About Brian Fitzgerald

Brian is marketing and development coordinator at Gándara Center in West Springfield, MA.

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

These cool kids are jumping for joy because they love summer camp and they were 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 (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.


Por |octubre 03, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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.

Por |octubre 03, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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 (junio 30, 2018-julio 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.

Por |octubre 02, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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.”

Por |septiembre 26, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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 1,974 unintentional deaths from opioid related overdoses in 2018, according to MA Department of Public Health. This is a 45% increase over 2014. 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:

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

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

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

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

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

narcan spanish



Por |septiembre 24, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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

Por |septiembre 23, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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.

madeline sy

Below: Genoa Pharmacist Angelo DiGuglielmo


Por |septiembre 23, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on New Genoa Healthcare Pharmacy Opens at Gándara Center Outpatient Clinic

View Our September Newsletter Online

Gándara Center’s September Newsletter is now online. You can read about our agency’s participation in National Recovery Month events across the state—from Holyoke to Hyannis, from Springfield to Boston (and even one in Hartford!).

View photos from our Frozen Yogurt 5K in Northampton—an event that raised more than $25,000 to directly benefit the individuals we serve.

You can also read about TDBank donating backpacks to our Mooreland STARR residential program, Gándara Center’s sponsorship of the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade on September 15, and our agency’s Stop Access Springfield Coalition hosting a Youth Leadership Conference at Springfield College on September 14.

Gándara Center was in the news: Hope for Holyoke Recovery Center Program Director Deb Flynn-Gonzalez was interviewed by WWLP-22 News on September 4 about increased federal funding for state opioid response grants; and Masslive covered Hurricane Maria victims receiving support from our agency.

Read the newsletter at bit.ly/GandaraSeptemberNewsletter.

Por |septiembre 10, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on View Our September Newsletter Online

Septiembre es el Mes Nacional de la Recuperación: Join the Voices for Recovery!

Every September, the Gándara Center participates in National Recovery Month, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This longstanding observance, now in its 30th year, is designed to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders, celebrate people in recovery, and laud the contributions of treatment and service providers. The 2019 theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger.

The focus of National Recovery Month has evolved over the years to shine the spotlight on the achievements of those in recovery. Recovery Month began in 1989 as Treatment Works! Month, which honored the work of substance use treatment professionals. The name was changed in 1998 to Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, expanding the occasion to include individuals who have succeeded in their recovery. It received its present name in 2011 to encompass all parts of the behavioral health industry, including researchers in the field.

Gándara Center National Recovery Month Events

Hope for Holyoke is one of several Gándara recovery support centers involved in events in conjunction with National Recovery Month (see below). Hope for Holyoke will have a large presence at Holyoke Recovery Day, as well as attending the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) Walks and Rally in Hartford, CT on September 21 and the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR) celebration in Boston on September 16. Hope for Holyoke, as well as our PIER Recovery Center of Cape Cod, plans to attend the CCAR events in Hartford. Members of our Stairway to Recovery center in Brockton will also attend the Boston events, taking the 8:29 a. m. commuter train from the MBTA Brockton Station at 7 Commercial Street to South Station in Boston.




viernes, septiembre 27
Recovery march and celebration starts at Heritage State Park on Appleton Street. The march ends at Veterans Park on Dwight Street.

12:00-1:00 Gather in Heritage Park for the March for Recovery. Bring a sign to show what you are celebrating about your recovery!

1:00-4:00 Veterans Park Recovery Celebration

  • Opening remarks, special guests, speakers
  • Mayor Alex MorseProclamation for Holyoke Recovery Day
  • State Rep. Aaron Vega with greetings from the Statehouse
  • Personal recovery stories of hope
  • Resource tables

There will be live music and dance, snacks, refreshments, giveaways, games, and prizes.


miércoles, septiembre 11
11:00 a. m. Relapse Prevention LIVE!! on Facebook

viernes, septiembre 20
11:00 a. m. Recovery Cookout
George G. Snow Park, Crescent Street, Brockton

jueves, septiembre 26
10:00 a. m. Stairway to Recovery Open House (142 Crescent Street, Brockton): recovery support groups, t-shirt art project, and lunch




viernes, septiembre 20

Holy Name Social Center (next to Liberty Prep Recovery High School), 37 Alderman Street, Springfield
10:50-2:00 p. m. ceremony, as well as lunch. Gándara Center will have a resource table at this event.



miércoles, septiembre 25
Mexican-themed dinner party at the PIER Center, 209 Main Street, Hyannis

sábado, septiembre 28

David Lewis 5K for Recovery (9:00 a. m.): PIER will have a resource table at this race is in Falmouth.




sábado, septiembre 21

Noon-6:00 p. m., Bushnell Park, Hartford, CT

CCAR began hosting the annual “Recovery Walks!” celebration in 2000. This year, CCAR was also chosen by Faces and Voices of Recovery to be the National Hub event for the 2019 Rally for Recovery. The band Shaded Soul will perform, and the event will feature stories of recovery, advocates, exhibitors, and plenty of fun activities (face painting, caricatures, food trucks, etc.)




lunes, septiembre 16

Boston events:

9:00 a. m. Rally and march at City Hall Plaza

10:00 a. m. Celebration and Faneuil Hall

12:15 p. m. Lunch at Quincy Market

1:15 p. m.-3:30 p. m. Artists in recovery perform

Contacto: Jared@MOAR-Recovery.org




The Plymouth Recovery Center is in the midst of planning a Recovery Month celebration at its location at 71 Obery Street in Plymouth. Details will be posted on the center’s website in the near future.

holyoke recovery 2018Pictured is the Holyoke recovery march in 2018.

Por |septiembre 10, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on September is National Recovery Month: Join the Voices for Recovery!

Suicide Prevention: a Shared Responsibility

Starting a conversation about the topic of suicide is uncomfortable, but it’s worth it: speaking openly and frankly about suicide is one of the most effective ways to prevent it. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which provides a dedicated time for people to raise awareness and strengthen the fight against suicide.

Know someone who is struggling? Reach out. One conversation can make a difference.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. It is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between 35 and 54.

According to a report released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased 28 percent since 1999. In fact, every year, more than 41,000 people die by suicide—18 percent of them veterans. One way to bring that number down is to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health, especially since suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Another way to prevent suicide is to know the common warning signs of suicidal thoughts. Here are some of them, according to the American for Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

  • Talking about suicide, hurting themselves, death, or dying
  • Seeking access to firearms or pills
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Having severe mood swings
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Sleeping all the time or having issues with sleep
  • Uncontrolled rage or agitation
  • Self-destructive and risky behavior
  • Giving away personal belongings
  • Telling people goodbye for seemingly no reason

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on a problem that must be brought out of the darkness to save lives. Here is one story, by Michael Darer, a suicide attempt survivor.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454). For veterans, it’s the same number, but press one for Veterans Crisis Line. Counselors are also available for online chat by clicking here. Text messaging is available at 838255.

Por |septiembre 06, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on Suicide Prevention: a Shared Responsibility
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