EIN: 36-2605412

Meet the Team

Bruce N. Johnson – Chief Executive Officer

Bruce N. Johnson is the Chief Executive Officer of Nicasa Behavioral Health Services and has led the organization for 16 years. He is a nationally recognized leader in the field of substance abuse prevention and treatment and a retired Chief of Police. He is the Past-Chair of the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force, Co-Founder of the Lake County Opioid Initiative and he is the founder of the very successful Mano a Mano Family Resource Center where he also served as Board President. Mr. Johnson is an adjunct faculty professor, consultant, trainer, and subject matter expert for several institutions and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer after more than 28 years of service in the United States Marine Corps

Linda Snelten – Chief Operating Officer

Linda Snelten is the Chief Operating Officer at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services. She has over 33 years of experience in healthcare and nonprofit management and has been with Nicasa for over 25 years. She is responsible for overseeing day-to-day services, processes, systems, operations, and finances throughout the organization. During her tenure with Nicasa Behavioral Health Services Linda has helped to oversee many accomplishments including, the expansion to additional sites (Highland Park, Mundelein, and Zion), expansion of Women’s Services (for homeless and working women, as well as those at risk of HIV/AIDS), organization of training and certification for 11 staff to become Certified Allied Addiction Practitioners (CAAP), growth of intensive outpatient services to treat youth 12 years and older, development of anger management programming for middle and high school students, implementing a new electronic health record system, and providing financial oversight for more than 20 federal grant projects. Linda is a firm believer in putting clients first and this guides her work in doing what is best for all of Nicasa’s clients.

Karen Hines – Director of Administration

Karen Hines has over 30 years of experience in accounting, finance, and administration. She has been with Nicasa Behavioral Health Services since 1999 in several different roles and is currently the Director of Administration. Karen oversees finance and human resources and also serves as the Privacy Officer for the organization. Some of her responsibilities include preparation of computerized financial statements, account analysis, debt summaries, audit and management letter responses, budgets, tax returns, statistical reports, and management of facilities.

Dr. Emperatriz Guerra-Hand, CAADC, CCFC – Chief Clinical Officer

Dr. Guerra-Hand holds a Doctorate Degree of Ministry with an emphasis in counseling. She has over 30 years of behavioral health experience and has been with Nicasa Behavioral Health Services since 1996. Dr. Guerra-Hand is an Internationally Certified Advanced Addiction and Drug Counselor (CAADC) in good standing with the Illinois Certification Board, as well as a Clinically Certified Forensic Counselor (CCFC). She is a member of the College of Lake County’s Human Service Advisory Committee and the Therapeutic and Intensive Monitoring (T.I.M.) Drug Court. Dr. Guerra-Hand received the Hector Rodriguez Customer Service Award for outstanding services to the community in 1996, a Drug Court Award from the Illinois 19th Judicial Circuit Court for support and contributions to the program, and the Keith Keesy State Award (from the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association) and Hispanic Heritage Award (from Waukegan Township) in 2012.

Elizabeth Thielen, LPC, PCGC – Senior Director of Substance Abuse Treatment Services

Elizabeth Thielen is the Senior Director of Substance Abuse Treatment Services at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services with over 20 years in the substance abuse field. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Problem and Compulsive Gambling Counselor (PCGC). Elizabeth is passionate about increasing awareness of gambling disorder in the community and among helping professionals. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Council on Problem Gambling, recently completing a term as President, and she represents Nicasa Behavioral Health Services on the Illinois Alliance on Problem Gambling. Elizabeth is also an adjunct faculty at the College of Lake County where she teaches about Process Addictions. As a former, amateur athlete, Elizabeth is committed to helping athletes avoid disordered gambling as the state of Illinois has recently implemented legalized sports betting.

