Meet the Team
Orange County Mental Health Treatment Center
Additionally, our Orange County Residential Psychiatric Treatment Facility has strengthened its executive management team. This has shown early positive results with a significant success rate. These appointments and their staff play a key role in advancing D’Amore Healthcare’s mission of serving thousands suffering from mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorders.
Chief Clinical Officer
Gary has a personal history of long-term recovery from addiction and has experienced struggles with mental health issues with close family members. These experiences inspired him to become involved in helping others who face issues with addiction and mental health. However, he felt that he could not abandon his career as a businessman. In 2009 an opportunity arose that allowed Gary to return to school, which led him to become a licensed psychotherapist.
He has now worked in the field for approximately 10 years. Gary finds his work to be incredibly fulfilling: “I can say without hesitation that the last 10 years have been the most emotionally rewarding of my life. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say being a part of someone’s journey dealing with mental health and addiction issues brings a sense of fulfillment that is hard to put in words.”
DR. MOHAMED EL-GABALAWY, MD
Psychiatrist & Addictionist
Dr. Mohamed El-Gabalawy, MD is an addiction psychiatry specialist and has been practicing for over 30 years. He graduated from the University Of Cairo, Faculty Of Medicine in 1978 and specializes in Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. El-Gabalawy did his Psychiatric Residency at Winnebago Mental Health Institute and Loyola University Medical Center, and his Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in their Substance Abuse Treatment and Research Center. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry and Addiction Psychiatry, and through American Society of Addiction Medicine in Addiction Medicine. With fluency in English, Arabic and Spanish, Dr. El has substantial affiliations with Hospitals and societies that fight addiction and help individuals face mental illness.
Dr. El-Gabalawy has four children, 2 of which are following his footsteps and pursuing careers in medicine. His favorite books are An Unquiet Mind and Feeling Good, movies Beautiful Mind and Sound of Music, favorite foods are seafood and French pastries.
J. JOHN EMMA
Chief Financial Officer and Founder
John has over 30+ years of financial experience working in both non-profit and for-profit businesses. In the first 20 years of his career, John directed $18 million in growth and acquisitions. Today, John brings his wisdom, accounting expertise and operational transparency to ensure D’Amore’s ethical and fiduciary practices.
John has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from San Diego State University and a Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Disorder Certification.
In his spare time, John volunteers at his church and the recovery ministry, hangs out with his sons and enjoys crossing items off his bucket list which includes traveling to all 30 major league baseball stadiums.
Originally from Chicago, Rick fell in love with California while serving in the United States Marine Corps. After his service, he moved back to Chicago until 1978, when Rick relocated to Costa Mesa, California and eventually to Huntington Beach, California. Early in his career, Rick worked as a counselor at Phoenix House. Quickly, he enjoyed the rigor of social services. Although his success took him in different directions, Rick knew he would work in recovery services again for two reasons: one, he loved it and two, he was determined to give back. In 1986, Rick’s life took a dramatic turn for the good when his recovery began. His plan to pay it forward was underway.
In 1995, Rick married his lovely bride, Vicki. They are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, Nicole who attends college in San Luis Obispo and Noelle, studying in Santa Barbara. After years of labor and success, Rick sold his company in 2012, beginning his new journey: looking for the perfect team. In Rick’s words, “It has taken me 3 years, but I have found the best 2 people to create the best in recovery.”
Chief Operating Officer
Jennifer serves as the Chief Operating Officer for D’Amore Healthcare, has 13+ years of experience working in the recovery field, and is a Certified Admissions and Marketing Specialist. Before landing at D’Amore Healthcare, Jennifer worked for a local nonprofit organization as the Financial Administrator before finding her true passion in Admissions. Jennifer’s own personal journey has led her to want to help others struggling with mental health and substance abuse and allows her to be the point of contact with individuals and their families looking to start their recovery.
Jennifer is responsible for making sure that clients are aware of the individual care they will receive while at D’Amore Healthcare, the screening and assessment prior to admission, and following through with the patient’s intake from start to finish to include discharge planning. Jennifer strongly believes that “your present circumstances don’t determine where you go, they merely determine where you start.”
BENJAMIN W. SMITH
Chief Compliance Officer
Ben comes to D’Amore from the mountains of Colorado. He earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Sewanee: The University of the South in 2006 and began his life in recovery in Los Angeles in April of 2010. After starting that journey, Ben eventually relocated to Orange County to go to the Whittier College School of Law, completing his J.D. in 2016. As a person in recovery pursuing a legal education, Ben was intrigued by the role of the law in mental health and substance abuse treatment. He found that many nuances of that relationship are not discussed widely and feels strongly that people who live with those challenges should have access to all the tools available to them so they can be successful at rebuilding their lives. He has chosen to start that by helping to protect and nourish a place that provides loving care for those who are at their most vulnerable: D’Amore Healthcare.
Ben joined the D’Amore team in November of 2016 and has worn several different hats, including Behavioral Health Technician, BHT Supervisor, Advocacy and Compliance Manager, and now Chief Compliance Officer. He has been privileged to see the company grow and blossom in that time.
