I’m a co-founder and co-owner of Acacia and wear several hats including Chief Financial Officer, HIPAA Security Officer, contracts and leasing lead, construction management, and therapist. I helped start Acacia in 2014 to address the growing need to help UC Santa Barbara students connect with a qualified, affordable, and accessible therapist to meet their long-term needs for mental health treatment. I love being part of helping more and more students get the support they need and at the same time providing a fun, supportive, and rewarding work environment for our staff. When I’m not working, I enjoy being outdoors--hiking, biking, climbing, riding my motorcycle, or just hanging out at a local coffee shop.
What is your favorite children's story?
I actually have 2 books that I remember well from my early childhood--Curious George and The Little Engine that Could. I really connected with George’s curious mind and penchant for new adventures. As for the Little Engine, well I think I felt inspired by the courage and determination of this little character with such a giant heart.
What, in your opinion, is the most amazing animal?
The dog. We have so much to learn from their simplicity, ability to forgive, loyalty, and unconditional love.
dr. brett donnelly he/him/his | #PSY26685/#LP6331
co-founder & chief visionary officer (cvo)
I'm originally from a small town in Wisconsin called Lake Geneva. Growing up, my family struggled with addiction and other mental health issues. We also were low-income and, as a first generation college student, I had a hard time finding the appropriate therapy services while I was in school. Services were either unaffordable or inaccessible, or both! I will never forget when I finally found a therapist who helped me work through a trauma I experienced while in college. It was life altering! It was through this personal therapeutic journey that I became passionate about college student mental health. It's what gives me the passion to work with young adults everyday and help them through their journey. I feel so excited every day that I continue to work at Acacia. I feel inspired by the students we serve and continue to feel motivated to remove mental health barriers for college students. Currently, I feel thrilled about our work in the telehealth arena as we can reach even more students than ever before!
If you had one extra hour of free time a day how would you use it?
I would definitely spend it outside! Although this might be challenging in the winter as I live in Minneapolis. During my free hour I would walk through the park to Lake Nokomis with my wife, Stefanie, and our dog Coda. We would all go paddle boarding with a cooler and music on us at all times! Coda loves the water and enjoys pulling us on the board (or tipping us over when he tries to get up on the board). After our time on the lake, time to head straight to Sandcastle for some food in the sun. That sounds like a perfect way to spend my extra hour - or more likely 90 minutes.
What’s your favorite car that you’ve owned?
Just last year I purchased a Tesla Model 3. I have to say that it is not only my favorite car, but the best purchase I have ever made (other than my house I suppose). Keep in mind, I LOVE to go on long road trips. There is nothing better than going out with my brothers, friends, or family and touring the country. I have already had the chance to take the Tesla, or "Elle" as we affectionately refer to her as, to the East Coast and the West Coast. My brother and I went on a college football road trip (I am a lifelong Wisconsin Badgers fan) last November and ended up going to Penn State, Gettysburg, Fredrick, Anapolis, Baltimore, DC, Roanoke, and finally West Lafayette. Then, Stefanie, Coda and I took a road trip to our favorite place last winter...California! It was so nice to put the car on auto pilot and cruise. Not paying for gas in an additional bonus! We have already made so many memories in Elle and can't wait for so many more!
Dr. Robbyn Jackson she/her/hers | #PSY21576
Chief operating officer (COO)
I am a Clinical Psychologist of over 20 years, and the Chief Operating Officer for Acacia Counseling & Wellness. I oversee all of the Acacia offices by working closely with the directors to provide excellent mental health services to university and college communities. I play a significant role in the development of new locations and I strive to ensure that each office is filled with passionate, competent and diverse therapists. My favorite thing about working at Acacia is the people! We create teams of therapists and staff who enjoy coming to work each day, not only because they are eager to work with students, but also because they are part of a committed team that values mental health, as well as fun and laughter.
Prior to being the Lead, I was the Director of the original Acacia in Isla Vista, California which serves the UC Santa Barbara community. As an alumnus of UCSB, this was a special honor! I am also very proud to be the first therapist chosen by the owners to work for Acacia in 2015. I love spending time with my partner and sons, Max and Chase, as well as my family-of-friends, who bring me joy and realness.
where are you from and how did you get to acacia?
I am originally from a small town in Texas called Aransas Pass. My journey to Acacia started as a trainee at Northwestern University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and then took me to DePaul University where I did my post-doc and became a senior staff psychologist. I later realized how these experiences shaped my career and passion to work with emerging adults.
What is something interesting about you?
Some interesting (or not so interesting) things about me are that I figured out the hard way that axe throwing is not as easy as it looks! In Texas, we grew up with archery and target-shooting, so I naturally assumed that I would impress my colleagues when we signed up to go axe throwing...Not so much! Another little-known fact about me is that I surf, and while I do not shred...I do LOVE to surf! I wish all of my dreams could be of me catching waves.
