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October 7, 2016 - 12:59pm
posted by Billie Owens in mental health, hollywood beauty salon, GCC, news, Announcements.

Information provided by Mental Health Association of Genesee & Orleans Counties:

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Genesee County is hosting a film screening on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Stuart Steiner Theatre at Genesee Community College.

The docu-film is "Hollywood Beauty Salon" and it is part of a film series about mental illness called the Reel Mind.

The film portrays life at an intimate beauty parlor inside the NHS Germantown Recovery Community, a nonprofit mental health program iin Philadelphia, where staff and clients alike are in the process of recovery. By gathering together to get their hair done, share stories, and support one another, they find a way to rebuild their lives.

It was work-shopped at the Salon over the course of four years and is also part of the recovery process, and the subjects of the film played an active part in shaping their own narratives and determining their unique individual styles.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the movie starts at 6:30.

There's a suggested donation of $5.

There will be a Q & A session afterward with Rachel "Hollywood" Carr, owner and operator of the Hollywood Beauty Salon in Philadelphia, filmmaker Glenn Holsten, and Rochester Psychiatric Center's Dr. Lawrence Guttmacher, who is co-director of the Reel Mind Film Series. Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition Chair Vern Saile will facilitate the discussion.

The screening at GCC is sponsored by: Living Opportunities of DePaul; Indepnedent Living of Genesee County; GCASA; Care + Crisis Helpline -- a program of YWCA of Genesee County; Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties.

Genesee Community College is located at 1 College Road in the Town of Batavia.

For questions or more information, please call the Mental Health Association of Genesee & Orleans Counties at (585) 344-2611.

April 23, 2016 - 12:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in mental health, First Responders, news, batavia, Announcements.

A free, first responder awareness workshop on trauma, PTSD and suicide prevention will be offered at the Genesee County Fire Training Center on Tuesday, May 10.

Two sessions are available: 2:30 to 5 p.m. or 6 to 8:30 p.m. The fire training center is located at 7690 State Street Road in Batavia.

Seating is limited. Please register by May 3.

The workshop will be presented by Cattaraugus County Sheriff Timothy S. Whitcomb.

Sheriff Whitcomb has been in law enforcement for 26 years. He is a former adjunct professor of Criminal Justice for Jamestown Community College and St. Bonaventure University. Presently, he instructs through local academies and the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services. He has a master's degree in Counseling Education and is a certified police instrutor in the areas of Interview and Interrogation, Basix and Advanced Juvenile Officer Training, Investigation of Sex Crimes and Law Enforcement Response to School Violence.

For more information or to register, contact the sponsoring organization -- the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties at 344-2611 or via e-mail at   [email protected]

The workshop is being offered in partnership with the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Genesee County in conjunction with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and Genesee County Emergency Services.

March 26, 2016 - 1:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in opioids, crime victims week, addiction, mental health, news.

This information was provided by Sue Gagne, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties:

National Crime Victims' Rights Week is April 10-16. Communities nationwide, aided by the Office for Victims of Crime, will hold observances. This year's theme is "Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope" and the aim is to underscore the importance of early intervention and using victim services in establishing trust with victims in order to begin to restore their hope for healing and recovery.

In Genesee County, starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 15, there will be a Ceremoninal Walk and Reception at the Old County Courthouse (Downtown Batavia at the corner of routes 5 and 63). For more information, call Theresa at 344-2550, ext. 3920.

Prior to that date is Criminal Justice Day, Tuesday, April 12, and there will be a half-day event at Genesee Community College titled "The Opiate Epidemic: The Unintended Victims." It runs from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Conable Technology Center, 1 College Road, Batavia.

Cost to attend is $10 per person; $5 for students. Seating is limited; first come, first served. Registration forms are due by April 4. Checks should be made payable to the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties. For more information, call 344-2611.

According to the event brochure, heroin use has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occured in deomgraphic groups with historically low rates of heroin use -- women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes.

Nor only are people using heroin more than ever, they are also abusing multiple other substances, especially cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers.

Law enforcement officials say history teaches that American society can't arrest its way out of the drug problems it faces. While effective enforcement is esstantial to protecting cities and neighborhoods, reducing drug use requires a broader, multidimensional approach.

Scientists say that it is clear that addiction is a progressive disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated and recovery is possible.

In addition to the college, the event on opioid addiction and its unintended victims is presented by these 2016 Criminal Justice Day partners:

  • Batavia Police Department
  • Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA)
  • GC District Attorney's Office
  • GC Sheriff's Office
  • GC Youth Bureau
  • Genesee Justice
  • Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties
  • RESTORE Sexual Assault Services
  • YWCA of Genesee County 

Keynote speakers are Mike Covert, police chief of Cooperstown, and Alexis Pleus, a structural engineer and mother of three sons who lost her oldest son to a heroin overdose in 2014.

Under Covert's leadership, the police department made a "revolutionary change" in the way it responds to the opiate crisis. He implemented an initiative last Thanskgiving called PAARI -- Police Assisting Addicts Toward Recovery Initiative. It allows addicts to walk into the Cooperstown Police Station with drug paraphernalia or drugs to ask for help and not be charged with a crime. Instead, they are walked through the system toward detox and recovery with the assistance of an assigned "ANGEL" who guides them through the process -- not in hours or days but on the spot. Since its implementation, 45 people have enrolled in the program.

Pleus has used her experience with addiction and the stigma she faced to start an organization called Truth Pharm, which works to raise awareness, reduce the stigma, implement programs, and advocate for policies that have a profound impact on the opioid epidemic.

The day's agenda is as follows:

8:15 to 8:45  -- Registration

8:45 to 9  -- Flag Raising

9 to 9:15 -- Welcome and Introductions

9:15 to 10:15 -- Keynote Speakers

10:15 to 10:30 -- Break

10:30 to 11:45 -- Panel Discussion: Impact on the Community

11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- Pharmacology of Opiates 

Closing

January 12, 2016 - 11:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jail, mental health.

As the state has cut mental health services, counties have become increasingly burdened with dealing with de-institutionalized people who often wind up in trouble and in jail.

