Gándara Center: a History

Gándara Center was founded in Springfield in 1977 to advocate and provide for equal and culturally competent services in behavioral health for the Hispanic community.

The Hispanic population in the Connecticut River Valley, historically drawn to the area’s blue collar and agricultural jobs—especially tobacco farming—has been growing steadily in the region since the 1950s. But in the 1970s, when there was a large wave of Hispanic migration to greater Springfield area, the portion of newcomers who had mental health and substance use issues had very limited access to services that could help them.

Fortunately, in 1977—and later as a part of President Jimmy Carter’s Mental Health Systems Act of 1980—funding was made available to communities across the country to address the mental health needs of individuals suffering from serious mental illness, including the elderly, and racial and ethnic minority communities. The City of Springfield submitted a citywide application that included the needs for both the Hispanic and African-American communities. This funding strengthened the city’s mental health services and led to the establishment of the Gándara Mental Health Center.

Our agency was named in honor of Dr. José N. Gándara Cartagena (1907-1954), a prominent physician and public servant from Ponce, Puerto Rico who dedicated his life to providing services for those who could not afford medical care. He also advocated for urban renewal—especially the construction of much-needed new public housing. Gándara Center embodies Dr. Gándara’s goals and work—as a philanthropist and symbol in his community—and the center used his legacy as the foundation of our mission and values.

Gándara Center was first housed in a storefront on Main Street and then on the Mercy Hospital campus on Carew Street. In 1982, when the Gándara Center’s Outpatient Clinic doors at 2155 Main Street first opened, no other agency in the area specifically met the needs of providing culturally sensitive care to the Hispanic community. In the early years, the nonprofit’s first executive director, Dr. Philip Guzman, laid the foundation for what the agency would later become; his vision and advocacy for the Hispanic community set Gándara Center apart from other agencies.

In 1982, Dr. Henry Julio East-Trou joined the team as a supervisor for the agency’s psychiatric day treatment program. At the time, Gándara Center had just one Springfield location and approximately 30 staff to house all of its programs—residential, outpatient, and substance use. Over the years, numerous contacts and grants were secured, services expanded, additional programs were created, and staff size increased. In 1989, when East-Trou began shepherding Gándara Center through an unprecedented era of growth as executive director, the agency employed 80 people and served approximately 2,000 clients. Today, Gándara is home behavioral health, substance use, prevention, and educational services in more than 40 locations throughout the state—both in eastern and western Massachusetts—employs over 900 staff, and serves over 13,000 adults, children, and families from all backgrounds in its care.

Gándara’s efforts to fill the gaps in services for society’s most vulnerable populations has taken us to new places and new initiatives. Our many services include maintaining residential homes for youth and adults transitioning back to the community from incarceration, homelessness, substance use disorder, and other mental illnesses. In fact, we are the largest provider of DCF group homes in western Massachusetts. We also offer adult residential services for developmentally disabled individuals, and run such family support programs as the Springfield Family Resource Center, which helps our clients navigate through housing education, and the legal system. Our Specialized Hispanic Community Service Agency (CSA)/Community-based Health Initiative (CBHI) services use a team wrap-around approach to ensure that children who have significant behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs and their families get the help they need. For over 30 years we have run a foster-care program. We also operate peer recovery support centers in Brockton, Holyoke, Hyannis, and Plymouth—and we will open another one in Springfield in the fall of 2019.

Although we have branched out, our mission remains the same: we will continue to champion the underserved as we have since our founding more than 40 years ago.


Former Executive Directors Dr. Henry Julio East-Trou (left) and Dr. Philip Guzman


The opening of our Impact Center in Springfield in 2017

gandara center hist

By |July 16th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara Center: a History

An Exciting Opportunity: The Gándara Center Hiring Bonus Program

By Jayson Sanchez, Gándara Center’s recruitment marketing and sourcing specialist

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Did you know about our hiring bonus program? It’s an exciting initiative happening at Gándara Center! Did you know there’s also an employee referral bonus program too? There are so many exciting developments happening at Gándara that you may not have heard of before.

Our Hiring Bonus Plan: for General Degree hirees, and hirees who have High School or General Education diplomas, there’s a hiring bonus of $500*! For Bachelor’s and Master’s Levels, the hiring bonuses are up to $1,500 and $3,000! This is a benefit that allows us to bring in more talented staff like yourselves!

