Minnesota Alternatives (a program within Miental Health Resources) provides adult outpatient mental health and/or substance use treatment and consultation services that focus on engagement, skill development, personalized interventions, neuroscience and healing trauma. The program uses many state of the art interventions including mindfulness meditation, imagery, motivational enhancements, cognitive behavioral strategies, and multiple trauma therapies.
The program specializes in serving people who experience both substance use issues and mental health problems and is enrolled with the Department of Human Services as a provider of Co-Occurring Services. However, a mental illness is not required to be eligible for services.
People use substances for different reasons and it is important to understand the motives underlying substance use. Understanding and addressing these motives can help people develop alternative ways to meet their needs. We help people define their own vision of recovery and provide individualized and practical help so that people can make different choices and improve the quality of their lives.
Minnesota Alternatives understands that everyone is an individual and strives to address the unique needs of each person, versus a one-size-fits-all approach. The program recognizes people are at different levels of readiness for change and will work to provide interventions that meet people where they are at. While abstinence may be the goal for the majority of clients, the program uses a harm reduction approach and embraces the full range of harm reducing goals. Small, incremental, positive changes are seen as steps in the right direction.
The program does not use a 12-Step model, but it does support and encourage clients who find this approach helpful, and can easily integrate step work into individualized treatment plans.
To read a recent interview that Paula DeSanto, MS, LSW, CPRP, CCDP-D Founder and President of Minnesota Alternatives gave Addiction Blog, please click here.
Who We Are
Paula Brandt (DeSanto) MS, LSW, CPRP, CCDP-D
Paula is the founder and president of Minnesota Alternatives, a unique outpatient program providing substance use and mental health treatment through person-centered principles and interventions. Paula’s Master of Science degree is in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Boston University. She is a Licensed Social Worker as well as a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner and a Certified Co-Occurring Disorder Professional-Diplomat.
In her role as outside consultant and trainer, Paula is often invited to speak to both professional and consumer audiences about alternative approaches to substance use disorder treatment and harm/risk reduction. She also serves on the Anoka County Directors Network, and the Medica Community Advisory Council.
Paula has developed programs that serve adults with mental health and/or substance use issues for more than 25 years. She has worked in a variety of settings that include intensive residential and outpatient treatment, case management, and community support. Previously, she worked at Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center bringing progressive, person-centered care into a medical setting. She was a program director for Diane Ollendick-Wright – working with her for 11 years and she also directed programs for 9 years for People Incorporated.
Barry Brandt, MH Practitioner, Peer Specialist
Barry studied at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis before beginning a career as a mental health practitioner in St. Petersburg, Florida. His work experiences during this time were in residential treatment and day activities programs and included case management and vocational job development for clients transitioning into community employment. He recently completed training with Minnesota Recovery Connection as a peer recovery coach.
Barry uses his experience as a mental health practitioner and peer recovery coach training to provide support to clients in group settings as well as one-on-one support. His focus at Minnesota Alternatives includes helping clients incorporate the skills they are learning in treatment into their day to day lives. Barry enjoys music, nature and mountain biking.
Susan Wagner, MPS, LADC, LPCC
Susan holds a Master of Professional Studies degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and was the first student to graduate from their Integrated Behavioral Health Program. At Minnesota Alternatives, Susan does substance use disorder and mental health counseling, individual therapy, diagnostic and substance use disorder assessments, and acts as our Intake Coordinator. With her special interest in trauma therapy, she is certified in Prolonged Exposure Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is also trained as a level I and II EMDR therapist. She offers therapy at Minnesota Alternatives for those who struggle with past trauma.
Susan received her License in Alcohol and Drug Counseling (LADC) after completing internships at Mission Detox Center in Plymouth, MN, and at Minnesota Alternatives. She also completed a mental health internship at Minnesota Alternatives is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). With a double major in neurobiology and psychology,
Susan received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Previously, she was involved in research settings as she completed her degrees.
Evan Hascall, BA, MPS, LADC
After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Spanish, Evan went on to the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities where he received a Master of Professional Studies degree. Like others on the team, he is a graduate of the Integrated Behavioral Health program. He is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and is working to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).
Evan draws from multiple therapeutic approaches, yet he grounds his work in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). He is dedicated to collaborating with clients in a way that honors person-centered principles. Evan believes that all people have worth, wisdom, and the internal resources to create the lives they want to live.
