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  • LCOTF Conference “Reimagining Empathy: A Decade of Unity and Resilience” – Lauren Pristo, MPH, Director of Community Engagement


    8:22 on FM 97.3, third Wednesday of the month, we get a visit with folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Part of that network is the Litchfield County Opiate Task Force, and they’ve been around for 10 years. That’s part of the reason we’re here today. We’re joined in the studio by Tom Narducci. He’s the administrative director for behavioral health. He’s with Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. He’s co-chair of the LCOTF. Good morning, Tom. Welcome to the show. Good morning, Dale. We also welcome Lauren Pristo, who’s director of community engagement and coordinator for the Litchfield County Opioid Task Force.

    Good morning to you both.

    Good morning.

    Good morning. Thanks for joining us. So we’re here to talk about a conference coming up next week called Reimagining Empathy at the Warner Theater. But I want to start by just saying congratulations on 10 years in this effort to fight addiction and these substances here in the Litchfield County towns.

    Yeah, the task force has been together for 10 years and it’s really a unique cross-section of every role in the community, all the communities in Northwest Connecticut. That’s what we realized early on. If we were going to do anything about the opiate epidemic, we all had to come together united. And during that time, this journey we’ve had, we’ve learned so much about how to better serve those that struggle with substance use. So as we are approaching this upcoming conference that we’re going to talk about, we hope to share that knowledge, not just with the professionals in the community and healthcare workers and law enforcement, but you know, with friends and neighbors and co-workers of those who struggle with substance use. I have learned so much over the years with my interviews with the folks from McCall, and one of the things I’ve learned is the role of regular people and helping people who battle with this. And Lauren, I’ll let you speak to this with the focus of next week’s or the November 30th conference reimagining empathy and why regular everyday people should consider attending.

    Oh absolutely. I think for this conference the title is reimagining empathy and we want to discuss how we center empathy in our day-to-day lives and how empathy informs how we wrap folks up who have been struggling. And it’s a way to come together as a community and for us to establish a way to move forward, a way to identify collective healing and collective compassion, and not just the opioid crisis but I think right now we’re in a world where it’s marked by crises and struggles and you know the discussions around the war was just on the news and how do we come together as a community and bring back empathy and move through this?

    It’s absolutely a broader topic because it does seem like there is a coarseness in society right now and the lack of as that old saying goes walk a mile in their shoes and that really speaks to empathy so that’s going to be our focus what can you tell us

    about our keynote speakers on that date we’re so excited to welcome some truly world-renowned speakers to the stage we have Johan Hari he’s a New York Times best-selling author, three times over actually. He has many excellent books. He’s going to be there in person for our morning keynote and also doing a book signing, so if you have any of those best-selling books, bring it with you or purchase it there. And then we are also joined by Dr. Gabor Mate. He’s also a best-selling author and well-known for his work in trauma and healing and really the human condition and improving lives through addressing those things.

    Thank you for just joining us this morning. Tom Narducci and Lauren Pristo are guests this morning for Litchfield County Opioid Task Force as they commemorate a decade of efforts in this community or in our communities. Reimagining Empathy is a one-day conference coming up on November 30th. It’s going to be held at the Warner Theater right on Main Street in Torrington. This is open to everyone. Let’s talk about how people can register for it. Is there a charge and if there’s any deadlines as far as registering so that they know you’re coming.

    Certainly we would love to welcome folks from our community, all folks from our community and folks can find information on how to register on our website that’s and through there they can purchase their tickets. They’re $60. If cost is a barrier though we do have some scholarship tickets available. So we have 50% off and then full scholarship available as well. And tickets are available all the way up to the day of the event and should they arrive at the Werner Theatre they can get their ticket day of as well.

    Back to our topic, which really of course is this community effort to battle addiction. And 10 years on, 10 years on, there’s no sign of this battle letting up, is there, Tom? Unfortunately, no. You know, the opiate epidemic has a lot of complexities to it. But while we are still making battles, we’re also getting far more folks into care through medication-assisted treatment and through access to recovery, whether it be, you know, in a residential treatment or a local ambulatory type of setting. And I think underwriting that is that where we once judged folks, you know, for their substance use or their addiction in a negative fashion, we all know that most all folks that struggle with substance use, they’re suffering from pain or some type of trauma, maybe anxiety, depression. The substance use was a temporary masking of that pain. Unfortunately, it ends up with symptoms that cause negative behaviors. So we start reacting to the negative behaviors and see a person in a negative light. We know if we want to engage someone into recovery, we need to reach out and see them as human beings suffering deep inside, and that is where the empathy and compassion. So as we’re hoping to get a broader, everybody in the community, at the Warner Theater for this conference, folks can really hear from these speakers about how we’ve come to understand what suffering is like from substance use and how we can reach out as individuals, our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, how we can reach out with compassion. That is what is needed for folks that make that first step into the road to recovery. Absolutely, I love the way that you both have broadened really this too. Of course, getting beyond the stigma of people struggling with substance and having empathy for that. But just empathy for our neighbors and friends right now in an environment that just seems way too combative, to use a word, these days. So reimagining that empathy, maybe doing a little bit of a community reset in how we look at others.

    Yeah, I think it’s really, it’s the prime time to come together and think about where we’re going as a community. And as Tom mentioned, this work has been going on for some time in the northwest corner of Connecticut and Litchfield County really leads the charge. And so we’re hoping to come together as a community and as a state and celebrate the good work that’s happened and also reassess where we’re going next and hopefully centering empathy in that future work.

    Once again, if you would, Lauren, how people can register and find out more about Reimagining Empathy coming up November 30th and about Litchfield County Opiate Task Force.

    Absolutely. So please visit our website, On there you can find information about the task force, about the conference, and you can also find the link to register.

    All right. Sounds good. I thank you both for your time, and as you said, it goes quickly. We’re already out of time. But we hope we’ve got people thinking about this important topic of empathy and how important it is in our everyday lives, not only with the opiate fight, but really in the way that we treat one another going forward. And I hope anyone who attends, I hope they come away with new hope that we can help folks in recovery. All right, excellent way to close it. Tom, Lauren, thank you both for joining us on the show. Best of luck with the conference. Again, that’s November 30th, downtown Torrington at the Warner Theatre. Best to you both. Thank you. Thank you.

    Thank you. Back to the newsroom now, and here’s Jeff.

  • Embracing Mental Health Awareness – Joy Pendola, LMFT LADC, Chief Clinical Officer


    Day 22 on FM 97.3. Third Wednesday of the month, we always get a meeting or get one of our great guests in from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. It’s been a little while since we’ve interviewed Chief Clinical Officer Joy Pandola, but she joins us once again. Joy, nice to have you back.

    Nice to be here. Thanks so much.

    Now for those who have heard the ads that we have running, or the announcements, the messages that we’ve had going from a call for this month, mental health is our focus and the World Health Organization states there’s no health without mental health. Is this a new proclamation? Is this a new effort at awareness? Or have they been doing this every year and we’ve just been missing it? I think we’re a little more aware of it than we had.

    We had just been talking about COVID and how I think both of us agree that COVID has really highlighted issues around mental health. But I think the concept has been around for a long time about mind-body connection. But what does that really mean? And also, what does the research show? And the research has shown that it’s just not a connection that there’s a fundamental link between physical health and mental health and when you really think about it, there’s no part of the human body that’s purely physical or mental. You know when we’re anxious, you know, we start having digestive problems and tummy aches. You know when we’re stressed, you know, we may develop a headache. But also, you know, when we’re in physical pain, it’s hard to concentrate and certainly not necessarily in a good mood. So when you think of anything, there’s a constant interaction between the two.

    Well, I’m reminded of the phrase, I have a gut feeling. And it’s been said that your gut is like the mini brain and that it also intuits things that have an effect on environmentally how we’re doing, atmospherically, and how that’s affecting us and our stress levels and all of it. Some of it’s subconscious, but eventually that works up to the conscious, and that’s when problems begin, because that’s when it interrupts the harmony of our lives.

    Yes, and I mean, we’re finding, you know, in research, you know, depression is linked to a lot of chronic conditions, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular health. And then, on the other hand, they’re finding that some mental health interventions, like positive psychology skills and cognitive behavioral therapy, is actually helping with managing chronic pain or decreases the rate of having a stroke or heart condition. So there’s just constant threads there that if you treat both, you really are going to be in overall better health.

    It’s a long path to get here. It was not that long ago and just being somebody who’s a bit of a political junkie, I remember the presidential campaign of Edmund Muskie which had to be abandoned because they found out that he was seeing a mental health therapist. That was seen as a sign of weakness. That’s it. So we’ve come a ways since then but we got a ways to go, don’t we?

    We do have a ways to go. I mean, we are seeing more integrated health care. We are seeing more acceptance of mental health as being, you know, part of your overall well-being and needing to take care of that to truly be healthy. But we still have such silos with physical health versus mental health. And I think oftentimes, still in Western medicine, we still look at treating symptoms, right? And not looking at the root cause or looking at a person holistically and what can contribute to all of those things. We’re getting there slowly but surely. I think one of the best strategies is integrated care. So, you know, I don’t know, Les, have you been to your primary care physician, but now they have depression screenings that they do. Now they ask you questions about your job and your relationships and your stress level. So there are steps in that direction, but I think that ultimately the best thing would be that when you’re going to a healthcare practitioner, both your physical and mental well-being are being addressed simultaneously.

