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addiction and recovery

Philosophy based on ‘Housing with Dignity’ drives UConnectCare’s residential services

By Mike Pettinella
detox center
UConnectCare’s Detox Center, which is located behind the Atwater Community Residence on East Main Street in Batavia. Submitted photo.

In an ongoing effort to provide the most efficient and compassionate treatment methods for those struggling with substance use disorder, UConnectCare (formerly Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse) has expanded its residential services program.

“Professional studies show the positive impact that recovery residences have in both outpatient and inpatient settings,” said Allison Parry-Gurak, director of Residential Services at UConnectCare. “With that being said, we offer a detox center and residential settings to meet a wide range of individuals at various stages of their recovery journey.”

According to a study by the Recovery Research Institute, utilization of recovery residences, also called sober homes or halfway houses, improves substance use outcome. At UConnectCare, these residences are alcohol and drug-free living environments that provide peer support and other services for those seeking recovery from SUD.

Parry-Gurak said the local nonprofit agency provides various level of care including the conversion of Atwater House to an “820 program.”

This allows UConnectCare to offer three “elements of care” when it comes to residential services – (1) a medically supervised program for those with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms or, stabilization; (2) a structure and supportive community living experience that builds a foundation for recovery, or rehabilitation; (3) case management and long-term assistance through a variety of programs or, reintegration.

Additionally, UConnectCare operates supportive living, transitional safety units and permanent supportive housing programs in both Genesee and Orleans counties.

They include the following:

-- Atwater Community Residence in Batavia, a short-term (usually three months) home that offers 21 beds for men and women, ages 18 and older, and features in-house recovery-focused groups, individual therapy and vocational training.

-- A detox/stabilization center, located behind the Atwater Home, a 16-bed facility that provides shorter term medically supervised withdrawal and stabilization services for adults who are struggling with SUD. UConnectCare has an “open access” policy, starting at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday as well as late admission under specific guidelines, Parry-Gurak said.

-- Supportive living beds, 19 of them in Genesee County and five in Orleans County.

-- Transitional safety units, housing for six to nine months on average, with the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative program an avenue for families dealing with substance use issues.

-- Permanent supportive housing.

“All of these programs are under our ‘Housing with Dignity’ umbrella, which really means that we strive to provide the best care to our clients in a welcoming and safe environment,” Parry-Gurak said. “Recovery housing is a valuable part of our continuum of care that can help people transition to an independent life and improve their substance use outcomes.”

UConnectCare offers other housing opportunities, including The Reentry Program that helps connect individuals returning to the community after incarceration services such as substance use disorder treatment, mental health treatment, housing, food, clothing, employment and/or job training, childcare, transportation and medical care.

Parry-Gurak, a UConnectCare employee for 5 ½ years, has been in her current position since November 2021. She reported that the agency is seeking full- and part-time professional counselors, medical staff (LPN, RN), residential aides and food service workers.

“UConnectCare has been a Best Company in New York every year since 2018 and truly is a great place to work,” she said. “The agency offers flexible scheduling that values a balance between work and family, paid time off, benefits for full-time employees and a cooperative, team atmosphere.”

For more information about UConnectCare’s residential services or employment, go to

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for UConnectCare.

Recovering addict at DePaul in Batavia uses his time to try and help others

By Press Release


Press Release:

Mike VanSlyke has lived with active addiction from the time he was ten years old until less than a year ago at 39 years old.

“I’ve done big things, stupid things, painful things, awful things, some good things, all kinds of things,” he said.

Now 40, he’s been sober since moving into the Batavia Apartment Treatment Program last August. Mike said he’s been choosing to “do the next right thing.”

“I’ve been horrible at taking my own advice my whole life,” he said. “I think I’m smarter than my own advice. That’s where I’m at now. I finally decided to [take my own advice] instead of telling other people how to live.”

On April 7, 2022, Mike launched a peer-support network for those struggling with addiction, mental health, and/or coping with daily life called Forgotten Ones on Facebook, and now also on Instagram and Twitter. The Facebook page has 1,300 followers and growing!

Through Forgotten Ones, Mike is dedicating his time to being a ‘Friend, Guide, Advocate,’ as his contact card reads. He regularly posts positive, encouraging memes, shares his own story, and invites others to post their clean dates, doing his best to acknowledge milestones big and small.

“We’ll always be there when you need us,” reads the description on the Forgotten Ones Facebook page. “You matter!”

In addition, Mike has a phone number specifically for Forgotten Ones which people can call in crisis at any time of day. The hours on the Facebook page are listed as “always open.” He may have just made dinner, but if he gets a call, message or email from someone in need of support, dinner waits.

“That one second could save somebody’s life,” he said.

Mike reassures those who reach out to Forgotten Ones for support that everything remains confidential.

“I don’t ask them for anything except how old are you and what can I do to help you? For you to be happy, what does life have to look like? That’s where it starts. We go from there.

There is only one requirement to those who call.

“You need to be willing to do things to get better,” he said. “I won’t spin my wheels. If you come to me and want help, I’ll help, but if you’re not willing, I can’t do anything.”

Mike envisions building a team of volunteers in the future to better be able to serve those who seek support. He feels that people who seek out his help can relate to him because of his own personal struggles with addiction and mental health.

“There are very few things in this world I haven’t done or I haven’t been through.”

Now Mike is rebuilding with the help, encouragement and motivation of friends, family and counselors like Lisa Glow, a Program Director at Horizon Health Services.

“When I think about the growth that he’s made over the past ten years, he’s finally at a place where he wants this for him, not because somebody else is telling him to get sober or stabilize his mental health,” said Lisa. “He’s finally taken everything he’s learned, even when he hasn’t wanted to hear it, and acted on it. He’s finally really doing the work.”

Lisa helped Mike find DePaul and the Batavia Apartment Treatment Program.

“They added stability and structure that he needed in order to get through the early part of his recovery,” she said of the staff at the Batavia Apartments.

After moving in last August, he spent the first few days soaking in the feeling of being home and feeling safe in his own apartment.

“I can be alone in my apartment all the time, but there’s always someone here,” he said. “I’m the type of guy, I don’t ask for a lot of help but if I know someone is in the office, I’ll find a reason to come out and talk.”

Residential Supervisor at DePaul’s Batavia Apartments, Brionna Majors said Mike’s passion and drive to have a positive impact on the lives of others and in the world has been an inspiration to not only his peers, but staff as well.

“Everyone’s journey in life is a unique one,” she said. “Life can take all of us through so many different twists and turns and can place unexpected obstacles in front of you. The direction that you choose to take with the cards you are dealt is where you learn the most valuable life lessons.”

Within a few weeks of moving into the Batavia Apartment Treatment Program, Mike was diagnosed with lymphedema, a condition caused by a blockage of the lymphatic system which causes swelling in both of his legs. He finds it ironic that now that he has the motivation, drive and purpose to change his life around, he’s got physical limitations preventing him from moving forward.

“I might not be alright from the waist down, but from the neck up, I’m the best I’ve ever been,” he said. “That says a lot. Everything happens for a reason,” he said.

