Meet the Team

At Banyan, we stand as a leader in providing growth through recovery by having only the most qualified team behind the mission. Our highly experienced staff know exactly how to treat each and every client because several key members of the Banyan clinical team have gone through their own personal trials of addiction and recovery. The Banyan tree not only stands as a symbol for us, but it is a philosophy. You are able to grow through your recovery process with a strong community set in place from our team here at all of our nationwide facilities.

Banyan Chicago Team

David Tews, Ed.D, LCPC, CADC

Executive Director
David Tews, Ed.D, LCPC, CADC

Executive Director

David Tews, Ed.D., LCPC, CADC has been in the helping profession for over 20 years. He has worked in a variety of settings specializing in the treatment of substance use disorders. Dr. Tews got his start as a volunteer at a community center in Sarasota, Florida providing pre- and post-test services for individuals interested in HIV testing. While working on his addictions certification and master’s degree he worked in halfway houses, recovery homes, treatment centers, and clinics. He has also taught addictions and other mental health courses at local colleges and universities. Dr. Tews serves on the Illinois Advisory Council on Alcohol and other Drugs while advocating for those in need of substance abuse treatment.

• Substance Use Disorders
• Mental Health Issues
• Community Outreach/Advocacy
• Public Relations

James Cunnar, M.D.

Medical Director
James Cunnar, M.D.

Medical Director

James Cunnar M.D. did his undergraduate training at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Illinois in 1990. He completed his medical education at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in 1994. His residency training was performed at Memorial Hospital, South Bend, Indiana, after which he became board certified in Family Practice in 1997. Dr. Cunnar’s clinical interests include adolescent care, adult wellness, and diabetes. Dr. Cunnar is actively involved within the greater community of family physicians on both the national and state level. Dr. Cunnar resides in Aurora.

Dr. Cunnar is brings an enthusiastic approach to the collaborative model of treatment Banyan champions.

Jessica

Jessica Alvarez

Intake Supervisor
Jessica
Jessica Alvarez

Intake Supervisor

Jessica started her journey to recovery in 2009. Jessica’s path led her to work with several foundations as an advocate for those who struggle with addiction. She continues to be heavily involved with the local recovery community, advocating for those in need of resources. As co-founder to the 516 Light Foundation, Jessica speaks publicly at community forums, facilitates family events, and gives presentations at local high schools and colleges where she provides resources and education on addiction and recovery. Additionally, Jessica works closely with the Governor, Congress, and local police – Naperville’s Connect for Life program to raise awareness about addiction and bring resources to the community.

Jessica first came to Banyan Treatment Centers in May of 2016 as an Admissions Coordinator. After showing her dedication and strong work ethic, Jessica was promoted to Chicago’s Intake Supervisor, which allows her to fulfill her passion by helping individuals and families who suffer from drug addiction through the admissions process.

Vanessa

Vanessa Whitnell, LCPC, CADC, CCTP

Clinical Director
Vanessa
Vanessa Whitnell, LCPC, CADC, CCTP

Clinical Director

Vanessa has been passionate about working with individuals who struggle with substance use disorders since her undergraduate days at the University of Missouri where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology. There she did specialized education, training, and research in addiction and addictive behaviors. Vanessa went on to earn her Master’s degree in community counseling at DePaul University with an emphasis in addiction treatment. During her graduate career, Vanessa gained experience working with the substance use disorder and eating disorder populations. Vanessa has also recently obtained her Certified Clinical Trauma Professional certification.

Since Vanessa joined the team at Banyan Treatment Center Chicago in August 2016, she has served as a Primary Therapist and Quality Assurance while receiving training in DBT and Trauma as well as becoming a published author in strengths-based counseling. Having both the clinical understanding and compassion for patients as well as the ever-searching drive to promote a safe and supportive atmosphere for continued growth, Vanessa is prepared and humbled to serve as the Clinical Director for Banyan Chicago.

Heidi Wagner, APN, FNP-BC

Nurse Practitioner
Heidi Wagner, APN, FNP-BC

Nurse Practitioner

Heidi was born and raised in the Chicago area and recently started with us in the nurse practitioner role. She graduated with her Masters of Science degree in nursing from the nurse practitioner program at Lewis University in 2015. Prior to becoming a nurse practitioner she worked in a variety of nursing fields including medical-surgical, home health, hospice, case management and behavioral health nursing.

Prior to coming to Banyan Treatment Center, Heidi worked as a nurse practitioner in a long-term care behavioral health facility where she cared for many dual diagnosis patients. Heidi performs medical and mental health assessments and treats immediate problems that arise with patients while in treatment. Heidi has always been interested in the sciences and in helping people.

