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#GandaraAtWork Episode 10: Eddie Rodriguez, Recovery Coach Supervisor

This week on #GandaraAtWork, we sit down with Eddie Rodriguez, Recovery Coach Supervisor

Eddie Rodriguez was a client at our Gándara Addiction Recovery Program (GARP) before he was able to achieve recovery. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, Eddie moved to Springfield to get away from a lifestyle that swept up many of his close friends, some of whom suffered from fatal overdoses. While at GARP, the program director suggested Eddie enroll in the Recovery Coach Academy, where he could use his lived-experience to teach the lessons he’s learned to recovery-seekers in need guidance and support.

For Eddie, it’s important for everyone to understand that addicts can change their behavior. It’s his goal to eliminate the stigma around substance use, to show that people who suffer from addiction have a disease and not a moral failure. For a long time, Eddie himself thought he was doomed to be an addict; “once an addict, always an addict,” he hold himself. But that is the biggest misconception people have. Recovery is a realistic and attainable goal.

When Eddie’s not managing his recovery coaches in Springfield, he enjoys relaxing with music, watching movies, cheering for his beloved New York Yankees, and spending time at his home in Puerto Rico. He’s traveled to Puerto Rico since he was a kid, when his dad used to take him. His family on the island has always revolved around horses, and he continues that tradition today, riding as often as he can — when he’s not surfing.

 

Gándara Addiction Recovery Program (GARP)

Gándara Addiction Recovery Program (GARP) is a 42-bed residential program that provides long-term recovery treatment to Spanish-speaking men who have a history of drug and alcohol use, but are not currently using drugs or alcohol. Average length of stay is 6-12 months.

Springfield
Contact: (413) 781-2234, ex. 300

Eligibility: Must be at least 18 years-old and be a resident of Massachusetts. Must pass a self-preservation test and be responsible for participating in the program.

Referral: Open

Insurance: Funded by the Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Abuse Services

By |May 3rd, 2019|People|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 10: Eddie Rodriguez, Recovery Coach Supervisor

#GandaraAtWork Episode 9: Lianette Rivera, In-Home Behavioral Services Director

This week on #GandaraAtWork, episode 9, we sit down with Lianette Rivera, In-Home Behavioral Services Director, at our 80 Commercial St. facility in Holyoke.

Liannette joined Gándara Center about five years ago as a behavior management monitor. It was in this role that she found her calling for human behavior, understanding how and why people behave the way they do. As she continued to grow in her role, Gándara and Lianette teamed up; Lianette pursued her Master’s degree and Gándara was generously flexible, allowing her to work while she was in school and fund her licensing and exam fees.

Her job allows her to bring her outside-work passions into the workplace. Lianette is an avid reader, traveler, and practitioner of yoga. She reads for fun but her choice in books also stands as a testament to supporting positive mental health and behavior. Yoga, too, offers her a chance for meditation, reflection, and of course a good stretch, and she loves rallying the folks at 80 Commercial to join her as she teaches classes.

Related: #GandaraAtWork Episode 8: Abrah Orth, Director of Family Support and Training

 

About: In-Home Behavioral Services

Our in-home behavioral services are delivered by one or more professional and paraprofessional staff who offer a combination of medically necessary behavior management therapy and behavior management monitoring. This program is used when less intensive behavioral interventions do not reduce or eliminate a youth’s problem behavior(s) or do not increase/maintain desirable behavior(s).

Eligibility: When clinical evaluation suggests that the youth’s clinical condition, level of functioning, and intensity of need require a specific structure and positive behavioral supports to successfully support a youth in the home and community.

Holyoke
80 Commercial Street
Holyoke, MA  01040
Intake: (413) 846-0445 x483

Boston
440 McClellan Highway
East Boston, MA  02128
Intake: (857) 366-7040 x514

Brockton
142 Crescent Street
Brockton, MA  02302
Intake: (508) 232-6670 x525

New Bedford
376 Nash Road
New Bedford, MA  02746
Intake: (774) 406-4620

By |April 23rd, 2019|People|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 9: Lianette Rivera, In-Home Behavioral Services Director

#GandaraAtWork Episode 8: Abrah Orth, Director of Family Support and Training

For #GandaraAtWork episode 8, we sat down with Director of Family Support and Training Abrah Orth at our Community Service Agency/Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CSA/CBHI) office at 80 Commercial Street in Holyoke.

