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


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

    Good morning, Dale. Good to be here.

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

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

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

    Excellent point. Yes, most definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I do.

    And the appropriateness. Share that with us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you Dale.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hopefully I’ll be back soon.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Problem Gambling Disorder – Carissa DAmico, BS ICGC-1, Counselor

    822 on FM 97.3 WZBG. And the third Wednesday of the month, we pay a visit to the folks at the McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Help, Inc. This time, Counselor Carissa D’Amico is our guest. Carissa, good morning. Good morning, Gail. Thanks so much for having me. Glad to have you on the show. Glad you could join us. We’re going to talk about problem gambling disorder this morning with Carissa.

    We’re going to talk about problem gambling disorder this morning with Carissa. Just as a way of opening things up here, Carissa, how’s gambling changed since COVID-19 and the legalization of sports betting here, which became legal about a year ago? Yeah, so exactly one year ago today, sports betting became legalized in Connecticut. And between COVID and the legalization of sports betting, we’ve seen kind of a change in the face of gambling. So over COVID-19, casino gambling decreased quite a bit. And with the legalization of sports betting, we’re seeing an increase in online betting. And this has also changed the demographic. So a wider demographic is reached, especially for women, who used to use a lot of slot machines historically.

    for women who used to use a lot of slot machines historically and now they’re moving over to sports betting and online betting. So Connecticut is seen is now ranked ninth in overall sports betting even surpassing Colorado that has a much bigger population, approximately 2.2 million more people than Connecticut. Wow, that’s a lot for a small state. You know we think of gambling as Wow, that’s a lot for a small state. You know, we think of gambling as being in a casino, but let’s flesh that out. It’s much broader than that, isn’t it? Yeah, so gambling can include scratch-off tickets, bingo, raffles, even office pools, and then of course we have sports betting and gaming, And gaming, which was under the gambling umbrella but has become such a bigger issue, especially over COVID, that we’ve kind of now separated the two.

    But gaming can lead to gambling later in life. And I know, especially with COVID-19, gaming has been more prevalent than before. Now, I understand as a parent, you’ve got some worry of your own of this. As a parent, you’ve got some worry of your own of this. You’ve experienced this kind of anxiety on this issue. Oh, absolutely. So in my own life, my son, over COVID-19, I would give him money for his video games to purchase these loot boxes. And I thought, hey, he can’t socialize with kids, so he can go on this game and at least socialize with some other kids.

    and at least socialize with some other kids. And then as I continued with my training in gambling and my continuing education, we’re starting to see that it mimics gambling very much. The same areas of the brain are affected. It lets off the same kind of dopamine when they see what’s in these loot boxes or what they want. So it’s definitely a concern, and we are seeing that later in life it leads to other gambling issues. and we are seeing that later in life it leads to other gambling issues. Okay, so yeah, it is a kind of a leading edge of addiction. Our guest this morning is Carissa D’Amico. She’s a counselor with the McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Health, Inc.

    We’re talking about problem gambling disorder. So, you know, lots of people game, but how do you know when you’ve got a problem, Carissa? Yeah, so gambling and gaming look different for everyone. and gaming look different for everyone. So I’ve seen some people who owe money to the casinos, tens of thousands of dollars to casinos. I’ve seen people get in legal trouble because of this. And then there’s other people who have just spent some extra income. Maybe they don’t want to tell their spouse, hey, I spent that extra money on scratch-offs.

    Or maybe they just notice, hey, I’m spending too much money, this money could go elsewhere. Maybe they just notice, hey, I’m spending too much money. This money could go elsewhere. So it’s very different for everyone. It can – so some of the red flags to look for is needing to gamble with more money to get that same feeling of excitement. Having difficulty cutting back, seeing problems with your relationships, trying to win back win-back losses and very important is gambling to escape feelings, even feelings like boredom or stress.

