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Vehicle strikes parked car on Harvester Avenue, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
accident photo
Reader-submitted photo.

A vehicle has struck a parked car in front of the Harvester Center, 56 Harvester Avenue.

One occupant, seems confused, according to a caller.

City Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

Congresswoman Tenney votes in favor of Fiscal Responsibility Act

By Press Release

Press Release:

Claudia Tenney

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24)  voted in favor of H.R. 3746, the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023. This agreement reins in the Biden administration’s out-of-control spending, protects vital services for our nation’s seniors, veterans, and military personnel, defends small businesses and hardworking families from aggressive IRS overreach, and addresses our nation’s worker shortage. This legislation passed the House by a vote of 314-117.

"The Fiscal Responsibility Act is the single largest deficit reduction package in our nation’s history. It will deliver billions in immediate savings and takes concrete steps to reduce our spending and hold Joe Biden accountable. It is an important part of restoring fiscal responsibility and accountability in Washington,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney

“This bill includes the largest recession of misappropriated funds ever, clawing back billions of dollars from wasteful Democrat programs and returning it to the American people. This bill also freezes non-defense discretionary spending for 2023 and limits future spending to 1% growth, the first time Congress has curbed and capped non-defense discretionary federal spending at this level. The bill also reclaims unspent COVID funds, eliminates funding for Joe Biden’s new army of IRS auditors, zeros out taxpayer funding to China through the Global Health Fund, and implements new work requirements for federal benefits to boost employment and enhance accountability.”

“Joe Biden’s excessive spending and irresponsible policies have put our nation on the brink of an unprecedented economic crisis. By implementing these spending cuts and achieving these important fiscal reforms, we are holding the White House and Senate Democrats accountable. There is much more work to be done, and this legislation marks the start of the process, not the end of it. House Republicans will continue to lead the way to limit out-of-control spending, save taxpayer dollars, reduce taxes, and grow our economy."

Specifically, the Fiscal Responsibility Act will:

  • Reduce annual non-defense discretionary spending below Fiscal Year 2023 levels, the first discretionary spending cut in 11 years. Importantly, the bill includes an immediate 11% cut on the woke and weaponized bureaucracy while increasing funds for national defense, veterans, and border security. This amounts to the largest cut in non-defense discretionary funding in history. It also caps the growth of non-defense discretionary federal spending at 1% annually for the next five years;
  • Implement the most significant reforms in two decades to SNAP and TANF to boost work requirements for these programs, save taxpayer money, stimulate economic growth, and lift Americans out of poverty;
  • Eliminate $400 million from the CDC's "Global Health Fund," which allocates taxpayer funds to China and other programs, making it the largest rescission package in history;
  • Establish the first-ever statutory Administrative Pay-Go, ensuring President Biden and all future presidents are finally responsible for the full cost of their executive actions;
  • Expedite and reduce costs for energy and infrastructure projects through the first substantial reform to NEPA since 1982;
  • Eliminate the funding for new IRS auditors in the total FY24 staffing request;
  • End the outrageous three-year COVID-19 halt to student loan payments, resulting in an estimated monthly savings of almost $5 billion for taxpayers;
  • Impose a funding cap of 99% for any Continuing Resolution (CR) to compel Congress to finally do its job and ensure a functional appropriations process that includes marking up and passing all required 12 appropriations bills;
  • Secure full funding for critical veterans programs and national defense priorities while safeguarding Social Security and Medicare; and
  • Reject all of President Biden's proposed $5 trillion in new tax increases, government mandates, and federal programs.

Read the full text of the bill here.

Farmers Market opens Downtown for the season on Friday

By Press Release
apples public market

Press Release:

The Genesee Country Farmers Market will be open for the season Friday. 

Located at the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place. The market runs each week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Currently, 25 vendors are participating, including food trucks. Each day varies with vendors. We encourage you to check the Genesee Country Farmers Market Facebook page each day to see an updated list of vendors for that day. 

Each week there will be a variety of guest vendors as well that will be posted on FB. We encourage you to check for weekly updates. If you are interested in a vendor spot, you can email us at or stop by the Market shed during operating hours for an application.