Abrah joined Gándara Center almost 10 years ago. She started out as a staffer as part of our residential programs and has since worked her way up the ladder. A dedicated worker who enjoys collaborating with her fellow co-workers, Abrah credits her personal growth opportunities to the fact that her supervisors recognized her talents and how hard she worked, and provided her the support to move into leadership positions. She thoroughly enjoys giving her staff the same show of support she received throughout the years, encouraging them to come up with new ideas to see what works for any given issue.

When she’s not working, Abrah enjoys being active. Whether she’s with friends or family, you might find her running, kickboxing, or going out in the community.

About the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) – Specialized Community Service Agency (S-CSA)

Gándara is the only Specialized Hispanic Community Service Agency in the state. The CSA division provides flexible, family-driven, wraparound services for children and teens experiencing serious emotional disturbances and their families. A qualified bilingual care-planning team works with the family unit in the home as best to support the child while respecting the family’s values, beliefs and socio-economic status.

Services re aavailable in:

Holyoke
80 Commercial Street
Holyoke, MA  01040
Intake: (413) 322-7380 Ext. 440

Fitchburg
100 Franklin Road
Fitchburg, MA  01420
Intake: (978) 503-7520 Ext. 296

Boston
440 McClellan Highway
East Boston, MA  02128
Intake: (857) 366-7040 Ext. 514

Brockton
142 Crescent Street
Brockton, MA  02302
Intake: (508) 232-6670 Ext. 525

Taunton/New Bedford/Fall River
376 Nash Road
New Bedford, MA  02780
Intake: (774) 406-4620

 

Related: Interested in a mental health job at Gándara Center? Visit our website to learn about our open positions and about our mission as a nonprofit. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments about our vacant jobs.

By |April 12th, 2019|People|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 8: Abrah Orth, Director of Family Support and Training

#GandaraAtWork Episode 7: Sara, In-Home Therapy Supervisor

It’s our pleasure to present to you a new look and feel for #GandaraAtWork Episode 7. Sara was the guinea pig for our new approach to these video profiles of our staff and we hope to continue with this style and format for future episodes. The essence of #GandaraAtWork will remain the same: introducing you to the people who work hard to improve our health and our communities.

Sara is the in-home therapy supervisor our CSA & CBHI program in Holyoke. A native of Connecticut and former Worcester-area resident, Sara moved to Western Mass. and was looking for a job similar to the one she had prior; for her, it was important to find an organization that prioritizes inclusion, community, and culturally sensitive care. When she came across Gándara, she felt right at home.

When Sara’s not working, you may find her studying (she’s pursuing a Master’s at Westfield State) or spending time with her dog Guinness. A young Great Dane/Lab mix, Guinness is in the early stages of becoming a therapy dog. He also happens to be Insta-famous.

A big thanks to Sara and Guinness for participating in #GandaraAtWork!

Our in-home therapy programs are designed to increase a family’s ability to support the healthy functioning of youth within the family, home, and community. The in-Home Therapy team is made up of practitioner(s), family, and youth.

Together they develop a treatment plan to address issues specific to the youth and family. Intervention techniques are designed to help in the following ways: solve problems, set limits, manage risk, communicate, build skills to strengthen the family, and improve ways of interacting with others. In addition, the practitioner helps the family identify and use community resources and develop a support system to maintain progress. Services are provided in the youth’s natural settings.

For admission to this program, a CANS assessment to determine the service is needed; outpatient services alone will not meet the youth’s or family’s clinical needs; caregivers’ voluntarily agree to participate and guardian gives consent.

Holyoke
80 Commercial Street
Holyoke, MA  01040
Intake: (413) 322-7380 Ext. 440

Fitchburg
100 Franklin Road
Fitchburg, MA  01420
Intake: (978) 503-7520 Ext. 296

Boston
440 McClellan Highway
East Boston, MA  02128
Intake: (857) 366-7040 Ext. 514

Brockton
142 Crescent Street
Brockton, MA  02302
Intake: (508) 232-6670 Ext. 525

Taunton/New Bedford/Fall River
376 Nash Road
New Bedford, MA  02780
Intake: (774) 406-4620

 

By |April 3rd, 2019|People|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 7: Sara, In-Home Therapy Supervisor

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

De-escalation & Crisis Management Training: How to Defuse the Situation

Mark Huntington likes to begin training sessions by explaining why everyone calls him Mark H. It’s really quite simple. When he started at Gándara, there were two other Marks and so as a point of clarification, he adopted the name Mark H and it stuck. He tells this story because it helps create a connection with him and his trainees, a mutual understanding. They don’t feel like they’re sitting through a lecture. Connection is an important part of Mark H.’s de-escalation and crisis management training sessions, one of which he held on Friday, January 4. Empathy is a necessity.