Troy Matthews was born in Boston, MA and moved to the NY tristate area as a young child. He enlisted in the US Army in 1983 from Newark, NJ. He has had multiple stateside and foreign assignments in the military. He was eventually transferred to Southern California in 2014. He has over 28 years of military service.
He is a board certified Physicians Assistant with 19 years of experience. He graduated in 1999 from the University of Washington Medex NW PA program in Seattle Wa, and he has a Masters in Health Science from Touro University. He specializes in Internal Medicine working as a Hospitalist in underserved communities. He also has a correctional medicine background, where he treats numerous substance abuse and mental health patients.
He has been married for 30 years has three adult children. He enjoys physical fitness, reading non fiction books and is a music enthusiast.
Physicians Assistant (PA-C)
Brianna is a California native and has been working in medicine since 2013. She has a special love for the mental health community and seeks to bridge lifestyle and nutrition with medicine to help patients find relief. As a Board Certified Physician Assistant, she is committed to helping her patients achieve mental stability, develop healthy routines, and learn self-advocacy in their health. Compassion and empathy are her priorities in the vulnerable setting of residential care.
In her free time, Brianna loves to explore the outdoors with her husband. She enjoys oil painting and sketching, and always loves to play with her cats. She also has a passion for dark chocolate.
Licensed Vocational Nurse
Wendy Corales was born and raised in Orange County, California. She began her nursing career in 2008. Growing up with parents and family in addiction, she has always had a passion for helping others. It is a great honor to advocate help and hope.
She feels that she has found her true calling and it is a privilege to be a part of the D’Amore team. Outside of work, Wendy enjoys going to the beach, attending church and spending time with family. Her favorite quote is, “You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.”
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Joseph grew up in farm country in Illinois then migrated to Urbana where his father practiced medicine and taught at the University of Illinois. Joseph moved to Utah in the early 1980’s and worked for Deer Valley Resort for ten years, then moved to California with his wife Patti who accepted a position at UC Irvine. Joseph drove a school bus in the early 1990’s in order to be able to be home and present for his daughter. Someone suggested that he could park the bus at Irvine Valley College during the long lunch break and take a class — he did that and eventually finished undergraduate work with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services from Cal State Fullerton.
Joseph followed his youthful dreams and went to work at the Glacial Garden Ice Arena in Anaheim where he worked as an Ice Hockey program administrator and scheduled ice time. (Joseph also drove the Zamboni a lot, a fact of which he is very proud.) After 8 years at the ice rink, Joseph was motivated by a friend to attend the Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology where he completed a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology. Joseph interned at Aspen community services, then remained on the team for 10 years, during which time he became a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and gained certification from the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Association as a Mental Health Provider in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.
Joseph worked in private practice and contracted with the Santa Ana Unified School District Special Education Department until 2017 when he joined the Team at D’Amore Healthcare.
MARIA ANGELICA CAMPOS DE PONCE
Licensed Marriage Family Therapist
Maria is a California native who comes to D’Amore with over 5 years of experience as a mental health clinician providing services for children, families, and adults. Maria was inspired to help others after overcoming a personal history of trauma through mental health support and is dedicated to paying it forward by empowering others to grow.
Maria comes from humble beginnings. She worked her way through college while supporting her mother and younger brother. Maria ultimately obtained a Masters of Science in Counseling/Marriage Family Child Therapy from the University of Phoenix. Maria has had experience with several adolescents with a dual diagnosis when working in Wraparound services.
Outside of D’Amore, Maria enjoys spending time with her family, drawing and painting, and meditation as a way to center and be present in the world.
Certified Life Coach
Elizabeth Stipher is a Certified Life Coach who has dedicated her professional talents to supporting helping professionals take care of themselves. Helpers not only serve the wounded, anxious and ill, but they also open their hearts with empathy and care. Endeavoring to combat burnout and compassion fatigue, Elizabeth focuses on integrating self-care, nature, mindfulness, writing, and problem-solving. Her support and guidance help her clients feel more centered in both their personal and professional lives.
Elizabeth received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from National University (2007), Bachelor’s degree from California State University Fullerton (2000) and her coaching certification through The Life Coach Institute of Orange County (2012).
Hanging out with her husband and two kids, in nature, is a top priority. But you can also find Elizabeth taking a yoga class, hiking with her dog, stand up paddle boarding at the beach, traveling or spending time with close friends.
Originally from Kodiak, Alaska, Ailana grew up and studied in the Philippines for 13 years. At the age of 21, Ailana graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Beda University, Philippines, with Latin honors as Magna Cum Laude. After graduation in 2016, she flew to Anaheim, California to start working and supporting her family – especially her little sister who stayed back home in the Philippines. Ailana started at D’Amore Healthcare as an overnight BHT and after a year and a half, she was promoted to BHT II. Three months later, she was blessed with the opportunity to take on the Program Manager role. Ailana lives by the phrase, “Blessed to be a blessing.” She is very passionate about helping other people, changing lives and making an impact even if it involves the simplest and littlest things like a smile, high five and wishing both staff and patients to have a great day!