Locally, people involved in the criminal justice system would like to find ways to keep people with mental health issues out of jail, and to that end the county will apply for a grant to send five people to a summit in Washington, D.C., where local officials from across the country will discuss how they're dealing with these same issues.

"Everyone in the criminal justice community agrees this is an issue and it's an issue that is bigger than just us, so let's go talk with others in other communities and find out ways that worked in their communities and see if we can bring back some of those ideas to Genesee County," said Assistant County Manager Matt Landers.

Landers said Sue Gagne, director of the Mental Health Association, found out about the summit and grant for attendees and brought the idea to Undersheriff William Sheron, who brought it to Landers' attention.

Landers and Director of Mental Health Ellery Reeves presented a resolution authorizing an application for the grant to the Human Services Committee on Monday.

The committee unanimously recommended the full Legislature approve the application at its next meeting.

Though there are no hard numbers, it's clear there are more and more people coming into the jail who have mental health issues, Landers said.

"That number is growing and we don't think it's a coincidence that as the state is closing down institutions and these individuals leave these institutions and come back to their communities of home, that we are now finding some of these individuals using our jails," Landers said.

Mental health issues run the gamut, including depression and schizophrenia, that jail personnel are required to monitor. That adds to the expense of running the jail as well as increasing the jail population.

There's also substance abuse problems connected to these individuals, Reeves said.

"There is no separation," Reeves said. "Literally, when you're saying 'mental health,' you're saying 'mental health and substance abuse.' "

The goal of attending the conference is to find ways of linking services and strategies to either keep people out of jail or keep them in treatment once they're released from jail so they are less likely to return, Reeves said.

Landers said as much of 70 percent of the people incarcerated here at any one time might have mental health issues, which is substantially more, he said, than a few years ago.

December 23, 2015 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, mental health, synthetic drugs, bath salts.

bergmansdec212015.jpg

ryan_bergman_2013_0.jpg
Ryan C. Bergman
Photo courtesy the Bergmans

Just before Thanksgiving, 2013, a month before his death, 26-year-old Ryan C. Bergman sat at the dining room table after an evening dinner with his parents in their home on Fargo Road, Darien, and talked with his mother about his mental health.

At age 10, his fourth-grade year, all his troubles seemed to start, Ryan told his mother as they talked through his life on a chilled and snowy November evening.

That made sense, Bernadette Bergman said. She always thought there were two turning points, downhill points, really, for her son — when he was 10 and when he was 13.

Ryan spent that fourth-grade year with a Pembroke teacher whom Bernadette described as rude, cruel and largely uncaring about Ryan’s struggles.

Bright, articulate but unable to stay focused, Ryan was a misfit among his peers. He was oblivious to social norms, craved attention and found it difficult to complete his assignments in the manner expected by his teacher.

To a public school teacher with 30 other kids to manage and guide, Ryan was, perhaps, more like a distraction than a promising literary master, a potential mathematician or computer scientist.

Bernadette, herself a teacher, recalled one parent-teacher conference that didn’t go well.

She had a notebook with her from a parenting workshop with information meant to help a student like Ryan, but Ryan’s teacher dismissed the binder and its contents as useless.

“She literally, right in front of me, ripped it apart page by page,” said Bernadette, mimicking the teacher ripping page after loose-leaf page from the book.

“‘Oh, he doesn’t need that. He doesn’t need that,’” Bernadette recalled her saying.

“If you’re rude to the parent, you can imagine what she was like in the classroom,” Bernadette said.

Her husband Richard added, “We learned from other kids later that when he got kicked out of class, he would go to the class of the grade above and he would just be rolling around in the back and the teacher would ask the class a question and nobody would know the answer, no hands would go up, and Ryan would yell out the answer. He wasn’t even paying attention and he would know the answer and shout it out.”

The first inkling the Bergmans got that Ryan might be struggling to find his place in the world came after a day out sledding with neighbors who had children right around Ryan’s age.

Ryan was a bit disruptive and the other mother told Bernadette that Ryan was “a little wild.” Bernadette was unfazed. He was just a squirrelly kid.

Later, at a pool party with the same family, Ryan found ways to irritate both children and adults. He would annoy, pester and bother, ignoring the social signals other children might decipher and realize their behavior went a little too far.

“Ryan would just do aggravating things to get people’s attention,” Richard said. “Like, he might poke you under water. He wasn’t nasty, maybe borderline nasty, just to get their attention, with it never clicking in his brain that maybe they were going to want you around less.”

Ryan was trapped in a world where his verbal skills allowed him to converse knowingly with adults, but as a matter of age and experience, his time was properly spent with children, and typically, children with minds that couldn’t grasp his meaning and tongues muted by more limited vocabularies.

Ryan’s mind worked fast, fueled by a voracious appetite for printed words.

He was reading above his grade level when he started kindergarten.

“It was like a switch,” Richard said. “A switch went off and he could read and that was it. He could read.”

From kindergarten on, he always had a book open, if not in his hand, within arm’s reach.

“He would read everything,” Bernadette said. “He would read anything. You couldn't be any place and he wouldn't read. He would read the toilet tissue roll, you know what I mean. He just loved the language. He spoke early. He loved to play with words. When he was real little he would say things like 'uppy duppy, potty watty,' all the rhyming stuff. He would just do it naturally. Ryan just loved it. He just loved the language.”

The Bergman’s think Ryan’s advanced skills with the English language drove some teachers crazy. One counselor warned Ryan’s teachers not to engage with him verbally, “because he’ll just chew you up.” Some teachers couldn’t accept that this elementary school student might be smarter than they were. 

“There’s always going to be kids who are smarter than you,” Bernadette said. “I don’t care who you are, just suck it up and embrace it, you know, because there’s other things you can teach them. In Ryan’s case, it was organizational skills.”

The lack of organizational skills is what led to Ryan’s second turning point, downhill, when he was 13, in sixth grade. Ryan was accepted into an advanced mathematics program at the University at Buffalo.

It was an odd fit. Ryan, the word guy in an advanced math class at a university. He really wasn’t good with numbers, but his innate ability to reason through puzzles made higher level mathematics, where it becomes more about theory and logic than formulas, easy.