Instead of getting mad about something he cannot change, he decided to take a friend’s advice and turn a negative into a positive. That same friend is the one who sent him a computer, which allowed him to start Forgotten Ones.

“It’s all motivation, everything, the good, the bad,” he said. “I feel like the people who are in my life have deserved better from me …I’ve never given them what they deserve.”

And the next right move for Mike is to make it all count for something.

“This is going to be my life’s work,” he said.

Submitted photo.

GCASA offering full slate of activities during September celebration of Recovery Month

By Mike Pettinella

For someone in recovery, every sober day is cause for celebration.

Still, it’s only fitting that the nation sets apart a time to honor those fighting their way back from substance use disorder and mental illness.

“Although every day at The Recovery Station we focus on recovery, Recovery Month is the time to recognize and celebrate the gains made by those men and women who have not given up or given in,” said Harry Rascoe, (photo at right), who recently was hired by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse as coordinator of the social event center on Clinton Street Road.

Rascoe and his staff have put together some special events that highlight their support of new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedicated service providers and community members who help make recovery in all of its forms possible.

Additionally, the Genesee County Legislature will be issuing proclamations on Sept. 14 in commemoration of Recovery Awareness Month and Suicide Prevention Month (which also is in September).

The agency's activities through The Recovery Station include fishing trips to Medina and the DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia; visits to Genesee County Park, Stony Brook State Park, Hamlin Beach State Park and Niagara Falls State Park, roller skating in Buffalo; shopping trips, and health and fitness group sessions.

On Sept. 13, the “Give Me S’more Recovery” event is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and on Sept. 27, Speaker Jam – featuring stories of hope by people in recovery – is set for 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Other activities during the month (and just about every month at The Recovery Station) include CORE education and work goal setting, creative writing in recovery, guided yoga, open art classes, karaoke night, spirituality in recovery, and open men’s and women’s groups.

Rascoe, 35, a native of Plattsburgh, said his plan is to expand the center’s focus on physical fitness and wellness while increasing the public’s awareness of The Recovery Station, which is located at the former Bohn’s Restaurant.

“What I’m finding is the biggest issue thus far is that a lot of Batavians don’t even know that we exist,” said Rascoe, a former Marine who did a combat tour in Afghanistan. “We’re looking to make connections with as many agencies and groups as possible to let people know that we’re here for them when they’re ready to start their road to recovery.”

An alcohol and substance use counselor for several years, Rascoe is a proponent of adventure-based counseling where those in recovery are encouraged to “connect with nature” through hiking, kayaking and similar experiences.

“Health and fitness is so important,” said Rascoe, who earned an associate’s degree in Human Services from Genesee Community College before taking counseling positions in Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh. “I am hoping to be able to upgrade our gym and camping equipment and establish some peer-led groups along the lines of what is happening at ROCovery Fitness in Rochester.”

Rascoe also said plans include conducting Narcotics Anonymous meetings on Mondays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. (starting Sept. 12) and possibly opening the center on Sundays for people to watch the Buffalo Bills’ games in a sober environment.

“We’re doing a lot now but there’s so much more that can be done,” he said. “With the support of the community and staff, the future here is bright.”

Now residing in Elba, Rascoe is engaged to Tara Sweet and has three children. He is active in the community as a youth football and baseball coach and co-director of an adult flag football league.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Human services agencies working together in effort to reunite women with their children

By Mike Pettinella


Women in recovery who are seeking reunification with their children can be encouraged by the networking that exists among provider agencies in Western New York.

That was the message conveyed Thursday at the quarterly meeting of the GOW Opioid Task Force at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road in the Town of Batavia.

About 35 people attended the meeting – titled “Parent and Family Resources in Our Communities" -- which was the first in-person gathering for the three-county group since January 2020.

Professionals representing Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Erie and Niagara counties spoke about the services offered by their agencies.

“A lot of women who find out that they're pregnant while in medically assisted treatment or in active use are afraid to ask for help because of the stigma that surrounds them,” said Jessica Budzinack, case manager at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “So, we decided to develop a plan that has case management, parent/family support, childcare supports and other services to provide a continuum of care for these people.”

Budzinack specializes in services for pregnant and post-partum women, and for those who have had children born with exposure to substances.


She said that GCASA has connected with Dr. Davina Moss-King of Positive Direction & Associates in Buffalo, who works with patients and babies suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.

“We have seen that she (Dr. King) was making a difference in Erie County, and we wanted to know what we can do to meet the need in our rural counties,” Budzinack said. “She has trained our team and we implement the positive direction model here at GCASA.”

The positive direction model focuses on accountability and education – giving women the tools to be successful in their recovery and, ultimately, as parents.

Budzinack said she has worked with dozens of women, including many that have an active Child Protective Services case.

“If someone has an open CPS case while pregnant and it is still active when she gives birth, that child also becomes part of that investigation,” she said. “This is to protect the child from the possibility of ‘derivative neglect’ or abuse. The Office of Children and Family Services has a form that I complete with the participants that outlines a plan of safe care – showing all of the programs and services being offered to the parents.”

She said GCASA has provided such services to nine women over the past 10 months, with only one infant having to stay past the five days that New York State requires for observation. None of those babies had to go to the NICU.

“So, we believe we are making a difference by implementing this model here at GCASA,” she added. “A lot of women – and men – are learning how to be a parent all over again, with some having young children who also have experienced the life of addiction and now are recovering themselves.”


GCASA offers family relationship peer coaches who provide support in various areas (such as transportation and assistance with the legal system and Department of Social Services) and teach ways for parents and children to communicate with each other, she said.

Additionally, Budzinack mentioned GCASA’s childcare center in Batavia, which operates Monday through Friday, and allows parents to drop off their young children – 8 weeks to 12 years old – up to three hours per day.

“The children are trained in cognitive play – which means that they learn while they play,” she said. “It’s not just a drop-off site where people sit there and stare at the kids until they're ready to get picked up. They actually have a lot of fun.”

The childcare program also offers special activities, such as trips to the zoo or family game nights, through The Recovery Station.

“We all work closely together; we all talk to each other all the time. And we all just look at each individual and see what their needs are, and talk with each other to see how they can be met,” she advised. “It’s all about rebuilding relationships and becoming effective parents while sober.”

Dawn Stone of Spectrum Health & Human Services, a peer specialist providing mentoring services to those in recovery in Wyoming County, said she works across systems to identify effective treatment plans for mothers, fathers and children.

“We work with Hillside Children’s Center, which deals with families with developmental issues, and we also have what’s called Lighthouse Station, where pregnant moms who don’t have a place to stay – and would otherwise be in jail – can deliver their babies in a non-jail setting,” she said. “We also work with other counties to learn about their programs and refer families to when they come to us.”


One of those agencies is Buffalo-based Caz Recovery, which was represented at the meeting by Angela Angora, director of Reintegration Services, and Morgan King, program manager at Madonna House, a 17-bed rehabilitation facility for women and women with children in Lockport.

Angora, a Genesee County resident, shared that her mother became addicted to crack cocaine in the early 1990s, a time when there weren’t many treatment and recovery programs.

