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Executive Team


President and CEO

Maria Alvarez brings more than 25 years of experience and skill to her work with Florida’s leadership team. Her outstanding performance in financial and organizational administration provides exceptional strategic and operational leadership as Phoenix House Florida prepares to meet the challenges of the future.

Ms. Alvarez joined Phoenix House in 2007 as Director of Finance and also served as Sr. Vice President & Executive Director. Prior to that time, she had more than 15 years of accounting and management experience with organizations ranging from start-ups to multi-million-dollar corporations holding roles as Administrative and Finance Manager and Controller. In her current position of President & CEO, she is responsible for the oversight of all programs at Phoenix House Florida. Her tenure at Phoenix House Florida has been a time of growth for the programs, including the expansion and renovation of the Phoenix House Florida campus in Brandon.

Ms. Alvarez holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and is fluent in both Spanish and English. Her commitment to the community is demonstrated by her volunteer service as a Guardian Ad Litem, an advocate for children in the court system primarily as a result of alleged abuse or neglect.


Chief of Staff, Operations

Samantha Latimer has 12 years of experience, and joined Phoenix House in 2014. She started with us in the role of Sr. Risk, Compliance & Quality Manager, and has advanced with the organization to become Chief of Staff, Operations in 2023.

Ms. Latimer continues to manage and lead the organization in risk, compliance and quality. She has a keen understanding of the corporate mission, vision, and values, and ensures that the organization remains in conformance with all required guidelines from the state, government, and federal levels. She oversees several departments ranging from contract invoicing and data, front desk operations, compliance, and quality. Ms. Latimer is a Certified Risk and Compliance Management Professional (CRCMP) and a Certified Behavioral Health Technician (CBHT). She is currently working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Management.

Prior to joining Phoenix House Florida, Ms. Latimer worked at another not-for-profit organization, a women’s only Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring treatment program. In her free time, she enjoys watching baseball and spending time with her family.


Chief Financial Officer

Frank LaVerde joined Phoenix House Florida as Chief Financial Officer in April 2024. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), a Master’s in Science Accounting (MSA), and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Mr. LaVerde is a finance professional with more than 20 years of experience working on financial and executive office services in a variety of roles including CFO, Finance, Planning & Analysis Director, HR & IT Director, General Administrator, and Sr Financial Operations Manager with a deep business acumen.

Leveraging this background, he became an executive member of an international organization, a corporation with multiple operations in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and the US, with the vision of helping the company operations optimize performance and build strong financial infrastructure while aiding the finance teams in reaching their full potential through leadership development. Mr. LaVerde is a strategic business partner for Phoenix House Florida, with a proven track record of delivering significant revenue growth and operational efficiencies. 

With demonstrated expertise in FP&A, budgeting, and financial reporting to senior leadership and stakeholders, Mr. LaVerde is known for effectively streamlining HR & IT functions, leading talent management initiatives, and achieving remarkable employee engagement and retention results.

Medical Director


Medical Director - Outpatient Program

Dr. Richard Gushwa has more than 47 years of experience as a psychiatrist and medical doctor. He is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, and is Board-certified in psychiatry and neurology. Dr. Gushwa joined Phoenix House Florida as Medical Director of our Outpatient programs in 2021.

Throughout his lengthy and prolific career, Dr. Gushwa has worked in a variety of fields and gained extensive experience that has continued to inform his practice. Many of his experiences have included working in inpatient drug detoxification and rehab. He is a retired Colonel, having served 20 years in the Army Medical Corp and practiced military psychiatry for 17 years. He has served as the medical director of a prison hospital, as a locum tenens doctor working in crisis stabilization units, detox units, and ER, and also has 10 years of experience in private practice as a family physician. Throughout his career, Dr. Gushwa has gained experience with various forms of mental illness, addiction, and forensics. He has developed and honed his ability to diagnose, treat, and manage the full spectrum of mental illness and addiction services. 

When not practicing medicine, Dr. Gushwa enjoys spending his time golfing and traveling.

Need Help?

At Phoenix House Florida, we have a passion for healing. If you or your loved one are in need of subtance use treatment, we are here to help. Give us a call or submit our appointment request form today.

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How Can We Help?

At Your House

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Outpatient treatment must follow a continuum of care that starts with a thorough needs assessment and ends with recovery monitoring.

At Our House

For some patients, stepping away from the buzz of everyday life is the only way to make a full recovery. Inpatient treatments help patients refocus their recovery efforts to achieve positive, long-lasting outcomes.

The Derek Jeter Center

The Derek Jeter Center Adolescent program in Brandon, FL provides comprehensive outpatient services that help families deal with teen substance use and related mental health conditions.