Katurah Bryant, RN Farmer with corn Vinod Srihari MD Hand with tomatoes
Center Focus
October 2011
MIke Sernyak square portrait
Dear Friends,

Welcome to the first edition of Connecticut Mental Health Center's new online newsletter. With this publication CMHC enters the digital age!

CMHC opened its doors to patients in 1966. Forty-five years later, we still have the same missions in clinical care, research, and education. We're still built for partnership: between the CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and the Yale Department of Psychiatry.

This newsletter will highlight some of the great things going on at CMHC and serve as a forum for new ideas. How can we improve "customer service" at CMHC? How will we use technology to forge new connections? How can we help everyone who walks through our doors improve their health and wellness? These are a few of the things on my mind. I hope you'll share your thoughts and questions with me.

I'd like to welcome our new Communications Specialist, Lucile Bruce, to the CMHC family. Lucile will be responsible for many of the creative informational projects (such as this newsletter) that you will be seeing over the next year. Please write to either one of us ( or with your feedback including ideas for future articles. We want to hear from you.

Finally, I hope you'll join me on November 3rd for CMHC's 45th birthday party. We have much to celebrate! Click here to register.


MIke's signature

Michael J. Sernyak, MD
CEO, Connecticut Mental Health Center

At STEP, Early Intervention is Key  

Vinod Cropped Final
Vinod Srihari, MD
Director, STEP

Now in its fifth year, STEP - Specialized Treatment Early in Psychosis continues to show outstanding results when measured against "treatment as usual" in the community. Read more

Ear Acupuncture at SATU

Katurah Bryant, RN, LMFT
Founding director of SATU's ear acupuncture program

At CMHC's Substance Abuse Treatment Unit (SATU), many clients choose five-point ear acupuncture to help with their recovery. Says Associate Director Katurah Bryant, "It's one tool in the tool belt for recovery that we're trying to get clients to establish for themselves." Read more

CMHC Turns 45!
Groundbreaking CMHC_CROPPED
Mental Health Commissioner Wilfred Bloomberg, MD (far left), CT Governor John Dempsey (second from left), and Yale President Kingman Brewster (second from right) break ground for the new CMHC, April 13, 1964.
CMHC turns 45 this year! Join in the celebration at our Open House Gala to benefit the CMHC Foundation on Thursday, November 3rd, 5:30-8:30 PM at Terminal 110, Long Wharf, New Haven. Click here to register.

"You Made a Difference" at CMHC

In April of this year, CMHC launched the "You Made a Difference" staff recognition program. Clients and staff nominated CMHC staff members by submitting a nomination card to the Office of Human Resources. Nominations praised staff for providing exceptional care to their clients and outstanding service to CMHC. About his clinician, one client wrote, "Your patience, understanding, persistence. Your skill, kindness, caring. In the end, your heart."

YMADside1At the first "You Made a Difference" recognition ceremony held in August, CMHC director Michael Sernyak congratulated the award recipients and thanked them for their hard work and dedication. The auditorium was full and recipients were met with resounding applause.

Nominations are currently being accepted for the next round of awards, scheduled for December. To nominate someone, please pick up a card from the HR Office, Room 162.

The Summer 2011 "You Made a Difference" award winners include the entire Plant Operations team (pictured above, left to right): Shawn Douglas, Norma Fernandez, Larry Nivens, Rich Sartini, and Shawn Stanley. Other winners: Joanne Baloga, Dr. Paul Geha, Roberto Gonzalez, Erik Fontanez, Charlene Handy, Susan House, Dolores Jackson, Sergeant James Jackson, Heike Karsch, Maria Medina, Dr. Susan Parke, Dr. Mia Sage, Patricia Schuler, Nancy Watsky, and Sheila Zayas.

Scenes from the Farmers' Market FarmMarketSquare
The Hill Farmers' Market at CMHC wraps up its successful second season! CitySeed runs the market in collaboration with the CMHC Foundation. Glimpse the market in action here.
Peers in Action

Peer specialists play a significant role here at CMHC. From staffing the Peer Desk, to running focus groups, to working with WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Planning), peer staff work in a variety of roles on behalf of people receiving services at CMHC.

