Our Team

Meet Our Team  

Christine Varela Mayer, PhD

Chief Executive Officer
Christine was awarded her Doctorate in Psychology from the School of Behavioral Health and Sciences at Northcentral University, earned her Master of Arts in Behavioral Science at the College of Human Science & Humanities, University of Houston Clear Lake, and received her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Speech Communications at Baylor University.

She is a published author and lecturer, and 2015 Dissertation of the Year Nominee, and is credentialed with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and the Texas Certification Board of Addiction Professionals as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.  Her research endeavors include the study of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms of depression and somatization as moderators to academic self-concept theory; stigma and barriers to care among Army Combat Medics; and pre-existing risk and enhancing protective factors of Army soldier medics during training.  

From a clinical perspective, she has considerable experience facilitating group, individual, dialectical/cognitive behavioral, and brief therapies.  She appreciates a client-centered approach and holds fast to the premise that a climate of unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuine compassion enhances an individual’s ability to reach a more congruent view of self that, when coupled with a supportive therapeutic relationship, can lead to insight and lasting change. 

Christine is a member of the American Psychological Association; Texas Psychological Association; NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals; and Texas Association of Addiction Professionals.  She is passionate about arts, culture, and sciences in the diverse and beautiful city of San Antonio, and is delighted with the opportunity to join the incredible team at Blue Heron Recovery in redefining recovery and changing lives through community.

Paul Tillson Mayer, MD

Medical Director

Dr. Mayer graduated from The United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, earned a Doctor of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, completed post-doctoral Transitional Internship at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, completed Emergency Medicine Residency at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, and completed Fellowship in Government Emergency Medical Security at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. 

He also earned his Executive Master of Business Administration from Benedictine College while concurrently attending US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Dr. Mayer served as a US Regular Army Medical Corp officer and has completed multiple combat medical deployments.  He served as Medical Chief of Staff at the 31st Combat Support Hospital at Camp Bucca, Iraq, Chief of the Combat Support Hospital at the 67th Combat Support Hospital in Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, and Officer in Charge of Clinic/Flight Surgeon Multinational Force & Observers in Sinai, Egypt. His military awards include Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Order of Military Medical Merit, NATO Metal, Multinational Force and Observer Medal, and Humanitarian Service Medal.

Dr. Mayer retired from the United States Army as a Colonel in 2015 after having served as Director of the US Army Emergency Medical Systems Programs and Director of the Department of Combat Medic Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  He is Board Certified with the American Board of Emergency Medicine and has garnered successful executive experience through positions leading medical, training, and customer service organizations.  Additionally, Dr. Mayer has been actively involved in numerous research projects and authored or co-authored medical publications on various areas of research. In addition, he is frequently an invited presenter and guest speaker for trauma management, tactical combat casualty care, and battlefield medicine at national medical conferences and symposiums.

Currently, Dr. Mayer is the Medical Director at Full Spectrum ER and Urgent Care in San Antonio, serves as Adjunct Faculty at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, and is an Instructor for the Air Force Ground Surgical Team Training, Medical Readiness Training Center at Camp Bullis, Texas.  His expertise in serving a variety of populations within a wide range of need will be an invaluable asset to our recovery community and we at Blue Heron Recovery are grateful to have him on the team. 

Hallye Swoboda, LVN

Director of Operations

Hallye’s vast experience in administration, leadership, staff management, training, and direct patient care has spanned well over a decade. Her expertise with detoxification, medication management, and patient education comes from working with diverse patient populations as both an administrator and nurse in medical and substance treatment centers.

Hallye honed her skills in Continuous Quality Improvement plans, admissions utilization review, and human resources while developing and delivering training materials, medication administration, and other safety procedures to ensure compliance with departmental policies at various institutions. 

After earning her Licensed Vocational Nursing degree at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, Hallye served as LVN/Staff Nurse at both Cenikor Foundation in Waco, Texas and Starlite Recovery Center in Center Point, Texas.  She developed expertise in systematic improvement measures, ongoing development, and advancement of accreditation during her tenure as Compliance Officer and Director of Nursing at The Ranch at Clear Springs in Aquilla Texas.

Hallye has exceptional experience in patient care, planning, directing coordinating and carrying out program procedures including staff acquisition and training, EMR development, facility medical protocol development and initiation, instrumental initial facility licensing and accreditation, and continual compliance monitoring in accordance with DSHS and Joint Commission/CARF standards. 

Blue Heron Recovery is immensely fortunate to have Hallye Swoboda serve as Director of Operations.  Our staff and clients are grateful for the dedication she brings to the development of the company and betterment of treatment services for our recovery community.

Cristal England, MA, LCDC

Program Director

Cristal England holds dual Masters Degrees, having earned her Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and her Master of Art in Education from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Additionally, she is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. She also holds professional certifications in Crisis Intervention, Special Education, and is a member of the American Psychological Association.

