ICYMI: we raised $73,000 as we boogied, we shimmied and we soul trained the night away!

On October 6th, we did what CCHP does best, we raised money and had a blast doing it.

We were blessed with a warm October day that set things right from the start. CCHP supporters gathered for a cocktail hour where they could bid on silent auction items such as private training sessions, catered dinner parties, and Jets tickets. Guests mingled while taking in the stunning views of midtown Manhattan from Indeed’s newest balcony on 6th Avenue.

Everyone moved into the main “party” room, and immediately took the to the dance floor as Atomic Funk Project kept people dancing throughout the night.

CCHP’s Chief Executive Officer, Susan Ohanesian, gave a warm welcome to everyone in the room and to our big supporters of the evening; Indeed, UA Builders, Advanced Clinical Laboratory Solutions, Gershon and Carol Kekst and Windels, Marx, Lane and Mittendorf . During the video presentation, “We are Family: A Look Inside CCHP”  guests were introduced to the staff, patients, board members and services that all make up CCHP.

Two of our board members, Jocelyn Rose and Lane Tobias, spoke on the importance of giving to CCHP and how every dollar goes a long way. 

A delicious farm to table inspired dinner followed prepared by Whealth and Co.

And then the party really got started…

Our MC and event collaborator, Alex Greer of We Bee Creative, got everyone back out on the dance floor and led CCHP’s first ever soul train. Who knew our supporters had such good moves?

It was an amazing night and we thank everyone for being a part of it. Looking forward to seeing everyone again next time!

Enjoy the photos courtesy of Romina Hendlin Photography.

CCHP Says Thank You to our Nurses and Medical Assistants!

By: Dr. Mariely Fernandez, Chief Medical Officer

This week I decided to go around the clinic to ask both patients and staff to tell me one word that would describe our nurses and medical assistants.

WARM, WELCOMING, ENERGETIC, DEDICATED, CARING, PROFESSIONAL, SMART and AMAZING were just some of the many words that were used.

Our nursing and MA staff have touched the lives of so many here, each day giving a little piece of themselves to CCHP and our community. They are the eyes and ears of our medical and clinical staff and they have been the voice for many of our patients. Combined, our nursing and MA staff have given over 50 years of service to the Center.
For today, and for everyday we didn’t get a chance to, we want to say THANK YOU for all your hard work and dedication.

New Health Education Groups!

A new year, means new groups at CCHP!

Diabetes Prevention Program, Tuesdays 9 – 10am (started on 1/6/16)

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most prevalent and challenging illnesses affecting our patient population today. Approximately two thirds of East Harlem residents are overweight or obese, and 13% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes. Prevention of this chronic and multifaceted illness has taken on a new importance in this community, and our Diabetes Prevention Program seeks to help adults prevent the onset of this disease by implementing healthy lifestyle changes. Focused on an evidence based curriculum developed by the CDC, participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program learn to follow a healthy diet and regular cardiovascular exercise, as well as address the problems and barriers which have prevented their success in the past. This program consists of 16 weekly sessions, followed by 8 monthly sessions, for a complete year of education and support. New classes will begin May 11, 2016.

Breathe Easy Group, Tuesdays 2- 3pm (starting 2/9/16)

With a hospitalization rate over three times over three times higher than that of Manhattan, asthma continues to be one of the most challenging chronic illnesses faced by our patients of all ages. The management of this illness is complex, requiring control of environmental triggers such as mold, strict adherence to often complex medication regimens, and behavioral changes such as weight loss and smoking cessation. The Breathe Easy group seeks to provide education and support around these needs, and provides patients with useful evidence based tools such as peak flow testing and asthma action planning to improve control and reduce hospitalizations.

Healthy for Life Group, Mondays 1:30- 2:30 (starting 2/29/16)

Type 2 diabetes and hypertension continue to be two of the most prevalent and challenging chronic illnesses faced by patients at CCHP.  Thirteen percent of East Harlem residents have a diagnosis of diabetes, and the hospitalization rate for stroke is nearly twice as high in this community then in Manhattan. The Healthy for Life group will work to educate participants on the management of these chronic illnesses, from learning about nutrition and exercise, to correct medication use, stress reduction, smoking cessation, and problem solving.

