Our Team

Offering Compassionate, Individualized Care

A caring staff is an essential ingredient to a successful and long-lasting recovery. Our addiction care team is composed of highly credentialed experts and experienced at understanding all the nuances of substance abuse and addiction recovery. At Unity Behavioral Health, our staff is attentive, understanding and accommodating. We know that each patient requires individualized care, and we work tirelessly to build our treatment strategies around each patient’s specific needs. The compassionate touch that our staff offers enables us to communicate with our patients more closely and to more effectively determine their recovery needs.

Jason Ackner – CEO / Founder

In 2008, Jason realized that he enjoyed what he was doing in Real Estate Development but really wanted to make a difference in the world by helping those in need. Jason found a natural calling in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation business due to family history of struggles along with a deep personal passion. Jason quickly realized that the existing rehab industry had great room for improvement in the quality and type of services that were provided at the time.

Jason believes that if you always do the right thing, no matter what; that God will take care of the rest. He is a proud father of 6 wonderful children and is an advocate both locally and nationally for those that are unable to help themselves. Jason frequently does charity throughout the year and strives to be able to give away more of what he has been so blessed to receive.

Joseph C. Monastra – B.E.,  M.ED, LMHC(I) – Chief Operating Officer

Joseph C. Monastra has been chief operating officer for Unity Behavioral Health since April 2016. He is responsible for all operations functions, which encompasses oversight of non-clinical functions, including dietary, environment of care, health information management, human resources, purchasing and contract administration. Joseph has more than 24 years of executive management experience working within the addiction treatment and behavioral health sectors.

Joseph is also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and in addition to extensive education in finance and business administration, holds a Master of Education in mental health counseling from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and a Bachelor of Engineering in electrical engineering and computer science from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Dr. Mark Hernandez – Medical Director

Dr. Hernandez received his medical degree from the Instituto Technologico de Santo Domingo, in the Dominican republic in 1989, at the age of 24.  In 1990 he came to the United States and worked his way up from crisis counselor to administrator at a community mental health center, supervising over 300 employees, while preparing for medical exams. After passing medical exams he completed his residency program in psychiatry at Jackson Memorial Hospital, University of Miami in 2002, and was Chief Resident in Psychiatry from 2001 to 2002.

Soon after graduation, Dr. Hernandez had three different private practices and gained much experience in diagnosing and treating adults as well as geriatrics with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, psychotic disorders, and other psychiatric conditions. Dr. Hernandez also has vast experience in the field of substance abuse.  He has been medical director at multiple programs since 2002; developing tremendous experience in dual diagnosis treatment of clients with substance abuse related disorders, including detoxification treatment for multiple substances.

Alan Stevens – Executive Vice President Of Marketing And Outreach MSW,LSW,ACSW

Alan Stevens has worked in Behavioral Health for 43 years. He started as a Mental Health Technician right out of college and worked his way up to CEO of Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Masters in Social Work. He has been licensed since 1989 when states first started to license social workers. He was part of the initial push by NASW to obtain licensure for social workers in the state of PA.

Alan has vast training and experience both clinically and in marketing. He successfully opened and ran Eugenia Day Treatment Center, a Mental Health PHP and licensed private school modeled after Mill Creek School of the University of Penn. He built one of the original call centers 20 years ago in Pennsylvania and also advocated for the task force in Florida to clean up the Addiction Industry.  He has worked extensively in Psychiatric Hospitals and Dual diagnosis residential drug and alcohol treatment centers equally and interned at Horsham Clinic under the direction of a group of doctors trained at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Stacy Ackner – Executive Director

After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Florida, Stacy began working at Unity in 2009. Starting in Community Outreach, then transitioning to Director of Operations and managing the Admissions team, Stacy quickly began to develop a strength for identifying client needs and ensuring that each and every client received an extraordinary treatment experience. As the Executive Director, Stacy takes tremendous pride in the atmosphere that has been built here at Unity. Continually seeking to evolve and improve Unity is one of Stacy’s primary objectives.

Dr. Karen Dodge, PhD, MSPH, MSW – Executive Director of Neuro Behavioral Services

Dr. Dodge is the Director of NeuroRehabilitation at Unity Behavioral Health

She is also Research Faculty at the Charles E. Schmidt School of Science; Department of Complex Systems and Brain Sciences.

Dr. Dodge’s work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed Journals, most recently, Nature: Genetics. (2018), Journal of Addictive Disorders and their treatment (2017), Journal of Drug Issues (2012), Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment Prevention and Policy (2016), the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment (2011), and John’s Hopkins Journal of Health for the Poor and Underserved (2009).

