Welcome! We are Glad you are Here.
Thank you for taking time to read the first ever “Changing Peer-Ceptions” blog post. My name is Jess Morris, a certified community health worker, recovery coach, and a person in long-term remission from opioid use disorder (OUD). I have the privilege of being the Mobile MAT Outreach Worker at Perception Programs, Inc (PPI) for their brand-new Mobile Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Van. The non-negotiable qualification for the job? Lived experience. I could not have imagined that almost 10 years ago (walking into detox), I would end up with a career in which I got to use my experience to provide hope, support & empowerment for individuals with SUD. My work as an Outreach Worker feels like it was created just for me! I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to do the work I love, with the most amazing people. Work that has never felt like work. What a gift.
I hope this blog will increase the community’s awareness around substance use, reduce substance use-related stigma, and reduce the number of overdose deaths. By providing community education on medication-assisted treatment (MAT), promoting harm reduction practices, and highlighting the benefits of utilizing peer support services, we can increase access to evidence-based and effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD, and reduce the stigma associated with substance use & MAT services. Using my professional and lived experience will provide individuals with the knowledge to change negative perceptions associated with substance use disorder (SUD). Creating a safe space where anyone can ask for help without facing judgment, guilt, fear, or shame, no doubt will save lives.
Opioid Overdose Crisis
The Mobile MAT program is an innovative approach created to help combat the devastating & ever-increasing opioid overdose crisis that has been ravishing our community (and many others), for years. The opioid overdose crisis has impacted Connecticut more significantly than most other states. Connecticut is in the top 10 states which have the highest overdose death rate in the United States, according to Trend CT, an Online News Article (Tran, n.d.).
Why Mobile MAT Services?
MAT stands for medication-assisted treatment. There are a few different medications approved by the FDA which are used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), they include, Suboxone, Methadone, and Vivitrol. The Mobile MAT van uses telehealth to provide easy access to Suboxone MAT treatment. There are several barriers that impact individuals capacity to access MAT. Individuals living in rural communities have limited options in choosing a MAT provider because most treatment programs tend to be in urban areas. They also have longer drive times and fewer public transportation options for accessing MAT services, according to the Center for Rural Health (2021). Understanding the importance of reducing all treatment barriers, we (PPI) implemented the use of telehealth MAT services to remove the many barriers many individuals face while accessing treatment, especially those living in rural areas.
If you or someone you know may benefit from any of the services offered on the Mobile MAT Van, please contact Jess @ 860-336-9412. We can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, our website, or by calling any of our three offices.
Summer reading, the phrase always makes me think of hammocks and beaches. My summer reading is usually snatched early or late in the day as I succumb to all the summer outdoor activities and my gardens, not to mention work. This was not the case when I started reading Not Our Summer. I just didn’t want to put it down and powered through in a few days’ time. This is a Young Adult novel, but I found it a terrific read.
What caught my attention and made me think you would want to read it? This is a well-crafted story with realistic young women as main characters. It is a family tradition that these girls should hate each other. Their real knowledge of each other comes only from seeing the other’s picture on the wall of their grandfather’s house. This multi-generational family feud was well orchestrated, so they didn’t have to cross paths. That is, until their Grandfather dies, and his will turns their world upside down.
Casie Bazay helps us explore a dysfunctional family and how the hurt of one generation is projected onto the next. The book leaves compelling ideas for discussion or deep thought. How do we build a friendship in the framework of hate? How do we push past long instilled barriers to find our own truth? What changes do we make in ourselves to form a new and better picture of our world? Can a hatred learned in childhood be undone or forgiven? Every family must explore these problems on their own for each family is different. Author Casie Bazay opens the gateway to all these thoughts and more. I won’t give any more of the storyline away. I am hoping you will be swept up in it just as I was.
I have requested Willimantic Public Library to order a copy for their collection, they will soon. Don’t have a library card? They are free just call the library (860-465-3079) to find out how to get one and borrow all the great materials offered there.