I am honored to be a part of the Acacia Counseling & Wellness team and to work with the Santa Barbara community. I am a licensed psychologist and obtained my doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from UC Santa Barbara in 2017. I completed a pre-doctoral internship at UNC Chapel Hill and post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University. I am happy to return to Santa Barbara and get to work with the diverse and wonderful population in this area.
It is important to me to foster a strong and collaborative relationship in therapy. You will find a real person in me, genuine in our interactions, caring, nonjudgmental, and encouraging. It is my goal that you feel comfortable and supported to open up, grow, and work on areas that are challenging for you. Whether it be worrying, feeling down, difficulties in relationships, self-esteem, stress, feeling lost, academic challenges, or low motivation, it is my hope that we can explore and work together to help you accomplish your goals.
I have received specialized training in treating individuals with anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, and Autism/Aspergers. I also work with students on relationship concerns, stress management, self-esteem, family difficulties, identity and diversity issues, life transitions, academic concerns, and learning disabilities. I will individualize therapy to fit your symptoms, needs, and treatment goals. I generally approach therapy from an integration of person-centered, behavioral, and cognitive behavioral (CBT) strategies, and I incorporate evidence-based strategies for your unique concerns. It would be my pleasure to get to know you and work alongside as you navigate college and adulthood.
Outside of work, I enjoy watching sports, hiking, spending time with friends and family, games, and exercising.
chelsea murphy she/her/hers | #LPCC2242
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Sexual Assault/Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Trauma & PTSD, Domestic Violence, Family of Origin Issues, Relationship Issues, Grief & Loss, Shame
Person-Centered, Mind-Body Focused, Trauma Informed, Systems Oriented, Feminist
Hey there! I’m Chelsea, a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Minnesota. I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from University of St. Thomas and an undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College. Since getting my MA, I’ve worked in clinic-based mental health services as well as University Counseling Centers providing individual and group therapy on a wide range of topics and issues.
My approach to therapy tends to be on a person-to-person level, rather than having a doctor-patient vibe. I like to keep things pretty informal (you will definitely see me with my shoes off in the office!). I use a lot of humor in sessions and I’ve got a super loud laugh - I’ve definitely been told I need to keep it down sometimes inside and outside work, but I am rarely successful complying with this! I also strongly believe there is no right or wrong way to go through life. Thus, I therefore believe there is no right or wrong way to do therapy. We will figure out together what the best style for you is. Feeling free, increasing confidence and dropping shame so you can step into the brightest version of yourself are my biggest goals for you.
I especially love providing therapy for individuals who are struggling with the impacts of sexual assault, relationship issues, past trauma and shame. I believe that in helping you move through your struggles, you can clear space & no longer be held back from doing exactly what you love in this world.
As a leader, I am committed to promoting equity and inclusion in every area of healthcare, and in life. I strive to be people-first, collaborative, and maintain a non-expert stance in order to create an environment for therapists and clients that is non-judgmental, welcoming, socially conscious, and full of compassion.
Outside of work I love getting takeout, spending time with my partner and son, reading, traveling, teaching myself to knit and play guitar, and watching shows on any and every streaming service.
COLE | #LMFT110563
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Trauma, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Anxiety, Depression, Relationship Issues, Couples Therapy, International Students, Cultural Issues, Identity Issues, Life Transitions, Stress Management, Spirituality, Additional Language: Frech
Hello! I am thrilled to be a part of the Acacia Westwood team! I grew up in the LA area, but after completing my graduate studies in Psychology I moved abroad to France, where I lived for nearly 9 years. I spent my time in France working with international college students dealing with issues around identity, relationships, culture, and spirituality. I returned to my native Los Angeles in order to complete my Masters and enter into the therapy field, because I believe deeply in the power of therapy to help us find wholeness, healing, and freedom in our lives. Also, I really missed tacos.
As a marriage and family therapist, it is a privilege and honor for me to hear your story and actively partner with you in your process toward positive change in your life. I believe in creating a safe, accepting, genuine space in the therapy room where you are free to bring all of yourself, discover your truth, and know that you will be heard. In this space, we will work together to discover new insights into your story, remove obstacles in your path, and take practical steps towards growth and healing. I look forward to walking alongside you in this journey!
PORTIALYN BUZZANGA #LCSW95795
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Greetings and welcome to Acacia Counseling and Wellness—Irvine! I am thrilled to be a part of the Acacia family and to serve the students of UCI and the surrounding community.
Transitioning to university life, whether it be undergrad or graduate school, can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience but it can also come with many challenges and obstacles that may be difficult to face in this new space. My goal is to create an environment where students can present “where they are”, develop, embrace, and understand their identities, establish security in themselves, and develop the skills to successfully navigate and enjoy their time as they pursue their academic and social goals.
Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with individuals from all walks of life and in a myriad of settings. I have built my career in a variety of roles within the mental health realm, mostly in leadership, operations, community work, and direct practice. I started as a community social worker/therapist providing crisis stabilization services before working my way into the acute care world as an inpatient mental health social worker. I then developed an interest in leadership and have managed teams in both acute care and freestanding hospitals working with individuals across the lifespan, opportunities that allowed me to oftentimes work with college students experiencing difficulties transitioning into adulthood, adjusting to the demands of rigorous academic programs, and feeling overwhelmed with reframed definitions of success. I believe my journey thus far has led me to Acacia and I am honored and happy to be here.
