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Episode 229th August 2022 • Open Access, Open Mic • Red Rock Branding
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On this episode, we speak to Mitch Gallignano about his journey from skeptic to APT Foundation board member!

Mitch shares a little about his own personal recovery and his journey into politics as a local councilman in West haven, Connecticut.

Join us as we talk about the life changing and life saving work of the APT Foundation. The APT Foundation has been committed to the promotion of health and recovery since 1970.


 Welcome to the latest episode of Open Access Open Mic, the podcast with the APT Foundation. The APT Foundation is here to help employers, communities, and families care for people who may be living with opioid or other substance use disorder. Serving the Greater New Haven community through an evidence-based open access model.

Get in touch with us to find out Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Open Access Open Mic, a podcast brought to you in association with the APT Foundation. Now on today's episode, I am super excited to be speaking to Mitch Gallo. Now, Mitch is an amazing fella. Not only is he the area manager at Fleet Pride, where he's been for over 21.

He knows a thing or two about trucks. He is also the fourth district councilman of West Haven City Council, and he is also a director on the board of the APT Foundation. Mitch, welcome to Open Access, open Mic.

Thank you so much, Claire. This is truly an honor for myself to be here today. The

appreciation is all ours.

So, Mitch, kick it off. Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you end up as, first of all, perhaps a council? And definitely as a director of the App Foundation, tell me about your career.

So I can go back quite a few years. As you know, I'm a little bit older here. I want to start with my sobriety first.

I got sober in:

So I always emphasized that, that I came for the wrong ones, stayed for the right ones. Fantastic. Uh, the first 10 years I was getting my life together cause I was 28 years old. When I first got sober, but I was still really 16 because I started using at 16 and that's when your brain stops growing. Right?

So I was really 16 mentally though, physically I was 28. So by the time I really got my act together, I was about 38, 39 years old. That's when I met my second wife and uh, we got married. I moved to West Haven from the Danbury area of Connecticut. I got involved with Fleet Pride right after that as just a regular counterman in their, one of their stores in North Haven, Connecticut.

ober. In between that time in:

when I was in North Haven that I could actually give some time back to the community, which I never thought I would ever do in my lifetime. I'll never forget the night I won my first primary. I went ho. I was in the car. I was crying on the way home because I had people vote for me and I never thought that I could have that.

sorry. Not at all. What

it, it's pretty incredible from small acorns grow great oak trees, as they say.

night. That was September of:

've been on the council since:

right? Represent us. Then in:

And I didn't know much about the opioid issue back then because thank God when I was out there using the only thing if you could eat it, drink it, or smoke it, I did it. Anything with a needle, I didn't put it in my. And opioids weren't really around in the eighties. They didn't come out until the late nineties.

And as we know the whole story behind that. So I go out and I go to all the board meetings for the app foundation for the planning and zoning board meetings that the app Foundation was at trying to put this building in, cuz all residents are saying we don't want to here in our backyard. Then one day I.

that was probably in July of:

We would love to have somebody like you on our board of directors. I was floored, right? Wow. . I was absolutely floored, Claire and I said, that would be such an honor. Now, this is before we had any battles over the summer, right? So that summer she didn't know I was there. Not for the AT foundation coming into West Haven at that point, cuz I'm representing people at this point, not myself.

Right. So I was conflicted there a little bit because I know what recovery is for, for everybody. So I said, yes, I would love that. We go through the summer and we have these little battles and I'm up, I'm going to these meetings. Speaking against the app coming in, in the back of my head, I knew that the app Foundation was gonna get in.

t Avenue. Now come October of:

I get an email. Saying we would like her and David, I don't know how to say his last name, but he's the chairman of the board, would like to take me out to lunch and do an interview. They took me to lunch in New Haven. We did the interview. They got back to me in, I don't remember the amount of time, but they said in January and our board meeting in January, we will be, give your name to the board members and if they vote for you to be on the board, then you will be on the.

I get the call in January of:

Again, like you said before, there is no waiting. You could walk in, they take you. It's just a tremendous program.

Is substance use getting in the way of your ability to partake in activities you once enjoyed or maintain any aspect of daily life, opioid or other substance use disorders can be treated safely and effectively.

Reach out to your local treatment network through samh treatment. That's samm hs treatment to start medicine and begin your recovery, brought to you by the APT

One of the issues I did have when I first. I heard about the app is I'm all about abstinence, right?

With the opioid epidemic you can't go abstinent. It just is unfeasible. So I learned to that effect that abstinence doesn't work with the opioid epidemic at this point in our lives. Uh, and so that was something I did not. Going into this and I was against, I'm all about abstinence, right? So I was like, damn, they could, they just, you know, they give out their amox and all the medicine that they give out, right?