Except for one problem: Ryan didn’t grasp how he arrived at his answers. In mathematics, where part of the problem-solving regime is showing your work, Ryan couldn’t explain how he arrived at his solutions.  He got the answers right, he just didn’t know how he got there.

Also, he often didn’t turn in his homework.

"In his mind, 'OK, here's the homework,' ” Richard said. “ 'I did the homework. It's done.' But you have to turn it in. You have to hold onto that piece of paper, you've got to take it with you, you got to turn it in, but in his mind, 'I did it.’ ”

Pok-e-Mon was big at the time and Ryan had a collection of cards. When Bernadette met with the UB teacher about her son’s difficulties in the class, the teacher had a hard time buying that Ryan innately lacked organizational skills.

The teacher noted Ryan’s well organized box of Pok-e-Mon cards. Surely, that was proof, she said, that he was capable of being organized when he was motivated.

“I told her, ‘One, I organized them for him so he would fit in, so that he could use them,' ” Bernadette said, adding, “ ‘but, two, he lost them here. He has no clue where they are.’ ”

Ryan was devastated when he was sent back to a regular math class at Pembroke.

“He just shut down the math side,” Bernadette said. “He was embarrassed. Here was something he could have flourished at, but now he’s back at Pembroke.”

And none of the professionals picked up on Ryan’s growing mental issues.

“The tip off (to the professionals) should have been, verbally, he was very strong, in the 99.8 percentile, but the math part, he lagged behind,” Richard said. “That’s usually a tipoff that something is going on. When you get into the gifted math program, you go, ‘How can that be?’ ” But on standardized testing, he was superior in language and was behind in math.”

Even in areas where he should have excelled socially, he became a pariah.

In the pre-Internet days, computer geeks formed social clubs, called LAN groups (LAN: local area network). They would bring their bulky desktop computers to a group member’s house, string them together with Ethernet cable and a network hub and play computer games.

“He was very good with computers,” Richard recalled. “He would, you know, actually read the manuals. He was able to do things other kids couldn’t.”

For some kids, superior knowledge is a pathway to friendship. I help you and you help me. For Ryan, he could use his advanced computer skills to bully the other kids.

“It got to the point where he (the kid who hosted the group) didn’t want Ryan coming over any more,” Bernadette said. “He didn’t want Ryan over because his other friends didn’t want him over. He would screw up their computers and sitting next to them, he would aggravate them either physically or verbally.”

Like many children with attention difficulties and a tendency toward hyperactivity, Ryan was prescribed drugs, such as Ritalin. Sometimes, Ryan would take his medication as prescribed. Sometimes, he wouldn’t. He would hide his pills around the house and then take several pills at once just to see what it was like.

A psychologist — the same one who warned teachers Ryan could out talk them — told the Bergmans that children like Ryan, superior verbal skills, struggling to fit in socially and academically, who were once at the top of their class, but lost their way as organizational skills become a part of the educational process, typically become depressed and take their own lives.

At age 16, Ryan tried to do just that, using the prescription medication he had available to him.

“He was still under care of this doctor and still going to Pembroke,” Richard said. “The doctor was like, ‘I didn’t see this coming.’ And we thought, ‘You’re the one who warned us and now you say you didn’t see it coming?’  ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I thought his ego strength was so large that he would never do it.’ And we were like, ‘His ego strength is there because he’s covering up for the fact that he doesn’t fit in.’ ”

Richard and Bernadette Bergman have all the attributes of ideal parents — steady jobs, a stable home life, community involvement, an active church and social life, and an abiding desire to be parents.

Ryan isn’t the first child Richard and Bernadette tried to adopt. First, there was Jeffrey, a special needs child who has never lived with them, but still has a room in their house and often spends the holidays, some weekends and other special days with the Bergmans.

Jeffrey is now 46 years old and lives in a group home in East Aurora.

“We call him our voluntary son,” Richard said.

Then Richard and Bernadette learned of a single mother who was going to give birth to a baby girl, so they arranged through an attorney to adopt that child upon her birth.

Preparations were made, documents signed and on the day the child was born, Richard and Bernadette were waiting for the child to be brought to them from the hospital when they learned the mother had changed her mind.

The Bergmans were disappointed. The attorney felt horrible about the turn of events. He promised, “when the next child becomes available, you’re at the top of the list.”

It was 1987. A 15-year-old girl in Erie County gave birth to a little boy. He became Ryan Bergman. He came to live with them in their turn-of-the-century home in a little hamlet in the Town of Darien that once was known as Fargo Village, with a train station on the Delaware, Lackawana & Western Railroad line and a little schoolhouse at Fargo and Sumner roads.

At some point in Ryan’s young life, the Bergmans learned through a sister of the birth mother that the young lady had her own struggles with alcohol, as did her father.

Scientists are still learning about the role of dopamine (a biological chemical critical to brain and body functions) in people’s lives, but it is an apparent factor in drug and alcohol abuse and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These traits could be hereditary.

The Bergmans knew this.

“We warned him, 'Smoking, alcohol, anything you can be come addicted to, you can become addicted to, because there seems to be a correlation,' ” said Bernadette, who has long been involved the Genesee County Mental Health Association.

From a young age, Ryan had a preoccupation with alcohol, not that he was drinking at a young age, but he talked about it, asked questions about it, was curious about it.

There wasn’t much alcohol around the house, though Bernadette liked to have an occasional drink, but Ryan was fixated on the idea of alcohol.

“He was obsessed with talking about it,” Bernadette recalls. “In our mind as lay people, that just seemed, you know, an obsession.”

The response of GCASA (Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse)?

"We don't see any problem here. Kids always talk about alcohol."

Ryan decided he was Irish. And the Irish, of course, have a reputation for boozing it up.

“He was starting to embrace the idea by the time he was a teenager,” Bernadette said. “We have no idea if he has any Irish blood in him or not, but he decided he was going to be Irish.”

Ryan started going to parties with friends. Richard and Bernadette weren’t sure if there was alcohol involved or not, but they suspect there was, then one night he came home plastered.