    You know, the interesting thing here, Carissa, is that the symptoms you’re describing here are very much a mirror image of the same kinds of addictive behaviors that trouble a lot of people. And maybe you don’t think of gambling as being something that has a lot of the same correlation, but clearly it does. something that has a lot of the same correlation, but clearly it does. So with that, what kind of tools can McCall bring to bear to help out? Yeah, so we can help anyone who thinks they have maybe a bit of a problem relationship with gambling, or maybe gambling has just started to become a bit negative. So we can help the individual who might be having a problem.

    We can help the families who say, hey, I think someone has a problem and it’s affecting me We can help the families who say, hey, I think someone has a problem and it’s affecting me and my feeling. So we really serve a broad community of people. And we can provide counseling. We can just provide education so you can see if maybe you have a problem or someone has a problem. I guess this time, Carissa and D’Amico, we’re talking about problem gambling disorder. Carissa, our time grows a little bit short. I wanted to give you a chance to just sum up anything we may have left out on this topic that we can share right now and any closing thoughts and, of course, that important contact information.

    If there’s someone out there who’s hearing this and thinking to themselves, oh my gosh, you’re talking about me. Yeah, so if you have a problem, don’t wait. It’s a lot more common than people think. It doesn’t need to be a secret. And so if you or a loved one would like any support, you can call McCall Renato Outpatient Service at 203-754-0322. McCall Behavioral Health Network, so, or on Facebook or Instagram at mccall.bhn. Well, I hope people will take advantage of the services that are available before problem gambling disorder just really makes more of a problem in their lives.

    Carissa, we appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for being our guest, and best to you and, of course, the folks at McCall Center of Behavioral Health. Thank you, sir. Thanks so much. Thank you. course folks at McCall Center Behavioral Health. Thank you, sir. Thanks so much. Thank you. You have a great day. You as well. Take care. Carissa D’Amico, counselor with the McCall Center. Our guest this time here on FM 97.3 WZBG. And again, you can give a call to McCall Center 860-496-2100 and their new website address That’s

    Back to the newsroom with Jeff, next.

  • Adolescent Mental Health Trends & Support – Laura Cummings, LCSW, CCDP-D, Adolescent Clinical Supervisor

    FM 97.3 WZBG, third Wednesday of the month. We get a visit with the folks from the McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Help, Inc. Our timing is good on this one because kids have just gone back to school. Our guest this time is Laura Cummings. She’s clinical supervisor for the adolescent treatment programs at McCollin Health Inc. This is a new position, isn’t it? It is, yes. I’m happy to be here. Thank you. So they’re broadening these services, and as school is starting back up again, this comes at a very critical time, doesn’t it?

    It does, yes. A lot of families are very anxious about school starting back up again, as well as the children. Right. Well, you know, we had COVID, of course, which had children learning from home and we’re still adding up, I think, the lack of a better term, damage that that was for kids and adolescents with anxiety. Talk about some of those issues and some of those problems that we’ve seen. Yeah, so the CDC Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey found that 37% of students experienced regular mental health struggles during the pandemic. One other statistic, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in children’s mental health in October 2021.

    They found an increase in anxiety, depression, suicidal behaviors, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Yeah, there’s a lot going on there. It seems ironic that, you know, we’ve got a population of young people that have grown up on electronic devices and screens, but we have learned the value of face-to-face human contact when that is lost. Yes, and so many of those young people missed years of that. They were at home learning, and they were kept away from family and friends, as well as the losses they experienced. Young people had people in their family pass away, people that they knew, people were afraid of going out and getting sick. Right. Yes. So as parents take on this, I mean there’s a semi return to normalcy now, but there’s also, like we said, we’ve got to we’ve got to come to grips with those issues that we’ve just outlined and there are some tools in which we can start to use to do that. The good news is I do think the adults are paying attention. For example, we’re here talking about this right now on the radio.

    I think schools, legislators, parents, all the adults that work with the young people are all looking for different ways to try to help them, as well as the young people themselves. This time of life with adolescents and their parents is not always the most communicative time. This is when it can be a challenge, but this is the time when we need to engage the most right I agree yes parents often ask us What’s the most important way for them to help their child? What’s the most important thing for them to know I think I would give two pieces of advice The first thing is we as parents have to make sure that we deal with our own stuff first So how do you know if that’s something that you need to do. I think if you have an emotional reaction that doesn’t match the situation that you’re dealing with, you want to ask yourself why. Are you being reminded of something unresolved from your own youth, or is there some issue that you need to work through? Because until you kind of do that work, it’s going to keep resurfacing and getting in the way of your relationship with your child.