History by the Hearth celebrates black Batavians

By Press Release

Press Release:

Richmond Memorial Library will host its Spring program of History by the Hearth on Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m. 

City Historian Larry Barnes will share his research as presented in a new monograph:  "Black Batavians: Who they are, their local history, and aspects of our larger culture that have especially shaped their experiences."

Deborah Wood, Special Collections Librarian at Richmond Memorial Library, will finish the evening with Within the Collective Memory: Why now? And a sneak peek at the exhibit Juneteenth: A Day of Celebration, on display June 15-21.

Richmond Memorial Library is located at 19 Ross Street in the City of Batavia. Find the library online at

Motorcycle accident reported in Pembroke

By Howard B. Owens

A motorcycle accident is reported on South Lake Road in Pembroke.

Mercy Flight has landed at the scene.

The patient is reported conscious and alert.

Pembroke and Indian Falls Fire is on scene.  Mercy EMS is on scene.

UPDATE 7:37 p.m.: Mercy Flight is about to take off.  Pembroke and Indian Falls assignments going back in service.

Photo: Batavia PD holds annual flag ceremony for deceased retired officers

By Howard B. Owens
batavia pd flag service
The men and women who retired from the Batavia Police Department and are buried in local cemeteries were honored on Wednesday with flags placed by their headstones. The police department held a short service in the afternoon to commemorate the service of the former police officers.
Photo by Howard Owens.

City of Batavia Fire Department warns of mulch fires

By Press Release

Press Release:

After numerous responses to mulch fires recently, the City of Batavia Fire Department reminds residents to use some caution and common sense when it comes to landscaping mulch. Each year during the spring and summer months, hundreds of mulch fires are reported across the nation. These fires start out small and undetected, but can eventually grow into a devastating fire, causing major damage to buildings, homes, and other structures.

Typically, mulch that is piled too deeply, more than a few inches, can build up heat and spontaneously catch fire. As the fire starts in the landscaping mulch, it quickly spreads into the shrubbery and then into the home or building. Other contributing factors include below-average rainfall, extremely dry conditions, warm weather, and abnormal winds.

Another, common cause of mulch fire is human carelessness through the discarding of smoking products. Cigarette and cigar smokers often discard lighted smoking materials, including matches, into the landscaped areas as they enter and/or exit a building. So, please take extra precautions when smoking around landscaping beds.

To help prevent a mulch fire, please follow these safety tips:

  • Become aware of this fire safety problem and use smoking materials responsibly. Use only
    approved receptacles for matches, cigarettes, and cigars.
  • Recognize that hot and dry spells allow mulch fires to start more readily.
  • Report any smoke or fire in a mulch bed via 9-1-1.
  • Maintain at least 18 inches of clearance between the edge of the mulch bed and combustible building materials, such as exterior vinyl siding and decks.
  • Keep mulch beds as moist as possible.

If you have any questions, please contact the fire department at 585-345-6375.

Notre Dame HS to host annual golf, tennis and bocce tournament June 11 at Terry Hills

By Press Release

Press Release:

Join us Sunday, June 11 for the 26th Annual Notre Dame Foundation Golf, Tennis, and Bocce Tournament. The event is hosted by Terry Hills Golf Course for Golf and Bocce and Batavia High School for tennis.

The event features:

  • Four-Person Golf Scramble
  • Bocce and Tennis Competition
  • Beverages served throughout the day
  • Cash Bar and Dinner following completion of the tournament

Registration for Golf begins at 11:30 a.m. Registration for Tennis and Bocce begins at Noon. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m - 12:30 p.m. (included with your registration).

This year the event is being held in honor of Bradley F. Rogers. Mr. Rogers was a devoted Notre Dame supporter, Notre Dame JV and Varsity Basketball coach as well as a Batavia High School track and golf coach.

He will be remembered as a respected educator with a passion for sports and an overwhelming love for his family.  We at Notre Dame take great pleasure in honoring him this year for the legacy he leaves behind.