    Or cause and effect, absolutely. And of course, to the core mission, or one of the core missions for McCall Behavioral Health Network, which has been aiding those who are substance challenged, there is always pain of some kind associated with someone who is in that fight. And quite often, that gets to their mental well-being. Yes.

    I mean, substance addictions, substance use disorders are, you know, inherently linked to not only mental health, but also physical health. I mean there’s a lot of times that people are self-medicating that are looking for ways to cope and they are all interconnected. McCall, you know, has a reputation of treating people with substance use disorders but you don’t need a substance use disorder to come to McCall. We treat people with mental mental health disorders, anxiety, depression. We have licensed practitioners who, you know, work in evidence-based mental health practices and have med providers that also can consult around medication. But we also create those linkages to physical health as well. We always identify if somebody has a primary care physician and, you know, coordinate care and also linkages to care if necessary.

    Our guest this time, if you’re joining us, Chief Clinical Officer Joy Pandola from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. The message from McCall is from the World Health Organization that there’s no health without mental health. So I guess what we’re seeing here is an increasing awareness that the two are inextricably tied, you know, just mental health and physical health. And when you look at one, you really need to look at both, don’t you?

    You absolutely do. And the same things that help physical health help mental health. You know, regular exercise.

    Those of us who do yoga know this.

    Yes, regular exercise is one of the absolute best things you could do for your mental health and physical health. A nutritious diet, sleep, you know, avoiding alcohol and substances. All of those things, those four things alone, contribute greatly to your overall well-being.

    That’s a terrific way to wrap it up. Chief Clinical Officer Joy Pandola, our guest this time from McCall Behavioral Health Network. So check in with your mental health this month and every month and could lead to a happier, healthier you. Oh, thank you. Same to you. Joy, thanks for and could lead to a happier, healthier you. Oh, thank you. Same to you. Joy, thanks for being our guest this time. And the folks at McCall Behavioral Health.

  • Celebrating Hispanic Heritage and National Recovery Month – Ana Aldana-Urquijo, LMSW, Outpatient Clinician


    Dale Jones just switching studios here for our conversation this morning with Ana Aldana. She’s with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Ana, good morning. Thanks for joining us on the program.

    Good morning, Dale. Thanks for having me.

    How long, you’re a clinical social worker with the folks at McCall. Can I ask how long you’ve been with McCall?

    I started as an intern, so if you count the internship, I’ve been there for about a year.

    Okay, well I’m sure you enjoy your work there and you’ve got an important role as a clinical worker there because what we’re talking about today has to do with Recovery Month, which is September. It’s also Hispanic Heritage Month. And we want to talk a little bit about how they intersect here. And we’ve had conversations with the folks from McCall about the unique challenges for the Hispanic community. Does it start with language? Is that a good place to begin?

    Yeah, for sure. I mean, we know there are a lot of barriers to accessing services in general, but we see that there’s a lot more barriers for the Hispanic population. And you know, one of those reasons is, is language, but there’s a lot more to it. You know, we’re working on reframing the stigma regarding their internalized stigmas and their cultural stigmas, and we want to make them feel safe and accepted by also pointing them towards the resources they can access.

    Let’s talk about that stigma. What, you know, is there something cultural here that has folks who may be in the battle from the Hispanic community from reaching out and seeking help?


    Well, yeah. I mean, language is the main barrier, but there’s also other things in the mix like, you know, folks that are undocumented and don’t have access to health insurance. So, you know, a lot of the times these services aren’t affordable to them, but at the McCall Center, at the McCall Behavioral Health Foundation, we actually offer payment plans and options for them to come and still get these services with us.

    Now, I imagine you are bilingual, obviously, in your role you would need to be, correct? Yes, I am. I would imagine that is a great way to open doors. Let’s talk about people who come in and they know they need help and let’s go through the conversation. How does this begin and do people even realize why they’re stuck when they first come in and try to get some help?

    Yeah, so stuck is a great way to put it. A lot of these people come in and they don’t even know they’re stuck. So what we do is we start with showing them what it looks like and what it feels like and when I say that I mean what mental health problems look like or what substance use issues look like. So I mean I’ve had clients come in not knowing that a change needs to be made so by helping them understand like what that depression trauma feels like in their body it helps them understand and learn the language of their mental health and start to, you know, they feel that they can be more vulnerable and begin to heal. And this is especially important in the Hispanic culture where mental health and substance use has been a taboo to speak about.

    Well, it is in the broader culture as well, but I think when people come in, obviously, they know when they reach out to you, they know something is wrong. But it sounds like they’re not really sure how to get on a path to try to address it.

    Exactly, yes.

    When we talk about Hispanic Heritage Month, is this a good time to highlight that heritage and also hopefully to draw people out a little bit as we celebrate that heritage and say, you know, this is a time to break through those stereotypes and seek the help that you need. Is this a, has this been a good month to take a step in that direction?

    I think so, Dale. I think you put it great.

    Our guest this morning, if you’re just joining us, is Anna Aldana. She’s a clinical social worker with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. I want to talk a little bit about some of the other more practical barriers that may get in the way of folks getting help. You talked about perhaps someone coming in seeking help and they’re undocumented. So, you know, paperwork can be a problem. I’ve got a friend who was trying to help someone who was trying to, they were ready to go back to, return to the workforce. But because they had a driver’s license suspension in another state, they couldn’t get a job because they didn’t have a driver’s license for identification and the red tape was in the way because it’s from another state. So they were having a hard time breaking through that. Do you encounter that sort of thing as well with folks who come out and seek help?

    Yeah, I mean, a lot of the people, you know, that are undocumented don’t have those identification documents that they need to access, you know, more resources available in the community.

    So does McCall then network with some of the folks who can help get through this backlog and try to find a way forward? Is that part of what you do?

    Well, we have case management services that can, you know, help them navigate those systems. And, you know, we’re connected with the communities we work in, and we always can link our clients to the resources they need.

    When you talk with clients and they begin to face whatever their challenge is with substance, do you find that, again, that language barrier? Trying to get that, you need to build a sense of trust. And I imagine language is key to that because you need to understand where they’re coming from and you need to convey to them how you want to help them move forward. How long does that take and does it vary client to client on getting that breakthrough and getting them down that path?

    Well I’ve had clients who are primarily Spanish-speaking who have, you know, had other services only in English and you know they’re very happy to have these services in Spanish and I think that helps build rapport a lot quicker because they know not only do I understand them linguistically but I understand them culturally as well. That’s key.

    That’s exactly the point I was looking for. Ana Aldana is our guest this morning. She’s a clinical social worker with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We’re in Recovery Month. It’s Hispanic Heritage Month. Anna, as we begin to wind down our time together here, any last words or message to reach out to the Hispanic community for those who are on the cusp and know it’s time to seek help?

    Yeah, I just want to highlight the importance of being able to talk as a community about how it is a strength to ask for help. It’s a strength to be vulnerable and do the healing work of recovery. If we can shift our attitudes and truly celebrate, you know, recovery and Hispanic Heritage Month together, we can see a big change happen. If you or someone you care about might be stuck, please call our main number, 860-496-2100, and we’ll help you out.

    And just one more thing before we let you go, because word got through to us that today is also your birthday So we’re going to put you on the spot on behalf of all of your friends in McCall behavioral health network And those of us here at WCBG a very happy birthday, and thank you so much for being our guest today. Thank you so much Dale. Have a good day. You as well Anna. Have a great day I put her on the spot there a little bit. Anna Aldana, our guest. Once a month we have a visit with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network and coming back with your local news next.

  • Overdose Awareness Day – Lauren Pristo, MPH, Director of Community Engagement, and Alicia Peterson, RSS, Community Engagement Specialist


    Usually around the third Wednesday of the month, we visit with the folks from McCall Behavioral Health Network. We have a pair of guests joining us on the program this morning. I want to welcome back Lauren Pristo, she’s the director of community engagement. It’s been a little while, Lauren. Welcome back. Thank you. And also, Alicia Peterson, who’s a Community Engagement Specialist with McCall. Alicia, welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you both for joining us this morning. A pretty serious topic today. At the end of this month, we mark International Overdose Awareness Day. What’s this all about, ladies?

    International Overdose Awareness Day is a day where we can recognize the grief of the folks we’ve lost, honor them, and let families and the community know that we are here walking alongside them.

    So what are we doing in recognition of this through McCall Behavioral Health and your health partners?

    Yep, and with the Litchfield County Opioid Task Force we have the Overdose Awareness Day Resource Fair and Vigil at Cope Park on August 31st.

    So information wise, I mean this is a day to remember those we’ve lost, but also we want to share some knowledge here too, right? To try to keep this from going on.

