We are thrilled to have several new members join our team as valuable assets! We wouldn't be where we are today without the expertise, dedication, and passion that each team member shares with the organization and our community. A warm welcome and congratulations from all of us at Positive Directions! Read on to learn more about each team member's experience and commitment behind their work.
Mercedes Escala - Board Member
Positive Directions Board Member Mercedes Escala is a long time IBMer with over 25 years of service. As Vice President of Corporate Citizenship Initiatives for IBM, she makes a positive social impact by inspiring employees to find purpose in what they do. Bringing awareness to Mental Health is a key passion for Mercedes and she has seen first hand the work that Positive Directions is doing in that space. While being interviewed by the board she said, “The work you are doing resonates with my passions and values and this is why I would be honored to join the Board.”
We are very excited to have Mercedes’ expertise and the diversity that she will bring at our table as we continue to grow and learn as an organization. Mercedes is originally from Peru and lived in Chile for 21 years, before moving to the US. She has lived with her husband and daughter in Westport since 2015.
Margaret Watt, MPH, MA - Prevention Director
Margaret joins Positive Directions as Director of Prevention after serving as a regional leader in behavioral health for almost eight years, first as Executive Director of the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board and then as Co-Director of The Hub: Behavioral Health Action Organization for Southwestern CT. In those roles she worked with a wide variety of stakeholders on initiatives to support the integration of mental health and substance use and to improve prevention, treatment and recovery. She also championed statewide and regional efforts on peer support, including TurningPointCT.org (an online community by and for young people in CT), SMART Recovery, and legislation around insurance reimbursement. In recognition of her advocacy work, Margaret was awarded the Policy Leadership Award from the Keep the Promise Coalition.
Margaret brings skills in public health, training, and communications to Positive Directions and working with our Prevention staff will help raise awareness and change behaviors through targeted community outreach. Prior to her career in behavioral health, Margaret worked for 12 years in global health and eight years in education. She received her MPH from UNC/Chapel Hill, her MA in Education from Columbia University, and her BA from Harvard. She is fluent in Spanish and French.
Karlene Barnett, MS - Professional Counselor
As Professional Counselor, Karlene brings to Positive Directions experience with individual and group psychotherapy in Early Childhood, In-Patient and Out-Patient entities. She most recently served as a Clinician at Recovery Counseling Services in Bridgeport - a non-profit counseling agency. She has helped adolescents and adults work through and overcome challenges such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), grief, traumas, and substance abuse. Karlene has also worked in collaboration with Court Officers in assessing clients for mental health disorders and identifying the right approach for treatment.
Working collaboratively with clients to identify goals, Karlene believes that her clients are the most important tool in the healing process. She believes immensely in the Narrative Theory which helps a client to minimize problems and rewrite their lives. In addition to using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Karlene spiritually guides clients in their beliefs and guides them through stages that are important in recovery and realizing full potential.
Karlene graduated with her Masters from the University of Bridgeport and is also the recipient of a Doctorate in Theology. In her spare time, Karlene serves as the Senior Pastor for a growing ministry in Stratford and serves on the Board of Directors for an International Ministry in the Tri-state area. She is devoted to spending quality time with her husband and two children by traveling, going to the movies and enjoying great seafood!
Cathy Hazlett, MPH - Coalition Coordinator
As a community member of the Fairfield CARES Coalition, Cathy has been passionately working in the substance use/misuse prevention field for 18 years making her the perfect talent to take on the role of Coalition Coordinator at Positive Directions. Cathy has directed community coalitions throughout New England leading initiatives to establish tobacco-free/vape-free spaces, advocated for policies to protect youth from drug use, and conducted numerous presentations.
Cathy has a Masters of Public Health in Health Education and is both a Tobacco Treatment Specialist, and a SMART Recovery Facilitator. She helps adults and youth address their addiction to nicotine, marijuana, and/or other substances. Cathy likes to start her day with a morning run, and enjoys just about any outdoor sport. Originally from Pittsburgh, she remains an avid Steelers fan.
Colleen Maloney, MSW - Therapist
Colleen joins Positive Directions with a wealth of experience counseling individuals with severe mental illness as well as years of training and work in complementary somatic therapies including meditation, breathwork, yoga, qi gong, and fascia release training. Colleen utilizes a strengths-based approach incorporating both CBT and Narrative techniques as well as attachment theory in her work. She helps clients find meaning in their current life situations to address problems and create a better future. Her skills include being able to provide empathy and compassion while empowering clients to better understand and help themselves. Colleen also uses mindfulness-based tools, as well as appropriate resources in the community to help clients navigate times of difficulty and distress with adequate support systems.
Colleen has studied extensively on the effects of stress and trauma on the body and received her bachelors from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA. She has her Masters degree in Social Work from Simmons University in Boston, MA. In her spare time, Colleen enjoys hiking, rock climbing, cooking and spending time with family and friends.
Robin Kallman, LCSW - Therapist
Robin Kallman-Hoving, LCSW, joins Positive Directions as Therapist with years of experience providing outpatient psychotherapy for adolescents and adults. She works with patients who struggle with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem. Her primary therapeutic methods are psychodynamic therapy and CBT.
Robin graduated from New York University in 1988 with a Master's degree in Social Work and earned certification in Psychoanalysis and
Psychodynamic therapy from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York City. Robin raised her family and Westport, where she lived for many years.