Our Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program Goes Virtual as Domestic Violence Rises During Pandemic Lockdown
PHOTO: WWLP-22News InFocus on May 10 addressed the dangers of domestic abuse while being quarantined. On the show, Audra Winn, clinical director of Outpatient Services at Gándara Center, discussed our programs and important domestic abuse protection and prevention resources in our community.
Domestic abuse has been rising during coronavirus lockdowns not only across America, but also around the world. Indeed, on April 5, the United Nations called for urgent action to combat the surge in domestic violence.
Domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas holiday season and during summer vacations. Because of this fact, Gándara Center managers who run the agency’s Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program (IPAEP) anticipated this surge and acted quickly when lockdowns were first enacted to make sure our services were still offered to those who needed them.
Since 1999, Gándara’s IPAEP has run group sessions for men with a history of domestic or partner violence. The groups meet in two-hour sessions, weekly, for 40 weeks. “That intervention never stopped when social distancing guidelines kicked in,” said Gloria Torres, Gándara’s criminal justice services coordinator. “We began running virtual groups on March 20.”
IPAEP interventions focus on stopping violence by helping the batterer to identify, confront, challenge, and change controlling and abusive behavior towards their partner and children. Gándara Center Director of Clinical Services Audra Winn said that behavior change and accountability is the program’s focus. “These men learn new ways of dealing with frustration and conflict in their intimate relationships,” she said. IPAEP also stays connected with the victim to see if any issues pop up during the program.
To be sure, because of the lockdown, all families in society have been getting used to spending much more time with one another, but Torres pointed out that some families with strife in the past and present are also coping with the stress of lost jobs and financial insecurities. “When you put a family together 24/7, conflicts happen,” said Torres. “But when you talk about cases that have a history of domestic violence—where there are already conflicts in the family—when you put those factors together, any little argument can flare up. So the men in our group are learning how to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence, psychological abuse, or verbal abuse.”
Also compounding the problem is that institutions that would usually help these families—such as schools—are closed. Teachers and child welfare workers don’t see students, and doctor visits are limited. Child custody schedules have to be altered, causing even more tension.
Fortunately, help is available for those who need it. Although Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts are closed, telephonic and/or video hearings are used for most emergencies. And if a restraining order is necessary, in Springfield one can go to the Metro Unit Substation at 75 Dwight Street to obtain one.
And Gándara Center’s IPAEP services, like all its services, will continue in this time of need, 24/7 and on-call after hours. The agency’s Outpatient Clinic number is 413-736-0395. “We also serve domestic violence victims and survivors,” said Winn. “If someone is not our client yet but really needs our help in this type of situation—either having abusive behaviors or is a victim of this—we will get this person registered and get them help.”
Several Gándara Center subject experts have been featured in the media in the past few months as the world—and our community—adjusts to the impact of the Coronavirus.
