In the News

Stay up-to-date on the latest McCall news and community involvement.

Sign up for our newsletters!
Sign Me Up For:


  • Self-care and Trails to Wellness with Family Recovery Coach, Alicia Peterson, RSS



    0:00 Checking the calendar, it’s the third Wednesday of the month. And that’s when we catch up with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We want to welcome back to the program someone who’s been part of our guest group before, Alicia Peterson, who is a Family Recovery coach at McCall. Welcome back to the show, Alicia.


    0:31Thank you.


    0:32 Thanks for joining us. A couple of things we wanted to talk about. Wanted to talk about your work as a Family Recovery Coach, and also an event coming up next week called the second annual Trails to Wellness. Yes.


    0:46 You’ve been with McCall now for a couple of years, right?


    0:49 I have. A little over two years in June. Okay, and you were a client before that? Oh yes, I have eight years of continuous sobriety, which July 13th, and before that I was with McCall’s for probably four years.


    1:08 Well congratulations. Thank you. And great work on that, and so glad McCall could be part of that solution for you. Tell us about your work as a Family Recovery Coach. What do you


    1:21 do here in working with families? I meet with family members who are struggling with navigating a relationship with someone who is either currently using substances or has stopped using substances or isn’t ready for change. And I teach them a little bit about the psychoeducation behind substance use disorder and mental health conditions, the stages of change and what those look like.


    1:52 Right. I teach them about effective communication, which could help their loved one gain some motivation towards wanting to make a change. And I also help them create self-care and wellness plans for their own recovery, because as we all know, substance use disorder is a family condition.


    2:14 It affects everyone in its wake. So, I think it’s important for families to know that it’s just as important for them to get well as it is for their loved one. And it’s not a straight line, is it?


    2:27 Absolutely not.


    2:28 No, it’s different for everyone. Recovery in itself is very individual.


    2:35 So one of the things I imagine that you have to be on your A game all the time when you’ve got a family member who is battling this is making sure that you’ve got the strength to be at your best.


    2:50 Absolutely. You can’t pour from an empty cup.


    2:53 So self-care.


    2:54 Yes, yes. Which is what our event, Trails to Wellness, is all about. We think it’s so important to introduce people in the community to the different wellness techniques and organizations that are within our community. And that’s what the event is all about and people have a chance to try things out hands-on and if they decide that is something they want to incorporate in their usual routine then they can


    3:23 And they can also work with me to create to help look into different options now


    3:30 This is going to be going on Thursday afternoon into the evening right in downtown, Torrington


    3:36 Yes, Franklin Square this year.


    3:39 Okay, well used space down there.


    3:42 I love it.


    3:43 So what are people going to find if they go down there? What kinds of activities, what kinds of options might be open for them?


    3:50 Okay, so Trails to Wellness is self-care and the many pathways to recovery. So, it’s not just for people who have substance use or mental health conditions. It is for anyone in the community who would like, even children, who would like to, you know, just come down and do some fun


    4:09 things. We have a community canvas painting. We have mandala paintings. We have aromatherapy. We have gardening. A nutrition person. We have tarot card readings, crystals, a life coach, yoga, you name it, it’s there.


    4:32So you can talk to these folks, find out if maybe some of these things might help you in your own self-care. Absolutely.


    4:38 Yeah.


    4:39 Yeah. And that’s going to be going on Thursday, July 25th, going on from 4 to 7 down at Franklin Square. In your own situation, being at your best, important for your work and in your personal life as you’ve been through a little something in your family just shortly ago and still are


    4:58 really but have turned something of a corner. Yes, back in March of March 5th my daughter turned 12 years old, and she told me her neck hurt and I looked at it and being a cancer survivor myself, I knew that something just wasn’t okay. So, we began with the going to doctors and I was advocating for her and pushing for them, no, we’re not going to just watch this,


    5:27 she needs care right now. And we found out that she had stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma and she’s been going through chemotherapy ever since. We found out last week that she will be in remission at the end of the month.


    5:47 Wonderful.


    5:48 Yes. Wonderful. But taking care of myself throughout this whole thing has been so important.


    5:55 And your advocacy for her health. Oh, yes.


    5:59 Which transfers to your work. Absolutely. If you’re a family member of someone who is


    6:04 battling substance, your advocacy. Yes, it’s so important. Without that, we probably would have been in a worse situation. So, it is so important to learn to advocate for yourself and taking care of yourself allows you to do that.


    6:22 Our guest this morning, if you’re just joining us. Alicia Peterson is a family recovery coach with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Her event, Trails to Wellness, is going on just over a week from now, Thursday, July 25th in downtown Torrington. We’ve got about a minute to sum up. Let’s talk about your work and if there’s someone who’s got a family member that is dealing with substance and they’re trying to stay in the fight with them.


    6:51 Some final words of encouragement for them. Take care of yourself. If there is any ever a time that you feel overwhelmed, I’d be more than happy to walk alongside you and help connect you to different resources in the area and just walk with you through the journey. I can be reached at 860-496-2100 anytime if we could help.


    7:21 Thanks for being our guest and for sharing the story about your daughter. We are glad that she has turned a happier corner health-wise. We hope for full and complete recovery and no more of this cancer stuff for her so she can enjoy her life.


    7:36 Thank you very much.


    7:37 Alicia, thanks for being our guest.


    7:39 Thank you for having me.


    7:40 With that, we’ll head back to the newsroom.

  • Belonging with President and CEO Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW




    At 97.3 WZBG, third Wednesday of the month. A regular visit with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. This time, Executive Director Maria Coutant Skinner is our guest. Maria, good morning. Good morning. Welcome to the show.



    Great to be here. Thanks for joining us. Looking at the calendar, this is Pride Month. Looking at the calendar, this is also Juneteenth. So at the intersection of those two big events, it’s kind of going to be our topic here this morning.



    So our topic really, because McCall helps folks meet challenges, and there are unique challenges to the groups that are in our focus today between Juneteenth and also Pride Month. So let’s talk about, of course, the luck of having you in here on a day when we have both Juneteenth and Pride Month, and really the intersection of those two important events.



    Right. Thank you. It is a really special day, and I think we look at the intersectionality between Pride, which celebrates all of the progress that the LGBTQ community has made in terms of asserting human rights and celebrating what it means to be part of that community. And certainly, Juneteenth is a really important day and moment in our history to commemorate where finally the Emancipation Proclamation made it to Texas and the freedom finally for slaves was celebrated and recognized.



