View Our November Newsletter Online!

Gándara Center’s November Newsletter is now online. You can read about Brighter Futures, our new overnight alternative housing program in Springfield for transitional young adults (18-24) who are experiencing—or at risk of—homelessness; see our new, improved Gándara Company Store (with many new items), and read about a $125,000 federal grant to our Stop Access Springfield Coalition.

You can also learn how to become a sponsor in our Aventura! Summer Camp Program; view interviews with our employees to see what sets our agency apart from the rest; and read about Aundra Gillyourd works with the Gándara Center-Plymouth County MISSION Re-entry Program, which provides coordinated and integrated services for incarcerated men at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility who are assessed with Substance Use Disorder, co-occurring other mental health issues, and are at high risk to reoffend.

Our agency was featured in the media a lot in October: view coverage of our Latinx AIDS/HIV Awareness Vigil at Springfield City Hall, as well as Hampden County Tobacco Free Partnership Director Sara Moriarty on Western Mass News voicing our agency’s support for two anti-vaping bills that are now in the Massachusetts House and Senate’s Ways and Means Committee. Our director of marketing and development, Jade Rivera-McFarlin, was on WWLP’s Mass Appeal on October 22 to discuss our Narcan trainings.

Read the AARP article on the Gomez family, including Gándara Center Behavior Therapist Eva Gomez, who served six years in the Army Reserve.

Our newsletter can be found online here.

By |November 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on View Our November Newsletter Online!

Gándara Center’s Stop Access Springfield Coalition Awarded $125,000 Federal Grant to Fight Youth Substance Use

U.S Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-Springfield), in collaboration with the White House Office National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), recently announced a $125,000 grant to Gándara Center’s Stop Access Springfield Coalition. The award was one of 150 nationwide grants for ONDCP’s Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program.

Pictured above at Congressman Neal’s Springfield office after a November 5 meeting about the grant are (L-R) Anthony Jennings, an outreach specialist for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office and Chair of the Stop Access Springfield Coalition; Sharon Hall-Smith, director of prevention and community services at Gándara Center; Congressman Neal; Stop Access Springfield Coalition Coordinator Malikah Jeffries; and Gándara Center Marketing and Development Director Jade Rivera-McFarlin.

Stop Access Springfield works to reduce youth substance use by creating positive vital communities and implementing citywide strategies that highlight substance use prevention and move it to a priority status in Springfield. The coalition focuses on collection data around youth risk and protective factors including youth alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco use; community capacity building; public health planning to use environmental policy changes to reduce and prevent youth substance use; and implementation of these strategies. The coalition’s Youth Advisory Board is actively involved in providing direction to the coalition.

The coalition is coordinated by Gándara Center and funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The federal DFC Program provides grants to community coalitions to strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in local youth substance use. Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, DFC-funded coalitions engage multiple sectors of the community and employ a variety of environmental strategies to address local substance use problems.

The grant is one of five totaling $625,000 to five organizations in western Massachusetts  Also receiving awards in the First Congressional District of Massachusetts are Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition, Hampden-Wilbraham Partners for Youth, West Springfield CARE Coalition, and Longmeadow Public Schools.

“Our goal is to make every community a safe and drug-free place for our youth,” said Congressman Neal. “Prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and these coalitions will use this funding to help youth in West Springfield, Longmeadow, Springfield, Hampden, Wilbraham, and Easthampton make healthy choices about substance use.”

DFC-Funded coalitions are composed of community leaders, parents, youth, teachers, religious and fraternal organizations, healthcare and business professionals, law enforcement, and media. By involving the community in a solution-oriented approach, DFC also helps those youth at risk for substance use recognize that the majority of our Nation’s youth choose not to use drugs. The coalitions continue to make progress toward achieving the goal of preventing and reducing youth substance use. In June, ONDCP released the 2018 Executive Summary and End-of-Year Report for its DFC grant recipients, which continue to yield consistently reduced youth substances use rates.

ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said that in order to create safe and healthy places, “we must break through to our children now and educate them about the dangers of substance use. The Drug-Free Communities, administered by our office across the United States, are proven prevention programs tailored to do just that by meeting the local prevention needs in each community. The Trump Administration will continue expanding the number of community-based coalitions dedicated to the critical mission of stopping substance use among our youth before it starts.”

Pictured below are Congressman Neal and Stop Access Springfield Coalition Coordinator Malikah Jeffries.

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By |November 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara Center’s Stop Access Springfield Coalition Awarded $125,000 Federal Grant to Fight Youth Substance Use

Gándara Center Urges Passage of Two Anti-Vaping Bills

Gándara Center recently voiced its support of proposed legislation in Massachusetts that would take all flavored tobacco off the market. Another bill supported by the agency would apply tax parity across all tobacco products—that is, taxing e-cigarettes like tobacco cigarettes.

