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April Lopez, the esteemed Chief Executive Officer of the Recovery Empowerment Network (REN), assumed her role on September 18th, 2019, bringing with her a wealth of experience and a fervent dedication to empowering individuals in their journey towards recovery. April embarked on her career with REN in May of 2014 and has since ascended through various pivotal positions within the organization, culminating in her appointment as Interim CEO. Her trajectory is marked by notable achievements, including her tenure as Senior Officer of Finance & HR, Director of Finance, and Finance Manager.

April’s academic background, meticulously tailored to the demands of the behavioral health landscape, underscores her commitment to professional growth and service. Armed with a Master’s degree in Psychology from Grand Canyon University, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University, and an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Del Mar College, she stands poised at the intersection of expertise and compassion. Her credentials extend beyond academia, with a roster of certifications—including Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional (CNAP) and Certified Behavioral Health Tech (CBTH)—that reflect her unwavering dedication to excellence and ethical practice. Motivated by personal experiences with loved ones grappling with behavioral health challenges, April’s passion for volunteerism and nonprofit work spans two decades, instilling in her a profound understanding of the transformative potential inherent in community-driven initiatives.

As a beacon of leadership within REN, April Lopez embodies the organization’s mission to effect positive change within the community. With her unparalleled blend of expertise, empathy, and unwavering commitment, she stands poised to steer REN towards greater heights of impact and empowerment.

Recovery Empowerment Network (REN) is your partner on the path to wellness, offering support from individuals who understand your journey firsthand. Our comprehensive services not only guide you through the complexities of the healthcare system but also empower you with new skills and tools tailored to your unique needs. With 15 years of dedicated service in Maricopa County, REN fosters intentional emotional wellness through community-driven activities and events, ensuring that your journey towards recovery is met with understanding and encouragement every step of the way.

Susan Kleiner: Hello and welcome to the Women’s Roundtable podcast, powered by the Think Factory, where we learn how women think big and grow their business. My name is Susan Kleiner. I’m a partner with Outside General Counsel Solutions, and I’m the host of today’s episode. I’m happy to have here with me today. April Lopez, April is the CEO of the Recovery Empowerment Network in Arizona. She started her career at Ren and May 2014 and held a whole bunch of roles before becoming CEO. She has a master’s in psychology from Grand Canyon University, a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M and Associates, degree in criminal justice. While focusing on the behavioral health field, April’s dedication to investing in others led her to achieve a couple more certifications. She’s a certified nonprofit accounting professional. She’s got her behavioral health tech certificate, confidentiality and HIPA. She’s got some fundraising. She’s been to a fundraising academy and has been to other studies and postgraduate studies concerning philanthropy, nonprofit innovation, social impact measurement. It’s a whole lot of school. April has given her heart and her time to volunteering for nonprofits for the past 20 years, and she is absolutely passionate, which comes through regarding behavioral health, mental health. And this all stems from her own personal experience through family and friends affected by behavioral health. Welcome, April, to the podcast.

April Lopez: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to talk today.

Susan Kleiner: Yeah, so happy to have you here. So first off, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about the Recovery Empowerment Network, which you guys call rap? What makes it different from other organizations?

April Lopez: The REN is really me because it is a peer led organization. So oftentimes in behavioral health, you go in and you see someone who has a whole lot of education like I do, and they didn’t officially wear that white coat and come at things from a very clinical perspective. And fortunately, they do not typically have a personal perspective when it comes to behavioral health and substance use. And so that is what’s amazing about this nonprofit. And the people that we employ in our nonprofit is every single person has personal lived experience, either in behavioral health themselves or they themselves have a diagnosis or they had a substance use experience. They have criminal justice experience, or like myself, they have a family experience. And so every person comes with a different aspect, as is that situation or their diagnosis or what led them to be a peer. But they can come from it from a place of I’ve been on the streets too, or I have experienced that too and understand how hard things are versus from a clinical perspective. I read in the textbooks once this is the diagnosis and these are the symptoms, knowing what symptoms are and experiencing symptoms are two very different places. And you can get a lot of, you know, compassion and understanding by having lived and walked that path versus reading it in a textbook.

Susan Kleiner: Oh, for sure. I imagine that, you know, for the people you serve, your clients, the fact that it’s pure lead has to make a really big difference for them and how they receive those services and how they feel supported. Correct?

April Lopez: Totally. Yeah. So it definitely kind of gets rid of the very cold clinical experience that you often have. It definitely feels more like a friendship, which means you do have to be really vigilant on boundaries and understanding that it is still a professional relationship, but it definitely feels more like coming home and hanging out with your friends and family and an experience in that friendship versus walking into a counseling appointment or a psychologist appointment where they’re very concerned about, have you taken your meds? How are your side effects, how are your symptoms? We said, How are you? Would you like breakfast this morning? And so it’s amazing the impact that it can have on somebody’s life, especially if they’re isolated, which often times with mental illness that they are, and with that isolation becomes more depression and more symptoms. And so by getting that socialization and the connection in somebody that cares how they do it on a personal level versus just how are they doing on a clinical level makes a huge impact on their ability to do better in their personal lives and even at times in their professional lives.

Susan Kleiner: Okay. And I imagine also, I mean, one of the things that we talk about a lot when we talk about behavioral health, mental health, mental wellness is stigma. Right. The stigma associated with. Getting these services, taking medication, etc. I imagine being a peer recovery network and offering these peer services does a lot towards ending stigma, or at least helping your clients out with the stigma attached to the stigmatization. Yeah. Can you comment on that?

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