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

What Is Narcan, How Do I Use It, and Where Can I Get It?

There are indicators that the opioid crisis in Massachusetts is beginning to wane. The latest available data from the Mass. Department of Public Health shows that after reaching a peak of 2,154 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, the state had 2,069 in 2017. By no means does this mean the Commonwealth has solved one of the most pressing issues of our time. But it does mean that some methods to combat the crisis may be taking hold. Public education and community awareness around opioids are critical to saving lives. Just as important is the proper knowledge and use of Narcan. What is Narcan? Naloxone. You may have seen it in the news:  Naloxone, is commonly referred to as its brand-name Narcan, is an antidote that reverses the symptoms of overdose. It has been credited with saving countless lives.

We at the Gándara Center are committed to ensuring everyone has access to, and knows how to administer, naloxone. There are no restrictions on how to get your hands on some; it’s as easy as walking into pharmacy and simply asking. We firmly believe naloxone should be in every home and every business, as universal as keeping and maintaining a fire extinguisher.

Let’s begin by getting down to the basics.

What is Naloxone (aka Narcan)?

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. The compounds of the drug block the opioid from working. An opioid-related overdose will cause the victim’s breathing to slow down or stop. Once administered, naloxone reverses that process. Keep in mind, it’s not effective in treating overdoses of benzodiazepines, barbiturates, clonidine, GHB, or ketamine.

How Do I Use Naloxone?

There are multiple ways to administer naloxone. It can be ingested intramuscularly (a shot in a muscle), intravenously (a drip in a vein), and intranasally (a spray in the nose).  Nasal sprays are the preferred method since they’re easier to carry and quicker to use—intramuscular and intravenous methods require users to fill the proper dosage and find the correct place to inject. Nasal sprays remove those extra steps and allow people to respond quickly to overdose victims in a time-sensitive situation.

Related: Gándara Center Partners with Tapestry to Provide Community Narcan Trainings

Is Naloxone Dangerous?

One of the beauties of naloxone is it’s free of side effects and is perfectly safe to have around. If someone not exhibiting overdose symptoms ingested naloxone, nothing would happen. For people who do exhibit overdose symptoms, naloxone is still safe. You can’t take too much of it and you can’t abuse it. In fact, the victim may require more than one dose if he or she is unresponsive. Fentanyl, for example, is a substance estimated to be between 25–50 times stronger than heroin, and 50–100 times stronger than morphine. As such, if someone is overdosing on a drug potent as fentanyl, multiple doses of naloxone may be required.

Where Can I Get Naloxone?

In Massachusetts, anyone with health insurance or MassHealth can obtain naloxone from your preferred pharmacy. Be sure to check with your provider about co-pays, as these will vary from plan to plan, and bring your insurance card with you.

Want to Learn More?

We’re partnering up with Tapestry Health to bring offer community Narcan training sessions throughout the Pioneer Valley, including two Spanish-speaking trainings in Holyoke and Springfield. Here, you will learn how to properly inject naloxone, how to conduct rescue breathing on overdose victims to maintain respiratory stability, and everyone will take home a dose of Narcan to carry on them at all times if desired.

We hope to see you there:

trainings narcan

Featured image via Image via James Heilman, MD (CC BY-SA 4.0)
By |October 18th, 2018|Events, News, Science|Comments Off on What Is Narcan, How Do I Use It, and Where Can I Get It?

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.

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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!]

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

Become a Foster Parent and Open Your Heart to a Child in Need

Foster parents give our communities’ most vulnerable children a chance to prosper emotionally mentally, physically, and socially. Those who have ever considered being foster parents should know that they are desperately needed—there is a drastic shortage of foster parents both locally and nationally.

Opening your heart and home to a child who has experienced abuse and/or neglect—one who is looking for a safe, temporary, therapeutic home—is a huge commitment. But although there are challenges, there are also benefits, such as the sense of accomplishment in making a big difference in the child’s life. “Providing a loving, nurturing home to a child in need is incredibly meaningful and important,” said Nicole Coughlin, director of intensive foster care at the Gándara Center. “It’s not always easy, but the emotional rewards of the experience are immeasurable.”

There is a national shortage of foster parents for a variety of reasons. In many states, including Massachusetts, there is an increase of children being placed into care because of an increase in parental substance use problems. In Massachusetts, the number of children under 18 in state or foster care hit a record low in 2012, but since then, that number has risen by 25 percent. Now there are 9,458 children in state care (7,538 of them in foster care), which is an all-time high. Other areas in the country struggle with foster parent recruitment and retention.

Simply put, there are too few homes for too many foster kids. At Gándara, however, we believe there are no unwanted children, just unfound families. And we help prepare these families for a successful child placement. That is one reason we enjoy a good retention rate among our foster parents.

Those who become foster parents through the Gándara Center receive ongoing support through specialized case managers and services, 24-hour on-call staff, and training. “Our foster parents receive a lot of support,” said Coughlin. “Our case managers are in the home weekly, and we have a family resource manager in the home once a month.”

