Gándara Center Executive Director to Retire: Henry East-Trou a Longtime Advocate for the Underserved

Henry East-Trou is stepping down as Executive Director of the Gándara Center after 36 years on the job, 29 of which have been in his current leadership role, shepherding the agency through an era of unprecedented growth. East-Trou joined the center in 1982 as a clinical supervisor for the agency’s psychiatric day treatment program. At the time, the organization had one location in Springfield’s North End neighborhood, its outpatient mental health clinic, and employed approximately 30 staff.

Today, the Gándara Center is home to behavioral health, substance use, prevention and educational services at more than 45 locations throughout the state, employs close to 900 staff, and serves over 12,000 adults, children, and families from the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable populations.

The agency’s mission is to serve diverse populations with its roots planted respectively in the Latino community. “I felt like the Hispanic community really gave me a job to do,” said East-Trou. “My hope has always been to leave this organization better than it was when I began. Although it has been challenging at times, we have always been able to deliver quality services to the people who needed us most.”

His decision to retire has not been an easy one, but “the time has come,” said East-Trou. “I look forward to spending more time with my family and friends and getting to watch my two beautiful granddaughters grow up. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. It has been a true pleasure.”

East-Trou’s departure will take place in May, 2019. The organization is planning an event to be held that month that will be open to the public in honor of his career and commitment to the community. Proceeds raised will benefit the agency’s Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship program, which provides youth from low-income Springfield families the opportunity to attend city-wide summer camp programs.

The agency will begin the search for its new leadership immediately. An official job posting will be available in early December. Qualified candidates are encouraged to reach out directly to Pam Thornton at the Employers Association of the Northeast at pthornton@eane.org.

By |November 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara Center Executive Director to Retire: Henry East-Trou a Longtime Advocate for the Underserved

The Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law: Protection for Overdose Victims & Witnesses

Studies show the Latinx and African-American communities are losing trust in law enforcement. This is because of a number of different reasons, such as societal stigmatization and prejudicial rhetoric against minorities. While in some cases it’s understandable why this erosion of trust is taking place, it makes things difficult for combatting the opioid crisis. Mutual trust between police and the community at large is necessary for harm reduction services to act as they should. This is where the Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law comes into play.

The Good Samaritan Law is the common name for a state law that protects substance users experiencing overdose symptoms from being arrested. It’s meant to encourage people to seek medical attention if they overdose by calling 9-1-1, protecting them from prosecution for illegal acts such as possession of an illicit substance.

The rule also extends to people with the overdose victim; so if they witness an overdose, they, too, will not be arrested.

Related: Opioid Overdose Deaths Among Black Males, Fentanyl Use Increase [Report]

The point of the law is not to arrest substance users, but instead to urge them to seek sustainable, long-lasting treatment and recovery services. Responders on the scene may administer the overdose-reversal drug naloxone (aka Narcan), and provide users with dosages to carry on themselves if medical assistance is unavailable.

Now, the law can also be a bit tricky to understand. It doesn’t exactly guarantee full immunity from prosecution. For example, if someone at the scene calls the police under the Good Samaritan Law and the caller has prior warrants or is intending to distribute substances, the protection goes away.

Here’s a breakdown:

What the Good Samaritan Law does:

  • Protects people from prosecution for possession of controlled substances when calling 9-1-1
  • Empowers witnesses to call 9-1-1 during an overdose
  • Saves lives and gives people who use opioids a chance to seek recovery and treatment services
  • Provides legal protection for medical professionals who prescribe naloxone, or people who possess and/or administer naloxone to someone appearing to suffer an opioid-related overdose
  • Builds trust between law enforcement and members of the community

What the Good Samaritan Law does not do:

  • Does not interfere with law enforcement securing the scene at an overdose
  • Does not prevent prosecution for drug trafficking
  • Does not prevent prosecution for outstanding warrants
Holyoke Police

Holyoke Police

The Gándara Center hosted two Spanish-speaking Narcan training events in November. Here we provided attendees with step-by-step instructions on how to act if they encounter an overdose. These included techniques for giving rescue breathing to overdose victims and best practices for administering Narcan. We believe everyone—Everyone!—should possess, know how to use, and be prepared to use Narcan. It could save a life.

