SPRINGFIELD — The Mental Health Assoc. (MHA) has named René Piñero vice president of Behavioral Health and Clinical Operations.
Piñero, who has worked in the field of addiction and mental-health services for more than two decades, will have responsibilities that include further development of MHA’s clinical and operational practices and policies as well as oversight of outpatient behavioral-health services through MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health and Wellness Center that opened in 2019.
“There is a huge need for services in the behavioral-health field as well as for addiction,” Piñero said. “Right now, people in the community are either not finding provider-supervised services, or the appointments they are being given are too far along for individuals who are really in need. I want MHA to be able to provide more services, a higher quality of services, as well as services that can be accessible in a reasonable amount of time.”
The population MHA serves includes those with substance-use disorders and mental-health conditions, adults with acquired brain injury, individuals with intellectual disabilities, as well as the chronically homeless.
Piñero has held clinical director or supervisor positions at the Center for Human Development as well as Gándara Center, and worked with programs targeting a broad range of populations, including interventions for batterers, survivors of domestic abuse, aftercare for second offenders, sex-offender treatments, and anger-management groups.
“This position gives me the opportunity to work on procedures and policies that affect the services we provide to our clients in the area,” Piñero said. “It is a step up in my career. I have moved on from providing therapy services to clients to eventually becoming a supervisor and then program director and clinical director, and now, in this position, I oversee a lot of those programs that I worked at before.”
Piñero said advances in treatment and the way services are delivered as well as recognition that substance use and a mental-health diagnosis can be co-occurring conditions involving a number of issues are helping with more success in recovery.
“The realization that individuals need to be monitored and changes made in the way we provide services have helped improve treatment results,” he said. “It is very typical of someone who has an issue of addiction to also have a behavioral-health or mental-health problem due to trauma in their past or ongoing issues or even a medical condition that could be causing behavioral changes.
“A lot of times, individuals who have mental-health or behavioral-health issues may cope with their issues by taking substances that end up being even more detrimental to them,” Piñero added. “In either scenario, the importance is to properly assess and identify the conditions that people are dealing with and then provide the proper treatment. Fortunately, there is more understanding today that these issues can encompass many conditions and not just one.
“A lot of people have set ways of thinking regarding mental health or someone dealing with a substance-use disorder,” he went on. “It is up to us to educate people and provide them with proper information to see if eventually we can destigmatize these types of conditions and people can understand that they are basically medical conditions that need to be treated.”
Piñero was educated in his native Puerto Rico, where he also worked, and holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Puerto Rico and a master’s degree in psychological counseling from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. He is licensed and certified in mental-health counseling, alcohol and drug counseling, and as a Massachusetts problem-gambling specialist.
He called MHA “an agency that supports the people who work for them,” and in doing his MHA work he is looking forward to “great things in collaboration with all of our other departments and all of our other staff.”