Health Group, Mondays 9-10am (starting 2/29/16)

Smoking Cessation Group, Wednesdays 1-2pm weekly (starting 2/29/16)

Nutrition Group, Tuesdays 1-2pm (starting 3/1/16)


Tudor Foundation, Inc. Awards CCHP with $25,000 for Pediatric Health Services

For its second consecutive year, the Tudor Foundation, Inc. has awarded CCHP with $25,000 to support its comprehensive pediatric health care services to our patients. The generous contribution will help cover the cost of services for our pediatric patients, which includes our Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC), an education group for parents as well as a drug prevention program for their children; our Pediatric Clinic,  primary care and Reach Out and Read (a program for children six months to five years promoting early literacy); and our Family and Employment Services Program (FESP) which provides comprehensive treatment to individuals (and youth) who are or have been impacted by a loved one’s substance use.


Anatomy Of Addiction: How Heroin And Opioids Hijack The Brain

January 11, 2016

When Jack O’Connor was 19, he was so desperate to beat his addictions to alcohol and opioids that he took a really rash step. He joined the Marines.

“This will fix me,” O’Connor thought as he went to boot camp. “It better fix me or I’m screwed.”

After 13 weeks of sobriety and exercise and discipline, O’Connor completed basic training, but he started using again immediately.

“Same thing,” he says. “Percocet, like, off the street. Pills.”

Percocet is the brand name for acetaminophen and oxycodone. Oxycodone is a powerful opioid. It’s one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers, and is a key factor in one of the country’s most pressing public health problems — an opioid addiction epidemic. It is a crisis that started, in part, from the overprescription of painkillers like Percocet, and then shifted to heroin as people addicted to prescription drugs looked for a cheaper high.

O’Connor is one of an estimated 2.5 million Americans addicted to opioids and heroin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Over three years, he detoxed from prescription painkillers — and heroin — more than 20 times. Each time, he started using again. So why is it so hard for opioid addicts to quit? You can boil it down to two crucial bits of science: the powerful nature of opioids and the neuroscience behind how addiction hijacks the brain.

“The first recording of opioid use was 5,000 years ago,” says Dr. Seddon Savage, an addiction and pain specialist at Dartmouth College. It was “a picture of the opium poppy and the words ‘the joy plant.’ ”

‘It Ruined Me That Time. But I Loved It’

Jack O’Connor says he ended his freshman year of college as an alcoholic. He went home that summer desperate to replace alcohol with something else. And it was not hard to do. In 2012, 259 million opioid pain medication prescriptions were written — that’s enough painkillers for every American to have a bottle of the pills. O’Connor got his hands on some 30-milligram Percocet.

“I ended up sniffing a whole one, and I blacked out, puking everywhere,” says O’Connor. “I don’t remember anything. It ruined me that time. But I loved it.”

Opioids got him higher faster than any drug he had tried. And even though different drugs produce different highs, they all involve the same pathway in the brain.

How Opioid Addiction Works

Opioids increase the amount of dopamine in a part of the brain called the limbic reward system. Dopamine causes intense feelings of pleasure, which drives users to seek out the drug again and again.

LA Johnson/NPR
They trigger the release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that causes intense pleasure in parts of the brain that include the limbic system, according to Savage. It links brain areas that control and regulate emotions such as the pleasures of eating, drinking and sex. “This is a very ancient part of the human brain that’s necessary for survival,” says Savage. “All drugs that people use to get high tickle this part of the brain.”

People can become psychologically and physically dependent on opioids very quickly. Breaking the physical dependence involves a several-day nightmare called detox, when the body gets used to being without the drug.

“It is an amazing thing to see someone basically vibrating in their chair, feeling nauseated, looking like hell,” says Jeffrey Ferguson, a detox specialist at Serenity Place in Manchester, N.H.

Jack O’Connor put himself through detox 20 times, but that didn’t stop his addiction. O’Connor’s limbic reward system had hijacked other systems in his brain — systems that drive judgment, planning and organization — driving them all to seek that pleasure of getting high. This process can go on during years of sobriety, according to Savage.

“Addiction recruits memory systems, motivational systems, impairs inhibitory systems and continues to stimulate the drive to use,” she says.

O’Connor says all his decisions began to serve his addiction. When he was using, everything was about getting the next drink or drug.

Over his years of addiction, O’Connor lied to his family and stole from his job — all while also trying to get sober. A little over a year ago, he put himself through a five-day detox clinic and managed to get through five more days in the real world sober. Then he couldn’t take it. One day he started obsessively searching his credit cards for drug residue. He found a bag of heroin in his wallet.