Review by Carol Stearns
UCONN Share Project / PPI
The 30th anniversary Steeple Chase Bike Tour fundraising event will take place on Saturday, August 21. The event will start and end St. Mary-St. Joseph School in Willimantic (35 Valley Street) and wind through the country roads of Windham and surrounding towns.
Registration is now open at https://steeplechasebiketour.org/register/ and www.bikereg.com/steeple-chase-bike-tour.
This year’s event will start in the school’s parking lot at 35 Valley Street and will feature three supported cycling routes and a 5-mile ride/walk tour through the parks of Willimantic. Cyclists and walkers can also participate virtually by choosing their own route – in-state, out-of-state, on-road or off.
The Steeple Chase Ride/Walk benefits three critical social service organizations in eastern Connecticut that help people struggling with drug addiction, homelessness, mental health challenges, and poverty. For the fourth straight year, every dollar raised by participants, donors and sponsors will be matched by the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation, doubling event proceeds.
“So many people took up cycling during the pandemic that there was a bike shortage,” remarked Victoria Nimirowski, chairperson of the Steeple Chase planning committee and executive director of Windham Area Interfaith Ministry. “This is a great opportunity to use those bikes to do good for others. Our non-profits – Perception Programs, Windham Area Interfaith Ministry, and the Windham Region No Freeze Project – help the most vulnerable, most at-risk members of our community every day. Throughout Covid, our organizations worked overtime, exceeding our already tight budgets, to keep people safe and healthy. This event is the biggest fundraiser for all three organizations and will help replenish our budgets so we can continue our life-saving work.”
Event organizers have created three dedicated cycling routes and one official walk/ride for the 30th Anniversary Steeple Chase. These in-person routes will start and end at St. Mary-St. Joseph School.
Cyclists committed to the event’s beloved 100-mile Century Ride are invited to ride the route unsupported. In addition, virtual Steeple Chase participants can ride or walk wherever they want – through their neighborhood or hometown, on one of Connecticut’s traffic-free Rail Trails like the Hop River or the Airline Trail, or on out-of-state roads or trails. Virtual participants can ride or walk whenever they want, starting and finishing their route at a convenient day and time and donating by August 21.
By registering online and asking friends, family, employers, and others to sponsor the ride, participants can generate desperately needed funds used to shelter and secure housing for people experiencing homelessness, offer a path to recovery for people with addiction and mental illness, and provide basic needs from clothing to heat for individuals and families living in poverty. Over its history, the Steeple Chase Bike Tour has raised approximately $1.75 million to help fund its beneficiaries’ important work.
Pre-registration for the event is $25 for individual riders or walkers. In addition to registration, each rider is asked to raise a minimum of $75 in donations. Online registration for the Steeple Chase will continue through August 21 at www.steeplechasebiketour.org and www.bikereg.com/steeple-chase-bike-tour.
The Steeple Chase benefits from the generosity of corporate sponsors and donors including The Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation, The Chronicle Newspaper, Eversource Energy, Thread City Cyclists, Home Selling Team, Sarazin General Contractors, WILI AM, Willimantic Waste Paper, the board of directors of the Windham Region No Freeze Project, and many others. Companies and organizations interested in sponsorship should call Perception Programs at 860-450-7122.
For more information, visit www.steeplechasebiketour.org, call (860) 450-7122, email email@example.com, or follow the event on Facebook @SCbiketour, Twitter @SCbiketour, Instagram @steeplechasebiketour, and on LinkedIn.
Now that summer has arrived, like many I have been spending more time outdoors. Research shows that simply spending more time outdoors is associated with extensive benefits, from improved mood, empathy, and attention, to lower stress (Nurtured by nature (apa.org)). In contemplating the importance of being in nature, as a therapist I have been reflecting on how nature itself—from canyons, rivers, and mountains to insects, animals, flowers, and the four seasons—is filled with endless metaphors that we can apply to our lives and the way we view problems, challenges, and what it means to be human.