Outside of D’Amore Healthcare, Ailana enjoys going to the gym, trying new food, journaling, singing karaoke, leading praise & worship at her church and coaching vocal lessons.
Blaine was born in the rolling hills of North Carolina, the youngest of three children. He began his journey in October 2016, when he moved to California to pursue the lifestyle of sobriety. He quickly discovered that he possessed a heart for serving others and wanted to bring his own experience, strength, and hope to those affected with co-occurring disorders.
During Blaine’s free time, he can be found bodysurfing at the Wedge or being active in the local recovery community.
Emerson began his life in recovery in November 2014. He soon discovered a passion for helping others and began working in the treatment field shortly thereafter. He has years of experience in case management and counseling in a dual-diagnosis setting.
Emerson is constantly evolving and developing his skills to be more effective in the field. He loves to see people grow and be successful. In his free time, Emerson loves spending time with his family, being involved in his church ministry, and watching his favorite sports teams.
Originally from the Bay Area, Sharissa moved to Las Vegas with her family to finish high school. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Journalism from UNLV in 2016. She knew she wanted to work and grow in the field of psychology, after overcoming her own personal mental health struggles at a young age. Sharissa uses her knowledge, experience, and intuition to deeply connect with those who may be struggling.
In addition, she hopes to provide hope and support by giving her patients inspiration, direction, encouragement, and guidance to take that next step. This has driven her to pursue her masters to bring education and life experience together. She embodies compassion and empathy for others. Sharissa started as a BHT and transitioned into the role of Admissions Specialist. There is a stigma surrounding mental health and she works to end that.
Outside of D’Amore, Sharissa enjoys traveling, writing, attending music concerts, reading and volunteering.
Born and raised in Orange County, Kevin moved to Riverside County, then spent a couple of years in Arizona, before eventually moving back to Orange County after he was honorably discharged from the military. He is a US Marine Corps combat veteran who served from 2007 to 2011, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After his service, he earned his BS in Criminal Justice from Argosy University in 2015.
However, his passion for helping people combined with his love of physical fitness drove him to pursue his personal training certification. Kevin’s compassion, personable character, and life experiences led him to join the D’Amore team as an Admissions Specialist. Since April 2019, Kevin has used his knowledge and personal experiences to reach out to those in need as a strong client advocate.
Kevin has been happily married since 2018 and currently has two dogs, a cat, and a snake. His hobbies include the gym, gardening, and cooking. He enjoys learning about the study of emotions and his favorite author is psychologist Paul Ekman.
Cherise received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California. During that time, she conducted research, studying at-risk youth in Southern California. She has over five years of experience in the mental health industry. Cherise was drawn into the field after her own mental health recovery and her experience with family members who struggle with substance abuse. It is her goal to help mental health programs provide the best services possible to individuals in need of help. Supporting struggling individuals is incredibly important to her. She believes that even an outreach phone call could be their first step to recovery and could end up being a life-saving experience.
Cherise has gained perspective as a Behavioral Health Technician at D’Amore. In this role, she assisted patients through their day to day struggles and provided them with an overflowing amount of compassion. Through her hard work and dedication, Cherise was able to support the D’Amore team and ensure that all of her patients received the services promised to them. Now she is in admissions, utilizing her passion for reaching out to struggling individuals and providing them with the guidance they need for a life in recovery.
She believes that it is incredibly important to implement self-care. Some other things that fuel her are being able to spend time with family, making new memories by trying new things, and going to church to be filled spiritually. Cherise absolutely adores spending time with animals!
Human Resources Manager
Amanda Moss graduated from California State University, Long Beach in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Community Health Education. Her goal is to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She started working in the healthcare industry in 2012. Amanda enjoys helping people and changing lives. She believes that it is truly the biggest blessings.
Amanda has been with D’Amore Healthcare for over two years. She started out as a NACHT BHT, and was promoted to the leads’ team. She is now the HR manager. Being part of this graciously redundant environment was life-changing for her. She has always had a passion for helping individuals and wanted to find a rewarding career to do so. She is glad to be a part of the D’Amore team. “Here we don’t come to work, but we come to care.”
Brandon Baker is a multi-instrumentalist born and raised in Long Beach, CA. He started playing the flute when he was 10 years old. He picked up the guitar and baritone sax when he was 13. At the age of 16, he got the opportunity to travel to Australia to perform at the Sydney Opera House as principal flutist of the Musique Sur La Mer Youth Symphony Orchestra.
He graduated from Long Beach City College in June 2018 with an Associate of Arts degree in music after studying saxophone and jazz voice. He is now a full-time student at Cal State Long Beach pursuing his B.A. in Jazz Studies with a focus on saxophone performance. He is scheduled to graduate in the Spring of 2021. He plans to pursue a career as a music teacher, freelancer, and studio musician after graduation.
In addition to teaching his own private students, Brandon mentors aspiring musicians for a non-profit organization called Jazz Angels. The Jazz Angels are dedicated to creating environments for playing and preserving jazz while empowering young musicians to develop self-confidence and leadership skills.
In his free time, he enjoys playing music at church and worship gatherings. He volunteers annually as a stage manager/sound engineer for the Jazz Education Network Conference.