“Somebody’s telling me I need to get high,” he thought at the time.

And that’s what he did.

‘I Don’t Need It Anymore’

Feelings like joy and shame also play a role in drug dependence, and make it hard to quit. Practical issues are a challenge, too. “Finding the job, saving money, finding a place to live,” says Ferguson. “Maybe they have some felony convictions. It’s a lot.”

And the country is facing a shortage of addiction treatment facilities and specialists; the shortage ranges wildly from one state to another. Treatment for opioid addiction includes a variety of services: medication, talk therapy, job support, all stretched out over years. Detox isn’t enough.

“For people who don’t get intensive treatment, people who are just detoxified [from opioids],” says Savage, “relapse rates can be above 90 percent.”

O'Connor has been sober for a year and now lives and works in a residential drug treatment program in Dover, N.H.

O’Connor has been sober for a year and now lives and works in a residential drug treatment program in Dover, N.H.

O’Connor is now 23 and he’s finally sober — Jan. 11 is his one-year sobriety date. In that time he’s been in a nonmedical residential treatment program in Dover, N.H., where he lives and works. He has support — a girlfriend, his family, the Marines. And in the same way that he once replaced his coping skills with drugs, he has rebuilt his coping skills around quitting drugs.

“I don’t need it anymore,” he says. “I literally, physically and emotionally don’t need it.” And as much as O’Connor loved the feeling of getting high on heroin, now there is something he loves more: “I love the way I feel sober,” he says.


Childhood Asthma Rates Level Off, But Racial Disparities Remain

There’s finally some good news about childhood asthma in the United States: After rising for decades, the number of children with the breathing disorder has finally stopped increasing and may have started falling, according to a government analysis.

“That was a big surprise,” says Lara Akinbami of the National Center for Health Statistics. “We were expecting the increase to kind of continue. But in fact we saw the opposite.”

The percentage of U.S. children with asthma doubled in the 1980s and 1990s and had been increasing steadily since then. The reason for the increase has remained mysterious, but there may be many possible factors, including exposure to secondhand smoke, obesity and children’s immune systems failing to develop properly.

Akinbami and her colleagues detected the first change in that trend when they analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey between 2001 and 2013.

Among children ages 17 and younger, the prevalence of asthma peaked at 9.7 percent in 2011 and then plateaued until 2013, when it declined to 8.3 percent, the researchers report Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

But asthma prevalence continues to rise among children in the poorest families and remains far more common among African-American children than white children. More than 14 percent of black children have asthma, compared with about 8 percent of white children. Black children are also much more likely than white children to suffer severe complications.

And it’s not clear “whether 2013 represents just one of the fluctuations in that leveling or whether that’s going to show us the beginning of a decreasing trend,” Akinbami says.

The reason for the shift remains as mysterious as the rise. One possibility is that the proportion of children who are genetically susceptible to asthma may have peaked, Akinbami says.

Regardless of the cause, other experts are welcoming the trend.

“It is good news for kids,” says Stephen Teach, chairman of pediatrics at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. In addition to deaths and hospitalizations, asthma attacks cause children to miss school and their parents to miss work.

“It’s an economic and health care drag on our system and our potential for children to develop,” Teach says.

Teach and others say we still have a long way to go.

“Roughly 1 in 9 children have asthma. That’s a pretty profound burden of a health condition in a population that really should be very, very healthy overall,” says Elizabeth Matsui, a professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. “So there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

That includes addressing the persistent racial and economic inequities. “There are stark and dramatic disparities in the prevalence of the disease,” Teach says.

Source: NPR – Rob Stein

Continue Reading.

2015-12-15 02.14.17

FESP Celebrates the Holidays

On December 15th, our Family and Employment Services Program (FESP) held their annual holiday party. Thirty of our patients were in attendance, to enjoy food, music and activities.
Clients divided into two teams, playing “Name That Tune.” They also participated in an art therapy project, where they identified their greatest accomplishments for 2015 and goals for 2016 which now decorate the halls of our clinic.

Take a look at these great photos from the party!



On Thursday December 3rd, CCHP had its first ever We B-E-E Spelling event…and boy was it fun!

This special holiday edition of We B-E-E Spelling, hosted by Alex Greer, brought our contestants back to the days of middle school. Staff and supporters of CCHP gathered at the Wild Horse Tavern for a memorable night of laughs, music and some good old fashion spelling. Comedians, Kyle Ayers and Will Miles, not only kicked off the evening’s festivities, but were also our “official” judges, while DJ Will Winner provided the tunes for our participants to dance their way to the stage.