    And there is a lot of intersectionality there, and there’s also, we have to look at what it means in communities where particular folks are marginalized and oppressed, and that all has to be part of the story. It has to be what we look at in our history, and how that all connects to a sense of community and belonging today.



    So when we talk about Pride Month, it sounds as much like an aspiration as a celebration, and that is the challenge for these folks. And that gets into the whole thing of belonging, being part of this fabric of America.



    I love the way you said that, because I think it is both inspirational and aspirational. I think as far as we’ve come, there’s certainly a lot of work to do. I also recognize I am a white, straight woman here talking about Juneteenth and pride. I want to make sure that I have a very humble posture in what I’m saying.



    That world of privilege we live in.



    Absolutely. And also, I think, you know, there is privilege, there is power, and we have to recognize that and know that there is work to be done in an ally role. And recognizing that. And that doesn’t mean, like, nobody’s stepping in front of me in line to get any kind of benefit or, you know, kind of a month or a day.



    That’s not taking anything away from me. And so it’s important for me to recognize that and also look for ways that I can move that conversation forward.



    And so I’m so glad you and I are talking about it today. When we talk about moving the conversation forward, that lack of knowledge of these communities I think holds us back. Because on the one hand, if you’re trying to bridge the gap and trying to understand, you’re afraid of coming off, at least in my own personal case,



    you’re afraid of coming off as being insulting or insensitive because of the lack of knowledge. And we also, we’re living in a time of cultural and social polarization. It started off political, it’s dribbled down to our social fabric as well.



    And I think that makes the challenge even more daunting. I think it is, and it also is an opening for us to have conversations and I think especially if we belong to a group where historically there has been privilege and power that we have work to do. That that is incumbent upon us to do that research to understand where that privilege is and what we can do.



    Because if we really want to build a community that is inclusive and that is promoting health and wellness and belonging for all, then people who have traditionally been in positions of power and privilege really have to do that work and communicate that sense of belonging and community to one another, and especially to populations that have traditionally been oppressed. For that latter population, what do they need to bring to the table? For our population, those of us who are in those positions of power and privilege,



    what’s our leading role in bridging this gap?



    Yeah, so I think it is like, it’s really kind of basic. I think not only kind of making sure we’re doing our homework and getting informed, but there’s also ways that we can communicate belonging in a million little ways. So I think it’s invitations to sit down, to have conversations. And I think we also have to recognize that is a basic human right and a human need to feel connected.



    And when we don’t, when we feel lonely, when we feel isolated, there are major consequences to that. I think we’ve talked a lot about the consequences to our mental health, where there’s anxiety and depression, and there’s a straight line from feeling lonely to having all of those other mental health consequences.



    There’s also physical health consequences. And I would encourage folks to look at the Surgeon General’s report on the impact of loneliness because we’re also talking about heart disease. We’re talking about dementia. We’re talking about premature death. So this is really serious.



    And it is incumbent upon all of us to do that work, to communicate belonging to one another.



    There have been some studies, and I’ll keep this part of it brief, but there have been some studies that show over 60% of us are suffering from some degree of loneliness, that we don’t have enough human connection. And ultimately, as we talk about the groups that we’re highlighting today for Juneteenth and for Pride Month, it is that connectedness, that feeling of belonging that we have to try to restore.



    Absolutely. I think it is part of the human condition. You can be in a crowd or even with one other person and still feel lonely. Or you can be alone and not. So what is it? Where do we find that connectedness?



    I think when there is representation, I will give a quick example. I will give two quick examples. One was a work function. It was a bunch of colleagues from a bunch of other organizations. I was at, it was a business lunch, and people were kind of milling about, and I was a really shy kid. I didn’t know where I belonged, and so I’m now 55, and those kinds of feelings can come back up for me really bad. So everybody sat down.



    It felt like everybody else knew where they belonged, and they sat next to somebody, and they were talking. I didn’t know anybody, and I looked around, and it was that lunchroom feeling that I had, like, in middle school, like, oh, my God, where do I go? Who do I sit with?



    And there was this woman named Sam Quinlan who said, Maria, you can sit right next to me, and I can, to this moment, recall that feeling in my body where do I go, where do I belong to, now I’ve got an invitation and I feel like I can belong and that is relief.



    That was a tiny example. There’s much bigger, much more profound examples of both feeling a part of and then feeling part of. And we all can make that kind of an invitation to say, come, I see you, sit next to me.



    Our guest this morning, Maria Coutant Skinner, executive director at McCall Behavioral Health Network, great example of something that’s a fleeting moment, but for these groups we’re talking about today, it’s a day-to-day reality in many ways.



    That’s right.



    So really powerful stuff.



    So a rainbow flag is that same kind of invitation, I see you, you belong here. Representation, so at McCall, we have clinicians, we have therapists, we have staff, we have peers that are representative of everybody in our community. So when you walk into a space and you feel like there’s somebody who can, who looks like you or can relate to your life



    experiences, or who is being intentional, even if I don’t have the same exact experience, but I’m going to be intentional about communicating that I see you and you belong here, that matters. That same sense of relief, like I feel seen, I can feel comfortable, I can feel safe, that is a great foundation for healing and positive mental health experiences.



    Maria, great to have you as our guest this morning as always.



    Delightful, thank you.



    Once a month we get to chat with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network health network right here on 97.3 WZBG and you can find them of course online health network right here on 97.3 WZBG and you can find them of course online


    9:18 Have a wonderful rest of the day. Thank you, Maria. Thank you.

    If you want to learn more check out an interview with Dr. Kat Moskowitz on being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Mental Health Awareness Month – John Fecteau, LCSW, Director of Mental Health


    The third Wednesday in May came a little bit early this year because May 1st was a Wednesday. So the third Wednesday we get a visit with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network and today we want to welcome back John Fecteau. He is Director of Mental Health. John, welcome back.

    Thanks for having me.

    Thanks for joining us on the program. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the theme this year is “Take the Moment” to try to destigmatize mental health by normalizing the practice. You know I feel like every time we think about mental health we’re looking through the lens of the experience of the recent pandemic because in so many ways that put mental

    health into stark relief, don’t you think? It did, it did. It definitely brought it to the forefront and I think it got a lot more people talking about it as just a regular conversation during the day, which is very different than it was prior to the pandemic.