On October 7, Gándara Center sent a letter to State Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo urging the passage of S.2357, which would ban all flavored tobacco products, and S.1606, which would institute an excise tax on vape products and increase the tax on cigarettes and cigars.

There have been more than 1,400 vaping or e-cigarette-related lung injury cases across the United States—including 46 in Massachusetts, and one death in Hampshire County, according to the state Department of Public Health.

“We applaud Governor Charlie Baker’s four-month e-cigarette ban as a necessary pause while health officials investigate vaping related lung injuries,” reads the letter. “However, the next logical step is taking ALL flavored tobacco off the market permanently. Gov. Baker’s ban, while necessary, will only temporarily protect youth from vaping. We need to ensure that young people who have been exposed to flavored vape products don’t turn to menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products as a substitute—or return to flavored vape products once the e-cigarette ban ends. We must act now to solve the flavored tobacco problem as a whole.”

Gándara Center, whose mission is to promote the well-being of culturally diverse populations, is the host agency for the Hampden County Tobacco Free Community Partnership (TFCP), which supports the smoke-free efforts of Springfield and surrounding communities both in the home and in the workplace. TFCP has been active in pointing out to the community the sharp spike in youth vaping—especially the fact that e-cigarette use among high school students increased 78 percent from 2017 to 2018.

PFCP Director Sara Moriarty (pictured above) pointed out Massachusetts is now the eighth-worst state in the country in terms of high school use of electronic cigarettes. “We need to stop this trend,” she said. “It’s obvious that candy and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes are an attempt to get people hooked on nicotine products at a young age. And studies have shown that people who start smoking or using any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in adolescence smoke more and have a more difficult time quitting than people who start smoking later in life.”

According to a report from the CDC and FDA, almost a third of the middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes in 2016 said the availability of flavors was a main reason they did. “Flavored tobacco is designed to lure kids,” said Moriarty. Many of the reports of the US vaping illness outbreak involve severe, life-threatening illnesses in previously healthy people. More than a third of the patients are under 21.

In fact, 80% of Massachusetts’ high school youth who are current tobacco users reported using a flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days, according to a Massachusetts Youth Health Survey.

As for taxing e-cigarettes, Gándara Center’s letter insists that making e-cigarettes more expensive is an effective tool in making them less attractive to kids. “Taxing tobacco products is a proven strategy for reducing youth tobacco use,” the letter reads. “Massachusetts’ low youth cigarette smoking rate is due in part to its pattern of consistently raising cigarette taxes every few years.  We have not raised the cigarette tax since 2013. It’s time. Studies show that e-cigarette use puts kids at risk for smoking cigarettes, but e-cigarettes and other vape products currently have no excise tax at all.”

Taxing e-cigarettes and vaping products at 75% of wholesale will bring them to near parity with cigarettes, according to Gándara Center. “We can stop this epidemic in its tracks—if we act now,” reads the letter.

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By |October 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara Center Urges Passage of Two Anti-Vaping Bills

Be a Hero: Become a Sponsor in our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program

These kids are jumping for joy because they love summer camp and they got to attend for free because were among the 45 recipients of Gándara Center’s Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship, which sent them to Camp STAR Angelina in Springfield’s Forest Park for two “aventura”-filled weeks!

For eight-year-old scholarship recipient Justice (pictured below), the highlight of summer camp was a juggler/magician who wowed campers with balancing stunts and sleight of hand tricks (below). “That was cool,” he said. So was “Animal Craze,” a traveling petting zoo that came to Camp STAR Angelina in July. “I saw a horse!” yelled Justice.

Here is what June, the mother of campers Hanna and Gabriella, had to say about their time at Camp STAR Angelina:

“I really appreciated this scholarship. My girls loved camp. It was great for their self-esteem—they tried new things and they learned how to deal different situations and how to get along with kids they didn’t know. Every day, when they got home, they talked about camp constantly, and I enjoyed hearing how their days went. We’re already looking forward to next year’s summer camp.”

Not every family can afford a day camp, and that is where our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program comes in. Springfield children deserve a safe place to play and grow emotionally during the summer. This scholarship provides them with the fun, freedom, and excitement that summer camp brings—an opportunity to get outside and make positive connections that will last a lifetime.

Most of our scholarship recipients come from low-income households—and some of them are in our foster care program. Simply put, a sponsor can make a real difference in a child’s life! Read about our sponsorship levels.