On April 7, Doris Harris, coordinator of Gándara Center’s NOEL program (Navigating, Outreach, Education, Linkages), was interviewed by Western Mass News in a story about volunteers bringing meals from the Springfield Public Schools to families during the school closings. Doris delivers meals to the people NOEL serves. WATCH FULL STORY
Clinical therapist Rahiza Gallardo-Vásquez, (pictured top left) was interviewed on April 7 by The Republican’s weekly Spanish-language sister newspaper El Pueblo Latino about practical advice to exercise social distancing. READ THE INTERVIEW
On April 10, Dr. Rahiza Gallardo-Vasquez was interviewed by The Republican’s weekly Spanish-language sister newspaper El Pueblo Latino on dealing emotionally with confinement and boredom during social distancing. READ THE INTERVIEW
Dr. Rahiza Gallardo-Vazquez was interviewed yet again on April 7 by The Republican’s weekly Spanish-language sister newspaper El Pueblo Latino on practical advice to exercise social distancing. READ THE INTERVIEW
On April 17, WWLP-22News spoke with our Director of Clinical Services Audra Winn about communities seeing an increase in substance abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. WATCH FULL STORY
Our Outpatient Services Director Dr. Madeline Aviles-Hernandez (pictured top right) was on WWLP-22News InFocus on April 23 discussing the fact that Black and Hispanic populations across the country—including Massachusetts—are disproportionately contracting COVID-19 and dying from it. This trend is drawing attention to the racial and socio-economic disparities in health and health care in America. VIEW THE INTERVIEW
Gándara Center Outpatient Services Director Dr. Madeline Aviles-Hernandez was also on The Latin Media Collective on April 24 discussing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the recovery of people who are dealing with substance use. VIEW THE INTERVIEW
On April 24, WWLP-22News spoke with Sara Moriarty, director of Hampden County Tobacco Free Partnership, a program within Gándara Center, about how vaping can increase the risk of developing Coronavirus by compromising the respiratory system—and how infections from the virus could be worse for vapers. WATCH FULL STORY Sara addressed the same subject on Western Mass News the same day: WATCH FULL STORY
WWLP-22News InFocus on May 10 addressed the dangers of domestic abuse while being quarantined. On the show, Audra Winn, clinical director of Outpatient Services at Gándara Center, discussed our programs and important domestic abuse protection and prevention resources in our community. VIEW THE INTERVIEW
On March 20, our CEO Lois Nesci discussed on WWLP-22 News how best talk to children about COVID-19, a topic that’s bound to come up at the dinner table. WATCH FULL STORY
Lois was also interviewed on the same subject on Western Mass News on March 24. She emphasized being honest with children about the virus without scaring them. This includes parents monitoring what their kids watch on television and see on social media. WATCH FULL STORY
On March 20, Dr. Rahiza Gallardo-Vazquez, a clinical therapist at the Gándara Center, spoke about concerns related to COVID-19 and mental health with the Latin Media Collective, which is based in Holyoke. WATCH FULL CONVERSATION
On March 27, Western Mass News interviewed Gándara clinician Ruth Trujillo-Acosta, who discussed ways to keep children we serve safe while at home with schools being closed until at least May 4. WATCH FULL STORY
Western Mass News also interviewed Gándara Recovery Coach Supervisor Heriberto Rodriguez on March 29, about recovery coaches turning to one-on-one virtual meetings with recoverees to keep their connection. WATCH FULL STORY
On April 2, in The Republican’s weekly Spanish-language sister newspaper El Pueblo Latino, clinical therapist Rahiza Gallardo-Vásquez authored a column of practical tips about considerations for our grandparents when they are caregivers to children—or if they can’t spend time with their grandkids because of necessary social distancing—during the COVID-19 outbreak. READ THE COLUMN
We are here. Especially now, when our care is desperately needed during the Coronavirus outbreak. We continue to fulfill our mission of caring for our state’s most underserved populations, and that is why we need your help.
In this time of uncertainty, your gift is vital to sustaining Gándara Center’s essential services. Contributions from our community will help the agency meet the many new financial demands of this unprecedented crisis: increased support for staff, personal protective equipment, technology adaptations for virtual care, and more.
For years, generous supporters of Gándara Center have stepped to the plate to help us fulfill our mission. Now we are faced with a global threat that touches every person on the planet, including the people Gándara Center serves: the most vulnerable in society. Our agency, which provides culturally sensitive behavioral health, substance use, prevention and educational services, needs your help—now more than ever.
Help keep Gándara Center strong—and on the front lines—as we provide vital services to over 13,000 children, adults, and families each year in more than 40 locations across Massachusetts.
Please donate today. Thank you!
Vaping Can Increase the Risk of Developing Coronavirus—and Make the Infection Worse for Those Who Contract It
Health experts say that vaping can increase the risk of developing Coronavirus by compromising the respiratory system—and infections from the virus could be worse for vapers, according to Gándara Center, the host agency for the Hampden County Tobacco Free Partnership (TFCP).
