Gus Crocco, LCSW
CEO & Clinical Director
Gus Crocco is the owner and founder of 1st Step Behavioral Health. He has over 25 years of direct clinical experience in the substance abuse and mental health fields. Gus has worked with diverse populations including prisoners in department of corrections, adolescents, and those met through school social work and his work at various psychiatric facilities. He also worked as an adjunct professor teaching group therapy to college students. He has extensive training in Jungian Psychology, Rational Emotive, behavioral modification and Gestalt therapies. He is versed in experiential therapy, drama therapy and performs family sculpting and role reintegration with recovering families. A number of Gus’s specializations include obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, acute and general anxiety disorders, bipolar and clinical depressions.
Director of Program Development
Naz Andekian joined 1st Step in 2014 as Director of Program Development. After working 4 years as director of admissions in steps to recovery, Naz brought his expertise and knowledge to First Step Behavioral Health. Naz was a client in 2010 and says he knew this place had the ability to save and change many lives.
“I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to work for the very place that saved my life, and now work with humility as part of a team that helps others to save their own on a daily basis.” Naz is convinced that he works for the best treatment center in the nation, and is proud to be part of such a caring team of individuals who always put the needs of our clients first.
Marge joined the 1st Step Behavioral Health family in 2005 as an administrative assistant and has since become the executive administrator. With a degree in science and as a Certified Medical Professional with over 25 years’ experience in the medical and administrative fields, Marge is a leader for the entire staff. She is chiefly responsible for all financial operations and her fiscal management and budgetary knowledge allows 1st Step to provide all clients the best possible care. In addition, Marge is a hands-on administrator, committed to her staff and an active member of the day-to-day operations.
Director of Human Resources
With over 23 years of human resources experience, Patty is a wealth of knowledge at 1st Step. Patty oversees all facets of Human Resources at the facility. She says she most enjoys working for a company whose staff always puts clients’ needs above all other factors. Patty not only has experience in human resources but is also the staff baker, always prepared to come in with birthday cakes and different deserts for other staff members.
Shawn Hunsberger, LPN
Medical Support Supervisor
Shawn is a senior member of the staff and has been with 1st Step for over 10 years. Shawn came to 1st Step as a client in 2005 and started her journey of recovery. She knew that she was in a special place and wanted to be a part of helping others change their life just as she did. Over time, Shawn has become one of the pillars here. She quickly progressed in the company, starting as a Behavioral Health Tech and is now the Medical Staff Support Supervisor. Her continued education, passion and personal experience is what makes her such an integral part of 1st Step. Shawn is responsible for overseeing the nursing staff and meeting with every client to ensure they are receiving the help they need. Shawn not only takes care of our clients at 1st Step but also takes her care-taking skills home with her to look after her three dogs, two cats, and two ducks. Shawn will soon be a Registered Nurse as she finishes her schooling at the end of 2015.
Bio coming soon.
Janice Watson, BA, CAP, ICADC
Janice Watson joined the 1st Step team in 2012 as a primary clinician with 30 years experience in the field, as a highly educated, experienced and skilled clinician. Her accomplishments include winning the 2005 Counselor of The Year Award from the New Hampshire Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Association, for her many years of dedication to quality treatment. Janice has made a phenomenal impact in the lives of many individuals and families, and as the senior member of our clinical staff, with her years of experience, work ethic and passion, she is continues to create a rare bond with her clients. Janice has made a great name for herself battling on the front lines of addiction as well as specializing in treating perinatal addiction for over 9 years.
Alexis Mercado, MS, CAP, ICADC
As a Certified Addictions Professional, Alexis Mercado also holds an MS in Marriage and Family Therapy, continuing her education over the years in order to grow with the ever-evolving world of addiction. Alexis brings many years of education, experience and passion to the 1st Step Behavioral Health team, and truly enjoys the compelling clinical environment created at the facility. As a primary clinician at 1st Step, she truly believes in the philosophies of our primary mission. Alexis draws on various techniques such as CBT, psychodrama, meditation, and experiential therapy to treat each individual client and generate the best possible results. Alexis is an avid reader and Maya Angelou fan. One of her favorite quotes, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you,” speaks volumes of Alexis’ dedication to helping individuals in recovery.
Jennifer Digilio, BSW, CAP, ICADC
Director of Human Resources
Jennifer Digilio joined the 1st Step Behavioral Health team as a Primary Clinician in 2014. Jennifer’s years of experience in the field of addiction give her an innate ability to connect with clients regardless of their struggles and help them to make their goals a reality. Jennifer has found a home with the 1st Step team because she feels she is a part of a system of care that is truly committed and dedicated to its clients and their needs. Jennifer has been in recovery for over 20 years and in that time she has created a life fulfilled with love and joy including a marriage of 19 years, two children, four step children, two dogs, and many cats.