A wide breadth of experience, Cristal has provided crisis intervention and counseling, chaired group counseling sessions, and coordinated a variety of client programs to support her clients’ healing.  She has gained impressive working knowledge and experience in addresses chemical use and dependency issues with motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and strengths-based therapies in a variety of programs at the San Antonio State Hospital, the San Antonio State Police Department, San Antonio Treatment Center, and also in private inpatient and outpatient settings.  Cristal is committed to respecting her clients unconditionally, with positive regard, acceptance, and empathic understanding.

Blue Heron Recovery is grateful to have Cristal England join the team as Program Director.  In addition to meeting with clients individually and chairing group therapies, Cristal’s deeply caring and creative programs include facilitating a weekly psychoeducational family dinner and hosting regular member events to support clients and their families, and augment the recovery community’s opportunities for fraternity and fellowship in their journeys to healthier and more productive lives.

Bruce Cooper, LCDC

Chemical Dependency Counselor

For over three decades, Bruce Cooper, Navy Veteran, has been a counselor and administrative professional involved in both the non-profit and for-profit areas of the field of chemical dependency. He is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, National Certified Addiction Counselor II, Certified Clinical Supervisor, Certified Criminal Justice Addiction Professional, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Certified Advance Addiction Counselor, Certified First Responder Counselor, and most importantly, Bruce says, he has been in recovery since January 6, 1984.

Additionally, he has served on several local Boards of Directors including the Adult Probation Advisory Board, The Texas Certification Board of Addiction Professionals, Texas Association of Addiction Counselors, and the Bishops Committee on Drug Abuse.

Bruce brings a wealth of knowledge, acceptance, understanding and empathy to the Blue Heron Recovery program and it is a privilege to have him on our team.

Valentin de la Torre, BS

Wellness Instructor

Valentin has a wealth of knowledge in the field of physical health and wellness. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology; Exercise Science from the University of Texas, San Antonio and has great hands-on experience with dietary and nutritional assessments, physical therapy, and fitness and wellness implementation with a variety of programs throughout San Antonio.

A personal fitness instructor, Valentin is able to assess range of motion performance, develop and design personal periodization exercises, and advice clients on sound biomechanics and movements.  His experience in physical therapy and creating exercise modalities appropriate for client’s specific needs will allow for active promotion of health and wellness with patrons at all levels of physical activity.

In addition to exercise physiology and fitness instruction, Valentin has great experience in nutrition and dietary health to include a Cap Stone Internship and three subsequent years’ experience as Director of Operations in the food service industry.  Additionally, he has collaborated in the development of recipes through health and wellness initiatives within the San Antonio community, participated in product development of dietary baked goods, and remains on staff at Fork and Garden Catering where he is responsible for operations, client engagement, creation of nutritional cooking classes, and custom events.

Blue Heron Recovery is excited that Valentin De La Torre will oversee the development and implementation of the Blue Heron Health and Wellness program which will include a daily physical exercise component, healthy meals, and special events. We are fortunate to have him on the team.

Josefina Beatriz Longoria, MA

Joy Workshop Lecture Series Instructor

An accomplished author, editorial columnist, radio commentator, and television correspondent, Josefina earned her Masters of Arts in Organizational Development and Bachelors of Arts in Communication from Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico. In addition, she recently earned a second Masters of Arts in Creative Writing from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio Texas. After graduating from The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry New York, she attended workshops at Harvard University in Boston and the Center of Fashion Design Studies in New York City.

She also studied French Civilization at La Sorbonne in Paris, participated in film script workshops at the Cultural Institute of Nuevo Leon, and completed a “Contemporary Mexico” program at Colegio de Mexico.  She has authored an impressive collection of works including “The Journalist Writer” for the University of Monterrey and was also the chosen author for “Through her Eyes”, anthology of Mexican American Writers.

Josefina’s list of editorial contributions spans several years with several journals including El Manana, Milenio Diario de Monterrey, and Diario de Nuevo Laredo. She has been author, editor, and ghost writer for various works published in El Norte, was Aid to the International Press, commentator for the radio program Diario del Aire, guest of Don Francisco in the televised debate for Sabado Gigante, commentator for the news shows Buenos Dias and Infosiete, Television Azteca, and news correspondent for NOTIMEX, Mexican News Agency in Los Angeles CA.   Josefina has also served as Public Relations Representative with Museo de Monterrey and is now a docent at the McNay Art Museum. A former student of the Southwest School of the Arts, painting is one of her hobbies.

Additionally, Josefina has published her own memoir, “Uproot” after participating in the Writer’s workshop with Mary Karr in Patmos, Greece, and has been serving her local San Antonio community as a member of the Board of Directors for several organizations including Hemisfair Conservancy, Gemini Ink, and The World Affairs Council. 

We are delighted and honored to have Josefina Beatriz Longoria join the Blue Heron Recovery team. Her infectious enthusiasm and insatiable thirst for knowledge will be an inspiration to us all as she spearheads the Blue Heron Lecture Series with her very own Joy Workshop.

 

Fred Reichert

Recovery Advocate

A United States Navy veteran whose most recent experience with Austin Recovery Center and Nova Recovery Center as Commissary Chef and Recovery Advocate, respectively, Fred Reichert has been afforded great opportunities to hone his skills in treatment program stewardship. His successes in areas of customer relations and crisis interventions, and his consummate professionalism is greatly valued by the Blue Heron Recovery team.

