Our Leadership Team

Debbie Pantin, MSW - CEO

Debbie Pantin joined VIP Services in September, 2013, as the Associate Executive Director.  She was appointed as VIP's new Chief Executive Officer effective January 2017. She has over 25 years of experience in the human services industry, specializing in the fields of mental health, substance use disorder treatment, homelessness, supportive housing, vocational and employment services, primary care, and HIV prevention and services. Leading agency-wide changes and managing organizational transitions are the hallmarks of Ms. Pantin’s experience and reputation. Her professional experience includes staff training and development, and conference presentations and planning. She participates in various national, state, and local boards. Ms. Pantin has extensive knowledge of program development and services, as well as budget management.  Most recently, Ms. Pantin served as the COO of Palladia Inc., a not- for- profit agency in New York City. At Palladia she directed program and operational services, which collectively serviced approximately 17,500 clients per year; a staff of 470 employees, and an annual budget of $45 million. As a key member of the leadership team, Ms. Pantin was tasked with influencing systematic changes. She campaigned key agency initiatives; Outpatient Substance Abuse Services and Mental Health Services, Quality Improvement processes--- namely the NIATx (Network for the Improvement of Addiction Services) process, and the use of Data Driven Management. Ms. Pantin has been a driving force in educating her team, and staff in Health Care Reform. She brings to VIP her exceptional human services management experience and command of the critical policy issues of our times.  Ms. Pantin has established herself as one of the top professionals in the not-for -profit industry.

Irving Dela Cruz, CPA CIA CGMA - Executive Vice President/CFO

IMG_0581Irving dela Cruz leads the Finance Department, Infrastructure and Development activities of VIP Community Services Inc. (“VIP”). He also oversees the asset management operations of the affordable housing portfolio of VIP. He has over 23 years of extensive accounting, auditing and consulting experience servicing both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Prior to joining VIP, Irving was the Chief Financial Officer of Asian Americans for Equality, Inc. He worked as an audit manager at Marks Paneth LLP, one of the largest accounting firm in the New York region. Irving also worked as a senior auditor in another CPA firm in the New York City area that specializes in financial and compliance audits of various nonprofit entities.  Prior to migrating in the United States, Irving was the managing partner of his own consulting firm in the Philippines.  Irving was involved in various audits and consulting engagements for several high-profile multinational companies when he was employed in Sycip Gorres Velayo & Co./Ernst & Young LLP during the early part of his career.  Irving also worked as a Senior Finance Manager of a car dealership in the Philippines, owned and affiliated with major bank.

Irving holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce major in Accounting. In July 2014, Irving completed the Hispanic Leadership Institute Emerging Leaders Program sponsored by the Hispanic Federation and Baruch College School of Public Affairs. He also attended a Leadership and Management Development Program at the Center for Continuing Education of Ateneo de Manila University.  He also had units in the Ateneo-Regis MBA Program from the same school.

Irving is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in the State of Virginia and has the Certified Internal Auditor® (CIA®) designation, a globally accepted certification for internal auditors. In April 2014, Irving has been awarded the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. The CGMA designation recognizes professionals who have deep understanding of finance and have expanded their business skills through experience as management accountants to help drive better business decisions. Lastly, Irving is also an associate member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and the Society of Human Resource Management.

Deborah Witham - Executive Vice President/General Counsel

Deborah WithamDebbi Witham has over 15 years of clinical and administrative experience in Social Service and Behavioral Health organizations.  She currently oversees the Compliance, Policy, and Planning functions at VIP Community Services.  This role includes ensuring the organization adheres to all City, State, and Federal regulations; overseeing all Quality Improvement and Risk Management functions; and exploring new lines of business and funding opportunities.  Debbi has been with VIP Community Services since 2010 and is a Licensed Master Social Worker and Lawyer.

Carmen Rivera- Assistant Vice President of Communications & External Affairs

Carmen G. Rivera currently serves as the Assistant Vice President of Communications & External Affairs for VIP Community Services, Bronx NY. Carmen served on the Board of Directors of VIP Community Services for 35 years, where she served as its Chair for 20 years. Ms. Rivera is an active community organizer and activist who facilitated a myriad of community partnerships throughout her 42 year history with the organization

Ms. Rivera was born in Bayamon, in Puerto Rico and is the third of six children. Her bilingual and bicultural background provided her with sensitivity to the plights of the influx of immigrants and those with language barriers. She began a career of volunteerism; most notably at her local parish of St Anthony’s where a local priest (Rev. Father Robert Banome) helped to nurture her thirst for spiritual ministry and activism. These ecumenical efforts helped to propel the Bronx leaders into providing housing for the poor, food for the hungry, and treatment for those suffering from chemical dependency. Ms. Rivera became a leader in provision of those services in her community.

Her community leadership has spanned decades. Carmen has served on Community Board 9 for seventeen years, and held a post on the Executive Committee for nine. Ms. Rivera also served for 14 years as Housing Chairperson. Ms. Rivera honorably served as parish trustee for 18 years, and President of Parish Council for Church of St. Anthony. Ms. Rivera serves as a mentor and leader to young girls ages 7- 18 years. She provides spiritual mentorship and community projects to create future Latina leaders. She also serves as a member of the Executive Committee of Discovery for Justice Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for criminal justice reform.

Her early professional career was in Publishing. Carmen was employed as the National Sales Manager at Bookazine a Book Wholesaler, later becoming National Trade Sales Manager at Lectorum/Scholastic Publishing marketing Spanish books nationwide.  Carmen was a member of the American Library Association, American Bookseller’s Association, and a member of Reforma, supporting the needs of Spanish speakers through library services.  In 2009, Carmen was honored with the first Lifetime Achievement Distinction providing services to the Latino community.

Her most important role is the matriarch of her family. Carmen is mother to Yolanda & Jeanette and grandmother of three:  Jasmine, Destiny, and Brandon. She is great grandmother to Hailey and Dominick.  Ms. Rivera is a proud resident of Bronx, NY for 54 years and has resided in the same home for 45 years.  She is an avid reader who enjoys culinary arts and travel.

Hema Santhanam, MSN, CFNP, AAHIVS- Chief Program Officer Health Services


Ms. Santhanam has been with DFCC since 2004, and a principal in the development and implementation of a number of innovative programs. She has worked in the area of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, Mental Health, and Substance Use throughout her entire career. Also an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University, Ms. Santhanam mentors Nursing, Nurse Practitioner, and Physician’s Assistant students, and is regularly sought out by the community to speak on topics such as HIV/AIDS, Infectious Disease, and Hepatitis C. She currently serves as the Chair of the Queens Hepatitis C Task Force, and sits on the Advisory Board of the NYSDOH AIDS Institute. This experience makes her ideally suited to be an effective leader in developing the skills of her staff and fostering a team approach to care. She is a clinical informatics expert and has the knowledge and understanding of DFCCs’ Electronic Health Record to champion the collaborative efforts that will be necessary to successfully implement this program. Finally, Ms. Santhanam heads the agency’s Quality Improvement Team, providing clinical informatics support for team members to facilitate data extraction and reporting as well as clinical expertise, guidance on development of standards of care, and evaluation of clinical outcomes.