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August 29, 2022 - 11:34pm
posted by Press Release in GCASA, news.

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Press release:

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports has announced that Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has been selected to receive a procurement award of $249,900 to improve the agency’s ability to provide non-medical transportation to its clients.

With this two-year grant, GCASA literally is in a position to make the “road to recovery” much easier for residents in the tri-county area (Wyoming County is included).

“This award will allow us to build upon what we already do in terms of transporting clients to their appointments by allowing us to add more focus on essential trips for non-medical reasons in addition to coordinating rides to and from counseling and treatment sessions,” said Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, GCASA’s director of Project Innovation & Expansion.

Mangino-Crandall said the bulk of the funds will be used toward hiring new drivers and transportation costs. Funds also will enable GCASA to establish contracts with cab companies and to market the program to the community.

“One of the requirements is for us to expand transportation services from five to seven days per week, and we’re already in the process of planning for that change,” she noted.

Transportation Coordinator Nickole Millette, an Attica resident who served GCASA as a driver for a year before moving into her current position in 2021, said the agency wouldn’t be able to serve its clients effectively without being able to provide rides.

“These people are at different stages of recovery and most of them do not have a car,” she said. “So, it’s crucial that we’re able to fill that need.”

She estimated that her office has set up more than 800 rides since the first of the year – mostly through Medicaid.

Currently, GCASA employs a full-time and part-time driver to shuttle clients throughout the city – some to The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road – with pickup points at DePaul, St. Jerome, GCASA and Liberty Square.

“We rely on the taxi companies for trips to Rochester and Buffalo, but we provide service to Albion on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she said.

Millette said some of the grant money will be used to explore expanding its appointment process or to utilize a different system that clients can access to make an appointment for rides.

“Our goal is to make it as efficient and easy as possible for our patients to get to their appointments, whether it be to the dentist, court, Department of Social Services or to come here (The Recovery Station) for social time,” she said. “I can tell you that the clients – many with no family support -- really appreciate the help.”

OASAS Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham emphasized the importance of providing reliable transportation for those seeking services for a substance use disorder.

“This pilot program allows us to work with our providers on the ground to address these issues, and improve transportation services for people in need of further support or resources,” she said in a press release. “For many people who need services, the lack of resources to travel to and from the programs they need has a negative impact on health outcomes. This has been made worse in some cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Funding awarded under this program must be used for non-medical transportation needs, such as recreational activities likely to increase social connection or emotional well-being, recovery supports, peer interactions, formal or informal mutual support groups such as SMART Recovery and AA or NA meetings, and rides to treatment or harm reduction services or to service providers.

Data and information from this pilot program will help to guide further expansions of transportation services across the state.

August 19, 2022 - 3:08pm
posted by Press Release in GCASA, Overdose Awareness Day, batavia, austin park, news.

Press release:

Christopher Budzinack has a straightforward reason for agreeing to speak at next Wednesday’s Overdose Awareness Day: To show those affected by substance use disorder that there is hope and there is help.

“As a person in long-term recovery, I know first-hand how important these services are and I want to help promote them as much as possible,” said Budzinack, a residential counselor at the Atwater Community Residence operated by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

“It is my hope that someone will leave this event feeling encouraged and inspired to make a change for the better and for the ones who have lost someone to addiction, my hope for them is that they will know they are not alone and there is help for them as well.”

Budzinack, who also serves as a case manager for GCASA’s supportive living program, is one of several people signed up to speak at the annual event, which is set for 4-7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Austin Park in Batavia.

Designed to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and remember the lives that have been lost due to an overdose, the event is being hosted by the GOW Opioid Task Force.

Task Force Coordinator Christen Foley said attendees are invited to take part in the family-friendly activities – which include face painting and live music -- and enjoy free pizza, refreshments, and ice cream. A Narcan training also is on the agenda and local agencies will have informational tables.

Participants also will be offered the opportunity to leave a note on the task force’s memory board for a deceased loved one.

Other speakers include Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties; John Bennett, GCASA chief executive officer; the Rev. Vern Saile, pastor of Northgate Free Methodist Church, and Jarett LoCicero, case manager at GCASA.

May 24, 2022 - 1:28pm
posted by Press Release in GCASA, news.