Debi Leer, BS, CADC – Senior Director of the TREE Program

Debi Leer is the Senior Director of the Treatment Recovery Enhancement and Expansion (TREE) program. She was initially hired as an adult counselor and, for, over the last 30 years, she has transitioned through many of Nicasa Behavioral Health Services’ programs. During her tenure, she has supervised youth services, Bridge House, and family services, among many other responsibilities. Currently, she oversees the TREE program, which is an enhancement and expansion of treatment and recovery services for transitional-aged youth (18-25-year-olds) and their families. Debi is known for many hats within the organization and often states, “I am at Nicasa because I want to be a messenger of change.”

Vicky Tello, MJ, NMPSC, LSW – Director of Philanthropy

Vicky Tello is the Director of Philanthropy at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services. She is responsible for the fundraising and marketing activities of the organization, including nurturing and cultivating relationships with current and prospective donors, volunteers, sponsors, foundations, and corporations, writing grant proposals and managing reports, increasing the overall donor base for the organization, increasing visibility of the organization, and managing overall development efforts. She is a bilingual, licensed social worker focused on emotional intelligence and the people side of leadership. Previously, she was working in quality improvement, which allowed her to understand all facets of the inter-workings of an organization. One of the most important moving parts within an organization are the people engaged in the work. Without their understanding and commitment to the field and quality of services, fundraising and philanthropy practices become impossible. In addition to her experience in quality improvement, she has experience overseeing various working parts, including compliance, program evaluation, and process outcomes, grant writing, and management, data tracking and analysis, accreditation, customer service, training, communication, strategic planning, risk management, behavioral health Medicaid, and nonprofit management in general. Vicky’s overall career goal is to work in social services that support immigrants in any capacity as she believes that all individuals have a right to be treated as human beings regardless of their differences.

Rebecca Price, LSW, CADC – Director of Prevention

Rebecca Price is the Director of Prevention for Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, which oversees in-school prevention programming, Teen Court youth diversion, community coalitions, and deflection programs. She received her master’s degree in Social Work from George Williams University, located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. After graduate school, she obtained her licensure in Social Work (LSW) and certification as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and she is currently working towards earning her clinical social work license (LCSW). Prior to Nicasa she worked in the field of child welfare in facility care for 7 years. Rebecca is committed to the field of social work because she believes that even though everyone has a different path in life, they still deserve to be the best version of themselves, and she hopes to help along the way.

Dr. Mary Roberson, LCPC, CSADC – ARCH Project Director

Dr. Mary Roberson has more than 25 years of proficiency in the human services and behavioral health fields. Dr. Roberson received a Doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She was previously the Managing Director for Nicasa Behavioral Health Services where she provided oversight on several evidenced-based, federal projects (SAMHSA grants), some of which included technology-assisted care, adolescents with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health diagnoses, women at risk of infection for HIV and homeless individuals involved in the criminal justice system. Currently, Dr. Roberson is Project Director for the Act-Recover-Change-Hope (ARCH) Program that serves adults with co-occurring substance abuse, mental health, and/or developmental disabilities that are experiencing homelessness. Dr. Roberson has served on multiple state and local boards, including the Executive Board of the Illinois Department of Human Services DASA Women’s Committee, and the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Association. She has also participated in the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism, where she served on the executive committee for returning citizens, and the Lake County Opioid Initiative, where she served on the initial planning committee, as well as, the treatment and recovery committee. Dr. Roberson has facilitated women’s specialized groups on various traumas for the Circuit Court of Lake County and currently serves as a member of the Drug Court Team and Veterans Treatment Assistance Court. She has consulted and trained in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida on several behavioral health topics related to women, veterans, and the criminal justice system. She was also selected to complete the Great Lakes ATTC Communities of Color: Training of Trainers and Next Generation of Leaders. Dr. Roberson is a Navy veteran and a Governing Council member on a SAMHSA Transformational project for veterans and their family members. She also teaches graduate classes at National Louis University and undergraduate classes at the College of Lake County, and she achieved her first publication in the Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly (July 2012) with her article “Identity Development’s Impact on Peer Supported Recovery among African American Women.”