She said things have changed dramatically over the years, noting that Caz Recovery offers Casa Di Vita, a 19-bed reintegration program for women in Buffalo and Somerset House, a 17-bed reintegration program in Appleton.

“We do accept women that are pregnant, however, they would have to come back with the baby here,” she said. “With this program, the women have more autonomy, they're able to go out into the community and they have community time for visits with their family.”

At each location, Caz Recovery staff provide specialized services to help women get their lives back in order and reach the point of reuniting with their children and learning parenting skills, she said.

“After individuals complete our rehabilitation program, our community residences – congregate settings – focus on volunteering, job placement and outpatient counseling, and they receive their services off site,” Angora added. “This is where you will see a greater focus on that family involvement.”

Caz Recovery also offers supportive living, with 40 beds in Erie County and 14 beds in Niagara County, serving women and men with children, as well as a housing program for families ready for that important step, she said.


Shannon Ford, GCASA’s director of Communications & Development, shared that the local agency will be opening a women’s residence in Orleans County next year.

“We’re hoping to have a lot of those same kind of services available for women in our rural communities,” she said. “Currently, we work with Spectrum to help those in Wyoming County coming into our residential programs, but we have not been able to offer anything specifically for women and children to this kind of level.

“So, we’re extremely excited to model our programs after that. And I'm very grateful that GCASA has been able to make referrals over many years to Madonna House.”

For more about programs for women and children in this area, contact Budzinack at 585-813-8583 or at

Photo: Speakers at the recent meeting of the GOW Opioid Task Force are, from left, Christen Foley, task force coordinator; Dawn Stone of Spectrum Health & Human Services, Jessica Budzinack of GCASA, and Morgan King and Angela Angora of Caz Recovery.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

A Place of Hope: GCASA's detox center expands services to those seeking help with substance use disorder

By Mike Pettinella

Stephanie Campbell has felt the pain of addiction in her life and now — as a key employee at the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports in Albany – she works to help others overcome the devastating effects of substance use disorder.

So, on Thursday afternoon, as she toured the new detox center on the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse campus on East Main Street and spoke to the 50 or so people attending an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony, Campbell’s appreciation and gratitude came shining through.

Campbell (photo above) introduced herself as the director of OASAS’ Behavioral Health Ombudsman office, a program that connects people to substance use and mental health treatment.

“But, more importantly,” she said. “My name is Stephanie Campbell and I'm a person in sustained recovery. And what that means for me is somewhere in 1989, someone picked me out of the gutter, and gave me the message of hope. And, and I say that because so many people right now are desperate for that hope and that care and that compassion.”

One of four speakers during the open house, Campbell said that “community and connection” – vital aspects of GCASA’s mission to provide comprehensive services at all stages of substance use disorder – are what turned her life around.

“I can tell you that back in 1989, when someone reached into that gutter and picked me up, and gave me that message of hope, and that compassion and treating me like a human being, I was able to go from being homeless street kid to having three master's degrees, being a professor, and being a director and having an extraordinary career,” she said. “And that's not to brag— there's millions of people just like me — who get the care and compassion that they need.”

She then turned to GCASA Executive Director John Bennett, commending his team as having “some of the most heart-warming, heart-feeling” people on it.

“When someone's in pain, and they look in someone's eyes, they know when that care is there,” she said, “and they know when that connection is there, that compassion -- and that makes all the difference.”

Campbell said hundreds of thousands of people are dying from drug overdose.

“I get the calls from the mothers and fathers on the phone desperately begging for help for their loved ones. I get people who can't get access to the medication and who are incapable and don't know where to go,” she said. “I also get the follow up calls from people who say, ‘If you hadn’t helped, I would be dead today.'”

She said it’s “the heroic folks,” such as the people at GCASA, that are making a difference.

“Talk about essential workers, you guys are saving lives,” she said. “And each life that you save is someone who gets to go back into their community, take care of their kids, be a productive member and pay their taxes.”

Bennett Expresses Thanks to OASAS

Bennett (photo at right) shared the circumstances that ignited the project around five years ago, citing statistics showing that Genesee County had one of the highest opioid overdose rates in the state at 37 deaths per 100,000 people.

He said that Rob Kent, lead counsel for OASAS at the time, was instrumental in getting the funding for the two-story, 20-bed facility.

“I went to him and said that rural communities just don’t have the services that we need and we have just as many problems in our rural communities, but we just lack the depth that some of the urban communities have in place,” Bennett said. “We have 3 ½ acres here, and could you help me build services that meet the demand that we have in our community?”

Bennett said GCASA received a grant in 2018, but the pandemic put the project on hold until last year. Previously, the agency constructed a methadone clinic across the parking lot on the campus.

“We’re incredibly indebted and thankful to OASAS,” Bennett said.

Speaking from the experience of seeing the negative effects of alcohol abuse years ago in his family, Bennett said he foresees the detox center as a starting point toward ending generational cycles of substance use disorder.

“There weren’t services like this back then to help families, and then what happens is it just goes on for generations and generations. I just want the community and the staff who are going to be working here to know that everything you do – every person who walks through this front door – you’re going to impact their life.”

Bennett sees the detox center as a “building of hope – a wonderful place for people to start their recovery.”

“It’s going to be a place of hope and, hopefully, a place where people can break the cycle of addiction for themselves and their families as the start the beginning of their recovery,” he said.

He also credited the Orchard Park architectural firm of Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst for designing a building that fits with the campus’ historic theme.

“They’ve actually done the last four or five projects for us, and they do a wonderful job in keeping with the historic nature of some of our buildings,” he said. “As you can see, the outside of this building is in keeping with the Atwater House (Community Residence).”

The official opening of the detox center is yet to determined.

Others speakers were Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, GCASA Board Finance Chair Fred Rarick and OASAS Regional Director Colleen Mance.

-- Stephen Hawley presented a certificate of merit to GCASA, thanking the agency for its efforts because substance abuse and addiction “has not gone away as a result of this (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I’m sure that it’s grown more dire,” he said. “The challenges we faced in our lives because of the pandemic have had an especially harsh impact on folks in recovery and those who support them -- all of you here today.

“With circumstances changing constantly in this fight, it’s critical that we remain persistent in our work to raise awareness of ongoing substance abuse and help those who are affected by it.

“This facility will give hope to hundreds of folks struggling with substance abuse over the course of the upcoming years, and I’m certain that it will help save many lives.”

-- Colleen Mance emphasized the importance in affording everyone “the same opportunity to access treatment and a continuum of care.”

“Congratulations to GCASA on this new milestone. I know it’ll be a huge success and we looked forward to the benefits that this will bring to Genesee County and the surrounding area,” she said.

-- Fred Rarick, a defense attorney, noted that many of his clients have families and friends who are affected by substance use disorder.

“You can have one individual in a family ... who has substance abuse issues and that impacts the entire family. It impacts their children who, many times, follow in the footsteps of their parents to become involved in the criminal justice system.

“(GCASA) is on the front lines of what we want to accomplish, and together we can all do it … I think it has come a long way from some of the initial programs. When people take advantage of these programs, they’re less inclined to be out on the streets, committing crimes.”


