“Take Care of Yourself” Mental Health Programming offered by Avon Library & Avon Senior Center

This series of 16 programs concluded in December, 2019.

The Avon Free Public Library and Avon Senior Center received an All of Us Research Program Community Engagement Award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.  The $12,500 award was for a year-long series to explore 10 key concepts in mental health and wellness, including programs for the public and sessions for Town of Avon employees. The series offered individual speakers, virtual reality demonstrations, panel discussions, and added new books and resources to the library’s circulating collection.


Completed programs:

Program #1, How to recognize and interact with people who have mental health conditions

Snow date invoked. This program will be held Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 6:30 pm

Avon Library Community Room, 281 Country Club Rd., Avon, CT 06001.

This workshop will be led by Richard Fisher, LCSW, Director, DMHAS Office of Workforce Development.  Mr. Fisher will discuss how to successfully interact with those suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and those on the autism spectrum.  The program is free, open to all members of the public, and no registration is required.

Program #2, Find your oasis in the overwhelm:  60-second Sanity Strategies with Millie Grenough

Thursday, March 21, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm

Avon Library Community Room, 281 Country Club Rd., Avon, CT 06001

Looking for calm in the chaos? Don’t have time to get yourself on track? These 60-second strategies will help you take control, be healthier and happier, at work and at home. Millie Grenough is a coach, author of ten books, Motivational Speaker, and Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, Millie coaches people in all walks of life from CEOs to harried parents and imparts her strategies in workshops, lectures and individual sessions internationally. Millie’s books and materials will be for sale at this event.

Program #3, How to recognize depression: am I feeling blue or is it something more?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 6:30 pm

Avon Senior Center, 635 West Avon Rd., Avon, CT 06001

 Nancy A. Scheetz, Executive Director, Farmington Valley VNA, Inc., will present on

how to recognize when the feelings you have are normal, every day down in the dumps, verses something that you may need to do more to correct.  It will be an informational session to ease people’s minds regarding how to know what levels of mood changes are, how they come about, what to do to help them correct themselves and when to reach out for more help.  This session will include a brief conversation on medications, including how to monitor if they are getting the desired effect.  It is very normal to have mood changes in life, especially when aging, but treatable depression is not a normal part of aging and it should not go untreated.

Program #4, Everything you need to know about hoarding

Thursday, May 16, 2019,  6:30-8:00 PM

Avon Senior Center, 635 West Avon Rd., Avon, CT 06001

David Tolin, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living, and an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.  He is the author of over 150 scientific journal articles, as well as several books including Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding. His research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.  Dr. Tolin has been featured in television shows such as Hoarders, The OCD Project, The Dr. Oz Show, and  The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Program #5, Dementia: what you need to know

Tuesday, June 25, 2019,  6:30-8:00 PM

Avon Senior Center, 635 West Avon Rd., Avon, CT 06001

Presented by Amina Weiland, CDP, CDCP, certified dementia practitioner and resource coordinator, Hartford Healthcare Center for Healthy Aging.

Did you know there are 62 kinds of dementia? Alzheimer’s is just one type. This presentation will define dementia, identify the warning signs, explain why it is not part of normal aging, share communication techniques, and define what encompasses Alzheimer’s.  Caregivers are encouraged to attend this presentation.

Program #6, Mindfulness for Skeptics

Thursday, August 8, 2019,  6:30-8:00 PM

Avon Senior Center, 635 West Avon Rd., Avon, CT 06001

This session, led by Amanda Votto of Copper Beech Institute, will

  • Discuss how we are affected by stressors
  • Clarify what mindfulness is and explore the benefits.
  • Learn about the science and application of mindfulness
  • Experience multiple approaches to practice mindful pausing

Copper Beech Institute teaches mindfulness practice and contemplative wisdom to inspire purposeful living, awaken our full potential for compassionate action, and encourage a healing shift in how we relate to one another and our interconnected world. We build communities of practice and offer people of all backgrounds transformative learning opportunities on and off our campus, on-line, and through outreach among vulnerable communities.