Kimberly Watts, LCSW, CADC – Director of Mental Health and Peer Services

Kimberly Watts is the Director of Mental Health and Peer Services at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services with over 12 years working in victim advocacy, mental health, and substance abuse fields. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC), and awaiting certification as a Problem and Compulsive Gambling Counselor (PCGC). Kimberly is passionate about increasing awareness of clients’ needs to ensure their successful, life-long recovery and personal growth. Supporting Lake County, Kimberly was instrumental in starting the first Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program in the county and developing relationships with Lake County probation for continuity of care. In furthering advocacy for others, she teaches Opioid Use Disorder as part of the University of Chicago Medicine, Extension for Community Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. Kimberly, her 4 children, and her husband returned to the county after he completed his naval career and settled in northern Lake County after having lived around the United States.

Jennifer Larson, LSW, CADC – Clinical Supervisor (Round Lake)

Jennifer Larson is a Clinical Supervisor at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services with years of experience in the field of substance abuse. She received her master’s degree in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago with an emphasis in mental health.  After graduate school, she obtained her licensure in Social Work (LSW) and became a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC).  Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity of working with a wide range of clientele, from young children to adults.  She is passionate about the field of social work and strives to help clients find their voice.

Linda Avers, MS, CADC – Clinical Supervisor (Highland Park/Round Lake)

Linda Avers has been with Nicasa Behavioral Health Services for just short of 19 years in a variety of positions. During her early years, she worked as a Parent Educator, providing presentations to corporations during the lunch hour, and then as part of the Family Strengthening Program. After becoming a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC), she began working as a youth counselor and then transitioned to work with primarily adults. For the past 3 years, Linda has worked as a Clinical Supervisor for the organization.

Sharon Peddicord, MSW, LCSW- Director, Bridge House 

Sharon graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor’s of Science in psychology.  She attended graduate school at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC and completed her Master’s degree in Social Work.  Sharon attained her clinical license after completing supervision and an internship as a therapist.  She has over 30 years of experience in the mental health field and has worked with the Drug and Mental Health Courts for the past 16 years.  Sharon has a long history of working with many community agencies and has previously served on the Bridge House Board of Directors.  She has devoted her career to helping those in need and making a difference in their lives.

Rasheema Lettsome MSW, CWMF, CDVP – ARCH Program Supervisor

Rasheema Lettsome is the Program Supervisor for the Act-Recover-Change-Hope (ARCH) program at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services. Rasheema has been in the social services field for 15 years and absolutely loves it! Rasheema received her master’s degree in Social Work from Dominican University in River Forest, IL. Before her transition to Nicasa, she was the Assessment and Referral Director at Lake Behavioral Hospital. Rasheema is a fan of inspirational quotes, the following quote being her favorite. “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.” -Oprah Winfrey

Sarah Wilhelm, LSW – Clinical Supervisor (Waukegan)

Sarah is a Clinical Supervisor at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services. She graduated with her master’s degree in Social Work from Aurora University. She is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and is currently working towards earning her Clinical Social Work License (LCSW). During her career, she has had the opportunity to work with multiple populations and found her passion in working with adults who living with substance abuse. She is passionate about the field of social work and strives to help clients learn and obtain skills, resources, and knowledge to ensure the utmost personal growth and success.

Sindy Guerra, BA – Family Advocacy and Rapid Re-Housing Coordinator

Sindy Guerra is a bilingual, Colombian native raised in the Lake County area. She completed her B.A. at Northeastern Illinois University majoring in Psychology. Sindy has worked in the field of social services for over 13 years in different capacities including, but not limited to, billing and coding coordinator, Parenting and Anger Management Facilitator, Family Advocacy Counselor, Mental Health Case Manager for adults with severe mental health diagnoses, and Family Advocacy Coordinator. In her current role she oversees family education and support to assist in stabilizing and strengthening families so they may avoid any potential instances of abuse and/or neglect. She has a passion for working with diverse communities as well as building community partnerships and relationships to better serve individuals and families in need.