We also enlisted the help of officers from the Springfield and Holyoke police departments to help residents restore trust with law enforcement. The officers explained the Good Samaritan Law from their perspective. They reminded everyone that their primary job is to maintain a safe community and it’s not their intention to simply go around locking people up on drug charges; rather, they want to help people recovery from their substance use and/or mental health disorders.

By |November 26th, 2018|News, Politics, Science|Comments Off on The Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law: Protection for Overdose Victims & Witnesses

Read Our November Newsletter Online!

The Gándara Center’s November newsletter is online! Read about our #ValleyGivingTuesday fundraising effort on November 27, our Blood Drive/Job Fair with the American Red Cross on December 11 in Holyoke, and our community Narcan trainings with Tapestry Health in October and November.

You can also view the agency’s subject matter experts being interviewed by local news media outlets, including our executive director, Henry East-Trou, and Gándara Center recovery coach supervisor Daisy Hernandez, were on the BOMBA RADIO Springfield 104.5 FM show Nuestra Raíces on October 24 to discuss our Spanish-speaking community Narcan training sessions in Holyoke and Springfield. We live streamed the conversation on our Twitter page, and you can view the show, entirely in Spanish, here.

Read the newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/gandaracenter/november2018newsletter.

By |November 20th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read Our November Newsletter Online!

Opioid Overdose Deaths Among Black Males, Fentanyl Use Increase [Report]

New data has been released that show overall opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts are on the decline. Between Q2 and Q3 of this year, 49 fewer people suffered fatal overdoses. If this trend continues through 2018, Massachusetts will see two consecutive years of overdose death decreases after six consecutive years of increases from 2010–2016. This is good news. But there’s also bad news. Overdose deaths among black males are on the rise, as are deaths in certain counties, and fentanyl use.

11.16.18 opioid stats MassDPH_demographics

The Department of Public Health (DPH) uses three race and ethnicity identifiers to break down statewide demographic information: white, non-Hispanic; black, non-Hispanic; and Hispanic. Each group has suffered traumatically from the opioid crisis in their own way.

For example, more than three quarters of the state’s population identifies as white and statistically more whites have died over overdose than black, non-Hispanics and Hispanics. Hispanics saw the most dramatic increase in overdose deaths from 2014–2016, when the number of fatal overdoses nearly doubled. From 2016–2017, both groups saw a decline.

Opioid Overdose Deaths Among Black Males

Overdose deaths in the black, non-Hispanic community have steadily increased since 2014. But from 2016–2017, overdose deaths declined among black women—they increased among black men by more than 10 per 100,000.

“There is an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths among black males and we are focusing our efforts on tailoring our services to the needs of these communities,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “We are also targeting public awareness campaigns to black communities in the Commonwealth, including a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of carrying naloxone, the opioid reversal medication.”

The African-American community faces a number of societal challenges that play into this increase, especially for men. These include stigmatization and bias when treating African-Americans, which can lead to breakdown of trust between the substance user and the medical professional; the lack of access to information and treatment services for African-Americans; and an over-reliance on faith as a spiritual form of treatment.

Fentanyl on the Rise

For overdose victims who received a toxicology screen, presence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl was found in 90% of cases. The DPH suspects that the majority of fentanyl found in Massachusetts is illicitly produced, meaning most of it does not come from pharmaceutical prescriptions and is either created illegally or smuggled into the state.

“The opioid epidemic, fueled by an all-time high level of fentanyl, remains a tragic public health crisis responsible for taking too many lives in Massachusetts,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

Fentanyl is estimated to be 25–50 times stronger than heroin and 50–100 times stronger than morphine. About 2–3 milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. That’s roughly the size of 5–7 grains of salt.


