Roger Anderson Recognized for Service

Roger Anderson, CSW, LICSW, a healthcare administrator with Behavioral Health Network, has volunteered on CHD’s Human Rights Committee since 1988. On June 20, 2018, Roger was recognized for his three decades of service—quite appropriately, during a meeting of the Human Rights Committee.

“Originally, I was interested in working on the Human Rights Committee because, in the kind of work we do, we have a lot of control over people’s lives,” said Anderson, who has more than 42 years of diverse professional experience as a clinical social worker and administrator. “The level of care available allows us to do a lot of good for people, but we have to be careful we don’t inadvertently or accidentally overuse it. The protective role of the Committee is to help ensure that in providing appropriate care we don’t take away something from a person that we don’t want taken and that shouldn’t be taken.”

CHD’s Human Rights Committee is an open, transparent and impartial review board that works to ensure the human rights of persons supported by CHD. The Committee is comprised entirely of volunteers who are not CHD employees and who have no monetary interest in the organization. Members serve the important role of protecting those in CHD’s care who may not have the intellectual or mental capacity to protect themselves. The seven-member Committee, which includes consumers, allied health professionals (such as Anderson), a nurse and two attorneys, can serve in a variety of roles, including adviser, advocate, investigator and change agent.

According to Anderson, there are many situations that may give rise to reviews by the Human Rights Committee. “Some people, for their own protection, need to have their activities restricted,” he said. “For example, someone at risk of wandering off in the middle of the night may need an alarm on their bedroom door to alert staff if they leave the room. Someone at risk of a medical emergency may need regular checks during the night, which necessitates invading their privacy to check in on them. Someone who has self-injurious behaviors may need to wear a protective device such as a helmet to prevent causing themselves harm. Someone who has Pica, an eating disorder, can’t have free access to food. We have to consider whether the need of the person to be protected and our obligation to keep them healthy and safe outweighs their access to a certain activity or to something like food.”

Another factor that members of the Committee may need to address is the dignity of taking risks. “If we keep people too safe,” said Anderson, “we limit their opportunity to learn and be fully functioning human beings. To keep people safe can involve a lot of motivations. We can seek to keep them safe because they deserve it or because if someone gets hurt there could be an investigation from funding agency which involves time and cost. But keeping someone safe can’t unnecessarily limit fun or personal growth by preventing them from participating in an activity just because it entails risk. If people are capable of making an informed decision about their behavior, there could also be a legal issue.”

As Anderson’s career has evolved over 30 years, his work on the Human Rights Committee has been a welcome constant. “It’s kept me kind of grounded and aware of the serious work that gets done with the people served by agencies such as CHD,” he said. “This has been especially true as I’ve gotten more involved in program administration and moved gradually farther from direct care. Working on the Committee is a good way to stay aware of the work that’s actually happening with people, and how difficult it can be. Over years I’ve found that we’re wading through more tedious administrative tasks, such as reviewing documents, but then there are times you can feel you have done something to make someone’s life better. CHD is in business to make lives better and the Committee is there to confirm that it’s the case. As a member, I get to step into a situation, learn about it, make an impact, and then step back. It can be interesting and rewarding work to have a positive impact on someone’s life.”

On June 20, 2018, Roger Anderson, CSW, LICSW, was recognized for his 30 years of dedicated service on the Human Rights Committee for CHD. Left to right: Kenneth Morey, Human Rights Coordinator for CHD; Lois Nesci, Chief Operating Officer for CHD; Roger Anderson, CHD’s Human Rights Committee Clinician

A Peer Mentor Gives Back

“My name is Jerome Jenkins. At age 19, I experienced my first mental breakdown. There was help when I needed it, and now I’m on the side of providing help to others.”

Jerome came to know CHD as a client receiving services to support his mental wellness. Today he shares his lived experience with CHD clients as an embedded Peer Mentor.

Now 31, Jerome recalled what it was like when he was first diagnosed with a mental health condition. “My mind was out of balance and I didn’t have a clue why. I was anxious, paranoid and incapable of functioning normally in the community. As a result, I was committed to a hospital. It was my first such experience and I felt captured. I felt the need to escape.”

Following treatment, Jerome was released from the hospital and prescribed medicine and counseling to help manage his mental health, but he remembers feeling stuck with life. “I was no longer the strong, creative, fun person that my family and friends knew me to be,” he said. “I had become mentally weak, physically weak. I was incapable of working at my job in a home improvement store. I would avoid the customers, hide in my car, and hide in employee bathrooms. When my employer found out, I was fired. Then for two or three years I wouldn’t leave my mother’s basement. I put limits on myself and wouldn’t do things a person my age would normally do. It was a ‘Why me?’ type situation.”

Through a referral, Jerome was introduced to CHD and Candace Pennington, Program Manager for CHD Adult Mental Health/Springfield. “It was a blessing,” said Jerome. “Candy listened to what I wanted to accomplish in my life and was supportive of my goals and dreams. I remember that she laughed at my jokes! She didn’t treat me like a mental health patient.”

