Addiction Recovery Center
Established in 2009
Locally Owned and Operated
Awaken to Healing in the Desert
Our staff is effective, knowledgeable, highly trained, and adept at working together as a team. And because many members of our core staff have been working together for 5-10 or more years, we have stability and consistency as well. We know our programs, and we know what works.
Richard J. Poppy, MA, LISAC, Owner, Executive Director
Richard Poppy is the founder of Desert Start and a graduate of the University of Washington and Seattle University. He is a Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Arizona and has been involved in substance abuse and mental health treatment for the past 26 years.
Mr. Poppy’s professional involvements include Adjunct Professor ASU School of Social Work, and Arizona BBHE (Board of Behavioral Health Examiners). Richard was involved in the revision of the laws that govern clinical practitioners in the state of Arizona. He also advocates for mental health and addiction treatment at the local and national levels.
Amy Tilley, PsyD, Clinical Director
Amy Tilley graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2007. She is the Clinical Director at Desert Star. She trained in inpatient and outpatient settings in Chicago, IL, working with children, adolescents, families, and adults, and completed her pre- and post-doctoral internship in Tucson, AZ. Dr. Tilley’s clinical interests include working with young adults and adults diagnosed with co-occurring conditions, in outpatient settings, running psycho-educational and process groups, as well as working with clients who have a history of trauma. She is an acupuncturist, and provides this treatment at Desert Star.
Kathryn Owen, BA, Clinic Manager
Kathryn Owen received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She has worked in behavioral health as a case manager for people with serious mental illness and developmental disabilities, and at inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment centers. At Desert Star since the day the doors opened in 2009, she has worked in various positions over the years. Currently, she works in both clinical and administrative roles at Desert Star and maintains our CARF accreditation and insurance contracts. In addition, she writes Desert Star’s monthly newsletter.
James “Jim” McShea, Peer Support, Business Development
After retiring from forty years of service as a law enforcement commander, Jim still values finding ways to help people. Jim’s career spanned many years as a first responder, hostage negotiation supervisor, major offenders unit supervisor, and numerous other assignments as an officer and supervisor. He also worked as a commander for seventeen years of his career in many areas, including several sensitive administrative and specialized assignments.
With a special interest in helping public safety personnel and other professionals obtain treatment, Jim believes that careers, lives and families can be saved and thoroughly enjoyed. Jim knows that confidentiality is vital to first responders and others, and he enjoys assisting people in getting the help they need while alleviating their confidentiality fears. Jim is currently pursuing Substance Abuse Disorder and Employee Assistance Professional certificates.
Judy Hileman, NP, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Judt Hileman draws from a vast and varied experience to improve the mental health and functioning status of Desert Star’s clients. Attending both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, Judy became a nurse practitioner in 1987, before many in the state had ever heard of the profession. She worked and taught in the medical area until 2000, at which time she completed her post master’s degree in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, and has been working in mental health ever since.
Kelly Linebaugh, DNP, Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Kelly has been a psychiatric nurse practitioner since 2002, and received her Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2013. With 16 years of practice in various inpatient and outpatient mental health settings, Kelly approaches mental health care by seeking to fully understand a person’s past and current cumulative stress load (physical, spiritual, and mental) and how this impacts their mental health and ability to cope with stress. From there, she forms collaborative relationships with clients to support and guide their journey to improved mental health.
Liz Canterna Douglass, PhD, Psychologist
Liz Canterna is a clinical psychologist. She has over 25 years of experience in the field of recovery stemming from her work as Director of the Inpatient & Outpatient chemical dependency units at St. Joseph’s hospital in Burbank to being staff psychologist and coordinator of the Assessment and Diagnostic Program at Sierra Tucson Hospital for 15 years. She also has a private practice in Tucson. Liz currently works as a Clinical Psychologist and therapist at Desert Star for all programs.
Dezi Abeyta, RDN, Nutritionist
Dezi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who works with clients in the Mesquite Program and Food for Thought groups to develop healthier, happier relationships with food. In addition to working at Desert Star, Dezi is a passionate entrepreneur and has his own consulting practice, Foodtalk Nutrition. He is also employed as a consulting dietitian to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Nicole Peterson, PhD, Billing Manager
Nicole Peterson has been working with insurance companies and billing since 2015, when she began to specialize in the field of Behavioral Health. She received her PhD in Business Administration in 2018 and continues to pursue ways of advocating for clients with insurance companies.