Of the 14 counties in Massachusetts, 5 saw increases in overdose deaths from 2016–2017: Essex, Nantucket, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester counties. Overdose deaths are up in Boston and Worcester, the two most populated cities in New England. In Boston, though, fewer residents died over overdose while more non-residents died of overdose, indicating people are traveling to urban centers and overdosing there in higher numbers. In Worcester, increases occurred among both residents and non-residents.

In addition, all these counties except Worcester County are contain significant port cities and towns, making it easier to import substances by boat.

11.16.18 opioid stats MassDPH_county

Combating the Opioid Crisis

The state has undertaken several initiatives to combat the opioid crisis. In addition to targeted public awareness campaigns (as seen above), Massachusetts secured $36 million in new federal funding to expand overdose education and naloxone (aka Narcan) distribution, office-based opioid treatment, access to medication-assisted treatment, and recovery support services.

The Gándara Center is also committed to supporting at-risk populations ravaged by the opioid crisis. We’ve hosted Spanish-speaking Narcan training events with Tapestry Health and will continue to put on training sessions in the future. We analyze data, like those provided by DPH, to determine effective long-lasting solutions for the communities we serve.

In addition, the various addiction recovery centers we operate are designed to serve people in different stages of addiction and recovery. We provide services for women, residential services for young women, short-term residential services for men, long-term residential services for Spanish-speaking men, and more.

By |November 16th, 2018|News, People, Science|Comments Off on Opioid Overdose Deaths Among Black Males, Fentanyl Use Increase [Report]

Well-Attended Community Narcan Trainings a Success

Gándara Center and Tapestry Health received a lot of positive feedback about our recent Narcan overdose prevention trainings in Westfield, Ludlow, Palmer, Chicopee, Holyoke, and Springfield. The latter two events were conducted in Spanish to make this crucial information even more accessible to the local Latino community.

Attendees were not only given instructions on how to administer Narcan, a life-saving opioid antagonist, but were also told about how it works, how long it works, what happens to the body during an overdose, who is at risk for an opioid overdose, signs of an overdose, how to support the overdose victim’s breathing, and the emergence the fentanyl-adulterated heroin and its role in the increase of overdoses.

Nellie Maldonado, assistant director for program administration at Tapestry (pictured above at the Westfield Athenaeum on October 18) explained how both new and experienced users are at risk of overdosing on heroin because it’s impossible for them to know the purity of the drug they are using. She said that people who relapse after a period of abstinence are especially vulnerable because their tolerance is down. Experienced users are especially at risk because some are more confident and believe they can handle higher doses: “They say ‘I got this,’” said Maldonado.

Also pictured above is Antonio Roman, harm reduction counselor for the Holyoke Syringe Access Program, at the training at the Chestnut Middle School in Springfield on November 13. At the Holyoke and Springfield events, several police officers talked about the state’s 911 Good Samaritan law, which provides protection from drug possession charges when an overdose victim or an overdose witness seeks medical attention.

Overdose prevention education is critical for community health and well-being, especially during the nation’s growing opioid crisis. The Latino and African-American populations experience some of the fastest growth rates of confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, from 2014 through 2016 opioid-related deaths among Latinos more than doubled in the state, a rate higher than any other demographic. African-Americans were the only demographic to see a rise in opioid-related deaths from 2016 to 2017. As such, Gándara Center is dedicated to using the available data to identify engaging and appropriate solutions.

Because Gándara Center believes Narcan training should be available to everyone in the community, our agency plans to have more of these events in the future.

By |November 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Well-Attended Community Narcan Trainings a Success

What is Carfentanil: The Synthetic Opioid 10,000 Times Stronger Than Morphine

The latest available data show a decline in opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts from 2016–2017. That’s reason to be optimistic. If this trend continues, the state could make serious strides to reduce the severe effects of the opioid crisis. But there’s also reason to worry. While toxicology analyses indicate a decline in the presence of heroin in opioid-related overdose deaths, fentanyl is on the rise. Even scarier is the emergence of a substance related to, and more potent than, fentanyl: carfentanil. So what is carfentanil?