Cristina Lusker, M.Ed, LPC, LMHC
Cristina Lusker has over 17 years of experience in the field of substance abuse and mental health. As a Primary Clinician and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Cristina specializes in treating clients with co-occurring disorders. Continuing her education and growing with the 1st Step family while treating clients with the highest level of care make Cristina a valued asset. She shares that she loves that fact that, “Even after 17 years in this field, I’m continuously learning, growing and stimulated in ways never experienced in other work settings.” The human factor is what attracted Cristina originally to 1st Step and she found the facility staff and community to be like a family, very down to earth, and transparent.
Jerry Barbarino, CAC
Jerry Barbarino joined the 1st Step Behavioral Health team in 2015 as a Primary Clinician. What has attracted Jerry to work at 1st Step is the philosophy of teamwork and the opportunity to put caring for the clients first. Jerry takes a client centered and individualized approach with every client. He enjoys the challenge of working with business-professional clients, treating each person with the highest regard and really focusing on the underlying issues of their addiction. Jerry is a big Bob Dylan fan and stands by the quote, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
Martin Waddington, CAC
Martin Waddington has been a part of the 1st Step family since 2011, first as a client and now as a well-respected staff member. Martin has been in recovery for four years, and this fuels his drive and passion to help clients who are in need. In his first position as a Case Manager at 1st Step Behavioral Health, Martin proved to be a great asset to the team and while continuing his education, he has now taken on the position of Outpatient Clinician. His education and years of recovery experience have given him the opportunity to become a great clinician for our clients in the early stages of recovery. As a transplant from Pennsylvania to Florida in 2011, naturally, Martin is an avid fan of the beach, which is where he enjoys spending his free time. He plans to continue his education and grow with the 1st Step family as a committed loving member of the staff.
Erin Touhey, MSW
Erin Touhey is a recent graduate of Florida Atlantic University who joined the 1st Step Behavioral Health family in 2015. Erin brings with her four years of recovery experience, as well as a master’s degree in social work. Erin decided to join the team at 1st Step after seeing the caring, compassionate, and clinically driven environment they had to offer. Erin’s professional and personal experience in the field has given her the tools, passion and drive to assist clients through a clinical approach to achieve their goals.
Howard Lane, MS, LMHC
Howard Lane joined the FSBH team in 2015 as a primary clinician. Howard brings many years of experience in both the fields of substance abuse and mental health treatment. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Howard truly believes in treating the underlying issues to addiction in order to find solutions. As a solutions focused therapist, Howard will integrate various forms of therapy including CBT, DBT, and believes in empowering the clients to get them on the right path towards recovery. Howard is a native New Yorker from Brooklyn, and has now resided in Florida since the late 90’s.
Bio coming soon.
Craig Vrablic, ARNP
Dr. Craig Vrablic holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Sexology from The American Academy of Clinical Sexologists and a Master of Science in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing from Florida International University. As an undergraduate, he studied at the University of Miami and Northwestern University. He is a Board Certified Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and a Board Certified Sex Therapist. He is a member of The National Honors Society, The Honor Society of Nursing, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Neuroscience Education Institute, and Diplomat of the American Board of Sexology. Dr. Vrablic has worked in health care since 1978 and in the past 20+ years of his professional career, he has focused in the field of Psychiatry and Addiction. Dr. Vrablic blends the Rogerian Client-Centered approach with Rational Emotive Therapy, building on client’s strengths and integrating harm reduction. He incorporates appropriate psychopharmacology when necessary to achieve optimal mental health and functioning. Dr. Vrablic is available to address psychopharmacology needs, sexual issues, brief psychotherapy, individual, relationship and family therapy, as well as addictions and co-dependency issues.
Claudia Mulhall, LPN
Claudia joined the 1st Step team in 2011 as a recent nursing graduate. Claudia’s knowledge, passion, and work ethic makes her a major asset to the 1st Step medical staff. Claudia enjoys helping clients and seeing their transformation from detox to discharge. She is continuing her education, and looks forward to becoming a Registered Nurse.
Lesli Jesus, BSN, RN
Medical Records Clerk & Nurse
As a Registered Nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Lesli Jesus brings years of experience in the medical field. Lesli is responsible for gathering and overseeing medical records requests from outside providers, insurance companies, or any other party. Also, as a person in recovery, Lesli understands the daily battle clients face in managing theirs. Lesli began her journey of recovery at 1st Step originally as a client and has become a key member of our team. What she appreciates most about working at 1st Step is being part of a team who is completely dedicated to teaching and supporting clients as they begin their journey in early recovery.