Research indicates that peers play an important role in the recovery process. To learn about a major study on Peer Mentor Effectiveness now underway at CMHC's Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, click here.

Rebecca Miller, Ph.D., the study's co-director and director of the Peer Support Program at CMHC, says peers are trained to share stories about their personal journeys in order to help people in their recovery from mental health and/or addictions. Five peers rotate staffing the desk, where they respond to the needs of clients in the waiting area. They offer one-on-one support and provide resources about current events and community resources, and help people to complete intake paperwork. Two peers work as members of CMHC clinical teams: Liz Lobotsky with the ACT Team (Assertive Community Treatment) and Paul De La Reza with YAS (Young Adult Services, based at West Haven Mental Health Clinic). At 34 Park Street, CMHC's main campus, Peer Specialists can be found at the desk Monday through Thursday from 9am-3pm. As employees of the South Central Behavioral Network and Marrakech, Inc., the Peer Support team members are deployed to work at CMHC.

A second peer initiative is using peer-led focus groups to assess satisfaction with services at CMHC. The goal of this initiative is to generate conversation among clients that will lead to a deeper understanding of needs. Five Peer Leaders, selected through an interview process, are being trained to lead focus groups, which will begin in November. Peer Leaders will collect data and perform analyses, as well as the present the findings to the CMHC community. According to Joy Kaufman, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry who oversees evaluation at CMHC, the project aims to give consumers a voice and create a friendlier environment for CMHC clients.

Peers also co-lead WRAP groups on both the inpatient and outpatient units here at CMHC. Leaders of WRAP groups present self-help tools to empower clients to move beyond their symptoms. According to Ted Pappas, MA, Director of Consumer and Family Initiatives at CMHC, peers are also active with the Empowerment Council, which has representation from people across the Community Services Network (CSN) and meets monthly to discuss challenges and initiatives throughout the network. At monthly Peer Forums people working as Peer Specialists across New Haven come together to discuss challenges and effective solutions in their work as peers.

Take a moment to say hello to a peer and celebrate their contributions to CMHC!

Pictured Above (Left to Right): Maria, Team Leader; Erika Carr, Postdoctoral Fellow; Becca Miller, Director, Peer Support; Shumra Chambers, Peer Specialist; Eric Taylor, Peer Specialist; Jodie Brandriff, Peer Specialist; Liz Lobotsky, ACT Team Recovery Coach.

Editor's Desk:
My Great-Grandmother
Lucile headshot

Around 1940, my great-grandmother entered a state mental hospital in Georgia. She lived there for the rest of her life, more than thirty years.

Hers was the last generation of mentally ill people to be housed en masse for years in institutions. In the United States between 1966 and 1975, over 250,000 people left state mental hospitals to live in the community. According to Classics of Community Psychiatry, a book whose co-editors include our own Michael Rowe and Larry Davidson, the state inpatient population decreased to 170,000 patients in 1975, down from 559,000 patients in 1955.

Sometimes as I walk through the halls of CMHC, I think about my great-grandmother.

I don't know much about her, but I've heard she was a gifted cook. I picture her shopping at the CitySeed/CMHC farmers' market, vouchers in hand, and joining the vegetarian cooking group. I picture her sitting with friends in the CMHC cafeteria, returning home on the bus to her supportive housing apartment. She was deaf; I imagine her visiting Charles Avena, MSW, coordinator of our program for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients, and developing her recovery plan with him. I imagine her gracing the front door and the CMHC pharmacy with her statuesque beauty. I wonder how the life of her son, my grandfather, might've been different had he not been forced, due to lack of choices, to commit her.

In this newsletter I hope to reveal some of the challenges that CMHC clients, their families, and our staff face every day. And I hope to give our readers a sense of the talent, compassion, perseverance and optimism that pervade this amazing place.

Please write to me with your story ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.