Carfentanil is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act (which includes substances like cocaine, opium, and oxycodone) and is used as an elephant tranquilizer. It’s a synthetic opioid much more powerful than fentanyl. Fentanyl is estimated to be 25–50 times stronger than heroin and 50–100 times stronger than morphine. About 2–3 milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. That’s roughly the size of 5–7 grains of salt. (See image above.)

Image via DEA

Carfentanil, however, is estimated to be 100 times stronger than fentanyl, or 10,000 times stronger than morphine. As little as .00002 grams can kill a person.

Let that sink in a moment.

According to the Center for Disease Control, carfentanil deaths nearly doubled from 421 in the last half of 2016 to 815 in the first half of 2017. Like fentanyl, which turned up in 89% of toxicology reports among overdose victims in Massachusetts this year, other illicit substances can be laced with carfentanil. For example, a Cincinnati man plead guilty to attempting to murder a witness by selling him heroin cut with carfentanil; in Indianapolis, supposed prescription pills were found to be counterfeit, some of which contained carfentanil.

The arrival of carfentanil in the commonwealth was confirmed by Massachusetts State Police in 2017. At the time, State Police were unaware of any overdose deaths connected with carfentanil. Since then, “The state’s drug lab has detected carfentanil in at least 40 samples of heroin and other opioids seized during arrests” and “as detected in autopsies in at least four overdose cases last year,” as reported in April 2018. The manufacture, possession, and distribution of carfentanil has been explicitly outlawed by the state legislature.

Overdose deaths caused by carfentanil have also been reported in New Hampshire.

On the other side of the continent, harm reduction methods are in development. Scientists in Vancouver, British Columbia have created a paper testing strip that recognizes the presence of fentanyl or carfentanil in a given substance. The hope is this will lead scientists to build “a compact mass spectrometer the size of a small microwave, that could be used in overdose prevention sites, in community health centres [sic] and by mobile harm reduction teams.”

Vancouver, hit extremely hard by the opioid crisis is an international leader in combating it, from offering extreme users clean prescription heroin to the formation of safe injection sites—the idea being you can’t provide treatment people for substance use if they aren’t alive to receive it.

Increased access to naloxone (aka Narcan) has helped reduce opioid-related overdose deaths nationwide. With fentanyl and carfentanil, though, it’s unclear how effective naloxone is. Naloxone reverses the symptoms of overdose in a matter minutes and has been credited with combating overdose deaths. Because of the sheer potency of carfentanil, scientists have seen a resistance to standard doses naloxone, such as an injection or nasal spray, though data remains inconclusive.

The Gándara Center is committed to empowering everyone to learn about naloxone and how to use it. We partnered up with Tapestry Health to hold two Spanish-speaking Narcan training sessions, in Holyoke and Springfield, to provide information and free dosages of Narcan to at-risk populations.

We will continue to work with Tapestry to host more training sessions in the future, and get Narcan in the hands of as many people as possible.

By |November 15th, 2018|News, Science|Comments Off on What is Carfentanil: The Synthetic Opioid 10,000 Times Stronger Than Morphine

The Valley Gives on Giving Tuesday: On Nov. 27 Help Us Send Kids to Summer Camp

After you’ve shopped ’til you drop during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, kick-off the official “Giving Season” and join us on November 27 for #ValleyGivingTuesday.

Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving, was created in 2012 as an opportunity for those looking to give back at the end of the year to donate to their favorite nonprofits and make a difference. This year, #ValleyGivingTuesday builds on this movement by adding an emphasis on giving to local charities.

On #ValleyGivingTuesday we hope you will consider the Gándara Center in your charitable giving and help us send children and teenagers to summer camp through our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship.

Summer camp is not only fun for kids—it also helps build their self-confidence as they try new activities and make new friends. But not every child in Springfield has the chance to go to camp because of its cost. Parents who lack child care find it difficult to find affordable, safe opportunities for kids when school isn’t in session. Summer camp is the perfect environment for these youngsters, and it provides parents and caregivers with peace of mind that their child is being socially, emotionally, and physically engaged in a safe setting.

