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The Beginning

Who was Hector Reyes?

Hector grew up in Ciales, Puerto Rico where his father owned a farm. In 1960 his family moved to the mainland and become one of the first Hispanic families to migrate to Worcester.

He became a baker, working at Widoff’s bakery for 14 years. While baking was his profession his avocation and passion was working to help the Latino community, especially those like himself, who had battled addiction.

While his list of accomplishments are great, highlights include:

1968: Coordinating activities with the Latin Civic Association

1971: Executive Director of ALPA working on bilingual education, school breakfast programs

1972: Working with his daughter Marlyn he started Latino radio programming at WICN at Holy Cross

1974: Primera Parada to help address substance use disorder

Model Cities Construction Clearinghouse program; advocating workforce diversity in    construction trades

1975: Hispanic Youth Leadership Program

1976: Roberto Clemente League, the first Latino Softball League

Centro Communale, the parent organization of Centro Las Americas
El Coqui: Latino Social club

After retiring he worked with Mass Senior Action Council as a founding member and outreach coordinator.

Throughout this time he saw an overriding need for substance use treatment for Latinos. Latinos were disproportionately affected by substance use and there were no treatment centers in Central Massachusetts designed to help them. Recovery was much more difficult in an environment that was not culturally sensitive. Individuals do much better in treatment in an environment and that is both linguistically and culturally supportive. Incarceration should never be the treatment for addiction.

 

Who is Dr. Matilde Castiel?

Matilde “Mattie” Castiel, M.D. has always held a professional and personal mission to work with the underserved. She was born in Camaguey, Cuba and immigrated to the U.S. in 1962 as part of Operation Peter Pan. Raised and educated in California, she completed her medical training at the University of California-San Francisco after earning a B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from California State University – Northridge.

Dr. Castiel moved to Massachusetts to complete her residency at UMass Memorial, when her husband Aaron Mendel MD took a job with Fallon Clinic. She has worked as a Board certified physician in Internal Medicine in the Worcester community for over 28 years, including working at UMass Memorial Medical Center and Family Health Center of Worcester and also as an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Psychiatry at UMass Medical School.

In 2009, Dr. Castiel founded the Latin American Health Alliance (LAHA), a nonprofit organization in Worcester dedicated to combating homelessness and drug addiction and at present she continues to serve as its Medical Director.  LAHA’s programs consist of the Hector Reyes House and Casa Reyes, a substance abuse treatment facility and transitional house for Latino males. In 2015, Dr. Castiel opened Café Reyes on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. This is an innovative jobs training program for the residents at Hector Reyes House and Casa Reyes.

Along with her volunteer work with LAHA Dr. Castiel has served on the boards of many of Worcester’s nonprofit organizations. Among these are The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Abby’s House, APW, Centro Las Americas, and The Barton Center. Quinsigamond Community College, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, and United Way to name a few.

During her distinguished career she has been honored with numerous awards.

Among these are;

Worcester District Medical Society Career Achievement Award, 2005;

Centro Las Americas Empowerment Award, December 2005;

Worcester Business Journal Health Heroes Award, 2009

Katharine Erskine Award, 2010;

Newcomer of the Year Award, Centro Las Americas 2011;

Most Outstanding Poster Presentation, National Hispanic Medical Association-2011;

Public Citizen of the Year Award, National Association of Social Worker Massachusetts Chapter-2011;

UMass Medical School Community Service Award 2012;

YMCA Men’s Health and Family Service Award, 2012;

Cultural competence award in Medicine- UMass Memorial 2015;

Clinician of the Year –Worcester District Medical Society 2015;

Worcester State University, Community Service Award.  Commencement 2015;

Felix G. Cataldo Award for Humanism in Medicine, Sept 2015;

Acclaim Home Health Community Service Award –Nov 2015;

Lucia Masterson-David Pioneer Award December 2015;

Dollars for Scholars Vision award for outstanding contribution to the Latino community May 2016;

Honored as one of Worcester Magazine’s 12 Worcester’s leading ladies Nov. 2016

In September of 2015, Dr. Castiel was appointed as the City of Worcester’s Commissioner for Health and Human Services, where she oversees the divisions of Public Health, Youth Services, Human Rights and Disabilities, Veterans Affairs, and Elder Affairs, along with advancing important new initiatives that fall under the scope of youth violence, homelessness and the opioid crisis.

 

What is the Latin American Health Alliance?

Throughout her career Dr Matilde Castiel has focused on the social determinants of health and the health disparities in the Latino Community. Throughout his career Hector Reyes saw the overriding need for substance abuse treatment for Latinos.

Latinos were disproportionately affected by substance use and there were no treatment centers in Central Massachusetts designed to help them. Recovery was much more difficult in an environment that was not culturally sensitive. Individuals do much better in treatment in an environment that is both linguistically and culturally supportive

In 2004 Mayor Tim Murray and Congressman McGovern called for a meeting at St. Peters church to find out why there was increasing violence in Main South and specifically in the Latino community.  It was at that time that they defined addiction to be the culprit.

They gathered a strong team of community and civic leaders and were able to garnish the political support needed to open and obtain funding for a culturally sensitive, bilingual treatment program for Latino men suffering from substance use disorder in Central Massachusetts.

Together they shared a vision of what was needed to provide much needed treatment to the Latino community and to broaden and improve care to the underserved. This was the team that, in 2006, founded the Latin American Health Alliance (LAHA). A nonprofit organization in Worcester dedicated to combating homelessness and drug addiction.

In April of 2009 LAHA opened the Hector Reyes House, and unfortunately Hector Reyes passed away July 4th of 2009.  He was able to see his dream come to reality, a bilingual, bicultural residential treatment center for Latino men suffering from addiction. It was the first house of its kind in Central Massachusetts. Its founding principles are that individuals will be much more likely to succeed if treated in a supportive environment that fits their language, food, and cultural traditions, and that substance use disorder is a medical disease that should be treated as such. It is not the moral failure it had been seen as in the past.