New Together in Recovery Members
Della Blake is a project coordinator for the Black Addiction Counselor Education Program (BACE), an initiative designed to deliver training to Black/African American individuals seeking addiction counseling credentials in Massachusetts (LADCI, LADCII, LADC Assistant, CADC II, CADC, CAC). Responsible for coordinating all aspects of the program, including hiring, supervision, and support to training facilitators; recruitment and selection of program participants; coordination of internship sites, placement, and support to interns; ongoing adaptation and revision of the training curriculum; and other aspects of the program. She is the founder and chairperson of Black Behavioral Health Network (BBHN), a nonprofit that provides access to an array of culturally appropriate community-based behavioral health services. Della retired from the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department after 34 years of service.
Athena is currently the executive director of Peer Services and Recovery Support at Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. Prior to her recent position she was the Central MA regional coordinator for Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR), the substance use disorder coordinator Region10 PIHP in the lower thumb region of Michigan, and the director of Spectrum Health System’s Everyday Miracles Peer Recovery Center in Worcester, MA. She is the recipient of the 2011 SAMSHA Voice Award and 2014 Worcester City Manager’s Woman of Consequence Award. Athena has 30 years of experience with recovery and is committed to help individuals improve their day-to-day lives, realize their goals, and attain better quality of life.
Born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, James has always had a heart for the community. In high school, he was one of the top-ranking J.R.O.T.C officers specializing in community outreach. After high school, he attended seminary earning his bachelor’s degree in religion and went on to purpose a career in pastorate. Vocationally, James has worked for the Gandara Center in Western MA as a clinical case manager working with children and teens with involvement in the Department of Children & Families and Department of Mental Health system. He also worked for Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services as a parent support case manager supporting families involved with DCF. Upon moving to Central MA, James worked for the city of Worcester as a facilitator for the Access to Recovery Paths to Empowerment Program and recently took on a role with Advocates for Human Potential as the special project’s coordinator. In this role, he works directly with BIPOC male participants in four cities across the Commonwealth and providing case management and care coordination through the Access to Recovery Initiative funded by BSAS. James is going on seven years as the senior pastor of Southern Baptist Church in Roxbury, Mass where he also serves as the director of youth and families for the United Baptist Convention of MA, RI, and NH.
As a native of New Bedford, MA, Deb was raised to both honor and celebrate her Puerto Rican heritage while also recognizing the diversity of other cultures. This observation made her keenly aware of the social determinants of health, particularly as it relates to accessing the healthcare system and was a strong motivating factor in both her personal and professional life. Equity and access for all are core components of her work as community health worker, recovery coach, and health insurance enrollment specialist and she is able to incorporate these components in her position as a navigator for Fishing Partnership Support Services. In her community, she strives to reduce stigma, increase access to health care and education, promote pathways to recovery and meet people where they are at while also delivering respect, connection, and hope to those experiencing marginalization.
Shaquera is a mother of three and the founder and executive director of Shaquera’s Story Domestic Violence Consulting & Coaching. She has 20 years of experience in education and is a motivational speaker and educator across academic and public sectors. Despite her lived experiences with sexual assault and domestic violence (DV), she is a beacon of hope and positivity to those surviving the horrors of DV. Shaquera serves as an active member on the Massachusetts Protected at Work Coalition, which provides employment protections for victims of abusive behaviors and the Child Support Choice Coalition, which provides family-centered child support. Shaquera sits on the steering committee for the Lower Roxbury Coalition Wellness Initiative, where she collaborates with the director and other community partners to foster wrap-around services for the well-being of families and children. She has experience with political campaign volunteerism, activism, and work to transform anti-black systems by removing community silos and encouraging collaboration. Shaquera and her team are committed to working with victims and survivors at every point in the legal system, seeking justice for those whose lives are impacted by DV. In 2004, Shaquera graduated as the president of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program at Bay State College with an associate degree. In 2021, she graduated with honors from Rasmussen University with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. She is currently writing a book and pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health.
Caty Simon has spent 20 years in the low-income rights, psychiatric survivors’ rights, sex workers’ rights, and drug users’ union movements. She is a leadership team member and a sex worker liaison for Urban Survivors Union (USU), the United States national drug user’s union. Caty is also a founding co-organizer and co-executive director of Whose Corner Is It Anyway, a Western MA harm reduction, mutual aid, and organizing group by and for low-income, street, and survival sex workers who use opioids and/or stimulants and/or experience housing insecurity. The group’s work is focused on a city of 40,000 spanning 23 square miles in a rural area. From 2013 to 2020 she was co-editor of Tits and Sass, a seminal media outlet by and for sex workers which was featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Jezebel, Gawker, and the New Inquiry, to name a few. She has published a commentary in the International Journal of Drug Policy on union members’ experiences as drug user organizers doing community driven research (CDR) and is first author of an editorial in a health justice and overdose crisis supplemental issue of the American Journal of Public Health, “The methadone manifesto: treatment experiences and policy recommendations from methadone patient activists.” Caty recently sat on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s harm reduction steering committee, defining harm reduction and its principles, precepts, and metrics for the federal agency.
Feliciano Tavares is a violence prevention consultant & social change advocate with both public and private sector experience. Feliciano was born and raised in Boston and is a graduate of Northeastern University. Since graduating he has been dedicated to working with his community’s most vulnerable citizens. Feliciano started his career in Boston Public Schools (BPS) and then moved into violence prevention work with Y.O.U (Youth Options Unlimited) with the Office of Workforce Development. Feliciano has spent the bulk of his professional career at the Boston Public Health Commission’s Division of Violence Prevention/Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI). Feliciano most recently was the chief program officer at Inner City Weightlifting. His approach has always been rooted in public health and prides himself on generating the compassion that fuels his work. As a tireless advocate for his community, his work ethic led to significant results working with high impact gang affiliated/court involved youth throughout Boston. Feliciano’s dedication to youth development is apparent through his 20 years of service throughout the city of Boston. Feliciano hopes to continue improving the quality of life for Boston’s most vulnerable citizens.