    Absolutely. I actually am in recovery myself. I have seven years clean, but before that I lost my father, my husband, my sister, and my son’s father all to overdose within two years.



    That is remarkable. To you for your path so far, well done.

    Thank you.

    And best of luck. It’s not really luck, it’s hard work, isn’t it?

    It is. Every day.


    Well, good for that. And about the day, we recognize grief, we honor those we lost. And grief doesn’t really have a finish line. It isn’t something that, there isn’t really any closure on this, is there?

    No, there isn’t. But we want to let people know that you don’t have to have a certain milestone to meet before you get help. We’re here to walk with you throughout the process. We can meet you where you’re at and help you get the resources you need.

    You know, I think that’s a recurring message as I talk to the folks from McCall, is to meet people where they’re at. Often we hear the phrase, you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can begin to head back up. That’s a bit of a misnomer, isn’t it? It is. Don’t wait until you get to rock bottom, right? Lauren, a little bit about that and not waiting for the time to be right for recovery.

    Right. It’s, there isn’t ever a right time because, you know, as people walk that journey, there is a lot of ambivalence. And instead of waiting for a specific moment, we’re saying, now’s the time. And Alicia actually has a really good story about that, kind of recognizing that there is no end point and that there is just now, you know?

    Yes, absolutely. Right after I had lost those four people, I was in my grief and decided that it was time for me to make a change. There was no certain point that I had to get to. It was just I was fed up with the life that I was living.

    And I knew I had to change things for my two kids.

    And that’s where you were. So meeting you where you were, that started the path in the right direction. It did. You had made up your mind that this life was over and it was time to move on. Well done. Let’s talk about people who may be grieving, people who may be worried about reaching out and not waiting if you’re in this space.

    Right. So navigating that system, it can be a challenge. It can feel overwhelming. It can feel scary. I think for grief, especially as it relates to losing someone to an overdose, has a lot of layers. There’s layers of guilt and shame. And it’s important to really come together and recognize that that is a shared experience and that we’re all beside and behind you in that journey. Also I think I want to point out that there’s there’s kind of two sides to the messaging for this day as well because there’s both the grief but then there’s also a part of this day that we want to recognize the hope of the day. The hope that there is still opportunity for recovery, that overdose can be a preventable death, that naloxone and never using a loan can save lives. So that’s kind of this careful balance in the messaging that we want to share.

    It’s really important that this messaging gets out locally too because in national coverage it tends to come and go, but that scourge, that epidemic that we hear about from time to time, that’s not abated at all, has it?

    If anything, it’s only getting worse because we have a really unpredictable drug supply that is causing a lot of deaths. There’s fentanyl-lacing pills, there’s fentanyl-lacing just about everything in the illicit drug supply in various amounts. It’s extremely dangerous. In Connecticut we lost about 1,500 people last year. Nationally, over 100,000, I think close to 110,000 people in one year. It’s a devastating crisis to this day.

    If you’re joining us, our guest this morning, Lauren Pristo, Director of Community Engagement. Alicia Peterson, a Community Engagement Specialist with McCall Behavioral Health Network. We’re talking about International Overdose Awareness Day. Let’s bring it full circle back to the event which is the end of this month. The where, the when, and what

    people can expect at our location. International Overdose Awareness Day, we We are holding a vigil. It’s August 31st from 530 to 8. If you’re grieving or worried about someone, we are here to help. We can be reached at 860-496-2100 or at

    Lauren, anything to add?

    Yep. And if you’re considering reducing or stopping use, there is help and we are here for you.

    All right, very important message again. It’s August 31st coming up downtown Torrington at Coe Park. Ladies, thanks for joining us on the program. Can’t say this message enough and we’ll continue to reinforce it up into and beyond the day of the event. So thanks for joining us and the good work being beyond the day of the event. So thanks for joining us and the good work being done in McCall Behavioral Health Network. Best of the day to you both. Thank you.

  • Celebrating Diversity – Conrad Sienkiewicz, Case Manager at Hotchkiss House


    I want to welcome back to the microphone a gentleman who’s been on the air with us before in a different capacity, but this time he’s here as a case manager with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Welcome back, Conrad Sienkiewicz.

    Good morning, Dale. Good to be here.

    Thanks for joining us on the show. So you’ve been with McCall for a couple of years. And we’re going to talk a little bit about this being Pride Month. There’s a lot happening with our population, our community, the LGBTQIA+. Difficult to cover it all. We’re going to talk a little bit about it though and really kind of a three-pronged approach here. Let’s start with the way McCall is set up to serve all communities including this one.

    Yes, absolutely. At McCall we offer a wide variety of services for a wide variety of people. We understand that this is a diverse population. A lot of people think, oh, Litchfield Hills very homogenous, but there’s a growing change with diversity here in the area.

    But I think really the community has been with us all along. Yes. I think I would say a little more, much more visible now.

    Excellent point. Yes, most definitely.

    So with that in mind, having that diverse service core to help that population better deliver the services to them. Let’s talk about how that manifests between the two.

    Sure. There’s been a lot of talk lately about staff shortages and things like that, and McCall strives to build a diverse staff. We have an IDEA workgroup, which stands for Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility. We meet once a month to look at ways where we can welcome people and welcome staff in ways that are diverse. We’ve got trainings that we use on Zoom and in person, and working our hardest to make sure that we have a diverse staff, all different kinds of people.

    So when folks need the services of McCall, and they’re from the community we’re talking about today, is there a particular need that they have? Is there something that differentiates themselves that leads to again having that staff that is plugged into that better able to answer that need?

    I think a lot of folks are looking for a welcoming and non-judgmental environment and as you were saying these folks have always been with us but not always felt welcome not always felt embraced so at McCall we really do try to be welcoming and non-judgmental so that folks can address their needs without having to worry about whether they’re going to be accepted.

     It can kind of be a second layer, a second barrier to trying to reach through and get the treatment they need because we’ve had a lot of conversations with McCall. Folks who get their services are coming from a place of pain in which they’ve answered that pain usually with some kind of substance that has then taken over their life. And when they get to McCall, they want to change that narrative. So, there is a stigma attached to people who are battling substance. You add the additional stigma, which a lot of folks who identify from the LGBTQIA plus community, trying to overcome that as well. So that’s a second layer to it.

    So having that welcoming environment adds to be able to to reach those needs. You have a particular feeling that you have about the pride flag.

    I do.

    And the appropriateness. Share that with us.

    I do. I love the pride flag. I’m in my late 50s, and I’ve seen that flag evolve. So often, we tend to look at the world through a binary lens. either good or bad, high or low, Coke or Pepsi, cats or dogs, and yet not everyone, you know, feels comfortable with one of those two labels. There’s so much in between and such a variety of life and living. And I think the pride flag, like the rainbow itself, you know, is all colors. Everyone is in there. Every shade is in there. And it’s natural and everyone is there.

    So let me go ahead and get that the big old piece in the room identity politics short and that is so big right now with election politics and you’ve got uh… the most vocal sides of both parties from the far this side of the for that side uh… making their views known about this community and about uh… ways in which it should be accepted or handled or what have you. Does that make, I mean especially right now, given the current climate now, does that make the mission of McCall even more challenging?

    It can. It most definitely can. We’re just trying to meet people where they’re at and just letting people know that who they are is okay. And as you and I were talking about earlier, you know, change and evolution. If we know anything about this world, survival involves change. So we are helping people to change as best as we can.

    For folks who don’t have a lot of knowledge about the community, and I mean it is a spectrum community. It’s very broad. It’s like the flag, like you said. I grew up at a time where we were aware of the gay community, but that was as deep as it got. Now it seems that there is so many more facets of this community that want their identity known. Honestly, it can be very confusing for a lot of members of the general public. What do we say to folks who are trying to grapple with this and trying to have an understanding, but it only seems to get more complicated.

    Ask questions. Be open-minded. I think starting with relationships, someone that you’re comfortable with, to ask a question. I ask questions of my 17-year-old daughter. Her generation seems to have more words to talk about what my generation struggled with when we were in our teens

    I think people worry about sounding stupid or ignorant or insulting. If they do ask a question, it’s like is my question going to come off as bad. I admit this is this is a difficult landscape.

    Yes, it is and some people are so quick to say oh I’m offended, and it’s not always being offended but just being uncomfortable and that’s okay we’ve all felt our moments of being uncomfortable.

    Our guest this morning, Conrad Sinkiewicz, he’s a case manager with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. And I wish we had about 20 more minutes. We don’t. We’ve got about a minute. I want you to just really sum up your feelings and those of the folks at McCall in this month, in this Pride Month, in what they deliver to community and the message they want to make sure that the community, the LGBTQIA plus community should know as far as the folks from McCall.

    All are welcome. We have BIPOC, Black Indigenous People of Color Recovery Support Group on Sunday evenings at 6 PM We have our LGBTQ plus peer-to-peer recovery support group Saturdays at 7 PM. We’ve been flying the pride flag not just for June but all year because that’s something that we just feel very strongly with. 

    I appreciate you coming in this morning and giving us a little glimpse a little understanding we appreciate it. 

    Thank you Dale.

