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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

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.

Counties

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]

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

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]

Federal Policy & Massachusetts Ballot Question 3 Could Negatively Affect the At-Risk LGBTQI+ Community

The LGBTQI+ community encounters many stigmas every day that the heterosexual community does not. Harassment, discrimination, violence, and other stressors have a profound effect on the health and wellness of LGBTQI+ individuals. As a result, they tend to have higher rates of substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health issues. For this reason it’s important we examine two policy initiatives that will increase the risk of developing SUDs and mental illness in the LGBTQI+ community: a national memorandum on the classification of a person’s sex, and Massachusetts ballot question 3.

Recently the New York Times reported on a memo by the federal Department of Health and Human Services which stated a proposal to define a person’s gender as either male or female “based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth… The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

This system of labeling based on anatomy is flawed and dangerous. Not only does it go against widespread medical understanding of biology and gender identity, failing to take into account people born with sexual anatomy variations, it marks civil rights breach for a population who, under the Obama administration, enjoyed recognition in public spaces like schools or hospitals. Indeed, part of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) protects trans people from discrimination by health programs or organizations that receive federal funding.

Which brings us to Massachusetts.

On November’s ballot, the residents will vote on three ballot questions. Question 3 considers the 2016 state law granting LGBTQI+ individuals the right to use public restrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, not, as the Trump administration is now attempting, on their anatomy. A yes vote would keep the law in place, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. A no vote would repeal it.

Fears have been stoked by messaging surrounding question 3. Those in support of no vote cite the possibility of someone using the law as a means of gaining entry into bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex for malicious purposes. But the Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) came out in support of a yes vote on question 3, saying there’s no statistical data to support this baseless reasoning.

“The reality is that there is no credible evidence that there is any threat to public safety by protecting transgender persons from discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement,” said the ABH. “ABH urges our members to reject bigotry and discrimination by voting Yes on 3.”

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

Both policies, federal and state, have major implications for the LGBTQI+ population. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), stigma and fear of discrimination can lead to depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, SUDs, and thoughts of suicide; LGBTQI+ are nearly 3-times more likely to experience a mental illness.

To cope, many turn to substances and ultimately develop a disorder. Between 20% and 30% of LGBTQI+ people misuse substances, compared to approximately 9% of the general population.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes that sexual minorities—the LGBTQI+ population—are “more likely to use illicit drugs in the past year, to be current cigarette smokers, and to be current alcohol drinkers compared with their sexual majority counterparts… more likely than sexual majority adults to have substance use disorders in the past year, including disorders related to their use of alcohol, illicit drugs, marijuana, or misuse of pain relievers… more likely than their sexual majority counterparts to need substance use treatment.”

SUDs and mental health issues are so rampant in this community that the American Psychological Association developed guidelines to specifically assist “transgender and gender nonconforming” people with treatment services.

It’s important for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, to understand the consequences of the Department of Health and Human Services’ policy attempts, and the misrepresentations of question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot. Concerns of the opposition are incited by fear and a lack of understanding. If we as a society truly want to combat the opioid crisis, overall substance use, and mental health stigmas, we need to fully acknowledge that the LGBTQI+ community is severely at risk and in need of support.

The Gándara Center fully recognizes the rights and needs of the LGBTQI+ community. Our youth residential programs have the capacity to, and are operated by staff trained to, engage and support this population.

We are dedicated to fighting stigma and supporting the LGBTQI+ population mentally, physically, and emotionally. We hope you are too.

Featured image via Creative Commons/ Ted Eytan (CC BY-SA 2.0)
By |October 30th, 2018|Events, News, Politics|Comments Off on Federal Policy & Massachusetts Ballot Question 3 Could Negatively Affect the At-Risk LGBTQI+ Community

4 Tips for Enjoying Halloween Sober [Infographic]

Halloween can be a difficult time for individuals in, or seeking, recovery from substance use. Regardless of which night it falls on, Halloween is often viewed as excuse for people to party and engage in mischief making. For people who want to enjoy an evening of scary fun, this makes it extremely difficult to abstain from those kind of antics. As avid lovers of this ghoulish holiday, we want to make sure you can enjoy it to the utmost. There doesn’t have to be temptation, and you don’t have to white-knuckle your way through the night. We want to support you and your recovery journey. Here are 4 tips for enjoying Halloween sober.