They think Ryan might have been the one supplying the drinks. He had a job. He had money of his own to make the purchase. He was savvy. He could have been buying beverages and supplying them to his peers.

“It was a way for him to be accepted,” Richard said. “If you’re an outsider, this is an in. ‘I can get you alcohol.’ ”

Despite his struggles, Ryan did graduate from Pembroke High School, earning his diploma in 2005.

In August, he entered the Army, but washed out of basic training and was home by October.

It was tough for him to keep jobs. The Genesee ACE Employment program helped and Ryan landed one of his longer term jobs at the Kutter Cheese Factory, working there from July 2009 to February 2010.

He floated in and out of jobs and friendships, apparently using drugs and grappling with his mental health issues. He wound up in a program at GCASA and was working at Pioneer Credit when he met a woman who was 10 years older, married, with four children and a husband and a house in Oakfield. Ryan moved in with the woman and her children, along with the teenage friend of one of the woman’s daughters.

To support their drug habits, they got into property crime, along with a man who was recently released from prison and was on parole.

They broke into a fire hall in Orleans County and were caught because Ryan, disorganized, forgetful Ryan Bergman, left his mother’s mobile phone in the building. The night before the Orleans deputies showed up at the Bergman’s house, the group had broken into a gun club in Cowlesville and stole a computer.

Ryan insisted the woman wasn’t involved in his crimes.

“He was very loyal,” Richard said. “He wouldn’t turn her in because she had kids. He went to jail so she wouldn’t have to.”

He was sentenced to several months in the Genesee County Jail for breaking into cars, followed by weekends in the Orleans County Jail.

“Most parents worry about where their kids will be when they turn 21,” Richard said. “Ours was already in jail.”

He also spent nearly a year in the Erie County Jail when he was caught driving the wrong way on a street near the Buffalo Airport while high.

It was during this time, Ryan became friends with a person who already had some experience with bath salts. 

When a friend of the family lost a daughter to heroin, Ryan’s response was, “I don’t do heroin,” Richard recalled, “like it was a lesser drug.”

Bath salts, though, were the product of chemistry, and presumably safe because, at least at the time, they were legal.

They could be bought on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation, and soon thereafter at locations in the City of Batavia. But when law enforcement swooped in and cut off the local supply, Ryan turned to mail order.

Bath salts are easy to find and buy online and can even be purchased as “samples,” which makes hits more affordable.

“It was the best of both worlds,” Richard said. “It was an amphetamine and he could get high or whatever he was taking them for, and it was legal. At least that was the selling point in the beginning.”

The Bergmans were trying to get their son help in those late fall and early winter months of 2013. It was a struggle.

Certain synthetic drugs are known to induce paranoia, and Ryan may have tended toward suspicion already. When he was in the grips of synthetic drugs, he could distrust anybody and everybody.

A family friend, an attorney, named David, found him out and about and tried to help him. Ryan asked him, “How many pieces of silver was Jesus sold for?”

David said, “I don’t exactly remember.”

“See, David would know the answer to the question, so you’re not David.”

Eventually, David got Ryan home and told the Bergmans, “This kid needs to go to the hospital.”

They tried.

One time, Ryan was taken to a mental health institution and the social worker called the Bergmans at home.

“She said we can give him a ticket at the bus station, or he can stay in a homeless shelter or we can sign him into the facility for care.”

To Ryan, in-patient treatment was tantamount to jail.

“I was on my way there to read him the riot act and by the time I got there, he had sweet talked her -- he was very charming -- and he had her talked into letting him go to out-patient treatment,” Richard said. “He just had her wrapped around his finger and now I was the bad guy.”

Ryan didn’t think it did him any good to be taken to facilities in Buffalo, but he thought he might get help at the hospital in Warsaw, so when he would agree to be checked in someplace, he would agree to Warsaw.

But agreeing and actually getting there were two different matters.

Bernadette learned once the decision was made, she had to get the car started, the windows up and ensure the child safety locks were on. Otherwise, once he got into the car, if he did, he might try to escape at some point.

“We’d maybe go around and around for an hour before he would get in the car,” Bernadette said. “Twice, once we got to Warsaw, after we got there, he just ran off. Once a deputy found him at Tim Horton’s (Cafe).”

In December 2013, Richard Bergman realized there hadn’t been mail delivered to his house in a few days.

“I’d come home and Ryan wouldn’t be there, and I’d ask him where he was when I came home, and he said he went out for a walk to blow off steam,” Richard said. “Well, Thursday, there was no mail. Friday, no mail. Saturday, no mail. Then a notice comes and said, ‘OK, we’re restarting the mail you had suspended for three days.’ I asked him, ‘Did you suspend the mail?’ He said he didn’t know what happened, ‘but your name is on it.' ”

Richard confronted Ryan about getting drugs through the mail, but Ryan denied it.

The Bergmans now know that Ryan was getting samples of Alpha PVP from China delivered to their mail address. The evidence: an envelop with the synthetic drug and a packing slip arrived in the mail a couple of days after he died.

In December 2013, Alpha PVP was little known in the drug or law enforcement community, but over the past year news about its deadly effects have burst into the news under its most common street name, "Flakka," and those reports are what prompted the Bergmans to contact a local reporter more than a year after his initial interview request.

They’re very concerned about how easy it is for young people to buy these dangerous drugs. They don’t know the answer, but they think people should be more aware of what’s going on.

“If you can’t control in anyway how this stuff is getting into the country, you’re never going to be able to address it,” Richard said. “If it’s that easy to obtain, it’s like, how can you blunt that?”

Bernadette remembers sitting in court one time waiting for Ryan’s case to be called and another drug addict accused of a crime stood with his lawyer before the judge.

“The judge says to the lawyer, ‘How many times does he need to go to rehab?’ and I want to say, ‘As many times as it takes,’ and that’s basically what the lawyer said. We need lawyers to understand. We need judges who understand. That would all work easier if the insurance and medical professions had a greater interest in getting a handle on this. My fear is that maybe (bath salts) isn’t as big as heroin, but it’s just so easy to get. You can order it from the comfort of your own home and it comes in the mail and maybe kids see that as no big deal.”