    Any move forward is a good one. Thank you, Conrad. Conrad Sienkiewicz, Case Manager with McCall Behavioral Health Network. Guest this time on FM 97.3. We’ll get to the newsroom with Jeff next.

  • Mental Health Awareness Month – Darian Graells, BA, Prevention Facilitator and Tobacco Treatment Specialist


    Third Wednesday of the month on WZDG, we get to catch up with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Want to welcome a guest who’s been with us before. She’s a prevention facilitator with McCall. Darian Graells joins us this morning. Darian, welcome back. Thank you so much for having me again, Dale. I’m happy to be here. Glad to be here. And we’ve got a gigantic topic, really, that we’re talking about today when we take up the topic of mental health.

    We hear a lot about it in the news, virtually spanning the spectrum of all socioeconomics and age groups, whatever you want to do. So when we talk about mental health awareness, and there’s a lot of focus on that, and being mentally healthy, let’s try to set the parameters here. Yes. So May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to be talking about this. So mental health awareness really refers to the understanding and acknowledgement about mental health issues within society. It involves promoting education and knowledge about mental health conditions and available resources for support and treatment, which is really huge and important. Mental health awareness, really the overall goal is to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. We’re really encouraging you know open discussions and ensuring that individuals are informed about the importance of seeking help and support. We talk about stigma, you know it wasn’t that long ago in our society that that mental health was really shunned as something, get over it, to use a phrase, or get out of your own head, where people who suffer clinical depression cheer up for crying out loud.

    Yeah. You know, it wasn’t that long ago. Are we moving past that? Because we’ve got a lot more awareness and a lot more coming out, as it were, of people who suffer mental health. Yeah. I feel like now a lot more people are talking about it, and that’s really key to breaking down stigma is really just talking about these issues that can be really tough and hard for a person to discuss, but kind of pushing things under the rug just contributes even more to the stigma.

    So during this month, we really encourage people to get educated about mental health and even check in with your own mental well-being and ensure that you have skills to cope with stress and can maintain positive relationships in your life. And all these little factors that we don’t consider sometimes because we get so caught up in like the daily grind. So it’s really important to also check in with yourself but also be aware of these issues that exist within society as well and try to support our loved ones as much as we can. I’m reminded of the saying that I’ve seen more than more than a dozen times, it’s okay not to be okay.

    Yes. So with that in mind let’s let’s talk about how we how we approach this and the science of mental health and treatments. A little bit about your training and experience and what you’ve seen. Yeah, so through the prevention department at McCall, we offer a lot of like mental health education trainings. So we do mental health first aid and QPR, which stands for question, persuade, refer. And those trainings really teach people like what to look for and things to identify in, you know, people close to you and also just people that exist in society. And it’s really interesting. So after one of the trainings, I had an individual come up to me who shared his story of loss with me and it was someone very close to him.

    And I think that the fact that this person was so close to you, we so badly want the people close to us to be okay. So sometimes we may minimize or not even notice signs or symptoms that are maybe cries of help from these people. So it’s really important to just be aware and also, you know, check in with those people close to you and make sure that they’re okay. And even just like, you don’t have to get directly to like, are you struggling right now? Just surface level. You could ask like, how are you doing today?

    What’s on your mind? And those kind of open-ended questions can lead to a deeper discussion about truly what’s impacting them. But, you know, we all do that when we see each other. Hey, how’s it going? Right. Hey, how you been? It’s really, it’s just a casual greeting, but this is one where you make eye contact and you say, really, how you doing?

    Yes. You know? Deep conversation. Deep conversation, and a lot of us, again, it gets back to that, I’m okay, I’m fine, I’m not gonna burden them with what’s going on in my head. Yes. But you wanna draw them out to do exactly that. Exactly. And how do we know whether it’s somebody who’s just going through a rough patch and maybe there’s something more deep-seated?

    Is that where your training kicks in? Well, I feel like, yes, that too, but it’s also both are significant and important. Even if it’s just like a stressful moment or they can be stressed for an extended period of time, both are really important and we can kind of see what we can offer to take, you know, things off of these people’s plates. Definitely attending these trainings and like just getting educated and informed about, you know, signs and symptoms to look for and just really know what to look out for in those people that are close and far away from you. Because we hear a lot more about mental health awareness, because we realize we have an epidemic of mental illness in this country.

    Is the science getting better? One of the things that always made me question is mental health and understanding it still seems pretty nebulous to me. You know? Yeah. So there are… It’s tough science. It’s really tough science. And there’s a lot of like terms and scary words that exist that can really make a person feel isolated and it’s really important to remember to like reach out and get support and like don’t isolate yourself and feel like you have to be in this pain forever. There’s tons of resources and organizations that are ready to help you through your healing journey and offer you know whatever support that you need to get through what you’re going through. So you’re not stuck there forever and that’s really important to remember. So we can do this in layers. Yeah. You know it’s not a it’s not an all in inpatient months of therapy necessarily thing. Kind of is a has to be a individualized treatment spectrum. Big time yeah and the time window you know it it’s not there’s no time window for getting over healing through something like this. Right. It can take someone years, it can take someone months, it all depends on, you know, what supports you have and what your experiences have been throughout your life.

    Darian Graells is a prevention facilitator with the McCall Behavioral Health Network joining us during this Mental Health Awareness Month of May. Final words for people out there as we do a self-check on how we’re doing from the neck up and just a little bit of friendly advice about taking care of yourself. I would just remind everyone that we’re all human, and it’s OK to feel stress and to not be OK sometimes, as Dale said earlier. I really encourage everyone to get educated. Get out. I mean, we offer trainings at least every month.

    So definitely look out for those, and try to attend one if you can. It really kind of teaches you more about what we’re seeing with mental health and the signs and symptoms to look for and how to how to identify that someone needs support and then how to connect them to those said resources. So training but also talking about it if you have questions like asking professionals or encouraging you know those that are struggling to attend like support groups or therapy. There’s there’s tons of different options. Art therapy, animal therapy, group therapy, there’s so many different things that a person can do. But also self-care is really important too, and just getting out and doing the things that you enjoy and you love and that bring you joy.

    I really like Lester Holt’s sign-off in the nightly news, take care of yourself and each other. Yes. That could be our sign-off today. Gary Ingrails is our guest this time here at WZBG and we’re talking all about mental health awareness, Mental Health Awareness Month. You can always learn more at Darian, pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much, Dale. Let’s have you back again.

    Hopefully I’ll be back soon.

  • Alcohol Awareness Month – Kelsey Dlugozima, LCSW, Director of Outpatient Services


    On FM 97.3 WZBG once a month we check in with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Our live line guests this morning we want to welcome Kelsey Dlugozima. She is the director of outpatient services at McCall. Kelsey good morning. Good morning Dale thanks for having me. Glad to have you on the the show and as we do the show this month, April is Alcohol Awareness Month. So we’re going to focus on that a little bit. Tell me a little bit about your experience with that as Director of Outpatient Services and the kinds of things that we want to make people aware of this month. Yeah, so it is Alcohol Awareness Month and it’s always a good time to talk about alcohol awareness because, you know, it is one of the leading causes of preventable death, and actually we saw that jump during the pandemic.


    And you know, just some of the ways that we kind of see that on a day-to-day basis in the work that we do, you know, the pandemic really highlighted the ways in which collectively and culturally we don’t give people a lot of the resources that they need to deal with the stress that is going to come along with that. Absolutely. And because of the pandemic, too, there was so much isolation that people who may be battling alcohol use, they’re doing it by themselves because they’re cut off from a lot of the support system that maybe kept them in a better state.


    Yeah, and I think just overall, there’s this kind of notion that people have to hit rock bottom for it to become something that’s concerning. But there’s a lot of people that sort of live in this gray area of drinking too where it’s kind of impacting their personal life, their work life, their health in a lot of really significant ways, but because it doesn’t look like rock bottom, it goes unnoticed, I think that we’ve got a lot of numbers of people who may fall into that gray area that we don’t even know about that’s not really front of mind. Because like you said, they may be functioning, they’re working, they’re maintaining their household or whatever the case may be, but nevertheless, they are having a problem that is approaching a crisis point.


    Yeah, and even that in and of itself can be isolating. Just the constant questioning, you know, is my relationship with alcohol different now? And for a lot of people it did change. So, you know, we’ve had people reach out. We had someone in particular, they reached out. They weren’t really sure. They started to question, you know, hey, I think my relationship with alcohol is a lot different since the pandemic started.


    Because they had a job, they were able to keep it remote while they were still working. You know, had friends and family, people they would see still, but they still kind of felt some guilt in questioning that because they would think, oh, you know, when is the time to clock out? When can I have, you know, a glass of wine? When can I, you know, can I do that while I’m at work? And there are people that feel that way and think that way. But this person had reached out to us, and they started treatment. They started processing, getting some supports, and exploring that, and noticed a better relationship with their work, with their friends, their family.