    Well, I think all of us had some kind of mental health challenge during that time. So maybe that helps us realize the folks for whom it’s a chronic or more severe problem gives us a little inkling of what they’re dealing with. It does, it does. It gives you a little bit a little bit more empathy for folks that have been struggling with this for a

    long time. The statistics show we’re looking at one in five U.S. adults experiencing a mental health issue nationally.

    It’s a big number. It’s about you know 20 percent, give or take, maybe a little more, that experiences some degree of amental health challenge. And among that group, only about half actually get help. And for that half that gets help, you know, there’s another sort of striking statistic it usually takes 10 or 11 years for someone who first starts to experience symptoms to the point where they actually get treatment, which is a long time. And it explains a lot of addictions,

    and it explains so much, but it just goes to show you that if you’re standing in a large room and you look at 20% of those people and only half of that is getting the help that they need. It’s pretty scary.

    You get a lot of it, seems like it’s sporadic, but with government, be it state government, be it federal government, every now and then, mental health issues will crop up and it becomes a priority or there’s proposed new funding or something like that. And then it goes away again,

    and we just don’t see as much of it. And as we know from mental health and the struggle with it, this is not something that is done in a short burst of time. This is something that requires a long-term investment of resources and patience.

    It does. Some of the reasons why people don’t actually get help is a stigma, but also the cost of it, the access to it, and just misunderstanding about what’s available for treatment out there. And plenty of people struggle with a loved one that has a mental illness and they don’t

    know what to do. Because still, even though we’ve come a long way, there’s still quite a bit of stigma around it. And you have to look at getting treatment and getting help for mental health conditions is definitely a marathon, not a sprint.

    It’s funny how the common culture sometimes can raise awareness, like Elmo saying, how’s everybody doing? And suddenly the whole nation’s listening. You know, I mean, it’s a good thing. You know, you get a simple, fuzzy character, popular character like Elmo asking

    about how everybody’s mental health is doing. So when we talk about a loved one that we know is battling, how can we help?

    What can we do?

    Well, I think the first two things that you always have to take into consideration is that it’s a process. You have to both be patient, which is sometimes really hard to do when you’re watching somebody struggle, but also be mindful of your own mental health needs and support during that period. Change is a process. No matter what you’re trying to change if you’re trying to quit smoking or lose weight, it’s a

    process to get you there. And, you know, generally speaking, the system, our mental health system, has made such advances over the years in how we approach change. We see it as a process now. There’s these things called stages of change, right, where, you know, they go from a pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. And each one of those is a distinct part of somebody’s change process. And so it goes from not recognizing that I have an issue at all to maybe there’s something

    going on to there is something going on but I don’t know what to do about it to now I’m getting help and then in maintenance you’re maintaining those gains. But helping somebody through that process can be really sticky. And so you always have to make sure that you A, keep up hope because at the end of that, there is recovery as possible. And also that there’s other resources out there to help support you through that as

    a family member and as an individual suffering with mental health conditions.

    And don’t you have to meet them where they are? Like you said, those components along the way, whatever stage they’re in, they might be in that stage of realizing, I have a problem, but I don’t know what to do about it. That could go on for months, depending upon the person.

    Oh, it could go on for years.

    And you’ve got to hang in there with them.

    You do. And as treatment providers, that’s one of the things we do, is if I try to treat somebody as if they’re in an action stage of change, but they’re in a pre-contemplative stage of change, I’m just going to push them away,

    because they’re not ready to hear that. So I have to meet them where they’re at. And when you look at Motivational Interviewing, which is, again, a staple of our treatment process now, is it’s about not pushing from behind or pulling from the front.

    It’s about sort of walking side by side with the person at their pace at that time.

    If you’re just joining us, John Fecteau is our guest this morning. We’re talking about May Mental Health Awareness Month. John, the Director of Mental Health for the McCall Behavioral Health Network. So let’s talk about some of the tools, resources

    that McCall’s got that can bring to bear because you guys have a lot of tools in the box that can meet people where they are. Yes, we do. And we have embedded, as our whole service system has gone from more of an illness-based model to more of a recovery-based model, our services have embedded APRNs that work with folks around medication management, to our outpatient, intensive outpatient, our outreach programs, and our mental health group homes.

    We have one in Torrington and two in Waterbury that really focus on independent skill building

    to move people from, say, a hospital setting back to a more independent setting.

    So we shine a light on mental health this month of May, but this of course is an annual problem. It goes on year after year every month of the year and we thank you folks at McCall for what you bring to bear to help people deal with it and to get to the best part of their

    lives. Thank you and if you’re looking for services you can you know reach out to McCall at 860-496-2100 even to ask some questions about what to do and you can also find us on the website at our website at McCall Behavioral Health Network and NAMI-CT is a great resource too for family support and education around this this issue.

    John Fecteau is director of mental health for McCall Behavioral Health Network. John, thank you for your time and for all the great work you guys do down at McCall.

    Thank you for having us. We’ll see you next time. Bye. Thank you for having us. We’ll see you next time. Bye.

  • National Prescription Drug Take Back Day – with Prevention Facilitators Chelsea Kapitancek, BA, and Joshua Licursi, MPH


    8:22 FM 97.3 WZBG. Springtime brings a lot of annual events. In this case, it’s a semi-annual event, and we’re taking a different approach with our friends from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We want to welcome to the microphone this morning from McCall, Chelsea Kapitancek and Joshua Licursi. They’re both prevention facilitators and today’s topic, Drug Take Back Day. Good morning to you both. Good morning. Thanks for having us.

    Thank you both for joining us. So as prevention facilitators, you guys are out there spreading the word, so let’s talk about drug take back. We’ve been talking about it here at the radio station, but we really can’t remind people about this enough.

    Let’s set it up. What’s it all about? Sure, so National Drug Take-Back Day is for prescription medications and it happens twice a year usually the last Saturday of April and the last Saturday of October and it really serves as a big reminder for people to clean out your medicine cabinets, find any unused, expired, or unwanted medications and visit your local collection site. You could drop them off, it’s completely anonymous and then we’ll dispose of them.

    So this Chelsea just to add to it, this kind of goes hand in hand, really, with part of the mission of what McCall’s all about.