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Press release:

Understanding the importance of enlisting all community segments to fight the scourge of substance use disorder, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse leaders on Monday afternoon recognized its board of directors, staff, scholarship recipients and “friends” at the nonprofit agency’s annual meeting.

About 80 people attended the luncheon meeting at Terry Hills Restaurant.

Four individuals and one business were presented with Friends of GCASA awards:

  • Mickey Edwards, superintendent of Albion Central School (and former superintendent at Byron-Bergen Central School), Friend of GCASA Prevention;
  • One World Projects, Harvester Avenue, Batavia, Friend of GCASA Residential Services;
  • Hon. Sanford A. Church, judge for the Orleans County Court Multi-Bench in the Eighth Judicial District of New York (and former Orleans County public defender), Friend of GCASA Treatment;
  • Joy Mercer of Corfu, licensed mental health counselor, Friend of GCASA Treatment;
  • Charlotte Crawford of Batavia, R.N., interim executive director at Crossroads House and retired chief executive officer at Lake Plains Community Care Network, Friend of GCASA Recovery.

Four students each received $1,000 GCASA Foundation Scholarships as a result of their enrollment in fields related to substance abuse prevention/treatment:

  • Kendra Lonnen, a 2022 graduate of Lyndonville Central School, who will be attending Genesee Community College to study Human Resources, with a goal of becoming a social worker;
  • Sarah Volpe, a 2022 graduate of Elba Central School, who also will receive an associate’s degree in General Studies from GCC this summer. She will be attending Daemen University in the fall with direct entry into the Physician Assistant program.
  • Samantha Kabel, a 2022 graduate of Alexander Central School, who also will be attending Daemen University in the fall to study Pre-Medicine Biology;
  • Tess Pettit, a 2019 graduate of Albion Central School, who is graduating from Houghton College with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

“It is our honor and privilege to recognize the people that support the work that we do here at GCASA and to be able to assist in the education of those who are choosing to pursue careers that ultimately will make a positive difference in their lives of so many of our neighbors,” GCASA Chief Executive Officer John Bennett said.

Bennett underscored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on substance use disorder prevention and treatment, noting a remarkable spike in anxiety, depression and other mental health problems among those dealing with drug and alcohol issues.

“At the same time,” he said, filling vacancies for mental health and substance use disorder professionals has become a huge concern. The increase in individuals leaving and the lack of individuals coming into the workforce have created even more problems for a system hit hard by the pandemic.”

He said that the profession is bouncing back to some extent, but “the challenge of the next year or two is figuring out the new normal.”

Calling his staff “the heart and soul of this organization,” Bennett thanked GCASA employees for “persevering and keeping our doors open over the past two years.”

“You are truly amazing, and the board of directors and I appreciate you more than you can imagine,” he said.

Outgoing Board President Virginia Taylor, Ph.D., presided over the election of new board members and the slate of officers. Bennett commended Taylor, a Higher Education Administration consultant, for her dedication and passion for the GCASA mission during her six years as a board member.

Elected to three-year terms were Jerry Ader, Genesee County public defender; Don Allport, Orleans County legislator; Gary Graber, Darien Town justice; Gretchen Rosales, superintendent at Elba Central School; Jennifer Wakefield, GCC Foundation director of Development & Alumni Affairs.

Officers elected were Tim Batzel, president, Alexander Central business administrator; Katie Cotter, vice president, a specialist with WNY Independent Living, and Fred Rarick, secretary-treasurer, Batavia attorney.

In 2021, GCASA provided 812 comprehensive substance use disorder evaluations through its outpatient treatment services, with 249 admitted to the Batavia Outpatient Clinic, 191 admitted to the Albion Outpatient Clinic, and 124 admitted to the Opioid Treatment Program.

Forty-three individuals were admitted to the Atwater Community Residence in Batavia, with another 18 admitted into supportive living.

GCASA’s Prevention educators served 28,938 youth and adults in various programs, while the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force membership stands at 441.

The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road in Batavia served 477 individuals, hosting activities five to six days per week throughout the year, while Employee Assistance Program counselors provided services to 46 people.

Submitted photos.

GCASA ‘FRIENDS’: Joy Mercer, left, and Charlotte Crawford received Friends of GCASA awards on Monday at the agency’s annual meeting at Terry Hills Restaurant.