    They felt less irritable at the end of the day. Do you think that people who perhaps are battling alcohol and other folks in the substance fight and something along the lines of narcotics or addictive pharmaceuticals, maybe don’t think of those substances in the same way? Don’t think of them as a dependency in quite the same way? And in terms of stigma, maybe don’t look at a dependence on those in the same way, even though they are very much alike when you get down to it.


    Yes, certainly. I mean, I think like culturally and collectively we socialize alcohol in a different way, just simply because of, you know, the fact that it’s legal and that we, again, really socialize it in a way where it’s normalized, right? It’s a normal way of dealing with stress. And there’s, you know, this idea of social drinking. But I think there’s a lot of people out there that really still struggle with this, you know, kind of by themselves and thinking, you know, I don’t know, maybe this is a problem. Let’s talk about that because I think we’re talking about that gray area drinking. Our guest this morning, if you’re joining us, Kelsey Dlugozima, who is the Director of Outpatient Services at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. And I get a sense of what we’re getting to is folks who maybe are in that gray area, they know that they are either into trouble or heading into trouble, and they know that the use that they’re doing with alcohol is bad for them and getting worse.


    So this is that time when it’s time to make a decision. What kind of advice would you recommend for people who may feel like they’re on that cusp? Well, I’d say if, you know, if any of this resonates with you or someone that you care about and love that you aren’t alone, there’s a lot of people experiencing this shift in their relationship with alcohol and that there are supports. You know, there’s programs, there’s treatment, there’s social supports out there, and McCall specifically has programs all throughout western Connecticut. We’ve got professionals that are ready to explore that with you and someone you love. Our guest this morning, Kelsey Dlugozima, Director of Outpatient Services at McCall Behavioral Health Network, talking about Alcohol Awareness Month and particularly talking into a little bit about gray area drinking, maybe someone who is not by definition an alcoholic, but someone who is definitely feeling some kind of dependency.


    And we may have made our best points to folks who are listening, Kelsey, but any final thoughts on that for someone who may be, again, on the cusp of a battle that maybe they feel like they’re starting to lose. Yeah, I mean, I think if you’re questioning it, there definitely are some long-term effects, you know, health-wise, socially with friends and family. So if you’re starting to think about it a little bit, please, you know, reach out. Kelsey, appreciate your time today, and we hope someone who may be questioning that use will reach out to McCall Behavioral Health and get some help.


    Thanks very much. Great. Thanks so much, Dale. Have a good day. All the best. You too. Bye. Kelsey Dlugozima, Director of Outpatient Services for McCall Behavioral Health Network. They join us once a month to talk about important topics like this Alcohol Awareness Month. Back to the newsroom, we find Jeff there in 90 seconds.

  • Bipolar Disorder – Joy Pendola, LMFT LADC, Chief Clinical Officer

    821 FM 97.3 WZBG, third Wednesday of March already. And we catch up with the professionals at the McCall Center, or the McCall Behavioral Health Network this time of month. And this time we want to welcome back Joy Pendola. Joy is Chief Clinical Officer there. Joy, good morning. Good morning, Gail. How are you? I’m well. Good morning. Good morning, Dale. How are you? I’m well. Thanks for joining us on the live line this morning after that nor’easter. Hopefully not too bad in your neck of the woods. No, I did pretty well. Thanks for asking. All right. Glad to hear that. All right.

    Our topic today is we’re going to talk about bipolar disorder. Let’s start really with a bit of a definition. You know, bipolar, I can remember inappropriately years ago, years ago, you know, anybody who is moody, it’s like, you know, are you bipolar? But let’s look beyond that. What are we talking about here? Well, and I’m glad you pointed that out because especially the past few years, you know, a lot of terminology used in our field of behavioral health has become kind of part of the common vernacular to describe people in a lot of ways, including diagnoses. And I think it’s actually created some including diagnoses. And I think it’s actually stated some misperceptions of actually what it is. But bipolar disorder is a significant mental health disorder. It is typically developed signs are usually in late adolescence to early adulthood when they start. And there is significant symptoms beyond Symptoms beyond moodiness.

    These are persistent and extreme highs and lows for an individual experiencing bipolar. So I mean, somebody with a significant bipolar disorder may have up episodes that could last for days, even weeks, where they don’t need sleep. They have racing thoughts. They have an excessive desire for food or substances or shopping or sex. So that can be really debilitating to their day-to-day life. And then there are the also extreme lows, where somebody can feel very depressed and anxious, who have low energy and, you know, could really have a lack of interest in their usual activities. in their usual activities. So to kind of manage, you know, these extremes that can happen, you know, a few times a year too persistently, it’s a very difficult illness to manage and it can be often lifelong. Do we know what causes bipolar disorder? Is there a root cause? We don’t know yet and that’s actually And that’s actually very common for a lot of mental health disorders, not knowing the root cause yet.

    I’m very encouraged by the advances in science that I do feel very confident we will find a root cause in the future. Right now, there are indications that it runs in families, so there’s a genetic predisposition. It doesn’t mean that just because you have a family member with bipolar, you will also have bipolar. It doesn’t mean that just because you have a family member with bipolar, you will also have bipolar, but it does seem to run in families. And also, they’re seeing that there are some differences in brain structure with people with bipolar as opposed to people without bipolar. I think in working with people with bipolar for many years now, I have found the individuals the individuals I’ve worked with being some of the most intelligent, creative, intuitive people I’ve ever met.

    And I think that they’re eventually going to find a link between bipolar disorder and creativity and intelligence. Even without knowing what the root cause is right now, we do have some really good treatments we do have some really good treatments that can allow for people with even significant bipolar 1 disorder to have very fruitful lives and maintain work and relationships and everything else in quality of life. Now I know it can be misdiagnosed, some symptoms similar to other issues. It makes me think of someone who has clinical depression, except maybe without the manic highs. except maybe without the manic highs, but it is possible there are effective treatments anyway and maybe a commonality approach to these issues.

    There is, absolutely. I mean before you diagnose anybody with bipolar disorder you really have to even go the route of doing a medical examination and lab work. There’s thyroid conditions that actually mimic a lot of the symptoms of bipolar conditions that actually mimic a lot of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. There’s other mental health disorders like schizophrenia that may also look like bipolar disorder. And also, you know, having a substance use disorder, you know, the periods of use and the periods of not using oftentimes can look like symptoms. compounding too is that substance use and bipolar disorder often go hand in hand as well. So you really do have to look at family history and you have to look at those significant upward trends of mania or hypomania and then those depressive episodes to really determine and rule out any other conditions or issues. Our guest this morning is Joy Pandola. Joy is chief clinical officer at Our guest this morning is Joy Pandola.

    Joy is Chief Clinical Officer at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We’re talking about bipolar disorder this morning. If there’s folks out there listening, they’ve got a family member, somebody close to them, who is suffering this condition or dealing with this condition on a daily basis, how can they help because I know this can be a challenge in relationships. It absolutely can. And this impacts loved ones and families deeply. Absolutely can, and this impacts loved ones and families deeply. I mean, imagine somebody you love, you know, witnessing them going through, you know, these challenges and these extremes.

    And also, you know, particularly at the highest highs and the lowest lows, you know, just characterly looking very, very different as a person. And also, potentially doing things during a manic episode that is completely out of during a manic episode that is completely out of character. And it can be scary because at-risk behaviors also can come up. But family members, I encourage them to be part of treatment, encourage a loved one who has bipolar disorder to maintain their treatment. There are good medications out there. Mood stabilizers and antipsychotics are typically utilized and can help with mood regulation are typically utilized and can help with mood regulation and decreasing symptoms.

    There’s certainly, you know, basic things like sleep. Sleep is so important to managing mood and can, you know, lack of sleep can trigger an episode for somebody with bipolar disorder. Nutrition, exercise are also great mood stabilizers. And family and loved ones oftentimes can see the triggers to an episode or early and loved ones oftentimes can see the triggers to an episode or early signs of it. They can be very, very beneficial to someone to prevent any kind of escalation. So it’s kind of important that they engage and be part of the solution to this. Absolutely, and also get the support they need as well. Joy, it’s a pleasure having you on the show. I hope we’ve opened people’s eyes a little bit about bipolar disorder.

    We all hear about it. bipolar disorder. We all hear about it. Only those close to somebody who has the condition really know what they’re dealing with, but we hope we’ve shed a little light on it this morning and we appreciate your time. Thanks so much, Dale. Have a great day. We’ll talk to you again soon. Thank you. Bye-bye. Joy Pandola is Chief Clinical Officer at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Bipolar disorder, our subject this morning. We’ll get back to the newsroom, catch up with Jeff We’ll get back to the newsroom, catch up with Jeff there.

    Following the news, we’ll have a Storm Center update here on FM 97.3.

  • Self-care – Putting Your Oxygen Mask on First – Julia Merchant, LMSW, CPS, Family Recovery Coach

    Julia Merchant is here today. And you might look at the calendar and say, well, wait a minute. Well, so, as you know, we have the McCall Center for Behavioral Health here once a month, and today is our next day. So Julia is here. She is a family recovery coach. Welcome. Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here. We’re happy to have you.

