Read the Gándara Center 2018 Annual Report Online!

Many exciting developments have taken place at Gándara Center in the past year. We launched new programs that have enabled us to even better serve our communities and expand our innovative care to more of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

In the Gándara Center 2018 Annual Report you will read about our agency’s ability to recognize and meet the unique needs of the people we assist. We are always looking for new ways to make a difference, and that is why we constantly conduct needs assessments in our communities and respond with new initiatives. Indeed, Gándara Center has long played an active advocacy role as allies to our clients: our recent endeavors are perfect examples of the way we aggressively seek new ways to more comprehensively serve hard-to-reach populations.

From our community Narcan Trainings in Hampden County to our recovery coach training program in Brockton to the opening of the Impact Center in Springfield—as well as the new Plymouth Recovery Center—we continue to champion the underserved.

Read the Gándara Center 2018 Annual Report.

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By |January 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read the Gándara Center 2018 Annual Report Online!

Twelve Graduate from Gándara Center Recovery Coach Training Program in Brockton

Philip Saba used heroin every day for 40 years. “I never knew how to get help,” he said. But when faced with the prospect of jail time six years ago, he entered a treatment program in exchange for a reduced sentence, and hasn’t used drugs since. Saba is now a recovery coach for Gándara Center’s Stairway to Recovery Peer Recovery Support Center in Brockton.

Saba (pictured above, left) is one of 12 recent graduates of Gándara Center’s Training to Work (TTW) program, a workforce development grant for recovery coaching as an occupation. Their accomplishments were recognized among family and friends in a graduation celebration at Stairway to Recovery on January 25. This was the program’s second cohort to graduate—the first group of six graduated last June.

For Saba, recovery coaching is a rewarding way to give back and support peers who are in their early stages of recovery. “It makes me feel good in my heart to help other addicts and alcoholics,” he said. “I know what their struggles are. And because I didn’t get help for a long time, I don’t want to see anybody going through what I went through.”

TTW wouldn’t be possible without such community partners as Massasoit Community College, where students take courses in its Human Services program, as well as the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and the city’s High Point Treatment Centers, which hires many TTW graduates as recovery coaches.

Kim Jones, another Cohort 2 graduate, said the TTW program has been “an incredible journey” and thanked program coordinator Cindy Brodeur for her support. One of several graduates to deliver remarks at the event, Jones is also a recovery coach at Stairway to Recovery. “Not everyone can say they love what they do for work, but I can,” she said.

Seanna Crawford said that TTW meant much more to her than a gateway to a career. “I gained custody of my daughter,” she announced, her voice breaking with emotion—a moment that elicited cheers and applause throughout the room. Crawford is now a recovery coach facilitator for the Massachusetts Organization of Addiction Recovery in Boston. She said fellow graduate Hector Sostre introduced her to the program. Sostre, another speaker at the celebration, said he is “grateful for being clean and sober and being able to help other people.”

Erin Alves explained that her recovery “is not traditional” in that she had addictive self-harm behaviors since she was 13. She credited Stairway to Recovery Program Director Efrain Baez with giving her a spot in the TTW program “and making me feel that I was worth it.” Alves, who regained shared custody of her two daughters while she was a Stairway to Recovery member, is now a Community Support Program Coordinator at High Point.

A member of the program’s first cohort group, Jennifer Marston, also spoke, recalling how she became addicted to pain pills after breaking her neck a car crash, graduated to heroin and fentanyl, and “thought I was going to die an addict.” But she was determined to turn her life around. “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” she said.

Four members of Cohort 3 also attended the celebration. They are in an eight-month program receiving skills-based training—and participating in a five-month internship to earn a Recovery Coach certificate (and credentials). They will also receive job placement services and follow-up support.

“It has been a pleasure to get to know the people in this room,” said Gándara Center Outpatient Services Director Dr. Madeline Aviles-Hernandez, who also oversees recovery services. “It has been both inspiring and humbling to see you in action and the passion that you bring.”

The Training to Work program is funded by a Health Care Workforce Transformation Trust Fund FY’17 Appropriation grant through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and is administered by the Commonwealth Corporation. The grant, which targets unemployed people in recovery from underserved communities, helps them build professional skills needed to work in health care, clinical, or human services settings.

Know someone who is interested in becoming a recovery coach? Gándara Center is hiring. The agency will even pay certification fees. For more information, contact Ana Centeno at acenteno@gandaracenter.org or call 413-296-6030.