    Absolutely. So, you know, the saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So that’s a big thing with Drug Take Back Day. It’s a great way to start that spring cleaning and really do something great for your community. It’s a really great community-driven initiative with participation from a bunch of different organizations and community members, which is really key for sustainability, which is what we’re all about.

    So Josh, you’re part of the Torrington Awareness Prevention Partnership, while Chelsea, I’ve got on your titilization, Northwest Corner Prevention Network. Let’s talk about that collaboration and how we get the word out, Josh.

    Yeah, so McCall houses a couple coalitions. So yeah, I work in Torrington and then Chelsea in the Northwest Corner. And so my coalition we’re serving strictly Torrington residents and but both of our missions are the same of reducing substance use primarily focusing on youth and we help coordinate this event with a lot of other local organizations so the Torrington Health District we also have the local police department and this is usually across the board throughout the state this community collaboration for this event. And really, prevention is the focus, and so we’re preventing having medications get in the hands of children or people that shouldn’t be using those medications. Really, the prescriptions that are assigned to you are just for you, and so by able to clear out your cabinet and safely disposing of them, you can keep other people out of harm’s way and ultimately accidental ingestion or accidental overdose.

    And Chelsea, for your part, it seems like you’ve got more geography to cover.

    A lot more geography to cover, but that’s okay. So the Northwest Corner Prevention Network covers the six towns that make up the Region 1 school district. So we’ve got Canaan, North Canaan Falls Village. We have Sharon, Kent, Cornwall, and Salisbury. So a lot of geographic area. But the coalition work is great because it really offers us the opportunity to offer those targeted prevention services within different geographic areas so we’re able to be more intentional and really bring our best to each area.

    Part of the problem with medications is they tend to be relatively small. We tend to put them in a cabinet and close the door and then it’s an out of sight out of mind thing. And it’s a little bit like when you find old food in your refrigerator you’re like oh my gosh this has been outdated for a long time. So let’s talk about why it’s important to safely dispose of these medications. And we already talked about risk with children and everything, but it really goes a little wider than that, doesn’t it?

    It really does. So the goal is to reduce access, which is a huge part in prevention, because by reducing that access, we’re reducing all sorts of things, including, like Josh said, those accidental overdoses, accidental ingestion. But also properly disposing of medication is really great for the environment. Just flushing medication down a toilet or throwing it in the trash is really not great for the waterways or soil. So part of this initiative is also looking out for our environment and our community at large.

    It’s always amazing to me how drugs show up in a water supply or show up in septic waste and the like because really the amount of volume of it is amazing. So for people who have not taken part in a drug take-back day, let’s talk about what they can expect at collection points.

    Sure. So what you’ll do is you’ll clean out your medicine cabinets, you’ll box up your items, you’ll bring them to a location near you. You can actually go on slash take-back day to find your local collection site. And with McCall, our affiliated locations, we’re going to be in Torrington, Waterbury, Danbury. I’ll be at Troop B Barracks in Canaan for the Northwest Corner Prevention Network. We’ll also be in Harwinton, but there’s more than just those locations if you just look online on that website. And we’ll also offer some additional prevention resources and other goodies at select sites, so definitely check it out. And our nation is definitely just a wash in pharmaceuticals.

    Let’s talk about kinds of things that are accepted, Josh.

    Yeah, great question. So you can bring any kind of prescription pills, patches, and liquids as long as they’re tightly sealed in the original containers. You can also bring any vet prescriptions as well that are not being used. Some things you can’t bring though, no aerosol containers, no syringes, illicit drugs, or equipment with lithium batteries.

    One of the things I remember about this too is this is a no questions asked event. Yes. We’re not interested in how you got whatever medication or what you’re using it for. We just want to get it safely disposed of. Yeah. So that’s that is key to all of this. And when we talk about two safe storage options and ways to get rid of things, I’d never heard of Deterra. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a new one to me so explain what that’s about.

    Yeah, Deterra is wonderful. We’re big fans of it here at the McCall Prevention Department. So what it is, it’s like a little bag that’s filled with this activated charcoal and what you do is you just open the bag, you fill it with warm water on the back of the bag it has clear instructions of how many pills or how many patches or how much liquid can go in there. You put the medication in the open bag, you fill it with warm water, you seal it, you shake it up and you throw it away.

    So that way any medication that’s in there is going to be deactivated first of all, so no one’s able to access it after it goes in the deterra. And it’s sealed, so any medication that’s in there isn’t going to get into the trash and therefore the waterways and soil. So we get rid of that medication, no one can access it that’s not meant to access it, and our environment is a little bit better off.

    All right, yeah, that’s a great method. And while Drug Take Back Day only occurs twice per year, we do know that several locations, like Torrington Police Department, they have a drop box for outdated medications 24-7-365.

    Yeah, same deal. You can go any time, in Torrington specifically, and you can drop off your medications completely anonymous. You can just walk in, walk out. And we know this is an initiative that a lot of towns across the state and across the country are trying to enact. So you can also just look up to see where your local collection site is for that year-round drop-off.

    Our guests this morning, if you’re joining us, Josh Licursi, Chelsea Kapitancek, joining us are prevention facilitators from McCall Behavioral and Health Network.

    You had something you wanted to add? Yeah, I just wanted to add that people can look up their specific location for those drop boxes. It’s on under the Department of Consumer Protection’s page. It has a little map so it’s really user-friendly and an easy way to just see on any other day other than this the last Saturday of April and October if you wanted to bring your medication to a drop box you can find that out.

    Well I know there’s a lot of health and law enforcement organizations and this is a huge collaboration and a national effort so you know thanks McCall BHN for everything that you guys are doing to help get this done.

    Absolutely, thank you. Thanks for having us and letting us share the word.

    We appreciate your time this morning. You guys have a great day and great success for Drug Take Back Day coming up real soon. Thank you both. and great success for Drug Take Back Day coming up real soon. Thank you both. Thanks, Dale. All right, with that we’ll head back to the newsroom. Hey there, Jeff.

  • Problem Gambling – Carissa D’Amico LMSW, ICGC-1, Outpatient Clinician


    8:22 here at FM 97.3 WZBG. Third Wednesday of every month. We visit with folks from McCall Behavioral Health Network. And this time we’re connecting with Carissa D’Amico on the live line. Carissa, good morning. Thanks for joining us.