Join us in supporting Notre Dame High School for a fun day of golf, tennis, bocce, prizes, food, and drinks. We hope to see you there!

Submitted photo from 2021

Batavia man quietly invites people to ask him about Islam

By Howard B. Owens
Batavia resident Muhammad Hamaz sits on a bench Wednesday on Main Street in Batavia waiting to share with anyone willing to stop and talk with him about his belief that Islam is a religion of peace.
Photo by Howard Owens

Muhammad Hamaz has never met another Muslim in Batavia. He worships with a community in Rochester when he can. He said he wanted people in Batavia to know more about Islam, so he sat on a bench Wednesday on Main Street, between the U.S. Post Office and Tim Horton's, holding a sign that read, "I'm A Muslim. Ask Me About Islam."

At the time a reporter spoke with him, nobody up to that point in the day had stopped to ask him about Islam, he said.

"I want to teach others about Islam to the best of my ability and let others know that it is not a violent religion and that it is a religion of peace," Hamaz said.

A soft-spoken man, Hamaz said he converted to Islam on Oct. 14.

"Islam interested me because I never really believed that Jesus was God," Hamaz said. "I never really believed in the Trinity. So when it came down to Islam, well, Jesus was just a very beloved prophet. I was like, 'That makes more sense to me.' I always want to worship just God, not Jesus, because Jesus is just a guy, and, well, a very beloved guy. I just fell in love with Islam as I learned about it."

If anybody did stop and talk with him, he said his message was simple for his fellow Batavia residents: Islam teaches peace.

"I just want people to know that Islam is not a dangerous religion," Hamaz said. "After 911, so many people think that Islam is a religion of terrorism. It's really not. It's about love and peace and submitting to the will of God. And I want people to know that I am out here because I want other people to know exactly what I said and that Islam is not violence."

Le Roy's annual art show displays the wide interests and talents of students

By Howard B. Owens
rylee burns le roy art
Rylee Burns, a senior at Le Roy High School, discusses her art during the school's annual art show on Wednesday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Rylee Burns started her art journey for fun when she was younger, and she intends to keep it that way.  Being an artist is not her career ambition.

After her graduation from Le Roy High School on June 24, she will head to SUNY Geneseo to major in chemistry.

"I really, really enjoy science, and I want to be a forensic scientist after college," Rylee said. "So, in thinking about starting that journey, I decided to start with chemistry."

She still may take an art class or two in college, she said, because she enjoys art, too.

It's not unusual for students, even ones as talented as Rylee, to follow career paths outside of art, said Ieon Koukides, a teacher Rylee said has inspired her to stretch herself artistically.

"Their interests are absolutely different from what they might be doing in the class, from science to music, to sports, or whatever it might be," said Koukides, who himself has interests outside of art -- he's also Le Roy's head baseball coach.  "So it's kind of nice that I get to have kids of all different interest levels, and what they go on to do is awesome to me because what I get to do is give them an avenue to appreciate art and hopefully produce some pretty neat stuff while they're in high school."

Rylee was among several seniors who prepared a wall of their paintings and drawings for Le Roy's annual art show on Wednesday, which also featured the work of underclass members.

As an artist, Rylee tends to be detail-oriented, preferring fine brush strokes.  As a sophomore, she painted a church door because she liked the detail of it, and in her junior year, Koukides encouraged her to find another church architecture theme, so she concentrated on a stained glass window.  To complete the cycle this year, she painted a church door key.

"I'm really fine with my brushes," Rylee said. "I used really tiny brushes for all three of these. I like things to go the way I want them to, so I felt really nice with these because I wanted the detail."

Koukides said he typically picks a project a student did in their sophomore year and encourages them each year to find a new approach to the same or similar subject.

"I knew she could excel at it because she's super confident in what she's doing," Koukides said. "Whether it's painting or colored pencil,  it's pretty easy to gear her towards that project and see her excel."

He said Rylee's confidence has "allowed her to soar on any project after she has learned the techniques."

The art show was moved to the auditorium stage this year (instead of the library) and the stage was filled with adults and students appreciating the works on display.  