    We’re happy to have you. And I have to say, so again, we didn’t have a ton of time to do show prep, but I looked at the theme and thought, well, now that’s an interesting thing to say. So we’re talking about putting the oxygen mask on first. Yes. You can see it. I can tell, can’t you, right? It’s a great visual because when we are told when we get on that plane to put that mask on first as the parent or the adult, and then get on that plane, to put that mask on first as the parent or the adult, and then to give the mask to your child who you’re traveling with. So interested to see how we’re going to tie that into the kind of coaching that you do. So intuitively, it’s hard to put our oxygen mask on first.

    It doesn’t make sense to us as caregivers to other people that we love in our lives. we love in our lives. So I just wanted to share a personal story about sort of my last year. It’s something I think a lot of people can relate to, especially coming out of the pandemic as a parent of school-aged children. You know, there was a lot of stress of going back and forth between school being open and being sent home because of exposure. And, you know, the stress sort of increased, I and the stress sort of increased, I think, for parents of school-aged children after we went back to normal, quote unquote. So with that all in the background, I was in a really tight spot.

    I had school going on and internship work, my small children who are four and seven, and I really wasn’t giving myself a whole lot of time to breathe. I really wasn’t giving myself a whole lot of time to breathe. When you go back to school as a parent, sometimes it can feel selfish to go back to school. That sort of felt to me like my me time is my school work and class time. But that’s just as draining as anything else. I was going to say, that doesn’t sound like really relaxing me, let me take care of myself time.

    me take care of myself time. I mean for sure good to you know educate yourself and I’m sure that that pride is always you know wonderful. Yeah, so like in your nails done. No, no it’s not. It’s definitely draining just like a lot of the other things that we do but we you know we do them because we love to do them or because they’re fulfilling to us but they’re not they’re not building our our resilience, they’re not helping us to feel filled. It’s hard to pour out of an empty cup. It’s hard to run on an empty gas tank, you know what I mean? So I was running on fumes for quite a while, because my school program was two years long. I was interning at the same time for that same program and working with my kids.

    So I think a lot of people can relate to this feeling of running on fumes. I think a lot of people can relate to this feeling of sort of running on fumes. And it’s difficult. We don’t give ourselves permission a lot of the time to take time for ourselves to breathe and to sort of refill the tank. For me, you know, I stopped doing a lot of the things that I normally would do to help myself sort of re-center. I stopped reaching out to a lot of my support system because I wanted everyone to think out to a lot of my support system because I wanted everyone to think that I had it all together. As parents, that’s sort of a pressure, not even that others put on us, but mostly we put on ourselves, is that we’re supposed to have it all together all the time. As professionals, we do the same thing. So it was difficult, and I sort of backed myself into a corner mentally and physically, I needed a break, and my body was telling me that. So I had to turn to my job and ask for help and tell them I’m not okay, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do. And I was sort of, it was not something I wanted to do, but I had to do out of necessity to take care of myself.

    So you identified the fact that you knew, like, I mean, first of all, when you have a four and seven year old period in a sentence, you’re already, I mean, then they’ve done that. You’re already there. But add everything on. So your colleagues at work were able to recognize that you, what you needed. Yes. So, and one of the wonderful things about working for McCall Behavioral Health Network Behavioral Health Network is that when you ask for help, the reaction was not necessarily to turn away from me and to say, you know, like, well, you put yourself in this situation, so get out of it yourself. It was more to turn toward me and to offer me more support.

    So in my work as a family recovery coach, we are trying to convey to family members trying to convey to family members of people who suffer from addiction. So the family members are going through just as much as the person, the individual who’s using substances. So what we want people to know is that it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s necessary to ask for help, especially if you’re trying to support someone who’s going through something really stressful. really stressful. Thus, you keep the mask first. You take the mask first because if there’s someone in your family, someone you’re connected to that is sucking you because they need to, of course, and because you, of course, want to offer yourself to them, but again, if you’ve got nothing in the tank, you’re not much help.

    Absolutely. And, you know, it’s not just one thing that’s demanded of us all the time. And, you know, it’s not just one thing that’s demanded of us all the time. We are always all trying to play so many roles and put on so many hats. And it can be really difficult to navigate setting boundaries with a loved one who maybe needs more than what you have to give them. And so, in addition to MIPAL supporting the individual who’s struggling with addiction, with addiction, we want family members to reach out for help too because we know they need it. It’s just not normal for them to ask for help.

    So that’s such a great, such a wonderful suggestion and offer by McCall because we do think of the McCall Center for Behavioral Health as a place where if we are having struggles, if we are having substance abuse, mental health issues, that that’s where we will go for help. substance abuse, mental health issues, that that’s where we will go for help. But today, you remind us that those of us that are caregivers can also reach out for help. Absolutely. Mothers, brothers, sons, whoever you may be, if you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction, we want you to know that there are resources for you, too. You don’t have to be left out in the cold and feel like, okay, well, my family member is for you too. You don’t have to be left out in the cold and feel like, okay, well, my family member is getting help, now I just have to sort of deal with whatever I’ve got going on. No, you don’t have to do it alone.

    That is really great information. And, um, really great information. So if I do need to reach out to you because someone in my world is struggling with addiction issues, but I as the caregiver need help, what do I do? Reach out to you? but I as the caregiver need help, what do I do? Reach out to you? So you can reach out to them the call name line and they will refer you to me. My program is called Family Recovery Coaching. It’s under the CLEAR program. And you know, we work, you know, five to seven days a week. I’m available for phone calls all the time. And yeah, we just really want people to normalize reaching out for help. And yeah, we just really want people to normalize reaching out for help, even if it feels like you’re not the one who’s got, you know, the major sort of struggle.

    We know that everyone around is also struggling. But we’re normalizing asking for help as that person as well. So interesting. So, of course, 10 minutes is up. I told you it goes like this. So Julia is a family recovery coach. this. So Julia is a family recovery coach. She is with McCall Center for Behavioral Health. Do you know the phone number off the top of your head? So the McCall main phone number is 860-496-2100. Perfect. And the people at the main line will absolutely refer you to me if you ask for family recovery coaching. Perfect. You can also go to the website Julia Merchant, Julia Merchant, family recovery coach. We got Josh back here snapping pictures too.

    Thank you for this and this really important information. So important for us to recognize that it’s helpful for us as well. Yeah, great stuff. Thank you for coming and again our ten minutes goes so quickly. It’s time to go back to the newsroom.

  • Perceptions of Marijuana & Using Substances to Cope – Andrew Lyon, MPH, CPS, Director of Prevention

    Hey 21, on FM 97.3 WCBG. Middle of January, third Wednesday of the month, we catch up with the professionals at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. I guess we’ve had on a couple of times before joins us this time. He’s Andrew Lyon, he’s a director of prevention at McCall Behavioral Health Network. Andrew, welcome back to the show. Thank you for having me. Well we’ve got a big event here in Connecticut which kind of prompts our topic today. You know, starting 2023, cannabis is legal now. Recreational use of cannabis is legal in the state of Connecticut. It joins our neighboring states which are a little bit ahead of us. But this is becoming something that is more common. And for someone who grew up in the counterculture 70s when you know marijuana was definitely against the grain, this is a little bit of a weird paradigm shift for a lot of us. So let’s talk about this legalization and its impact on young people because it gives a sort of a tacit okinus of this substance for recreational use and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

    Yeah, absolutely. It’s a really interesting thing because cannabis exists in an interesting space in our culture and it’s important for us to know and remember that the adult use cannabis legalization is specifically for adult use. And what we’re seeing with a lot of students that we engage with is that this is causing a lot of confusion for youth because there’s this idea that well if adults are saying it’s safe enough to be legal or you know it’s ok to make it legal then therefore it must be safe, it must be ok for us to use. But we know that there’s a lot of research and data to show that. You know that there’s a lot of negative impacts that it has on youth on the developing grain and you know as it sort of leads into the development of substance use disorders and addiction and the role it plays on that. And so it’s important for us to really balance the messaging that we’re having around the adult use legalization versus it’s still important to make sure that we’re talking about it responsibly we’re protecting our youth and making sure that we’re acting responsibly when we are engaging with it.

    Well when you dig in behind it again you know a cause and effect you start to think ok so if this is something that is safe enough to use and if it’s being used to feel better then if I’m not feeling good or there’s something going on with my life is this something I should turn to to make me feel better and that’s exactly where the prevention comes in. Well yes yes again there’s a lot you know I wish I had all the time in the world to show you’re this but you know there are a few things that we want to think about where you know first off is the perception of harm. You know with legalization again this perception of harm when we legalize a substance tends to go down and when we see that particularly with youth use rates go up and particularly when it comes to something that is a viewed as a chemical tool to help address things like stress, anxiety, depression. You know cannabis is now being legalized for adults adult use it’s entering that space similar to alcohol where we know that there are concerns and problems with this perception that if I’m feeling stressed or anxious this is something that will make me feel better.