    Good morning, Dale. Thanks so much for having me on.

    So Carissa is a social worker, and she’s got advanced certifications in gambling addictions. And we’re going to talk about that this morning. You know, there’s so many ways to gamble now. And it seems like it just keeps getting broader and broader. And where people used to have to go to casinos, now you can do casino gambling on your phone. I mean, there’s just so much.

    So problem gambling prevention, it’s time to share some tips this morning. So I imagine that that has made your job considerably busier with all the different ways in which people can gamble and maybe get addicted to it.

    It has.

    We have a bunch of different people from a bunch of different backgrounds that we didn’t have before gambling went on the internet. Right. But gambling can be a fun leisure activity. In order to do that, we do have tips for responsible gambling. Things like setting limits on how much time and money you spend gambling, avoid chasing losses, meaning avoid gambling more to regain the money you might have lost, avoiding gambling while under the influence, taking breaks from gambling, and staying educated about the risks associated with gambling like financial, mental health, relationships, legal problems, work, health, and things like that.

    There’s a lot of advice out there now. I mean, even to their credit, gambling houses or organizations or apps that provide gambling, they do have websites or apps or information to try to keep you from getting into trouble. And that’s all to the good. And I guess the idea here is, the key word here is prevention. So let’s talk about some of those signs that gambling may be coming a problem.

    Yeah, if you’re thinking about gambling or you have a preoccupation with gambling, planning your next gambling event, it might be a problem. If you’re experiencing urges to gamble or lying about gambling, if you have debts from gambling, if you’re borrowing money to gamble or neglecting your responsibilities at work, school, family. And it can also increase mood swings. to get, increase your anxiety or your irritability, then it might be a problem. Right. I would imagine one of the most heartbreaking aspects is, again, when you start neglecting responsibilities, when it starts showing up at work, when it starts showing up, you know, in relationships with your family members and your loved ones, when it gets in the way of that, that is a huge red flag.

    And that’s when things can get tragic because it it goes well outside Just the person who is who is dealing with this addiction and brings a lot more people into the problem

    Yeah gambling is a really big problem It’s getting more popular and people just aren’t as educated about it as is needed since all the changes to how you could gamble. But if you are experiencing an issue related to gambling, help is available. We at McCaw have clinicians who specialize in treating problem gambling. You can also reach out to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling and there’s a 24-hour problem gambling helpline and there’s also peer support groups like Gamblers Anonymous.

    If you’re joining us this morning, Carissa D’Amico is our guest. She’s with the McCall Behavioral Health Network, works out of their Waterbury Clinic. We’re talking about gambling addictions this morning. So when we when we talk about being able to help folks who are dealing with gambling, what’s in the toolbox for McCall? What are some of the things you can bring to bear that can help turn that situation around?

    Yeah, so I can share a little story about someone who came in for treatment. So an individual came to treatment because their partner was pushing them in, and when they came to treatment, they had a vague idea of how gambling was impacting their marriage but not their life. So they decided they might want to cut down on the frequency that they were gambling. So when we worked together, we were able to kind of look at all the areas that it might be impacting, which increases person’s desire to cut back.

    And when we used some of these tools, like creating a budget to decrease gambling debts or debts related to gambling, when we talked about maybe physically being present for your family, but mentally thinking about either the consequences from gambling or the next time you were going to gamble. They kind of, this kind of really helped them to see that they might be more committed to cutting back. So we were able to create a reasonable budget to pay off the debts associated with gambling. to work together so that the marriage could start to be repaired. And this person saw noticeable differences in their life, especially surrounding anxiety, fear, and the distress that gambling caused throughout their daily living.

    So we’re still working on potentially not gambling at all, but a cut down on gambling is a win, so.

    So it sounds like in this particular case the individual wasn’t really consciously aware, fully aware of just how deep in they were. And maybe it takes that objective viewpoint and that treatment between a loved one who intervenes and treatment at McCall to say, let’s look at the seriousness of your situation. Let’s look seriously about where you are right now in your life And and how things are going and I guess that’s got to be quite an eye-opener

    Absolutely, I mean I feel like we all have behaviors that might affect our lives But we can’t always see them clearly when it’s us so just having somebody else to Go back and forth with talk with and really start to see oh, maybe this is impacting my mental health Maybe this is impacting my health. You know different areas that we wouldn’t generally think about.

    Let’s expand on that as we wrap up the show, Carissa. Believe it or not, our time goes very quickly and is wrapping up. Carissa D’Amico is our guest this morning. She’s a social worker with the folks at the McCall Behavioral Health Network with advanced certifications in gambling addictions. In terms of a takeaway, for somebody who may think they may have a gambling problem. Can we leave them with a with a closing thought about how to get towards some help?

    Absolutely, you can always call McCall We’re always happy to help and we’re always happy to work with you on what your goals are We’re not going to push you into never gambling again or do something you don’t want to do We’re going to work with you on what your personal goals are So you come to McCall. Like I said, there’s peer support groups. You can call the problem gambling helpline. And yeah.

    Great place to start.

    All right, Carissa, we certainly appreciate your time.

    And as we said, there is so much pressure to gamble now because there’s so many opportunities to do so that we want to keep folks out of trouble. And if they feel like they’re getting into trouble, get them the help that they need. Thanks for your time this morning and have a great day.

    Thanks, Dale. You too. All right, take care.

    Carissa D’Amico, McCall Behavioral Health Network on this morning’s Carissa D’Amico, McCall Behavioral Health Network on this morning’s edition here on FM 97.3.

  • Engaging Families in their Teen’s Recovery Journey – Laura Cummings, LCSW, CCDP-D, Adolescent Clinical Supervisor


    Third Wednesday of every month, we get a visit with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We’d like to welcome back to the show Laura Cummings, and she is the Director of Clinical Supervisor, Director of Adolescent Services at McCall, and she joins us this morning.

    Good morning, Laura.

    Hi. I’m happy to be here. Thank you. Thanks for joining us.


    We’re going to talk about adolescent services, which of course is right in your wheelhouse. And you know, I guess there’s been a program that you’ve been using at McCall now for about a little bit over a year.