The Sunday before Christmas 2013, Ryan didn’t want to be checked into Warsaw, so he was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital instead. His father brought him home Monday. He swore he didn’t have any drugs in his room.

“His room was a pig sty,” Bernadette said. “If he had any drugs in there, you could look for them and it would take you a week, so he swore, ‘Mom, there are no drugs here,’ well, obviously, that was a lie. He must have taken all he had.”

On Christmas Eve day, Bernadette knew something was wrong with her son.

“Clearly, he was not well,” she said. “I told him, you have two choices. I can take you to the hospital or I can call an ambulance. We got his bags packed and we’re ready to go and he says, ‘Mom, there’s a third choice. I can do outpatient.’  ‘Yes, but we need to get you stable first.’ Just like that, he takes off. He’s in this room. He’s in that room. He gets the poker (from the fire place) and runs into the bathroom and locks the door. I feel the gush of cold air and I know he’s opened the window.”

Bernadette doesn’t remember if she saw him running into the woods or if she just saw his footprints.

“In my head, I keep thinking I saw him running, but I don’t think so,” she said.

It was 10 degrees that day and Ryan was wearing nothing more than jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers.

She called emergency dispatch. She called her husband. He started home. At this point, she wasn’t scared.

“We’ve been through this before,” she said. “We’ve been through the paranoia before. We’ve called the cops before, and usually he heads down the old railroad bed in that same direction and he comes back, so it’s not like you’re thinking, ‘This is the end.’ You’re thinking, ‘We’re going through this again,’ but this time, he just kept right on going and went through the creek and got a way down the other side.”

The State Police arrived. Sheriff’s deputies arrived. Volunteers from the Darien and Alexander fire departments were deployed in a search of the area. After dark, the search was called off for the night.

It resumed the next morning, Christmas Day.

A volunteer from Alden -- a friend of the family, in fact -- found Ryan’s body.

Another friend, a fellow church member, Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble, Sheriff’s Office, delivered the news to Richard and Bernadette.

But they already knew.

“We don’t believe it was a suicide,” Richard said. “He did all of these risky behaviors that were kind of like, ‘If I die, I die. If I live, I live.’ He cracked up his car twice. It was almost like a sense of pride. After (the neighbor friend) died of an overdose, he told a social worker, ‘How come (the friend) can do it and I can’t?’ He would take these risky behaviors, knowing full well he could die, but probably not intentionally.”​

Previously on The Batavian:

May 14, 2015 - 4:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, mental health.

Karl Shallowhorn, director of community advocacy, Mental Health Association of Erie County and Compeer of Great Buffalo, will present a FREE program focused on the impact of mental health in the workplace on Tuesday, May 19th. It will take place from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Terry Hills Restaurant & Banquet Facility, located at 5122 Clinton Street Road, Batavia.

Topics to be covered include: the financial implications of depression among employees, rick factors and proactive management. In addition, information will be provided about the importance of self-care and managing stress in a demanding work environment.

Breakfast will be served. There is no charge for this program. Space is limited -- RSVP to the Genesee County Mental Health Association at 585-344-2611 or via e-mail to    [email protected]

February 19, 2015 - 1:40pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, education, mental health.

The Mental Health Association in Genesee County awards two scholarships annually to deserving students who are pursuing their education at an institution of higher learning in the fields of human or social services.

The mission of the MHA is to meet the needs of the community by promoting mental wellness through education, advocacy and support, thereby improving the quality of life and instilling hope.

The two scholarships to be presented at the MHA’s annual meeting in May are:

  • Constance E. Miller Scholarship Award in the amount of $2,000 (She founded the MHA in Genesee County in 1993.)
  • MHA Board of Directors Scholarship Award in the amount of $500.

Applicants must have their primary residence in Genesee County.

A copy of the application is available online at www.gcmha.com

Applications are due to the MHA no later than April 1.

Applicants must provide: Name, mailing address, e-mail address, phone number, name of college or university accepted at, course of study or program enrolled in; and it asks if you are a relative of a current MHA employee or board member.

These are the requirements:

  • Applicant must be accepted at an accredited college or university and enrolled in an eligible program by the time the scholarship is awarded.
  • Eligible programs include: Social Work, Mental Health Counseling, Psychology or Human Services.
  • Current MHA employees and board members are not eligible. Relatives of MHA employees and board members are also not eligible.
  • Applicants must provide: (1) Academic history such as high school or college transcripts. (2) Resume or personal biography including work history, volunteer experiences, extra-curricular activities. (3) Essay that addresses educational and employment objectives. (4) Two letters of recommendation in sealed envelopes from people who know your academic and work/volunteer history. Letters from relatives will not be accepted. 
  • Financial need, volunteerism, employment history and civic involvement will be given careful consideration.

Applications should be mailed to:

Scholarship Program

Mental Health Association in Genesee County

25 Liberty St., Batavia, NY 14020

Or send e-mail to:

[email protected]

August 6, 2014 - 3:00pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, mental health.

Press release:

The Mental Health Association in Genesee County will present an amazing recovery story on Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the City Church Generation Center on Center Street Downtown.

Sammy Violente, a highly sought-after inspirational speaker, with more than 1,200 workshops and seminars to his credit, will share his mental health challenge and how he recovered from it.

There is no cost at attend.

Violente was a successful investment broker for more than 20 years, earning more than $100,000 annually. Then he struggled with a major mental health problem -- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, often called OCD.

Through his incredible recovery journey, he has found his true purpose and ultimate passion in life.

He represents true hope and inspiration for peers throughout WNY, helping people believe in their own recovery.

Time is 1 to 3 p.m. and the Generation Center is at 11 Center St.

Due to limited space, registration is required. For questions or to register, please call Cheryl at 344-2611, ext. 211, or via e-mail to:  [email protected]

May 14, 2014 - 1:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, mental health.

Press release:

May is Mental Health Month, and the Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming county health departments are working to raise awareness of the role mental health plays in our lives, and providing tips and resources so anyone can take steps to promote good mental health.

