Meet the team

We couldn't do this without them
The Chicago Recovery Alliance is made up of a small but dedicated team, many of whom have been with the organization for years. This team is supported by our volunteers.

Our Staff

Dan Bigg

Founding executive director & permanent guide for any positive change
Dan Bigg
Photo credit: Nigel Brunsdon
History at CRA:
Dan was one of the founders of Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA) and, for the last 28 years, Dan has been the Director of the CRA. Over the last 28 years under his leadership we have been guided by CRA participants to develop programming to prevent opioid-related overdose deaths with naloxone distribution; avoid viral hepatitis with safer injection and hepatitis A/B vaccination, and pilot test mobile opioid substitution therapies. Dan also helped start the US Harm Reduction Coalition and was a Project Developer for the International Harm Reduction Institute of the Open Society. Dan left this world in August 2018, but his legacy lives on in the work we do and the lives he saved.

Geoff Bathje

Director of Counseling Services
Geoff Bathje
History at CRA:
I connected with CRA in 2013 while trying to find other people in Chicago who practice harm reduction. In the past few years I have conducted a few research studies with CRA to challenge stereotypes about people who use drugs and through that work I saw a desire for counseling services. I then worked on assessment and program development to figure out what counseling services should look like, and have since launched CRA's counseling program along with several other volunteers. I've also had the opportunity to become an overdose response trainer and get involved in various policy advocacy efforts.

Suzanne Carlberg-Racich

Director of Research

History at CRA:
I've been a volunteer since 2001. Over that time I've done a little bit of everything, from outreach and testing to training, volunteer management, and grant reporting. I love being a part of this prolific, lovable, chaotic, trailblazing family. This is real public health!

Nikki Carter

Special Projects Manager & Drug Checking
History at CRA:
I started working at CRA in 2018 through my work in harm reduction at the Midwest Harm Reduction Institute. In the past, I have worked in clinical psychology with war veterans diagnosed with PTSD. I am an active artist and passionate about educating others on harm reduction and advocating for a modernized drug policy and mental health treatment in Chicago. I volunteer at art museums and youth organizations that are committed to the revitalization of neighborhoods through combining urban planning and art practices.

Maya Doe-Simkins

Director of Communications and Media
Maya Doe-Simkins
Photo credit: Greg Scott
History at CRA:
I love public health. I started with transnational tuberculosis treatment and maternal mortality reduction before I found a home in drug user health 15 years ago. Since then, I have worked with both grassroots and local & state governmental organizations to establish overdose prevention programs, authored manuals & curricula, and published scientific research. My graduate studies were completed at Tulane University, and I am bilingual in Spanish and English. At CRA I do whatever needs to be done to improve services to, for, and within the various communities we serve.

Susie Gualtieri

Senior Outreach Specialist
Susie Gualtieri
History at CRA:
I have been with CRA 21 years working in the city and in Regions 1, 7, and 8. I do the Summit of Hope throughout the state of Illinois. I have a great respect for our participants, and they learn and practice harm reduction to the fullest for what works for them. I teach overdose prevention with participants along with family members and anyone else who is willing to learn. Over the years, I have learned that I have to take our participants where they are - and that in itself is ANY POSITIVE CHANGE.

John Gutenson

Senior Outreach Specialist, Toilet Paper Changer
John Gutenson
History at CRA:
I got involved with CRA around 2001 as a volunteer. I was trying to get past the overdose death of somebody I cared about. Somebody thought that if I helped a few people, I might be able to get past it, the guilt of it, because he was younger, and I might have influenced his choices later in life. And then I just … stayed. And I’m still here now.

Sara Gutenson

Outreach Specialist, Phlebotomist
Awaiting Image
History at CRA:
I started out volunteering at age 10 or 11. It kind of grew on me! I am helping people, I enjoy my job, teaching people how to save somebody else’s life. And now it’s like family. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. I got it from my dad (John Gutenson).