    Yes, that’s correct. Our adolescent services program, we developed an intensive outpatient program and we’ve now been in existence since September 2022. Why did we feel that we needed this? What was the goal here? Or identifying a need? Yeah, there’s a lot going on with young people and families. Winter can be a really difficult time. You know, the holiday stress is over, it’s cold, school problems are becoming more and more obvious as we go into that second half of the school year. So our IOP program, it’s like I said, it’s been running for over a year, it’s proving successful in helping a lot of our youth and our families navigate their problems.

    We do serve ages 13 through 18, as long as the 18-year-old is still in high school. You asked about why we kind of created this intensive outpatient program level of care. A lot of our clients have mental health struggles. There’s depression, there’s anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviors. One statistic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, their website, 49.5% of adolescents have had a mental health disorder at some point in their lives. That’s a high percentage. Yeah, nearly half. Yeah. There’s also substance use. That’s kind of the other side of what we do.

    So a lot of youth struggle with that. Young people come in using marijuana, alcohol, pills, it’s negatively affecting their mental health, their school performance, and their relationships. says, according to SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.2% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 drank alcohol in the past month. 13.8% of adolescents used illicit drugs in the past year. So again, kind of high percentages and substance use is really out there among this younger population.

    At this program being out for just over a year now, did we notice really a surge or a rise post-pandemic? It seems like we’re still toting up the damage from this thing.

    Yeah, yeah. So we kind of came into existence, I think that was part of it. Just kind of the after effects from that and young people trying to get over that. It really did affect the young children negatively.

    How do young people  get into the program? How are they steered toward McCall?

    Yeah, so I’ll give you a little bit of information about our program. We meet for three hours, three afternoons a week. Clients are given skills to improve their current coping with these different types of stressors that we talked about. We teach new ways to change their behaviors, their thinking patterns. That’s kind of the CBT, cognitive behavioral piece, right? The thinking and the behaviors. We teach them how to build up their social support networks. We help them identify alternative healthy coping activities and challenging their thinking patterns. So these are all different skills that we teach.

    Because young people learn differently, we also include art in our program. So some people respond better to, you know, artistic creative ways to kind of bring these concepts into their lives. So we do painting, we do clay, sometimes we do games, or we’ve even included yoga to help the youth kind of learn different ways to heal and cope. And again, different people will respond better to different things.

    Sometimes we have other agencies and other speakers come in and talk about different topics, like internet We offer snacks and fidget toys. And we also do individual sessions every other week with the young person. We can have family sessions once a month. And that’s a really key component as well because a lot of times the young person and their parent or guardian really needs that kind of to talk and open up and move together as a family. And we do provide medication management as well

    I would imagine including the family too so that everybody is really on the same page. Because if you’ve got a child who is struggling, you get them into the program, and in part if they’re struggling because of the situation at home, that whole herd has got to move together if we’re not going to latch back into the same kind of behaviors or practices that got us there in the first place.

    Yes, yes. So that’s why the family piece is really, really key. So if I can, I’d like to just say a little bit, kind of to demystify this whole process, how the initial intake process goes for the new families. Sure. So we begin with a triage phone call. So the parent or guardian can call our office and they’ll do a triage over the phone. They just call our main number, which I’ll just say it’s 860-496-2100. Sure. They get some basic information, answer some kind of safety triage questions, and then they schedule an intake with one of our clinicians.

    At that intake appointment, we sign consents and releases. We do a drug screen. We collect information about what brings the young person to treatment. And then after we’re kind of done gathering information, we can make up a whole comprehensive biopsychosocial history. Together with the parent, we sit down and we make a recommendation for treatment. We decide how we’re going to move forward with the family.

    In addition to our intensive outpatient program, we also offer outpatient level of care, and that level of care is only once a week for an hour. So it’s nice to have that. We can offer both, depending how kind of intense the young person’s problems are at the time. For both levels of care, we create personalized treatment plans with the youth and the family, and that’s how we make sure the goals are appropriate and attainable and they’re important to the youth and the family.

    So if there’s a family out there, if there’s a parent that thinks their child may be struggling and they want to contact McCall, I think they’re being able to express in as much detail as possible their concerns or their fears about what their child may be going through is critical to setting up that personalized care.

    Yeah, their input is really, really key. We’ll also ask them to complete a caregiver survey, which is just written and kind of reinforces what they tell us. So we definitely need their input as well.

    If you’re just joining us, Laura Cummings is clinical supervisor of the Adolescent Services at McCall Behavioral Health Network this morning. We’re talking about their intensive outpatient program for youth ages 13 through 18. Believe it or not, we’re just about out of time on the program. It flies by, right? What’s a practical takeaway that could be most helpful for families in the here and now?

    So one thing we’ve been seeing a lot of lately is parents and youth having difficulty talking with each other. We know that family conversations can get tense. And one important thing is for everyone in the family to be able to take space from each other when they need this. So it’s really important that they tune into their own needs enough so they can recognize when they’re starting to feel upset and need to take that space. They also need ways to calm themselves. And that doesn’t mean that these family conversations will never happen. It just means you need space to realize your emotions are spinning out of control.

    Take that time to get regulated and then come back together and talk when you’re calm enough to access the thinking part of your brain.

    It reminds me of an old adage on the lighter side when families were stuck together during COVID that there was this one particular household they had what they called the hat rule. If there’s a member of the family that’s wearing the hat, they want to be left alone. I like that. Don’t communicate with them just now. Yeah. So I thought it might be a great way for families to communicate or not when that is the key. Yes. Laura, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

    One more time, if you could give the the mainline phone number for McCall Behavioral Health for any family out there that might want to get in touch.

    Yes, sure. It’s 860-496-2100.

    We appreciate your time today. Thank you. Laura Cummings is the clinical supervisor, director of adolescent services at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We visit with them once a month here on FM 97.3. Back to the newsroom. Back to the newsroom.

  • Cultivating Joy – Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, President and CEO


    0:00:00 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    It’s 8:22 on FM 97.3 WZBG. Guest this morning, Executive Director of McCall Behavioral Health Network, Maria Coutant-Skinner. Good morning, Maria.

    0:00:17 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    Good morning, Dale.

    0:00:18 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Welcome to the show.

    0:00:19 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    Thank you.

    0:00:20 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    And, of course, we have an interview once a month with McCall. They have a different theme each month, and it’s interesting. On the heels of what they call Blue Monday. This is going to be a show about encouraging joy and happiness.