But it doesn’t end there. We know you may have a family member or friend or know someone who is as capable and dedicated as you and looking to make a positive lasting impact by helping people, so we want you to spread the word about the great things happening here at Gándara Center like giveaways on Employee Appreciation Day and National Donut Day. That’s important! Spread the word, and if you’re successful in bringing on more talent like you, you also get a bonus referral depending on the education level of the hiree. Mind blown?…Yes we know! So what are you waiting for? Take a look at our Detailed Hiring Bonus and Employee Referral Program and help us gain more talent today!

Hiring Bonus Program

Master’s Degree Staff

*Up to $3,000 sign on bonus:

$1,000 after 3 months of employment & $2,000 after 6 months of employment


Bachelor’s Degree Staff

*Up to $1,500 sign on bonus:

$500 after 3 months of employment & $1,500 after 6 months of employment


General Degree Staff

*Up to $500 sign on bonus:

$250 after 3 months of employment & $250 after 6 months of employment

View our job openings at Gándara Center!


Employee Referral Bonus

Refer a MA Degree Staff – $600

Refer a BA Degree Staff – $400

Refer a General Degree Staff – $300

All referral bonuses will be paid after new employee’s six-month probationary period.

Questions regarding the employee referral bonuses? Contact Jayson Sanchez at jsanchez3@gandaracenter.org or 413-930-4270.

Bonuses are determined based on job requirements. This incentive program is subject to end at any time at the discretion of the agency’s administrative leadership team. Gándara employees: be sure to talk to your supervisor or manager for information on how to acquire the form today.

By |July 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on An Exciting Opportunity: The Gándara Center Hiring Bonus Program

Check Out Our July Newsletter Online!

Our monthly newsletter for July has much more video than in past newsletters, including video headlines—which give you the latest news from around the agency. View our video of National HIV Testing Day, in which we talk to Gándara Center Outreach Case Manager Paulo Salvador about the importance of knowing your HIV status.

We also have video of a tree planting ceremony in honor of the late Lynne Reilly, who was a recovery specialist at our Esperanza Transition Support Services in Westfield. And check out our latest #GandaraAtWork video of Eddie Rodriguez, recovery coach supervisor in our Gándara Addiction Recovery Program.

You can also read about our Frozen Yogurt 5K on August 25 in Northampton, our presentation on compulsive gambling at La Quinta Inn & Suites in Springfield, our participation in the Western MA Homelessness Resource Fair for Providers at Holyoke Community College, and the Hampden County DA’s Office hosting a workshop on record sealing and expungement at our offices at 80 Commercial Street in Holyoke.

In addition, we have photos of our giveaways to employees on National Donut Day (June 7) and on Father’s Day.

The newsletter can be found at https://mailchi.mp/gandaracenter/july-video-headlines.

By |July 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Check Out Our July Newsletter Online!

We Need Runners/Walkers, Sponsors, and Volunteers for Our Frozen Yogurt 5K on August 25 in Northampton!

There is no better way to burn calories and get cardio exercise than training for a 5K—and running in—a 5K! Our 5K! Gándara Center’s 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K is on Sunday, August 25 at 9:00 a.m. in downtown Northampton.

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

Proceeds from this event directly benefit the individuals we serve. With over 40 service locations across the state, our agency is heavily funded through state and federal grants. While those dollars offset our operating costs, our clients’ needs go beyond the services we provide—needs that our contracted dollars don’t account for: summer camp scholarships; bus passes to help a single parent without transportation successfully get to their job; sensory tools for children suffering from severe emotional disturbances; basic apartment necessities for young clients moving into their first apartments; job interview outfits for women graduating from our residential recovery programs, and so much more.

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

Sponsors: attach your company organization name to a great cause and get some prominent recognition in our media materials, and including, in some cases—logo recognition. Check out our sponsorship levels.

We also need volunteers for the water stations to keep our runners hydrated, and to help at our registration table. We are also recruiting volunteers to be race monitors and be a part of our setup and takedown crew.