Norma Vazquez, BA, Meal Tech and Administrative Assistant
Norma Vazquez received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition from the University of Arizona and has worked in multiple eating disorder treatment facilities. Desert Star’s meal tech for 3 years, Norma has now joined the administrative team as well and can usually be found at the front desk, offering compassionate guidance and assistance to clients and staff members. In her free time she continues to work on her career goals.
Wendy Sizer, LCSW, Therapist and certified EMDR Therapist
Wendy Sizer has worked in the field of behavioral health and addiction for 12 years, and has received specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR). Wendy received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State University in 2006 and completed her basic EMDR training in 2009. She became EMDR certified in 2014. Wendy’s affiliation with Desert Star began when DS opened its doors in 2009. Her specialty areas are addiction and trauma, and she is well-versed in 12-Step recovery. Currently Wendy facilitates Oasis and Mariposa program groups.
Vicki Gannon, MS, LISAC, CIP, Therapist
Vicki Gannon has 25+ years of experience in the mental health/substance abuse field. She is an interventionist for her private practice in Tucson. Vicki also works as a therapist in the Oasis Program at Desert Star.
Susan O’Day, MS, ICADC, CMKP, Therapist
Susan O’Day has a Master of Science Degree in Psychology with a specialization in addiction from Capella University. Her special areas of interest are sexual addiction and the ways in which addressing childhood abuse can contribute to recovery from addictive disorders. She started working in this field in 1989, and joined Desert Star after many years of working in residential settings. She also assisted South Pacific Private in NSW, Australia with program and staff development. Susie is experienced in the practice of equine assisted therapy. She has been with Desert Star since 2010, and currently works as a therapist in multiple programs.
Rose Chaboya-Balboa, M.Ed., B.C.C., Therapist
Rose brings her passion and experience working with individuals in early recovery to Desert Star! Rose holds a Bachelor’s degree in Family Studies from the University of Arizona and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Rose blends her bi-cultural heritage and experience in substance abuse treatment and prevention as well as behavioral and mental health diagnoses to the groups she facilitates.
Tony Redhouse, Native American Practitioner
A consultant to Native American communities as well as behavioral health organizations, Tony brings traditional healing such as sound-guided meditation, drumming, and creative arts projects to Desert Star’s gender-specific Friday night groups.
Meira Yaer RN, MA, MFT, LLC, Therapist
Meira grew up in Dallas, Texas. After traveling in the US and Israel exploring land-based communities, she arrived in Eugene, OR and started Opening The Way, INC, a non-profit promoting advocacy and quality of life programming for individuals with traumatic and acquired brain injury.
Meira Yaer is an Artist, Nurse, Marriage & Family Therapist and Author. She helped create the Family Workshop for Desert Star, and continues to enjoy facilitating this workshop for family members of Desert Star clients. She has a private practice and offers in-office sessions as well as equine assisted sessions for her clients.
Stu Jenks, LISAC, BFA, Therapist
Stu Jenks has over 27 years of experience in the chemical dependency field, having worked in residential treatment programs, at outpatient clinics, and detox facilities. Stu is also employed as a free-lance writer, a stock photographer and an ambient musician, having produced fourteen books, six music CDs, and two audio-books. He brings his compassionate knowledge and a healthy sense of humor to his counseling work.
Calley Steel, MA, LAC, NCC, therapist
Calley is a therapist with diverse experience and a special interest in the treatment of eating disorders. Bringing energy and focus to Desert Star’s Mesquite program, Calley also runs groups in other Desert Star programs and provides individual counseling. Additionally, she teaches yoga in the Tucson community.
“The organization has a clear and unwavering commitment to dong the right things for clients.”
“The clinical synergy reportedly experienced by the various referral sources is described as eclectic, individualized, and by no means cookie cutter in design.”
“Without promptings, clients interviewed consistently shared, ‘if it were not for Desert Star, I’d be dead.'”
“The organization’s staff members demonstrate professionalism and pride in the work they do.”
Read more about what the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) has to say.