Liberation Van Drives on the Road to Recovery

Liberation Programs staff spoke to the Greenwich Time about our Mobile Wellness Van and ways to support harm reduction and save lives.

“As Glennard Brown inched into a parking spot near Jackie Robinson Park in Stamford on Thursday morning, he zipped up his jacket and grabbed a “rover” kit from the back of his van.

Teams from Liberation Programs travel across Fairfield County multiple times per week in the van, offering on-the-ground services to those who need them — from Greenwich into Bridgeport.

The van travels to areas where active drug users might congregate — with services accessible to all — including those who are uninsured. And it goes where its presence is requested.” (excerpt from Greenwich Time Article, Liberation Van Drives on the Road to Recovery.)

Read the full Greenwich Time article here.

Liberation Programs Supports Harm Reduction at New Haven Police Department

Joanne Montgomery, Chief Clinical and Outreach Officer at Liberation Programs, spoke at the New Haven Police Department Harm Reduction Press Conference on February 6, 2020.

New Haven Police has become the first police department to provide harm reduction kits to individuals with substance misuse disorders in hopes of keeping them alive.

Joanne Montgomery spoke of her personal experience with harm reduction techniques.  “All of the people I had met through the years, through the harm reduction efforts out in the streets — I knew right away who I could call and where I could go, and I actually went to Liberation Programs, where I now work.”

Pictured above (L-R): DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Joanne Montgomery, Liberation Programs President & CEO John Hamilton

Watch video from the Press Conference Here

Read more about New Haven’s Harm Reduction Efforts and Watch the Full Press Conference Here

John Hamilton speaks at the Greenwich Retired Men’s Association

Liberation’s President and CEO John Hamilton presented as part of the Greenwich Retired Men’s Association’s weekly speaker series at First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich.

John Hamilton at the GRMA

Photo: Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

The presentation, How to Strengthen Resiliency in Families, included topics such as addiction potential of substances, parent/child communication, and brain development stages.

John’s presentation was highlighted by and reported in the Greenwich Time:

[John] encouraged parents to lead by example and to exhibit healthy mood-regulation during times of stress. Parents should refrain from judging their children and remain open, nurturing and responsive when their youngsters approach them about these issues, Hamilton said.

“You here in this room could be that consistent, supportive, loving person in the child’s life… [a]nd that could make a difference for everything else going on in their life.”

Click here to read the article by Social Services Reporter Tatiana Flowers in the Greenwich Time and to learn more about John’s presentation How to Strengthen Resiliency in Families.

Join us at the Fathers’ Forum Kick Off Breakfast and Presentation on October 12!

Dads, join John Hamilton for a morning of coffee, conversation, and family at the Greenwich Father’s Forum Kick Off Breakfast and Presentation on Saturday, October 12!

Fathers' Forum Greenwich kicks off on October 12 at 7:45AM!

 

In partnership with Greenwich United Way and the YMCA of Greenwich, join Liberation Programs President and CEO John Hamilton as he leads the Fathers’ Forum Greenwich Kick Off Breakfast and Discussion on Saturday, October 12 at 7:45AM!

Visit the YMCA of Greenwich’s website or contact Maggie Young at 203-810-5202 or maggie.young@liberationprograms.org for more information. See you there!

Liberation Programs celebrates National Recovery Awareness Month with the grand opening of the Pelletier Wellness Center

Over 100 state partners, local providers, and community stakeholders who collaborate to address the opioid crisis celebrated the grand opening of the Pelletier Wellness Center in Bridgeport on Thursday Sept. 19, an event that coincided with National Recovery Awareness Month. Ninety-eight percent of Liberation Programs’ 750 clients in Bridgeport participate in Medication Assisted Recovery related to opioids. In Connecticut, there are at least two opioid-related overdose deaths each day.

The Pelletier Wellness Center, named for Liberation Programs board member Sallyan Pelletier and her husband Steve Pelletier, is a state-of-the-art outpatient treatment center providing Medication-Assisted Recovery, individual and family therapeutic counseling, and support services to people seeking treatment for substance use and mental health issues in Fairfield County. The couple supports the holistic approach to health that the Pelletier Wellness Center will provide for our community.

Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Pelletier Wellness Center

Ready to cut the ceremonial ribbon are Maggie Young, MSW, LADC, Chief Recovery Officer; State Representative Andre Baker; Roberta Cohen, Board Member; Bridgeport Councilman Ernie Newton; Maritza Bond, MPH, Director of Health and Social Services, City of Bridgeport; Tom Pelletier; Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim; Steve Pelletier; Ali Milne, Board Member; Sallyan Pelletier, Board Member; Mort Lowenthal, Board Member; Joanne Montgomery, Chief Clinical Officer; John Hamilton, President and CEO; Bonni Hopkins, PhD, Chief Operating and Innovation Officer; Omar Garro, Chief Financial Officer; Wayne Cafran, Board Chair; Cini Shaw, Board Member; John Bassler, Board Member – Photo by Regina Madwed, Capitol PhotoInteractive

Click here for more photos

“Addiction kills,” said Sallyan, addressing the crowd. “My husband and I, like so many others, have been affected by this horrible disease. Liberation Programs has been on the front lines, combating opioids and fentanyl through medication maintenance and therapy, supporting folks from our community long before heroin was a headline story. I want to thank John Hamilton, the CEO of Liberation Programs, and the amazing staff. We have so many well-seasoned and compassionate, enthusiastic team members supporting our clients here in this community and throughout Fairfield County.”

Nancy Navaretta, Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) said, “I’m here representing the Commissioner, who is so pleased to see expansion and innovation, like the van. Liberation has always been ahead of the curve, and we (DMHAS) are happy to support them. They are a lead addiction services provider and now a leader in the behavioral health services continuum of care. I believe that our clients and people that we serve deserve beautiful buildings like this, just like the private sector. This is a fabulous model for the state.”

Guests were given tours of the center at 399 Mill Hill Avenue that offers on-site primary medical and dental health services through a partnership with Southwest Community Health Center. Visitors, including Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, had the opportunity to try auricular detox (ear acupuncture), a protocol to treat behavioral health, addiction, and emotional trauma. A number of Liberation Programs’ staff members are trained as Auricular Detox (acupuncture) Specialists, thanks to a grant from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (DMHAS).

“Your physical plant, process and caring culture are all married in a way to offer dignity, support and care,” said Rockman Ferrigno, MD, Chair, Emergency Medicine, and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Bridgeport Hospital. “Visiting with your team has been a lasting highlight for me. I was energized, educated and humbled.”

Liberation Programs’ President and CEO John Hamilton said, “We have this beautiful building, but it pales in comparison to the staff, our dedicated, compassionate staff, that every day work in the trenches, that treat individuals with dignity and respect. That’s what makes the difference.”

Guests were excited to see Liberation Programs’ new Mobile Wellness van, which sports the organization’s phone number, 1-855-LIB-PROG, and is brightly appointed with “Peace, Love, and Liberation” and “Meeting People Where They Are Since 1971” in vintage lettering, produced by A to Z Signs. The van will be used to expand access to Medication Assisted Recovery treatment, as well as support loved ones and the community at large through lifesaving connections. The van made its first official public appearance Friday, Sept. 20, at the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) first annual Stomp Out Stigma walk at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, and will be stationed at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery’s (CCAR) 20th Annual Recovery Walk in Hartford, Saturday, September 21 at Bushnell Park. Before the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Sallyan shared, “My husband and I are not just putting our names behind this building. We are putting our hearts, our minds, and our prayers behind all those clients who use our programs.”

Sallyan is former Managing Director, Global Head of Marketing Execution, and Americas Region Head of Marketing for UBS, and her husband, Steve, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Businesses for Prudential. Sallyan Pelletier served on the board of Liberation Programs since 2014, and as the agency’s Board Chair from 2015-2016, contributing her expertise in business and global marketing to raise awareness about lives unnecessarily lost to overdose and the evidence-based treatment Liberation Programs provides.

The event featured catering by the legendary Bridgeport restaurant, Ralph-n-Rich’s, and guests enjoyed reminiscing with co-owner Ralph Silano and his wife Sarah.