I am dedicated to cultivating a supportive, stimulating, and inclusive environment that will allow students and the Acacia Irvine team to reach their full potential and be the best they can be. I look forward to getting to know all of you and working collaboratively to help the students served be well, do well, live well.
When I am not busy trying to be a blend of Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, and Olivia Pope from Scandal, I am otherwise busy chasing my two toddlers and supporting my husband’s desire to be cast as Batman (he’ll take Wolverine as well). I am fairly new to SoCal so I enjoy exploring the region, attempting to craft, uninterrupted naps, college basketball, and traveling although I do not recommend international travel (or even cross-country flights) with toddlers…just don’t do it (totally kidding…kind of☺).
Hannah Thomson she/her/hers| MSW, #LCSW28842
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Adjustment Issues, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Trauma / PTSD / Childhood
Abuse, Relationship Concerns, Life Transitions, Faith Transitions, Perinatal and Postpartum
Adjustment, Parenting / Parenting Special Needs Children, Grief & Loss, Housing Insecurity,
Welcome! It's an honor to introduce myself as director of Acacia Reach. I am a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in California with over a decade of university and direct practice experience. I have been in leadership roles in telehealth training and services since 2011 and am happy to address any concerns you might have about how mental health services work when they are online.
My leadership style is collaborative and strengths-based. I strive to create a supportive environment for professional growth and development for staff, as well as provide the highest quality care to the people we serve. I’m looking forward to continuing to build partnerships with college communities to make services even more accessible through telehealth video-conferencing platforms.
My therapy practice is grounded in evidence-based treatment. When you first come see me, we will do an assessment together to help me understand who you are in a holistic way, which includes your intersecting identities, values, strengths, and what is important to you. I will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan that matches what you want from the therapy process. Most importantly, my goal is to listen to your story and what wellness means to you. We work together to create space to heal and grow. There is a saying that, “the longest journey is from the head to the heart.” I would be honored to partner with you on that journey.
Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, listening to music, reading good books, and spending time with family and friends.
WOODFIN Director of Psychiatry | #20A9002
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Mood & anxiety disorders, eating disorders, late adolescense & early adult-specific care
Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy
I’m excited to work with you at Acacia! I utilize a specialized combination of traditional western medicine and complementary care modalities in order to provide patients with holistic, individualized treatment regimens. After obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in English with Honors from the University of Michigan, I attended Western University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, California, and graduated with my Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine. I went on to work as an Intern and Resident at UCLA/Harbor Medical Center in Torrance, California and served as Chief Resident during my final year of residency. During residency, I had specialty training in treating mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, late adolescence and early adult-specific care, Psychodynamic therapy and Cognitive Behavioral therapy. I also became certified to provide Medical Acupuncture through the Stanford University/HMI program.
I am board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and have been in practice since 2007 providing psychotherapy, medication management, medical acupuncture and consultation on nutrition, exercise and other complementary modalities. I prefer to work with patients as a team to strive for optimal health by creating an individualized treatment plan for every patient. I am humbled to be a part of your journey and look forward to working with you.
LAURA ROTH | SHE/HER/HERS
DIRECTOR OF FINANCE
Hi! My name is Laura and I am the Director of Finance at Acacia. I was drawn to the wonderfully stated core values of Acacia, and I see them embodied in the passionate people that work here. I wanted to join the team supporting the Clinicians making a difference in students’ lives. I went to the University of Alberta and my university years were absolutely awesome- made better by access to good healthcare. Since then I’ve worked in the investment industry, public accounting and tech.
In my free time I love reading and sitting quietly drinking coffee. In reality, you’ll usually find me running after children at the park or the beach. My family loves to camp, bike, swim, garden and have barbecues with our friends. We are so lucky to get to soak up that SB sun every day!
MIRANDA NILLO | SHE/HER/HERS
Hello! My name is Miranda and I am an Administrative Assistant at Acacia. I grew up in Santa Barbara County, just an hour north of Santa Barbara and upon graduating high school, moved to Isla Vista to complete my B.A. at UCSB in Psychology and Political Science. My life heavily evolved around working a part-time job at the YMCA, youth development, and playing rugby which became my outlet for maintaining my mental health and wellness. Since graduating college in 2019, I focused my professional career in youth development. However in 2020, I realized not only was I great with working with kids but my organizational and management skills could help further my career to achieve my dream goals.
From the first phone call from Acacia asking for an interview, to meeting who I would be working with, I knew that Acacia was the place that I should be at. I look forward to working with a collaborative and fun team supporting a mission that is inclusive to all!
