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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

Jenny Andel

overdose prevention specialist
Jenny Andel
History at CRA:
My involvement with CRA began about 15 years ago when I was a participant. Harm reduction has always been near and dear to my heart, and I am passionate about helping other human beings. I am hoping that my personal experience, and education, can be of use to others.

Van Asher

Outreach Specialist 

Jenny Andel
History at CRA:

I’ve been working in Harm Reduction in NYC since 1992. I’ve had the opportunity to run three SSPs in the city: one in Midtown Manhattan, another in the South Bronx, and most recently, one on NYC’s Lower East Side. Recently, I made the move to Oak Park, IL, and I’m excited to continue my Harm Reduction work here in the Midwest. I’m known as a trainer in this field and I’m thrilled to be collaborating with CRA. When I’m not working, you’ll  find me racing vintage motorcycles.

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!

Alex Carrion

Outreach specialist

History at CRA:
My passion for harm reduction began when I started working in peer support about 15 years ago. I am grateful to carry that passion into CRA and eternally grateful to learn from my colleagues and their experiences, as well as our participants.

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.

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.

Cliff Sanchez

Director of Human Resources & Outreach Specialist

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.

John Werning

Executive Director
John Werning
History at CRA:
I have been working in the harm reduction field for the last 10 years, developing and running grant-funded programs for community based organizations throughout Chicago. My experience has mostly consisted of building out mobile outreach and community engagement services, with a focus on PWUD, those living with HIV, and those experiencing housing instability. I have been a volunteer and close community partner of CRA’s since 2014, and I am honored to be taking on the role of Executive Director.

Taylor Wood

Drug Checking Program Manager & Senior Technician
John Werning
History at CRA:

I am a part-time drug user, full-time drug checker, and all around harm reductionist. My journey began with volunteering for The Chicago Recovery Alliance before working as a technician for the first SSP-based drug checking programs in the US, under the tutelage of its architects. I now hold the position of Drug Checking Program Manager & Senior Technician, and I am dedicated to expanding drug checking services through training technicians and/or apprenticeship. I also provide knowledge and information on trends within the drug supply and validation of immunoassay test strips across Chicagoland and greater Illinois. I am direct in my opposition towards stigma of any kind and aim to build up and support those engaging in any and all substance use, no matter the cause. In addition to my role in Chicago, I work for Remedy Alliance FTP as a Technician Trainer/Program Implementation Advisor to assist with the expansion of drug checking across the US. I am also a contractor for DanceSafe, where I provide festival-based FTIR drug checking services. Additionally, I am an organizer with the Alliance for Collaborative Drug Checking. My educational background includes a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Documentary Filmmaking from Columbia College Chicago, with significant contributions from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Notably, my essay in fifth grade for the D.A.R.E Essay Contest was chosen as the best. I find some sweet irony in that, as I now enjoy moments of substance, occasionally on substance. Jokes aside, I enjoy hiking the Great Lakes with my dog Maverick, dancing, going on road trips to explore new places, and meeting fellow harm reductionists to help crush stigma.

Our Volunteers

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

In Memory

We honor some of our greats who are no longer with us
Rather than removing the profiles of those we’ve lost at CRA we continue to have them here on our site as we constantly hold them in our hearts and thoughts.

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.

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.

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.

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!