Click here for News 12 coverage of the Grand Opening on YouTube

Click here for more photos from the Grand Opening

Record Funds Raised at 12th Spirit of Hope Gala Support Recovery Coaching & More

All of us at Liberation Programs would like to thank our event sponsors, committee, donors, partners and guests for helping to make the 2019 Spirit of Hope Gala a wonderful success. Because of your support, we raised a record $440,000 to continue to provide lifesaving treatment, programs, and services to people in need in Fairfield County.

Proceeds from this year’s Spirit of Hope will make our Recovery Coaching initiative a reality, bringing hope and guidance to people when they need it most – and meeting people where they are – at what may be the very beginning of their journey toward a meaningful life in recovery.

Please click here to see photos from the event.
To join Liberation Programs’ community of supporters, click here to make a donation.

Read our press release below:

Liberation Programs 12th Annual Spirit of Hope Gala A Success
Published on Friday, 14 June 2019
Written by Laura Roberts

On Thursday, June 6th, Liberation Programs held its 12th Annual Spirit of Hope Gala at Woodway Country Club in Darien. The spectacular event, attended by nearly 400 of the community’s most philanthropic residents, was hosted by the organization’s President and CEO, John Hamilton. The evening raised over $400,000, providing critical funds for the life-saving treatment Liberation Programs provides for recoverees, and the outreach work it does to prevent substance use disorders in our community.

Senator Richard Blumenthal kicked off the program, stating “Liberation Programs is the gold standard, and I am proud of the work that you’re doing to break the stigma of substance use disorder.” Later adding, “They are breaking down barriers, and providing new kinds of help for people when they are most vulnerable.”

The evening honored some of the nation’s leading addiction experts, each having raised the standard of care in substance use treatment and recovery. Awards were presented to Gary Mendell, Founder and CEO of Shatterproof, The Lighthouse Sober Living and The Lighthouse Recovery Coaching 365 Program, and the organization’s own Maggie Young, MSW, LADC, Liberation Programs Chief Recovery Officer.

“I never dreamed I’d be standing before you as a Spirit of Hope honoree,” said Young, who was a client of Liberation Programs herself some 27 years ago. “Ever since my treatment stay in 1992, I wanted to be present for others like me, who needed help and support.”

Michael Pollard, Stamford’s Chief of Staff, attended the event and noted afterwards, “I am honored to know Maggie, all the people she helps are a testament to the great work of Liberation Programs, and her amazing title of Chief Recovery Officer represents the extraordinary work Liberation Programs is doing saving lives.”

Additional highlights of the evening included moving performances by singer Daphne Willis, as well as a touching vocal performance by the nationally acclaimed Darien High School Tudor Singers. Video presentations showcased the tremendous impact the organization is having on our community, and guests competed for exciting raffle prizes.

Additional donations to the event are still welcome. Please visit LiberationPrograms.org/Donate to make your contribution today.

Liberation Programs would like to thank its dedicated gala committee led by co-chairs John Bassler, Debra Hertz, PhD and Cynthia J. Shaw, as well as its generous corporate sponsors, Atlantic Diagnostic Laboratories, First County Bank, KPMG, The Lighthouse / Recovery 365, Mountainside Treatment Center, Pitney Bowes, Stamford Health, and Yale New Haven Health.

The organization has been a pioneer in the field of integrated behavioral health services in lower Fairfield County for nearly fifty years. Liberation Programs provides services for youth, adults and families that include two inpatient treatment programs, outpatient and intensive outpatient services, health education for older adults and people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses, treatment and resources for adolescents and their families, education and prevention efforts in the community, and permanent supportive housing for families. In operation since 1971, the agency has sites in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport and serves more than 2,000 adults and youth each year. To learn more, or to make a donation, visit www.liberationprograms.org or call 203-851-2077.

Alcohol Awareness Month: How Much Do You Know?

Did you know that alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the United States? One in 12 adults, or 17.6 million Americans, have an alcohol use disorder or are dependent on alcohol. Millions of others exhibit problem drinking behavior, like binge drinking. Those with a family history of alcoholism have an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

 

Not everyone who misuses alcohol will develop an alcohol use disorder, but it can still cause numerous health issues including cardiovascular problems, increased risk of cancers, psychiatric disorders, such as depression, liver diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, stroke, and unintentional injuries.