In my free time, I enjoy exercising and trying out new outdoor activities, binge watching shows and movies like Avatar, Harry Potter, Twilight, the Mandalorian, New Girl and more, beating my housemates at a round of Super Smash Bros, playing video games (Breath of the Wild or Skyrim,) and finding the best sushi and poke places in town.
What’s the first career you dreamed of having as a kid?
The first career I dreamed of as a kid was being a professional athlete in soccer and skateboarding. I grew up idolizing people like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain and ended up playing soccer for 10 years before transitioning to playing rugby!
Have you ever visited a different country?
Yes, I have actually traveled to 5 out of the 7 continents and hope I get to visit South America and Antarctica at some point. My favorite county that I have visited though is Australia because of the Great Barrier Reef.
Claudia Maldonado | she/her/hers
Human resources generalist
Hello! I am Claudia Maldonado, the Human Resource Generalist for Acacia. I am responsible for the day-to-day management of HR operations, which means I manage the organization’s policies, procedures, and programs.
Since graduating college, I have primarily worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities. In 2015, I decided to switch gears from 1:1 services to a more administrative role.
I always knew a career in Human Resources would allow me to help others in an alternative capacity. I pursued my masters degree in human resources management and have been working in the field ever since.
I stumbled upon Acacia unexpectedly, but once I did, I knew I needed to be part of this organization. Acacia's mission and values closely align to mine, making it a perfect fit. My goal as Acacia's Human Resource Generalist is to provide excellent support to all employees so they can better serve their clients.
If you could give advice to your 15 year old self, what would it be?
There is so much beauty in the world, take the risk and explore it.
You were handed four puppies. What are their names?
Pickles, Winston, Doc & Arlo
HALEY KANG | SHE/HER/HERS
Hi there! My name is Haley Kang and I joined the Acacia Counseling & Wellness team in 2020 as a Recruiter. I am responsible for the full life-cycle of the recruiting process, as I work to fill open positions with authentic individuals that are passionate about Acacia’s mission and values! I strive to provide an exceptional candidate experience and love that I am able to develop meaningful connections with people through my role!
I received my BA in Communications from UCSB in 2013 and am currently an MBA student at Pepperdine University. Go Waves!
A few fun facts about myself: I’m usually never without my dog, Doja, I am a huge Dodgers fan, I love horses and currently ride a couple times a week in the Hunter/Jumper discipline, and I love country music!
What qualities do you admire about your parents?
My mom and stepdad are two of the most positive and generous individuals that I know! I admire these qualities about them very much.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a waitress at a restaurant on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. I worked there full-time during my senior year at UCSB and continued working part-time for 5 years after that because I loved my community there so much!
Zinnia Gonzalez | SHE/HER/HERS
Human Resources Administrative Assistant
Hi! My name is Zinnia, the Human Resources Administrative Assistant at Acacia. I am a local to the Santa Barbara area. I studied at California State University, Chico and obtained a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources Management in 2017.
I joined Acacia in 2020 because I believe mental health awareness is important to the community. Acacia's core values resonate with our clients and employees. As a part of the Human Resources team I aim to create a safe place for all our clients.
On my free time, I like to explore new food locations and frequent some favorite spots with my friends and family. I can usually recommend a good place to grab a bite to eat!
Who has inspired you a lot in life?
I've had a lot of great teachers throughout my life, but my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Rodriguez truly inspired me to always strive for the best while always trying to make difference in my community.
What’s something that a lot of people are missing out on because they don’t know about it?
Most concert venues never want the front rows to be empty. You can upgrade your tickets for little or not cost at all on the day of the concert if you simply go up to the box office and ask if they have any upgrades available. The only catch is you have to go a few hours before the show is set to begin!
KorbyQuan Reed | He/him/his
Howdy! I am KorbyQuan (Korby) Reed and I’m the Creative Director. I do a host of things: establish our marketing, develop our website and materials, design our office spaces, and lead our outreach coordinators.
During a quarter-life crisis while attending graduate school for Counseling & Student Personnel at the University of Minnesota, I discovered Acacia’s new position of marketing lead and decided it would be a good way to blend my counseling work with more creative and versatile projects. I met Dr. Brett Donnelly, Co-Owner, for one of the best interviews I’ve ever had, in the Minneapolis office that featured a couch, a water cooler, and two chairs. I was then hired to be the marketing lead and eventually took over as Office Manager, where I finally got the opportunity to expand my work and expand the furniture situation in that office! In 2018, I moved to California to open our Westwood and La Jolla offices as Site Development Manager and will be opening many more!
I love working for Acacia for many reasons, some of them being that there is so much room to voice your opinions, offer perspective, and make change that is meaningful to you and your teams. Our company is growing fast and it’s important for everyone to maintain our community and to expand it in a way that feels right and feels growth-centered.
In my free time I enjoy staring at my cute pup and cat Bishop & Nile, crafting new play ideas, and exploring new places to go. I want to push myself to keep discovering and to keep finding new ways to enjoy life.
What book had the most significant impact on you?