All sponsors be recognized as essential partners in providing this opportunity to the community and acknowledged in Gándara Center marketing and communications materials, including our Annual Report.

Give the gift of awesome summer camp memories. Donate to the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program.

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By |October 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Be a Hero: Become a Sponsor in our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program

View Our October Newsletter Online

Gándara Center’s October Newsletter is now online. You can read about our Narcan trainings this fall in Springfield and Holyoke, the 6th Annual Gándara Youth Art Exhibit ArtSong gallery reception and auction on December 12, our agency’s participation in National Recovery Month events, and how to be a sponsor for our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship.

View photos of our float and marchers in the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade, as well as a video of Cassandra Hilts, a recovery coach at our Stairway to Recovery center in Brockton.

You can also view segments of our Gándara family members in the media, including WWLP-22 News coverage of the September 17 ribbon cutting for the new Genoa Healthcare Pharmacy at our Outpatient Clinic in Springfield—along with Director of Clinical Services Audra Winn discussing our agency’s Intimate Partner Abuse Education group sessions on the WGBY Public Television show Connecting Point on September 19.

Our newsletter can be found online here.

By |October 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on View Our October Newsletter Online

ADHD Awareness Month: Know the Difference Between Myths and Facts

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is an often misunderstood condition due to common misconceptions. This neurobehavioral condition is usually first diagnosed in childhood, often lasts into adulthood, and is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity.

The symptoms, such as difficulty remaining still for long periods of time and being easily distracted, are common to all young children in general, but those with ADHD exhibit hyperactivity and inattention that is noticeably greater than expected for their age and create problems functioning at home, in the classroom, or with friends.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, five percent of American children have ADHD—but the Centers for Disease Control estimate that 10.6 percent of American children between the ages of four and 17 have the disorder. Partly because of the myths and misconceptions about ADHD—and in an effort to provide information that is reliable—October was declared ADHD Awareness Month in 2004 by the U.S. Senate.

ADHD is one of the primary diagnoses seen by clinicians at Gándara Center’s In-Home Behavioral Services (IBHS), according to IBHS Director Melissa Morrissey.

In the 2019 Fiscal Year (June 30, 2018-July 1, 2019), of the 1,192 clients enrolled in the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) program at Gándara Center, 400 clients were diagnosed with ADHD (33.56 percent) and received services in the agency’s Brockton, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Roxbury, Springfield, New Bedford, and Taunton locations, according to Gándara Center’s Clinical Operations Department.

Disparities in Diagnosis and Treatment

In the past 20 years, the number of children diagnosed with ADHD has nearly doubled, which many attribute to the condition in the past not being studied as extensively and therefore often went unrecognized. Indeed, the term ADHD didn’t appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1987. Nowadays, neuroimaging studies provide visible evidence of the ways the disorder affects the brain. “In the past, I don’t think there was enough education for parents about the disorder and what it means, so many children in the past were simply seen as kids with behavioral issues rather than what was really occurring with the ADHD,” said Morrissey.

According to a study released in 2017 by the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the significant increase in ADHD diagnoses over that past two decades was partly due to its climbing rate among minorities: the rise was most pronounced in minority groups, suggesting that better access to mental health treatment through the Affordable Care Act may have played a role in the increase.

But disparities in access to mental health care for minorities persist. Nationally, studies have shown that people of color—black and Latino in particular—are still much less likely to get clinical treatment for ADHD for several reasons, including a lack of knowledge among minority parents, the lack of bilingual mental health providers, and the need for cultural familiarization in clinical practices.

Morrissey said that in some cases the condition is also underdiagnosed because it can appear like other medical conditions, including anxiety disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, learning disabilities, and bipolar disorder. “I think it tends to have similar features of other disorders, which may make it underdiagnosed at times,” said Morrissey.

Of the 400 Gándara Center In-Home Behavioral Services clients diagnosed with ADHD, more than half of them (210) have a co-occurring disorder such as a mood, depressive, or anxiety disorder (190 clients were diagnosed with having just ADHD). Korie Johnson, director of education support services for the Gándara Youth Development Center in Holyoke, said many of the youth that come to the center have ADHD and suffer from trauma. Traumatic events in childhood can lead to anxiety disorders that can co-occur with ADHD.

Misconceptions about ADHD

“A common misconception about ADHD are that ‘it’s all in your head’; or that the person can control it,” said Morrissey. Actually, it is all in the client’s head—in that ADHD is a neurobiological condition, but the disorder can be successfully managed with proper treatment. In addition, she said many people think that there is only one type of ADHD when in fact there are three main categories: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. There are also different levels of ADHD severity.