Dr. Dodge has conducted and published pioneering studies in the specific areas of The Effectiveness of Female-Sensitive Substance Abuse Treatment as compared to Traditional Mixed Gender Models.  The impact of Therapist Client Congruence on Chemical Dependency Treatment Outcomes and Why HIV Women of Color Who are Substance Abusers and Aware of their HIV Status elect not to seek Primary Health Care or Substance Abuse Treatment. This work has yielded ground breaking changes in the treatment delivery for chemically dependent females as evidenced by a local provider; The Orchids treatment procedures.

Commencing in 2012, Dr. Dodge was the Co-Principal investigator of a five year study collaborating with the University of Miami, Scripts Research Institute and the University of New Mexico’s Mind Research Network to examine the interface between non-coding RNA’s and brain images (SPECT scans) to diagnosis addiction and develop novel therapeutics to address such diagnosis. Finally, these blood bio markers and SPECT images are being explored as Prognosticative tools to predict relapse.

Current, Dr. Dodge is in partnership as a co-investigator, with Drs. Paul Kenny and Alexander Smith from Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine on a NIH R21 to investigate the intersect between non-coding mRNAs (genetics) and brain function &efficiency.               

Theresa Hasselt-Zechman LCSW, CAP – Executive Clinical Director

After receiving a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University, Theresa attained licensure in the State of New York and in the State of Florida.  Throughout her career, Theresa has worked with a diverse population, treating individuals suffering from addiction, mental health disorders, eating disorders, trauma and stage of life issues.  Theresa has experience as a Therapist, Clinical Supervisor and Program Director and utilizes a client centered approach, motivational interviewing and empowerment counseling to assist clients with a well-rounded and comprehensive treatment approach.

David Gibbs – Clinical Director LMHC, CAP

David as the Clinical Director joins the Unity Team with more than 25 plus years of experience in the field of mental health and addiction.   David is Licensed Mental Health Counselor as well as a Certified Addiction Professional.  David’s approach, is one that is dynamic and creative. More importantly, David uses a practical solution focused approach to bring about the greatest opportunity for change for the client’s he serves.  This creative solution focused approach is reflected in his self-published book Humbug to Happiness; Breaking the Chains of the Past.

David has joined Unity as a result of the affinity espoused within the treatment vision and Unity’s mission to provide superior client care. A philosophy that embraces and encourages all the advancements made in the field of addiction today that promote recovery for all clients.   An approach that addresses the mind, body and spirit of an individual by bridging the traditional message of the 12 step program, evidenced-based practices, and the researched efficacy of neuro science.  This unique approach, can and will bring about long – term change.

Ralph Manning, LMHC – Primary Therapist

Client-centered, evidenced-based therapist with a military, construction professional, and ministerial background driven by a passion to help my fellow man overcome the difficulties which occur often in life. These difficulties often include substance abuse/dependence, mood and anxiety disorders, and suicidal behaviors, which are my chosen areas of interest because of their impact on individuals and their families. I completed MA degree in Clinical Psychology at Union College and a Chemical Dependency Counselor Certification program. I have experience working inpatient and outpatient psychiatric centers, all levels of care in substance/dual diagnoses treatment centers (Detox, residential, PHP, IOP, and OP).

Barbara Irizarry, RN – Director of Nursing

Barbara Irizarry, RN, Director of Nursing at Unity Behavioral Health. She has been practicing nursing for over 20 years and has an extensive background as a director and licensing consultant in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health treatment field.

Jennifer Bruk – ARNP

Jennifer Bruk is a Nurse Practitioner who is qualified and certified to practice in both primary care and psychiatry; diagnose, treat and prescribe medication for children, adolescents, and adults. She has over 23 years of nursing experience in primary care, oncology, and community nursing. For the last five years she has practiced in the field of addiction medicine. Some of her practice specialties include (but not limited to) ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Alex Martinez – Director of Client Services

Alex Martinez joined Unity in 2017 bringing over 25 years of customer service skills. Prior to joining Unity, Alex spent three years with the Law firm of Fowler White in Tampa as the Manager of Office Services where he was responsible for the day to day client services including account management, solution delivery, customer support, and training for the company’s department. Alex acts as a liaison between clients and families along with the Unity Staff making sure that the lines of communication are open. Customer service is an integral part of Unity’s values. “I am excited in my role of Director of Client Services at Unity. Over the course of my career my primary goal is to ensure the quality and effectiveness of services being delivered to positively impact the success of my clients” Alex said. Alex strives to build trust and strong long term relationships with Unity Clients and Alumni.