Program #8 Trauma Informed Communities
September 14, 2019, 10.30 am, Avon Free Public Library

Justine Ginsberg, R.N., will teach us about the following:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s)
  • How trauma affects the brain
  • Trauma Informed Communities – what does this mean?
  • What are the components of trauma informed communities and how can we all play a role

A BSN and a Registered Nurse with experience in both Intensive Care and Pediatrics in Australia, Justine has extensive experience working as a health educator in Australia and Europe and in health program development, successfully developing and implementing educational programs internationally and for the FVHD. She has worked in emergency preparedness for the Australian Federal Police and for the Australian Embassy in Belgrade. She is the Community Health Coordinator for the Farmington Valley health District and is responsible for the implementation and  program development of health outreach, training and evaluation.  Justine is the project lead for Resilience Grows Here and passionately believes that the destigmatizing of mental health is vital to the well-being of a community.

Program #9 Positive Body Image

September 26, 2019, 6:30 pm
Avon Free Public Library

This workshop is designed to offer a safe environment to learn about self-image. Here we will talk about why we become self-conscious and how it affects our day to day lives. By hearing each other’s stories, we will learn simple coping skills to build positive body image.

Michelle Gage is the founder of Hella Wellness Group.  She is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in New York City. She has over 15 years empowering people in meeting goals in their lives in workshop settings and individual sessions, while continuing to support mind, body, and spirit wellness.

She has attended many workshops around metaphysical and transpersonal modalities. She is trained in several popular therapy modalities including Motivational Interviewing (empower change), Behavioral Activation, and Problem-Solving Therapy. These modalities have informed her work as a Wellness Consultant as her philosophy is working holistically with the person being in the “drivers seat” for their wellness.

Program #10: When a child comes out: support for families

October 9, 2019, 6:30 pm
Avon Free Public Library

This workshop will focus on best practices for supporting families when their child comes out. Emerging research suggests that the single most significant factor in predicting outcomes for youth is the response of their families when the child comes out (Ryan, 2008).  The results of a multi-year, mixed methods study conducted by Caitlin Ryan and her team for the Family Acceptance Project™, at the Cesar E. Chavez Institute, at San Francisco State University, clearly indicate the profound impact that family reactions to an adolescent’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression have on their health, mental health and well-being.  Ryan found that when families are highly rejecting, LGBT youth are at far higher risk for major health and mental health problems as young adults (suicidal ideation and attempts, depression, substance abuse, risk for HIV and STDs), compared with young adults from families that were a little or not at all rejecting. This workshop will focus on evidence based strategies that families and caregivers can use to help  their LGBTQ+ children live happy, healthy productive lives.

Robin P. McHaelen, MSW is the Executive Director of True Colors, Inc.  She has co-authored two books and several articles on LGBTQ youth and is a nationally recognized thought leader. Robin is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2019 GLAD Award for Leadership; 2016 CCSU Women of Influence Award, the 2014 HRC  Upstander Award, the 2011 UCONN Award for Excellence in Public Engagement; 2008 National Education Association’s Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights and the 2008 Social Worker of the Year (NASW, CT Chapter).  In 2017 she was named the Advocates’, 50 States; 50 Heroes for Connecticut. In 2019, she received the GLAD award for her work on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth..

Program #11: The opioid epidemic: where are now?
Saturday, October 12, 2019, 11:00 am
Avon Free Public Library

Find out where we are within the opioid epidemic: What are the current patterns of use? How are doctors hanfling pain management? How has fentanyl changed the landscape? How are pharmaceutical companies responding? Where are hope, and help, being found?

Dr. Charles McKay is the Associate Medical Director of the Connecticut Poison Control Center. He is the immediate past president of the American College of Medical Toxicology and a board member of the Medical Toxicology Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to advance research and education in the prevention and treatment of patients adversely impacted by drugs and other exposures.

Program #12: Conservatorship: What is it? Why would you need one? 

Thursday, October 24, 2019, 6:30 pm
Avon Free Public Library

Marcia L. Hess, from Kraner & Hess, LLC, in Avon, will discuss the estate planning documents that everyone should have and why they are important.   This presentation will include a discussion of Conservatorship and when it is necessary and even how to avoid it.  The topics of Probate and Long Term Care planning may also be covered.