When I was a wee little one, I read a book that I feel was impactful for a few reasons, which was The Westing Game. I loved that it was essentially a murder mystery for kids. The characters we easy to follow but it has twists and social interactions that skew more adult but gave us kids the opportunity to think outside the box and problem solve. Now, I thank books like The Westing Game for feeding my inner puzzle solver which now translates to my pull towards true crime and escape rooms.
Would you ever try space tourism, if you had the money for it?
I have a total fascination for space! Something about the vastness, the mystery, and the possibility of what’s out there is utterly awesome but it is also utterly terrifying. I would definitely try space tourism but with some limits, perhaps only a moon or two to start.
STORM HUGHES | HE/HIM/HIS
MARKETING + CONTENT CREATOR
Hello! I am Storm Hughes and I work at Acacia providing marketing support and content creation. Mental health care is incredibly important to me and I am thankful for the opportunity to help provide access to a service that has been so beneficial to my own life.
I grew up in San Luis Obispo County and have lived all over California. After a couple years in community college I graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Communication Studies in 2018. I eventually found my way down to Santa Barbara where I worked as a social media manager and video editor before finding my way to Acacia.
Outside of work, I love to cook new recipes, watch movies, and relax on the beach.
ARE THERE ANY CELEBRITIES YOU WOULD LOVE TO MEET?
I am a big movie buff, and I would love to meet the director Martin Scorsese. He has had such a long career in Hollywood, it would be amazing to talk to him about how the film industry has changed over the last 60 years and maybe get some recommendations to watch.
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL HOME.
Minimalist but still warm and inviting. With lots of plants, a well-equipped kitchen and space to host outdoor dinner parties. Possibly a home theater if we really want to dream big.
REBECCA ROOK | SHE/HER/HERS
Coordinator of Psychiatry Services
Hello! My name is Rebecca and I'm the Coordinator of Psychiatry Services here at Acacia. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was born and raised. I'm a UC Santa Cruz alumni, where I double majored in psychology and cell biology. I've since moved down the California coast, settling in Goleta - where I found Acacia!
Mental health has been near and dear to my heart from a young age. I've worked with several mental health organizations over the years, including volunteering as a crisis counselor. I eventually found a passion in psychiatry, which I honestly love to nerd out about because it's the perfect combo of my double majors. I strongly believe in breaking down the stigma that comes with taking medications for your mental health, and love to provide education about all of the different treatment options available. I enjoy that my role allows me to work with clients in a multitude of ways to help them achieve their goals.
When I'm not working, I like to spend my time lounging with my two cats, playing board games, watching sunsets at the beach, and scrolling on TikTok. I like to dip fries in milkshakes, prefer Coke over Pepsi, and support pineapple on pizza.
What is an affirmation that will always give you inspiration?
Be gentle with yourself.
What does a typical Saturday look like for you?
I always sleep in (I'm a night owl), and spend most of the day being a couch potato with no agenda. Saturdays are my chance to actually rest without worrying about any adult responsibilities.
JENNIFER LOPEZ DIAZ | SHE/HER/HERS
Psychiatry Admin Assistant
I am excited to continue my time at Acacia with the Psychiatry team! This community has given me so much and I am looking forward to giving back. I started out as an Administrative Assistant and Outreach Coordinator at our Isla Vista office. This gave me the chance to be be involved in many projects beyond developments at our IV office. Most notably, I was one of the co-leads for the 2021 MHA Internship, one of the best experiences thus far! I look forward to the growth to come as I continue my time in the Acacia family!
What advice would you give your younger self?
"Don't be afraid of what you don't know". I grew up a very anxious person, hyper-focused on not making any errors and striving to do the most I could at once. Unfamiliarity was terrifying because, in my mind, it increased the likelihood of making a mistake. I would tell my younger self not to be afraid oh the unknown because, in my adult life, veering off from the familiar has brought me some of my most heartfelt memories and meaningful experiences.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
My mom's tamales de mole-- without a doubt. They just remind me of the best of times spent with my family. We always had them on special occasions so, besides tasting amazing, they remind me of some of the best memories.
Adriane Passani | she/her/hers
Hi! My name is Adriane and I started with Acacia as a bookkeeper in the Central Business Office. Acacia's mission speaks volumes to me on a personal and professional level, and I am thrilled to be a part of the Acacia team! I enjoy coming into the office day after day to all the friendly faces. I was born in Los Angeles, but landed in Santa Barbara at the age of three when my family relocated to the area. After college, I spent some time living in San Francisco and upon returning to Santa Barbara I decided to go back to school to study accounting. For fun, I also became certified by the state as an esthetician.
In my free time you will find me exploring the outdoors, from mountain biking with my two dogs to surfing with friends. I also have a toddler that keeps me on my toes. Watching her grow has been the most rewarding experience of my life.
What word would you wear on a T-Shirt?
I have seen an advertisement for a one word T-Shirt that immediately comes to mind. The word is purposely misspelled and is broken up to signify something so much bigger than the initial definition. The T-shirt reads; BE - YOU - TIFUL, and it represents to me that being YOUrself is so important and BEAUTIFUL no matter who you are. I would wear this T-Shirt to remind those who read it that we are all beautiful inside and out.