Krissa Jackson, MA, CPRP, LPCC
Krissa has a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany. While in the counseling program she took part in an additional vocational rehabilitation track. She is an LPCC and is also certified as a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner. Her clinical internships were at a traumatic brain injury hospital and at a community counseling center. Her bachelor’s degree is in psychology from Iowa State University.
At Minnesota Alternatives, Krissa does mental health and substance use disorder counseling as well as individual therapy. She has a special interest and training in somatic experiencing, which is a form of therapy aimed at relieving and resolving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical trauma-related health problems that focuses on the client's perceived body sensations (or somatic experiences.) In addition to serving as a mental health counselor, Krissa previously was the clinical supervisor of an intensive residential treatment program for women, a drop-in coordinator, a community support specialist, and a housing support specialist – all positions in which she worked with clients experiencing mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders. She has been working with our director, Paula DeSanto, in various settings for 15 years.
Allie Chapman, MA, LMFT
We’re delighted to have Alexandra Chapman complement our staff as a contracted outpatient mental health therapist for individuals, couples, and families. She received her M.A. degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from St. Mary's, University of MN and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT.) Allie’s clinical training included working as an eating disorder technician at The Emily Program, in-home and school-based therapist at FACTS (Family and Children's Therapy Services), and day treatment therapist at LifeSpan in Shoreview, MN. She has worked in a variety of settings such as in-home, community, school, day and residential treatment. She is also a Level I and II trained EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist.
Allie works with a variety of mental health concerns, life transition, and family issues. She also specializes in working with people who experience co-occurring disorders (substance use and mental health) and uses a person-centered approach accepting a full range of goals from abstinence to harm and risk reduction. See her profile listed at https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/255850
Allie is currently accepting new clients and offers flexible daytime and evening hours. She accepts Medica, UCare, Preferred One, Health Partners, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Those without insurance coverage can contact Allie to discuss private pay options at Allie@mnalternatives.com or 612-567-6305.
Sadie McKinley, MS, CPRP, CCDP-D
Sadie studied under Dr. Bill Anthony at Boston University, a leader in Psychiatric Rehabilitation and widely considered the father of the national mental health recovery movement.
Sadie has served for over 30 years as a practitioner and educator. She has been a promoter and participant in the Peer Support, Recovery and Hearing Voices Movement.
As a trainer, consultant, and conference presenter to promote person-centered, evidence-based practices, Sadie has been a change agent for how services are delivered to people with psychiatric disabilities and substance use issues. She is currently working in our initiative the provides intensive community-based support to Medica members with complex needs.
Todd Ostertag, BS, LADC
Todd is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) who serves as the LADC Supervisor and Intake Coordinator at our Spring Lake Park location. He was promoted into this position after working in our Medica Care Mangment program for several years.
Todd greatly appreciates the person-centered approach used at Minnesota Alternatives and the opportunity to attend primarily to the person rather than to his or her symptoms or diagnosis – avoiding the traditional therapeutic stance of neutrality in favor of one that’s more engaged and compassionate. Todd has a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Social Science and an Addiction Studies Certificate from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He has also worked as an LADC at Minnesota Alternatives outpatient program, where he did his internship.
Susie Pierce, BS, Peer Specialist
Susie has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She’s worked for over 25 years in financial services. Susie was also a volunteer at Crisis Connection as a phone counselor and she has worked with developmentally disabled adults before coming to Minnesota Alternatives, Inc. as a Peer Specialist in the Peer Support Center. She recently completed training with Minnesota Recovery Connection and is currently a Telephone Recovery Support volunteer there.
Susie uses her prior experience and peer recovery coach training to lead peer support groups as well as one-on-one support to clients that access the Peer Support Center.
Anita Raaum, MAT, LADC
Anita holds a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of St. Thomas, and a Master’s Certificate in Addiction Studies from the University of Minnesota. She completed her LADC internship at MN Alternatives. She earned her BA in History from Augsburg College, and is a certified “authentic” yoga instructor. She has more than 25 years professional teaching experience. Anita believes that a strong adherence to the client-centered approach in treating co-occurring disorders facilitates lasting and meaningful change. She utilizes educational, motivational, behavioral, and mind-body strategies in working with clients. Her philosophy includes harm-reduction, radical acceptance, forgiveness, self-compassion, and impermanence.