    The second thing is keep talking to your youth. I think, you know, young people’s job is to try to push away from their parents and start to forge their own identities. But as their parent, that can be painful. So I think you need to know that that’s something they’re supposed to be doing and continue to be there for them. Continue talking. Continue having that conversation. Ask questions even when they push away and stay involved. What makes it kind of difficult too, especially when you’ve got that communication divide, is you’ve got to be careful not to push too hard too, because then their natural resistance is going to be to push the other way.

    So you’ve really got to go into this with kind of a soft understanding touch, don’t you? That’s very true, yes. Yes. So you can start to let them set some of those boundaries as well. As long as it’s not a safety issue, I think just let them know that you’re there, you’re available, and you want to know. And just keep the conversation lines open. Parents don’t always have all the answers, so how do they maybe know when counseling can help and what might be available toward that route? Well, I think if you’re wondering could my child benefit from counseling, the answer is probably yes. You as a parent know your child best, so if there’s part of you that’s thinking that, there’s probably a good reason. At McCall, we do have multiple levels of services.

    And a lot of people connect us with addiction, but there doesn’t have to be addiction involved either. We can also treat depression, anxiety, vaping, mental health issues. What we do when a family calls us, we do a comprehensive intake, and then we would determine which level of care your child needs. Important stuff because parents quite often don’t know really how deep the problem might be. They know they can only get to a certain level in it and then, you know, it’s like, okay, we’ve got to call in the professionals and see if they can help us with this. We started talking about the counseling thing and I smiled because my son underwent some counseling back when he was in high school and had some issues and stuff.

    And one of my big takeaways was, he was talking to the counselor, and when we would ask what they discussed, he’d say, that’s between me and the counselor. And it was a wake-up call that sometimes they need that objective outside person that they can then share whatever’s going on. Sometimes ask who outside mom and dad. Yeah, it can be a safe place where they are starting to develop their own, that adult identity that we talked about.

    So they’re starting to, you know, learn what their own morals are and where they want to go as an adult. And that is really, really key. And in your profession too, by the way, if you’re just joining us, Laura Cummings is clinical supervisor for the adolescent treatment programs at McCall Center and Health, Inc. So much of what we know about McCall and the way in which they treat people who are dealing with issues is, most often it’s personalized.

    There’s no, you know, rote way to deal with something. You’ve really got to take everything on an individual basis, don’t you? Yep. We create personalized treatment plans with each youth and family. So the youth and families’ feedback is key there. They make their own goals. It’s appropriate, it’s attainable, and it’s what’s important to them. It’s their own goals. Just one last comment from you please Laura. Laura Cummings, our clinical supervisor for adolescent treatment. Parents out there listening, maybe joining the interview late, just leave them with a piece of advice if they think that their child might be suffering and what they can do about it.

    I think that they can just again keep the lines of communication open. Ask your child. That’s the most important thing and see what they say and just really let them know that they’re safe with you, you’re there for them, you love them, and you’re going to do whatever you can to try to help them. Great to have you on the show today. I hope we get a chance to revisit this topic and hopefully our young people who are dealing with a lot right now, hopefully they’re going to get on a more positive path going forward. Laura, thanks for being here. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Laura Cummings, our guest this time. Clinical supervisor for adolescent treatment at the McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Health, Inc. At 8.30, we’re going to head back to the newsroom. Hey, Jeff.

  • Overdose Awareness & Harm Reduction – Lauren Pristo, MPH, Director of Community Engagement, Litchfield County Opiate Task Force

    It’s 821 on FM 97.3 WCBG. Once a month we catch up with the folks from McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Health Inc. And they’re part of, of course, a network of different groups that are battling the addiction epidemic that is still just raging across this country. This time, talking with Lauren Pristo, she’s the Director of Community Engagement with the Litchfield County Opioid Task Force. And I was surprised, Lauren, that it’s now four years you’ve been in that position, how time flies.