Lucile Bruce, Editor
In This Issue
STEP Success
Ear Acupuncture at SATU
CMHC Turns 45!
You Made the Difference
Scenes from the Farmers' Market
Peers in Action
Editor's Desk: My Great-Grandmother
Quick Links

Join Our Mailing List!
Health & Wellness
Health&Wellness Image-cropped
Cooking is Good for You!
Cooking your own meals allows you to ensure that the healthiest, leanest ingredients are used. Here's another reason to stop ordering take-out: cooking for 33 minutes will burn off 100 calories. As the saying goes, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself! 
-- Lydia Chwastiak, MD
Walk it Out
Can't figure out how to stay active during the busy work week? Try a lunchtime walk! Share your favorite downtown walking routes with your colleagues by submitting your route, including approximate time and distance, to We will compile routes and share with colleagues in the December issue!

Next Up: Bike Routes...


Stop Smoking
Smoking cessation groups are now meeting Fridays at noon at SATU (Long Wharf) and are open to CMHC clients. The group is co-led by a psychologist and a psychiatrist and is free of charge. For questions or to make a referral, call Dr. Lisa Fucito (974-7579).


Healthy Snacks for Football Season 

Here are some great ideas about how you can enjoy football and eat well at the same time! Click here for some great ideas courtesy of the Food Network.



Stay healthy this winter and help prevent the spread of the flu!

Brian Lenoci, PA-C, CMHC's primary care provider, will give the flu vaccine to all outpatient clients and staff who request it. Simply call Brian at (203) 974-7334 for his availability or drop by his office, Rm. 260, just outside the CMHC cafeteria.


Flu Vaccine for Staff:

CMHC nurses will be giving flu shots to staff on a walk-in basis, Thursday, November 10th, 1 PM-4 PM in Room W212. For more information, please contact Christine Orris, infection control coordinator, at (203) 974-7336.


Take Your Blood Pressure!

The new blood pressure machine has arrived and is located in the CMHC cafeteria. Clients, staff, and visitors are invited to take their blood pressure as an important and sometimes life-saving step toward personal wellness. It's completely safe and confidential. Don't delay...take your blood pressure today!




News & Updates


Jack Tebes, PhD is the newly appointed Director of The Consultation Center and Director of Psychology at CMHC.


Avon Johnson, LCSW now serves as CMHC's Director of Inpatient Services. In this newly created position, she is responsible for all operations on the 4th floor inpatient unit.


Michael Rowe, PhD of CMHC's Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health has been appointed the Center's Director of Community Inclusion. For questions and suggestions about this exciting new position, please contact or


Clinician Debbie Fisk of CMHC Team E recently completed her PhD. Congratulations Debbie!



Book Fair

Wednesday, November 9th, 10 AM-3 PM in the CMHC cafeteria. 250 great titles at unbelievable prices! Proceeds will benefit the CMHC Foundation.



November 18, 12 NOON-2 PM in the CMHC cafeteria. Special guests: the Yale Spizzwinks a-cappella singing group! Please contact Ann Joy to reserve your seating time: (203) 974-7874, This event is very popular but we never run out of food!


CMHC Holiday Party Yes, it's that time of year again!

December 16, 2011

Anthony's Ocean View

Dinner & Dancing 6:30-11:00 PM. SAVE THE DATE!

For more information, contact event co-chair Maggie Ferrucci in the Nursing Department office (203) 974-7070.


IF YOU HAVE NEWS of any kind, please send it to the editor! We rely on YOU to help us keep this newsletter current! Write to:   



Music at CMHC

Bob-music at cmhc

Robert Bartley--singer, pianist, guitarist, and CMHC's Director of Human Resources--performs in the CMHC cafeteria.


In October, Luis Anez, PhD and Robert Bartley, both CMHC staff members, performed live music in the CMHC cafeteria at lunchtime as part of the "Music at CMHC" initiative. In addition, a Yale student volunteer has been playing solo violin in the acute services waiting area. A group of CMHC staff members formed a Music Committee to plan the Wednesday lunchtime offerings. If you love music and would like to propose ideas for a performance or join the committee, please contact any of the current members:


Luis Anez


Rob Bartley 


Lucile Bruce 


Mary Dansinghani


Ann Joy 


Thank you!




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