The Power of Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  So goes the childhood lesson commonly taught in this country, to help kids deal with the foolish and often mean name-calling that is an unfortunate part of growing up among other children.

As a temporary defense strategy, reciting this lesson to oneself may sometimes work or at least  help resist the urge to raise the ante, but in the long run it fails because the basic premise is totally false.  Words are very, very powerful, and we are subject to their power our entire lives.  And we must learn to deal, each in our way.  So it is always encouraging when the larger culture takes on this issue, such as recently noted in the news regarding drug addiction.  This is a tough one, worthy of attention.  The associated emotions of shame and pain, anger and desperation and hopelessness (there are more) pack the language of substance dependence with extraordinary power.  “Crackhead” “ Junkie” “ Lush” “ Alky” “ Scum”  “Loser”  There are so many!  And all of them loaded with judgement and blame.  “Abuser” may be the most damning of all, its negative power well established through its use both by the public and professionals.

The news item gives us a quote from an authority in the field that hits the nail squarely on the head:  “Words have to change, so attitudes change.”  Ain’t it so!  But how?  One suggestion is to change the harmful, judgmental terms with medical terms, as in “substance use disorder”  which some say is more neutral and to the point.  This might be a good start, but medicalizing the lexicon has its own pitfalls.  Consider the history of the mental health lexicon in general, in all its confusing and colorful glory, with words like “insane” “nuts” “crazy” “loony” “daffy” “batty” “feeble-minded” “screwed-up” and many, many more.  All of them used to describe, in a totally inconsistent and confusing way, conditions ranging from mild depression and anxiety to psychosis.

The current trend is towards a kind of medicalized confusion, with terms like “bipolar” and the DSM alphabet soup of “ADD” “OCD” and “PTSD” part of everyone’s daily language, along with comments like “hey, you need meds.”  Does all this signify a change in cultural attitudes?  Has the language become less pejorative and less stigmatizing?  It is not at all clear.  Maybe a first small step forward would be in encouraging everyone to recognize that “they” – the addicted, as well as the many who suffer more painfully with their emotions and thoughts than the rest of us – are not all that different.  One might even consider that, essentially, there is no “we” and “them”;  there is only “us.”  Call it compassion.  Name those who suffer more what they actually are:  “people who are struggling” or maybe just “the vulnerable.”  Maybe we should just start with that.

John Dabrowski  LICSW
Neponset Health Center & Geiger Gibson Community Health Center
Harbor Health Services, Inc.

MassHealth Renewal Letters 2016

MassHealth Harbor Health

Are you enrolled in MassHealth and ready for 2016?

MassHealth members must respond to their renewal letters by the date listed on the letter. If you miss the deadline to reapply, your coverage will end. It’s a good idea to keep and file all mail from MassHealth for your record . There are multiple options for renewal and assistance to do so:

-Online (

-Phone (MassHealth: 1-800-841-2900)

-In Person Assistance (visit a health center or email us at for more details)


Those newly eligible for Connector Care plans have access to Health Safety Net for up to 90 days after the submission of their application. During this time members are encouraged to select and enroll in a Connector Care Plan. After 90 days Health Safety Net may be used for HSN eligible dental services only. Don’t drop the ball on this final step. Select and Enroll in a Connector Plan to prevent a gap in insurance. Assisters can help with this process. Please email us at for more information.

MassHealth will be using the Department of Revenue’s Quarterly Wage Data report to determine those who may have found employment during the last year. Those who claimed that they had no income and/or projected $0.00 for their annual income will be asked to provide proof of income if the department of revenue finds new information. (Sample Letter) Please contact us at if you received one of these letters. We will be able to help in regards to providing the information MassHealth is looking for.

What is Zika Virus?



Although Zika virus was first identified almost 70 years ago, you may have not heard about it until recently. So why is it a trending topic and health concern in 2016? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

“Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil. Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries.”

So how is Zika virus spread and what are the symptoms of Zika virus disease? According to the CDC, Zika virus is spread “primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.” Zika virus causes Zika virus disease, or just Zika for short.

The CDC lists the most common symptoms of Zika as:

  • Fever
  • Rash,
  • Joint pain,
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes).
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.

Researchers are studying the possible link between Zika virus disease and birth defects in pregnant women. The CDC recommends that pregnant women delay travel to countries where Zika is prevalent or talk with their doctor prior to their trip to discuss possible risks.

Dorchester WIC Program Moving

Harbor Health’s Women, Infants, Children Nutrition (WIC) program announces the relocation of its Minot Street operations.


Dorchester, MA — Harbor Health’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition  program moved its operations from 10 Minot Street to 398 Neponset Avenue in Dorchester, joining the Pediatrics and Women’s Health departments located on the 2nd floor of the Neponset Health Center. The move is scheduled for Saturday, January 30, 2016.

According to Kevin Casey, Executive Director at Neponset Health Center, “the move was necessary to increase access and make it more convenient for pregnant women and new moms to obtain all the services they need in one place, meeting Patient Centered Medical Home standards for better coordinated patient care”.

In addition to WIC benefits, patients will have access to a Parent 2 Parent case manager also available as part of the new maternal child health team.

The Women, Infants, Children Nutrition (WIC) program is free to qualified families and provides healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and support services.

Parent 2 Parent (P2P) is a partnership between Tufts Medical Center and program sites in the Dorchester and Chinatown neighborhoods of Boston and Quincy. The primary goal of P2P is to reduce infant mortality and morbidity by improving access to health care for pregnant women and their children. P2P redefines prenatal care to include social services, education and advocacy. Maternal and child health outreach workers are trained to provide access to social supports and medical services for pregnant women, mothers and their young children.

If you would like to learn more about WIC or P2P program located at the Neponset Health Center or to make an appointment, please call 617-265-4380.

2016 MassHealth Enrollment Event in Hyannis

Hyannis Enrollment Event - English (2)

Did You Receive a MassHealth Renewal Letter and Need Help Applying?

Attend a Free Special Enrollment Event!

February 4, 2016, 10:00AM-4:00PM
Harbor Community Health Center Hyannis
735 Attucks Lane
Hyannis, MA 02601

Hosted by MassHealth and the Health Connector, where individuals and families can get help renewing health benefits. This is your opportunity to ask questions and get help from trained experts. You can leave events knowing that your renewal is done!

What You May Want to Bring with You

  • The  dates of birth and Social Security numbers (if they have one) for all members in your household who need to apply.
  • Immigration documents for all non-U.S. citizens who are applying.
  • A copy of your federal taxes from last year. If you did not file, information about your current income or a recent pay stub.
  • Home or mailing addresses for everyone in the household who needs insurance, unless they are homeless.
  • Please have available:
  • Proof of identification
  • An e-email address, if you have one, to set up an online account
  • Proof of Massachusetts residency. Proof can be a utility bill, rental agreement and rent receipt, letter from landlord, etc.


     SNOW DATE: FEBRUARY 11, 2016