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

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.

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.

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 Assistant
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.

Erica C. Ernst

outreach & mental health volunteer
Erica C. Ernst
History at CRA:
I have been privileged to work with the staff and participants of CRA for the last 10 years, providing safer use supplies, HIV and HEP C testing, safer sex supplies, and counseling. I am involved in the movement to bring Safe Consumption Spaces to Chicago, as well as the formation of a Chicago Drug Users' Union.

Iliana Espinosa-Ravi

Outreach Specialist & Community Overdose Prevention Program Manager
Iliana Espinosa-Ravi
History at CRA:
I first connected with CRA in 2014 as a volunteer and as a mental health worker eager to learn more about how to best serve and support folks who use drugs. I was immediately taken with how special CRA as an organization was and was instantly drawn to the mission as well as the work. I joined the CRA team in the summer of 2017 in an effort to help expand CRA’s Latino outreach efforts. In addition to that work I’ve gotten to participate in a variety of CRA projects including advocacy, service expansion, overdose prevention education, and community health worker inspired programs.

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).

Melissa Hernandez

Outreach Specialist, Director of The Puerto Rico Project
Melissa Hernandez
History at CRA:
My connection with CRA began in 2015. They donated harm reduction supplies to my non profit organization, The Puerto Rico Project. The organization I founded provides direct aid to people who were lured here to Chicago from Puerto Rico to seek treatment services. They now make up a large population of our homeless in south side Chicago. Dan Bigg presented me with a job oppournity at CRA in August 2017. CRA has embraced The Puerto Rico Project ever since! We collaborate as a unified team to meet people wherever they are in their drug use. This work invokes passion in me because I know how it feels to be shamed. Compassion and empathy is our motto.

Cheryl Hull

Outreach Specialist
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.

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!

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.

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.

Greg Scott

Interim Executive Director
Greg Scott
Photo credit: Nigel Brunsdon
History at CRA:
I started working with CRA in 2001. For 17 years I served as the volunteer Director of Research. My main responsibilities in that role were to (1) ensure CRA's compliance with the research exemption in Illinois state laws concerning syringe and paraphernalia possession and (2) supervise all internal and external research data collection efforts involving CRA participants and staff. I also spent 12 years (2001-2014) doing street outreach every week, on the silver van and on foot. As the interim ED, my job is to help CRA to reestablish organizational stability following the loss of Dan, establish new fiscal and strategic planning systems, work with staff to lay the groundwork for finding new, permanent leadership, and generally optimizing our performance as an outreach organization.

Karen Stanczykiewicz

Associate Director for Program Development
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.

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