Elsa Dones, who has been a Gándara Center foster parent for seven years, never hesitates to tell potential foster parents about the joys of her experience. “I tell them that there are also struggles, but Gándara is there for you,” she said. She described the agency’s ongoing consultation, training, and resources  as a “team” approach to foster care. “That’s what makes Gándara so special,” she said.

Our foster parents receive a daily tax-free stipend per child to help provide basic food and shelter needs, supervision, support and safety. “We also assist the parents in getting the child involved in such activities as after-school programs, camps, and sports,” said Coughlin.

Foster parenting gives the gifts of kindness, patience, and compassion—and gives foster children a chance at a good life.

For information about the Gándara Center’s foster parenting requirements, visit https://gandaracenter.org/become-a-foster-parent/ or contact Nicole Coughlin at 413-2359, x247 or ncoughlin@gandaracenter.org.

 

By |September 13th, 2018|News|Comments Off on Become a Foster Parent and Open Your Heart to a Child in Need

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

Read Our August Newsletter Online!

Check out Gándara Center’s August Newsletter online at bit.ly/AugNewz. You can read about our 4th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K on August 26—complete with an interactive route map; a donor profile of Matt Bannister, first vice president for marketing and Innovation at PeoplesBank; local and statewide Gándara National Recovery Month Events coming up in September; our Intensive Care Coordination and In-Home Therapy services…and many more news items.

We’ve ramped up our coverage of not only Gándara Center and the recovery community in general, but also mental health and wellness, as well as interviews with Gándara Center subject matter experts in the news media.

By |August 17th, 2018|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read Our August Newsletter Online!

Synthetic Substances: What is K2 & Why is it Dangerous?

Beginning Tuesday afternoon, people in New Haven, Conn. began exhibiting overdose symptoms  in large numbers. By Wednesday at least 70 people overdosed. By Friday, that number reached almost 90. The cause was the inhalation of a substance known as ‘K2,’ or ‘Spice,’ which may have also been laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl. So what is K2 and why is it dangerous?

What is K2?

K2 is a strain of synthetic marijuana that can be bought and sold at convenience stores, depending on location. Though synthetic marijuana varies from producer to producer, it is essentially dried leaves sprayed with chemicals that affect cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

According to Dr. Kathryn Hawk, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, synthetic marijuana like K2 are often “made in these kind of clandestine laboratories that are predominantly overseas… But they don’t represent, in any way shape or form, something that is kind of diverted from a pharmaceutical company or anything along those lines.”

Why is K2 Dangerous?

What is scary about synthetic marijuana is that nobody really knows what it is produced with. It can be laced with other, sometimes more powerful substances like fentanyl, which was suspected in the New Haven case. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid so powerful it is estimated to be between 25-50 times stronger than heroin, and 50-100 times stronger than morphine.

People tend to think that because a substance like K2 is referred to as “synthetic marijuana,” it has the same effects as actual marijuana but that is not true. As noted by the Drug Policy Alliance, negative side effects of synthetic marijuana can include nausea and vomiting, seizures, aggression and agitation, respiratory failure, and loss of consciousness.

Emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers peaked in the early 2010s, but the accessibility of synthetic marijuana makes it a continuous issue. In some cases, users have died of complications.

Is K2 legal?

Generally, K2 and other synthetic marijuana strains are illegal. In 2012, President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, labeling multiple types of the substance a Schedule I drug. Nearly every single state has its own laws, too, though they vary in scope. Synthetic marijuana manufacturers have found ways to circumvent these laws by slightly altering the chemical formulas found in their synthetic products.

In Massachusetts, the law against synthetic drugs is punishable by a $200 fine, six-month prison sentence, or both.

The Massachusetts law states:

“No person shall intentionally smell or inhale the fumes of any substance having the property of releasing toxic vapors, for the purpose of causing a condition of intoxication, euphoria, excitement, exhilaration, stupefaction, or dulled senses or nervous system, nor possess, buy or sell any such substance for the purpose of violating or aiding another to violate this section.”

Some states have also proposed strengthening the laws they already have on the books; for some, the crime outweighs the punishment.

Treatment

Because synthetic marijuana does not contain THC, the cannabinoid agent active in marijuana, K2 does not show up in toxicology results. This makeS it difficult for healthcare providers and emergency response teams to determine patterns for who uses them and which ones they use.

In New Haven, public health officials administered the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, commonly known as narcan. According to the Washington Post, at least 50 doses were given out. Some did not initially respond to the narcan and had to be given higher concentrations at the hospital.

Some people who experienced overdose symptoms were treated only to return to the New Haven Green, take more of the K2, and need narcan treatment again.

Luckily, none of the New Haven victims died.

Image via Public Domain/ Courtesy of the DEA
By |August 17th, 2018|Events, News|Comments Off on Synthetic Substances: What is K2 & Why is it Dangerous?