From left, Colleen Mance, OASAS regional director; Randi Johnson, detox center physician's assistant; Stephanie Campbell, NYS Behavioral Health Ombudsman Office director; Allison Parry-Gurak, GCASA director of Residential Services; John Bennett, GCASA executive director; Fred Rarick, GCASA board finance chair; Assemblyman Stephen Hawley; Kathy Hodgins, GCASA chief clinical officer; City Council members Tammy Schmidt and Eugene Jankowski Jr.

Photos by Howard Owens.


Bennett conducting a tour of the new detox center. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Legislator: Prioritize Genesee County departments when it comes to spending opioid settlement funds

By Mike Pettinella

A Genesee County legislator believes that county departments dealing with substance use issues -- whether in the form of education, prevention, treatment or enforcement – should be first in line to receive money awarded to the municipality through New York State’s settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Marianne Clattenburg said any list of ways to spend the $1 million or so expected to be distributed to Genesee County should start with initiatives supporting county units, such as the Youth Bureau, Mental Health and the Sheriff’s Office.

“This isn’t really that much money. And I think between the Youth Bureau, and their prevention efforts, and Mental Health and the issues that have arrived, especially with children and therapies that are going on because they’re dealing with drug abuse of parents and foster parents (would be the best use of the funds).”

Clattenburg said substance use and its effect upon other areas of society warrant immediate attention.

“I think there’s enough need inside the county that those stakeholders need to be focused on – those dollars staying in the county before we talk about other agencies …” she said. “I’m just concerned that outside agencies … are already asking how much money they’re going to get from this.”

County Manager Matt Landers responded by saying that representatives of Genesee County Mental Health, Sheriff’s Office, Public Health and Youth Bureau would be on the committee.

In a story posted on The Batavian on Monday, Landers said that Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, an outside agency that receives some funding from the county, and possibly other non-county organizations, will be involved.

Contacted today, he said the committee “will be weighted in favor of Genesee County departments," but will include John Bennett, GCASA executive director.

“It’s a fluid process,” Landers said. “As we move forward, we may see more partners to bring to the table.”

He said the first committee meeting is scheduled for later this month.

Ways & Means Committee members were asked to consider a resolution approving a proposed settlement with McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corporation, and their multiple subsidiaries – the “Big 3 Distributors” – that could result in the county receiving anywhere from $1,055,674 to $1,864,833, with payments made over 18 years.

County Attorney Kevin Earl said the New York City law firm of Napoli Shkolnik, which is representing municipalities across the state, “brought a number of actions not only against the people who manufacture the opioids, but the distributors – claiming that they violated certain laws by not accounting for where this stuff was going. In other words, they contributed to the proliferation of the opioid crisis.”

Earl said the monetary amount depends upon how many communities participate in the class action proceedings.

“Just like the other (Johnson & Johnson) settlement, (it comes) with a sliding scale,” he said. “The more people that … sign on to join the settlement, the more Big 3 Distributors are willing to pay because their exposure lessens. The likelihood is pretty high that we will get the high end of the settlement.”

Funds received have to be targeted toward substance use treatment, prevention, training and enforcement, he added.

“Within those categories, there is some flexibility but we can’t spend the money for water funds or bridge funds.”

While Earl said this money is addition to funds from the J&J settlement, it is unclear exactly how much the county will receive at this point.

Landers said he and Earl will be speaking with the attorneys representing the county in this matter to determine the dollar figure, but estimates an award of at least $1.3 million.

The county manager said the plan is to meet with all stakeholders and make recommendations that would be forwarded to the legislature.

The first payment is expected in February 2022, Earl said.

Previously: NYS AG reports that Genesee County is in line for up to $1 million in opioid settlement funding

GCASA director: Multimillion dollar deal with opioid distributors would 'stabilize' treatment system

By Mike Pettinella

Update: July 24, 9:30 a.m.

Comment from Anne Constantino, president and CEO of Horizon Health Services, which has an office in Batavia:

“We are grateful to the Attorney General for her success in this settlement that will absolutely deliver much needed resources in our efforts to prevent, combat and treat the serious public health crisis of addiction.”


The executive director of a local substance use prevention and treatment agency is hailing today’s announcement that four major pharmaceutical distributors are close to an agreement to pay out $26 billion to states and municipalities for their roles in perpetuating the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“Yes, this is welcome news and I’m just hoping the money ends up going to assist individuals and families struggling with opioid addiction,” said John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “It definitely is needed to stabilize the treatment system that has been impacted negatively by the recent pandemic.”

According to multiple media outlets, Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen are near a deal that would resolve multiple legal challenges as well as pay for prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the United States.

Genesee County Attorney Kevin Earl said it will be awhile before it is known how much money will be allocated locally.

The New York City law firm of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC is representing Genesee County as well as several other counties, Earl said.

“Most of the particulars are up in the air right now,” Earl said. “The county has retained this law firm to represent us in the litigation and they have advised us of the settlement with three of the distributors and Johnson & Johnson, but it’s too early to tell what Genesee County or any other participant in the litigation will get.”

A published report in today’s online edition of The New York Times indicates that the pact has yet to be finalized and “could still fall apart or have significant changes.”

The Times’ story also included the following:

-- According to lawyers familiar with negotiations, Johnson & Johnson, which made an opioid painkiller and a fentanyl patch and supplied opium-based ingredients to other drug manufacturers, would pay $3.7 billion in the first three years and $1.3 billion over the next six years. It had already shut down its supply business and discontinued its opioids, and agreed to refrain from selling opioids.

-- The distributors as well as several manufacturers are in the midst of a trial in a case brought by the State of New York and two of its counties. This morning, Letitia James, the attorney general for New York, announced a $1.1 billion deal with the distributors to settle that case. That money would be a part of the overall $26 billion settlement, but so far, it is the only deal that has been formally agreed to. Payments to New York State could begin in two months, Ms. James said.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he was “fairly certain” that the money awarded to the county is for specific purposes, unlike the tobacco settlement, which gave counties more leeway to use the money for general operations.

“This money would have to go towards specifically combatting opioids,” he said. “So, it would lead to us partnering with agencies in the community to help deliver these services – agencies such as GCASA and others.”

Marcus Molinaro, president of the New York State County Executives Association, said in a press release that the settlement “comes at a crucial moment as counties across the state and nation grapple with a startling resurgence in overdose deaths.”

“No amount of money can bring back the lives lost to the opioid epidemic, but it can honor those lost by investing in prevention, education and treatment services to save lives,” he said.

“New York’s county executives were proud to work in collaboration with Attorney General Letitia James to pass legislation creating an Opioid Settlement Fund to ensure those most responsible for plunging us into this crisis, and not local taxpayers, pay for treatment, recovery, and abatement efforts critical to defeating this deadly scourge.”

GCASA programs 'connect' to state agency's public awareness campaign focusing on social supports

By Mike Pettinella

Local professionals in the field of substance use prevention and treatment are applauding the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports launching of a new “Connections” campaign acknowledging the significance of social relationships in the fight against addiction.