Marcia L. Hess has devoted her entire legal career to working with seniors and their families. Since 1999 she has practiced as an Elder Law attorney, focusing on estate planning, long-term-care planning and advocacy, probate issues, special needs trusts, and real estate. Prior to founding Kraner & Hess LLC in Avon, she was a named partner in Bickford, Kraner and Hess in East Granby. She is a graduate of University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the University of Connecticut School of Law. She serves as Co-Chair of Independent Transportation Network of North Central Connecticut and has been a guest speaker at senior centers throughout our region. She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Connecticut Bar Association Elder Law Section.

Program #13: PTSD/TBI and communities

October 28, 2019, 6:30 pm
Avon Free Public Library

Learn about these two important mental health challenges and see why there is often a misdiagnosis of one or both of these disorders, especially since they share many of the same symptoms. Justine Ginsberg, R.N., cover:

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): it’s not just for veterans

PTSD can happen to anyone who is exposed to abnormally high levels of stress or life threatening/changing events.  Car accidents, sexual assault, domestic abuse, natural disasters and high risk environments can all trigger PTSD in an individual.  Rather than a disorder, PTS is the most normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. Learn why it is more common today, and about the success in providing coping skills for those who suffer from it.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):

An injury to the head that causes a disruption to normal brain function. A bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury can cause mild or sever TBI. The physical and cognitive effects of TBI can go undiagnosed for years and can cause major disruption to an individuals ability to live their life.

Program #14: Transgender 101
Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 6:30 pm
Avon Free Public Library

You’ve probably hearing the word “transgender” more and more, but do you really know what it’s all about? Here’s your chance to learn what it means to be transgender, in a safe and comfortable space.  Jill Celentano is a 58 year-old transgender woman who transitioned four years ago. She will share her personal journey, victories and hardships, and will be happy to answer questions.  Her discussion will cover:

  • The coming out process
  • Transition, acceptance
  • Right and wrong questions to ask transgender people
  • Terms and definitions

This talk is appropriate for ages 14+

Program #15: A Meditator’s Guide to De-stress the Holiday Season
Tuesday, December 3, 2019, 6:30 pm
Avon Free Public Library

Join Jayaprabha, a meditation practitioner for the past 24 years and director of Vital Life Center, for a fun interactive meditation event. Together we will explore meditative tools to dissolve stress and bring joy back into your holiday preparations. Celebrate in peace with your loved ones and re-connect with the deeper spirit of the holiday season.

Program #16: Grief: When Ho, Ho, Ho Becomes Woe, Woe, Woe
Thursday, December 19, 2019, 2:00 pm
Avon Senior Center, 635 West Avon Rd., Avon, CT 06001

The merriment, social engagement and frenzy of the holiday season can be upsetting for people who are wrestling with the loss of loved ones, illness, financial or family problems, and other challenges to physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.  This program will explore the ways in which grief can be triggered during the holidays and will offer suggestions to reduce distress and  boost spirits.

Presented by Marilyn Sponzo provides spiritual care at McLean Health Center.  A retired lawyer with a specialty in investment law, Marilyn is  currently a student in the master’s of divinity program at Chicago Theological Seminary, where her  focus is on spiritual care for seniors. Marilyn lives with her husband and assorted pets in her North Granby home — aptly named “Chateau Bow Wow.”

The McLean Hospice Care team responds nonjudgmentally to individual needs and concerns to provide physical, social and emotional well-being – all while maintaining your loved one’s personal dignity. They’re also a specially trained LGBT inclusive organization.  For family members and caregivers, they offer support and education to help them better understand what’s happening at any particular point in time and what to expect moving forward.

For questions or more information, please contact:

Tina Panik, Reference & Adult Services Manager
Avon Free Public Library
Email: tpanik@avonctlibrary.info,  Phone: 860-673-9712 ext. 235

Jennifer Bennett, LMSW
Avon Senior Center
Email: jbennett@avonct.gov, Phone: 860-675-4355