    0:00:34 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    That’s how we’re going to roll this morning. I love it. So, I know I asked you right before we came on, is it too corny to start with a knock-knock joke?

    0:00:42 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Not at all. Not on this show.

    0:00:43 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    So, are you ready?

    I’m ready.


    0:00:47 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Who’s there?

    0:00:48 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    Interrupting Cow.

    0:00:49 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Interrupting Cow …MOOO!!   I was going to tell that joke.

    No way.

    0:00:52 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    No Way. I have known that joke since my kids were little.

    0:00:56 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    I love it. My dad told it to me a long time ago. I love it. It’s so silly and ridiculous. And I thought, just like you said, contrasting what’s going on right now in our world, in this climate, in this chapter in our lives, there’s so much intensity, there’s honestly a lot of pain and suffering.

    There is.

    And so, are we being intentional about finding joy? And do we have permission to find these moments of just being silly, being light, and finding some laughter?

    0:01:32 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    I think we have to give ourselves permission to do that. And it really is hard. I mean, because there are so many challenges facing humanity right now, and there have been so many tough hits. COVID was a big one. You know, we still are counting up the damage to people of all ages, but particularly our young people because of the isolation caused by all of that. And that’s just one glaring, you know, low light of what’s become a very anxious and difficulty culture-wise in finding happiness.

    0:02:03 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    So we really gotta work for that, don’t we?

    We do. I think that’s exactly the the right phrasing too. And I think I have this visual of what it’s like right now and it feels like there’s sort of this pressure and intensity and that there’s not a lot of space. And that we have to create some space for that. And how do we do that? We do it by slowing down. We do it by noticing. We do it by naming. So even on the drive over here, I was like, okay, let me take a quick check in of what I’m feeling like, okay, are the roads icy? I’m a little bit nervous. I want to do a good job with Dale. And then I’m like, okay, let me notice that. Let me name that. That’s like, I can feel it right here in my stomach a little bit. Then I noticed the light. It was gorgeous. The winter light. I drove along the Farmington River and the beautiful snow and the trees and everything else. And I’m like, okay, I can make space for that and feel good and at peace right now.

    0:03:06 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    My mantra for this month has been find the sunshine and have an attitude of gratitude. Is that right? I see your… I wrote that down. I said, I got to share that every now and then, because we all are challenged by that, you know? And I find myself looking for the most positive things in my life. I just shared three of them with you.


    My grandkids. And the other is those people that light up our lives, because it’s easy to find kind of a dim view of humanity right now when you look around the globe, but there’s also those bright lights that make us appreciate humanity. So I feel like we need to think more about those people in our lives and their compassion, their empathy, their spirit that help lift us all.

    0:03:57 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    I’m choked up by that.

    0:03:58 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    It’s so beautiful.

    0:03:59 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    It’s daily effort though.

    0:04:00 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    It is.

    0:04:01 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    Oh my goodness, that just resonated with my heart. I think that’s such good advice and definitely, well, that felt like a gift. I’m going to hold that. I see you that way and I don’t have to look far to find those people that bring light and joy. And I think it brings up another thought, which is we have to make a plan. We have to be active participants in our lives to make sure that this is happening. And I, you know, so one thing I thought about was there’s a lot of people that eat three meals a day alone. And loneliness is, that is crushing. And so if we’re actively making sure that we have plans, text that person, you’re not bothering them, call that person, make a plan. You can find the time. Have a meal together. It’s maybe lunch, it’s dinner, but don’t eat three meals a day alone. That’s important to do. Make sure that you’re being that light for somebody else. Do something kind for someone because acts of service give us joy. And you’re probably providing joy for somebody else and being that light for somebody else.

    0:05:09 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Exactly, and it tends to exponentially build on itself and people pay it forward. Breaking bread is of course one of the great cultural touchstones in which we connect. We connect over food and drink. It’s one of the best ways because you’re nourishing the soul and you’re nourishing the body at the same time and you’re connecting. All those things are important. It’s funny you opened with a knock-knock joke because Betty White was born 100 years ago today.

    0:05:38 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Oh, today is Betty White’s birthday.

    I’m sorry, no, it was 102 years ago today. But yeah, today is her birthday. And I was, and she lived to be almost 100.


    And you think about her bringing laughs, and you think about the people that make us laugh. You notice their longevity. Oh my gosh, that’s so true. Betty White’s occasion point, Norman Lear, Mel Brooks.

    And who got a bigger round of applause at the Emmys than Carol Burnett. I know. You know? Yeah. These people that bring us joy, you know, and boy do we need it, right? But those examples are right there. And look at, because they laugh, look at how long they’ve lived, right?

    That’s a great point.

    So another reason to just kind of find the happy, you know, find the sunshine, get that attitude of gratitude. And we know it’s hard.

    0:06:24 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    Yeah. Yeah, I think we want to avoid the traps too because some things I think look like peace, contentment, relaxation, joy, but they might be what distracts or numbs or provides escape. It feels like kind of junk food for our soul, which everybody, you know, a little bit junk food every once in a while is okay, but I think things like drugs, alcohol, disappearing into our screens, binge eating, those are things that we can kind of justify and rationalize and say we deserve it because it’s been a hard time. Maybe there’s been grief or loneliness or divorce or something, but you have this moment of maybe feeling escape and then you end up feeling worse afterwards. So I think the other strategies that we’re talking about this morning are sustaining their nourishing and they’re not those traps that we can sometimes fall into.

    0:07:16 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Make that first place. That’s the first place you go to. And you really open the show with talking about that, getting in touch with yourself. If you’re bothered by something, figure out what it is and own it. And then process it and get back to a happier place. And it’s not always easy to do because it seems like it’s all coming at us at once right now. It’s like, all right, let me see if I can just try to get to the worst of it and sort it out. So, it is a challenge, but it’s one worth taking on.

    0:07:44 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    And I think if you’re doing these things and you still feel like you can’t access it, like laughter feels like you can’t even remember the last time you laughed hard, or if you did then it felt false and you didn’t really feel present and it was so hard to do all of these things.

    Forced. Yeah.

    Then that’s stuff that we can work with at McCall. We can do a screening for depression, anxiety. We can help because you don’t have to stay in that place. That’s a dark, difficult place and you don’t have to stay there. There is help and healing available.