On Tuesday, OASAS announced the start of a campaign that will run through the end of August designed to encourage those affected by addiction to use their connections to friends, family members, health professionals, and other organizations as a means to find help and support in their treatment and recovery.

Partial funding of the campaign is a result of an award to the state through the federal State Opioid Response grant.

“Staff here at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse are keenly aware that social connections with family and friends are vital for a person’s recovery,” said Shannon Ford, GCASA's director of Communications and Development. “When we had to close The Recovery Station to the public due to COVID, it was devastating.”

Ford was speaking about the facility at the former Bohn’s Restaurant on Clinton Street Road that serves as a social gathering place for those in recovery. With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, it since has reopened for programming on a regular basis.

“Now that it's open again, you can see how great of a resource it is. People are coming every day,” she said, adding that GCASA’s day-to-day support has continued at its residential treatment settings.

When talking about the prevention aspect of substance use education, Ford also mentioned the importance of family and peer connections.

“With so much isolation, people are more likely to cope by using alcohol or other drugs. Kids weren't able to see their friends or go to school. The lack of connection took its toll on the mental well-being of our community members,” she said.

Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, GCASA’s director of Project Innovation and Expansion, pointed to the summer camp in July and August being offered by the agency’s drop-in childcare center for clients.

“GCASA clients already could use the childcare center at no cost for up to three hours per day for any kind of GCASA appointment or service and with prior approval from the childcare supervisor,” she said.

Those activities, all critical to the recovery process, include mutual aid meetings, any other kind of healthcare appointment, court, accessing domestic violence or veterans services, Department of Social Services appointments and job interviews.

“During the mini-camp, clients can actually bring their kids to the center for up to three hours a day for any reason at all -- including just for the fun of attending the activities and being with other people,” Mangino-Crandall advised.

In a press release issued by OASAS, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul stated the “Connections” campaign “not only helps get the word out on lifesaving resources and services for New Yorkers who are battling addiction and substance use disorder, but is also a reminder that help is available to find a better and satisfying life.”

Campaign content will run online on social media and streaming audio. Public Service Announcements will also be seen on billboards, city buses, subways, and the Staten Island Ferry with messages addressing the importance of connections and personal well-being, in addition to focusing on opioid overdose prevention and the use of naloxone to save lives.

New Yorkers are also encouraged to focus on the value of connections and how they help to foster the best outcomes for overcoming addiction and finding a better and satisfying life.

The “Connections” campaign also raises awareness about the risks of overdoses due to the presence of fentanyl in other illicit substances. Fentanyl is a lethal opioid that has been detected in other illicit substances such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy, which can result in overdoses and fatalities.

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369), or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).

Video: Kickoff of PAARI program in Batavia featuring keynote speaker Allie Hunter

By Mike Pettinella
Video Sponsor
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Representatives of the City of Batavia Police Department, Genesee County Health Department, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Greater Rochester Health Foundation and the home office of the nationwide Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative offered their congratulations and support to the City of Batavia Fire Department on becoming the first fire agency in New York State to participate in the program.

Allie Hunter, executive director of PAARI, was the keynote speaker, traveling from her Boston area office to the Batavia FD headquarters to address about 45 people in attendance at the kickoff event (which was planned for last spring but canceled due to COVID-19).

Other speakers were Batavia PD Assistant Chief Chris Camp, Public Health Director Paul Pettit, GCASA Executive Director John Bennett, GCASA Peer Recovery Coach Melissa Vinyard and GRHF Senior Program Officer Monica Brown.

Vinyard gave a moving testimony of her road back from addiction to become someone who now supports others seeking help.

Greg Ireland, Batavia FD captain, provided the welcome while Christen Ferraro, coordinator of the GOW Opioid Task Force, a driver of the program, delivered closing remarks.

Known locally as Public Safety Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative, due to the fire department’s involvement, the program provides support and resources to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

The video created by Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, captures the full scope of PAARI – its origins, mission, outreach and impact it has had upon the lives of those struggling with substance use disorders and in need of recovery.

PAARI executive director 'motivated' to lead individuals, families to recovery from substance use disorders

By Mike Pettinella


Having supported a loved one’s multiyear battle with addiction, Allie Hunter said she is uniquely qualified and motivated to help deliver others throughout the United States from the clutches of substance use disorders in her role as national executive director of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative.

Hunter drove from her Cape Cod, Mass., home today to meet with leaders of the PAARI chapter in Genesee County at the Batavia Fire Department station on Evans Street in preparation of her keynote address at Tuesday’s event showcasing the local program.

The Genesee County chapter is called Public Safety Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, a slightly altered version of the nonprofit organization’s official name due to the fact that the Batavia FD is the first fire company in New York State to join the effort to lead people to treatment and recovery without the threat of being arrested.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Batavia Police Department and Le Roy Police Department – all supported by the Genesee County Health Department – are current participants in the local PAARI.

Tuesday’s event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and was open to the public on a preregistration basis. Christen Ferraro, program coordinator, said that about 50 people are expected to attend.

Hunter said her sister’s struggles with substance use have given her a deeper understanding of addiction – as well as treatment and recovery – and have motivated her to reach as many individuals and families as possible.

“My younger sister, Nicole, for several years struggled with addiction,” Hunter said. “She experienced several overdoses and it was really tough for my family during that period of time.”

She said she was close to her sister and “oftentimes, I was the person that she would call when she overdosed or when she got into some type of challenge and I always tried to answer my phone anytime she called to help her out.

“It’s tough as a family member. You don’t know who to talk to about it or what resources are there. I didn’t know what I know now, and that motivates me, too, to try to support family members who have been impacted by it.”

About eight years ago, Nicole decided to start the recovery process, Hunter said.

“She has been doing really well. Now 32, she works as a recovery coach at a community health center nearby; so, we kind of work in the same field now, which is pretty cool,” she said.

Hunter said that her sister now takes part in some of the PAARI trainings and has responded with a police department on calls for help on Cape Cod.

“It’s great to have her doing so well and have that inspiration of how recovery is possible even though at the time – when somebody is struggling – there feels like there’s no hope,” she said. “But there’s always hope. So, that kind of motivates me as well.”

Unfortunately, there was no PAARI program at the time of her sister’s addiction, but things have changed considerably as the program’s numbers have increased from 100 departments when Hunter took over as executive director to about 650 today.

“How amazing would it have been if eight years ago there was a police department she could have walked in to because there were so many missed opportunities where she didn’t have the right insurance or couldn’t get a bed or couldn’t get a ride?” she asked. “Even on those overdoses, thank goodness there were officers carrying Narcan that were able to revive those. But it also highlights that there is more to be done.”

The goal, Hunter said, is to have PAARI become a standard “police in practice” offering.

“That’s the vision that we’re working towards but I think in the last five years we’ve grown a lot and have gotten about 30,000 people into treatment through our law enforcement partners,” she reported. “Still, overdoses are on the rise and we know that there is so much work to do.”

Hunter, who travels extensively around the country to trainings, chapter launches and conferences, said she is excited about the program’s development in Genesee County.