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By |January 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Twelve Graduate from Gándara Center Recovery Coach Training Program in Brockton

Mini-Conference Takes Aim at a Sharp Spike in Youth Vaping

How widespread is vaping among teenagers? FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb calls the problem an “epidemic.” Sara Moriarty (pictured above), director of the Hampden County Tobacco Free Community Partnership (TFCP), pointed out at a recent Vaping Prevention Mini-Conference that 41.1 percent of high school students had used e-cigarettes or vape pens in 2017. “Among high school youth, the current use of e-cigarettes was higher than any other tobacco products combined,” she said.

Gándara Center is the host agency for the TFCP and Moriarty was a featured presenter at the Mini-Conference, which took place on January 18 at West Springfield High School. The event, which also included remarks from Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, was attended by leadership teams from Hampden County school districts, including administrators, school resource officers, prevention specialists, and counselors.

Alarmed by a sharp spike in vaping and companies such as JUUL tailoring and marketing their products to younger users, attendees were seeking strategies to curb youth vaping of not only e-liquids that contain nicotine and harmful chemicals, but also in some cases marijuana oil.

According to a report last fall from the Centers for Disease Control, e-cigarette use among high school students increased 78 percent from 2017 to 2018.

E-cigarettes, with batteries and disposable e-liquid cartridges, imitate the look and feel of a combustible cigarette. Vape pens, on the other hand, are rechargeable, use a tank to hold the e-liquid, and are generally larger. JUULs are small e-cigarettes that look like flash drives. About 15 years ago, all these devices were first used as smoking cessation aids. But in recent years vaping has raised its own concerns as a gateway for pre-teens and teens to smoke real cigarettes.

“In 2018, almost 18 percent of eighth-graders admitted to vaping, and 33 percent of 10th graders reported vaping,” said Gulluni. “We’re seeing a significant uptick in vaping and e-cigarette use among our young people. While it might seem like less threatening than traditional smoking, we know it develops a propensity to go onto cigarettes, marijuana, and other drugs.”

Indeed, Moriarty pointed out that nicotine can prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other substances. “Studies show that people who start smoking or using tobacco products in adolescence smoke more and have a more difficult time quitting than people who start smoking later in life,” she said.

Moriarty also noted that e-cigarette use is rising as e-cigarette advertising grows, and that younger people are more likely to use flavored products—although JUUL has recently stopped selling several types of flavored pods in retail locations and closed its social media accounts after pressure from the FDA.

Beginning on January 1, 2019, the legal age to purchase tobacco products in Massachusetts rose from 18 to 21. Nevertheless, there was a consensus at the mini-conference that more needs to be accomplished to reduce youth vaping. Attendees used the event to network and share strategies that are working in their respective schools. Moriarty said that it is important that these strategies also include engaging and educating parents as often as possible and making sure that there is an effort to build community support around this issue.

“There is a real need for youth cessation services across the state—and cessation services in general—but youth cessation services are really lacking, and providers are struggling to find methods that work to address vaping, along with medications and other nicotine replacement therapies that are safe to use with youth,” said Moriarty. “This is all fairly new and the numbers are overwhelming, so doctors and providers are scrambling to fill gaps and treat youth and answer questions from concerned parents.”

Gulluni noted that it is crucial for school administrators, teachers, and parents to talk with one another about the vaping epidemic and to discuss it with young people. “For adults, vaping may be a better alternative to smoking,” he said, “but when we’re talking about 12-, 13, and 14-year-olds vaping, this is a real threat.”

The Vaping Prevention Mini-Conference’s sponsors included the Stop Access Springfield Coalition, a substance use reduction group that is coordinated by Gándara Center and funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The other sponsors of the event were the Western Mass School Substance Abuse Counselors’ Association, the Hampden County DA’s Office, the West Springfield Care Coalition, and CLOSE Community (Longmeadow).

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By |January 24th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Mini-Conference Takes Aim at a Sharp Spike in Youth Vaping

Why We Run: To Boost Mental Health, Raise Awareness, & Combat Stigmas

Exercise is a great way for people to take mental health improvement into their own hands. Don’t get us wrong: working out is not a cure-all for mental illness and is not a definitive treatment option. But it allows people who suffer from mental health disorders to be proactive, to take control of a potentially dangerous situation. Perhaps most importantly, it sets into motion chemicals in the brain that induce feelings of euphoria which combat feelings of despair.

The notion that exercise is a constructive way to counterbalance feelings of, for example, depression or anxiety is rooted in evidence-based science. Studies have been published that show a relationship between increased physical activity and low rates of major depressive disorder.