    0:08:20 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Actually a very good way to wrap up our interview, which is just about there. Maria Coutant Skinner is our guest this time. We’re talking about finding that joy as we start the new year. Always great spending time with you.

    0:08:30 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
    Delightful to be with you, Dale. Thank you so much. Delightful to be with you, Dale. Thank you so much.

    0:08:32 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
    Thank you, Maria.

  • Giving and Receiving the Gift of Compassion – Alicia Peterson, RSS, Family Recovery Coach, and Marisa Mittelstaedt, MBA, Director of Development and Marketing


    8:22 and FM 97.3 WZBG. Once a month we visit with folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. This time we’re crowding up close to Christmas. So our topic today is really very timely. We’re joined at the microphones by Marissa Middlestats. She’s Director of Development and Marketing. Good morning Marissa. Good morning. Welcome back.

    Welcome back.

    Thanks for having us.

    And also a welcome to Alicia Peterson. She is a family recovery coach with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Good morning, Alicia.

    Good morning.

    Thanks for joining us on the program. So, we are right here in, really in the absolute thick of it, in the holiday rush. And there’s a lot going on for folks who have loved ones among them who are battling substance or just troubled with what’s going on with the stress of the holiday. We want to try to get a little bit of help here, some tips on how to navigate this and make it as good a holiday as possible. So how do we open this? How do we begin? For families that are in the midst of this, let’s try to set the mental state.

    Absolutely. The holidays can be a really stressful time for anyone, but especially if you have someone in your family or a loved one who is struggling with substance use. I am actually the family recovery coach at McCall Behavioral Health Network, and I can work individually with people to help them create boundaries, communicate effectively, listen with empathy to their family members. And I’m available Monday through Friday, so anytime anyone needs help, they are more than welcome to get in touch with me. In addition to that, I am a person who is in long-term recovery, and I also have been in a family full of people who struggle with substance use disorder my entire life. I lost my father, my husband, my son’s father, and my sister all within a two-year period. I know how stressful holidays can be.

    Wow, I would say so. First off, sorry for your loss. It’s immense. That is a whole lot.

    Thank you. And I think your first point, managing expectations, is probably key here.

    It’s a good way to start.

    Absolutely. I think our society as a whole, we pay a lot of attention to social media and try to come up with the perfect holiday, the ideal holiday, and we have to be aware that there is no such thing. And to just be mindful of the things that you enjoy doing, not to overwhelm yourself with saying yes to every invitation and everything that other people expect from you, and to just take it slow. Sometimes it’s important to ask your family member or loved one if they’re trying to cut down their usage, what you can do to help support them. Coming up with new traditions, possibly alcohol and drug-free to help support that person, that is all key in this situation.

    I’m listening to your statement right there and I was about to say how important is flexibility during the holiday season and you pretty much articulated it very, very well. Manage your expectations, but also you’ve got to go with the flow. As we know from people who are in substance in the battle, one day can differ very largely from the next in terms of what they think they can tolerate and resist. You’ve got to go and meet that where they are, right? Exactly.

    On a day-to-day basis. Yes, meeting people exactly where they are. That’s what we do here at McCall’s, and that’s what I do in my personal life too. Our expectations are the biggest thing. We can’t have expectations of other people. We can just manage how we feel and how we act.

    So take it day by day and this is a good time if you’re planning a holiday and you’ve got the family in and you’re going to celebrate with family and you do have some issues, steel yourself and take some of these cues that we just talked about. Set some boundaries that work for you. Be flexible. Try some new traditions. And just be realistic about what the holiday is. The fact that you’re all together and you’re celebrating together, start with that. Everything else is gravy or frosting on the cake or what have you. Absolutely. Our guest this morning, Alicia Peterson, she’s a family recovery coach with McCall Behavioral Health Network. This is the Giving Season 2, and Marissa’s here to join us a little bit. We talked a little bit about this last year. You know, I think there’s a greater awareness, and there should be, of the mental health stress that our population is under. That is what the McCall Behavioral Health Network is all about.

    And there’s a way in which people can help support that through McCall VHN. Yeah, this year through our annual appeal we’re raising money for children, so of all ages, and seniors. You know, when we look at who is really experiencing, you know, really, they’re really struggling right now and oftentimes they can’t necessarily speak for themselves. Right. So we are raising money to support our programs, you know, for those two populations.

    I didn’t realize, I’m just looking at one of the statistics, half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin before the age of 14.


    So, early intervention or early awareness really is key, isn’t it?

    Exactly. It’s really important. And it’s, when you look at statistics too, 23% of Connecticut residents, you know, aren’t getting the mental health support that they need. So yeah, that early intervention is key and having the programs to support, you know, these early interventions are really important. You know, we’re really looking and need our community to help us support, you know, these populations and all the people that we serve.

    If they want to do that, the easy way to do that, if you wanted to, somebody wanted to support, make a donation, what’s the best way to do it?

    Yeah, it’s really easy. Just go to our website, slash donate. You can pay by credit card. And yeah, we just really are so grateful for all of the support from our community.

    And nearly one in four Connecticut residents have had some symptoms of mental health disorder. One in four. Yeah. That’s a lot. And during the holiday, it’s even more tough because it just exponentially piles on.

    Exactly. Yeah, the stress of the holidays and all of it. So, you know, whether you are able to donate or you’re looking for help for yourself, you know, please reach out to us. We’re here, you know, anytime that you need support.

    I’m going to circle back to you, Alicia, just to hit those primary points again for folks who have a family that is managing crisis or trying to manage substance about how best to have the best holiday possible.

    Okay. Setting boundaries, communicating how you feel, taking time for yourself. If you need to step away for 10 minutes or ask somebody to help you, that is okay. Giving yourself grace and managing your own expectations are key to get through the holidays. Be realistic.

    Yeah, absolutely. I want to thank our guests this morning joining us ahead of the holiday. We hope this has been helpful. Marissa Middlestadt is Director of Development and Marketing. Alicia Peterson is a Family Recovery Coach with McCall Behavioral Health Network. Best of the holiday to you both and to everyone at McCall for all the great work you guys do. And we look forward to seeing you in 2024. Thank you. Thank you. great work you guys do. And we look forward to seeing you in 2024. Thank you. Thank you.

    Happy holidays.

  • 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.