 

sober-halloween-infographic

By |October 29th, 2018|Events|Comments Off on 4 Tips for Enjoying Halloween Sober [Infographic]

4 Reasons to Start Your Career with Gándara [We’re Hiring!]

The Gándara Center is growing. Fast. In response to the opioid crisis and the increased need for substance use and mental health treatments, our facilities are staffing up. Everyone has been touched in some way by the crisis, so we’re boosting all our efforts to improve the health and safety of our community members and loved ones. Can you empathize and organize? Are you willing to make a lasting positive impact? Can you engage and connect with administrators and community leaders alike? We’re hiring a part-time Marketing and Development Assistant.

If you’re looking for a nonprofit job in addiction and mental health treatment, look no further. Gándara is looking to fill a flexible, part-time position that will have a hand in almost every aspect of our services. We have over 800 employees in facilities across Massachusetts, and with your help we’ll be able to serve every single one of their clients, while, on the administrative end, we’ll be able to connect with foundations, government, and the community at large.

Here are 4 reasons to start your career with Gándara:

1. You’ll Tell Meaningful Stories

The clients we serve all have powerful testimonials about their history with substances use disorder, mental health disorder, and their own pathways to recovery. These people and their stories often inspire others to seek treatment as well. In this position you will play an important role in conveying these stories over social media platforms, email newsletters, blog posts, and in the community. Using communications best practices and marketing analytics, you’ll help us determine the best ways to get our clients’ messages out to those who need them the most.

2. You’ll Help Plan and Participate in Community Events

Gándara prides itself on not only serving the community, but being an active part of it. You’ll actively participate in our pillar events—such as our annual Frozen Yogurt 5K fundraiser, ArtSong reception to provide artistic outlets for youths, and Holyoke Recovery Day to celebrate the recovery efforts of our clients and individuals seeking treatment. We’ll give you responsibilities for helping plan and execute the logistics that make these events possible, and rely on your creative input to help us put together events in response incidents taking place in the moment, like our campaign to support the Puerto Rican community affected by Hurricane Maria.

3. You’ll Have Flexibility

This is an entry-level, part-time position. That means our organization is committed to providing the right candidate an opportunity to expand their resume, take on leadership roles, learn to be proactive instead of reactive, and gain an understanding of how nonprofits operate. We also realize that you may have another job. Or that you may be pursuing an education. Or that you have family obligations. We understand that life is busy and you may be juggling a number of priorities. This position is designed to accommodate your life outside the workplace without sacrificing the chance to gain professional experience. This job is intended to support our substance use and mental health programs, our outreach efforts, and your potential to grow with us.

4. You’ll Give Back to Under-served Populations

Statistically, in terms of occupation, income level, and ethnicity, the Latinx and African-American communities are at a higher risk of developing substance use disorders. We work directly with, and directly on behalf of, these populations and everyone else seeking treatment. As the marketing and development assistant, your work planning events, drafting communication, engaging on social media, and joining communities will make an immediate and direct impression on the people who need it most.

We look forward to evaluating candidates for this job and welcoming someone to our growing team. Learn more about the job description and submit your application today.

—-

The Gándara Center provides residential, mental health, substance abuse and preventive services for children, adults and families across the Pioneer Valley and eastern parts of Massachusetts. Founded in the Latinx community, we value cultural diversity and strive to provide culturally competent, innovative services to a diverse community.

The Mission of the Gándara Center is to promote the well-being of Latinxs, African-Americans and other culturally diverse populations, through innovative, culturally competent behavioral health, prevention and educational services.