One such recent study was co-authored by Karmel W. Choi, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, director of the Mass. General Hospital Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit and a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“On average, doing more physical activity appears to protect against developing depression,” Dr. Choi said in a statement. “Any activity appears to be better than none; our rough calculations suggest that replacing sitting with 15 minutes of a heart-pumping activity like running, or with an hour of moderately vigorous activity, is enough to produce the average increase in accelerometer data that was linked to a lower depression risk.”

Related: Save the Date: Our 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K is on August 25

According to Yale scientist Adam Mourad Chekroud, PhD, exercise is a key opportunity for individuals to develop protective factors against depression, maybe even more so than prescription medications. In fact, he says “Antidepressants are not universally effective, and many patients undergo a trial-and-error process to find the right regimen. Psychological therapies are about equally effective and can be expensive and difficult to access.”

A big part of this is the so-called runner’s high. This sensation is caused by a rush of pleasure-causing endorphins in the brain, in addition to endocannabinoids, a chemical that acts like naturally synthesized THC (the main chemical component in marijuana).

Cardio workouts can also generate new brain cells and improve cognitive performance, which has been linked to low rates of Alzheimer’s. It also has the added benefit of providing an outlet for stress, a time for self-reflection, and, especially on sunny days, an opportunity for your body to produce Vitamin D.

For these reasons and more, Gándara has hosted a 5K road race in Northampton for the past four years. This year, on August 25, will be our 5th annual Frozen Yogurt 5K.

We run to not only give participants the chance to experience all the health benefits that accompany running, but also to raise awareness around mental illness, substance use disorders, their stigmas, and the various services and treatments available to those in need.

Register today! Kids 12 and under run for free, and all runners—and walkers—get a free GoBerry Frozen Yogurt. Sign up by August 14 and you’ll be receive a free t-shirt. Registration on race day will be available beginning at 8:00 a.m. Credit and debit cards will be accepted. The staging area is on the Courthouse Lawn across from the Calvin Theater. For GPS purposes please use 19 King Street Northampton, MA.

Leashed pets are also welcome to run for free.

Our 5K is officially timed by RaceWire. Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each of the following categories: Male, Female, 12 and under and 50 and over.

For any questions regarding the event—or for those interested in having their business sponsor this year’s race­—please contact Lisa Brecher at 413-296-5256 or lbrecher@gandaracenter.org.

By |January 31st, 2019|Events, News, Science|Comments Off on Why We Run: To Boost Mental Health, Raise Awareness, & Combat Stigmas

Gándara Center Employees Mark Milestones in January

Some Gándara Family commemorations: below are noteworthy work anniversaries of employees at the agency in the month of January.

10 Years

Ofelia Pardave, 77 Peekskill Ave., Springfield
Pedro Vazquez. Alternative Options, Chicopee

5 Years

Nancy Howard, Acute Brain Injury Program, Springfield
Tomeka Nunn, Shared Living, Springfield
Tania Rodriguez, CSA Services, Holyoke/Springfield

Also, congratulations to recent Gándara Center Safety Award Winners! Kevin Lindsey from Hairston House received the November 2018 Safety Award. Brenda Brown and Cassandra Miller, both from Continuum, earned the December 2018 Safety Award.

Great work, everyone!

By |January 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara Center Employees Mark Milestones in January

Be a Hero to a Deserving Child: Sponsor a Camper in Our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program

Not every family can afford a day camp, and that is where the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program comes in. Springfield children deserve a safe place to play and grow emotionally during the summer. This scholarship provides them with the fun, freedom, and excitement that summer camp brings—an opportunity to get outside and make positive connections that will last a lifetime.

Most of our scholarship recipients come from low-income households—and some of them are in our foster care program. Simply put, a sponsor can make a real difference in a child’s life! A $100 donation will give a kid an experience that he or she will never forget. Friends of Aventura! (donors of $500) will be recognized on social media and receive thank-you letters from children. Read more about our sponsorship levels.

All sponsors will be invited to an end-of summer wrap-up session to see firsthand the benefits of their donor dollars. Donors will also be acknowledged in Gándara Center marketing and communications materials, including our Annual Report.

Give the gift of awesome summer camp memories. Donate to the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program.

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By |January 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Be a Hero to a Deserving Child: Sponsor a Camper in Our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program

Read Our January Newsletter Online!

Gándara Center’s January newsletter is online! Read about our 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K, which will take place on Sunday, August 25; noteworthy work anniversaries of employees at our agency, and our search for sponsors for our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship.