GCASA SCHOLARS: Recipients of GCASA Foundation Scholarships are, from left, Sarah Volpe, Kendra Lennon and Samantha Kabel.

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May 5, 2022 - 2:39pm
posted by Press Release in GCASA, news, Oakfield.

Press release:

With a track record of success as an advocate for youth, Sheila Harding is equipped to help facilitate drug and alcohol awareness programs as the assistant director of Prevention at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

“Sheila demonstrated her abilities to connect with young people as a prevention educator at GCASA for the past seven years,” said Shannon Ford, GCASA’s director of Prevention. “We’re fortunate that she has accepted the assistant director position. Parents and students in Genesee and Orleans counties will be well served by her ability to lead the department.”

Harding oversees seven prevention educators who present evidence-based programming in five Genesee County schools – Batavia, Le Roy, Byron-Bergen, Oakfield-Alabama, Notre Dame and Genesee Valley BOCES – and two Orleans County schools – Medina and Albion.

“We are in these schools from one to four days a week, offering specific programs that illustrate the dangers of illegal substance use, while also providing student screenings, referral services and other presentations,” Harding said. “Our educators also are available when requested by schools that we do not have contracts with.”

Evidence-based programs offered by GCASA include Teen Intervene, Too Good for Drugs, Too Good for Violence, Active Parenting Now and Active Parenting of Teens. Community presentations include the DWI Victim Impact Panel, Responsible Server Training, Narcan and Opioid Overdose Prevention Training, Accountability Circles, Understanding Addiction and Gambling Prevention.

Harding said that reaching parents continues to be a priority.

“Community outreach, especially finding avenues and ways to communicate with parents, is crucial,” she said. “Currently, we participate in required parent meetings at the schools, but we are looking to develop other opportunities to help parents learn and understand the trends concerning alcohol, drugs and tobacco use.”

Harding was employed as a Child Protective Services caseworker at Genesee County Department of Social Services for 12 years prior to working at GCASA. She has a bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Brockport State College.

An Oakfield resident, Harding and her husband, Tyler Harding, have two daughters – Kayla, a junior, and Paige, a freshman, at Oakfield-Alabama Central School.

For more information about substance use prevention efforts at GCASA, contact Harding at 585-815-1883.

May 4, 2022 - 3:43pm
posted by Press Release in GCASA, Business.

Press release:

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse continues to be recognized as one of the state’s “best companies to work for.”

For the fifth consecutive year, the New York State Society for Human Resource Management (NYS-SHRM) has included the Batavia-based substance use treatment, prevention and recovery agency on its list of Best Companies to Work for in New York.

GCASA was one of 23 companies selected in the medium employers’ category (100-249 employees) for 2022. Additionally, 27 small employers (15-99 employees) and 25 large employers (250 or more employees) were honored at a reception last month in Albany.

“It is truly an honor to be selected for a fifth straight year,” said GCASA Executive Director John Bennett. “We were one of four agencies certified by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, with the other three in the large employer category. We actually ranked higher than those other three. This is a testament to our employees, who have shown remarkable resilience and commitment to their profession over a challenging last couple of years.”

To be considered for participation, companies had to fulfill the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be a for-profit, not-for-profit business or government entity;
  • Be a publicly or privately held business;
  • Have a facility in the state of New York;
  • Have at least 15 employees working in New York; and
  • Must be in business for a minimum of 1 year.

Companies from across the state entered the two-part survey process to determine the Best Companies to Work for in New York. The first part consisted of evaluating each nominated company's policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. This part was worth approximately 25 percent of the total evaluation.

The second part consisted of a survey to measure the employee experience. This part was worth approximately 75 percent of the total. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final rankings.

Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process in New York and also analyzed the data and used their expertise to determine the final rankings.

For more information on the Best Companies to Work for in New York program, visit www.BestCompaniesNY.com.

May 3, 2022 - 10:31am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GOW opioid task force, GCASA, Wyoming County Jail.

gow3a.jpgNo matter what term is used – and there are several of them, the practice of combining medication and treatment for people struggling with substance use disorder has a singular goal: Saving lives.