Morrissey said there is also the misconception that “if you have trouble focusing, it means you have ADHD,” she said. “This is not true. There are many factors that contribute to one not being able to concentrate.” These include stress, anxiety, depression and lack of sleep.

There is also the mistaken belief that children simply outgrow ADHD in adolescence, according to Morrissey. While it diminishes for many in the teenage years, half or more carry it into adulthood. “Only boys have ADHD” is another myth, she pointed out. Both boys and girls can be diagnosed with ADHD, but it is more prevalent among boys (13.2 percent) than girls (5.6 percent), according to the CDC.

“Another misconception is that you must be hyperactive and unable to sit still to have ADHD,” said Morrissey. In fact, symptoms of inattention alone are enough to be diagnosed with ADHD—not all clients with the disorder are hyperactive. Also, some people mistakenly believe that all patients need is medication to address ADHD issues, when the reality is that best practice includes cognitive behavioral therapy combined with medication maintenance.

Managing ADHD

Some of the ways Gándara’s CBHI services help support families with children diagnosed with ADHD—and help families navigate special accommodations for them in school—include implementing behavioral interventions such as task analysis, daily routines, check lists, and setting reminders. “Gándara Center staff also assist parents in navigating the educational system in order to get the proper testing and supports the children may need,” said Morrissey.

ADHD doesn’t necessarily have to hold a person back: some of the world’s top athletes, entertainers, and businesspeople have the disorder, including Michael Phelps, Justin Timberlake, Will Smith, and Charles Schwab. They found success because they and their families learned all they could about ADHD—and then took charge of a treatment plan that works for them.

Want to know more about ADHD and ADHD Awareness Month? Visit adhdawarenessmonth.org.

By |October 2nd, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on ADHD Awareness Month: Know the Difference Between Myths and Facts

Staff Snapshot: Aundra Gillyourd, Peer Support Specialist/Recovery Coach

For many former prisoners transitioning back into their communities, the cycle of re-incarceration is difficult to break. And studies show that released inmates who have Substance Use Disorder (SUD)—often combined with another mental disorder—are more likely to end up back behind bars if they don’t get proper treatment and access to community services.

Aundra Gillyourd is a peer support specialist/recovery coach who works with the Gándara Center-Plymouth County MISSION Re-entry Program, which provides coordinated and integrated services for incarcerated men at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility who are assessed with SUD, co-occurring other mental health issues, and are at high risk to reoffend.

“I take care of the needs of men coming out of prison—try to get them stabilized, housing, etc.,” says Aundra. “I get to genuinely help people.” As someone with lived experience who has spent time in jail, he knows where they’re coming from and he likes to help get them back on their feet. “I did time before, so I know how it is to come out and have to get re-integrated into society,” he says. The incarcerated men he helps are within four months of finishing their sentences and returning to the greater Brockton and Plymouth communities.

The program, funded by a $425,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, uses a wrap-around team approach (clinician, case manager, and peer) to increase access to treatment, community linkages, recovery support, and support in building positive family/community connections. The program also provides mental health/substance abuse treatment, medication-assisted treatment, medical and dental treatment, vocational and employment placement, and sober housing placement. In addition, the program offers recovery support services, including transportation, a vocational unit, and case management that offers linkages to benefits, money management, relapse prevention, and life skills—along with substance abuse education curricula.

The goal is to expand access to pre- and post-release services to offenders and prevent recidivism. “I give them a push in the right direction,” says Aundra. “It’s very rewarding—it’s a recovery motivation tool for me also.”

By |September 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Staff Snapshot: Aundra Gillyourd, Peer Support Specialist/Recovery Coach

Gándara Center, Tapestry, and Hampden County Addiction Taskforce Partner for Free Community Narcan Trainings

Gándara Center, Tapestry, and Hampden County Addiction Taskforce are excited to announce an upcoming series of community-based Narcan trainings conducted in both English and Spanish. The trainings will be offered to the public in various locations in Springfield and Holyoke this fall. Admission is free and Narcan will be available for attendees.

Overdose prevention education is critical for community health and well-being. Please join us to increase awareness around the nation’s growing opioid crisis and the local resources helping to combat it. The trainings will be provided in both English and Spanish, with the intent of empowering community members, opiate drug users, family and friends to save lives. Attendees will learn about rescue breathing, what Narcan is, and how to administer it. Narcan will be distributed during the event.

