Read Our March Newsletter Online!

Gándara Center’s March newsletter is now online! View some of our #GándaraAtWork videos: we want to introduce you to our staff, and in these short clips, you’ll meet employees from our facilities statewide to get a sense of who they are, what they do, and why they do it.

Also in our newsletter: some noteworthy anniversaries of employees in the months of February and March, more photos from National Employee Appreciation Day, and exclusive savings for employees during Dell’s Semi-Annual Sale.

In addition, read about applications being available for our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship, the May 9 retirement party for our Executive Director Henry Julio East-Trou, our 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K in Northampton on August 25, Director of Clinical Services Audra Winn being interviewed by Western Mass News about vape pen use, and the Champion Plan in Brockton joining the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative.

Read the newsletter at

By |March 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read Our March Newsletter Online!

National Employee Appreciation Day: Congratulations to All of Our Gift Card Winners!

Our employees rock!

From Springfield to Brockton, from IT to admin, from our Hope for Holyoke recovery support center to our Stairway to Recovery center, we had such a great day on March 1 celebrating ALL of our employees on National Employee Appreciation Day!

Not everyone won a gift card as part of our hourly drawings, but nobody went unrecognized.

Again to our staff, THANK YOU for all you do on behalf of this organization to make our communities a safer and healthier place. Our staff are nothing less than amazing. You go above and beyond the call of duty every day, and we appreciate your hard work, compassion, and commitment.

We’re so grateful to have supervisors, co-workers, and peers who dedicate themselves to raising mental health awareness, fighting addiction, and combating stigmas.

Above: Cynthia Brodeur, Gándara Center’s Training to Work recovery coach training coordinator, celebrates winning a Dunkin Donuts gift card with Efrain Baez, program director of our Stairway to Recovery support center in Brockton.


Above: Joel Crespo of Holyoke STARR

jamie golliam luis crespo continuum
Above: Jamie Gollium and Luis Crespo from our Continuum program


Indira Andrade, in home therapy supervisor, accepts a Dunkin Donuts gift card on behalf of therapeutic mentor Elisa Cabral in Brockton.


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By |March 13th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on National Employee Appreciation Day: Congratulations to All of Our Gift Card Winners!

#GandaraAtWork Episode 5: Mark Huntington, Director of Training

We’re joined for #GandaraAtWork Episode 5 by Mark Huntington, the director of training at the Gándara Center.

Mark brings enthusiasm, energy, and good humor to his role. As the director of training, he’s tasked with ensuring the safety and security of both staff and clients alike. This includes hosting activities like sessions on how to administer CPR, approaches to de-escalation, and general crisis management.

With almost 30-years of experience in the field, Mark is accustomed to working in high-stress situations. He’s spent time working with inner-city youth gangs, Green Berets, State Police, and corrections officers; suffice it to say, Mark  is used to intensity.

Over the years, he’s developed techniques to help identify problematic situations and best approaches for response. It’s not an exact science but science does come into play: when an issue occurs, Mark calculates how an individual neurologically processes a situation and then he uses a bit of intuition to cool everyone and everything down.

Outside of Gándara, Mark is passionate about arts and culture. But don’t take my word for it. We’ll let Mark take it from here:


By |March 18th, 2019|People|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 5: Mark Huntington, Director of Training

Springfield Residents: Applications Now Available for the Gándara Center Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship

Summers can be tough on families, when many parents lack not only child care, but also fun, educational, and safe activities for their children. That is where the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship comes in. This is an opportunity for Springfield youth ages 5-14 to get outside and make positive connections that will last a lifetime. Download the application here. Applications are due on Monday, April 8, and scholarship winners will be notified by phone the week of April 22.

In late 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. The program was such an incredible success the following two summers that we are again offering camp scholarships to Springfield youth this summer.

How successful was this scholarship? Here is what June, the mother of campers Hanna and Gabriella, had to say about their time at Camp STAR Angelina in Forest Park:

“I really appreciated this scholarship. My girls loved camp. It was great for their self-esteem—they tried new things and they learned how to deal different situations and how to get along with kids they didn’t know. Every day, when they got home, they talked about camp constantly, and I enjoyed hearing how their days went. And I liked the door-to-door service. I don’t drive, so having them picked up and dropped off also helped a lot. We’re already looking forward to next year’s summer camp.”

Springfield children deserve a safe place to play and grow emotionally during the summer. Apply for the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship today!

We also need sponsors to provide this wonderful experience to deserving children and teens. Interested in becoming a sponsor, changing young lives, and helping the community? Read more.


By |March 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Springfield Residents: Applications Now Available for the Gándara Center Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship

The Champion Plan in Brockton Joins National Police-Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative

On March 1, Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter (pictured above right with Gándara Center Executive Director Henry Julio East-Trou) announced that the city’s Champion Plan, a police-assisted recovery program, will partner with nearly 500 police departments across the country in taking direct action against the disease of drug addiction in their communities.