Here are 5 quotes about ways that nature mirrors life in inspiring and surprising ways:
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson
I find this quote is by Neil deGrasse Tyson is best met with a pause to really let his words sink in. We are literally stardust. To me, this quote speaks of belonging and how each of us may feel very separate, but we are connected even at the most fundamental level. You, just like anyone else, are connected to every living being and inanimate thing on Earth and in the universe. This quote also reminds me that it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae and forget how improbable our existence is, and what a miracle it is to be alive.
“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” –Alice Walker
The bends, contortions, and weirdness in nature mirror how we can never be perfect ourselves. And yet that doesn’t need to be a bad thing. It is often these very imperfections that make nature so beautiful because they signal strength, adaptation, and perseverance to unique circumstances. For example, some trees grow sideways to best reach sunlight, and others grow crooked branches for stability against the wind (Why do tree branches grow like that? | Earth | HYPERLINK “https://earthsky.org/earth/tree-branch-growth-direction”EarthSky). Each tree has adapted to its particular challenges in exactly the way it needed to in order to survive, which gives us the amazing diversity we see in nature. Just like the tree, your unique quirks and “contortions” make you who you are: another diverse and valuable member of humanity.
“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” —Rachel Carson
This quote is a reminder that even in the darkest and coldest of times, there is hope. Our lives have ups and downs, just like the days and the seasons. Even when it seems like the dark will never end, the sun rises again in the morning. The rebirth of plants in the spring also reminds us that we are resilient and have the power to keep going. The tree that loses its leaves in the winter is still living, but just dormant. Its leaves will grow again, and flowers will bloom. This is a powerful cue that you can get through hard times, and that many problems you are facing today are impermanent and always changing.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” —Robert Louis Stevenson
Many people measure their self-worth based on the “harvest reaped,” or the outcomes they are currently seeing in their lives. The problem with this is that it places your self-worth outside of yourself rather than it being an unchangeable and innate part of you. Harvest time also doesn’t come around every day, but is based on repeated seeds being planted, watered, and bathed in sunlight. In other words, every small step taken toward your goals counts because together they add up to huge outcomes. If you find yourself overwhelmed by how far you need to go, remember that small steps taken consistently will get you to the harvest.
“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Awhile ago I traveled to Utah and Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and other national parks. The canyons there are almost unfathomable to the human mind, created after millions of years from a combination of the impact of moving rivers, weathering, erosion, and tectonic activity (canyon | National Geographic Society.). The beauty of these canyons was incredible, but as this quote suggests, would never have been possible if it was shielded from these influences. One thing I’ve learned from my clients as a therapist is that often some of the greatest beauty within a person is created through struggle. As humans, being metaphorically “carved” into canyons is inevitable. Not only can we not shield ourselves from it, but in some ways the struggle is what unites us as humans. It can at times push us to be more empathetic toward others, more self-aware, more grateful, better able to handle future difficulties, and to be better versions of ourselves. This does not mean that we would ever wish to revisit those hard times, but that in some way they can bring useful life lessons or positive benefits. It is important to love the gorges and canyons within yourself, for they are a part of your story.
Next time you hear the chirps of birds on a walk in the forest, feel the soft and blazing sand beneath your feet, or see the vibrant oranges and purples of a sunset on a drive home, I challenge you to meditate on what nature means to you. What feelings does it bring up for you? Can you identify any other metaphors that nature can teach you? While the above quotes may not apply to every situation in life, which ones resonated with you most and why? Nature has so much to offer; keep exploring, be mindful of any sensations that come up for you, and remember to savor those moments!
Every June, whether it’s on television or social media, whether you’re walking down the street or visiting your favorite establishment, rainbow flags can be seen everywhere. Most of us know these flags are representative of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pride, and that June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, but how many of us know what those flags represent — and why there seems to be so many variations.