“Medication-Assisted-Treatment – or MAT – is an evidence-based program that has been shown to make a positive difference in saving lives for persons with an opiate use disorder. And it's considered the gold standard for treatment of opiate use disorder,” said Ann Bowback, clinical director at Spectrum Health & Human Services in Warsaw.

Bowback is the project director for the Partnership to Address Opioid Epidemic and Save Lives in Western New York Through Medication-Assisted-Treatment, a program funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Speaking at the GOW Opioid Task Force quarterly meeting recently, she explained that her program, in collaboration with Evergreen Health, is looking to increase the number of persons receiving MAT within the Spectrum agencies by at least 200 per year.

“We work to link people with a prescriber the same day, if possible, but at the latest within 72 hours of their initial visit with us,” she said. "We also will add two additional data waiver subscribers per year in order to meet the needs of these additional 200 people. And with this grant, our goal is to ensure that all the MAT clients are offered peer services (recovery advocates) within 60 days of admission.”

Other speakers at the meeting, which took place at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road and provided access via Zoom videoconferencing, were Melissa Weingarten, Wyoming County Jail nurse, and Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Bowback said most substance use disorder providers along with jails and prisons are taking a “whole patient approach” to treatment.

“MAT is more than just medication,” she said. “For some members of the recovery community, including our Evergreen partner, they refer to this as MAR – medication-assisted-recovery. This can be a referred term for some people because it emphasizes a person's commitment to recovery while using medications, and they may or may not be involved with treatment.”

She also said it can be referred to as MOUD (medications for opioid use disorder), which zeroes in on the importance of medication and addressing opiate use, and also as OTP (opioid treatment program) or OBOD (office based opiate treatment).

“PWUD stands for people who use drugs as we’re ideally trying to get away from some of the stigmatizing language like addicts and things like that,” she added. “OUD stands for opiate use disorder and OTP is where you would get medication such as methadone.”

Currently, the Food & Drug Administration has approved three medications for treatment of opiate use disorder -- methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine, Bowback said.

“All medications work a little differently, but all basically normalize brain chemistry in order to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms,” she noted. “Methadone was first used in 1947 to treat opioid addiction and critics complained at that time that methadone merely exchanged one drug for another which led to strict government control over methadone, and that continues today.

“Now, in order to receive methadone for an opiate use disorder, you have to obtain it from an OTP. And although methadone is very effective, some individuals are hesitant to take this medication.”

Bowback said Spectrum offers naltrexone (brand name, Vivitrol), which was approved to treat opiate use disorder in 2010.

“The extended-release formulation is generally preferred for the treatment of opiate use disorder,” she said. “But some individuals do still prefer the pill form. Our prescribers will typically start a person on the pill form prior to prescribing the injection just to ensure the person is able to tolerate it. In order to receive this medication, though, the person cannot have opiates in their system; otherwise, they'll experience withdrawal. So, you must be abstinent for at least seven days.”

Spectrum also offers buprenorphine (also known as suboxone) for MAT, she said. In the 60s, buprenorphine was developed for treatment of pain and approved for treatment of opiate use disorder in 2002.

“Unlike methadone, a person almost immediately receives a seven-day script and within a very short time is able to receive a script for 28 days, which results in less daily disruption to lifestyles,” she advised. “You don't have to be present at a clinic daily … and you don't have to be abstinent for seven days in order to receive the medication.”

Medications reduce withdrawal and cravings and, as a result, decreases the use of illicit drugs and overdose, stabilizes the brain and “most of all, saves lives,” Bowback said.

“It also socially decreases criminal activity and reduces risk of transmission of communicable diseases, reduces risky sexual activity, and increases engagement with treatment.”

MAT is at the core of services at GCASA, which offers an integrated treatment and OTP clinic at its main location in Batavia as well as clinical services at its Orleans County location in Albion, Hodgins said.

“When I started at GCASA in 2002, we were already doing medication-assisted-treatment with alcohol, using naltrexone to treat alcohol dependence,” she said. “And then shortly after, we did start using buprenorphine -- suboxone for opiate use disorder individuals that came in.”

Hodgins said GCASA counselors and medical professionals treat medication for substance use disorder “similar to any kind of medication that you take.”

“So, those on medication are definitely in recovery – it just assists with the recovery. And it really does help reduce the cravings and the physical withdrawal.”