The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming county health departments are encouraging residents to “Think Health.” Taking time to think about your health and taking positive health steps will lead to healthier outcomes. Learning something new every day is one way to “Think Health."

We all know about the importance about taking care of our health — eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising. Healthy habits positively influence how a person feels and how their body functions.

But good health involves not only caring for our body, but also our mind.

The fact is our mental health is vital to our overall health. Far too many Americans fail to incorporate a principal component into their health choices. Yet overall health and wellness are not possible without it.

What is mental health? If you were to ask your office mate, spouse or neighbor, they may respond that it is a “state of mind,” “being content with life” or “feeling good about yourself.” Simply put, mental health is the ability to cope with daily life and the challenges it brings.

When a person has “good” mental health, they deal better with what comes their way. By contrast, “poor” mental health — such as feeling overwhelmed by stress — can make even day-to-day life difficult.

Poor mental health can also significantly harm a person’s physical health. For instance, research shows that stress is closely linked to high-blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.  It also shows that people who feel depressed or chronically stressed may have a greater risk of physical illnesses.

The good news is there are many healthy choices and steps that individuals can adopt to promote and strengthen mental health — and overall health and well-being.

A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or worsening of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, as well as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other chronic health problems. It can also help people recover from these conditions.

A healthy lifestyle includes building social support, eating with your mental health in mind, recognizing the signs of stress, and knowing when to reach out for help.

Just as Americans have learned there are things they can do to reduce their risk of heart disease and other illnesses, the health departments want to help people learn what they can do both to protect their mental health in tough times and also to improve their mental well being throughout their lives.

We need to care for both our body and mind. Talk to your health care provider about your mental health at your next visit. You can also learn about mental health services through your County Mental Health Department or the local Mental Health Associations (MHA).

County Mental Health phone numbers are: Genesee County Mental Health is 344-1421; Orleans County Mental Health is 589-7066; and Wyoming County Mental Health is 786-8871. In Genesee County the MHA number is 345-1418 and in Orleans County the MHA number is 589-1158.

If you are having a mental health emergency, please call 9-1-1 or the Regional Action Phone (RAP) line at 800-359-5727 (Genesee County); 800-889-1903 (Orleans County); or 800-789-3300 (Wyoming County).

December 20, 2012 - 9:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in mental health.

It seemed like a good arrangement. Genesee County's mental health director, Ellery Reeves, landed the position of mental health commissioner in Erie County, but was willing to continue as mental health director for Genesee County.

Once the state found out about the arrangement, it turned out things weren't quite so simple. The county still needs the state's blessing for an agreement that really isn't covered by current state law.

The new contract with Reeves made him a "less than full-time" contract worker -- no benefits, on-call, he would invoice the county for his services like any contract worker.

Reeves told the county legislature in a special meeting Wednesday that such consolidated services are the wave of the future. He expects some day there will be only one mental health director for the entire eight-county Western New York Region, but current law hasn't quite caught up with the concept.

Though this isn't a "shared services" arrangement with Erie County, Erie County has given Reeves the OK to also serve as Genesee County's mental health director. There are other counties in the state that share mental health directors.

State law makes provisions for a full-time mental health director in a county, or part-time (which a county must have), but not "less than full time" nor for a contracted consultant.

Legislators discussed Wednesday the difficulty of finding director candidates who will accept the pay level of a small county and still meet state requirements, which is part of the reason the arrangement with Reeves seemed to be a good fit for the county's needs.

There are no other employees in the county who have the state-sanctioned qualifications to be director, and the County Services Board (which oversees the mental health department) and the legislature want to keep Reeves in the job.

To do that, the county will need to write a letter to the state's Inter Office Coordinating Council, which much approve all mental health directors, and seek a waiver so that Reeves can be a "less than full time" contracted mental health director.

The budget or the contracted position is $48,000 to $50,000. Reeves salary in 2011 was $74,652.

November 15, 2012 - 4:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in mental health, genesee county community services.

Press release:

The Genesee County Legislature is accepting applications for the position of Genesee County Community Services/Mental Health Board Member. Of special interest is an open position for a Clergy Member.

Applications for board members are available on the Genesee County Web site by visiting www.co.genesee.ny.us under the Legislature Department. You may also contact your legislator or the Genesee County Legislature Office for additional details.

The Web site contains an Advisory Board Booklet listing all our board opportunities. You are encouraged to visit the Web site and let us know of your interests, 344-2550, ext. 2202.

November 12, 2012 - 11:44am

One elderly person commits suicide every 90 seconds, according to a statistic provided by the Genesee County Mental Health Association.

That's why they are helping the Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition to host an upcoming pair of workshops featuring Eric Weaver (pictured). He's the executive director of "Overcoming the Darkness," a Victor-based organization dedicated to providing education about and help for people with mental illnesses.

"Suicide Prevention in the Elderly" is the title of the workshops, which will take place Tuesday at ARC's Community Center, at 38 Woodrow Road in Batavia. There will be a workshop for providers from 12:30 until 4:30 p.m. and another one for friends and family members from 6 until 8 p.m.

Both are free and open to the public.

Caregivers, family and community members who attend either workshop will be equipped to help elderly individuals in danger of suicide by learning how to:

  • Understand risk factors;
  • Recognize warning signs;
  • Learn how to have a discussion with the person if they suspect suicidal thoughts; and
  • Learn about local resources available to help with prevention, managing risk factors and coping in the wake of a suicide.

According to Sue Gagne, of Genesee County Mental Health, people age 65 and older have a higher suicide rate than any other age group.

She believes the main contributing factors to be "financial concerns, concerns about managing the aging process, health concerns and loss of independence."

Millie Tomidy, also of Genesee County Mental Health, described the Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition as "a group of people from various professional backgrounds as well as individual community members who are alarmed by the prevalence of suicide and want to do something about it."

"The ripple effect from one death can devastate the entire community," Tomidy said. "The goal of the coalition is to educate in order to prevent future suicides, but also to have a unified response plan in place if (a suicide) should occur."

Weaver, a survivor of a mental illness himself, is widely recognized for his educational talks and training seminars for professionals, family members, churches, workplaces, community groups, schools, hospitals and other audiences.