Having spent 4 months living and studying at a Thai Theraveda Forest Monastery in New Zealand, Anita is uniquely qualified to teach mindfulness and has been a practitioner for 14 years. Thai Theraveda Buddhism is the tradition from which Vipassana or "mindfulness" meditation is derived. Anita is a teacher for the Mindfulness, Recovery, and 12 Step community at Common Ground Meditation Center. She leads weekly meetings, half day retreats and recovery yoga classes there. She also teaches a weekly recovery yoga class at Region’s ADAP men’s residential treatment facility.
Jeffrey B. Sawyer, MD - Service Integration/Addiction Psychiatrist
Dr. Sawyer joined Minnesota Alternatives in 2016 and came on staff full-time in 2018. Dr. Sawyer's previous work has included being Medical Director of Behavioral Health and Integrative Care at North Memorial Health Care. During his time at North Memorial Dr. Sawyer founded a Mind Body Based Psychiatric Partial Hospital Program as well as initiating Primary Care – Behavioral Integration to facilitate a more holistic and integrated approach to managing psychiatric and addictive disorders in primary care.
Dr. Sawyer completed his psychiatry training at Mayo Clinic previously having been family physician. His 30 years of training and practice in medicine and psychiatry provided him with a breadth of knowledge to provide a well rounded treatment experience for his patients.
Dr. Sawyer is a public speaker to physicians across the nation on topics ranging from depression and anxiety to addiction treatments.
In addition to traditional psychiatric and medication treatment Dr. Sawyer has also been trained psychotherapy with an eclectic approach which draws upon traditional therapies such as psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapies in addition to utilizing more holistic/mind-body approaches such as self-hypnosis, EMDR , meditative practices including mind-body skills groups, yoga, and mindfulness.
Dr. Sawyer is committed to the transformation of addiction treatment -meeting the patient where they are at in their journey -helping them manage whatever they bring to the table in a truly patient centered/collaborative approach utilizing the latest research for their addiction, psychiatric and medical needs.
Outside of work Dr. Sawyer enjoys working out, golf, biking, kayaking, yoga, travel and good food with family and friends.
Kyle Smyth, LADC
Kyle started working with Minnesota Alternatives as part of his Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LADC) internship and since earning his LADC has returned to Minnesota Alternatives. Kyle is continuing his education with the goal of also becoming a Licensed Practitioner of Clinical Counseling (LPCC), understanding the importance of treating mental health and chemical health in tandem.
Kyle’s early experience with the Minnesota AIDS Project taught him the importance of making treatment fit the client, rather than trying to make the client fit treatment. Kyle works from a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) foundation, emphasizing the importance developing insight into client’s thoughts and feelings. Kyle has a passion for drawing on the science of behavioral therapy and communicating in ways that help clients meet their own goals.
Jill Sweeny, MSW, LICSW
Jill has worked in mental health settings for almost two decades with much of her career focused on high-need clients. One of her early jobs that has helped through her entire career was to support and care for clients to prevent them from returning to the hospital and so they could remain in the community to better facilitate their healing. She holds a master’s degree in social work and is a licensed independent clinical social worker. As a therapist, she specializes in helping people with trauma and substance use disorders. She has special training in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Jill received her bachelor’s degree in the applied science of psychology from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and did two internships, one in an inpatient setting and the other in day treatment. She received her masters in social work from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and did her clinical intern hours at Health Services in the university counseling department. (There, she worked with young adults facing challenges related to stress, depression, substance misuse, and sexual violence.) She went on to become clinical supervisor at a residential program for women with mental health and substance issues. She has been working with the founder Paula Brandt (DeSanto), in various settings for 18 years.
Robin Sydor, BFA, AA
Robin keeps everything and everyone on track as the office manager at Minnesota Alternatives, where her skills as a certified life coach often come in handy. She oversees all administrative functions including accounting, claims processing, account receivables, payroll and human resources.
Her background in interior design, (not to mention her previous experience as a clothing designer for some impressive companies) are obvious in Robin’s influence in the warm and arty décor at Minnesota Alternatives. Her numerous culinary awards inspire the wonderful lunches she provides for clients and staff. Robin has also been an ergonomic/medical device designer - she happens to hold at least a dozen patents!