“For me, it’s really rewarding to get to be a part of local program launching and thinking about the ripple effect that will have on families and individuals that have been affected by addiction,” she offered. “For me to be able to be here in person and to meet the people behind it and see how PAARI has been part of that is really rewarding and exciting.”

PAARI’s funding comes mostly through grants and a “couple of federal organizations,” Hunter said, mentioning the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that manages the AmeriCorps program.

The Genesee County PAARI program is sponsored by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, GOW Opioid Task Force, and a grant from the health department.

For more information, contact Ferraro at

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is a publicist for GCASA.

Photo: Allie Hunter, executive director of PAARI, meets with public safety officials at Batavia Fire Department headquarters. From left are John Bennett, GCASA executive director; Interim Fire Chief Dan Herberger; Hunter; Fire Captain Greg Ireland; Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Frieday; Batavia PD Assistant Chief Chris Camp; Sgt. Emily McNamara of the Le Roy Police Department was also part of the discussion. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

NYS schools can participate in survey to assess risks of underage drinking, substance use and problem gambling

By Press Release

Press release:

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) and New York State Education Department (NYSED) today (June 29) announced the opportunity for school districts across New York State to participate in the Youth Development Survey (YDS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

The YDS will assess substance-related risk and protective factors of students in grades seven-12 regarding underage drinking, substance use, and problem gambling.

The YRBS measures ninth-12th grade students’ strengths and risks related to unintentional injuries and violence, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, dietary behaviors, physical activity, sexual behaviors, obesity and weight control and other health topics.

“We have a responsibility to keep our kids safe, and New York is focused on engaging with young people to assess substance-related health risks,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The Youth Development Survey directly engages students, and will help schools and communities target their services and prevention methods to combat these risks.”

OASAS and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) monitor student risk factors that impact health, safety, and academic success through voluntary student surveys. This information allows both agencies to identify student health and prevention needs and develop resources to help reduce and prevent future and current behavioral health issues.

OASAS will work with International Survey Associates (ISA), a national youth survey organization, to conduct the survey in November. ISA will process and analyze the results and provide district-specific estimates of substance use and risk, as well as potential protective factors to address these risks. The reports are designed to enable districts to determine how their students compare to the surrounding area, as well as the rest of the state.

NYSED contracts with its technical assistance center, the NYS Center for School Health (NYSCSH), to administer the YRBS to 30 high schools randomly selected by the CDC. The schools selected will be notified in August. Only one to four classes in the selected high schools take the survey, which provides both New York State and National YRBS trend data.

District participation is voluntary and free of charge, and OASAS and NYSED will be reaching out directly to superintendents to solicit participation in the survey.

Districts are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to assess the behaviors of New York’s youth in order to implement policies geared toward improving the health of students and reducing the chances that they will engage in risky behavior.

In addition, the youth population data collected through the surveys will enable the agencies to better evaluate and monitor state-funded local community and school-based prevention efforts.

“These surveys provide an excellent opportunity to assess the most critical needs of children in school districts across New York State, and will allow us to target our services where they are needed most,” OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said. “I urge all districts to participate and help us determine the risks and challenges they are facing, and the best ways to address these issues.”

“A comprehensive and coordinated approach with students, families, schools and communities is so important in helping our youth with decision making,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said. “If information from these surveys can help even one student, it’s worth it for districts to take part.”

“This year has seen increased stress, anxiety and trauma for our students and families and now, more than ever, we must help our children avoid harmful behaviors any way we can,” State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said. “I encourage districts to participate in these important surveys to ensure they receive the proper resources to support students in making good choices.”

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369). 

Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, residential or outpatient care can be found using the NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at or through the NYS OASAS website.

Today is Gambling Disorder Screening Day and there's a new online tool to help assess risks

By Press Release

Press release:

In honor of Gambling Disorder Screening Day (March 9) and Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the New York Council on Problem Gambling and the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center announce the release of an online self-screening tool for individuals who want to explore their risk for problem gambling.

The tool guides individuals through a set of questions to help them examine their gambling behaviors and the possible consequences of their gambling activity. Individuals who complete the questionnaire receive personalized feedback and resources based on their own answers. 

While it’s true that most individuals who gamble do so solely for entertainment and do not experience problems caused by their gambling, all gambling inherently involves risk. This risk is not only present in the activity of gambling, but also in the risk of causing negative consequences to their lives and the lives of those around them.

For these individuals and families, gambling can have devastating effects to their lives. Effects can range from financial issues all the way to damaged relationships and lost jobs.

Just as there are varying levels of gambling activity and negative consequences, there are also varying levels of motivation and awareness about our gambling activity and the risk involved.

While some people are ready to reach out directly for assistance, support and resources, others may be just starting to think about how their gambling is affecting their life. Others may only be curious about their gambling activity and the possible risk that they have.

In an effort to reach all individuals in New York State, those who are ready for assistance and those who are simply curious about how their gambling may put them at risk for future problems, NYCPG has a variety of resources available. The newest of these resources is the online self-screening tool. The tool is available online here.

For more information about Gambling Disorder Screening Day in NYS, Problem Gambling Awareness Month and tools to use in your community visit here.

For a full list of 2021 NYCPG Screening Day Partners, visit here and click Screening Day Partners.

If you are in need of support related to gambling, please visit here to connect with resources in your community.

The New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG) is a not-for-profit independent corporation dedicated to increasing public awareness about problem and compulsive gambling and advocating for support services and treatment for persons adversely affected by problem gambling. NYCPG maintains a neutral stance on gambling and is governed by a Board of Directors.

Hour-long free virtual Opioid Overdose Reversal Training offered Jan. 15

By Billie Owens

If a drug overdose happened and you were nearby, would you know what to do to potentially save a life?

To be prepared, you just need to spend an hour in training.

A free virtual Opioid Overdose Reversal Training session will be held starting at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15.

This opportunity is sponsored by the Western New York Rural Area Health Education Center in collaboration with Spectrum Health and Human Services.

Certified trainer Dawn Stone, CRPA, of Spectrum, will teach you how to:

  • Recognize the signs of an opioid overdose;
  • Respond appropriately and effectively to an opioid overdose;
  • Correctly administer the spray form of naloxone (Narcan);
  • Apply the Good Samaritan Overdose Law to overdose responders.

A free reversal kit will be mailed to you upon completion of training.

To learn more visit th WNY Rural Area Health Education Center website.

Call Lisa Green to register at (585) 786-6275.

Testing in Oneida County reveals Carfentanil, puts local and state agencies on high alert

By Mike Pettinella

Although a local drug treatment professional has yet to see any signs of Carfentanil surfacing in this area, she said news that the powerful man-made opioid has appeared in test results in Oneida County is deeply concerning.

“Yes, I am aware of Carfentanil and the extreme toxicity of it,” said Kathy S. Hodgins, chief clinical officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “Currently, we haven't seen or heard of any cases in Genesee or Orleans counties.”

Hodgins said her agency does have the capabilities “of testing if we suspect any use of it.”