 

Fast Facts About Alcohol

  • 8 million worldwide deaths caused by alcohol annually.
  • Alcohol addiction is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation.
  • 88,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use in the U.S
  • 40% of all hospital beds in the United States are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption.
  • Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death

Source: Facing Addiction with NCADD

 

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking, which is drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time, is especially problematic among younger people. People between the ages of 18 – 34 binge drink the most, but it’s also a disturbing trend among high school kids. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), 66.6 million, or 1 in 4 people, ages 12 to 17 reported binge drinking and the National Institutes of Health report two-thirds of high school students who drink, do so to the point of intoxication.

 

A binge is defined as five or more drinks for men in a two-hour period and four or more for women in the same time period. Women metabolize alcohol differently, which is why the number of drinks is less. In fact, alcohol may be even more dangerous for women; the CDC says women who drink seven or more drinks in a week are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and liver disease. The maximum recommended number of drinks for men is twice that amount.

 

There are a number of dangers associated with binge drinking including, car accidents, falls, sexual assault, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy, violence, and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can be deadly if left untreated. A person with alcohol poisoning has such high levels of alcohol in their body that it shuts down a their breathing and gag reflex. People die because they stop breathing or they choke on their vomit. If a person exhibits signs of alcohol poisoning, such as slow/irregular breathing, unconsciousness, confusion and vomiting, it’s important to call 9-1-1 or get them to the emergency room immediately.

 

You’re Probably Drinking More than You Think

Is your drink the size of a “standard drink?” The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) created this chart below that outlines the defined standard drink sizes. If you go out to dinner and order a cocktail or two, how much are you actually drinking? Chances are, one of your drinks is more than a standard drink size, which means you may become intoxicated quicker. If you’re curious, they created a Cocktail Calculator to give you a better understanding of how much alcohol you are consuming.

The same amount of alcohol is contained in 12 fluid ounces of regular beer, 8 to 9 fluid ounces of malt liquor, 5 fluid ounces of table wine, or a 1.5 fluid ounce shot of 80-proof spirits (“hard liquor” such as whiskey, gin, etc.) The percent of ‘pure’ alcohol varies by beverage.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

 

Treatment
If you think you or someone you know may have an alcohol use disorder, educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of problematic drinking behavior. NIAAA has compiled resources to help you navigate treatment options and find treatment providers near you.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Evelyn Morales

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we are highlighting one of our volunteers, Evelyn Morales. Evelyn began volunteering for Liberation Programs in August of 2017. She runs a weekly support group for the women in our Families in Recovery Program (FIRP). She shared why she volunteers with us and what she finds rewarding about her time at FIRP.

We appreciate all of our volunteers and thank you all for your dedication to Liberation Programs and our clients.

Why did you choose to volunteer at Liberation Programs?

I chose FIRP because recovering from addiction is close to home. I grew up watching my Dad struggle with drug addiction and win his battle. My Dad was clean for over 25 years and was able to enjoy his family, grandchildren and great grandchildren before he passed away in 2018 from cancer.

The mission of Liberation Programs is important to me because I believe any person who wants to break free from drug addiction can if they put in the work and develop a healthy support system. For me volunteering at FIRP is a way to give back what so many professionals and volunteers gave to my Dad and my family.

What do you do in your volunteer role?

I run a support group for the women at FIRP. The focus of my group is women empowering women and learning about healthy relationships with themselves, significant others, family members, friends and the community.

What do you find rewarding about your volunteer experience?

I find it most rewarding to be a part of the support system for so many courageous women who make the choice to go into recovery and put the work in to stay clean. As we know, recovery is an everyday battle and sometimes it takes more than one time in treatment to be successful in recovery. The woman at FIRP know I meet them where they are in their recovery and my goal is to empower them to empower themselves with the tools to succeed.

Can you tell us about your career and what you do every day?

I am a Bilingual Sexual Assault Crisis Counselor at The Rowan Center, a sexual assault resource agency, in Stamford, CT. A typical day at work consists of providing one-hour crisis counseling sessions to primary and secondary victims of sexual assault. I also provide advocacy to victims who want to file a complaint at the police department, court advocacy and hospital accompaniment for victims getting a forensic exam.

We understand how drug abuse and sexual violence intertwine. For me personally and my colleagues at The Rowan Center, it is important to serve our community and provide our services and support to our neighboring program colleagues and clients. FIRP is one of our neighbor programs and together we make the difference in our community.