De-escalation prevents confrontational situations from becoming aggressive and violent. “It’s not about trying to fix the situation,” said Mark H., “It’s about trying to survive the situation.” What he means is sometimes when we put a lot of energy into trying to fix a situation, that energy can increase the tension between you and the other person. He added: our actions and attitudes have an impact on the actions and attitudes of others. Sometimes your approach can be a part of the problem.

verbal agitation scale

Mark H. has of 25 years of experience in the field. Much of that has been focused on de-escalation. From his time working with inner-city gang youths to being yelled at by Green Berets, State Police, and corrections officers (to name just a few), Mark H. has found that de-escalation is as much about science as it is about intuition. People who suffer trauma, for example, have difficulty with logic and coping because that part of their brain—the part that triggers the fight, flight, freeze, submit, or cry for help reflex—has been deeply affected.

“Be what you want to see,” said Mark H. If you want someone to calm down, be calm; if you want them to listen, be a listener. It’s what he calls an integrated exercise, and he uses a scale to assess and respond to different types of verbal agitation.

At the low end of the scale, you might encounter someone who’s verbally spontaneous, intermittently silent, or talking to his/herself. In that instance, you should communicate your concern and express empathy. You might have someone who’s inquisitive, suspicious, or doubting (e.g., “Why would they do that? What’s their problem? Are they after me?”). Instead of simply communicating concern, try to provide them with answers to their questions while you acknowledge their feelings. At the high end of the scale, if the person is challenging or verbally threatening, it’s best to disengage and to seek safety and/or support from fellow staff members; sometimes a co-worker brings a different attitude or perspective to the situation that helps defuse it.

If such a situation arises at the workplace, the most important thing to do is to remain calm. You need to be able to think rationally, to analyze the situation and determine best approaches. Always, too, be empathetic to the person. You never know what they’ve been through and how it’s affected them.

By |January 7th, 2019|Events, People, Science|Comments Off on De-escalation & Crisis Management Training: How to Defuse the Situation

4 New Years Resolution Ideas to Improve Your Mental Health [Infographic]

New Years resolutions can seem daunting. They’re a set of goals or ideals to aspire to, but sometimes even the attainable ones can feel out of reach. This is especially true if you suffer from mental health disorders, like depression or anxiety, for example.

Don’t let the new year get you down. We want to help you kick off 2019 with confidence and hope. Let’s use this as an opportunity to take small steps towards self improvement. These can be coupled with therapy, counseling, or whichever treatment service works best for you. So take a look at some of the New Years resolution ideas below; they’re tied together by the themes of self-reflection, neurological balance, and finding value in people and/or activities.

Happy New Year, everyone.

 

New Years resolutions ideas_mental health

By |December 28th, 2018|Science|Comments Off on 4 New Years Resolution Ideas to Improve Your Mental Health [Infographic]

Co-Occurring Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders, and Patriots WR Josh Gordon

On Thursday, New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon announced on Twitter that he is stepping away from the game to focus on his mental health. According to a report, Gordon also violated the terms of the NFL’s substance use policy. His decision brings up an important conversation about co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

We applaud Gordon’s decision and support him as he seeks long-lasting recovery. Earlier this year, Gordon missed training camp while he sought counseling for anxiety. It’s quite common for someone with mental health issues to also have substance use issues. Gordon has been suspended in the past for repeated violation of the league’s substance use policy.

Co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders affect approximately 8 million people in the United States. They’re especially dangerous because one disorder can mask the symptoms of the other, and too often people will seek treatment for only one of them. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “the consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death.”

The following are signs and symptoms to look out for, but these can vary from person to person:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Loss of control over use of substances
  • Developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling like you need a drug to be able to function

Treatment options will also vary from person to person, but there are ways to treat both a mental health issue and substance use issue.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests the following services, as per consultation with a therapist, counselor, or doctor:

  • Detox
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Residential housing
  • Psychotherapy
  • Support groups
  • Medications

We at the Gándara Center understand the immediate need for treating co-occurring disorders. We’re currently hiring to staff a 16-bed enhanced residential rehabilitation services program for women with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

The program, based in Ludlow, will take a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, employing evidence-based and peer support methods including community, clinical, psychiatric, and medication-assisted treatment services. Wellness resources and activities will help patients build protective measures against co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, and expose them to social skill-building opportunities as a pathway to achieving long-term recovery. These may include art, music, and fitness events; community fellowships; and mental health support groups.