    And we’re still fighting that fight. Exactly. All these years later. Exactly. You know and what we really know is that these chemical tools are really just a temporary kind of solution to that to really sort of mask the feelings rather than address the root causes of that stress, that anxiety and the pain really behind it. And a lot of what we at the McCall behavioral health network want to sort of deal with is how can we provide healthier alternatives to addressing these, the pain, the anxiety, the stress, the things going on in people’s lives so they don’t feel the need to turn to something that is just going to mask it temporarily and really not be that long term solution. Well we’ve got a society that unfortunately puts two broaded picture that says the other thing. There are highly medicated society in so many ways, many for legit and documented medical needs but others too cope or deal with and there is plenty of that in our culture.

    So I guess it’s important that that messaging start early and also for parents out there too, it’s about the right example isn’t it? I mean you could do my job for me. I mean this is, I mean you’re hitting the nail on the head. This can be a really complicated conversation. It’s just what we know is that we’re less interested in the specific substance and more interested in that behavior, in learning healthy and safe ways to deal with those tough feelings, those emotions and it does start early. It starts from the very beginning. It starts with modeling healthy behaviors, having conversations early, setting rules at home around what your expectations are, what is okay, what isn’t, being open and honest and being genuine so that your kids can feel safe coming to you and having these conversations so they don’t feel the need to find that sort of help elsewhere. Right, that clutch elsewhere. Thank you.

    Our guest this time is Andrew Lyon. He’s a director of prevention from the McCall behavioral health network and we’re talking about substance use disorders and just kind of because of the latest step here in Connecticut to make adult use cannabis, recreational cannabis legal in Connecticut. To be fair too, our culture also tries to be better in our personal health. You look at New Year’s resolutions and like right up at near number one is I want to live a healthier life. So we have that aspiration. Let’s talk about the kind of tools that McCall can bring to bear to help that messaging for parents and directly to kids so that they get that imprinted in their brain, you know, living healthily early before the SUDs come knocking. Yeah, I mean our agency has a number of tools and programs that you know we can help integrate into with family units at schools and communities, you know, with individuals. And a lot of it again starts with really kind of understanding that it’s not necessarily the substance itself.

    It is the learned behavior and the pattern of relying on external and chemical means to cope with what’s going on in your life. And having that conversation and identifying resources, we have a number of resources. And when it comes to the adult use cannabis legalization, there are a number of resources throughout the state. You know, I want to take the opportunity to plug the Connecticut website,, where there are plenty of resources for parents and individuals to understand what the cannabis legalization bill means for adults, for parents, for youth and tips and ways to kind of address that. All right, great helpful tip there. So, yeah, and also at the root of it when we get into substance use disorder with our time running out here this morning, there’s always some kind of pain or trauma at the root of it and through communication, getting to find out what that is is key.

    Absolutely. And really, you know, whether it’s yourself or it’s a loved one that you see that you might be concerned about, if you see someone, you know, becoming more and more dependent on whatever substance it is, whether it’s cannabis, alcohol, or, you know, anything else. You know, it’s important to really be there for them and help push them towards, you know, getting help, be encouraging, be supportive because behind substance use disorders, behind addictions are pain and unmet needs in their lives. And it’s important for all of us to really be supportive and get them the help they need. And really, that’s what we strive to do every day at the McCall behavioral health network. Good way to finish it up, Andrew, line way appreciate your time today. Thanks so much for having me. Andrew is director of prevention with McCall behavioral health network and yes, with the legalization of cannabis, if you’re a parent and you’re worried about your kids and their perception, talk to them, get those lines of communication open and dig into that toolbox and use all the tools necessary to keep our kids safe.

    Coming up on 831, we’ll head to the newsroom. Good morning, John. Good morning, Dale. Thank you.

  • It is Okay Not to Feel Merry & Bright – Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO

    822 on FM 97.3 WZBG. Really excellent timing with our monthly interview with the folks from the McCall Center Behavioral Health Network. Maria Couton Skinner, Executive Director there is our guest this morning. Good morning, Dale. Welcome to the program. Thanks for coming in. Pleasure. So, Christmas comes up on Sunday. You know, this is the hustle, bustle, merry, bright lights, crazy celebration, what have you, time of year. Not everybody is feeling that, you know? And for people out there who are challenged with that predominant emotion that we’re supposed to be feeling, that’s kind of our topic today.

    Right. Yeah. be feeling. That’s kind of our topic today. Right. Yeah. And I think human beings are so complicated. So you can have all kinds of complicated feelings. You could be looking forward to the holidays. You could be enjoying it. And you can also have these feelings of discomfort. So I was looking forward to having this conversation with you so we can kind of honor all of that. Right. You know, it is a complicated time because lots of people that are reminded maybe of loss this time of year, time because lots of people they’re reminded maybe of loss this time of year, relatives who are not around the holiday table anymore, maybe relationships that aren’t where they would like them to be, maybe economic challenges because they can’t put under the tree what they would like to for family and loved ones. So yeah, I mean for all of these reasons the holiday can be less than merry and I guess the underlying message here is you know what that’s okay. Right, exactly. So I message here is, you know what, that’s okay. Right, exactly. So I have a story to share with you. My birthday was on Friday, and I love my birthday, and so Greg and I, our older daughter Emma, lives in Boston. So we thought, okay, we’re gonna go meet up with Emma and her friends. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, driving into Boston, taking them out for dinner, really looking forward to that.

    Weather wasn’t great, driving was kind of bad, north end of Hartford on a The weather wasn’t great, driving was kind of bad. North end of Hartford on a Friday night, the week before Christmas, and also there was a Celtics game on. It meant that we were in that car a very long time, very late for the reservation, Emma had to keep moving it. Greg was driving as we were moving through the north end of Hartford, which as you know is narrow streets, tons of traffic right there where the Celtics were playing. streets, tons of traffic right there where the Celtics were playing and it was maddening and it was this feeling I was getting more and more and more stressed. Anxious. And there was one parking area that was charging 50 bucks and Greg was like I’m not paying 50 bucks so we had to keep driving around finally I said I kind of lost it I was like I need to get out of this bleeping car I And I kind of lost it.

    I was like, I need to get out of this bleeping car. I can’t say what I said in WZBG. I was like, let’s just pay the $50 and get out of this car. So we pulled in and poor Greg was like, whoa. So we go, we have dinner, we have a wonderful night, come back driving. But I wasn’t, leading up to my birthday and even the day after, I wasn’t feeling right. up to my birthday and even the day after, I wasn’t feeling right. And it didn’t make sense because so many wonderful things, blessings beyond compare, had been going on. Like, kids are healthy, Greg’s good, you know, like…

    Life is good. What’s going on? Yeah. So I had to take some time. And Saturday, and for me, when I go for a run, that’s when I can like really do the when I go for a run, that’s when I can like really do the work of scanning my body, figuring out what’s going on. And I realized, so we do this exercise. I’ve been, you know, a therapist studying trauma for like 30 years. You would think that I wouldn’t have an episode where I have a temper tantrum about a traffic jam, but we’re human, right? So I could feel it in my heart. And on I could feel it in my heart.

    And on my birthday, I miss my mom. It doesn’t matter how old you are. I’m 54 now. And my mom’s been gone 10 years. And it wasn’t a conscious thought. I had to do the work to find, to scan my body, and find where that pain was. And then I had to do that. So I outlined the steps so we could talk about it. And I hope that that’s then helpful to other people. steps so we could talk about it and I hope that that’s then helpful to other people.

    I think that’s important and I hope as we get older we’re better at getting to the cause and I’ll just briefly say that sometimes when I find myself cranky and anti-social and snappish it’s like alright dig down what’s bugging you. That’s right. And I can get at it faster than I used to be able to. Because you’ve practiced. Because I’ve practiced and I’m 61. I’ve had a few years at it. able to. Because you’ve practiced. Because I’ve practiced and I’m 61. I’ve had a few years at it. So please, outline the steps toward that for people who also are facing the kind of surprise mood that you just outlined. I like that you just named some of the things.

    Are you snappish or do you feel like you want to fast forward through the holidays? Do you feel like you just want to not do it? Skip Christmas. Or are there little pockets where Skip Christmas. Yeah, or I mean, where are their little pockets where you’re like, you know, irritable or sad or whatever. That’s our body telling us a story and it’s important that we pay attention to it because our culture tells us to stuff it or, or… Drown it. Exactly. Right.

    Numb it. Yep. And so we’re talking about doing the opposite because we want to expand our window of tolerance. And that’s the whole thing. Right. Expand our window of tolerance and that’s the whole thing right so in that car when I was feeling Crabby yep, that was a time for me to try to practice this to expand my window of tolerance So first we want to recognize it then Before we escape you know either reach for a glass of wine or get crabby at our partner We want to ground ourselves We want to ground ourselves, taking some deep breaths.

    There’s tricks that you can do. You find three things that you can visualize. What are you hearing right now? Can you land in your body tactically? What are you smelling? What are you feeling? Find where it is. So for me, it was in my heart. And then you want to sit with it. Trust that you’re sturdy enough to sit with it and honor it.

    dirty enough to sit with it and honor it. And then, and this is hard for a lot of people, give yourself grace and compassion. Instead of beating yourself up, because that doesn’t help anybody, extend yourself grace and compassion. And if you can, find a witness, somebody who you trust, who you can share it with, and you can process it through. And that’s the healthy thing. And that’s the healthy thing. And then the other really wonderful outcome of this is that then we can extend grace and compassion to others much more readily when we’re able to do that for ourselves.