“We all know that smoking is harmful to one’s lungs,” said TFCP Director Sara Moriarty. “As our lives are disrupted by the Coronavirus, this fact raises concerns about the damaging impact the illness may have on those who smoke or vape.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have previously warned about a life-threatening vaping illness called “E-cigarette or Vaping-Associated Lung Injury” (EVALI). In fact, some states, including Massachusetts, are even issuing specific health advisories on vaping and COVID-19. Cases of EVALI provide very real evidence that vaping can cause direct lung damage, and may put e-cigarette users into a “higher-risk category,” according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her advisory also mentions that the hand-to-mouth contact when using vaping devices could help spread Coronavirus.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “Because it attacks the lungs, the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.”
Moriarty points out that while the long-term impact of vaping is not clear, there is evidence coming out that vaping, like smoking, harms the ability of the lungs to fight infection. “Despite the stressful times we’re living in, people who smoke or vape may want to quit to improve their ability to fight the Coronavirus,” she said. “The stress may have led others to relapse and start smoking or vaping again. It’s never too late to try to quit.”
People who smoke and vape know how hard it is to quit because nicotine, the drug in tobacco and vaping products, is highly addictive,” adds Moriarty. “Repeated tobacco and nicotine use is an addiction and quitting can takes several tries before one can quit for good. Many tobacco users say quitting is the hardest thing they’ve ever done. However, with planning, support, and dedication, many people quit for good.”
Now may be a good time for those who smoke or vape to call the Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free coaching and support 24 hours each day, seven days a week. Enroll online, access quit planning tools, peer support and motivational text messages at KeepTryingMA.org.
Up to eight weeks of FREE nicotine replacement help from patches, gum or lozenges are available through the Helpline (with medical eligibility). With coaching and quit medication people can be twice as likely to quit for good compared to those who try to quit on their own.
Quitting improves one’s health right away: lungs start to heal, the body starts to repair its ability to fight infection, and evidence suggests stopping smoking during this Coronavirus pandemic might just save your life.
For more information, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit KeepTryingMA.org.
Minorities are Particularly Vulnerable to Not Only Coronavirus, But Also the Mental Health Problems the Crisis Brings with It
Black and Hispanic populations across the country—including Massachusetts—are disproportionately contracting COVID-19 and dying from it. This fact is drawing attention to the racial and socioeconomic disparities in health and health care in America.
But at the same time minorities are also getting hit with another long-established racial inequity: mental health treatment. Gándara Center, which specializes in minority mental health, is seeing a boom in the number of people it serves.
Indeed, COVID-19 presents a double jeopardy to minority communities as the pandemic takes not only a physical toll on them but also a psychological one. Almost half of Americans feel the Coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s a particular danger during social distancing mandates, when isolation and anxiety are exacerbating people’s mental health problems.
“This crisis is making life much more difficult for those we serve, including those in recovery and people who have yet to be treated for such problems as anxiety and depression,” said Gándara Center Outpatient Services Director Dr. Madeline Aviles-Hernandez. “Minorities have been—and continue to be—less likely to receive mental health treatment.”
That problem in particular was the impetus for the founding of the Gándara Center in 1977, when no other agency in the area specifically met the needs of providing culturally sensitive care to the Hispanic community. Today, the Gándara Center specializes in Hispanic services, but also delivers services to African-Americans and other diverse populations. The agency recently added Telehealth to its services and its peer recovery support centers are using virtual recovery coaches and virtual recovery events and meetings.
“Right now, thanks to Gov. Charlie Baker’s orders expanding access to Telehealth, people in our communities have more access to our Telehealth phone and video services,” said Dr. Aviles-Hernandez. “The people we serve are finding Telehealth care extremely helpful as the pandemic causes society’s most vulnerable populations unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. These virtual services will help to avoid hospitalizations and emergency room visits at a time when the health care system is strained because of COVID-19.”