View photos from Gándara Center Family Night at the Springfield Thunderbirds. More than 140 employees and their families attended this exciting hockey game. Also in this newsletter: Gándara Center Director of Training Mark Huntington’s De-escalation and crisis management training session for staff on January 4.

Read the newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/gandaracenter/jan2019newsletter.

By |January 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read Our January Newsletter Online!

Employees and Families Enjoy 6-2 Home Hockey Victory at Gándara Center Family Night at the Springfield Thunderbirds

More than 140 employees and family members flocked to the MassMutual Center on January 11 to watch their hometown hockey team defeat the Hershey Bears, 6-2, at Gándara Center Family Night at the Springfield Thunderbirds.

Congratulations to Rosa Ramos (pictured below), care coordinator at Gándara Center CSA/CBHI, who was recognized on the HD scoreboard and the PA system with a Game Changer Award for nine years of dedicated service.

A large group from our agency assembled on the ice after the game for a group photo with Boomer, the Thunderbirds mascot. Our marketing and communications team also had a Gándara Center information table in the concourse area.

It was a hard-hitting, high-scoring affair, with Hershey striking first just 3:30 into the game. Then the T-Birds netted the next five goals!

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Rosa Ramos (above), recipient of the Game Changer award

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By |January 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Employees and Families Enjoy 6-2 Home Hockey Victory at Gándara Center Family Night at the Springfield Thunderbirds

Gándara in the Media: Sara Moriarty, Director of the Hampden County Tobacco Free Community Partnership

Gándara Center is the host agency of the Hampden County Tobacco Free Community Partnership (TFCP), which supports smoke-free efforts of Springfield and surrounding communities in the home, school, and workplace.

On January 8, TFCP Director Sara Moriarty was on the WGBY Public Television show Connecting Point explaining why smoking cessation instruments such as vape pens and especially the JUUL device pose a risk to teens and tweens. “When e-cigarettes first hit the market, they were used as a way to curb nicotine addiction,” said Moriarty. “But when youth starting using them, we found that a whole new generation was getting addicted to these products.”

One of the problems with vaping, aside from the fact that it’s widespread among young people, is that the practice is fairly undetectable because the devices don’t emit the odors that are traditionally associated with smoking. Also, a JUUL is amazingly discreet—it looks just like a flash drive. Moriarty said there have been reports of students in the back of the classroom quickly and secretly JUULing “when the teacher turns around and writes on the chalkboard,” she said. Vaping and JUULing also affects immature brains and makes it easier for teens to later become addicted to other drugs.

On January 18, Moriarty will be one of the featured presenters at a Vaping Prevention Mini-Conference at West Springfield High School.

View the entire Connecting Point segment.

The Hampden County Tobacco Free Community Partnership

The TFCP helps to increase public knowledge of smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in Massachusetts; maintain MassHealth utilization rates in smoking cessation efforts; works to eliminate the sale of over-the-counter tobacco to youth; promotes the Ex-Smokers Hall of Fame project; and supports smoke-free housing efforts in Springfield and surrounding areas.

The TFCP also provides smoking related materials and education to professional health care providers about the negative effects of secondhand smoke and fosters relationships with the community and other human service agencies to ensure support for those who wish to live smoke-free lives.

By |January 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara in the Media: Sara Moriarty, Director of the Hampden County Tobacco Free Community Partnership

Save the Date: Our 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K is on August 25

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to get in better shape? There is no better way to burn calories and get cardio exercise than training for a 5K! Our 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K is on Sunday, August 25 at 9:00 a.m. in downtown Northampton.

Register today! Kids 12 and under run for free, and all runners—and walkers—get a free GoBerry Frozen Yogurt. Sign up by August 14 and you’ll be receive a free t-shirt.

We run to raise awareness of mental health and addiction disorders and to put an end to the stigma surrounding these often misunderstood illnesses that affect so many of our friends and families.

Leashed pets are also welcome to run for free! Organic, hand-made treats from 1 Little Black Dog will available for purchase with proceeds benefiting our cause.

Registration on race day will be available beginning at 8:00 a.m. Credit and debit cards will be accepted. The staging area is on the Courthouse Lawn across from the Calvin Theater. For GPS purposes please use 19 King Street Northampton, MA.

Our 5K is officially timed by RaceWire. Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each of the following categories: Male, Female, 12 and under and 50 and over.

For any questions regarding the event—or for those interested in having their business sponsor this year’s race­—please contact Lisa Brecher at 413-296-5256 or lbrecher@gandaracenter.org.

Register online. Read about last year’s race.

Frozen Yogurt 5K Route:

2018 route map

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By |January 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Save the Date: Our 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K is on August 25