Koukides said he's proud to see the school's art students get the recognition of an appreciative audience.

"I always say people get to see what I see every day," Koukides said. "That's what makes coming to work great for me every day. I know what's here, and I see it every day. But until we put it up like this and have everybody else view it, I don't think everybody truly appreciates what happens here in this small little community, and how talented the kids are."

Photos by Howard Owens.

rylee burns le roy art
rylee burns le roy art
rylee burns le roy art
rylee burns le roy art
le roy art
rylee burns le roy art
le roy art
le roy art

Baby Boomers' memories of Batavia

By Anne Marie Starowitz
Richmond Memorial Library

I use the Richmond Memorial Library daily, tutoring different students. I told one student about Mary Richmond and how she was responsible for financing this beautiful building in memory of her son Dean Richmond Jr.   

Baby boomers grew up walking or driving by the Dean Richmond mansion as part of our daily scenery. Yet, all I seem to notice now is what is gone—most of all, our Main Street. 

Richmond Mansion

I can't forget cruising down Main Street in the 60s. You would drive from the Big N, Eastown Plaza, to the Red Barn or the old Tops Market, now Harbor Freight. Back then, most cars had bench seats, and if you were with your boyfriend, you sat in the center, showing you had a boyfriend, or if you had bucket seats, you would sit on a pillow on the console. In my early teens, the memories were always from spending time outdoors. It was from swimming in the New Pool or, if you were adventurous, the Sandwash, now known as DeWiitt Park, dancing on the tarmac of the tennis courts at MacArthur and Kibbe Park, or winter skating on the frozen tennis courts.

One of my favorite memories was watching St. Joseph's Drum Corps marching down Main Street or watching one of their competitions at Woodward Field. Of course, it also helped if you had a crush on a corps member. Then, on a quiet evening, you could hear them practicing at the Sylvania parking lot.   

st. joe's
st. joe's

Everyone knew who you were, so if you decided to do something you didn't want your parents to see, you soon realized they knew it by the time you got home. We walked to any place we wanted to go. When we were young, we belonged to the neighborhood park and participated in the annual summer craft fair parade. 

You could drink when you were 18, so you would try to get a drink when you were 17. I only know that because my brother took me to our favorite bar on Ellicott Street, Louie's.  

We had house parties. My 18th  birthday was very memorable; my class and the faculty of Notre Dame were invited. Thanks, Mom and Dad! 

Our favorite places to stop after school or on a Saturday afternoon were   Critics and Kustus soda fountains. You would sit at a booth in Critics, drinking your cherry Coke, eating French fries, and putting quarters in a personal jukebox. Then, on a Friday night, you would all meet at Pontillo's for a pizza and hang out with your friends.


The churches were packed for Sunday Mass or Sunday services. Everyone seemed to belong to a church. In the Catholic Church, females had to wear a hat at Mass, and if you didn't have a hat, you used a bobby pin and clipped a tissue to the top of your head. Stores were closed on Sunday. I found not eating pepperoni on our pizza challenging on a Friday night. No meat was allowed on any Fridays.

Our high school dances at Notre Dame ended with a prayer at 11 p.m. with the lights on in the gymnasium. At 11, my dad was waiting outside to take me home. I made sure the eye makeup was off before he saw me

I recently turned 73, and I find solace in remembering old Batavia and the fun we had that did not connect us to a cell phone. 

I don't think I will ever stop remembering my good old days. They just make me smile and make me grateful I grew up in a time with a large family, a station wagon, going under a bridge and blaring the car horn, or punching your brother when you see a Punch Bug Volkswagen Beetles,  and visiting the popcorn and peanut man at his stand on Main Street only to name a few.

As I type this, I sit in the former Ebling Electric store, now The Coffee Press.

This business owner knew the value of saving our old buildings and creating a new place for friends to gather and create their memories.

5-MW community solar project to be considered Thursday at GCEDC meeting

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) board of directors will consider a final resolution for GSPP Route 262, LLC’s 5-MW community solar project at its board meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The project’s total capital investment is estimated at $13 million and will be located in the town of Byron.