That you need to take daily to actually be a. Productive person in the community. So I learned that and I accepted that. As I said before, you look at the book and you say, I'm not gonna read this book. And you open a book and it's a great book, right? It's an awesome book. And you're like, wow. How, why would I judge that book by the cover without reading it?

I think

that's, that's big isn't it? Is the open, their open access model is fantastic.

Tremendous. It's such a great thing for the community and for people who don't know about it and who think that just we look as an alcoholic or a drug addict, that somebody's on the, on the curb, right. And they got, they're all scabby and not clean.

And if you go look at some of the addicts that we have in the App Foundation, they're professional people. They're just like you and me. Or anybody else in this world, right? You don't know unless you walk in their shoes. So hats off to Lynn Madden and her team for what a tremendous job they do for the community of New Haven, west Haven, north Haven, and Bridgeport.

I believe we have a building in Bridgeport too. It's been such an honor. So on the board, as a board member, . Very, very simple. The meetings are similar to my council meetings. The difference is there's no contention in the app. Board found meetings as there is on the city Council , everybody has the same agenda on the app foundation, where in politics, It's their own agenda, right?

It is a true honor to go to those meetings compared to the council meetings. ,

I mean, obviously you can hear by my silly accent that I'm not from these parts and, but I do know a little bit about substance misuse and treatment that's offered in, certainly in the uk. And the biggest issue seems to be that I see from this lay person here is the time.

Takes from an individual to acknowledge that they've got a serious problem that is affecting their life in a really negative way, and those around them, and they want to change and do something about it. And getting access to professional services, whether that be, you know, a methadone program or whatever it may be, whatever their individual needs are.

The time between that, you lose them, you lose them, you know? So, mm-hmm. you one day you could be ready, willing, and able to really crack this. You know, to, to kick on with your life. But the next day, you know, you've fallen again. You know, and you, and you're back in that same mess. One of the things I absolutely loved hearing Lynn talk about was the instantness of the app foundation.

You rock up and things happen. Things happen immediately. They happen on a medical level, they happen on a mental level. It's just for me, I, when I listen to her, I'm inspired, and I hear that in your voice as well when you speak about Lynn. The team are doing there is absolutely astounding. But what I wanna ask you about, Mitch, I wanna ask you about something.

So I love the fact that you had to represent your community as a councilman and stand up against the APT Foundation. And they'd already asked you to be on the board because you're fabulous too, and you had to walk that line. That must have been a really difficult line whilst it was going through zoning to to walk if your two hats on.

It was

very difficult, right, because I was being pulled both ways, but I knew that, listen, they voted for me. and they are my boss, right? So to say, I don't want to u, I don't know if boss is the right word, but I'm representing you and you say to me, Hey, this is what I want you to do. And then I have most of the community tell me that.

So in my heart of hearts, even though I was all for this place, It's not about me, it's about everybody, right? Yeah. So I had to do the right thing for everybody. So when I did get on the board, I did forget to mention this. There was one concerned citizen, and she was so adamant about this place not being near her house, and when it got in, she was upset.

And then when I got voted onto the board, I called her up personally and said to her, and I said, I am on the board of directors. Oh my God. I said, listen, if there's ever anything crazy happening or anything like that, you have me to call and say something about, I'm on the board. This is really an in for.

This is a great deal for everybody cuz now it's just perfect because I'm on the board. Right. So you have an an inside person so to say. I don't wanna say inside person, but you have somebody that you can trust that is in position to help you.

Very much so. Yeah. You're there to serve. You're there to serve.

Incredible. Okay. Question for you. Have you ever previously heard of the open access model? Recall it that, had you ever come across that before? No, I

was completely new to you. No, it was all brand new to me, so it was brand new to me. The non abstinence was brand new to me, so it opened a door that I never thought I would go through or.

Believe in, right. Like I said before, I believe in total abstinence for me anyway, right? So when it comes to the methadone clinic, it doesn't work that way. And I was taught, or I learned that you can have abstinence that way. It just doesn't work that way. It was a great learning experience for

me. And I guess it's, there are multiple routes to the same goal at the end of the day, you know?

And if these. Our, the clients of APT are able to get access not just to the medical help that they need to keep themselves and their families safe, but they're also having access to an incredible array of programs. And I love the menu idea that Lynn was talking to us about, which was, you know that people actually have a choice.

They can choose what they do and when they do it as well, there's some real flexibility and a real, I think, a real carrot for people to want to get involved and try.

There is just so much that they do that people don't realize what they do when it comes to the mental side of addiction, right? Because there's a lot more to addiction than just the addiction, right?