• Medical Nursing 30 years
• Mental Health care provider 8 years
• Education of staff, patients and families
• Discharge planning and case management
• Medical and mental health referrals

Don Mitckess

Don Mitckess

Director of Business Development IL
Don Mitckess
Don Mitckess

Director of Business Development IL

Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Don has worked very hard to get to where he is in the addiction treatment field. He has a Masters degree in Counseling from Northern Illinois University and a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Theater from Loyola University of Chicago. Don is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Reciprocal Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and a Certified Student Assistance Professional. He started in the addiction field in 1993 as a Substance Abuse Counselor at a community agency in Southern Maryland. Since then his passion for this field has grown immensely. Don is proud to be able to help people during the worst time in their lives. He can go to bed every night knowing he has made a difference in the lives of others. As the new Director of Business Development for Banyan Treatment Center in Chicago, Don hopes to continue his passion of helping those who struggle with addiction.

Paige Coleman

Paige Coleman

Family Services Coordintator
Paige Coleman
Paige Coleman

Family Services Coordintator

Growing up between Chicago and South Florida, Paige has unfortunately had a lot of firsthand experience with addiction. She faced tremendous losses of her brother, sister and best friend to addiction, and through the pain has grown extremely passionate about helping people who are struggling themselves.

Paige started her journey in the recovery field in 2012 when she ran a sober living facility, before moving on to work in outpatient facilities in business development, admissions positions, and now family services. Having experienced such immense losses of her loved ones, Paige is passionate about helping not only those who are struggling, but their families too.

Paige is a valued member of the Family Services Department and holds the title of Family Services Coordinator. She communicates with all families for our Lake Worth, Chicago, and Gilman locations.

Brad Gerke

Brad Gerke

Director of Operations
Brad Gerke
Brad Gerke

Director of Operations

Brad Gerke has been working in the field of addiction recovery for nearly ten years and currently serves as the Director of Operations at Banyan Chicago. He has been part of the Banyan family since 2015, when the facility opened. Brad is heavily involved in the local recovery community, advocating for those in need of resources. He is a DuPage County HOPE Taskforce Appointee and works closely with the Naperville Connect for Life program, a number of 501c3 foundations, and joins state legislature for various round tables. Additionally, Brad speaks publicly at community forums, facilitates family events, and gives presentations at local high schools and colleges where he provides information, education, and resources on addiction and recovery. Brad believes in meeting patients where they are at in their lives to aid in their recovery journeys and values working with a team of dedicated professionals who give their all to enable their patients’ success.

Lauren Mason headshot

Lauren Mason, BA, CADC

Therapist
Lauren Mason headshot
Lauren Mason, BA, CADC

Therapist

Lauren obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and has a CADC (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor) in the state of Illinois. She started her career as a Therapist at a non-profit in Joliet, Illinois in 2015. Lauren has been a Therapist at Banyan Chicago since September of 2017 and played a crucial role in developing out the evening Intensive Outpatient Program. She has a passion for helping those with substance use disorders and consistently demonstrates an ability to connect with her patients and create a collaborative relationship built on trust, respect, and a genuine desire to see them succeed. Lauren plans on completing her Master’s in Social Work in the spring of 2020.

Donny Mrozek II

Donald L. Mrozek II, BA, CADC

Therapist
Donny Mrozek II
Donald L. Mrozek II, BA, CADC

Therapist

Originally planning to be an attorney, Donald “Donny” Mrozek left law school to pursue a career in counseling. Donny has a passion for working with people struggling with substance use disorders. Donny obtained his Certified Alcohol and Drug Certificate (CADC) in 2016 and is currently working on his Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. His career began as a therapist at a treatment center in Naperville, Illinois, where he gained experience in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Donny was hired at Banyan Chicago in October 2017 as a Therapist in our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). He believes that effective treatment requires a strong relationship between patient and therapist, and strives to empower his patients to make the changes they need to succeed. Donny utilizes a person centered style and has experience incorporating CBT, 12-Step Recovery, and SMART Recovery into his therapeutic approach.

Lauren Connolly

National Director of Patient Accounts
Lauren Connolly

National Director of Patient Accounts

Lauren was born and raised on Long Island in New York. She attended community college, as well as business school and majored in Business Administration. Lauren began her career in New York City in 1994 where she worked as a Financial Analyst for two of the largest NY Direct Marketing agencies for over 20 years.

In 2013, Lauren relocated to Wellington, FL and pursued a career in the treatment industry. Since 2015, Lauren has been the Director of Finance at Banyan Treatment. Lauren works with the clients and their families to help create affordable payment plans for treatment. She assists with cash or self pay clients and helps families navigate through the financial process to ensure they understand their payment options and what is best depending on their situation.

Mark Tanner Ellis

Mark Tanner Ellis

Alumni Coordinator
Mark Tanner Ellis
Mark Tanner Ellis

Alumni Coordinator

Mark Tanner Ellis is the Alumni Coordinator for Banyan Chicago and Banyan Heartland. He started his employment for Banyan four years ago as Behavioral Health Technician at the Pompano Beach location. After some time, Tanner and his family moved to the state of Illinois and he received the position of Alumni Coordinator. Tanner has experienced struggles with addiction himself, and now as an addict in recovery, takes pride in doing the best he can to help those that are still struggling.