“Seeing how far Jerome has come makes me feel good about what I do,” said Candace. “Jerome came back to CHD to work for us at the time when the peer model was a new idea.”

The peer model concept is simple: people with lived experience of a given condition are uniquely positioned to provide support and guidance to others experiencing that condition. Because they’ve ‘been there’ and made substantial progress, they can help others to make progress in living successfully. In his role as an embedded Peer Mentor working at CHD Bonnyview House in Springfield, Jerome uses his lived experience to help clients see a way forward in managing their mental wellness.

“I work in a CHD residential program that assists people in their individual journey by being supportive of their goals,” Jerome explained. “We talk a lot about goals. I share things I’m doing in my life that maybe the clients can take on in their lives as well. We talk about how they should handle things, like relationships. We also do bonding activities, like playing basketball and eating together, to help us build a genuine relationship with the clients.”

Jerome continues to see a therapist and he’s doing well. Soon he will complete his Associate’s degree in Business Entrepreneurship at STCC. In a field study class, he connected with a mentor in music production who has taken him under his wing. He is looking for a second mentor to help with business.

“I want to work behind the scenes in the music business,” he explained. “My goal is to build a business by using social media to make impressions on a large number of people, start an e-commerce store, and get a music studio to do sound engineering.”
What advice does Jerome offer for young adults who aren’t completely comfortable with their own mental health? “It’s important to feel comfortable getting help that you need it, so when your emotional wellness isn’t right, ask for help. You should never be embarrassed to get help. Ask CHD. There was help for me when I needed it. And now I’m on the side of providing that help to others.”

April 5 is National Alcohol Screening Day

National Alcohol Screening Day, an initiative of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is an annual event to increase public awareness that alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency (alcoholism) are recognized disorders which can be treated. To support public awareness of this event, CHD is encouraging anyone concerned about alcohol abuse—either their own or that of a loved one—to take a free, anonymous alcohol screening.

The screening offers one version for the general public and specialized versions for college students and members of the military, which are two demographic groups at higher-than-average risk for problems with alcohol use.

Take the Screening

“The alcohol screening is a useful tool for self-evaluation,” said Kimberley A. Lee, VP of Development for CHD.  “It is completely anonymous so it is not saved or sent to any organization, but if you are concerned with the results and want to talk, you can call 844-CHD-HELP. Our team is prepared to help persons dealing with alcohol problems by guiding them to appropriate supports such as counseling and addiction recovery services.”

According to NIH, alcohol abuse can lead to many recognized health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as well as problems with relationships, performance at work, and dangerous behaviors including drunk driving. When alcohol abuse occurs over a longer period of time, risk increases for developing certain cancers, liver cirrhosis, high blood pressure and heart problems.


If you would like to talk to one of CHD’s clinicians about your alcohol use or that of a loved one, please call (844) CHD – HELP or fill out our online form and we’ll reach out to you to set up an appointment.


Education is critical to sustainable life change

Education is critical to sustainable life change. Just ask the staff at CHD’s Community Adolescent Treatment Program (CATP.)

CATP, one of 70 CHD programs and services, plays a vital role in preparing youth in the Department of Youth Services custody for a successful transition back home. Youth typically enter the program facing issues such as aggression, substance abuse, gang involvement, poverty, low academic performance and lack of basic life skills. Over several months, program staff provide intensive services including individual and family therapy, life skills development, anger management, substance use treatment, positive recreational activities—and a high school curriculum.

“The youth live here, get individual therapy here, and go to school here,” said Clara Snowden, CATP Program Manager. “This is secure residential treatment, so the environment is different than a regular high school, but courses are taught by certified teachers. The curriculum and the standards are the same. The youth have to approach their school work seriously.”

Recently, CATP held its second Academic Excellence event with families in attendance to recognize five teenage boys who earned a spot on the Honor Roll this term. One youth, initials “E.S.,” came to CATP with charges for distribution of a class-A substance, heroin. As a teen he was separated from his family and got in with the wrong crowd. He’s been at CATP for four months and he’ll be here several months more.  While talking about the bad decision he made, he admits the embarrassment he caused his family. He knows what he did was wrong and is ready to start a new chapter in his young life.

“I’m a different person than I was,” he said. “I am away from my family and it’s hard, but I do well in school and that makes me feel good. I’m trying to graduate and get my diploma. I know what I want to do and I have a family here at CHD and at home ready to support me.”

This term, E.S. earned a 3.72 grade point average, the highest in the program. He is the first student in CATP to earn five A’s in one semester! His favorite subject is Social Studies. In February, he researched Olympian Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, and presented his research to the program.