Cheryl Hull

Deputy Director
Cheryl Hull
History at CRA:
I started working with CRA on January 5, 1993, when I was going through some rough times. However, I have continued on this journey – it’s been 24 years, and CRA has taught me so much. I am glad to say CRA taught me how not to be judgmental against anyone. Thank you, Chicago recovery alliance. This learning opportunity has been great and will carry me through whatever life I have left.

Shanae Hull

Community Health Education Program Manager
Shanae Hull
History at CRA:
I started volunteering at CRA at the age of 10. Harm reduction has been a huge part of my family. Helping my community is a life goal of mine. I am passionate about public health and I'm here to give a voice to the voiceless.

Stephan Kamenicky

Community Health Educator
Stephan Kamenicky
History at CRA:
I first became associated with CRA when they were busy doing harm reduction regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990s! I began frequenting the van and utilizing early syringe exchange and naloxone distribution along the way! Eventually I became a board member and long time advocate for harm reduction! I love the work I do...saving lives!

Lydia Karch

Drug Checking
Lydia Karch
History at CRA:
I started working with CRA in 2019 on the new drug-checking program, which means you will most often find me with the spectrometers during sites or drop-in hours. My previous work has been in reproductive health and abortion access, which grounded me in valuing every person's autonomy and right to self-determination. I am excited to be working and learning with everyone at CRA! Outside of CRA I am usually running, baking, or reading too much X-Men. I am definitely not the droid you are looking for.

Felicia Kristanto

Financial Administrator
Felicia Kristanto
History at CRA:
I joined the CRA team in February 2019 as the Financial Administrator. The work that CRA has accomplished for and with the community has touched and saved a lot of lives from drug overdose. CRA is about acceptance, hope and positive progress. It aligns with my personal mission to be in that space and the love of crunching numbers to produce financial clarity at the same time.

Ellie Navidson

Community overdose prevention program manager
Ellie Navidson
History at CRA:

I came to harm reduction work by way of homeless services and working with queer youth (after experiencing homelessness as a queer youth). The ideology and work instantly resonated with my own, which was heavily influenced by years of organizing, activism, protest, and punk rock. Given the needs of these communities, I quickly realized that I wanted to bolster my skill set. So, I became a registered nurse and did some collaborative work with CRA while in graduate school. I went on to work in a community clinic for homeless folks and then an emergency department at a community hospital. I'm pleased to bring my skills back home, so to speak, and am honored to be, once again, in the trenches on the right(eous) side of the drug war.

Cliff Sanchez

HIV Testing Coordinator
Cliff Sanchez
History at CRA:
I began as an outreach volunteer in 1997. In 2000 I was hired as a part-time phlebotomist. From 2006 to the present I have worked as the HIV Testing Coordinator.

Esther Sanchez

Outreach Specialist
Esther Sanchez
History at CRA:
I have been working or volunteering with CRA since 1998 in the Western Suburbs.

Karen Stanczykiewicz

Director of Community Relationships
Karen Stanczykiewicz
History at CRA:
I have been working at CRA since 2000, starting as a volunteer in 1998. Currently I conduct outreach at Humboldt Park on Tuesday evening and Diversey and Kilpatrick on Sunday evenings (and on the West Side as needed), provide referrals to HCV care and treatment, and assist with grant writing. It's important that individuals who use drugs not only find and access harm reduction, but also inform and provide services. To me it's a way of life.

Brandie Wilson

Executive Director
Brandie Wilson
History at CRA:
I came to find the Harm Reduction movement and work through decades of being personally entrenched in the Drug War. Through life-changing losses and events in Humboldt County, California my formal work in Harm Reduction began in 2014 when I worked with an amazing group of people to build Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction. My passion and area of knowledge and in Harm Reduction has focused on Cannabis Production and Women, Sex Work, Chemsex, Stimulant Use and Drug User organizing. I first became involved with CRA at the Capacity Building Leadership Institute (CBLI) in December of 2018.

Our Volunteers

We would be lost without our volunteers. Check out our Volunteering Info section for information on getting involved.

Where are we today?

Van and outreach locations for  
CRA Newsletter
Chicago Recovery Alliance
3110 West Taylor Street
Chicago IL 60612
© 1992, Chicago Recovery Alliance
Any Positive Change