    Oh, I know, it’s been such a great and heartbreaking, but impactful experience. Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot that you guys are trying to do every day, and to speak to the heartbreaking part of it four years later there’s no sign of this fight going away is there? No, unfortunately both across Connecticut and nationally year-over-year we’re seeing overdose rates go up and up in Connecticut in 2021 we lost more than 1,500 people to overdose and nationally over a hundred thousand we’re seeing rates go up amongst teens and not because teens are experimenting more, they’re actually experimenting less.

    But the drug supply is so dangerous now. There’s fentanyl, there’s synthetic opioids being added to just about every drug you can get on the street. Everything from pressed pills made to look like a pharmaceutical to the heroin to cocaine. It’s very dangerous out there. So you can’t really afford to experiment because something that you think was a garden variety opioid that perhaps you took in the past can kill you because of what it’s injected with now.

    Right, yep, now even things like Xanax that are purchased on the street, those might contain fentanyl or another synthetic opioid that could kill somebody. Wow, so I want to get back to one statistic. Nationally, a hundred thousand deaths? A hundred thousand deaths. Devastating, isn’t it? That is just incredible. So we do have a little bit of a brighter spot here in Litchfield County, right? Our rates are slightly better? Yeah, in Litchfield County, we were the only county to go down. So we’re fortunate to see a decrease, but you know, I want to be cautiously optimistic that we’ve seen this decrease now for two years, but we’re still losing a lot of our neighbors and we’re still seeing a high rate of non-fatal overdoses.

    But part of that decrease could be due to the increase of naloxone availability in the community and access to things like treatment and other resources. What does naloxone do, for those who may not know? Naloxone, sometimes referred to as Narcan, is opioid reversal medication or an overdose reversal medication. So somebody who is experiencing an overdose, it goes and blocks the receptors to help reverse that overdose. How important has this been in saving lives? It’s absolutely instrumental. None of, I shouldn’t say none of, but many, many folks who are alive today are alive thanks to naloxone. There’s actually a story I would like to share about that. Sure. There was this profound moment, I was just speaking with Maria, our CEO about this.

    There was this moment that really struck both of us where in one of our Litchfield County Opioid Task Force meetings, we were talking about naloxone and how important it is and how important it is for people to have it on hand and have multiple doses and the opportunity to have multiple reversals because there’s often a sentiment where people are like, you know, maybe stop reversing people after the third time, fourth time and this conversation was going on and one gentleman raises his hand and he says, if it wasn’t for multiple reversals with naloxone, I would not be here today. And this is somebody who is doing amazing work, life-saving work.

    And then after that, around the room, hand after hand went up of folks who you would never suspect saying, yes, it was five times, six times, three times that it took. You know, that many times that they were so close to death that if naloxone wasn’t available, they wouldn’t be here doing this amazing work that they’re doing today. So it’s a misnomer to think that kind of a one and done. All right, we saved your life with naloxone. That was your shot. You know, don’t blow it. Don’t let it happen a second time. It may happen a second, third, fourth, fifth time.

    Right. And maybe that fifth, sixth, seventh time is when that reversal for them, that moving toward life again begins. Exactly, and to think about how amazing the potential for human life is, and all the great work that wouldn’t have been done if they weren’t here with us. So that’s one of the most important resources because that is a medicinal application that works and saves lives.

    Immediate access to treatment, we gotta be able to have that available and partnered with that, I guess, support for families. Exactly. And if people want immediate access to care, McCall has a mobile wellness van that’s out in the community where folks can show up. They just need to walk up and say, I’m ready for treatment. And the folks on that van can connect them with medication. They can get them set up with a therapist and go from there. And then we also have supports for families because families are often the folks that are supporting someone who uses drugs and it’s a it’s a tough role and so having that support we have support groups we have coaches who can help the family get through that. Our guest this morning Lauren Pristo she’s director of community engagement with McCall Center Behavioral Health and Hill Bank and known of course for her role with Litchfield County Opioid Task Force, there’s going to be a vigil to mark some, or to raise some awareness about overdose.