By |October 2nd, 2018|Events, Gandara in the News, News|Comments Off on 4 Reasons to Start Your Career with Gándara [We’re Hiring!]

Sights and Stories From the Recovery Day Rally Celebration in Boston

The energy was electrifying.

Cheers roared through the building as speaker after speaker approached the podium, introduced themselves, their stories, their addictions, and their recovery efforts, and connected with a crowd that overflowed out into the summer heat. Enthusiastic shouts of encouragement echoed throughout the outdoor marketplace. Even among strangers, you could feel the strong sense of community. It was palpable.

Faneuil Hall in Boston added another memorable celebration to its long history of significant events. On Monday, September 17, the Recovery Day March and Celebration took place. Organized by the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR), the event brought together numerous individuals who have been touched in some way by substance use disorders, as well as the organizations who have helped these people on their pathways to recovery. The Gándara Center was well represented by groups from Hope for Holyoke and Stairway to Recovery.

Things kicked off at Boston City Hall at 9 a.m. People assembled. Father Joe White, himself in long term recovery, led everyone in a prayer.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey swung by. She mentioned as chief lawyer for the state, it’s her responsibility to sue people, not the least of which includes Purdue Pharma. Healey is suing the pharmaceutical company for allegedly misleading the public on the powerful side effects and addictive nature of OxyContin, a prescription medication that’s fueled the opioid crisis.

“Thank you,” Healey told attendees. “Thank you for your courage, and coming forward, and sharing your stories with the world.”

Healey had to leave to meet with Chris Herren, the community activist, motivational speaker, and former Boston Celtic from Fall River who’s in recovery. But before she left, she helped hype the crowd.

It wasn’t long until City Hall Plaza erupted with: “Join the voices for recovery! This is what recovery looks like! We do recover! Recovery is possible! When I shine, you shine, we all shine together!”

The march then wove through Court and Congress streets, chanting in unison, before entering Faneuil Hall. The building quickly reached capacity.

Maryanne Frangules, executive director of MOAR, and Marylou Sudders, secretary of Health and Human Services, helped keep the intensity up. Frangules, in recovery since 1981, rattled off the names of all the organizations present. Sudders, who lost her mother from complications due to addiction and mental illness, similarly touted everyone county by county. The tone of the speakers never faltered.

Once Frangules and Sudders vacated the stage, state lawmakers explained the importance of recent legislation that passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously. They then brought up representatives from the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) who also serve as recovery coaches.

A woman named Julia has been in recovery since September 4, 2017. Julia’s addiction took hold when she was prescribed medication for a spinal infection. Like many others who joined her, she found reprieve in her recovery coach who helped find her housing and meals, supported her clean living, and inspired her to do the same. She intends to become a recovery coach in her own right, and impart her wisdom and life experiences on those who need it.

“I find it not necessary to use drugs and alcohol ever again,” she said to overwhelming. “I live life on life’s terms.”

Shedding light on a population not outwardly associated with substance use and mental health disorders, a group of deaf recovery coaches likewise received a resounding ovation. Massachusetts is a national leader when it comes to providing substance use treatment to the deaf and hard of hearing community; in fact, Massachusetts is the first state to develop deaf recovery coach trainings. To date, over 20 deaf recovery coaches have been trained across the Commonwealth.

A coach named Katie has been in recovery since 2001. She sees coaching not only as a way to connect with an individuals in need, but as a way to advocate in communities and across regions. That she, Julia, and their peers have gone through the many similar challenges facing their clients today is an invaluable asset to their work. Many were, and some are, without transportation, jobs, homes, and the comforts of family. “We have the ability to give a voice to the voiceless,” she said. “The lived experience speaks volumes.”

You are the Face of Recovery

“I’m Marty and I’m an alcoholic.”

The speaking part of the program was capped by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh is an alcoholic in recovery and has been a vocal proponent of increased access to treatment services, from improving the city’s treatment infrastructure to connecting with people on an emotional level.