GSPP Route 262, LLC’s project is aligned with New York's goals for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas reductions, and will offer customers a 10% discount vs. average market rates for the generated power.

Agreements negotiated for GSPP Route 262, LLC’s project PILOT would generate $4,000/MWAC + a 2% annual escalator of revenues with Genesee County, the Town of Byron, and Byron-Bergen Central School District.  This project is estimated to generate a $627,303 increase in property-tax type revenues to host municipalities. 

A public hearing on the proposed project agreement was held on April 19 in the town of Byron.

The June 1, GCEDC board meeting will be held at 4 p.m. at the MedTech Center’s Innovation Zone, 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia. Meeting materials and links to a live stream/on-demand recording of the meeting are available at

From diagnosis to research to hope: removing the mask of 'fine'

By Joanne Beck
Peter Mittiga, Sue Gagne, Cheryl Netter
Peter Mittiga, deputy director of Genesee County Mental Health, Sue Gagne, and Cheryl Netter, talk about mental health issues from their personal and professional perspectives for a series of articles related to Mental Health Awareness. 

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles for May’s Mental Health Awareness focus. Despite it being the last day of the month, no topic as important as mental health can be hemmed into such a short time span anyway, as Genesee County Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia says. Besides, this kicks off June’s “Rebuild Your Life Month,” which will continue with additional articles.

Little did anyone know that Cheryl Netter suffered from bipolar disorder throughout her life. And how could they? Netter herself didn’t know until she received an official diagnosis in her 20s.

“Finally, when I was diagnosed with something that I could explore, and educate myself on and find out, I was relieved. So many people will tell you otherwise, maybe, but I was totally relieved because I knew in talking with my gynecologist and my doctors through the course of the years, I knew there was something more going on inside me. I couldn't voice it, I couldn't put it into words, I couldn't express it per se,” she said. “I used to write a lot. And everything that I wrote about it was dark, death, all of that. And, you know, that's why I look back. And my mom was a big support to me. Not in the beginning. She didn't understand it either. But she started trying to educate herself. And in finally talking, she listened finally, and that's when she started the shift over to when she started sharing with me about her journey. Her mother had a nervous breakdown, my grandmother, back when my mom was growing up. And then my mother, when I was little, I remember her going through an episode, where she was taken away, and hospitalized as a ‘nervous breakdown,’ you know, back then that's what they called them, they didn't have all these diagnoses. And so it was a genetic thing.”

Throughout school and later in her working life, the mask she wore on the outside and the roles she played belied her very low self-esteem and depression. Netter was always the lead in school plays, worked in retail, gravitated toward leadership roles, got married, had two daughters, and from all appearances, she looked “fine.”

She suffered from deep depression, had been hospitalized four times and put on lithium. Abusive relationships and substance abuse -- a path that kept her sinking lower and lower -- all led Netter to the eventual thought that everyone around her would be better off “without me,” she said.

At one of her lowest points, Netter tried to end her life.

“I was in a coma for three days,” she said during an interview with The Batavian. “There is hope out there. I’m living proof of it. There are people out there, you just have to find them.”

Oftentimes, when one is struggling with depression and feelings of hopelessness, isolation is the easier thing to do, she said. But taking that first step will lead to the next one. Her lifeline has been faith in her higher power, God.

“And I know, without a doubt, it's only by his grace, I'm here. I can honestly say that because I have had the opportunity to impact others. With what I've come through. I've never been afraid to talk about it. I've never been afraid to tell people my story. I've never had a fear of people looking at me like 'oh, geez,' I just have never had that fear because I know where my story comes from,” she said. “It's been a journey. And it will be lifelong.

“I do hope coaching. I can’t walk for them, but I can walk with them,” Netter said. “But I can support you with that empathy piece, I think.”

Netter is a hope coach through City Church. A hope coach is a believer in Christ who is devoted to helping others to achieve their fullest potential and who will encourage one to have hope in oneself and God by faith. A hope coach is not a counselor or therapist.

For more information about this program, call 585-343-6895.