    And I think when you’re, you know, COVID is still part of our lives. We’re battling inflation, you know, there’s a drought going on. There’s a lot of distractions, but this fight isn’t going away and it seems to be getting worse, right? Right, and with those devastating increases, it’s so important that we remember the lives that we’ve lost to overdose. And hopefully folks can come down at Copark to our vigil.

    It’s August 31st, 6 to 8. We have a resource fair with all those resources available for folks, followed by a candlelit vigil where we read the names and remember the people we’ve lost. And information on the website and on the Facebook page as well. Where can people find that for those looking? Yep, absolutely. It’s on the McCall page. It’s also on the task force page, so It’s on our Facebook, so please, please come. Lauren, thanks for being our guest today, and again, that upcoming overdose awareness vigil is happening October 31st, August 31st. I missed a month there. And what time is that again? Six to eight. Six to eight o’clock. Lauren, thanks for being our guest and thank you for all the work you do, you folks at the LCOTF and also McCall and Help, Inc. as well.

    Yes, thank you so much. Thanks for being our guest and have a great day. Getting back to the newsroom with Jeff, we go there in just about 90 seconds.

  • PTSD – Healing from Trauma – Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW CEO

    Hey 22 on FM 97.3 W ZBG. As we get going here this morning, we want to welcome from the McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Health Inc. CEO Maria Crutant Skinner joins us this morning. Always a pleasure to have you on the show, Maria. Good morning, Taylor. Really nice to be with you. Glad to have you with us this morning. Busy time going on for you guys. What’s going on with helping and that get together and broadening your reach and the folks in which you can serve in Western Connecticut. So some very good news. We’re glad to follow that this morning. We’re going to do something this morning where we kind of take a turn that’s not usually applied to the fight against substance or the fight against addiction. PTSD, which is something that we usually attribute to those who have experienced traumatic, you know, armed services in the military, you know, seen battle, that kind of things. We usually associate PTSD with that. But this time we’re going to look at it as it relates to folks who are in that fight. So let’s define it at first and broaden that definition of PTSD. Yeah. So I think if you’re a human being, you have experienced trauma. And we look at that there’s obviously varying degrees of trauma. Sometimes we look at it as like a capital T trauma or a lowercase T trauma to kind of distinguish. We also think of, I think a lot of people are familiar with sort of the difference between an active omission versus an active co-mission. So there are things that we experience just by virtue of being a human being. It could be growing up maybe you had a parent who struggled with depression.

