocate who actively seeks to ensure that the opportunity of recovery is available to all young people within Connecticut. Through her eight years of extensive research in the area of emerging adults as a behavioral health service population, Michaela has identified the need for including consumers of direct care services as equal members of the decision making process when planning, implementing, and evaluating services. It has been made clear that their perspective is critical for ensuring that services and supports are effectively tailored to the unique experience of achieving recovery, while transitioning to adulthood, in the 21st Century.

In 2010, Michaela received a top research award upon graduating Cum Laude from Central Connecticut State University, while she has also received honors through the Keep the Promise Coalition, Senator Blumenthal, the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association of Connecticut, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition of Connecticut, amongst others. In addition, Michaela was selected to work with other young adult leaders from around the country to launch the national organization Young People in Recovery and is an elected member of her Local Board of Education.

As a local, state, and national speaker, Michaela has continued to share her story, while challenging the status quo. Among the many opportunities that have been made available to Michaela, she is most proud to be the mother of three amazing children and having a partner who is her greatest support. When she is not working or volunteering, Michaela can be found gardening, walking, or kicking the soccer ball with her family.

Jennifer Henry, Administrative Assistant

Jennifer Henry, Administrative Assistant

As AU's Administrative Assistant, Jennifer is responsible for the organization's daily office duties as well as human rights issues. She is a resident of Hartford and has battled with mental illness since the age of 17. After many years of treatment and many hospitalizations, she has become a dedicated advocate in the recovery movement.

Jennifer has an Associate degree from Capital Community College. She is a Recovery University graduate, and also a graduate of the Advocacy Education course.

As a staff member working for Advocacy Unlimited, Jennifer fights to make progress in the recovery movement for people with mental health and/or addiction issues. She has collaborated with agencies such as NAMI, Keep the Promise, Catchment Area Council, and the Office of Protection and Advocacy. Jennifer has also worked with Dress For Success to obtain interview outfits for advocates getting back into the workforce. She served as President of the Recovery Council at Capitol Region Health Center. Jennifer carried out a mini-grant called "Your Beautiful Inside and Out" where she taught clients resume writing as well as appropriate hairstyles and clothes for interviews.

Dr. Karen Kangas, Director of Recovery and Family Affairs at Hartford Healthcare

Dr. Karen Kangas, Director of Recovery and Family Affairs at Hartford Healthcare and Recovery University Instructor

Dr. Kangas has been a national force in the mental health field for over 30 years. Karen is now Director of Recovery and Family Affairs at Hartford Healthcare, but remains as an instructor for Recovery University and has a long history with Advocacy Unlimited. Working closely with AU's founder Yvette Sangster, Dr. Kangas was very involved in the start up of Advocacy Unlimited, successfully advocating for and obtaining statewide support and funding. She first joined the staff at Advocacy Unlimited in December, 2007 and was named Executive Director in July, 2008. She subsequently became Director of Recovery University from 2015 through October 2016.

Prior to working at AU, she held the position of Director of Community Education and Communications at the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), and was a member of the Commissioner's Executive Group.

Dr. Kangas has also been a teacher, school administrator, education consultant, lecturer, and producer of video presentations on mental health which have been distributed throughout the United States.

Dr. Kangas' strong advocacy for people with psychiatric disabilities has made her the recipient of national and local awards, including:

  • The Clifford Beers Award in association with the National Mental Health Association;
  • The Roger Sherman Award, an annual Connecticut Human Rights Award;
  • The First Annual Excellence in Advocacy Award in 1998, an award that has been subsequently renamed the Dr. Karen Kangas Award for Excellence in Advocacy;
  • Additionally, Dr. Kangas was honored in the National Council of Jewish Women "Dare to Be Different" millennium calendar.

Also see Karen Kangas - A True Champion and Giant, a tribute and testimonial from former DMHAS Commissioner Thomas A. Kirk, Jr., Ph.D. (opens in a new browser window).

Linda Lentini, General Manager

Linda Lentini, Director of Advocacy Education

Linda values her walk in recovery and acknowledges the people with lived experience that walk, and have walked, beside her during her process. Linda speaks to people about her experiences with addiction, her experience in the mental health system, and her time in prison. She co-facilitates "Healing Trauma by Stephanie Covington" at York Correctional Institute to support other Women as they heal. Linda had facilitated Recovery University for the past 5 years, co-facilitated a "Moving Beyond the Offender Stereotype" workshop at the CT Women's Consortium, and has received several awards including the ADA Spirit award. As a member of the incredible team at Advocacy Unlimited and one of the managers, she brings her hope and encouragement to Toivo's Run/Walk, the Recovery Group for Women, and the Beyond Anger and Violence group for women.

Her life today includes a loving husband and best friend, a wonderful son and stepdaughter, and many supportive friends. She supports her recovery with daily running, meditating, spiritual readings, positive affirmations, and supporting others in their process.

Joanie Masot, Problem Gambling Coordinator

Joanie Masot, Problem Gambling Coordinator

Joanie Masot is a state certified Recovery Support Specialist and a person in recovery. Prior to joining the team at Advocacy Unlimited as the Problem Gambling Coordinator, she worked as a Recovery Support Specialist at a local mental health agency. Joanie shares her experience as a problem gambler at events throughout the state. She also works with state legislators, testifies at the legislative office building, and speaks at rallies about opposing gambling expansion.

Joanie has been featured in many videos including "Sharing Hope and the dangers of Problem Gambling" and is a member of the National Problem Gambling Council. In addition, she is a committee member on the Community Advisory Group for The Hospital of Central CT/MidState Medical Center.

Joanie believes it is because of her tremendous support network of family and friends that she is able to live a good quality of life today. Joanie practices yoga and meditation and has found these healing practices to have a huge positive impact on her recovery.

Annette Medero, Toivo Hispanic Initiative Director

Annette Medero, Toivo Hispanic Initiative Director

Annette has been at AU since March 2004. Formerly the Director of Multicultural Affairs, Annette now translates Toivo materials into Spanish and informs the logistics and activities of the holistic health initiative through the lens of Latino culture. In both 2013 and 2014, Latinos United for Professional Advancement (LUPA) recognized Annette as one of Connecticut's top 50 most influential Latinos. Advocacy Unlimited was also awarded the LPRAC Community Service Award for advocacy efforts and support in the Connecticut Latino community. In addition, Annette hosts "La Hora De Toivo con Annette," a 2-hour long radio program on Es La Cosa radio (www.eslacosaradio.com). The broadcast is hosted live each week in Spanish and is focused on promoting holistic health practices and all Toivo offerings.

Annette is a long time Hartford CT resident and a Hartford Public High School and Trinity College alumni. In her spare time she works with different local activist groups raising awareness and working towards immigration reform as well as issues that affect the Hispanic community. She enjoys reading, walking, and incorporates yoga and meditation into her daily life. She is also working towards Reiki certification in order to facilitate Reiki and make it available to all. She wants to break down the stigma and accessibility barriers towards holistic practices in the Hispanic community.

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