Peter Mittiga, deputy director of Genesee County Mental Heath, said that therapist numbers are bouncing back from COVID days, and that has opened up more availability for appointments at the mental health facility on East Main Street in Batavia.

“So I'm really excited about this, and I think it'd be great for the community just knowing, we have walk-in hours every day. Yes, you can be seen right away. But then, currently, you might have to book out two or three weeks for your next appointment,” he said. “But once we are fully staffed, then get right in and start therapy right away, which is great. “Or if somebody is doing very well, they might say, hey, can I see you monthly just to check in, and that's fine, too. 

"And then also individuals that have been in therapy for a while they feel like they don't really need the therapy, if they want to get through with medication. They can be enrolled in our medication management program," he said. "So we have a nurse who will check in with them periodically, but they primarily just come here and they see a doctor and stay on medications for three months. And those are much shorter appointments. So it's not a 45-minute therapy appointment, it's just a really quick check-in with the nurse to see if things are okay. And if that individual ever wants to go back into therapy, we link them up.”

Local Resources
For more information about mental health services in Genesee County, call 585-344-1421 or go to Mental Health Services

For services at the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties, call 585-343-2611, or go to MHA    

For more information from the Rochester-based National Alliance on Mental Illness, go HERE

In a mental health crisis, call or text 988 for resources.

Dealing with loved ones' mental illness can be a repetitive cycle until you're on the 'same team'

By Joanne Beck

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles for May’s Mental Health Awareness focus. Despite it being the last day of the month, no topic as important as mental health can be hemmed into such a short time span anyway, as Genesee County Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia says. Besides, this kicks off June’s “Rebuild Your Life Month,” which will continue with additional articles.

Sue Gagne
Sue Gagne

Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s how it felt for Sue Gagne when dealing with a family member struggling with mental illness, she said.

“I would say early in my career as a family member, I didn't know anything about mental illness. And when my loved one first started exhibiting symptoms, the rest of the family didn't really know what to do. So we would wait for a crisis; we would call 911. (Law enforcement) would come and either take them away or settle things down,” Gagne said during an interview with The Batavian. "And I always, when I do the (Crisis Intervention Team) training, I say, you know, it's like, wet, lather, rinse, repeat. It was just this continual cycle of, 'we don't know what to do.'"

Gagne made up for that lack of knowledge and ended up diving head first into the mental health field, formerly as the executive director at the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties, dual recovery coordinator for the GLOW region, a recovery center coordinator at GCASA, and a Suicide Prevention Coalition leader before her most recent professional endeavor of becoming a registered nurse.

Until the formal lessons, however, there were plenty of hands-on observations of that family members’ struggle: yelling, hearing and seeing things that the remaining family didn’t hear or see, the ensuing turmoil that resulted, regularly charged manic behavior that became part of a bipolar existence of low and highs, Gagne said.

“Like hearing people outside the window. You know what mental illness is, and that it's in your family, you go check, like, okay, that's possible, somebody could be out there, you know … things that aren't really happening, but you don't know they're not real, because you're still believing this person. So a lot of confusion, I would say chaos and confusion,” she said. “And then, meanwhile, you're trying to live your own life.”

There were police arrests, substance use, being locked in a psychiatric ward and put on medications until the family member began to feel better and then would stop taking the meds. As Gagne said, wash, rinse, repeat.

Does it ever end? What happened in your case?
“It just keeps going. And then, one day, NAMI came into my life, which is National Alliance for Mental Illness in Rochester. And I recognized that I'm not the only one who deals with this … it's a lot of stigma and shame that keeps you not wanting to reach out. And I really didn't know where to reach out," she said. "But once I met with NAMI, it shifted my whole way of thinking. My thought early on was like, take them to the hospital, medicate them, send them back the way they used to be. And that was just ignorance on my part. This has been lifelong for my situation. And I think once I could get in my head that I am this person's support, that I'm on their team, that I'm part of their recovery team. That shifted the whole dynamic.