The mission of his business, "Overcoming the Darkness," is to "reduce stigma, increase understanding surrounding the many challenges of mental health related issues, create a culture that openly discusses the topic of mental illness, suicide and suicide related behavior, and above all proclaim that there is hope and that a level of recovery is available to everyone, so that individuals and families will no longer need to suffer in silence" (from the Web site).

For more information or to reserve a space, call 344-2611.

Photo from www.overcomingthedarkness.com

January 5, 2012 - 12:11pm
posted by Ann Winters in mental health, live theatre, suicide.
Event Date and Time: 
May 11, 2012 - 7:00pm to May 12, 2012 - 9:00pm

 A collaborative event with the Genesee County Mental Health Association and Maryanne Arena, director of fine and performing arts at GCC. A one-act play, "'night, Mother" by Marsha Norman, will be performed on Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12 at 7 p.m. and a Sunday matinee, May 13, at 2 p,m.

Starring Maryanne and Jaime Arena, it features a daughter, Jessie, and her mother, Thelma, in a story about suicide.

December 23, 2011 - 12:16pm

David Markham has been at the helm of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA) for more than a decade. Today, he retires from his job as its executive director.

Here the 65-year-old Markham introduces himself:

Since he started at GCASA in 2000, the organization has developed some notable new programs and won numerous national awards for both treatment and prevention programs.

The prevention efforts alone have received a government grant to head up a Drug-Free Communities Coalition (DFC) for Genesee County. In addition, they've received grants to mentor two other coalitions -- one in Orleans County and one in Lancaster/Depew.

They have earned such honors as: the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America's (CADCA) Got Outcomes! Award in the category of "Coalition as a Whole" in 2006; the National Exemplary Award from the National Association of State Alcohol/Drug Abuse Directors ('07) ; and selection as Coalition of the Year by CADCA ('07).

Below, Markham answers some questions about himself and his career.

Did you grow up wanting to pursue a career in the social work/mental health field?

No. My college degree was in philosophy, with a minor in sociology. My first job was as a psychiatric social worker trainee at Kings Park in Rochester. At that time, the Department of Mental Hygiene (which no longer exists) was awarding grants for people to pursue careers in social work. So I went back to school on a grant from them and got a master's degree in social work from SUNY Albany. As I got into the field, I gradually held positions with greater responsibility.

I understand you have a private practice in Brockport. What type of counseling do you do?

As a licensed clinical social worker, I kind of do it all. Most of my clients deal with stress-related problems like anxiety and depression. They might have problems with their families, at work...sometimes they're dealing with grief, too. I also do couples and family counseling.

How did you get into the administrative aspect of the social work field?

Having been a clinician, I felt I had ideas about how services could be organized more effectively and efficiently. It has kind of been a dual career of mine, because I’ve continued to have my own practice. I’ve found the two (clinical and administrative work) to be interrelated in an intimate way. The way I see it, the manager is like an architect, and the clinician is the general contractor he hires to carry out the plan. There are key processes that govern the way services are delivered and develop the ability to implement those services. 

When and how did you come to GCASA?

I came in 2000. Before that, I had been the director of clinical operations at the Rochester Health Association, and about half of their programs were related to substance abuse. I left in 2000 and was looking for something else, and it just so happened that Sharon McWethy (GCASA's executive director at the time) was retiring.

What would you say has been your management philosophy during your 11 years at GCASA?

My overall philosophy is collaborative and participatory. I think it's important to understand what is important to all of the various stakeholders, whether these are clients, families, members of the community, etc. I guess I'd say I'm the opposite of an autocrat. I like to work in a way that elicits not just the cooperation, but the enthusiasm of the multiple stakeholders. That way, we can all work productively toward a common goal.

You are originally from, and currently live in, Brockport. Having worked in Genesee County through the DFC and through prevention, what has been your impression of the Genesee County community?

It's the most wonderful place I've worked in the world. And I'm not just sucking up -- I think it's the Garden of Eden. Everyone from the county executive to the Batavia city manager, to the schools to the legislature, has been great to work with. You get to know all of the officials on a very personal and collaborative level, and there's a great sense of overall collective welfare.

You don't get that in Monroe County--there's too much bureaucracy. It's more divided. There's not the kind of corruption (in Genesee or Orleans counties) that you see in Monroe County or Erie County, so it's easier to get things done. I think one of the reasons GCASA has won all these awards and been able to implement all these new programs is that the community is smaller and more tightly knit. The programs can be at a scale that's easier to design and implement.

The thing about both Genesee and Orleans counties is that even though these are rural communities, the people are very sophisticated. They're surprisingly well-educated. They have wonderful cultural opportunities because of their access to Buffalo and Rochester. So they have all the advantages of smaller, more tightly knit communities plus these cultural benefits.

The people I know (in Genesee County) are very good people. They have very good values and integrity. Working and living here has been extremely satisfying and fulfilling.

GCASA has been noted for giving employees the benefit of flexible schedules, as well as flexibility in how they manage their work projects. Some people in the business world would say this is the wrong thing to do, because it leads to a drop in productivity. How would you defend your workplace policies at GCASA?

At GCASA, we have created an atmosphere that I would like to believe is empowering to employees. And overall, it's been extremely effective. We get great outcomes, our employee satisfaction is pretty high, and we have one of the best workplaces in New York State. The fact that we've won national awards for our work says that we must be doing something right.

One thing that we, as managers, have to realize is that our employees are adults. They manage their own lives, and we should be able to respect their integrity and maturity. I don't understand why a lot of organizations feel they have to micromanage their employees. There is protocol (for workplace projects, etc.), sure -- but no one knows how to do the work better than the people who are actually engaged in it.

As a manager, my concern is with results -- which is why, when I started at GCASA, one of the first things I did was develop an outcome-based job description. A lot of job descriptions are output-based.

Our employees are adults, so we expect them to be able to get the work done (without having to micromanage them)...There are a lot of ways management works with employees to determine the "what." How they get there depends. Employees should always have opportunities to conduct themselves in a way that works for them, as long as they're getting their work done and as long as they're respecting their coworkers.