Walsh aims to build a bridge to Long Island in Boston Harbor, which once was home to a residential treatment facility, and he continues to speak directly to his constituents. He mentioned one young lady, with whom he “talked about that sense of not being worthy” which he remembers as a major hurdle to overcome as part of his own journey to recovery. He didn’t see her again after that, thought she disappeared. But on one of the annual recovery day celebrations he mandated as part of his community outreach when he was a state representative, she showed up. She was unrecognizable. She was six-months sober.

He urged people to reach out. Ask how they’re doing. This can make a world of difference. A lot of people ask him about the intersection of Melnea Cass Blvd. and Massachusetts Ave., which has earned the dubious nickname “the methadone mile” because of the dense concentration of substance users who cluster around a nearby methadone clinic.

“Let them know where your life was, where your life is, and where your life is headed,” he suggested. “You are the face of addiction, you are the face of recovery.” After a lunch break, the event broke up into separate agendas. In one area of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, artists held therapeutic workshops. Back on stage, live performances like interpretative dance and spoken word poetry took place. The incredible turnout for the various events is a testament to the strength of those in recovery and the compassion of those willing to lend a helping hand.

Every September, the Gándara Center participates in National Recovery Month, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This longstanding observance is designed to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders, celebrate people in recovery, and laud the contributions of treatment and service providers.

By |September 18th, 2018|Events, Politics|Comments Off on Sights and Stories From the Recovery Day Rally Celebration in Boston

4 Reasons to Apply for Gándara’s Recruitment Marketing & Sourcing Specialist Job

It’s a good time to find a job in Massachusetts, especially in the nonprofit sector. The state’s unemployment rate sits at an optimistic 3.5%, the lowest since 2000. As a result, local nonprofits are growing and need people to help push their marketing and recruitment efforts. The Gándara Center is experiencing growth of its own. This trend has created a need for individuals who recognize how to implement employer brand strategy, attract and retain new talent, and rally the community at large.

Gándara is the leading provider of substance use and mental health services for Hispanic, African-American, and minorities. If you want to work on behalf of causes that affect people across the state, and ensure a safe and healthy place for you and your neighbors to live, here are 4 reasons you should apply for the Gándara Center’s recruitment marketing and sourcing specialist job:

1. Mesh With the Community

With your help, Gándara will be able to build upon its already strong community ties. We oversee a number of events that engage neighborhoods and raise funds for new services in our locations. Whether we’re hosting a 5K road race, submitting a float for a cultural parade, providing arts and crafts for youths, or rallying at the State House, we’re constantly standing with and for the populations we serve. And we’re always looking for new ways to voice our support and compile helpful resources for those people and places.

2. You’re a People Person, Online and Offline

While yes, the work we do requires some person-to-person interactions, the role of recruitment marketing and sourcing specialist also requires tech savvy and enthusiasm for social media. Your work environment will combine the best of digital and human elements. You’ll sift through resumes, cover letters, and online profiles to recruit people with the right personality and experience to fill various roles. If you love meeting and talking with new people, analyzing data, executing marketing strategy, promoting job listings, and maintaining brand pages, then this may be the right job for you.

3. Advocate for the Underserved

All paths to recovery are welcome. Gándara is willing to help anyone who complies with the rules set by each program, especially people who identify as Hispanic and African-American. You will be on the front line of providing support to these at-risk populations. They—family, friends, neighbors, coworkers—are disproportionately at risk for developing substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or both.

In Massachusetts from 2014–2017, opioid-related deaths among Hispanics more than doubled in Massachusetts, a rate higher than any other demographic. When broken down by occupation, industry, and income, statistically Hispanics and African-Americans proved more susceptible to substance use and mental health disorders.

Our programs need knowledgeable staffers, caregivers, and clinicians to keep up with the demand for assistance. That’s where you come in.