Thank you to all the staff and clients at FIRP who warmly welcome me on behalf of The Rowan Center every week and allow me to give back to such courageous individuals.

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month

In the United States, more than 7 million adults struggle with problem gambling. Since gambling disorders are often misunderstood, the National Council on Problem Gambling proclaimed every March to be Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The goal is to increase public awareness and shed light on treatment options and prevention.

 

One common misconception is problem gambling is just a bad habit or a sign of poor self-control, however, it’s a serious condition that can turn into an addiction and destroy lives. Gambling disorder is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and is defined as repeated problematic gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress.

 

Although a person might be a frequent gambler, it doesn’t mean they have a disorder. In order to receive a diagnosis of gambling disorder, a person must exhibit at least four of the criteria below within the last year.

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity
  8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

Source: American Psychiatric Association

Gambling & Co-Occurring Disorders
Although gambling doesn’t involve ingesting a substance, it produces similar effects on the brain as drugs or alcohol. Research shows that a person with one addiction is at an increased risk for developing another; many people with a gambling disorder also have a co-occurring substance use disorder.  According to a 2005 study, 73% of pathological gamblers also have an alcohol use disorder and 38% misused drugs. This isn’t surprising since alcohol is handed out at casinos across the country. Just like a person addicted to drugs or alcohol develops a tolerance over time, so does a person with problem gambling. They need to bet more money and  gamble more often to get the same emotional effect. As tolerance builds, a person develops an addiction.

Since it isn’t uncommon to develop more than one addiction, it is advised that people in recovery for substance use disorders also avoid gambling. When the reward centers of the brain are triggered by gambling, it could cause the person to crave drugs or alcohol, which could result in a relapse.

In addition to co-occurring substance use disorders, as many as 96% of people with a gambling disorder also have at least one psychiatric disorder. Studies have found 60% of problem gamblers have personality disorders, more than 50% have mood disorders, and more than 40% have anxiety disorders.

Treatment
Treatment is available for problem gambling, but according to the APA, only 10% of receive treatment. Approaches to treatment vary based on individual needs, but often consist of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Co-occurring substance use disorders or psychiatric disorders will also be addressed.

The National Council on Problem Gambling offers a variety of ways to get help including:

Helpful Links

Women & Addiction: A Different Experience

March is all about women; it’s Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day is Friday, March 8, 2019. It’s a time to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness of bias and encourage people to take action for gender equality. When you think about gender bias, you probably don’t connect that to substance use disorders. However, gender plays a role when it comes to the effects of drugs and alcohol as well as treatment.

The fact is, women experience addiction differently than men and they also have unique needs when it comes to treatment. Typically, such needs are not addressed by treatment programs, which prevents some women from seeking help.

 

Facts about Substance Misuse in Women

  • It takes less time and smaller amounts of certain drugs before becoming addicted.
  • Women have more drug cravings and experience more intense withdrawal.
  • Hormones can make women more sensitive to some drugs.
  • Women experience different brain changes than men and more physical effects on the heart and blood vessels.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, which increases the risk of substance misuse.
  • Trauma increases the risk of substance misuse and women experience higher rates of trauma, including sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use, over 23 million Americans struggle with an addiction, but only 11 percent receive treatment. While there are many barriers to treatment, some are gender specific. Pregnancy, lack of child care, fear of losing custody of children, and other family responsibilities are some of the reasons women don’t get adequate treatment for substance use disorders.

 

Families in Recovery Program at Liberation Programs

Liberation Programs’ recognized the unique needs of women and developed the Families in Recovery Program (FIRP), an inpatient program for pregnant and parenting women located in Norwalk, CT. The program began in 1994 and is unique in our region. It is the only program of its kind in Fairfield County and the only one in Connecticut where mothers can bring two children up to the age of 10 into the program with them. FIRP helps mothers overcome their substance misuse problems and acquire the skills and resources they need to provide safe, nurturing homes for their children, helping to break what is often a multi-generational cycle of poverty and addiction.

While we recognize there is still a long way to go, we are proud to offer this program to women in our community. We hope other treatment providers across the nation will begin to integrate additional services, such as child care and transportation assistance, to make treatment accessible for anyone who wants help.