We identified 14 Chestnut Place, the former location of the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts, as the site for the program. The opening date has yet to be determined.

 

Featured image via Erik Drost(CC BY 2.0)
By |December 20th, 2018|News, People|Comments Off on Co-Occurring Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders, and Patriots WR Josh Gordon

3 Reasons You Should Donate to Aventura!, our Western Mass Summer Camp Program [Infographic]

The testimonials we’ve heard from parents and kids who spent time at our Western Mass summer camp program are heartwarming. There are so many benefits to supporting an experience like this. It’s all about providing our local youth with an opportunity to grow in different ways. Kids can meet new friends, make new memories, and enjoy a level of self-confidence and self-esteem they may not usually get to at home. Since 2016, we’ve had the privilege to send almost 145 kids to camp.

Last year, we gave camp scholarships to 40 kids. This year with your help, we think we can do better.  Here are 3 big reasons you should donate to our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship program:

3 reasons to donate

By |December 19th, 2018|Events|Comments Off on 3 Reasons You Should Donate to Aventura!, our Western Mass Summer Camp Program [Infographic]

Not Just Winter Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder & What Are the Treatments?

People and media will tell you the holiday season is supposed to be a time for celebrating and good cheer. But it doesn’t always feel that way. The holidays can be stressful and put a strain on your physical and emotional wellbeing. For many, this is made worse by seasonal affective disorder—sometimes referred to as seasonal depression. Because it can be as distressing as other disorders, and shouldn’t be characterized as just winter blues, we put together this guide to answer some of your most important questions: what is seasonal affective disorder? Do I suffer from seasonal affective disorder? What causes seasonal affective disorder?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

SAD is a form of depression, so it doesn’t have its own standalone entry in the DSM-5. That doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly, though. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in order to be diagnosed with SAD a person must meet the full criteria for major depression during specific seasons for at least two years. It’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain due to shorter days and less sunlight, which is why SAD tends to be seen more in the wintertime. This causes a person’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, to shift out of sync.

Recognizing SAD Symptoms

Depression can manifest itself in many ways. Symptoms of major depression can include the following:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having problems with sleep
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Because SAD symptoms can vary as the seasons change, the following symptoms can include the following for winter and summer:

Light box therapy / Image via Lou Sander (CC BY SA 4.0)

Light box therapy / Image via Lou Sander (CC BY SA 4.0)

Winter

  • Having low energy
  • Hypersomnia
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Social Withdrawal

Summer

  • Poor appetite with associated weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Episodes of violent behavior

Treatment for SAD

There are four primary ways of treating SAD: light therapy, Vitamin D, medication, and psychotherapy. Medication dosages and psychotherapy sessions should be discussed with your primary care physician, therapist, or clinician.

Light therapy is exactly as it sounds. According to Harvard Health Publishing, light therapy “entails sitting close to a special ‘light box’ for 30 minutes a day, usually as soon after waking up as possible. These boxes provide 10,000 lux… That’s about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting; a bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more. You need to have your eyes open, but don’t look at the light.”

Light therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment. The amount of light people need varies on an individual basis. Some people are more sensitive to light than others.

Vitamin D therapy works on the same principle as light therapy; people who suffer from SAD tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, and so a method of treatment is to provide more Vitamin D. Not surprisingly either, a good source of Vitamin D is sunlight intake.

From a scientific perspective, the jury’s still out on Vitamin D therapy. Studies have shown mixed results and correlations, though there is no definitive evidence that a Vitamin D supplement can effectively treat SAD.

Facts and Stats

  • Between 50–80% of light therapy users have complete remissions of symptoms
  • Seasonal affective disorder occurs four times more often in women than in men and the age of onset is estimated to be between 18–30 years
  • Those living farthest from the equator in northern latitudes are most susceptible: In the United States, 1% of those who live in Florida and 9% who live in Alaska experience SAD.
  • SAD can co-occur with other depressive, bipolar, attention deficit, alcoholism, and eating disorders, making it difficult to diagnose.
By |December 4th, 2018|News, Science|Comments Off on Not Just Winter Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder & What Are the Treatments?