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

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

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

For any questions regarding the event—or for those interested in having their business sponsor this year’s race­—please contact Jade Rivera-McFarlin at 413-296-6214 or jriveramcfarlin@gandaracenter.org.

Read about last year’s race!

Frozen Yogurt 5K Route:





By |June 24th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on We Need Runners/Walkers, Sponsors, and Volunteers for Our Frozen Yogurt 5K on August 25 in Northampton!

Hope for Holyoke Presenters Discuss Compulsive Gambling at Symposium

Gambling addiction is like any other addiction in that it can be difficult to overcome—and can eventually wreak havoc on one’s life. But, technically, how similar is compulsive gambling to substance use disorder? “Cravings in gambling addiction stimulate the same pathways in the brain as drug and alcohol cravings,” said Deb Flynn-Gonzalez (pictured above), director of our Hope for Holyoke recovery center.

Deb was speaking at the Recovery Celebration & Symposium on June 13 at La Quinta Inn & Suites in Springfield. The event, entitled “Having the Conversation: The Recovery Community & Problem Gambling,” was presented by the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling (MCCG) and featured several presenters in the recovery field, including Dennis Gonzalez, a recovery coach at Hope for Holyoke; and James Maloney, a peer resource specialist at Hope for Holyoke.

“Pathological gambling” was first added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980, but the term was replaced by “gambling disorder” in the manual’s 2013 update, DSM-5. “This used to be considered an impulse-control disorder, but it was reclassified to one of the substance-related and addictive disorders,” said Deb. “That is a big shift. It used to be regarded a behavioral issue, giving the connotation that the behavior is your choice—that you can just stop. And many years ago that’s what they thought about substance use.”

Now, however, substance addiction is defined as a disease by the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, substance use disorder is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental, and biological factors.

Substance Use and Problem Gambling

Deb compared the similarities of substance use and problem gambling. Indeed, the signs of a gambling problem are often the same as the signs of other addictions. Deb listed the pathological features of both compulsive gambling and substance use disorder:

  • Preoccupation: Frequent thoughts about gambling or substance use experiences
  • Tolerance: The person needs to use increasing amounts of money—or drugs or alcohol—in order to achieve the “rush”
  • Loss of Control: Unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop
  • Withdrawal: The person is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop
  • Escape: Improving mood and escaping problems
  • Chasing: Attempt to win back losses in gambling—much like substance use: “Just this time and then I’ll get treatment.”
  • Lying: Lies to family members and therapist to conceal the problem
  • Illegal Acts to finance gambling or another addiction
  • Risked Significant Relationship or jeopardizing a job
  • Bailout: Relying on friends and family to “get me through this one”
  • Biological basis: Problem gambling is associated with other psychiatric disorders, including substance use disorder

Deb’s talk was followed by a Peers-in-Recovery Panel featuring “Stories of Hope” from attendees, including Hope for Holyoke members Sheri Borsotti and Phil Govan.

The Culture of Gambling

In an afternoon session, Dennis Gonzalez, a recovery coach at Hope for Holyoke, and James Maloney, a peer resource specialist at the same recovery center, discussed the cultural underpinnings of gambling: not only has wagering become more acceptable and accessible (e.g. online gaming) in our culture, it goes back to ancient times (China, 2300 BC).

Dennis and James called on symposium participants to recall their own first gambling experiences—and in most cases they occurred in childhood. For example, Pogs, a children’s game in the mid-1990s, was a form of gambling. In an arcade’s claw crane machine, a child essentially bets money to win a prize. The list went on: pitching pennies, shooting marbles, flipping baseball cards. “Today, there are mobile apps have hidden gambling elements in electronic games,” said James, pointing out that children “buy” with money or in-game currency, items or privileges, making them susceptible to compulsion. Dennis agreed: “They are setting kids up to get addicted,” he said.

Gándara Center and the Fight Against Problem Gambling

Recovering from compulsive gambling can be challenging, but over the years people have found help through Gándara Center’s counseling services at 85 St. George Road in Springfield. Also, many of our counselors at our Outpatient Clinic in Springfield have attended training sessions run by the MCCG.