4. Help Us Scale

Massachusetts is in the midst of a nonprofit resurgence. The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows approximately 17% of employed residents work for nonprofits—well over half a million people. Specifically, locations where Gándara Center has one or more facilities are among the top places in the nation to work for nonprofits.

Most of our programs are conducted in Hampden County, where more than 200,000 residents are employed in nonprofits. The rate of employment, too, is on the rise, as are average weekly wages. In Suffolk County, where nonprofit jobs compose 29% of all employment, Gándara hosts a Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) program in Boston. In Hampshire County, nonprofit jobs make up 25.9% of all employment. Here, Gándara operates a substance use recovery program for men, a sober living facility guided by the National Association of Recovery Residences, and a support home contingent on a six-month commitment to sobriety, located all in Northampton. Also in Hampshire County is our substance use and alcohol treatment recovery program for youths in young women in Ware.

Apply Today

The person who fills this role will have the opportunity to not only build their own professional experience, but to improve the lives of Massachusetts residents who are chronically underserved and under-resourced. If making a positive difference in the lives of others is your primary goal, we urge you to consider working with us.

If you’re interested in applying for the Gándara Center’s recruitment marketing and sourcing specialist position, send us your resume and cover letter today.

By |September 14th, 2018|News|Comments Off on 4 Reasons to Apply for Gándara’s Recruitment Marketing & Sourcing Specialist Job

Health Benefits of Play: Why We’re Building a Playground at Our Group Home for Children

Playtime is an opportunity for children to absorb various physical, mental, and emotional benefits. It promotes wellbeing, informs critical thinking, and encourages a level of cognitive function that enables relationship-building, language proficiency, and social development. The health benefits of play abound. That is why we are building a playground at our Mooreland residential group home for children, and we need your help raising the funds.

A study set to be published in the September 2018 issue of Pediatrics highlights the important role play has on the lives of children. It instills in them a sense of how to learn. Through peer engagement, it instructs on how to work together to solve complex problems. Fostering collaboration, creativity, and community is crucial to the positive development of kids, and can be achieved with the help of playgrounds.

The physical influence of play is incredibly healthy. Play is essentially exercise, both for the brain and for the body. It is associated with low levels of fatigue, injury, and depression, and high levels of agility, coordination, balance, flexibility, and range of motion. And after participating in physical activity, children are more likely to pay attention in classroom settings.

Mooreland playground specs

Play has a direct effect on the structure of the brain, stimulating proteins that refine the area of the brain associated with play. In fact, measurable differences can be observed in protein production due to the absence of play. Stress is closely linked with play. High amounts of play are related to low levels of cortisol, which suggests play reduces stress or unstressed individuals play more.

Our Mooreland residential group home for children provides the youngest individuals we serve with some joy during an incredibly stressful time in their lives. For anyone who has experienced trauma in their lives, being removed from their homes and everything familiar to them, to be relocated to group housing, is overwhelming. The most restrictive barriers to play include neighborhood threats such as violence, drugs, and guns; low access to public spaces and recreational facilities; and unstable family infrastructure. Giving these children a safe and fun outlet in their backyard will help provide a positive light to their stay.

The Mooreland home provides shelter and assess youth who are moved from one housing unit to another. Services include comprehensive assessment; medication management; individual and family therapy; anger management and life skills group; education support; sensory therapy; transportation; recreation; and comprehensive case management using a trauma-informed approach.

There is still time to register for the 4th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K to help us raise money for then Mooreland playground. In return you will receive a timed bib courtesy of RaceWire, free frozen yogurt courtesy of GoBerry, and, if you place in our Male, Female, 12 and Under, and 50 and Over category, a medal.

The Frozen Yogurt 5K will take place on Sunday, August 26, in Northampton. The starting line will be by the Courthouse lawn (19 King Street), and the race will commence at 9 a.m.

By |August 20th, 2018|News, Science|Comments Off on Health Benefits of Play: Why We’re Building a Playground at Our Group Home for Children