In Massachusetts, there were 2,032  unintentional deaths from opioid related overdoses in 2018, according to MA Department of Public Health. The Latino populations have experienced some of the fastest growth rates of confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, between 2014 and 2018 opioid related deaths among Latinos nearly doubled in the state, a rate higher than any other demographic. As such, the Gándara Center is dedicated to using the available data to identify engaging and appropriate solutions. Gándara, as the statewide leader in providing substance use and mental health treatments to Latinos, is committed to providing bilingual trainings to make the Narcan events more accessible to the local Latino community.

Last year’s Narcan trainings by Gándara Center and Tapestry Health were well-attended and generated much positive feedback.

The effectiveness of Narcan cannot be understated: last April, four members of Gándara’s Hope for Holyoke Recovery Center saved a person’s life with three doses of Narcan.

Narcan Trainings:

Thursday, October 3
6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Nueva Esperanza
401 Main St., Holyoke, MA

Thursday, October 10
6:30 p.m.-7:45 p.m.
South End Community Center
99 Marble St., Springfield, MA

Thursday, October 24
6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
North End Youth Center
1772 Dwight St., Springfield, MA

Tuesday, November 5
6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Holyoke Public Library
250 Chestnut St., Holyoke, MA

Thursday, November 14
6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Indian Orchard Citizens Center
117 Main St., Indian Orchard, MA

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By |September 24th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara Center, Tapestry, and Hampden County Addiction Taskforce Partner for Free Community Narcan Trainings

Heather Murphy Receives Field Instructor Award

Gándara Center’s Chief Clinical Officer Heather Murphy received the MSW Field Instructor of the Year Award from the Westfield State University Department of Social Work on September 20. Congratulations, Heather!  She is pictured on the top right with Maria Mead, the program’s assistant field education director.

Heather has been at Gándara since 2011 as the clinical supervisor at the Maple STARR residential program before moving on as the clinical director for the Continuum program, and then as the agency’s director of quality management and director of clinical operations. She received her master’s degree in social work from Fordham University and is her Ph.D. in social work from Walden University. In addition to her work at Gándara, she is also the assistant field director and an adjunct professor in the social work department at Elms College.

This isn’t Heather’s first award: she was one of three recipients of the 2017-2018 Field Supervisors of the Year Award, which was presented by the Springfield College School of Social Work.

Heather is pictured below at the award ceremony with Tamanique Scruse (left), clinical supervisor at Gándara Recovery Services for Women (GRSW) in Holyoke and Shandria McCoy, clinical case manager at our Mooreland STARR residential program in Springfield.

murphy group

By |September 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Heather Murphy Receives Field Instructor Award

New Genoa Healthcare Pharmacy Opens at Gándara Center Outpatient Clinic

Gándara Center, a leader in culturally sensitive behavioral healthcare and Substance Use Disorder treatment, announced the official opening of a local bilingual pharmacy to assist the agency and its clients with their needs. Genoa Healthcare Pharmacy marked its grand opening with a ribbon cutting on September 17 at Gándara’s Outpatient Clinic, 2155 Main Street, Springfield.

Gándara Center’s patients, as well as its clinicians, are able to get prescriptions quickly and easily at this unique on-site pharmacy, which offers services specifically tailored to the agency’s multicultural clientele.

Being on-site allows their pharmacy staff to work closely with Gándara’s prescribers and caseworkers to provide the best possible care to those struggling with behavioral health conditions. Personalized bilingual and bicultural help ensure compliance with their treatment plans.

The North End in Springfield is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood where Gándara Center was first established in 1977 to advocate for culturally competent services to the underserved.

Genoa Healthcare is the most experienced pharmacy provider specializing in the behavioral health community. Although it is a national company, it has retained the feel of a hometown pharmacy and the services that go along with it.

Madeline Aviles-Hernandez (pictured below), Gándara Center’s director of outpatient and recovery services, said bilingual services help ensure clients’ access to their medicine and address their questions and concerns. “All of our clinical staff are bilingual, our clinicians are bilingual, and we have medical assistants that are bilingual,” she said. “We make sure that our population resembles the population that we serve.”

Kevin O’Connell, director of operations for New England at Genoa Healthcare, said that his company has 477 pharmacies across the country all located inside community health centers and their clients have a 90 percent medication adherence rate. “This adherence rate is crucial for patients staying out of emergency rooms,” he said.

Pictured above: (L-R) Gándara Director of Marketing and Fund Development Jade Rivera-McFarlin; Genoa Site Development Director Garton Poe; Kevin O’Connell, Genoa’s Director of Operations for New England; Genoa Regional VP Jason Kan; and Gándara Chief Operations Officer Jeff McGeary.

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Below: Genoa Pharmacist Angelo DiGuglielmo

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By |September 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on New Genoa Healthcare Pharmacy Opens at Gándara Center Outpatient Clinic