In 2016, Gándara Center first teamed up with the city of Springfield’s Department of Parks, Buildings, & and Recreation Management to offer the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship program for Springfield youth to attend one session of summer camp for free.

Click here to become an Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship sponsor!


By |November 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Valley Gives on Giving Tuesday: On Nov. 27 Help Us Send Kids to Summer Camp

Blood Drive/Job Fair on December 11 in Holyoke: Give Life—and Learn About Our Career Opportunities

NEW: All blood donors will receive a $5.00 Amazon.com Gift Card via email!

It’s not every day that we do something that has lifesaving impact, but a blood donation may give someone a second chance at life.

And it’s not that common for two organizations to combine a Blood Drive and a Job Fair into one event, but that’s exactly what the American Red Cross and Gándara Center are doing on Tuesday, December 11, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Gándara’s offices at 80 Commercial Street in Holyoke. You can donate blood to help your community—and also learn about career opportunities at Gándara Center, which provides residential, mental health, substance use, and preventative services to Hispanics, African Americans, and other culturally diverse populations.

Blood Drive

Every two seconds someone in America needs blood, but each year fewer and fewer people are donating. In fact, the nation has been facing a critical blood shortage since this past summer because of a rise in demand—much of it due to the increased number of complex therapies such as chemotherapy, heart surgeries, and organ transplants, which require large amounts of blood products, including platelets and plasma, according to the American Red Cross.

The blood type in highest demand is type O (positive or negative), which is most frequently requested by hospitals to treat a range of patients from trauma victims to premature babies. About 45% of people in the U.S. have type O blood. But the percentage is higher among Hispanics (57%) and African Americans (51%).

Adding to the shortage is the fact that minorities donate blood at substantially lower rates than whites, which is especially unfortunate because blood donated by Hispanics and African Americans may even carry a rare variant that can save the lives of others with that same variant.

Simply put, if you are Hispanic and you give blood, you could potentially save the life of a friend, relative, or acquaintance in the Hispanic community. Likewise, African American recipients of blood transfusion, such as sickle cell disease patients—along with general hospitalized patients—have a better chance of receiving phenotype-matched red blood cell units when there is a significant percent of blood products in inventory from African American donors, according to a study by the National Blood Foundation and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Those interested in giving blood on December 11 can make an appointment ahead of time to avoid waiting by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by clicking here.

Job Fair

Are you looking for a rewarding job that makes a difference in the lives of others? Gándara Center is hiring, especially in response to the opioid crisis and the increased need for substance use and mental health treatments. New open positions include Bilingual Clinician (Master’s Level), Peer Mentor, Addiction Recovery / Residential Counselor, Community Health Worker, Direct Care Professional / Adult Residential Care, Juvenile Correctional Counselor, Medical Assistant, Part-time Marketing and Development Assistant, Residential Counselor / Youth Residential Care, and Therapeutic Mentor.

Comprehensive benefits to full-time employees include competitive health and dental insurance, paid vacations, 11 paid holidays, 8 discretionary days, 403(b) retirement plan, free life insurance, and free long/short-term disability.

Gándara Center serves more than 11,000 children, adults, and families from all backgrounds every year at more than 45 locations across Massachusetts. Our agency, with more than 800 employees, provides a progressive, team-based environment with many other exciting job opportunities as well. If you are ready to work in an environment where caring is a way of life, you might just be the kind of person Gándara Center is looking for.

For more information, contact Lisa Brecher at lbrecher@gandaracenter.org or 413-296-6214.


By |November 9th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Blood Drive/Job Fair on December 11 in Holyoke: Give Life—and Learn About Our Career Opportunities

Community Narcan Trainings to be Offered in Spanish Nov. 7 and 13: SPREAD THE WORD!

