About Brian Fitzgerald

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

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 domingo, agosto 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:





Por |junio 24, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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.”



Por |junio 17, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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.

Por |junio 10, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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!


Por |junio 06, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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!

Por |junio 06, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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.

Por |mayo 22, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados 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.”

Por |mayo 16, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on Gándara to Open Peer Recovery Support Center in Springfield

Henry’s Next Aventura! Event Raises $3,528 for Kids and Teens Summer Camp Scholarship

On May 9, Gándara Center held a celebration in honor of our executive director, Henry East-Trou, who is retiring this year after almost 40 years of raising mental health awareness, fighting addiction in the community, and combating stigmas.

“Throughout his career Henry has been a tireless advocate for access to culturally sensitive mental health and substance use services for minority populations,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno (pictured above, left), one of several politicians—which included State Representatives Carlos Gonzalez and Jose Tosado—who hailed Henry for leaving a legacy that will never be forgotten.

Friends, family, employees, and community leaders joined us at the Barney Carriage House in Springfield’s Forest Park to celebrate Henry’s achievements, enjoy tasty food and drink, and listen to great music.

Ticket sales for this event raised $3,528 for the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship, a partnership between our agency and the city of Springfield’s Department of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management. The program gives Springfield youth aged 5-18 the opportunity to attend one summer camp session for free. Individual donations through ongoing Aventura! fundraising initiatives—and through prior donations made to this event—totaled $7,780, for a grand total of $10,808.

Henry has been with the Gándara Center for 37 years and has served as our executive director for the last 30. A native of Peru, he began his career in behavioral health as a psychiatric aide and a bilingual psychiatric consultant in both residential and outpatient settings before joining the Gándara Center as the director of the agency’s day treatment program for people suffering from both acute and chronic mental illness.

Henry’s passion for working towards health equity and recognizing disparities in underserved populations has helped Gándara continue its mission to provide culturally sensitive, innovative behavioral health and substance use services to diverse populations for more than 40 years.

He has shepherded Gándara Center through an era of unprecedented growth—from serving 2,000 clients in the Springfield area when he became Executive Director to now serving more than 12,000 adults, children across the state.

Henry noted that although Gándara in his time here expanded from one Outpatient Clinic in Springfield to more than 45 locations across the state, our mission remains the same: championing the underserved. “I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey with me,” he said.



Por |mayo 13, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on Henry’s Next Aventura! Event Raises $3,528 for Kids and Teens Summer Camp Scholarship

Fundraiser Benefits Gándara’s Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services

A silent auction held by the Zonta Club of Quaboag Valley on May 6 raised funds for four nonprofits that support women, including Gándara’s Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services.

The local Zonta Club is a chapter of Zonta International, an organization that empowers women through service and advocacy. The theme of the event, the Silent “No More!” Auction, was a call to end violence against women and help survivors rebuild their lives.

The proceeds for the auction, which took place at the Ludlow Country Club, will also assist the organizations Strong Women and Girls Read (a Zonta partnership with four local libraries to stock up on books highlighting women and girls who refused to stay silent), as well as Soldier On Women Veterans, and Zonta International Foundation.

Gándara Center’s Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services (TSS) is a short-term residential program in Westfield for women who need further stabilization and intensive case management after detox or for women who may be coming from a public shelter and were recently in detox or a higher level care. TSS provides residents with 24-hour structured, supportive, and safe environment, structured psycho-education, and a recovery-oriented milieu management.

“A lot of the women who come to us have been homeless and have very little,” said TSS Lead Case Manager Charlene Franco (pictured above). “We do the best we can to bring back some light into their lives and give them some guidance. We want to empower them—just like Zonta’s mission of empowering women.”

Danielle Petrangelo, sexual assault counselor at the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, had nominated TSS to be an auction recipient because “the program and its staff are amazing.” The residents, she said, could use such items as movie DVDs, journals, colored pencils, candy, coffee, games, adult coloring books, nail polish, makeup lotions, and hair products. “I witness these counselors and directors go above and beyond to help make these women’s journey a success,” she said. “Working so closely and witnessing this amazing program, I feel any extra donation they could use to provide the items needed to make their days more comfortable would be greatly appreciated.”

Franco agreed, saying that the clients would also benefit from funds to purchase supplies for arts and crafts, crocheting, and knitting. “They would love the simple things that really do put a smile on their faces,” she said. “We’re also looking to expand our Whisper Hope garden.”

YWCA Executive Director Elizabeth Dineen praised TSS’s “fantastic work” with women who need support in their recovery process. “They have been a great community partners with the YWCA of Western Massachusetts,” she said.

Interested in donating to Gándara Center’s Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services? Click here.

Pictured below are (L-R) TSS Intake Coordinator Phaedra Carco, TSS Lead Case Manager Charlene Franco, TSS Program Director Nicole Kraverotis, and TSS Clinical Director Alisha Boucher.


Por |mayo 09, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on Fundraiser Benefits Gándara’s Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services

Nine Gándara Center Employees Mark Milestones in May

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

5 Years

Thomas Alimberti, In Home Therapy (Springfield/Holyoke)
Cassie Brown, Continuum (Chicopee)
Paula Dembinske, GRSW (Holyoke)
Kristin Espinosa, In Home Therapy (Springfield/Holyoke)
Cassandra Miller, Continuum (Chicopee)
Vicenta Morales, DMR Residential, 127 Allison Lane (Springfield)
Francisco Otero, Alternative Options (Chicopee)
Deborah Velez-Perez, CSA Services (Springfield/Holyoke)

10 Years

Sondra McMillan-King, Fort Pleasant (Springfield)

Congratulations everyone!

Por |mayo 02, 2019|Sin categoría|Comentarios desactivados on Nine Gándara Center Employees Mark Milestones in May
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