Weingarten shared that Wyoming County Jail started its MAT program in early 2020, offering suboxone and naltrexone.

“We provide medication to those who have been on MAT programs in the community, as long as we can verify that they’ve been in treatment and continued to get it,” she said.

She also mentioned that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation that requires all prisons and jails, beginning in October, to provide MAT to inmates.

“So, we've started that way before she's required it,” she said, adding that the jail program includes individual and group counseling – and connection to peer recovery advocates.

Hodgins said “it just makes sense” to keep incarcerated people on medication, especially considering the rising overdose rates. GCASA provides services to inmates in six jails or prisons, including Genesee, Orleans, Albion, Groveland, Wyoming and Attica.

“Our common goal in our community is to save lives and I’m grateful that the state is on board with that,” she said. “I believe the best way to proceed is to start with a thorough assessment while they’re in jail and getting them on the right medication prior to release. That is how we’re going to save additional lives in our community.”

Photo: Melissa Weingarten, right, Wyoming County Jail nurse, makes a point as Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, during the GOW Opioid Task Force meeting at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road. Submitted photo.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

November 28, 2021 - 12:00pm
posted by Lisa Ace in Sponsored Post, advertisement, GCASA, jobs, employment.


Click here
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October 14, 2021 - 5:33pm

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Genesee County legislators, substance use disorder and mental health professionals have a million reasons to celebrate today after meeting New York State Attorney General Letitia James at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road.

James is conducting a statewide tour to recognize communities for their efforts in fighting the opioid epidemic and to distribute funds awarded to New York through a settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors. This afternoon, she presented oversized ceremonial checks in Waterloo, Rochester and Batavia.

For Genesee County, that amount is $1,060,280.71.

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate and transcends all political boundaries and affiliations and artificial constructs,” James said. “This really is a demonstration of what government should do, and that is provide for the needs of New Yorkers and the constituents that we all serve. And to hold those individuals responsible for what they did; we hit them in the pocketbook.”

James said her office “closed down pharma … and five manufacturers and three distributors of this poison.”

Unfortunately, she said, overdosing continues to be a huge problem.

“We’re seeing more overdoses because we know that individuals who use opioids sort of walked into the use of heroin, which is now laced with poisonous fentanyl,” she advised. “So, whatever we can do in our capacity to provide you with additional services, with some medically assistance treatment to assist those who are dealing with not only with opioid use disorder but mental illness.”

Assemblyman Steven Hawley thanked James for her role in the settlement and her “attention to all folks who are having problems with addiction.”

“It doesn’t really identify geographic areas for folks who are having trouble with addiction – whether we live in an urban area or a rural area or a suburban area. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done for a living. It can get everybody …” he added.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, speaking for families “that have been torn apart,” touched upon the significance of James’ tour.

Stein pointed out that Genesee is one of the few counties that operates a mental health department with its own clinics.

“We are struggling, quite frankly, in getting the clinicians. That is a real need,” she said. “If we could get some help there in getting folks into our state or even support for those positions, so that we could have more people available to us to help provide those services.”

James brought up that she has been hearing that the state agencies of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports and the Office of Mental Health do not work together and operate under regulations that often conflict with one another.

Lynda Battaglia, the county’s director of Mental Health & Community Services, said the agencies on a local level have excellent working relationships.

“We collaborate … for the greater good. As we move forward, everybody has the same mission,” she said, later adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has rippled through the industry, causing waiting lists into the hundreds for services due to the adverse effects on delivery and the strain on mental health and substance use counselors.

John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (which operates The Recovery Station), explained that in Genesee County, several agencies meet on a regular basis, sharing information to increase efficiency across the various sectors.

“Criminal justice, judges, services, community-based organizations, medical care workers – we’re at the table and we talk to each other,” he said. “We try not to let anybody drop through the cracks. We don’t have a ton of services but what we have, they get utilized.”

James said it’s important to not engage in “victim blaming and to be compassionate.”

She said her office is looking at this as a health crisis, reiterating Genesee County’s belief that the funds can be used only for treatment, prevention, education, outreach, etc.