What are two of your favorite snacks?
Cottage cheese and spicy Cheetos! I know it sounds horrendous but I suggest you try it - you might just love it too! A number two favorite snack would be anything with chocolate in it.
ANDREW RUIZ | he/him/his
Hello! My name is Andrew Ruiz and I am the Bookkeeping Assistant at Acacia. I am originally from Los Angeles, CA but moved north to attend school at the University of California, Santa Barbara. For the past couple of years, I have been diligently working toward a career in accounting and have fortunately been able to intern twice at Warner Bros. Entertainment. However, it was during my time in school, and all the pressure that came with it, that helped me discover Acacia's important mission to offer mental health services and spread awareness.
I am grateful to be able to combine my love for accounting and my passion for mental health into a single job. Plus, everyone here is extremely nice which helps to make my job that much more enjoyable.
What’s something you’re looking forward to?
I am definitely looking forward to the Summer Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2028. Having grown up watching the Olympics every four years, I've been anxiously waiting for the opportunity to sit down in a crowded home arena and cheer on the best athletes of Team USA with the rest of the city.
What are some of your favorite games to play?
I don't play games that often, but my favorite game definitely has to be Super Smash Brothers. It's the only game that I've played from childhood to now that has never lost its fun value.
EON PALACIO | HE/HIM/HIS
Hello, my name is Eon (pronounced like Ian), I joined Acacia in 2020 and I am on the Help Desk team, I will be helping my co-workers with any of their technical issues. I am happy to be a part of a team of amazing people that are helping students and people with mental health.
Who is your favorite author?
I would have to say Drew Hayes. He does an amazing job with character growth, and the relationship between the characters.
If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
I would have to the energy manipulation similar to that of that of a Green Lantern Corp. Being able to create things with my mind, will be very cool.
brayan barron | he/him/his
Credentialing Manager & Billing Supervisor
Hi there! My name is Brayan and I am Acacia's Credentialing Manager and Billing Supervisor. In my current position, I am responsible for making sure Acacia's clinicians are added to our insurance panels while also overseeing most aspects of Acacia's billing department. I grew into my current position after having learned a lot about the inner-workings of insurance billing in my previous position as a billing specialist. I was lucky enough to start working with Acacia as an administrative assistant in 2016 during my third year at UCSB, where I majored in Cell & Developmental Biology and minored in Applied Psychology.
I look forward to work every day because I get to work with a group of people who are also motivated and passionate to be a part of the driving force behind Acacia's growth and our mission of putting our clients first. It also helps that these co-workers are more like friends and contribute to an enjoyable environment.
What was the last thing you were really excited about?
I was really excited to take my 5 year old brother on his very first DisneyLand trip. We had a blast and it was so special to experience all the Disney magic with him.
What food do you love that a lot of people might find a little odd?
I'm a big fan of bagels and all the unique variety of toppings/flavors but my favorite on-the-go breakfast version is a cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese and peanut butter. I swear it tastes good but I get a strange reaction from people every time I bring this up. Don't knock it till you try it.
Ashley Kauk | she/her/hers
I'm originally from Northern California, but my family moved a lot when I was little. Before I was 8 years old, I lived in California, Pennsylvania, Maine, Minnesota, and Arizona. Arizona is where I spent most of my childhood until moving to Santa Barbara, California to go to school at Westmont College. I studied Kinesiology at Westmont and became very aware of how inaccessible health care could be. Mental health particularly was nearly impossible as every provider in Santa Barbara had a wait list that was several months long. Even if they were available, it was extremely expensive. I was intrigued by Acacia because of their mission to make behavioral health an option for college students, who really need it, but can't usually afford it. I work in the billing office and help make sure insurance companies are paying what they're supposed to so that patients only have to worry about their visits with their provider. I love coming into work because I know everything I'm doing is helping accomplish that goal.
What do you buy way more of than most people?
I spend way too much money on concert and theater tickets and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I like to go to at least one per month, but more is definitely better. I'm a big believer in spending money on experiences instead of things and I've never regretted a concert or theater experience. I highly recommend buying season tickets to your local theater and if there's an artist you really want to see, just go for it!
What is the best gift anyone's ever given to you? And why?
My roommate gave me a vinyl album of X&Y by Coldplay for my 21st birthday. It's my favorite album from my favorite band and it showed me how well she knew me, especially because I had never specifically asked for it.
TOM CALLOW | he/him/his
Greetings! I’m Tom, and I’m a Billing Specialist at Acacia’s Central Business Office. As a relatively recent east coast transplant, I have spent the last two years here in Santa Barbara searching for a career opportunity that aligned with my personal values; So when I saw a position open at Acacia I was intrigued. The more I read about the mission, the more excited I became. I am absolutely thrilled to be part of a passionate organization that is moving the conversation about mental health into a brighter space where it can be normalized and positively discussed by all of us, as a society.
