Trinity Counseling Partnership Fills a Critical Need for Students

By Tim LeBouthillier

Everyone knew it was a good fit when Hartford HealthCare campus counseling services and Trinity College partnered in 2022 and, since then, the groups have worked to increase student health and well-being by expanding services and access to the Behavioral Health Network.

The Counseling and Wellness Center provides a full range of counseling and psychological services on campus to students desiring help coping with personal and emotional difficulties and social relationships.

“We are assisting students achieve all forms of success in their collegiate experience. The center is a busy place, fully utilized by a high percentage of students,” says Ralph Dodd, PsyD, HHC regional director of collegiate counseling for Campus Care at Trinity and Quinnipiac University.

Students enjoy more direct access to a full range of psychological services, such as the IOL Young Adult Program, to address areas such as depression and anxiety. Substance abuse program managers also speak to students at campus health fairs and offer workshops to build skills navigating day-to-day challenges, relationships and self-care. All services are free for students and confidential.

The Trinity College counseling team, back row from left, includes: Nelis Bido-Jimenez, LCSW; Ralph Dodd, PsyD, regional director of collegiate counseling; Elliott Lacki, PsyD; and the recently retired Randolph M. Lee, PhD. In the front from left are: Haben Abraham, LCSW, Counseling Center director; Maryam Redman, LCSW; Elif Abedin, office manager; and Jessica Wilde, LCSW.

Rehab Team Bonds Over ‘Take What You Need’ Box

By Elena Bisson
Megan Brennick, left, poses with colleagues and the box where they collect donated items for families.

On a chilly spring day earlier this year, Megan Brennick welcomed a new patient into the North Haven clinic where she helps pregnant and expectant mothers through occupational therapy for pelvic health and lymphedema.

The site supervisor and a mother herself, she couldn’t help but notice the patient’s young son was dressed in lighter clothing than she would dress her own son for the season.

During the first appointment, she learned the patient was struggling financially, and thoughts of their hardship lingered in her mind. She wondered how could she help without overstepping boundaries.

She and colleagues at the clinic put their heads together and, soon, created the “take what you need” box, an inconspicuous plastic bin in the private treatment room. A sign adorns the front:

Take what you need. Please help yourself to items for you and your family. If you need, ask your therapist to be connected to resources in our community. With love, Megan and the North Haven Team.

Since its creation, families have helped themselves to diaper cream, coupons for baby care items, activity mats, feeding supplies and supplements. The box has brought the North Haven office closer, which joy quietly shared as items go missing from the box, and happy mothers leave their appointments.

As for the child who sparked the project’s creation, he left his mother’s next appointment with a winter jacket wrapped snuggly around him.

Nurse Gives Back After Personal Experience with NICU

By Joyce Germano

As a Charlotte Hungerford Hospital labor and delivery nurse, Kirby Marshall cares and supports women through the birthing process, monitoring vitals, tracking contractions, helping with delivery and providing postpartum care.

But, when pregnancy complications mean a mother must be transferred before delivery or a premature newborn is transferred for a higher level of care, Marshall knows first-hand the range of emotions women can experience.

Marshall’s son, Garrett, was born at 27 weeks while she was in nursing school, and she found herself in a hospital where she knew no one, navigating situations she never anticipated. Having a premature baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is not how most parents dream of their baby’s first few days.

Kelli Odenwaelder, RN, director of surgical services and obstetrics at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, left, and Kirby Marshall, RN, labor and delivery, pose with onesies given out through Garrett’s Closet. Photo by Joyce Germano

As a way to celebrate Garrett’s second birthday, Marshall founded Garrett’s Closet to help support other NICU families. Social media fundraising allowed supporters to buy and donate “Tiny but Mighty” onesies to babies transferred from CHH to higher levels of care, and hard-to-find preemie pajamas to families with babies in the NICUs at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, UConn Health, Yale New Haven Hospital and The Hospital of Central Connecticut.

Find Garrett’s Closet on Facebook and Instagram.

Nurse Keeps the Wheels Spinning on Donated Bikes

By Anne Rondepierre

Carin Florin, a nurse manager on 10 North at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, is an avid cyclist. Over the years, she also became quite skilled at maintaining and repairing bicycles and started refurbishing donations to give to others.

“I refurbish these bikes for those in need and those who just want to have some fun,” she says. “Some use these bikes as transportation to work and school. And, a lot of these bikes are used by kids who just enjoy riding around the neighborhood and have never had a bike of their own.”

Florin has prepared more than 60 bicycles over the past two years for an annual bike giveaway run by the Golden Hill Methodist Church in Bridgeport. Other churches and neighbors in the surrounding communities donate the bikes.