“Unlike the tobacco settlement of old (where) the funds were used for roads and bridges and lights,” she said. “I don’t have anything wrong with roads and bridges and lights – they serve their purpose and hopefully that infrastructure money (federal bill) will build more of them. But these funds have to be related to the litigation and also to assist you in expanding services, and maybe, giving people some raises because they do the work of the angels.”

Bennett mentioned that GCASA is hoping to open its new detoxification center by the first of the year and is advertising for 25 positions, mostly nurses.

“It’s challenging. Right now, we’re biting our nails, going through resumes,” he said.

In closing, James said her goal was to “shine a light on what all of you do here.”

“I come from New York City and half the time the attention is on the city, but we need to focus on rural communities, rural counties because there’s a demand here -- and they cannot be ignored; they cannot be invisible.”

County Manager Matt Landers said the county’s intent is to use the money as directed by the settlement.

“We’ll have interested stakeholders come together to build a consensus on how best to tackle this problem,” he advised.

James said the Finger Lakes Region (Monroe and surrounding counties) will be receiving $53,124,938 from the settlement.

Her plan is to travel to Buffalo, part of the Western New York Region, on Friday.

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Photo at top: State Attorney General Letitia James speaks with County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, left; GCASA Executive Director John Bennett, and Assemblyman Steven Hawley. Photo at bottom: Presentation of a check to the county to combat the opioid epidemic.

August 26, 2021 - 1:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GOW opioid task force, GCASA.

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Over the 12 months prior to September of 2020, 90,237 in the United States – a 30 percent increase from the previous year.

In 2017, 585,000 worldwide.

In 2020, 15 in Genesee County and seven in Orleans County.

Those figures represent the number of people who have died from an opioid overdose – staggering figures that reveal the extent of the epidemic that continues to devastate society.

Healthcare and mental health professionals in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties on the front lines of this scourge came together on Wednesday afternoon at Austin Park for the annual International Overdose Awareness Day observance.

Representatives of a dozen agencies plus area residents whose lives have been affected by opioid use attended the event, which was to raise awareness and to remember those who have been lost due to an overdose.

Genesee/Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit shared that in 2020, 58 people from Genesee County went to the emergency room and another 38 from Orleans County went to the ER due to drug overdoses – both up from 2019.

“That can be attributed to COVID; people were isolated and feeling alone,” he said.

Pettit had encouraging words about the efforts of the GOW Opioid Task Force, an organization comprised of people from various sectors of the community.

“We’ve been working together for many years and are making great strides,” he said, mentioning an increase in access to care and the amount of Narcan training being done. “We want to get more people trained. We have a medication that can save lives.”

He said that since 2018, about 3,500 people have been trained.

“We’re making gains but we still have a ways to go,” he said.

John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, spoke about the impact of Overdose Awareness Day throughout the world, noting that events such as the one in Batavia are taking place throughout the state and in around 40 countries.

International Overdose Awareness Day was created in 2001 by Sally J. Finn at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia.

“As we come together today, not only think about those locally who have lost their lives, but this is a worldwide problem that’s killed over a million people,” he said.

Agencies taking part in the event included GO Health, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Erie County Health Department, Spectrum Human Services, The Recovery Station, Wyoming County Mental Health, Fidelis Care, Rochester Regional Healthy, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Horizon Health.

GOW Opioid Task Force Coordinator Christen Ferraro said the Old County Courthouse will be lit up on Aug. 31 and signs commemorating awareness day will be placed in the front of the building.

Photo caption: Melissa Vinyard, a peer advocate at GCASA, shares her story of recovery at Wednesday’s Overdose Awareness Day. Vinyard said drugs and alcohol use nearly killed her, but she sought help and now has been sober since Dec. 30, 2017. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the GCASA publicist.

August 15, 2021 - 1:38pm
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA, GOW opioid task force.

Press release:

Join us to help raise awareness and remember the lives that have been lost due to an overdose.

Backed by that clear but hard-hitting mission statement, members of the GOW Opioid Task Force will be coming together on Aug. 25 to host their version of the International Overdose Awareness Day observation.

The event is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. at Austin Park in Batavia.

“We’re thankful to be able to welcome everyone to join us in recognizing the significance of the opioid epidemic upon the residents of our community,” said Christen Ferraro, project coordinator for the GOW Opioid Task Force, which is funded by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation. “Those in attendance will be able to hear first-hand from those who have experienced loss due to overdoses.”

