Consultant Biographies

Paul Alves, CARC, NCPRSS, MAPGS | Peer Consultant

Paul Alves is a Massachusetts state-certified addictions recovery coach, as well as a nationally-certified peer recovery support specialist through the National Association for Addiction Professionals. His experience spans the continuum of care, and he has guided individuals in prevention as a drinking driver program instructor, in treatment as a substance abuse counselor in a co-occurring medication-assisted treatment program, and in recovery maintenance as a peer recovery coach.

Paul is a person in long-term recovery from substance use disorder, food addiction, and mental health affliction. He has been working at the COE as a peer consultant since 2018 and believes that with a positive attitude and contemporary perspective, all individuals have the ability to recover.

Valeria Chambers, CPS, EdM, CAS  |  Peer Consultant

Valeria Chambers is the founder of Black Voices: Pathways4Recovery, a state-wide advocacy and leadership support network for Black and African Americans. She has used her lived experience as a person in recovery to conduct work as a certified peer specialist and facilitator in the mental health peer support arena for the past 18 years. Valeria serves as a senior community researcher at the Health Equity Research Lab at Cambridge Health Alliance, a peer consultant at the MGH COE, and as an educational consultant and trainer for the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services. She is a 2020/2021 fellow at the Cambridge Health Alliance Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, where she is researching ways to help make mindfulness practices more culturally relevant for Black and African Americans in recovery.

Valeria received a BS in psychology and education from Tufts University and an EdM from Harvard University. She also holds a Certificate of Advanced Studies, having completed graduate course work and internships in pastoral care, counseling, and cross-cultural psychology at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

Ryan Markley, BA, CPS  |  Peer Consultant

Ryan Markley is a certified peer specialist who facilitates peer support groups for the Central Mass Recovery Learning Community and Kiva Center. She also serves as a family partner at Open Sky Community Services. As a trauma survivor, artist, and single mom, Ryan uses her lived experience in creative ways to help families who are struggling with mental health issues. She is a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and for those who have had traumatic or disempowering experiences in mental health treatment.

Ryan received a BA in psychology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Jacqueline Martinez, FPS, CPS  |  Peer Consultant

Jacquie Martinez is a certified peer specialist and vice president for NAMI Latino in Massachusetts. She also served as president of the Transformation Center’s Board of Directors and is the chair of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council. Jacquie currently works with guests and staff at a Boston shelter to establish and sustain mental wellness, and she has vast experience in survey research, as well as the evaluation of health service quality. She has worked with the Disability Policy Consortium on an evaluation of One Care and wrap-around services designed to support families who have children with mental health or trauma recovery needs. As a person with lived experience, and as the parent of a child with a mental health condition, Jacquie has a passion for educating parents, teachers, and community members about the need for open communication, training, support, and awareness of services that can help people live life with enjoyment and purpose.

At the COE, she builds collaborative, reciprocal relationships with peer and recovery communities. Jacquie has worked as a peer consultant since 2018.

Cynthia Piltch, PhD  |  Peer Consultant

Dr. Cynthia Piltch is an educator, consultant, and clinical practitioner trained in a variety of integrative healing modalities. She is currently a part-time peer consultant with the MGH COE, and she maintains a private clinical practice in Lexington, Massachusetts. Dr. Piltch has written and spoken extensively about complementary and alternative health strategies and mental health recovery, and she spent several years teaching wellness courses at the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. She holds several other positions, including: founder and chair of the Temple Isaiah Mental Health Initiative, board member of ECT: A Light in the Darkness, speaker in NAMI’s “In Your Own Voice,” co-leader of the McLean Hospital ECT Support Group, group facilitator for the DBSA Women’s Support Group, and reiki volunteer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Piltch received an AB in psychology from Harvard University, an MPH from the University of Michigan, and a PhD from Boston University.

Ylira Pimentel-Diaz, LICSW  |  Clinical Interventionist

Ylira Pimentel-Diaz is a bicultural and bilingual LICSW, as well as the owner of Wellness Therapist, LLC, a private practice for psychotherapy, consulting, and coaching. Driven by her life experiences as a child immigrant from the Dominican Republic, resident of public housing into her early twenties, and a graduate of Boston Public Schools, she is committed to improving the lives of underserved communities through initiatives that develop resiliency. Ylira’s professional career began over 17 years ago, with four years in early childhood education. Since then, she has dedicated 10+ years to behavioral health within diverse communities and through administrative and clinical roles in residential facilities. Ylira has provided in-home and outpatient psychotherapy at agencies such as Vinfen and Bay Cove, as well as the MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, where she delivered psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and adults.

She earned a BA in psychology from the University of Massachusetts Boston and an MSW and Certificate in Child and Adolescent Trauma from Simmons College.

Sandra Whitney-Sarles, MS, CPS, COAPS  |  Peer Consultant

Sandi Whitney-Sarles is a certified peer specialist and the program director for the Southeast Recovery Learning Community. She has worked in the mental health field for over 18 years, starting as a direct care worker in a group residential program. Sandi has collaborative working relationships with NAMI affiliates, DMH site directors, and mental health providers in the Southeast area. She previously worked as an educator at a university and an elementary school. In her role as a teacher, she worked with the Hyannis Fire Department and County of Barnstable to develop and teach a diversion program for court-mandated juvenile fire setters. Sandi has been active in her own mental health recovery for over 40 years.

She holds a BA in philosophy, a BFA in sculpture, and an MS in education. Sandi’s varied background has enabled her to offer support and understanding to the wide range of people with whom she works.