Overdose prevention education is critical for community health and well-being, especially during the nation’s growing opioid crisis. The Gándara Center has partnered with Tapestry, a nonprofit community-based healthcare provider, to offer Narcan trainings this fall with the intent of empowering community members, active injection drug users, families and friends to save lives.

We’re received a lot of positive feedback about our first four October trainings in English in Westfield, Ludlow, Palmer, and Chicopee, where attendees learned about rescue breathing, what Narcan is, and how to administer it. Narcan will continue to be distributed during our two November events in Spanish.

Entrenamiento de Narcan en Español

Gándara, as the statewide leader in providing substance use and mental health treatments to Latinos, is committed to providing Spanish speaking trainings to make the Narcan events more accessible to the local Latino community.

The Latino and African-American populations experience some of the fastest growth rates of confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, from 2014 through 2016 opioid-related deaths among Latinos more than doubled in the state, a rate higher than any other demographic. African-Americans were the only demographic to see a rise in opioid-related deaths from 2016 to 2017. As such, the Gándara Center is dedicated to using the available data to identify engaging and appropriate solutions, and believes Narcan training should be accessible to everyone in the community.

If you know people who would benefit from Narcan training in Spanish, please share this important, potentially life-saving opportunity to them!

All are welcome to attend, and all trainings are free. Childcare, as well as light refreshments, will be available at the Spanish-speaking events in November.

Community Narcan Trainings in Spanish

Wednesday, November 7
Holyoke Public Library
250 Chestnut St.
Holyoke, MA
5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, November 13
Chestnut Middle School
355 Plainfield St.
Springfield, MA
5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.


(Above) Nellie Maldonado, assistant director for program administration at Tapestry Health, holds a Narcan training on October 18 at the Westfield Athenaeum.

By |November 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Community Narcan Trainings to be Offered in Spanish Nov. 7 and 13: SPREAD THE WORD!

4 Questions for a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Trans & Queer Specialist [Q&A]

Andrew Taylor is a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and a recent addition to the Gándara team. He started in early September, and he prescribes psychiatric medications to patients across the lifespan. His main area of expertise is working with the trans and queer community, and in addition to prescribing at Gándara, he will help expand the available services for that population at the outpatient clinic.

1. What are the dangers of the Trump Administration’s attempt to classify gender based on anatomy?

It’s hard to know where to begin with this question because of the gravity of damage that would be done if Trump is successful in this endeavor. Gender is by definition NOT based on anatomy. If you are cis-identified, meaning your gender identity coincides with your sex assigned at birth, you may think this definition is accurate, but for trans people across the spectrum, a change in this definition would effectively make the whole community invisible, as it cuts to the core of what trans identity is.

It seems to me that people will be affected by this change in a variety of ways. For the trans kids of the world who are in the contemplative phase of transition, they may be less likely to come forward with essential parts of their identity because the adults around them may refuse to, or not know how to, recognize them. A denial or avoidance of such a central component of identity does long lasting damage to the mind, heart, and body of a child. So often trans people say they always knew their identity to be different from the mainstream, but did not have the language to explain it. If the language is taken away, then what? Kids and adults will then have to rely on the subset of the population still acknowledging this identity as real and valid, and that community may be harder to find.

“If they are hoping we will give up, they should reconsider the power of our persistence and our fury.”

For people of all ages who are already in transition, and who are attempting to change their legal documentation, they will now encounter barriers that will drastically affect the future of their lives. It puts safety at risk when documentation does not line up. Driver’s licenses, state IDs, and passports will not accurately reflect identity, potentially putting safety at risk both inside and outside the bounds of the United States. People may struggle to get married, adopt children, and get basic services, if not all documentation lines up. Healthcare coverage could be in jeopardy if people have some documents changed but not others. The list actually is endless and creates incredible complications for people within this community.

2. What are the dangers of voting no on Question 3, repealing the law allowing individuals to use bathrooms/locker rooms based on identity?