"NAMI taught me to be able to talk about mental illness as it's part of who that person is and what makes up that person. So, I think that was one thing. Navigating the mental health system for family members is not easy, I found, but if you can get educated about the person's diagnosis, you can have releases signed with therapists to be on that team.

"I'm part of my family member’s team, and they do this, and I'll come around this way and be like, you know, how can we support that? But also having good boundaries because you can burn out from caregiving. I think that's a huge thing."

So do you still have your family members in your life?
“I do, loving them every minute of the day. But it's ongoing, I think that's why you have to take care of yourself. In a crisis it's like it's all hands on deck. Let's do it. But, you know, I think that was something else I learned -- I didn't want to deal with it. So I waited until it was a crisis," she said. "And then it's like, it would go away, and then I’d just push it off and then it would come back. And it's like, if you can have that ongoing, stable kind of relationship, keeping your eye out, kind of thing, it makes life a lot better for everybody.”

Gagne appreciated having a team atmosphere at Genesee County Mental Health because case management meant "we'll do this like a whole team is assembled to support that person," she said.

 "Which is, I think, wonderful, because I think sometimes people think, Oh, if I go to therapy once a week, that's the end all be all," she said. "My experience here is they will help you build a support team around the person. And it didn't used to be that way. It was kind of siloed time."

Any other advice?  
Get yourself a support system, and don’t take life too seriously.

“You have to laugh,” Gagne said. “One thing they teach you at NAMI is you have to embrace humor as healthy. And that is my favorite thing ever.”

College Prevention Initiative grant connects GCASA educators with GCC students, staff

By Mike Pettinella
Chaya and Ford
GCC Dean of Students Patty Chaya, left, and GCASA Prevention Director Shannon Ford. Submitted photo.

With a renewed emphasis on health and wellness, the administration at Genesee Community College is confident that a two-year grant to provide alcohol and drug prevention services through Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse will make a positive difference in students’ lives.

“In recent months, especially since COVID, we’ve put a lot of energy into opening a new wellness office,” GCC Dean of Students Patty Chaya said. “And the health and safety of our students has always been a main priority. This collaboration with GCASA is going to be really great, and it’s coming at a perfect time to build our wellness program.”

Chaya recently learned that GCASA received the grant – about $98,000 annually for two years – from the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. It will enable GCASA to hire one full-time and one half-time prevention educator to work at GCC.

OASAS has awarded several of these College Prevention Initiative grants to State University of New York or City University of New York community colleges, utilizing federal funding relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Rescue Plan Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

The purpose is to implement evidence-based practices and strategies, including individual and family-focused programs and/or community-level environmental change strategies to prevent or reduce substance misuse.

Shannon Ford, director of Prevention at GCASA, wrote the Request for Funding proposal, which then was submitted to OASAS for approval. She said her agency and GCC have been seeking a way to collaborate and provide prevention services for the past several years.

“We’re pleased to be able to provide services at the college and are in the process of accepting resumes for the educator positions,” Ford said. “Our plan is to use the BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students) and CASICS (Brief Cannabis Screening and Intervention for College Students) evidence-based programs, both of which have produced successful outcomes.”

The two prevention educators will work out of an office in the Dean of Students area on the second floor of the campus’ main building, Chaya said, adding that they will work closely with the college’s wellness specialist, Meghan Bernard.

“Actually, we have a number of offices that will be working together with these new hires,” she said. “One is our College Village residence halls -- our population down there.

“I find that I meet with a lot of those students in my office for infractions. And having them meet with one of these GCASA counselors as a sanction may be really helpful, even though they don't think so all the time. It may help them get back on their feet.”

Chaya acknowledged that there could be underlying factors that lead to students’ use of drugs and alcohol, and that’s where the wellness piece comes in.

“Some of the things that we are looking to work on is peer pressure, lack of connection the students have, disabilities, food insecurity, mental health concerns, poverty or lack of financial resources, lack of resources due to their rural location and a family history of substance abuse,” she said. “Maybe they're struggling with parents getting divorced or a breakup of a relationship. And they really could use some counseling.