In a new program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Office of Problem Gambling Services, a peer support model known as the Ambassador Project trains men of color who are in recovery to have gambling prevention conversations with other men of color with a history of substance abuse. The Ambassador Project’s pioneering approach to gambling education is taking place in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS)-funded peer recovery support centers that include Gándara’s PIER Recovery Center of Cape Cod, our Stairway to Recovery center in Brockton, and Hope for Holyoke.

Research has shown that men are at a significantly higher risk than the general population for gambling, as are people of color and people with a history of substance use. Dennis, who is currently the Peer Gambling Ambassador at Hope for Holyoke, discussed how ingrained gambling is in our national and local culture: Massachusetts citizens legally played the State Lottery, scratch tickets, Bingo, Keno, 50/50 raffles, etc. long before a resort casino was first opened in the state—in Springfield—last year.

This fall, Gándara Center will begin an after-school Youth Problem Gambling Prevention Program at the South End Middle School in Springfield. The effort will be funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Office of Problem Gambling Services.

The Recovery Celebration & Symposium, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Office of Problem Gambling Services, was the second that Hope for Holyoke has presented with MCCG. The first was held a year ago. “I’d like to thank Hope for Holyoke for this celebration of all types of recovery and an informative exploration on problem gambling,” said Odessa Dwarika, chief program officer at MCCG. “You have been an amazing partner with us and you do so much for your community.”



By |June 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Hope for Holyoke Presenters Discuss Compulsive Gambling at Symposium

Read our June Newsletter Online!

Gándara Center’s June Newsletter is now online. You can view a video profile of Lianette Rivera, our in-home behavioral services director, as well as photos of our Mother’s Day roses initiative for our Gándara moms

Read about our agency being chosen as a Big Y Community Bag Program beneficiary for the month of June, our NOEL program conducting an educational session on breast cancer prevention and screening, and a fundraiser benefiting our Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services.

You can also read about our Henry’s Next Aventura! Event raising $3,528 for our children and teens summer camp scholarship.

Also, check out Thomas Miklovich’s column on the opioid crisis in the Hampshire Daily Gazette. Thomas graduated from our Hairston House in Northampton and moved into a house in the same city run by our agency.

Read the newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/38742755e76c/june-news-employee-video-profile-of-lianette-rivera-and-more-2369653.

By |June 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read our June Newsletter Online!

#GandaraAtWork Episode 11: Lara Quiles, Supervisor, CSP/RSN Programs

On #GandaraAtWork episode 11, meet Lara Quiles! Originally from Puerto Rico, Lara made Massachusetts her home but it wasn’t love at first sight. When she first visited she thought she’d never come back. But Lara recently bought a house where she enjoys spending time with her kids and new puppy, Luke.

Lara supervises the Community Support Program (CSP) and Recovery Support Navigator (RSN) program. She oversees seven case workers who receive referrals from various service providers. They provide guidance, community resources, and housing and transportation assistance to clients seeking mental health or substance use treatment.

Lara has been with Gándara for more than seven years.

Thanks for all of your hard work, Lara!


By |June 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 11: Lara Quiles, Supervisor, CSP/RSN Programs

A Dozen Gándara Center Employees Celebrate Important Work Anniversaries in June

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

20 Years
Kimberly Ritter, Maple STARR (Springfield)

15 Years
Betty Zamudio, Patterson Residential (Springfield)

10 Years
Chris Ezzo, CSA/CBHI, and Intensive Family Support Services
Omar Irizarry, CSA Services (Holyoke/Springfield)
Lismel Luciano, CRS Community Support
Priscilla Seibles, Holyoke STARR

5 Years
Misty Cameron, Alternative Options (Chicopee)
Emily English, Supportive Housing
Anthony Grandoit, Fort Pleasant (Springfield)
Lydia Lorenzano, Mooreland STARR (Springfield)
Kelia Santiago, CSA Services (Holyoke/Springfield)
Xiomara Torres, Norman Street (West Springfield)

Congratulations everyone!

By |June 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A Dozen Gándara Center Employees Celebrate Important Work Anniversaries in June

Attention Shoppers: Gándara Center Chosen as a Big Y Community Bag Program Beneficiary for June

Buy a shopping bag; help send a kid to camp! Gándara Center has been selected as the beneficiary of the Big Y World Class Market Community Bag Program for the month of June. For the entire month, when you purchase a $2.50 reusable Community Bag at the Big Y at 503 Memorial Avenue in West Springfield (Century Plaza), $1 is donated to Gándara Center (unless otherwise directed by the customer through the Giving Tag attached to the bag).

