Meet the Team
At the Athens Area Commencement Center, all of our staff are licensed and/or certified to treat the disease of addiction. The counselors and nurses continuously receive training and education in the most recent science of chemical dependency. AACC treats each client Biologically or Medically, Psychologically and Socially.
The Commencement Center exists to ensure that each patient reaches his or her destination of sobriety and wellness in a safe and confidential environment, and the AACC staff works together as a team, tailoring each treatment and recovery plan to the individual patient. Our Aftercare Services and our deep commitment to the local recovery community help to ensure long term sobriety for our clients.
JIM HINZMAN- President and CEO
Jim Hinzman is the President and CEO of the Athens Area Commencement Center. Jim has worked in the drug and alcohol field as a clinician and administrator for more than 3 decades and is experienced both in hospital and private medical settings. Jim received his Masters Degree from Emory University; is certified as a Master Addiction Counselor through NAADAC and in Co-Occurring Disorders by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Inc; and is a Certified Clinical Supervisor.
ROB HINZMAN- Administrator
Rob Hinzman's administrative duties include managing the daily operations of the Athens Area Commencement Center. Rob is consistently exploring new ideas to improve patient care and AACC as a whole. Rob holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology, and is a GCADC Level II Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Rob has been working in the recovery field and at AACC since 2004. Rob assists with Group and Individual Therapy and manages clinical, financial, and overall operations of the Commencement Center. Rob enjoys witnessing AACC patients who come in with little hope, and watching them get better to live fuller, happier lives.
Farris Johnson, MD- Medical Director
Dr. Johnson has worked with the Athens Area Commencement Center, treating patients with addictions, since its early years. Dr. Johnson is a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and is board-certified by the American Board of Family Practice. A native Athenian, Dr. Johnson has practiced medicine in Athens since 1985.
JOE PRESTON- Program Coordinator
A Nationally Certified Addiction Counselor Level II and a Certified Clinical Supervisor, Joe Preston is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment field. Joe is a big part of the Athens Area Commencement Center Team, which tailors treatment to each individual patient based on his or her needs. Joe has been in recovery since 1986.
KARA HOLCOMB- Counselor
Kara Holcomb is a Licensed Master Social Worker and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work. She received her B.A. in Psychology at Sewanee and has postgraduate experience in research surrounding addiction, attachment, and parenting. Kara also has experience working as a therapist and case manager with adults and children in the community mental health field. In her role as a counselor at AACC, Kara focuses on individual and group therapy, treatment planning, and case management. Her outside interests include travel, spin classes, reading and good food.
CRISSY WALTON- Registered Nurse
Crissy Walton, RN, received her nursing degree from Athens Technical College where she helped found the Active Minds (Mental Health Awareness Group) on campus. Crissy's attention to detail comes from her previous education and work experience in accounting, which, combined with her nursing experience, allows her to treat the patient completely: mind, body and spirit. Crissy says, "I love that AACC is a team-oriented staff. We see what's best for each individual client, and we work together to accomplish that goal."
NICK COMBS- RN Utilization Review
Nick Combs hails from the DC metro area with a passion for Addiction Medicine. His experience ranges from Emergency Room Nursing, to Cardiac Surgical ICU Nursing at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. He enjoys Utilization Review- working with insurance companies to assure patient authorization for treatment. Nick states, "AACC's holistic treatment Team Approach is unique and vital to our patients' success. Outpatient Treatment and Detox are becoming the preferred method for insurance companies and addiction professionals. I love watching it work so well for our clients". Nick is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), providing yoga and mindfulness techniques to our AACC clients. Outside interests include running and Steelers' football.
MERRILL A. NORTON- Pharm. D., D.Ph., ICCDP-D
Dr. Norton specializes in Psychopharmacology and Addiction Pharmacy as well as the management of chronic pain in the addicted patient. Dr. Norton serves on the faculty of the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy with past teaching experience at Fairleigh-Dickinson University, Alliant International University of San Francisco College of Psychology, and Berry College. Dr. Norton was recently honored by the Georgia Addiction Counselors Association with the Distinguished Service Award for 2015 for recognition of commitment to the treatment and welfare of those affected by alcohol and drug addiction. Norton’s book The Pharmacology of Psychoactive Chemical Use, Abuse, and Dependence, and his DVD series, “The Hijacking of the Brain” are used to train mental health professionals nationally. His new book, The Pharmacology of Substance Use Disorders, will be released this year.
JIM TURNER, MPPPM- Aftercare Coordinator
Jim Turner officially joined AACC in early 2014 as Aftercare Program Coordinator and has served as a volunteer worker at AACC since 2008. Jim holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Georgia. Jim greatly enjoys working with newcomers to recovery and feels the Aftercare Program is a vital part of the client recovery process. Since participation in the Aftercare Program is voluntary, it provides an additional level of responsibility and accountability for those in their first two years of recovery. Outside interests for Jim include golf and reading. Jim has been in recovery since 2007.
BEAU- Therapy Dog
Beau is our most beloved staff member at the Athens Area Commencement Center. He is a pure-bread Golden Retriever trained in obedience and hunting. Beau's job duties include greeting clients and putting smiles on their faces. Beau loves attention from our clients, and he loves to be loved. The quality of therapy Beau gives is unlike that of any other staff member at AACC. Beau can't wait to meet you!