“When E.S. arrived at CATP, he asked the staff to help him improve his English,” said Snowden. “That was a goal he set for himself, and now he acts as a translator for his family when they come to visit. While he is here he will gain skills he didn’t have before. He’s doing great in school. He asks teachers for extra work. He sets a good example for the other youth and has great relationships with our staff and his peers in the dorm.”

What advice does E.S. have for young people on making a successful life? “Don’t let your mistakes define who you are. Learn to change your behavior and do good things. Learn to look ahead.”

“E.S” is one of five Honor Roll students who were recognized during CHD’s CATP Educational Excellence event. All have come to recognize that school is important. “They acknowledge that earning their education matters,” said Snowden, “and they’re sticking with it. We provide them with a structured opportunity to learn and practice skills they will need to be successful, and we’re here to support them every step of the way.”


About CATP:

The Community Adolescent Treatment Program is a three to nine month, twenty four hour, seven days per week, staff secured residential treatment program funded by the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to provide a wide array of clinical, treatment, educational, residential and pre-vocational services to eighteen boys at a time, age 12 to 21 years old, who are committed to DYS. Many of the youth entering the program are faced with a myriad of issues which include mental illness, aggression, substance abuse, family dysfunction, gang involvement, under level academic performance, low self-esteem, lack of basic life skills, poverty and other issues often related to themselves being a victim of abuse or neglect.

The Community Adolescent Treatment Program plays a vital role in preparing the youth and their families, for their successful transition back to their homes by providing them with numerous intensive services such as; individual and family therapy, life skills groups, anger management groups, substance use treatment, positive recreational activities, educational and pre-vocational testing, counseling and direction, pre-employment training and job shadowing opportunities.

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Helping Young Men Make Smart Choices

During their teenage years, male youth face a changing array of life challenges. Whether they overcome those challenges and build success in their lives and communities is, in great measure, a function of their choices.

“I try to get the young men in secure residential treatment to see how every positive step they take leads them forward,” says Darryl Denson. “It’s similar to how I coach. I teach my team, if you execute these plays, you’ll get a good shot. Get enough good shots and you can win the game. I teach the guys in treatment, if you work on your treatment goals, your outcomes are going positive, but if you’re defiant and don’t participate in your own development, you may be here longer than you’d like. You choose.”

By day, Denson is Director of CHD’s Assessment Program at the Department of Youth Services secure residential treatment facility in Springfield. The primary focus of the Assessment Program is comprehensive individual assessments that provide DYS staff with a service plan designed to help the youth to be successful in avoiding reoffending behavior.

After hours, Denson is Head Coach of the Central High School Golden Eagles boys varsity basketball team. In March 2017 he completed his third season as head coach at Central and led his team to its first Western Mass title since 2012. Denson has long-standing ties to Central, having played for the Golden Eagles himself from 1992 to 1996.

These two leadership roles overlap in important ways. “At Central, we focus on academics and basketball and the personal accomplishments that lead to graduation,” said Denson. “At secure residential treatment, we focus on clinical and residential goals and the personal accomplishments that lead to going home. It’s basically the same. In basketball, my guys have to complete a series of goals, one after the other, and really work at it, to win games and have a shot at a championship. In treatment, the guys have to finish their time assignment and their treatment plan, and really work at it, to come out positive with the best chance for doing well and not reoffending.”

Precisely as new residents arrive at the Tinkham Road facility, they meet Denson. “Right before they step foot on this program, they meet me so they know the expectations of being here from the start,” he explained. “Every kid has a different reason for being here and a different plan while they are a resident here, but we try to get them all to realize they’re not on the streets. We say, you need to start thinking like you’re in a job setting and you want to keep that job, so what choices do you make to keep that job?”

Part of Denson’s overall strategy is to keep things basic and consistent. “The residents need to know they are going to be treated consistently and going to have a chance to succeed,” he explained. “They also need to know it’s up to them to make the right choices. There are incentives that residents can earn based on following certain standards and meeting certain expectations. We use positive reinforcement so they realize that we notice they’re doing something right.”   

Denson starts a typical day by checking in with the residents and staff to address any issues and concerns. “I work at being a presence,” he explained. “The residents know I coach so they’re always asking me about the games, and I share the details so they stay connected to the very community that they’re missing out on because of the choices they made before. I want them to see what’s out there when they return to the community.”

Often, male youth in residential treatment have grown up without good male role models, so Denson instills leadership skills in residents. One way he teaches is with examples: his players. “The kids I coach are where they are because of the choices they made before and what they choose to do every day to stay there,” he explained. “It’s no different for anyone else, including the kids I work with in secure residential treatment. I tell them it may not be through sport that you have success. You could be part of arts group or a book reading club or another thing that interests you. Whatever you do, be positive. Go above and beyond. We all have choices and we all have opportunities, but it’s how we choose to take advantage of those opportunities that defines us. When you’re a coach, you’re always teaching. Whether it’s the guys at Central or the guys in residential treatment, I’m always teaching kids about making good choices.”


Photo Credit: Meredith Perri, MassLive

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