Maui News

Maui Behavioral Health Resources’ New Staff Hires, Organizational Changes

July 19, 2021, 8:15 AM HST
* Updated July 19, 11:26 AM
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Maui Behavioral Health Resources

Maui Behavioral Health Resources, Maui’s largest nonprofit provider of substance use and mental health treatment services, announces several new staffing positions and organizational changes. Organization leaders say the changes were implemented to “meet the rising need of substance abuse treatment and mental health services due to the pandemic.”

“These changes will strongly benefit our clients, as we have staff with excellent experience who can now better utilize their skills and expertise in their new roles,” said Jud Cunningham, CEO of MBHR. “During the pandemic we saw where our staff shined the most, and we want to build on these strengths going forward.”

Dr. Lisa Ponichtera, PhD, LMFT, CSAC was formerly the Clinical Director at Malama Family Recovery Center, where she oversaw agency operations and staffing. Now, she will serve as Clinical Director for the three partner agencies, which include Aloha House and Maui Youth & Family Services, allowing her to use her clinical expertise to assist staff in how to best serve clients.

Dr. Ponichtera grew up on Molokai and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from the University of Hawaii, Manoa and her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Argosy University. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Saybrook University and is a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has worked with women and families struggling with drug addiction since 2004.

Taking the helm at MFRC in her place is newly appointed program director Serlinda Sukoun. Sukoun began with MFRC in 2007 as a Program Assistant and later was promoted to Counselor, and then Program Director. She grew up on the island of Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Human Relations in Organization from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and is also a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor, and a certified Community Health Worker.

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She has experience working with pregnant and parenting women, gender-specific substance abuse treatment, group processing and counseling, and utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.  Sukoun is a bi-lingual speaker (English and Pohnpeian). Her passion is to help women see that as long as they have breath, there is hope for healing from their addiction.

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Donna “Kupono” Rivera Lucero, LCSW, CSAC, a counselor at MFRC, will now serve as Cultural Liaison for MBHR partner agencies, in addition to providing some counseling services. Rivera Lucero is a native to Maui. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences with a minor in Addiction Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at West Oʻahu and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

During her graduate studies, Rivera Lucero was accepted into the Hawaiian Learning Program where she had her inoa ceremony and where she reconnected to her native roots, igniting her passion to pursue her sense of self and sense of place as a Native Hawaiian wahine. Kupono has worked in the human services field for over 25 years and first started with Aloha House Drug Court Services as a Counselor in 2007, primarily providing In-custody treatment, and later transferred to MFRC in 2009. 

In her role as Cultural Liaison, she will assist the partner agencies with integrating aina-based therapy, Hawaiian values and practices, and working with cultural practitioners in the community. She will also continue to support MFRC as the SAMSHA Grant Counselor to enrich program services.

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Peter DeMichele, CPA has been promoted to Director of Finance. DeMichele has over 30 years of experience as a licensed CPA, and has been licensed in Hawaiʻi since 1993. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Arizona State University. Previous to being promoted to Director of Finance, he has served in the role of Senior Accountant/Controller.

DeMichele’s primary duties include preparing the monthly and annual financial statements for the MBHR partner agencies and assisting with the preparation and completion of the annual financial statement audits and tax returns prepared by external CPAs. DeMichele has served and held leadership positions on various nonprofit Boards including the Doris Todd Christian Academy School Board, Condo Council of Maui, and Basketball Maui. He joined MBHR in October 2015.

Maui Behavioral Health Resources is an umbrella organization of three nonprofit agencies: Aloha House, Mālama Family Recovery Center, and Maui Youth & Family Services. All three agencies seek to provide mental health and substance use disorder treatment to Maui residents.

After operating independently for many years, the three agencies merged in 2008 to share and maximize their expertise, reduce overhead costs and eliminate service duplication. Together, the three agencies provide services to nearly 8,000 individuals in the Maui community each year.

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