Our contestants included a future professional arm wrestler, DMX’s number one fan, scuba divers, a CCHP board member, our very own CEO – Annie Mendelsohn, a few individuals looking to redeem themselves from Spelling Bee losses from their youth, and many more. Their were sabotages, arm-wrestling, blind-folded singing competitions, and celebrity impersonations. Our big winner, CCHP’s Rachel Heyman, was out after the first round, but thanks to an unforgettable performance of the Lion King’s “Hakuna Matta” sang her way back in to take home the trophy!

Not only was this night entertaining, but with close to 100 people, we were able to raise money to provide essential family-focused health care to over 500 under-served families in the East Harlem community.

Don’t worry if you missed out, We B-E-E Spelling will be back this Spring…

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01:  President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference on October 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. According to reports, 10 were killed and 20 injured when a gunman opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Obama to announce federal push to fight heroin use

October 21, 2015

Heading to a region grappling with the scourge of drug abuse, President Barack Obama planned to announce new steps to improve doctor training and ease access to drug treatment as part of an effort to help communities battling “epidemic” heroin and prescription painkiller abuse, White House officials said Wednesday.

Obama planned to detail the moves, along with a new public awareness campaign, on a day trip to Charleston, West Virginia. He was due to meet with law enforcement officials, drug counselors and advocates at a community center to show “a sense of urgency that we at the federal level can do more to address this issue,” Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters.

West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S. — more than twice the national average, according to a report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

State officials say the problem is damaging the economy, depressing the workforce and overwhelming social services.

Officials stressed the problem is a national one. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in July found the number of people who reported using heroin within the past year had nearly doubled from 2002 to 2013. Heroin use was up among nearly all demographic groups, but showed particular spikes among women and non-Latino whites.

 Researchers say two factors are driving the trend: the rise in abuse of opioid painkillers — drugs that are often a precursor to heroin — and the increasing availability of cheap heroin.

Researchers found that most users reported using at least one other drug in combination with heroin, a factor that contributes to high overdose rates. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people — by some estimates, one in every 50 addicts — died in 2013, according to the CDC.

“We cannot separate the heroin epidemic from the prescription drug epidemic,” Botticelli said. “Dealing with the heroin epidemic really compels us to deal with heroin drug use issues.”

Botticelli said too few prescription drug health care providers are properly trained in safely prescribing painkillers, while access to medication-assisted treatment for addicts is too difficult.

Obama’s visit comes as politicians are grasping for a policy response. But with a budget stalemate in Congress, Obama had only modest initiatives to offer.

Before departing the White House, Obama ordered federal agencies that employ health care providers to offer training on prescribing painkillers. He also ordered them to review their health care insurance plans and address policies that might prevent patients from receiving medication as part of their treatment.

The administration has said it wants to expand access to Suboxone, a drug that can ease the transition off other opioids. It also has pushed to expand availability of naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdose.

On Wednesday, the White House announced commitments from the Fraternal Order of Police to expand training on the use of naloxone. Several pharmacy chains, including CVS and RiteAid, have also agreed to expand accessibility of the drug.

Obama also planned to highlight a new public awareness campaign. CBS, Turner Broadcasting, ABC, The New York Times and Google, have committed more than $20 million in advertising space to run public service announcements.

Presidential candidates in both parties also have put forward proposals — a response, in part, to the frequent concerns raised in New Hampshire town halls.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has laid out a $10 billion plan that promotes treatment over incarceration.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie repeatedly visited drug rehabilitation centers and talked up his work in his state to create drug courts that mandate treatment over jail time for non-violent offenders.

Sources: Washington Post – Kathleen Hennessey

Continue Reading.

Baby photo

Faces of Treatment

July 22, 2015

A photo essay by Sarah Weiser detailing the difficult path to recovery faced by pregnant addicts at New York City’s Non-profit Center for Comprehensive Health Practice, one of the oldest centers in New York City to offer such treatment.

Angela Holmes, 37, with her fifth child, Jaheem Davis, 17 months old. Holmes first came to the Center for Comprehensive Health Practice (CCHP) in East Harlem in 2003, eight months pregnant and in desperate need of treatment for her heroin addiction. “I knew time was running out,” Holmes said. “Honestly this was the only program in New York that would take me pregnant.” Pregnant women addicted to opioids – whether illicit drugs like heroin or prescribed painkillers like OxyContin – face a dearth of treatment options, say doctors and patients alike.