“So, in addition, we'll provide them counseling and we'll also provide them some sort of assessments for their substance use and hopefully get them back on their feet again. I mean, this is not just a problem with GCC; it's very widely spread across the United States.”

Substance misuse can have lasting consequences for college students, including poor academic performance, assaults, injury and increased risk of developing substance use disorder.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2019, almost 53 percent of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month and about 33 percent engaged in binge drinking during that same time frame.

“Family history and other risk factors, such as peer approval and perception of harm, can lead to problems with drugs and alcohol,” Ford said. “Having this grant gives us a unique opportunity to reach young adults with specific, age- and culturally-appropriate prevention approaches.”

Chaya emphasized that GCC Campus Safety will play a role in the program.

“My hope is that we can provide some training for campus safety personnel as well as other people on campus, such as the wellness office and my office in the Dean of Students and the Human Services program -- and just provide training for the staff so we can sustain the benefits of the grant. By doing this, when it ends in two years, we can keep it going,” she said.

She said it’s all about giving students “a second chance” to reach their potential.

“Students want to meet their goals, but sometimes peer pressure or their use of some of these substances may affect their attendance at class,” she observed. “They may actually go to class high and they don't remember what was said in class. And they have a greater likelihood of probably getting in trouble around here. We don't want to see that. We have a very safe campus, and we want that to continue.”

The outreach will include GCC students receiving services through the college’s Educational Opportunity Program and the Adult Education Opportunity Center, Chaya noted.

“We also have – which sometimes people forget – online learning. And just because somebody is an online learner, as long as they're GCC students, they can use our services,” she added. “They may also need the assistance of counseling or alcohol and drug counseling. Because after COVID, these are people that sometimes were home and smoking weed or drinking, and we need to figure out how they can get back to living a great life and doing well with their academics.”

Chaya said the BASICS and CASICS programs are vital to identifying the risk factors and providing avenues to deal with the issues that are hurting their academic and social progress.

“Sometimes, when they’re using, there’s a lack of motivation that leads to low grades, and many times they don’t believe that their excessive use of substances can lead to a substance use disorder,” she said.

A concentrated effort will be placed upon students living at the College Village on-campus residence halls.

“Students smoke marijuana in their rooms in the residence halls and don’t want the fire alarm detector to go off, so, they cover their fire alarm fire detector, which is a big no, no,” Chaya said. “And some are suspended because of this and lose their housing privileges because it’s putting everyone at risk.”

For more information about the grant or to apply for the prevention educator positions, contact Ford at

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

GLOW OUT kicks off pride month with a trio of youth-centered events Thursday

By Press Release

Press Release:

GLOW OUT!, the LGBTQ+ outreach agency serving the four GLOW counties, kicks off Pride Month with a trio of fun and educational events on Thursday in Batavia. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. at the War Memorial outside of the Jerome Center where Act Out!, the organization’s youth league, will raise the Progress Pride Flag during a ceremony led and created by youth leaders Lily Fiscus of Caledonia-Mumford High School, Abby Merkley of Holley High School, and Ayden Carlson and Judith Newton, both of Batavia High School. 

In addition to explaining the significance of Pride Month and the flag, the short program will also feature proclamations from local and state representatives. Community members are encouraged to attend and show the youth and LGBTQ+ residents their support. 

The fun and tradition continue afterward at the Pride Block Party hosted by the First Presbyterian Church of Batavia in their hall from 6 to 8 p.m. Join them for an evening of playing games, making tye-dye T-shirts, painting rocks, dancing, and of course, getting a free treat from everybody’s favorite, the Ice Cream and Chill truck! 

Highlights from the youth league’s past year will be shared, as well as the accomplishments of the previous four leaders who will stay on as senior leaders. And of course, be there as we crown our four new youth leaders to the Royal Rainbow Court and welcome them to the team.

The evening will come to a close as the group marches to the Old Courthouse by 8:30 p.m. to see the building lit in a slow-fading rainbow for the month of June. All events are free and open to the public. For more details or to learn more about their upcoming Pride Parade and Festival on Friday, June 9 starting at 4 p.m., please visit

Photo submitted by Sara Vacin

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