    Yep. Good advice. And I know a lot of people have the same kind of emotions, have the same kind of scenarios that you outlined, that you lash out something uncharacteristic or something that you feel is out of place given this time of year. or something that you feel is out of place given this time of year, what is at the root of it? Exactly. Give yourself time to figure it out, to process it, so then you can then get back to that state of grace and share it with others.

    And it takes practice. It does take practice. We’re making this sound incredibly simple. It’s not, but it is an exercise. It is. You know, and it’s one of those things that hopefully will help people enjoy the holidays It’s one of those things that hopefully will help people enjoy the holidays to the best that they’re able to, whatever their scenario may be. I sure hope so, because life has a lot of joy in store for us, and we want to be able to access that. But that’s not the whole story. The full measure of the human experience has all of those emotions, and we have to be prepared prepared and willing to honor each part of it.

    And it’s not easy and it’s a daily exercise, made more challenging by the crazy schedule we’re under right now, but appreciate the words of wisdom, Maria, thank you. My pleasure. Maria Skinner, our guest this time. Executive Director at the folks from McCall Behavioral Health Network, I still want to say McCall Center for, you know, the old title, but McCall Behavioral Health Network. We’re all works in progress.

    All works in progress to everyone and the wonderful behavioral health network. All works in progress to everyone and the wonderful work that you guys do. Best of this holiday season and continued success in 2023 because we sure need you around. Thank you, Dale. Thank you. With that we’ll head back to the newsroom and get your bottom hour update. Here’s Jeff. Thank you, Dale. 17 degrees with a clear sky at 830. Good morning.

  • The Myth Around Hitting Rock Bottom – Joy Pendola, LMFT LADC, Chief Clinical Officer

    Third Wednesday of the month on FM 97.3 WZBG, we always get a conversation in with the folks at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. This time we’re going to be speaking with Joy Pandola. She’s chief clinical officer there. Good morning. Welcome to the show. Thanks, Dale. Nice to be with you. Glad to have you on the show. Glad to have you on the show.

    And I guess you’ve been with McCall for a few years now, and your affiliation and association goes back years before that. Yes, yes. Maria and I co-chaired the Litchfield County Opiate Task Force when it was first started almost 10 years ago now. You know, it’s interesting. The topic we’re talking about today, about how someone who is having a problem with substance use disorder, about how they don’t have to get to so-called rock bottom before they can begin finding that way up. have to get to so-called rock bottom before they can begin finding that way up.

    And it’s coincidental that that is our topic today because someone close to me has a relative in that situation. And I use that very term. And that was something that was kind of locked in. Oh, they haven’t hit rock bottom yet. But that’s a misnomer, isn’t it? It is. And you know, it’s very, very common to look at someone needing to hit that breaking point, right? look at someone needing to hit that breaking point, right, that rock bottom to go into treatment.

    I think it’s a false narrative that’s been perpetuated a lot, particularly in the media. I mean, when you look at reality TV shows, when you look at movies, the way they depict somebody with addictions is typically that they lose virtually everything. They lose their health. They lose their relationships. They lose their finances. virtually everything. They lose their health, they lose their relationships, they lose their finances before they see the light, so to speak, and decide it’s time. Most people, in fact, enter treatment well before those circumstances happen, and there’s a lot of problematic things related to that whole myth. First of all, it has this, you know, sense of despair before you First of all, it has this, you know, sense of despair before you can enter treatment.

    And that has to run its course, right? And that makes loved ones and family members feel really powerless over, you know, having the ability to impact, you know, this in any way and watch their loved ones suffer. That’s absolutely not the case, and I’ll talk a little bit later about what loved ones and family members actually have a tremendous impact on somebody’s decision to enter treatment. loved ones and family members actually have a tremendous impact on somebody’s decision to enter treatment. And you know the idea that you know it has to run its course, you know addictions are progressive. So you know you get more into those behavioral patterns. You have higher consequences.

    There may be long-term chronic health conditions or you know impact on relationships. In fact addictions can be very well treated much earlier on In fact, addictions can be very well treated much earlier on and have really positive outcomes. And like I said, you know, the idea of loved ones feeling powerless, that is also, you know, kind of watching somebody suffer is just not necessary. And you know, people go into treatment, like I said, for a lot of reasons. It’s not even the primary reason people go into treatment, as a matter of fact, that they have to hit rock bottom. go into treatment, as a matter of fact, that they have to hit rock bottom.

    I’ve had a lot of conversations with folks from McCollin. You keyed on a couple of important things. One is that communication, how key that is to helping that person find that way forward. And like you said, it doesn’t have to be at rock bottom before that actually occurs. And the other thing about addiction is different people get to that place where they’re ready to accept treatment and make those changes than others. where they’re ready to accept treatment and make those changes than others. This is a highly individualized disorder and the treatment is highly individualized as well. So all of these things are in play and there isn’t that, like you said, that reset point, that default point at rock bottom before we begin to find our way forward.

    No, as a matter of fact, the number one reason why people go into treatment is they have one adverse reaction or experience with a substance. into treatment is they have one adverse reaction or experience with a substance. That could get, you know, that could be something from getting really sick after you know a night of partying to, you know, losing a job. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It could be just one thing. That’s most of the time. The second most important reason people go into treatment is if they become parents. So it’s actually because they’ve reprioritized and want to make that So it’s actually because they’ve reprioritized and want to make that decision going forward. One thing that also I think is not common to consider is you don’t have to have all the answers.

    You don’t even have to be sure that you want to make a change to go into treatment. There are many stages of changes. When you think of any big life change that you make, you don’t all of a sudden, yes, to make, you don’t all of a sudden, yes, I’m going to do it and I’m 100% committed to this decision and move forward. There’s a lot of back and forth, right? There’s a lot of pros and cons. That’s a perfect time to come to McCall and meet with a clinician who can identify, you know, what are your motivations? What goals do you actually have?

    And the steps and skill building that you need to get there. So one of the top five reasons actually people going into treatment is, or into recovery, is treatment. So somebody told them to go. They didn’t necessarily make that decision on their own. And a mandate could come from anywhere. It could come from a significant other. It could come from the legal system. It could come from work. It could come from someone.

    A lot of people don’t make the decision to change until they’re actually in treatment and start identifying really what the value is to that. until they’re actually in treatment and start identifying really what the value is to that. So that’s an important thing too. It’s scary to make that decision where you’ve relied on a coping strategy for so long. So I think loved ones and people who are struggling with substances, it’s important things to understand is that you could come in ready or not. that you could come in ready or not. And you don’t have to come in with, like you said, you don’t have to come in with a rock solid plan.

    This is exactly the way forward and you’re gonna begin that now. That this is something that takes place gradually. Because like any good plan, you gotta plan your work and then work your plan. Right. For loved ones who have someone who is battling this, just some ways in which, again, taking away that defeatist attitude of, well, they’re not at rock bottom yet, there’s nothing I can do.

    which again taking away that defeatist attitude of well they’re not at rock bottom yet there’s nothing I can do. When you know you’ve got someone who is in the throes of a substance use disorder ways in which they can help toward a positive outcome. And I get asked all the time by loved ones and family members what what they can do and what I tell them is please be open, open, honest, direct, and compassionate with that loved one about how their substance use is impacting them. That is the most powerful thing that you can do, is let them know that with loving kindness what the impact has and what your concern is. I read, and this is a perfect example of this, I read a remembrance for the actress Angela I read a remembrance for the actress Angela Lansbury.

    She died last month. And there was a quote from the playwright Terrence McNally, how in 1980 his career completely changed when he was at a birthday party for Stephen Sondheim. And he had just spilled a drink on Lauren Bacall. And in the corner, Angela… A lot of name dropping here. Yeah, yeah. This was in the article. This was in the article. And Angela Ansberry was sitting in the corner and she kind of waved him over.

    And he said, she said in the most loving, kind way this, Terrence, I don’t know you very well at all, but it really bothers me that every time I see you, you’re drunk. And he said the next day, he went to his first AA meeting and within a year, he was in treatment and had stopped drinking. his first AA meeting and within a year he was in treatment and had stopped drinking. And she was an acquaintance, but he revered her and had such a love for her and value for her that that was the difference.

    So you never know. Never undervalue your impact. Absolutely. Joy Pendola is our guest this time, Chief Clinical Officer with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We are out of time, but if you had any final closing thoughts, I want to give you a chance to share those now. Like I said, you don’t have to be fully committed or ready to go into treatment. If a loved one is struggling, tell them how you feel and support them as best you can.

    And it is never too soon, and it’s never too late. Excellent. Joy, thank you for being our guest. Thank you. Excellent. Joy, thank you for being our guest. Thank you. Once a month we have a visit with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network here on FM 97.3 WZBG. Joy Pendola, our guest this time. At 8.31 it’s back to the newsroom.