The money raised will help one of Gándara Center’s recent fundraising initiatives: the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship, which sends Springfield children and teenagers to one session of summer camp for free Most of our scholarship recipients come from low-income households, and some of them are in our foster care program. Summer vacation is often the most difficult time for parents to find affordable, safe opportunities when school is not in session. That’s when the Aventura! Scholarship comes in. It opens new doors for families that may not have the means to send their children to a day camp. Each dollar raised goes directly to the scholarship and sends kids to camp.

“We are overwhelmed with excitement to be selected for this community program,” said Gándara Center Executive Director Henry Julio East-Trou. “Having this opportunity will help spread the awareness about our agency’s work, as well as support our mission by continuing to make a difference in the lives of our communities’ most vulnerable populations. I hope everyone hearing this news shares it with family, friends, and co-workers.”

This Big Y program is designed to make it easy for shoppers to give back to their local community while supporting the environment. The Community Bags are located on displays around the store and at the checkout. When purchasing a reusable bag, say, “I support Gándara Center.” For more information about the program, visit bigy.bags4mycause.com.

By |May 22nd, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Attention Shoppers: Gándara Center Chosen as a Big Y Community Bag Program Beneficiary for June

Gándara to Open Peer Recovery Support Center in Springfield

Responding to the need to combat the opioid crisis in Springfield, the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) recently awarded Gándara Center $400,000 in funding to open a recovery support center in the city’s downtown. It will open in the late summer or the beginning of fall.

The facility, to be housed at 373 Worthington Street, will be designed after the peer recovery support centers our agency operates in Holyoke, Brockton, Plymouth, and Hyannis. “Our center in Springfield, like our others, will welcome all people in recovery from substance use and those affected by substance use,” said Gándara Center Executive Director Henry Julio East-Trou. “All paths to recovery will be accepted.”

The news comes on the heels of new data from the DPH showing that the number of deaths from opioid overdoses nearly doubled in Springfield last year, from 56 in  2017 to 108, even though overdose deaths decreased by one percent statewide.

The number of recovery support centers are growing rapidly in Massachusetts, representing a shift from isolated treatment facilities to peer-based support services. Gándara Center is one of eight organizations receiving a total of $3.5 million to open recovery support centers in Springfield, Lowell, Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, Northbridge, Walpole, Pittsfield, and Fall River.

“Recovery support services are integral to our statewide opioid response strategy,” said DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel. “The addition of these eight DPH-funded centers is a step forward in establishing a broad network of culturally welcoming places for people seeking support for recovery from alcohol and substance use.”

State Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said that such peer-to-peer centers offer “nonjudemental support” and can play a vital rehab role, enabling consumers to join a recovery community and helping fill in the gaps left by other treatment professionals, such as education and training on financial management, parenting, stress management, and CORI assistance. “Recovery support centers are an important piece of a continuum to promote long-term recovery while complementing substance-use and alcohol treatment and mutual-support groups,” said Sudders.

The services at Gándara’s recovery support center in Springfield will be free and provide peer-to-peer support—including peer-facilitated support— as well as relapse prevention and tobacco cessation support groups, social events, access to computers for job readiness/job search activities, and advocacy and recovery coaching. Support will also include peer governance in which participants form advisory boards and use community meetings to create policies such as code of ethics and code of conduct and determine program activities such as peer support groups and participation in health fairs, community events and celebrations/holidays. Volunteer opportunities will be available for members who are committed to their recovery and actively participate in the center.

Participants at the new center must be 18 years of age or older. Parents will be able to bring adolescents or children to the center if they follow its policy related to supervision and attendance. Members who come under the influence of substances or alcohol will be given a choice to go for treatment or they will be asked to leave and come back when they are not under the influence.

East-Trou said that peer support has always been an important part of Gándara Center’s culture of recovery “For decades we have hired staff with lived experience, including recovery coaches, to support those in early recovery,” he said. “Recovery coaching has proven to be an effective tool in helping people continue their recovery process.”

By |May 16th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara to Open Peer Recovery Support Center in Springfield