Nationally, suicide hotlines are getting more calls daily, and experts say the trauma of the pandemic could cause a spike in substance use—something that happened in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Alcoholic beverage sales have shot up across the country in the past month.
Meanwhile, Gándara Center’s mission to champion the underserved is more important now than ever. “The Coronavirus crisis is highlighting the fact that communities of color have less access to mental health care and substance use disorder treatment, and we’re still working hard to change that,” said Dr. Aviles-Hernandez. “Our Telehealth services are certainly helping.”
Several Gándara Center subject experts have been featured in the media in the past few weeks as the world—and our community—adjusts to the impact of the Coronavirus.
On viernes, marzo 20, our CEO Lois Nesci discussed on WWLP-22 News how best talk to children about COVID-19, a topic that’s bound to come up at the dinner table. WATCH FULL STORY
Lois was also interviewed on the same subject on Western Mass News on martes, marzo 24. She emphasized being honest with children about the virus without scaring them. This includes parents monitoring what their kids watch on television and see on social media. WATCH FULL STORY
On viernes, marzo 20, Dr. Rahiza Gallardo-Vazquez (pictured above), a clinical therapist at the Gándara Center, spoke about concerns related to COVID-19 and mental health with the Latin Media Collective, which is based in Holyoke. WATCH FULL CONVERSATION
On viernes, marzo 27, Western Mass News interviewed Gándara clinician Ruth Trujillo-Acosta, who discussed ways to keep children we serve safe while at home with schools being closed until at least May 4. WATCH FULL STORY
Western Mass News also interviewed Gándara Recovery Coach Supervisor Heriberto Rodriguez (pictured above) on domingo, marzo 29, about recovery coaches turning to one-on-one virtual meetings with recoverees to keep their connection. WATCH FULL STORY
On jueves, abril 2, in The Republican’s weekly Spanish-language sister newspaper El Pueblo Latino, clinical therapist Rahiza Gallardo-Vásquez authored a column of practical tips about considerations for our grandparents when they are caregivers to children—or if they can’t spend time with their grandkids because of necessary social distancing—during the COVID-19 outbreak. READ THE COLUMN
As the news around the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to unfold, we would like to communicate our commitment to ensure the health and safety of all employees and people we serve. Because this is a rapidly evolving situation, we will continue to monitor the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the Massachusetts Department of Health, in the coming weeks and months, and we will follow with further guidance and directions.
We will continue to provide the people we serve with the highest standards of service delivery. Our agency is taking precautionary measures and following best practices to uphold Gándara Center’s part in the public health responsibility to mitigate the spread of the virus.
We are responding thoughtfully to this unprecedented situation. Please know that our efforts are dedicated to protecting the Gándara community—as well as the communities in which we serve—to the best of our abilities.
Respondiendo a el COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
Mientras las noticias de el COVID-19 (Coronavirus) siguen surgiendo, queremos comunícarles nuestra dedicación para asegurar la salud y el beinestar de nuestros empleados y de las personas a quienes servimos a traves de nuestros programas. Debido a que esta situación va evolucionando con rapidez, nosotros continuáremos supervisando los nuevos acontecimientos y las recomendaciones de el Centro de Control de Enfermedades y Prevención en conjunto con las de el Departamento de Salud de el estado de Massachusetts en las proximas semanas y los proximos meses, y seguiremos proveyendo guia y direccion.
Continuaremos proveyendo servicios de los mas altos estandares a las personas a quienes servimos. Nuestra agencia esta tomando medidas de precaución y siguiendo la mejores practicas para mantener nuestra responsabilidad en asegurar la salud publica y mitigar el contagio de el virus. Estamos respondiendo con cautela a esta situacion sin precedentes. Favor de tener en cuenta que nuestros esfuerzos estan dedicado a proteger la comunidad de Gandara —ademas de las comunidades en donde servimos—al maximo de nuestras habilidades.