Donna Grizzle, RN
Physician Coordinator & Outpatient Supervisor
Donna Grizzle joined the 1st Step family originally in 2010 as a client and has since become an integral part to our daily operation. With many years experience working in a private practice as an RN, Donna is the physician coordinator, and most recently became the outpatient supervisor at 1st Step Behavioral Health. Donna’s responsibilities range from working hand in hand with our team of physicians, to being a willing listener for struggling clients. Her education combined with her passion to help those in need has been her greatest asset at 1st Step. As a result of overcoming her own battle with addiction, Donna is now known as a mother figure to many of the clients at 1st Step, and is a wealth of knowledge and comfort for clients in need.
Admissions & Outreach
Kevin joined the 1st Step family as staff in 2014 as a Behavioral Health Technician. Originally, Kevin entered the facility as a patient in 2012, and now in recovery, he is able to take pride in his work and become a supportive hand to other addicts in need of help. He has continued to be a major asset to the 1st Step team, being quickly promoted from his Behavioral Health Technician role to his current position in admissions. Kevin is in the midst of continuing his education to obtain his CAC to continue his career in the substance abuse field. With a constant smile on his face and always willing to go the extra mile for each client, Kevin has proven to be an example of what recovery can do. Along with his other talents, Kevin is also the staff artist, painting numerous murals and pictures for different staff members.
Gail Funderburk, MA Ed.
Gail joined the 1st Step family in 2015 as an Outreach Coordinator based out of Dallas, TX. Gail is the go-to person for families and facilities in need of our services. With a background teaching in the public school system, Gail has an innate desire to help others succeed in life and overcome the obstacles life can throw their way. When Gail noticed the addiction epidemic effecting all different people in her community, she realized she wanted to make a difference and help those in need. With many years experience, Gail hopes to connect those in need with the great treatment that 1st Step Behavioral Health has to offer.
Gail Para, CRS
Case Management Supervisor
Gail has been an important member of the treatment team since 2004. As Case Management Supervisor at 1st Step, Gail serves as a liaison between the clients and their employers, attorneys and EAP. She provides documentation for clients with a leave-of-absence from work, a disabled status, or those involved with the criminal justice system. She works closely with attorneys and the court liaison. Gail is also skilled in helping clients who are applying for assistance, both for vocational and financial needs. Her role on the clinical team is significant, in that she assists our clients with the numerous resources available in the community. Gail helps each client with compassion, support and dignity as she guides them through complex matters. It is of extreme importance to her to make certain our clients are able to accomplish their goal of returning to the workplace after treatment.
James Stankes joined the 1st Step Behavioral Health team first in 2012 as a patient from New York looking to better his life and start his recovery. Two years later, James jumped on an opportunity for the role of Behavioral Health Technician at 1st Step. Since that time, James has grown not only in his recovery, but also in his role at 1st Step. Promoted to Case Manager in 2014, he takes on responsibilities of managing all clients’ legal, family, and employment issues, or any additional things that may prevent a client from solely focusing on their recovery. James is continuing his education to become a Certified Addiction Counselor in hopes to one day become a therapist and assist clients in their journey to recovery.
Ginia Ernest, BBA
Ginia Ernest joined 1st Step in 2013 as an Administrative Assistant and has since become a valued member of our team. Ginia not only takes on the administrative role, but also oversees client accounts and finances. She has become the welcoming and familiar voice on the phone for families and loved ones here. With a bachelor’s degree in finances, Ginia gets to use her knowledge and education to assure each client’s financial records are up to date. Ginia enjoys her working here and it has given her the ability to meet people from all different walks of life, allowing her to watch them grow and change.
Annette Swan, CBHT
Annette originally joined 1st Step in 2008 as a Chemical Dependency Technician and has since risen through the ranks to Residential Supervisor. Annette’s responsibilities are to oversee the Behavioral Health Tech staff and to ensure all daily tasks at the residences are managed effectively. Having been in recovery for over 11 years, Annette is always available to our clients and willing to assist in getting them through any situation. Annette decided to stay at 1st Step after being “enamored by the owner’s big heart and the actual care for the clients.”
Vandy Brisbon, RT
Vandy Brisbon joined the 1st Step Behavioral Health team in 2009 as a Behavioral Health Technician and has since became the evening Residential Supervisor. Vandy takes pride in his work and personal contact with each client that walks through the door. He has become an unwavering staple of the 1st Step staff, always willing and ready to assist clients in any way possible. With 11 years in recovery under his belt, Vandy has an innate ability to connect with clients and be a part of their early recovery process. He believes in the principles of 1st Step Behavioral Health and enjoys the sense of family and community he finds while helping clients get introduced to the recovery process.
Residential Operations Supervisor
Susi Ferguson is a long time employee and member of the 1st Step family. Susi started her career here as a bus driver in March 2007. Over the years, she has worked up the ladder, receiving several promotions and is now a Supervisor overseeing all residential operations including transportation, support staff, housing operations and client activities. Susi works in direct contact with clients and their families. She makes sure to come to work each day with a positive attitude in hopes to affect each clients’ life in a positive way.