Robin Beard, right, a Senior Counselor at CCHP, helps lead the Young Mothers group, which provides educational and other support for mothers and pregnant women on methadone. “When you have an addiction, so many things come into play,” says CCHP’s Medical Director Mariely Fernandez. “So many social factors, so many economic factors… you just can’t treat it in a singular, silo kind of approach.”


Nicole Watson, 22, and four months pregnant, adds water to her dose of methadone at CCHP. Methadone maintenance treatment is the widely recommended approach for pregnant women with opioid addiction and is safer for a fetus than an abstinence-only approach, experts say. CCHP’s Pregnant Addicts and Addicted Mothers (PAAM) program, which began in 1975, combines methadone treatment with access to counselors, therapists, and primary-care doctors.


Zasha Lugo, 25, listens during the Young Mothers group. Babies born to mothers on methadone can show symptoms of drug withdrawal, as was the case with Lugo’s two-month-old daughter, Ovenia. Such babies are routinely treated in the hospital. “I think the scary thing for the moms,” says Medical Director Fernandez, is that often “they really don’t know what to expect” when their babies are born. Ovenia is getting better now, says Lugo: “She’s beautiful. She has all her fingers and her toes. Her nose is where it’s supposed to be.”


Angela Holmes, 37, center, a recovering heroin addict who has been clean since 2007, with her daughter, Armani Davis, 6, left, and son Jermaine Davis, 12, at the Early Childhood Development Center at CCHP. Both children were born when Holmes was in methadone treatment. “I’m really trying to fix my life,” says Holmes, who adds that her drug use started at age 14 when she was given PCP by her stepfather. Holmes, who plans on returning to school, says she wants to lead her children by example. “My life story – which is negative to them – I don’t want to keep using that. I want to show them more than I can tell them.”


Nicole Watson, 22, part of CCHP’s Pregnant Addicts and Addicted Mothers program, talks with her counselor, Joanne Hernandez. Watson, who first started abusing prescription painkillers like Roxicodone and Percocet at age 14, began shooting heroin at 15. A deep downward spiral ended in a miscarriage, says Watson, after which she began methadone treatment. “Methadone is the only thing that’s been able to keep me clean and stable,” says Watson, now four months pregnant.


Nicole Watson drinks her methadone dose at CCHP. “I have guilt that people don’t really know about. They can’t look into my brain and know the guilt that I face for being on methadone.” But, Watson says, “I wish the world wasn’t so judgmental…I see babies who are born on methadone who’ve been very sick at birth, and you would never know they were on methadone. Because they’re so healthy, they’re such healthy babies now.”


The Young Mothers group for pregnant women and mothers on methadone meets at CCHP, as the daughter of one mother plays on the floor. Born with withdrawal symptoms, the infant was treated at the hospital and is now healthy. “Stigmas still exist” for pregnant women on methadone, says Liliana Villar-Durrani, Director of PAAM. And because of that, she says, women may be afraid to seek treatment or become anxious leading up to the birth of their child.


“Being around the mothers helps me,” says Nicole Watson, right, with Zasha Lugo, 25, center. “Without that, I don’t know if I’d be mentally prepared.” Watson says she feels the stigma surrounding addicted mothers. “That’s what society has done to us, it has labeled us, and it’s a shame.” But “I can’t stop what I’ve already done. All I can do is fix it, to the best of my ability.” And “if you strip me of my addiction, I’m still a woman. I’m still a young mother. I still love my child.”


Nicole Watson, right, jokes with her friend Nelson Colon, a fellow patient, outside CCHP. “What’s important to me is that I stabilize my life, I have a life for my baby,” says Watson. “She may not have everything that she wants, but she’ll damn well have everything that she needs.”


“I have a lot to look forward to, but I also have a lot of – how you say – trials and tribulations in my way,” says Nicole Watson, with the daughter of a fellow patient and close friend. “As soon as I got pregnant I saw a black hole. I didn’t see a future for myself. Now I see a beautiful future…I see myself growing a lot, and I see myself moving forward from this hole and this rut that I’ve been stuck in.”

Source: Retro Report – ​​Photographs by Sarah Weiser​​​

Continue Reading.


Get the latest news and updates from the
Center for Comprehensive Health Practice