Published reports earlier this week indicated that government and health officials in the Utica area issued a warning about the synthetic drug, which is considered to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

According to a story from WKTV, Utica, dealers mix Carfentanil -- an odorless, white powder -- with other drugs to make them stronger and cheaper.

Carfentanil is used as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants.

Oneida County officials said the dose the size of a “single grain of salt can quickly lead to an overdose or death.”

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. issued a press release, stating that he didn’t know the full extent of the presence of Carfentanil in the local drug supply, but, “because it is so lethal even to handle, we want to make sure that people who use drugs, first responders and other providers are alerted immediately so they can take precautions to protect themselves.”

“Carfentanil is so potent that it causes a rapid overdose, which may not be reversible even with multiple doses of Narcan or treatment,” he said.

Christen Ferraro, coordinator of GOW Opioid Task Force that covers Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, sent out an email bulletin to the group’s 300-plus members, and the state’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports has put the word out to local opioid overdose prevention programs (OOPPs), drug user health hubs, and syringe exchange programs.

Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

September is Suicide Prevention Month: Problem gambling has highest suicide rates among all addictions

By Press Release

By Colleen Jones for Western Problem Gambling Resource Center:

According to the CDC (CDC, 2020) suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States. This is a concerning statistic and many people struggle with their mental health every day. There are many factors that may lead someone to think that suicide is the only option, but have you ever thought about problem gambling as a source of emotional distress for someone? 

There are many people who struggle with problem gambling in the United States. It is estimated that 2 million adults in the United States meet the criteria for gambling disorder, with another 4-6 million people in the United States struggling with problem gambling (National Council on Problem Gambling, 2020). 

For many people, they can gamble and not have a problem. However, for some, gambling can cause problems in their lives. Problem gambling is anytime gambling causes problems or negative consequences in someone’s life. Gambling disorder is a diagnosis by a qualified, trained professional determined by the criteria set forth in the DSM5. 

According to the DSM5, a diagnosis of gambling disorder requires at least four of the following during the past year: 

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement.
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling.
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling.
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble).
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed.
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses).
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity.
  8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling.
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling.

It is important to remember that while all those with a gambling disorder are experiencing problem gambling, not all those struggling with problem gambling have a diagnosable gambling disorder. Whether someone is struggling with problem gambling or gambling disorder, they are at risk of having the negative consequences from gambling seep out into their everyday lives. These effects may not only impact the person struggling with gambling, but also impact their loved ones. 

People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for struggling with other mental health disorders. Two out of three gamblers reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling problems.

In addition to struggling with gambling, they may be struggling with other mental health problems such as a mood disorders like depression, personality disorder, and anxiety. Someone struggling with their gambling may be cashing in retirement funds, college funds, or taking out additional credit cards and loans. These impacts can cause someone to feel hopeless, desperate and alone.

These negative effects can take a toll on one's mental health. Sadly, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. When we look at suicide in the United States, 3.9 percent of the adult population have suicidal ideations and 0.6 percent attempt suicide each year (CDC, 2015). While this statistic is alarming, we find that for problem gamblers, the concern continues to grow.

It has been found that 37 percent of those struggling with problem gambling and 49 percent of those with a pathological Gambling Disorder have suicidal ideations. Statistics also show that 17 percent of problem gamblers and 18 percent of those with a Gambling Disorder attempt suicide. This rate is much higher than the general population, and we believe it’s important to raise awareness of this issue through educating community providers and clients. 

Problem gambling is often referred to as “the hidden addiction” because there are no physical warning signs to “test for” problem gambling. It can be very difficult to spot, so it may be difficult to know if someone is struggling with this and may be having suicidal ideations. While there are no physical signs, there are still signs to look for if you think someone may be struggling with a gambling problem.

Some things to look for are: 

  • being absent from friend/family events because of gambling;
  • feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling;
  • low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with betting; and
  • lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling;
  • relying on others to get out of debt, asking for loans or bailouts;
  • using money needed for necessary expenses, such as food, rent, or medication for gambling.

While we cannot physically test for problem gambling, there are screening and diagnostic tools that can be used to initiate a conversation about gambling. A common tool to use is the Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen, or the BBGS. It is a simple three question screen that consists of yes or no answers.

  1. During the past 12 months, have you become restless, irritable or anxious when trying to cut down on gambling? 
  2. During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled? 
  3. During the past 12 months, did you have such financial trouble as a result of your gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family, friends or welfare?

If you, someone you know, or a client you work with answers yes to any of these questions, it may be time to start talking about problem gambling.

Problem gambling can affect anyone at any point in their lives and can impact friends and families of those struggling with their gambling. It can develop into a gambling disorder, which leads to damaged relationships with loved ones, difficulty at work, and financial problems.

These problems can be detrimental to an individual's mental health. It is important that we start to realize the importance of talking about problem gambling, and what impacts it may have on individuals.

If we take the time to educate ourselves and start the conversation, we can help break the stigma and shame out of problem gambling and get those struggling the help that they need.

If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, they can visit or call (716) 833-4274 to find out more and get connected to resources.

Northgate church relaunching help groups this month through year's end

By Press Release

Press release:

Northgate Free Methodist Church in Batavia is continually opening its doors to the community and is inviting everyone to their events throughout September and the rest of this year. In addition to worship services, Northgate offers dozens of volunteer-led small groups, many of which are open to the public.

Several groups relaunch this month, including:

GriefShare, a 13-week group designed to help and encourage those grieving the loss of a loved one due to death. The format is a weekly video presentation and discussion time that offers hope and comfort. Find more information at Meetings will take place on Tuesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m., starting Sept. 15th. To sign up, visit There is a $15 cost for workbooks, scholarships available.

DivorceCare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. Don’t go through separation or divorce alone. DivorceCare seminars and support groups are led by people who understand what you are going through and want to help. You will learn how to heal from the deep hurt of divorce and discover hope for your future. A new 13-week session begins on Saturday, Sept. 19th, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. To sign up, visit There is a $15 cost for workbooks, scholarships available.

Mothers of Preschoolers or “MOPS” are women who gather together twice a month to share and support each other in the remarkable journey that is motherhood. Meetings consist of relevant speakers, fun crafts, supportive conversations and fellowship. Moms can choose a 9 o'clock morning group or a 6:30 evening group. MOPS is open to all moms with children from birth until their youngest child finishes kindergarten. Groups will be meeting online through the end of the year, with hopes to meet in person in 2021. Membership is currently $32, scholarships are available. Register at our Popsicles at the Pavilion event on Sept. 19, 11 a.m. at 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia, or visit

Celebrate Recovery meets every Thursday evening at 6:30 (including any and all holidays that fall on a Thursday, unless there is a serious snow storm) at our North Campus. Our CR leaders guide and assist those of us who are gaining joy and freedom in Christ as we apply the 12-Steps of Celebrate Recovery to the hurts, habits and hang-ups we all struggle with. All are welcome! We believe anyone and everyone would benefit by attending this group, where we allow God to transform our lives. We are able to share openly and honestly about our struggles with people we come to trust, who will maintain confidentiality, and who will not judge us. For more info, go to:

For more information about any of these groups or other events, please contact the Northgate office at (585) 343-4011 or email

Limited time offer: GC smokers can get up to three months of free nicotine gum

By Press Release

Press release:

Today it was announced that Genesee County smokers are encouraged to contact the New York State Smokers’ Quitline (Quitline) to receive up to three months of free nicotine gum while supplies last.

