CooperRiis names two to new executive positions

Published 1:59 pm Monday, December 1, 2014

Debbie O'Neil

Debbie O’Neil

Jennifer Pasternack

Jennifer Pasternack

CooperRiis Healing Community, a nonprofit and residential community that has led over 800 residents on a path to recovery since 2003, has established two new executive leadership positions, serving both the Mill Spring farm and Asheville campuses.

Debbie O’Neil, currently the managing director of the Asheville campus, will assume the new position of chief program officer. Prior to joining CooperRiis, O’Neil led a healthcare division with over 200 staff at Mission Hospital.

Jennifer Pasternack, M.D., Ph.D. will serve as director of psychiatry and will supervise two contract psychiatrists and a team of nurses and other health practitioners.

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O’Neil will oversee the day to day program efficacy and treatment progress of all residents, along with communication with residents’ family members. On average there are a total of 100 residents at any given time on both campuses who are receiving highly individualized care by a team of experts in the fields of counseling, psychiatry, wellness, the arts and community projects.

“My colleagues are accustomed to the unrelenting concern and questions I always have for them about the individuals we treat,” said O’Neil. “It allows me to be very present with the details and always scrutinize what other steps can be taken for the most optimal treatments possible. I am ready for the challenge and am ever-invigorated by the active recoveries we see here everyday. Recovery takes time when done well and for the long term.”

Dr. Pasternack, the new director of psychiatry, has experience in a variety of mental health environments, from the ER to the other behavioral health programs where she collaborated with and oversaw a team of mental health specialists. She received her medical degree and doctorate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and has published over a dozen academic articles on subjects ranging from antidepressants to memory loss.

“Like the CooperRiis program, my approach to working with patients is to rigorously evaluate if an individual is on the right medication for them and not taking any more than is necessary, said Pasternack. “I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of CooperRiis’ approach to mental health treatment.”

“Many individuals have triggers or potentially tumultuous reactions based on past experiences or trauma. Medication management is one of the tools we have for addressing this in order to help clear the way for a person to address other important facets of their lives,” continued Pasternack.

–Submitted by Virgil Stucker