You had two young children who were killed by a drunk driver in 1993. How has that influenced your work in the field of alcohol and substance abuse?

Well, I was in the field beforehand -- that's the irony of it. It just goes to show that it can happen to anyone. I would have been doing the work I've been doing regardless. But has it influenced my enthusiasm and passion for the work? Absolutely. And I also think it has influenced my credibility when I speak at Victim Impact Panels. I try to be professional about it, but my personal experience is brought to bear.

A lot of these issues can be seen as academic, professional, or as policy issues, which they are. But these personal stories make it more real for folks. It's like (they say), "Reality is when it happens to you." Substance abuse is a lethal disease, whether we're talking about liver disease from alcohol abuse or silly nonsense like drinking and driving. Tragedies show the importance of a healthy and high-functioning community.

Do you have any words of advice for your successor?

Well, it's an easy transition, because John Bennett (former director of GCASA's treatment services) and I share a lot of the same values. I guess what I would say to John is, first of all, to be understanding of our collaborators and have healthy, meaningful, positive relationships with all stakeholders. We work across systems. I think what has made GCASA so successful is its great collaborative partners. It's a lot of work, but if we work to maintain those relationships, we'll be okay.

What do you plan to do now?

I'm going to continue with my private practice on a part-time basis. I've been working two jobs for years, and I'm finally at a point in my life where I can work just one. I'm also involved in a lot of activities for the Village of Brockport and for my church. Finally, I plan on spending more time with family -- I have seven children and 13 grandchildren.

Markham's birthday is Christmas Day. He will be 66.

For more information on GCASA, visit the organization's blog, GCASA Cares, at www.gcasacares.blogspot.com.

May 8, 2011 - 3:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in mental health, NAMI.

A panel of doctors and other professionals will discuss the topic of "Managing the High and Lows of Depression & Bipolar" from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 9, at City Church Generational Center.

It's located at 15 Center St. in the City of Batavia.

May is Mental Health Month in Genesee County and this presentation is a partnership between City Church and the Mental Health Association in Genesee County.

Panelists are:

  • Dr. Beth Allen and Pat Sine, director, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Rochester
  • Rosalie Sawyer, peer advocate
  • Dr. Joseph Langen, retired psychologist
  • Dr. Lawrence Guttmacher, clinical director, Rochester Psychiatric Center

This event is free and open to the public. Attendees will be able to ask the panelists questions.

The Mental Health Association in Genesee County can be reached at 344-2611.

May 21, 2010 - 9:42am
posted by Tami Underhill in batavia, Event, mental health.
Event Date and Time: 
June 26, 2010 - 12:00pm to June 27, 2010 - 12:00am

Saturday, June 26th

***Proceeds to benefit Mental Health Association in Genesee County.

For more info, contact (585) 344-2611.

 

TF Browns 214 East Main Street

Chinese Auction

Doors open at 12noon ~Drawings start at 9:30pm

Stop by TF Browns anytime after noon on Saturday to put your tickets in!

(**Winner need not be present**)

March 12, 2010 - 6:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, criminal justice, mental health.

mentalhealthcourt_balbick.jpg

All too often a person with a mental illness cycles in and out of the criminal justice system, never really getting the kind of assistance he or she needs to break the pattern.

They may stop taking their meds, get high on drugs or alcohol, and wind up committing a crime. They are no less culpable for their actions, but they can make better choices, move forward and be less likely to get into trouble, if they plug into the many resources available to them in Genesee County.

So say the proponents of the Mental Health Treatment Court, which is a new division of Batavia City Court. It accepted its first case last June, before being officially designated as a mental health court in November.

On March 23, an opening ceremony will take place at the courthouse with many of the stakeholders present, including the Hon. Robert J. Balbick, who also presides over city and drug treatment courts and the "veterans' track" cases.

October 2, 2009 - 9:25am
posted by Joseph Langen in volunteer, mental health, Spiritus Christi.


 

 
(Paphiopedilum)

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. What's on your mind this morning?
JOE: I was just reflecting on yesterday's field trip.
CALLIOPE: Where to?
JOE: Spiritus Christi Mental Health Center in Rochester.
CALLIOPE: What prompted that?
JOE: Several things. I had wanted to see what they were doing. I have considered volunteering there. Mostly I went since I committed myself to doing so as part of my involvement in the Mental Health Board in Genesee County.
CALLIOPE: What did you discover?
JOE: A unique undertaking. As far as anyone knows, they are the only such operation in the country.
CALLIOPE: Tell me more.
JOE: They have two full time employees. All of the psychiatrists and therapists volunteer time to see patients. They are funded by Spiritus Christi Church donations and a second hand furniture shop. They don't have to deal with any of the state, federal or insurance company regulations and treat uninsured and underinsured patients for free.
CALLIOPE: I never hear of such a thing.
JOE: Neither have I before discovering them.
CALLIOPE: Are you still planning to volunteer?
JOE: I want to see how things go with Americorps first. But that's a story for tomorrow. Talk with you then.

 

May 29, 2009 - 8:23am
posted by Joseph Langen in writing, choices, mental health.


 


(El Morro Castle- San Juan)

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. How are you today?
JOE: Mulling a self revelation.
CALLIOPE: Sounds like there might be a story to it.
JOE: There is. Yesterday I spent the morning at a meeting with mental health staff and fellow board members.
CALLIOPE: How did it go?
JOE: Mixed. The first part was a pleasant exchange and presentation with the staff. The second part turned to some thorny issues.
CALLIOPE: Where did you find the revelation?
JOE: We were discussing staffing and the issue of AmeriCorps came up. Someone wished I was available for their project rather than already committed to the arts council.
CALLIOPE: And your response?
JOE: I realized only as I said it that there are many personal issues related to mental health involving my family which make it hard for me to be any more involved with the field than I am now.
CALLIOPE: Is that what made you turn to writing instead of mental health?
JOE: In retrospect, I think so. I have plenty of experiences to draw on but don't want to revisit them, at least the personal ones.
CALLIOPE: Good realization.
JOE: I thought so. Talk with you tomorrow.

 

 

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