Mountain Laurel Recovery Center has a new director! Dan Kasperkoski began at MLRC a few months ago and has brought an energy and a passion for recovery to the leadership team.
In this interview, he talks about some changes he and the clinical team are bringing to MLRC, his part-time residence in Florida, his family, and his love of the simple life. He has a thing about losing rings (read all about it in this Lehigh Valley Live story from 2011), and he can’t seem to get the knack of fishing. But that’s okay—if he had been a great fisherman, he might still be in Florida…
What brought you to Mountain Laurel?
I’ve actually been very good friends with Brian Stoesz, CEO PA Facilities, both professionally and personally, for about 10 years. He’s a big part of the reason why I’m here. I like his leadership style.
Before this, I was working in Florida for the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida as a quality assurance manager, overseeing contracted independent living and post-high school educational programs. When Brian called with the opportunity here in Westfield, I said, “I don’t know, Brian, it’s COLD up there…” Well, I don’t know if you know Brian, but he’s a very persuasive guy. So I came up and am glad I did. It’s been working out very well.
Have you worked in the addiction treatment field before? What is your work background?
Much of my background is in various types of congregate care: residential treatment, foster care, and the educational sector (charter school). In each one of those programs, there was a drug and alcohol component. When I worked in Minnesota, we had a drug and alcohol treatment program that was approved by the department of corrections. In all of the programs I’ve been a part of, there has always been a need for an addiction treatment and recovery component.
What’s different about working at Mountain Laurel?
Here, I work with adults. Most of my background is with juveniles, mostly older, 18-21, and I directed open and secure sex-offender treatment, juvenile justice programs, and worked with everything from abuse and neglect to chemical dependency. Mountain Laurel is a little different, being all adults, so I have to change my mindset. Sometimes I catch myself calling our clients “kids.”
Where did you go to college?
I attended the University of Pittsburgh. I actually was awarded a wrestling scholarship there, but I finished my degree at Excelsior College in Albany, NY. I have a bachelor of science in psychology and business management.
Do you have any new initiatives or goals for MLRC?
Since I started a few months ago, we’ve been working on incorporating a new treatment modality. We have incorporated the Living in Balance curriculum. We’ve revised our clinical schedule to incorporate more groups and have more of an individualized treatment track. For example, say we have some clients who’ve experienced trauma. We’ll pull and run that group, and they’ll get not only chemical dependency treatment, but will hopefully address some of the trauma. Or, we might have some clients that have boundary issues, and we can run them through a boundary issue track as well. We just rolled this out about three weeks ago. We have high hopes for it. It’s all evidence- and curriculum-based, and it’s a jam-packed schedule. The first few days it had a college-like feel; clients were walking around with their treatment schedule, saying, ‘What room is my group in?”
What’s your favorite thing so far about MLRC?
I want to say that first off, the staff here—I’ve never met a more committed, hardworking group of individuals in my life. I’ve been doing this kind of work for 25 years, and the folks here are committed and caring. My leadership group is by far some of the best folks I’ve ever worked with. They make my job extremely easy, so hats off to them!
Also, you can’t beat the campus: once you come around the turn and you see the mansion and the grounds, it takes your breath away. And you say, boy, this is quite the place. And it’s so friendly and inviting and welcoming, and I think it just motivates staff and clients to work hard every day.
What would you say to someone who isn’t sure whether MLRC is for them?
My philosophy is that we always have to put ourselves in the client’s shoes. First, clients don’t feel very well physically when they get here, and second, they’re up in the mountains of PA where they don’t know anyone, and this certainly produces a lot of anxiety. Our job is to welcome all clients and make them feel part of the community. We don’t judge the people we treat. They come to our doorstep for help, and we are obliged to do everything we can to get them the treatment they need and on the road to recovery.
You always hear, “Would you bring a family member here?” We want the answer to be yes. That’s the kind of attitude and community we want to have, one that is constantly looking for ways to improve. We need go the extra mile so people can be confident that their loved ones are treated well, are safe, and are in good hands.
And building a strong community is not an easy task. Hats off to the counselors and RCs and nurses: they’re the ones who build healthy communities that can solve problems and bring folks together. Day in and day out, their jobs are the hardest by far.
What do you enjoy doing when not at work?
I grew up in Easton, in the Lehigh Valley, and my family is still there. Usually, on the weekends, I go down to see my family. I come from a big family, six brothers and sisters, all located in the Lehigh Valley. When I’m in Florida you can usually find me in the pooI, on the beach, or walking around Disney World. I keep it simple.
I tried the fishing thing, but it’s kind of tough getting up that early. My wife and daughter are kind of slow getting out of the house, usually not until around noon and by then all the fish are gone.
We moved to Florida around 2013, after I was in a near-fatal car accident. I was in Trexlertown, on my way to work one day. I was in the hospital for a long time. After that, I told my wife, let’s take some time off. So we moved down to Florida and were down there for about 4-5 years. After that I started telling my wife, “You know what, I’m done with fishing and I’m not very good at is, and everything is fixed around house—I think I need to go back to work.” About that time Brian called me.
Can you talk a little bit about your family?
I met my wife Pam in college, and we’ve been married 35 years. She is an elementary school gym teacher and is big Steelers fan. I’m an Eagles fan, so she will often blame me for Steeler losses, something about putting out bad mojo!
My daughter attends Florida Gulf Coast University. She was offered Disney internships, so we’d go and see her a lot. That’s what brought us down to Florida.
What’s something about you that most people don’t know?
We lived in Minnesota for four years, in a small town of 2,300 called Chisholm, the home of Doc “Moonlight” Graham and Bob Dylan a few miles away. Since there was not much to do there, my wife and I joined a curling club, like in the Olympics. We’d go every week, grab our curling brooms, put on slips, and throw the stones. We weren’t the best at it, but we sure gave it a heck of a try and it was fun!
I’m also an avid wrestling fan, high school and college, and a big Philadelphia Eagles fan (usually I have to keep that under wraps).