At a press conference during a celebration of the Champion Plan’s third anniversary, Carpenter said the program is joining the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), a community policing movement to create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

Last year, the Champion Plan helped more than 700 people find treatment. The program brings individuals suffering from substance use disorder to the Brockton Police Department for help. From there, Gándara Center provides recovery coaches to support people entering the program. They are taken to the Champion Plan office, which serves as a safe haven as they wait to get into a treatment facility. Once a bed at a treatment center is available—usually within 30 minutes—Brewster Ambulance provides transportation to the treatment center. Recovery coaches are available for follow-up services and call clients at the treatment centers within 72 hours to check in.

“We are reducing barriers to treatment,” said Carpenter. “Lack of transportation is a barrier, and Brewster Ambulance has been an incredible partner.” Carpenter said that other barriers included mistrust of police by drug users and vice versa. “The biggest change I’ve seen is the change in perceptions—we’ve been able to convince folks to walk into the police station and ask for help,” he said. “And from police, it has been a change in approach—a change from, ‘We’re going to keep arresting you,’ to ‘You know what? The arresting part isn’t working. We’re going to get you some help.’”

Carpenter also thanked Gándara Center and Henry East-Trou. “In the first year of the Champion Plan’s existence Gándara Center was gracious enough to share its space with us because we didn’t have a space,” he said. The Champion Plan moved into its new office on the first floor of 142 Cresent Street two years ago. Gándara Center also operates its Stairway to Recovery support center, an Outpatient Clinic, and its Childhood Behavioral Health Initiative in the same building. “They continue to be a great supporting partner,” he said.

Jonathan Fasano, a guest speaker, said he entered the Champion Plan program during its first year, but he relapsed. “I wasn’t ready yet, but that didn’t stop the amazing team here from helping me,” he recalled. Social workers at the Champion plan continued to reach out to him, and he graduated from the program two years ago. “They stand by me even though I’m years past the program’s dates,” he said. “They still call and check on me because they truly care. They’re in my corner years later.”

Carpenter pointed out that Fasano’s experience shows that relapsing is sometimes a part of the recovery journey. “Some people come through the plan more than once,” he said. “People like Jonathan come back. We never give up on anybody. We are looking forward to sharing our Champion Plan experiences with other members as we support PAARI’s mission to expand access to treatment through true community policing.” He said that the Champion Plan is also expanding to include an “understanding” with judges at Brockton’s Adult Drug Court. People arrested on certain charges—excluding gun charges or restraining orders—can be released on their own recognizance if they take part in the Champion Plan.

PAARI Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade said that the Champion Plan has had some “remarkable accomplishments” in its first three years, and her organization is eager to partner with the program, as well as the Brockton Police, to continue building upon that foundation. “Their work has made a lasting impact on hundreds of lives,” she said. “I have no doubt that through this new partnership we’ll be able to replicate this successful model within other police departments across the Commonwealth and the country.”


PAARI Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade


Former Champion Plan client Jonathan Fasano

By |March 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Champion Plan in Brockton Joins National Police-Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative

#GandaraAtWork Episode 4: Rahiza, Chelsea, and Audra of our Outpatient Clinic

This week, #GandaraAtWork episode 4 features Rahiza, Chelsea, and Audra from our Outpatient Clinic in Springfield.

Rahiza is a mental health clinician and serves children and adults alike; people who suffer mental health disorders, substance use issues, or both. Between her work at our outpatient clinic, Rahiza volunteers at the Brightwood Elementary School. Here she tends to kindergartners through sixth-graders. She also volunteers at the nearby Brightwood clinic where she assists suboxone clients. In her spare time, Rahiza enjoys being outdoors where she can hike, bike, and camp. When she’s not kicking butt as a stellar clinician, she’s doing it with martial arts as an avid student of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Chelsea is the outpatient clinic’s director of quality assurance. Her workday is a mix of hands-on and administrative tasks to keep the clinic running smoothly. She supports front office staff, clinicians, and reviews everyone’s various needs and documentation. Chelsea puts her creativity on full display at the clinic. One of her hobbies is doing arts and crafts projects; she uses every opportunity she can to bring this to work, including our holiday door decorating contest, employee appreciation day, and all sorts of other celebrations.

Audra is the director of clinical services. Like Chelsea, her responsibilities often vary from day to day. She organizes group and individual therapy sessions, supports staff, and sets up clinical work in the community such as at schools or even courts. For Audra, making treatment services accessible to clients is among her top priorities. At home, her priority is her 10-month old daughter. The two do everything together, not the least of which is baby yoga.

By |March 6th, 2019|People|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 4: Rahiza, Chelsea, and Audra of our Outpatient Clinic