The Quitline asks everyone, including tobacco and vape-product users, to tell family and friends -- spread the word -- about this time-limited offer, made possible thanks to a generous donation from Ro, a U.S. telehealth company headquartered in Manhattan.

Nicotine gum is one of seven FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products to treat nicotine dependence and increases the chance for success in quitting. Those odds further increase when combined with coaching support from a trained tobacco treatment specialist, such as one of the Quitline’s Quit Coaches.

“We strongly encourage anyone who’s interested in the nicotine gum to spread the word to family and friends,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health director, Genesee County Health Department.

“Nicotine gum is an effective and proven medication to treat addiction and supplement the quit-process. It eliminates short-term cravings of cigarettes and can double the odds of successfully quitting when combined with a nicotine patch.”

Each piece of nicotine gum typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes. Unlike traditional chewing gum, nicotine gum works when chewed only a few times and then parked along the inside of the mouth by the cheek.

Interested smokers can receive the nicotine gum by contacting one of the Quitline’s Quit Coaches at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487), who are available seven days a week beginning at 9 a.m. Nearly all Quitline participants are eligible to receive nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), coaching and self-help materials.

The Quitline’s Quit Coaches work with all types of traditional tobacco and vape-product users by developing personalized quit-plans to navigate the behavioral and psychological aspects of nicotine dependence.

Healthcare professionals can also connect to the Quitline’s Patient Referral Program as a supplement to visits and follow-ups with their nicotine-dependent patients. Additional resources are available at, the Quitline’s website. 

About the New York State Smokers’ Quitline 

The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a service of the New York State Department of Health and based at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. It is one of the first and busiest state quitlines in the nation and has responded to nearly 3 million calls since it began operating in 2000.

The Quitline encourages nicotine users to talk with their healthcare professionals and access available Medicaid or health insurance benefits for stop-smoking medications.

All New York State residents can call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) for coaching and resources, free of charge, seven days a week beginning at 9 a.m. Visit for more information.

  • Up to three months of free nicotine gum is available for New Yorkers seeking help to quit smoking or vaping; most will qualify.
  • Offer good while supplies last; New Yorkers are encouraged to tell family and friends.
  • New Yorkers can apply for the nicotine gum by calling 1-866-NY-QUITS -- (1-866-697-8487) -- or visiting

About Tobacco-FREE GOW

The New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control funds Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties (GOW) to increase support for New York State’s tobacco-free norm through youth action and community engagement.

Efforts are evidence-based, policy-driven, and cost-effective approaches that decrease youth tobacco use, motivate adult smokers to quit, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. The program is managed by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

GCASA presses on as overdose numbers rise; Virginia Taylor elected as board president

By Mike Pettinella

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only adversely affected business operations and the economy, it also has fueled a surge in the opioid crisis, placing added strain on those in substance use recovery who have been isolated by state-mandated stay-at-home orders.

John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, drove home that point on Wednesday during the agency’s annual meeting via Zoom videoconferencing.

“Obviously, COVID-19 has changed how we do business and it has changed the landscape of where we were at a year ago,” Bennett said. “From 2017 to 2018, we saw a reduction in opioid overdoses across the country, and just last year alone there was a 5-percent reduction, according to the Centers for Disease Control.”

But this year, things are very different, he said, reporting that the overdose rate went up 18 percent from a year ago in March, 29 percent in April, and a 42 percent in May.

“So, overdoses are up 42 percent across the country, and I don’t think regionally that it’s any different. We’ve seen an increase in overdoses and overdose deaths,” he said.

Latest statistics were compiled by the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, a national surveillance system that provides near real-time suspected overdose data.

Despite the disheartening news, Bennett said that GCASA is steadfast in its mission to offer a wide spectrum of services to those in need.

“GCASA has been a regional leader in building new addiction services that normally aren’t in rural communities, and we continue to be committed to maintain our efforts to expand services so that folks in our regions and in our communities don’t have to travel outside the area,” he said.

Bennett, who took over as executive director in 2012, commended the board – “very committed and dedicated individuals who are kind and caring” – and praised his staff.

“To my staff who are on the call today, I’m super proud of all of you,” he said. “You’re always willing to pitch in and assist our community partners and advocate for people suffering from addiction.”

Outgoing Board President Brian Paris conducted the election of new board members and presented the new slate of officers.

Elected to their first three-year terms were as follows:

  • Jennifer Groff -- The director of fiscal operations and child support for Genesee County Department of Social Services, she has served on the GCASA Foundation board since 2018.
  • Stefano Napolitano -- The City of Batavia fire chief, he also serves on the Foundation board and his department participates in the Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative in conjunction with GCASA.
  • Jackie Gardner -- She is vice president of client services for Claims Recovery Financial Services.
  • Pattie Kepner -- She is the associate executive of quality assurance for the Arc of Genesee and Orleans, having worked in human services for more than 30 years.
  • Tim Batzel -- He is the business administrator at Alexander Central School, which contracts with GCASA for Prevention services.

Bennett thanked the outgoing board members for the six years of service. They are Paris, president; Shelley Falitico, Shawn Heubusch, Holli Nenni and Daniel Thurber.

The new slate of officers:

-- President, Virginia Taylor.

She holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education, which she received at the age of 50.  She is a recipient of the WNY Network for Women Leaders in Higher Education Bernice Poss Award, a Buffalo Business First 40 Under 40 Recognition Award, and Niagara County Community College Distinguished Alumni Award.

-- Vice President, Victoria Elsenheimer.

She is the executive assistant to the Vice President of Advancement, a position she has held for the past 12 years at Brockport State College. She joined the U.S. Army in 1989 and was enlisted in the Army Reserves for 17 years; honorably discharged as a Sergeant in 2006.

-- Secretary-treasurer, Frederick Rarick.

He is an attorney in Batavia; practicing law for 35 years in the representation of individuals charged with crimes. He is licensed to practice law in New York, California, and Washington, D.C. He was a past board member of the Genesee County Veterans’ Support Network.

Menzie, LeBaron Earn Scholarships

As previously announced, Jillian Menzie, of Bergen, and Ashlyn LeBaron, of Albion, received GCASA Foundation scholarships for 2020.

Each award was for $1,000.

Menzie is a 2020 graduate of Byron-Bergen Central School who plans to attend Brockport State College to pursue a nursing degree with a minor in Spanish.

In addition, she plans to study abroad as well as join the Army ROTC program. Throughout her high school career, she participated in many sports teams, music programs, and clubs. 

LeBaron is a 2020 graduate of Charles C. D’Amico High School in Albion and valedictorian of her class. She plans to attend either Cedarville University in Ohio or Roberts Wesleyan College to pursue a career in nursing.

She, too, participated in numerous extracurricular activities, including sports, band and orchestra.

Disclosure: Story written by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

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