“Many of them are in need of repair and that’s where I come in,” she explains. “It really is awesome to see the smiles and hear the stories and gratitude from kids and adults alike. I’m just happy to share my passion for cycling with those who might not otherwise have the means or access to try it out.”

Carin Florin poses with a few of the bicycles she’s refurbished for underprivileged children.

Job, Passion Overlap for EPSON Tour Stop Promoter

By Susan McDonald

When Hartford HealthCare signed on as title sponsor for the EPSON Tour, Lori McCabe did a silent cheer.

McCabe is the marketing lead for the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute (COI), which was the system entity being promoted through the sponsorship, and tapped to work with the tour marketing team to promote the July event at Sacred Heart Great River Golf Club. She’s also an avid golfer, hitting the links as often as possible with her husband, Mike.

“This was so exciting for me!” McCabe says. At the tour’s media day in April, she met several of the young women on the tour, and, with her husband, even joined Destiny Lawson and Jenny Rosenberg for golf afterward.

“Right off the bat, we hit it off. We had such a great time with them. They are so passionate about EPSON and becoming LPGA golfers. They shared with us how they got started golfing, setbacks they had, what they look for the future. They also shared that being on tour can get very expensive because they have to pay for their own housing, airfare, food, rental car, etc.,” McCabe says.

The McCabes, who have two daughters, Charley and Lexi, offered to house the two golfers for the week of the tournament. When Lawson asked if another golfer, Camden Morrison, could stay as well, they said yes.

Lori McCabe, pictured above with golfer Camden Morrison, and her husband Mike below with Destiny Lawson, opened their home to golfers.


“The minute they arrived at our house, it was so natural. They immediately became our family. We had big dinners, lunch at Viron’s in Cheshire and were basically at the golf course every day together. They even took my girls and their friends to see Jason Aldean!” McCabe says, adding that Mike even caddied for Lawson during the tournament.

During their stay, Lawson asked to visit orthopedic patients. She has had two knee surgeries and became passionate about giving encouragement to others. McCabe arranged for her, Morrison and another golfer to visit the St. Vincent’s Medical Center orthopedics unit, where they chatted with patients.

“When they had to leave to travel to their next tournament, my heart was broken. It felt like my own children leaving the nest. They wrote us beautiful notes that we will keep forever. We continue our group texts, and checking in on each other,” she says. “It was an amazing experience for me and my family!”

RSS Author Shares Her Secrets for Happiness

By Elissa Bass

At 24, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder began to explain the extreme mood swings that left Rachel Kaplan struggling to find a happy medium or balance in her emotions.

Now 28 and a recovery support specialist at the Institute of Living, where she herself had been treated, Kaplan helps run group therapy in the schizophrenic rehab program. The career choice was a suggestion of John Santopietro, MD, physician-inchief of the Behavioral Health Network.

It’s one way for her to help others by sharing her journey. The other way she’s discovered is writing. In 2021 Kaplan wrote and self-published the novel Ruby’s Secret to Happiness. In it, characters Beatrice Asher, and Daniel can’t figure out why their coworker, Ruby, is so happy all the time. They have all struggled to find happiness, but notice it just seems to come easier to Ruby.

Rachel Kaplan shares her experience with mental illness in books she writes. Photo by Chris Rakoczy

Ruby’s secrets — which are spelled out in a second book, a self-help volume published this spring called How to Find Happiness in a Crazy World — explain Kaplan’s personal journey.

“I’m an extra happy person,” she says. “I was depressed for a long time. Then one day, my day started out being more positive than usual. I was taking a walk and I was enjoying it, and I realized I was becoming happy.”

Her biggest secret to finding happiness is gratitude. “It’s a cliché but it’s true,” Kaplan says, noting she makes a point to think about what she is grateful for every day. “Feeling gratitude makes such a huge difference.”

That stokes something she calls “happiness capitalism.”

“If you invest in your happiness, you will get happier,” she explains. “And, if you feel a little bit happy, capitalize on it! Make it grow.”

She practices what she preaches, searching out what makes her happy, including her work, taking a walk, spending time with friends and writing. She then grows the happiness those activities bring into the rest of her life.

Making Food that’s Bug-a-licious

By Anne Rondepierre
Grapes, berries, seed butter and other things created edible bugs as part of a community health session.

Because nutrition can improve mental health and wellbeing, Melissa Keeney was inspired to create new and interesting ways to engage patients at the Behavioral Health Network in Westport.

Keeney, clinical nutrition manager at St. Vincent Medical Center, launched a monthly nutrition activity in the spring to make creating and eating healthy food fun for all ages.

In the first session, she guided the children who attended as they made their own nutritious treats in the form of fruit and vegetable bugs.

“Our patients had the chance to be creative, try new foods and have some fun,” she says. “They used sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter and even used chives as antennae for their bugs. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss that a healthy diet includes having a healthy relationship with food.”