Let’s explore the history of LGBT Pride Month and the meaning behind the LGBTQ+ Pride Flag — and its many iterations.
Shortly after the Stonewall Riots in June 1969, pride marches and demonstrations were being organized in cities throughout the United States. By the 1980s and 1990s, the tenor for many of these events had shifted from protests to celebrations of pride and acceptance. LGBTQ+ Pride Month has become an annual occurrence each June commemorating the violent events at the Stonewall Inn. In 1999, Pride Month gained official national recognition by President Bill Clinton who declared June to be “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.”
The rainbow flag itself was first adopted in 1978 as an eight horizontal stripe rainbow colored flag. Created by Gilbert Baker at the request of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade. Previously, LGBTQ+ communities had commonly used a downward pointing pink triangle as their symbol, a reference to the World War II Nazi practice of using pink triangles to identify gay men in concentration camps. Milk and others sought a new symbol for LGBTQ+ communities that focused on inspiration rather than oppression
In its original design, each of the eight stripes had a specific meaning:
• Pink: Sex • Red: Life • Orange: Healing • Yellow: Sunlight• Green: Nature • Turquoise: Art • Indigo: Harmony • Violet: Spirit
Originally, each flag was hand sewn and dyed, but as demand grew, they had to shift to mass production. Production issues involving the availability of certain dye colors led to the removal of pink and turquoise, and indigo was changed to a more common blue color. The resulting six-color flag is now the most common version of the LGBTQ+ flag.
While most of us are most familiar with the six-color version of the rainbow flag, there are dozens of variations and other flags now used to represent different communities. Among the more recognizable pride flags are:
Transgender Pride Flag: Created by Monica Helms in 1999, this flag has five horizontal stripes‚ two light blue, two pink, and one white. The light blue represents the traditional color for baby boys, the pink represents the traditional color for baby girls, and the white (the center stripe) represents those who are transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender.
Progress Pride Flag: Created by Daniel Quasar in 2018, this flag features — in addition to the common horizontal rainbow stripes — angled black and brown stripes to represent people of color, as well as light blue, pink and white to incorporate elements of the Transgender Pride Flag. In 2021, a purple circle surrounded by yellow was added to the Progress Pride Flag to represent intersex human rights.
Bisexual Pride Flag: Created by Michael Page in 1998, the Bisexual Pride Flag features three horizontal stripes — a wide pink stripe (representing same sex attraction), a wide blue stripe (representing opposite sex attraction), and a narrow purple stripe in the middle (representing attraction to both sexes).
Pansexual Pride Flag: Originated from an anonymous social media account in the early 2010s, the Pansexual Pride Flag consists of three horizontal stripes — pink, yellow and blue. Unofficially, pink represents attraction to women, blue represents attraction to men, and yellow represents attraction to non-binary people.
PPI is an open and affirming agency and welcomes the LGBTQI+ community. At present, we are offering a transgender support group at our Storrs location. Please call 860.420.2450 for more information.
Employees faced significant challenges throughout the past year, and these changes have affected nearly everyone — regardless of occupation or workplace.
Many felt stress or anxiety about their job status — will my company survive the pandemic? Is my job safe?
Others had to deal with adjusting to new workspaces — at home, distanced from co-workers and transitioning areas normally reserved for relaxation into office space. Conference rooms were replaced with Zoom screens. Water cooler conversations became instant messages and texts.
None of this was easy. There was no real precedent for these enormous shifts to our work environments and to our work-life balance. And now, just as many employees have finally begun to adjust to their new workplace situations, we are seeing workplaces reopen and start to resume pre-pandemic activities.
This can also be stressful.
Maybe your children are still at home distance learning. Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to a commute down your hallway instead of off the highway. Maybe you just really enjoy attending team meetings in your sweatpants.
Change is always difficult and often stressful. If you find yourself struggling to adjust (and then re-adjust), you’re not alone. However, it’s important to recognize that you might need some support to help with these transitions.
Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) — a great way to help employees experiencing burnout. An EAP can include employees participating in stress-relief workshops, receiving counselling at a discounted price, or even attending work-mandated therapy sessions.
If your employer offers an EAP, it may be beneficial to take advantage of the opportunity to help reacclimate to your environment. Even if your employer does not offer an EAP, you may want to speak with a professional who can guide you as you seek to get back on track. Contact us today to make an appointment.
It’s been over a year since we’ve been able to safely attend social gatherings and community events. It’s been hard for adults, and often more difficult for young children who have been unable to attend school, partake in playdates, or go on family outings — important elements to a child’s social and behavioral development.
There is, however, a light at the end of this quarantine tunnel. As adults continue to get vaccinated, many places that were forced to shutter are beginning to re-open; many community events that had to cancel last year are moving forward with modified plans for 2021.
We aren’t out of it yet, and it might be quite a while before we are 100% back to “normal,” but there are many things to look forward to, and many opportunities to re-socialize your children. Many might be joyful about the prospect of increased social opportunities, but it is important to continue to exercise caution — keep safe distances, wear masks, and wash hands and surfaces regularly.
Check-in with your local library
In addition to being a great community resource, many local libraries host or coordinate children-friendly events such as storytime, cooking classes, scavenger hunts and more.
Parks and recreation
Participating in recreational sports at a young age has been shown to benefit children (and parents) in many ways. In addition to promoting exercise, it also helps to develop teamwork, discipline, and serves as a terrific way for kids to socialize with peers outside of the classroom. If your child is not interested in team sports, most parks and recreation departments offer a wide range of engaging activities — from hiking and nature walks to yoga and arts and crafts.
A day at the beach
What’s better than a day at the beach? You’ve got the sun, snacks, water, and activities — and most of them will be open for Summer 2021. Plan ahead and check the State of Connecticut website for waterfront updates to make sure your favorite beach is ready for you and your family to take a dip.
While getting back to normal summer activities may be exciting to some, it is important to recognize that after a year of isolation, many children may be feeling stress and anxiety over leaving the house, interacting with strangers, and socializing with other children. It may be necessary to ease your child back into these activities, giving them some time to readjust.
If your child is struggling to readjust, is demonstrating behavioral challenges, or is generally feeling anxious, upset, or nervous about social interactions, it may be a good idea for you to talk to a professional. Perceptions Programs Inc. offers individual, group, or family therapy, and our child and adolescent program includes individual therapy, play therapy, and medication management. Call 860-420-2450 today to make an appointment.
FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, is the feeling of anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere — without you. FOMO can cause significant stress, and has been made worse by social media — being exposed to posts by friends, family and coworkers that might make one feel that the people around them are living better lives, having more fun, or enjoying better experiences than they are.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a whole new type of FOMO — causing many to feel robbed of experiences and life events they would normally get to enjoy. For some, they are missing out on — or getting a scaled back version of — prom and graduation. For others, they had to cancel or alter their spring break getaway.
And then there is the vaccine rollout — some of your friends and family are vaccinated, but you haven’t had the opportunity to get your shots. So, you may be seeing some people in your life begin to resume life as normal, but you still feel isolated and believe that you’re missing out.
While you wait your turn to get the vaccine, it might feel like the longest wait of your life. Here are some tips to help get you through this difficult time.
Get in line for your vaccine. The State of Connecticut now is allowing all residents 16 and older to sign up for their COVID-19 vaccination. Check the state’s website for open appointments, and follow up, because new slots open up regularly.
Set healthy boundaries with social media. A study by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology suggests that limiting yourself to 30 minutes or less of social media time per day may reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety while also improving your overall well-being.
Look ahead. Rather than worry about what you’re unable to do in the present, focus on the possibilities of the future when social gatherings become more prevalent. Think about a future vacation, a backyard picnic, or just some quality time with your friends once it becomes safe and feasible to do so.