Outside of Acacia, I enjoy spending time exploring Santa Barbara with my fiancée DarrylLee. We are both still new to California, so being able to lounge at the beach or go on a hike in the middle of winter is something that has yet to become stale for us. We also have four cats. Yes, four of them. It is just as weird, terrifying, and wonderful as one would expect!
What television show would you recommend to everyone to watch? Why?
Star Trek: The Next Generation. I watched it constantly growing up, and it was extremely influential on how I interpreted the real world around me as a child. Essentially 44 minute morality plays, they are a wonderful way to learn about inclusivity, workers rights, gender roles, the perils of unchecked social systems and so much more. Plus it’s all taking place on a starship, which makes everything cooler. And Patrick Stewart of course. Patrick Stewart forever.
What always makes you have a good hearty laugh?
As stated above, we have four cats. Four cats are endlessly entertaining, and watching them all get the zoomies and knock over anything not bolted down makes me laugh so hard to the point where I don’t even care they most likely broke something in the mayhem.
Gabriela Lopez | she/her/hers
Hello! I am Gabriela (Gabby) Lopez and I'm a Billing Specialist here at Acacia. In my role as Billing Specialist, I assist with verifying Benefits and Eligibility along with following up on any claim issues. I have several years of experience with medical insurances.
In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my husband and family. We often opt for a day at the beach or park.
I strongly believe in Acacia's core values, and I am very excited to be a part of this amazing team.
If you wrote a book, who would you dedicate it to?
I would dedicate the book to my parents. They both have been extremely supportive my entire life, and have done everything possible to see my siblings and I succeed.
You are on a deserted island and can only bring one other person, who is that?
I would bring my husband on the deserted island. It would be nice to have quiet time with him, plus he has amazing survival skills.
DELIA CASTILLO | SHE/HER/HERS
Billing Administrative Assistant
Hello! My name is Delia and I am Billing Administrative Assistant here at Acacia. I assist in verifying insurance eligibility and benefits with various insurance agencies.
I recently started my journey in the billing industry and really enjoy the different challenges and changes in this field. I am looking to evolve as a Medical Biller and hope to become certified in the near future.
I am really excited to join the Acacia team! The team atmosphere and energy is inviting and supportive. I know Acacia values their employees and is passionate about providing students with a supportive and caring space.
In my spare time I enjoy fiddling around on my sewing machine and spending time with my family.
What's your favorite family tradition?
We have a tradition of having giant water balloon fights for all summer family events, regardless of the location. Sometimes we even get passerby's to join in and it is always a lot of fun!
Do you collect anything?
I collect elephant statues of all sorts- stone, glass and paintings. I have a fascination of elephants and hope to someday meet one in real life.
LOTUS LEE | SHE/HER/HERS
Billing Administrative Assistant
Hi! My name is Lotus and I was born and raised in Santa Clara, California, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. After finishing college, I moved to Santa Barbara in 2015 to start grad school at UCSB. A few years and one M.A. in East Asian Studies later, I came to realize that a career path in academia wasn't for me and flew the academic coop in June 2020. While I was looking for jobs in the area, Acacia's mission statements and values really stood out to me, and I'm excited to join a team that is working hard to make mental health services more accessible in higher education.
In my free time, I enjoy cooking, going on long walks, exploring open-world game environments, and planning PC builds.
What song best describes your life?
I would have to choose "Fleeting Days" by Deserts Chang, a now-retired Taiwanese indie singer. Accompanied by lilting chords of a solo guitar, she sings reflectingly about inevitability and solitude, loves and farewells. I really enjoy listening to this song whenever I go on a quiet walk.
What have been your nicknames throughout the years?
Two nicknames that stand out to me are--
– Brotus, coined accidentally by a good friend who has been and still is a bro to be cherished.
– Lotns, an unexpected gift on my cup of coffee from one fateful visit to Starbucks; still trying to figure this one out to this day.
JASLEEN SIDHU | SHE/HER/HERS
Billing Administrative Assistant
My name is Jasleen Sidhu and I am the Billing Administrative Assistant here at Acacia. In my role as a Billing Administrative Assistant, I work with insurance representatives to verify eligibility, manage benefit checks, and resolve issues.
I recently started a new chapter working in Acacia. I have a few years of experience working with insurance and billing and wanted to become more involved as well as knowledgeable in the billing aspect of a company.
I connect with Acacia’s mission and believe in the importance of taking care of our mental health, especially the mental health of college students who are learning to weave their way around stress and challenges through life and school. I look forward to working at Acacia because it holds so much passion, diversity, and respect. I am very grateful to be a part of this wonderful team!
In my spare time, I enjoy making creative videos of my dog, Joy, for her upcoming YouTube channel. I am very passionate about producing music, writing lyrics, and making songs. I also love reading, cooking, movies, houseplants, and appreciating the simpler things in life.
What makes you laugh the most?
My dog, Joy, makes me laugh so much! She has a strong personality and communicates very well through body and eye language. Whenever I feel down or stressed, she is always there to cheer me up with her little funny cuteness!