With a wide breadth of experience in project, team, and organizational management, Fred Reichert has more than two decades of expertise in engineering, integration and testing, tracking communications, satellite construction and In-Orbit testing and project support. His experience with building and supervising the installation of one of the country’s largest Earth Stations with Echostar/Dish Network, serving as Lead Test Engineer supporting projects, integration, testing, and data review with Lockheed Martin lend a great deal of confidence in his professionalism and ability to work well under pressure.

 We are delighted to have Fred Reichert join Blue Heron Recovery and are certain his many talents will be well appreciated by both staff and client alike.

Samantha Elizondo

Recovery Advocate

Rebecca Edwards

Utilization Review Specialist

Liane Melendez

Billing Specialist

I was born in Houston Tx, and lived the past few decades in Waco, with my two now college kids. I’m currently sharing my happily ever after in a small rural town with my Husband Joe, now retired from USMC and our 8 rescue & Foster Fail fur babies. We cherish spending time with our family and working on our property, currently we have 10 brilliant red 10 antique yellow exuberantly blooming rose bushes.

 Along with a vast collection of other flowering plants, we are in the process of building our greenhouse, dirt therapy is a real thing Y’all!! After working in the health care insurance industry for over a decade, I have settled into the SA/CD treatment. The rehabilitation aspect has been influential in my professional life for 5 years now, focusing  on working directly with the insurance, billing and claim reviewing process. Finally, I am able feel purpose and fulfillment in a career that is truly centered on client care and the overall health

George Lamson

Artist

George Elta Lamson credits his 22-year military career
(with the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force) for extensive
opportunities to live and travel throughout the world. Experiencing
parts of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and the
Caribbean has given him images that daily influence his art.

After his military career, he studied watercolor painting in the southwestern United States, printmaking in Italy and received a Fine Arts Degree with concentration on oil painting from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He was active in the art community of San Antonio where he owned an art gallery, taught painting classes and supervised an arts and crafts center. He spent five years as an arts and crafts director in Misawa, Japan where he met his wife, Sharon Wylie who was teaching for the Department of Defense. They moved to Okinawa where their lives revolved around school and art. George’s art expressed his special bond with the people and natural beauty of Okinawa and Japan.

The couple retired in San Antonio where George divides his time between studio and plein air painting. He is a member of the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, Outdoor Painters Society, the Texas Watercolor Society, San Antonio Art League and is active with local plein art groups. Visit his website at www.GeorgeLamson.com

Blue Heron recovery is delighted that George Lamson will lead the visual arts classes. An integral part of the program, George’s experience, insight, and creativity will undoubtedly be a constant source of enjoyment for staff and clients alike.  Keep an eye out for our upcoming arts exhibitions!

Angela Caporale

Violinist

Angela brings a wealth of experience to Blue Heron Recovery’s therapeutic music program. She earned her Bachelor of Music, Violin Performance, at the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music (CCM). While there, she studied chamber music with the Tokyo String Quartet and studied violin with Dorothy Delay and Naoko Tanaka.

Her post graduate training includes a position in the New World Symphony in Miami Beach after which she was awarded a professional position in the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon in Valladolid, Spain. 

Angela has been a member of the San Antonio Symphony for more than two decades. Before moving to San Antonio, she earned a principal position with the Dallas Opera Orchestra. Since then, Angela has also been a member of San Antonio Opera Orchestra, has taught at the University of the Incarnate Word, and has maintained a private studio where she has taught a great number of students who share her passion and enthusiasm for the violin.  

As a member of the Blue Heron Recovery team, she will share her remarkable gift of music, the benefits of which have been empirically shown to improve heart rate, reduce anxiety, stimulate the brain, and improve learning.  We are incredibly fortunate to have Angela Caporale join our team at Blue Heron Recovery.  Her undeniable professionalism and graceful demeanor will greatly enhance the deeply restorative atmosphere of the recovery program. 

Iverson Brownell, BS, CEC

Certified Executive Chef and Professional Caterer

Chef Iverson’s passion for food and adventure has taken him on a delicious, soul-inspiring journey for more than 20 years. A true Southern gentleman, he grew up in South Carolina and graduated from Johnson and Wales University with a degree in Culinary Arts and Food and Beverage Management. His experience in the culinary industry includes food design and creation as well as wellness education.

Notably, his catering company was one of the top caters of the illustrious Sundance Film Festival for ten years and he served as one of the chefs for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. 

In addition, he co stared on ESPN2’s Offshore Adventures and American Gundog. He was thrilled to bring his vast knowledge and culinary expertise to Texas, a place that has captured his heart and inspired his palate, partnering in the business CanSurvive Cuisine cansurvivecuisine.com.

Blue Heron Recovery is proud to partner with Iverson Bromwell and his fabulous team to bring healthy, delicious meals to our clients who attend the daily program, weekly family dinners, and special events.  He and his team currently own and operate Fork and Garden Catering and Events, based out of the beautiful Los Patios. forkandgarden.com