Talk to someone. If you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or anxious, it may be wise to connect with a professional, such as those at PPI, who offer individual, group, and family therapy. Contact us today for an appointment by calling (860) 420-2450.
Even if you aren’t in treatment for substance abuse, it’s very likely you’ve heard of Suboxone.
So, what is it? And how does it work?
Suboxone is the brand name of a medication used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help individuals in treatment for substance abuse manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings and increase their chance for sustained abstinence from prescription opioids or heroin. Suboxone is actually a combination of two different drugs — buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, blocks opiate receptors and reduces urges; and naloxone, a pure opioid antagonist, helps reverse the effects of opioids.
Together these drugs, known as Suboxone, have been proven effective in helping individuals manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings and increase chances of sustained abstinence from prescription opioids or heroin. Suboxone is designed to relieve physiological cravings, stabilize brain chemistry and other body functions, and block the effect of opioids.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
MAT can help people to get back on their feet and live their life to the fullest.
MAT is the use of medication, as described above, paired with counseling to treat opioid use disorders. MAT has been shown to help individuals manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings and increase chances of sustained abstinence from prescription opioids or heroin.
Using a whole person approach, PPI combines MAT with individual, intensive outpatient and group therapy. Education and connection to other services is provided as needed. PPI offers MAT in a private and welcome setting at the following locations by experienced providers here to get you started on your journey to wellness.
Make an appointment today.
By Jaime Ley
We have all heard of “epidemics”, most known to Perception Programs, Inc. (PPI) is the ever-growing opioid epidemic. At PPI it is our mission to be warriors in this battle against the opioid epidemic. We work with people daily who struggle with opioid addictions. Our programs range from residential services, work release programs, intensive outpatient services, individual and family therapy, outreach services, and community case management, just to name a few. We have worked within our community for 50 years to stand-up against the opioid epidemic.
In March of 2020, like the rest of the world, gears were suddenly shifted to standing up to a pandemic. A pandemic that not only affected our community and the people we serve, but also our loved ones and ourselves. There was worry, stress, concern, questions without answers, and there was fear. This came without warning and without planning.
PPI’s 50-year commitment to walking alongside our community and our effortless battles against the opioid epidemic suddenly ignited to take on this new challenge. Our commitment was manifested in our staff who showed up every day to help, comfort and smile with our residents in our residential programs. Clinicians in outpatient programs showed their commitment by leaving their offices and instantly transitioning into telehealth and phone sessions to keep people connected and supported. Committed Case Managers and Outreach Staff transitioned to working from their phones and laptops, rather than in the community. The Senior Management Team and Administrative staff lead everyone to stayed connected electronically, supported our essential workers, and continued to help the agency run from their homes without warning. Our commitment to the clients of Perception Programs mostly showed through our resilience.
Resilience. Resilience is the ability to spring back from a crisis, becoming tough, and elastic-like; to bounce back. For PPI, resilience looks like staff, with the awareness of the risks and the concerns of COVID-19, who still show up every day. Not only did staff show up, they also smiled, they laughed, they comforted our clients. Staff cooked meals and desserts with our residents, enlisting special activities to help offset the discomfort of the unknown. Clinicians who incorporated Zoom community recovery meetings in groups so residents could stay connected to their sober communities. Leaders who showed up with donuts, or pizza, or a simple “thank you” email to everyone. Community members who made and donated masks to staff and residents. Case Managers and Outreach Staff who broke through the barriers and housed clients, assured safety and worked the ebbs and flows of new restrictions. Every single employee of PPI kept paddling downstream in the unknown rapids of this pandemic, leaving reluctance behind and showing resilience. It is yet another battle we will fight together, and like every battle, we will grow in our strength, learn from our struggles but come out of this a more powerful team!
Resilience is Perception Programs; Perception Programs is resilient!