    And so it was, you know, you were some of your needs were not met. And that was not intentional. It wasn’t cruel. But there was trauma associated with that. Many of us have been in a fender bender accident. That’s a low T trauma. But those examples are some things that we can recognize that for a brief period of time in that that fender bender accident, we can relate to somebody who maybe has experienced a capital T trauma. So for example, you could be in that fender bender and be nervous to be driving. You could replay the accident over and over and over. You can have some trouble sleeping. But what we can usually do is metabolize that all the way through and have that processed. And that’s how we’re designed. But for many of us, the traumas can be stuck. Maybe you’re in a relationship where you don’t feel completely safe. You’re okay until the person walks through the door and then you can feel in your body that your tense things can be okay through dinner. But maybe doing the dishes, this person is triggered and they get angry and now you’re on edge and you’re doing everything possible to keep yourself and the people around you. Maybe your children safe. Yeah, living with that kind of situation. So these are things that people experience the day to day and we look for ways to cope with that. So there’s a strong connection between trauma and coping mechanisms as well as manifestation of mental health symptoms. So a coping mechanism could be drinking or using drugs or it could be the manifestation like anxiety. So these are a lot of the things that we talk about in the behavioral health field. As we’ve had professionals from your group come in and talk to us, one of the things we really dig into is trying to get to the root of that small tea trauma. Yeah. Because lots of times we bury that stuff. That’s right. We deny it. We downplay it. We shrug it off or we think we shrug it off. Yeah. And it takes a while to get to the root of that. Let’s talk about that process. I feel so right deal because none of us want to think that we’re victims of our circumstances. Sure. And there’s actual neurobiological reasons why we do that. We sometimes worry that we’ll be overwhelmed. And so we say I’m just going to stuff that. Oh my god, you don’t want to open that candle worms. Like people get really worried about that. But actually what we don’t acknowledge will haunt us. And it comes out sideways a lot of times. So if you recognize that you have an overreaction to what could be a small situation, it doesn’t match. So a really common example is you’re in traffic and you get really mad because somebody cuts you off. And it doesn’t match that situation. There’s something unresolved and stuck. Yeah. That’s in there that needs to be processed. And those examples are really minor and really common. And also part of being human. But there always our body tells us a story every single time that that there’s healing work to be done. And the healing work is possible. Let’s get to how we we get to that healing. If you’re just joining us are guests this morning from the McCulls Center for Behavioral Health and help Inc. Maria Kutant Skinner executive director there. We’re talking about PTSD and how that relates to folks who are in the fight with addiction. And in that substance vicious circle that they’re trying to escape from. So getting to the root of it. I know you have several different modalities in which you try to reach that place where people can recognize that trauma small T or large T and begin to then work through it. Yeah. So we do and I want to get to that and it’s so important. I also want to tell you a story that’s because I think I relate to the world in story. So sometimes to really have an illustration of what this looks like is helpful. So we had a fire at our inpatient facility in Watterberry on Sunday. Everybody is okay. Physically. And what we noticed is that this was this was a very scary situation. Nobody was upstairs in the dorm where the fire was started. It was electrical. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was wiring from air conditioning running during heat wave in a building that’s very old and also well built. So thank goodness the Watterberry fire department got there quickly and put the fire out. But people that windows were blowing out and exploding and the building very quickly filled up with smoke and people were getting out to people who were in a different dorm left via fire escape and some of the people in the front of the building who were witnessing the dorm being engulfed in flames and the windows blowing out were terrified that their friends were still inside.

    So I think we can all imagine ourselves in that situation standing in front of a building. Fire flames coming out and you’re terrified that you have people inside of you care about. Terrifying. That situation was processed differently based on temperament of the person who witnessed it. Where they were standing and what they saw, their past experiences and how well-resourced they were in the moment and also critically what happened afterwards. So we were able to bring everybody in together. We have staff really skilled who are very compassionate who know these people and they were able to help and the guys all, all men, facility, all male facility. Their peers supported one another. They said we’re all okay. We’re here. They stayed together for many hours afterwards through the night and comforted one another. All of those subsequent steps meant that for the long term they will be okay. We continue to process that with them. It has brought up some of the stuff that they’ve experienced even in their childhood that they’re now talking about with their therapists. So we have all kinds of modalities. Some are talk therapy but a lot of it is actually figuring out where in the body those experiences are stuck and how we can help folks metabolize and heal. So that event really was emblematic of the longer practice of what you employ at McCulls Center. It’s a good way to finish as we do get short on time here but I’d really love to be visiting this topic because like you said I think we’ve all got some small tea events, some large tea events. And everybody could use a little insight in how to get past that or how to work through it. So I’d like to do this again.

    I appreciate that. We do have, you know, we’re part of the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation Northwest Gives and especially with the fire that we just had if anyone is inspired to help us do that healing work. And we have some really big challenges ahead of us in the next six to seven months as we have to now rebuild our inpatient building. This is an opportunity for people to help us do that work. And I guess also want to mention that if you are identifying with any of these or you have a loved one who’s identifying with any of those experiences where they have some healing work that needs to be done, we are here and we have skilled people able to receive you. You do not have to be struggling with an addiction. It could be anxiety, it could be depression. Any of the trauma symptoms that we talked about, we have staff ready to help you heal. Maria, thanks for being our guest this morning. Thank you so much, Dale. The website is McCall center CT dot org and enjoy this beautiful summer weather and we’re glad everybody down to the water. But facility got out safe. Thank you so much. With that we head back to the newsroom. Get your bottom hour update. Hey Jeff. Hello, Dale. Thank you.