What is your favorite movie?
My most favorite movie is Shrek. I love Shrek because it holds such beautiful messages about acceptance, love, and life. Shrek once said, “They judge me before they even know me” and I hope everyone gives Shrek a chance!
NORMA MURILLO | SHE/HER/HERS
Hello my name is Norma Murillo, I am a Billing Specialist at Acacia. In my role as a Billing Specialist, I work with insurance representatives to manage benefits and eligibility verification and resolve all billing issues. I recently started at Acacia. I have several years of experience working with insurance billing and resolving billing encounters. I strongly believe in Acacia's core values, and I am very excited to be a part of this amazing team. I connect with Acacia’s mission and believe in the importance of taking care of our mental health, especially the mental health of college students who are navigating through their way around stress and challenges of life and school.
I am new to the Santa Barbara area from Los Angeles, but with my husband and two rescue fur babies (yes fur babies) Sophie my feisty Jack Russell Terrier and Sushi my sweet ex-military Schnauzer we plan to checkout all the new hiking and biking outdoor areas. Looking forward to making wine and enjoying all the area has to offer.
If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
Jesus, My Maternal Grandparents, Boris Pasternak, Mozart
What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?
A hatchet, chefs torch and a sun hat
ASHLEY WILLIAMS | SHE/HER/HERS
Hey there! My name is Ashley and I am a Billing Administrative Assistant here with Acacia! I assist in verifying insurance eligibility and benefits with various insurance agencies.
I have been in the billing industry for about 5 years and I truly enjoy the challenges and changes that comes with this position. I am fairly new with Acacia and I am so excited to play a small but very important role. I strongly believe in Acacias core beliefs and I am grateful to be a part of this amazing team.
I am a mother to 3 children and a wife so my days are never boring! I enjoy binge watching Star-Wars and Twilight! ( Yes I can totally watch these shows over and over)! I love to read or listen to a good book, hiking, doing anything that involves my family.
What kind of art do you appreciate the most?
I love music. Music is always there for you in the worst and best of times!
If someone came up to you and said “Hey, do that thing you do!”, what thing would pop into your head first?
Well, I love to make people laugh so I would definitely do a goofy dance or make a weird silly face!
YASHIA LO | SHE/HER/HERS
Billing Administrative Assistant
Hello, hello! My name is Yashia and I am a Billing Administrative Assistant with Acacia. My roots began at the Minneapolis office as I worked the virtual front desk during the latter half of the panorama that was 2020. As a U of M alumni, our mission to serve the community is near and dear. What I love about Acacia are the passionate individuals that I have had the honor of connecting with not only as colleagues, but as wonderful friends who are endlessly supportive. In my free time, I love taking my dogs out on adventures with friends and relaxing with good company.
If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes, whose would they be? Why?
If I could spend a day in someone else's shoes, I would choose my pug Tyga because she has a lovely personality, gets to lounge most days, and knows how to have fun.
What smell do you hate that doesn’t seem to bother other people?
A smell I hate that doesn't seem to bother others is car air freshener.
KATE ADLER | SHE/HER/HERS
Billing Administrative Assistant
Hello all! I'm Kate, and I'm a Billing Administrative Assistant here at Acacia's Isla Vista Office. I just graduated from UCSB with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Education, and I'm so excited to be assisting Acacia's Billing team in making sure that students can access mental health services without interference from insurance and billing problems.
I'm from San Francisco, but have lived in Santa Barbara since 2017. I love going on hikes around the area, roller blading with my best friends, and coming up with new and exciting recipes!
If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be?
I would be a dolphin! I'm hugely social and love working in teams, plus splashing around in the ocean all day sounds great to me!
If a genie granted you 3 wishes right now, what would you wish for?
Beyond all the obvious answers, like world peace and endless wishes, I would wish a new dog, a house with a big yard for him to play in, and the ability to eat gluten (I'm allergic but I miss bread so much!)
RANDI SHIMOTA | SHE/HER/HERS
MEDICAL ADMIN ASSISTANT
Hello! My name is Randi and I'm a Medical Admin Assistant at Acacia (recently hired in August 2021). I will be assisting the clinical staff with credentialing (collecting and entering data, preparing and submitting applications, working with insurance panels, etc). I'm excited to help out my colleagues in any way possible to keep things running smoothly!
In my free time, I enjoy riding my new Harley motorcycle, hanging out with my dog Bones, and I'm looking forward to going to concerts and comedy shows again!
What is something you could teach a class on?
I spent two winters in the southern United States in my self-converted cargo van, so I think it would be fun to teach a class about van life. I would discuss the pros and cons, what is all included in a van build and different layouts, where to park, traveling with a pet, how to make money on the road, etc.
What school subject did you love? Which did you dislike?
I loved band class and played the clarinet for 8 years. It was fun to learn that instrument, and music is still very important to me. I struggled with science classes and had a hard time understanding those subjects, although I still tried my best!