First we need to take a step back here and widen our understanding of this law, what it covers, and what a repeal of the existing law would mean. Opponents call it the “bathroom bill,” but that grossly under-represents the scope of this law, and instead addresses only a tiny portion of what it covers. The law is about Public Accommodations, meaning any and all PUBLIC SPACES. Sure bathrooms and locker rooms are public spaces, but so are hospitals, pharmacies, libraries, highways, public parks, restaurants, bars, banks, any kind of retail shop, gas stations, sports stadiums, concert venues, amusement parks, grocery stores, liquor stores, gyms, coffee shops, ice cream shops, public beaches, tattoo shops, veterinarian clinics, craft stores, hardware stores, etc. A yes on 3 vote continues to ensure protections for trans people in all of those spaces, not simply bathrooms and locker rooms. A no on 3 vote repeals legal protections in all of these spaces and does damage far beyond pulling coverage within restrooms and locker rooms.

But second, it’s also very important to address the fact that a repeal of this law would put a whole group of non trans-identified people at risk as well. Really anyone who does not look like one end of the gender binary or the other would be targeted and policed. For example, someone who was assigned female at birth, and who identifies as a woman, but who dresses in clothing traditionally deemed masculine, she is now at risk as well even though she is a woman using a woman’s restroom. It would be immensely problematic and will continue to jeopardize the safety of the trans population because people, both of authority and not, people will begin to police the use of restrooms in an unproductive and damaging way.

Related: Transgender Governor Candidate Helps Focus Attention on LGBTQI+ Substance Use & Mental Health

It seems opponents are waging the same war that was waged against gay men several decades ago, painting trans people–especially trans women–as predators, pedophiles, and criminals. But not once have opponents mentioned that trans people are far more likely to be the victims of violence in these spaces than the perpetrators. It’s an essential component of this dialogue, and opponents are choosing not to include it at all, which is quite simply, not in keeping with reality.

In moments when I am feeling low, I look at all the people who are supporting ballot question 3 here in Mass. The list of those in support goes on and on, requiring several scrolls through the webpage. There is only one group not in support, and the representation pales in comparison.

Ultimately, my hope would be that those in favor and those opposed could instead focus on our common ground, and work towards societal goals that carry more weight. A focus on policing restrooms is a distraction from much larger issues that this country is dealing with.

3. Why do you think these movements have gained traction?

I think people reflect what they see in leadership and when those actions are backed by a tremendous degree of power, the results can be very dangerous. Perhaps hate was lying dormant, and it has found a home in Trump’s leadership, and since Trump does very little to condone the acts of violence we see escalating in our country, the hate continues. If I were working with a patient who was telling me about this kind of rhetoric, I would not hesitate to call it emotional abuse. It’s destabilizing, and it is creating a traumatized society. And with one of the main symptoms of trauma being anger, it’s not surprising that we see the world around us growing angrier by the day.

4. What advice would you give to the LGBTQI+ community about living happy, healthy lives in a climate that feels increasingly prejudiced towards them?

In the face of trauma, there are several actionable steps that improve outcomes:

  1. Find a community who sees you, validates you, and wholly honors your identity; do not isolate, as it increases depression symptoms.
  2. Keep breathing, keep moving your body, keep drinking water, and do not let your self-care slip by the wayside.
  3. The powers that be are hoping for minority communities to crumble so power can be maintained by the elite few, but we must persist and remember that this is not normal. In addition, if changing legal documentation is part of a person’s transition goals, the time to act is now.
  4. Do not delay, but rather reach out to people who can help.

When I recently heard of the changes attempting to be made to the definition of gender, I read a response piece by Mara Keisling, who is the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality that I found incredibly helpful. She ends the response with the statement, “If they are hoping we will give up, they should reconsider the power of our persistence and our fury.” That quotation now hangs on the wall next to my desk as a reminder to keep moving forward, and spread as much love and positivity as I can muster.


Featured image via Creative Commons/ Ted Eytan (CC BY-SA 2.0)
By |November 5th, 2018|Gandara in the News, News, People, Politics|Comments Off on 4 Questions for a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Trans & Queer Specialist [Q&A]