40 Under 40 The Class of 2013

Allison Garriss

Program Director, Clinical & Support Options Inc., age 33

Garriss-AllisonAllison Garriss studied political science in college with the goal of becoming a political consultant, but eventually decided her heart wasn’t in that arena. “I always knew I wanted to help people; I just didn’t know how,” she said.
So she changed her major to sociology and discovered the world of human services. Today, she works at Clinical & Support Options in Northampton, where she developed and now directs RECOVERe, a program that utilizes technology to help women stay sober during substance-abuse recovery.
“Basically, we provide support via text messaging and cell phones, web-based support, and videoconferencing support. It’s very innovative,” she said of the federally funded program.
“Part of what we do is working with people where they’re at,” she explained. “If someone can’t get to therapy on a regular basis, if someone can’t get to a group, when you remove those barriers to treatment and use technology to support them, you can have a major impact on people’s lives.
“It’s exciting,” she added. “Helping guide people on their journey is without a doubt the most gratifying thing about what I do.”
Garriss has also devoted free time to a number of organizations, from the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society to the Women’s Fund of Western Mass. to the Northampton Post 28 American Legion baseball team.
“Each of the organizations I volunteer with holds a very special and unique place in my heart. I don’t volunteer out of obligation or just to sit on a bunch of boards or committees because I think it’s the right thing to do. I like getting in there, contributing … even getting my hands dirty when required.”
It’s just one more way to, as she said, help people.
“Working in human services is not just what I do to pay the bills, but it is my passion. Well, really, people are my passion. I’m not at all ignorant to the life challenges that keep people from being the best possible version of themselves,” Garriss said, noting that every person has faced times of struggle — and she is no different — but making mistakes can be an opportunity to grow.
“Everyone,” she said, “deserves to have someone in their corner.”

— Joseph Bednar