So, I'll go back again and when I first got clean and sober, I was in therapy probably for the first five years just to get my stuff together, right? I mean, you have to learn life all over again. You need new living skills. I believe the app Foundation gives those out too, and you just have to relearn how to live your life.

Being clean today. It just doesn't even compare to what my life was back then. I'll just say this, my kids don't remember me ever drinking or using drugs, and they're in their thirties and forties now, so they were very young when I stopped. So God did me wonders when he brought me into this program. Oh, that's beautiful.

Other than the fact. Your initial lack of knowledge, shall we say, around what the Apps Foundation do and what they offer. Has there been anything else that has particularly surprised you or success stories that you've heard about that have kind of blown your mind during your directorship?

They do great research that I never knew about.

We have a doctor on there that when we have our board meetings every 90 days, there's probably two or three programs that that come up new every time. And they do tremendous, tremendous research from A to Z. Right? I don't want to go into any particular programs that they research on cuz, but they do such a great job that I would've, you would've never known.

They do this kind of.

I think that's it. Again, it's those outside viewpoint of it's a methadone clinic. Well, no it's not. It's considerably more than that. I'm backed by some incredible brains, some very passionate people who are absolute experts, world experts in their field, and the way in which they engage with.

Is remarkable. It's remarkable. And the, the choice of programs available to people to take when they want is life changing. It's absolutely life

changing book. Just, it is definitely life changing. And for the people who don't know about it, it's really, again, I'm gonna go back to the book. You need to open the book no matter what the cover looks like, because you would be surprised that what Yeah.

Foundation is just a tremendous place. Kudos to Lynn Madden and her team, because the passion comes from Lynn. I don't know where she gets her drive from, but I've never seen any person like her be so dedicated to what she

does. Absolutely. It's not just enthusiasm, it's passion.

It really is. I, I get chills down my spine just thinking about how.

Great of a person. She really is. Yeah, she's,

she's done incredible things already and she's so bright. Who knows what, what will be next on her hit list for development? Well, I hope,

hope she never leaves the App Foundation because I think she's been there probably about 15 years and Yeah, totally revamped that whole app foundation.

Yeah. Her passion and her fire and her belly is to be commended. Last question for you then, Mitch, before I let you get off on your busy day. When you talk about your. With the APT Foundation with other city officials or community members. I mean, you, you briefly mentioned one of your residents, but city officials, how do you go about explaining the work of APT and really breaking down those barriers so that the, the book isn't judged by its cover, so to speak?


as I've said here on this today's interview, I said, listen, you really. Understand what they really do. It's much more than giving out methadone. It's much more than an addict going in there and just trying to get treatment. There's a mental side of our addiction, right? So, and that is tremendous really.

If you want to battle your addiction, I believe you have to battle the mental side of your a. So that you can not, you wanna cure it cuz you don't cure it. It's an everyday ongoing battle that we deal with as addicts and uh, alcoholism also. So when somebody comes up to me and says, what's the app? Do I tell 'em?

It's way more than that. It's more about the mental part of your life. You need to go in and just really relearn how to live life. And I believe that the App Foundation teaches those skills to those people that really want to change their life nowadays. Right? And you really have to change everything in your life, including your friends.

The only thing, you can't change your family, right? But you can change your. And you go do the right thing that you need to do to battle this problem every single day. It

is an incredible service. It truly is. And also, I would say that they're very open. You know, it's not a secret society. There are open house days where you can go and find out what the app foundation is about.

So I guess if you have a preconceived idea about what it is, Well, why don't you actually fill that with some facts.

If somebody came to me and said, take me to the app Foundation, I'm sure I could walk 'em through the West Haven Clinic, and they would be totally amazed at what really goes on in that building.

Again, there's the building. You gotta go inside the building to see what's really happening. Right? So they would be truly amazed and probably grateful on what they really, really do. Absolutely. And then they'll say, wow, they would have a different outlook as I. When I found out what they really do


I couldn't agree more. Mitch, it's been such a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you for sharing your journey, not just personally, but also. From skeptic to being on the board. I think that speaks absolute volumes. If you would like to find out more about the APT Foundation, what they really do do, check out the website, which is apt, and you can have a little look there.

And also take a look at their open houses that they do, so that if you wanna find out more and educate yourself about the incredible work of Lynn Madden and the rest of her team, then check it out online. That's the APT Mitch, it's been a. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you so much.

This has been such an honor for me. My heart is pounding. .

Oh, you've been a hero and a rockstar. Don't worry. It's all in the editing. Mitch . Thanks for being a part of Open Access Open Mic. A podcast brought to you by the App Foundation. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of Open Access Open Mic with the APT found.

the Connecticut public since:

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