Representatives of local human services agencies will be on hand to share information, and free Narcan training and kits will be offered, Ferraro said. Free food and refreshments will be served.

Attendees also will be offered the opportunity to leave a heart on the task force’s memory board for a deceased loved one.

International Overdose Awareness Day was created in 2001 by Sally J. Finn at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia, and now is held on an annual basis. Locally, it took place virtually last year due to COVID-19. In 2020, there were 602 Overdose Awareness Day events held in 37 countries.

To register for this year’s event, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/overdose-awareness-day-event-tickets-165953867485.

Those interested in having a vendor table are asked to contact Ferraro at [email protected].

July 15, 2021 - 11:20am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GCASA, addiction and recovery.

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).

July 12, 2021 - 5:55pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, addiction and recovery, genesee county, GCASA.

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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 [email protected].

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.

July 10, 2021 - 12:08pm

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Submitted photo and press release:

Leaders of the Public Safety Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative in Genesee County have been informed that Allie Hunter, PAARI’s national executive director, will be coming to Batavia to speak at Tuesday’s event showcasing the participation of the City of Batavia Fire Department.

The program is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at fire headquarters at 18 Evans St.

Hunter (photo at top), in her role as executive director of the Boston, Mass.-based organization, coordinates training, technical assistance, and strategic guidance to police to help them when dealing with individuals using alcohol or drugs, or in recovery.

An authority on policing as it relates to the opioid epidemic, she was deputy director of the Nonviolent Initiative for Democracy, and has worked at several other Boston-area nonprofit agencies, including ZUMIX and Bikes Not Bombs.

In the spring of 2017, Hunter received a Nonprofit Excellence Award and was named Young Professional of the Year by the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. In fall 2018, she accepted an AmeriCorps Excellence Award for PAARI’s first-of-its-kind program that embeds national service members in police departments to address the opioid epidemic.

PAARI, officially known as Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative, is designed to provide support and resources to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

The public is invited to attend the Tuesday's event, which will feature local public safety officials as well as representatives of the Genesee County Health Department, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and GOW Opioid Task Force.

Genesee County participants are the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, City of Batavia Police Department, Village of Le Roy Police Department, City of Batavia Fire Department and Genesee/Orleans Health Department.

Complimentary food and beverage will be provided.  

To register for this event, click here. Once registered, individuals will be contacted for their lunch selection.

For more information, contact Christen Ferraro, GRHF project coordinator, at [email protected].

July 8, 2021 - 8:53am

Press release:

Representatives of the organizations that support the Genesee County PAARI program will be recognized next Tuesday at a midday event at the City of Batavia Fire Department headquarters at 18 Evans St.

The local Public Safety Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative has gained momentum in the county, most recently having the distinction of welcoming the Batavia FD as the first fire company in New York (and one of just a few in the nation) as a participant.

The program is designed to provide support and resources to help law enforcement and public safety agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

PAARI leaders in Genesee County are highlighting the significance of this development by holding a two-hour public session, beginning at 11 a.m. on July 13.

They also have changed the name of the program slightly in this area to Public Safety Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative instead of the official name of Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative -- while still using the PAARI acronym.

The event will feature leaders of the four public safety agencies that have signed on to PAARI: Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Batavia Police Department, Le Roy Police Department and Genesee County Health Department.

Officials of program sponsors Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and GOW Opioid Task Force also are scheduled to speak.

The GRHF will be presented with a plaque at the event for its support and funding of necessary renovations at the fire headquarters.

Complimentary food and beverage will be provided to all in attendance. Once registered, individuals will be contacted for their lunch selection.

To register for this event, click here.

For more information, contact Christen Ferraro, GRHF project coordinator, at [email protected].

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Photo: Representatives of Genesee County Sheriff's Office, Batavia Fire Department, Le Roy Police Department and Batavia Police Department that support the PAARI program in Genesee County. Submitted photo.

June 22, 2021 - 4:47pm
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA, Best Companies to Work for in New York.

new_york_2021.pngPress release:

For the fourth consecutive year, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has been selected as one of the Best Companies to Work for in New York.

The annual listing of businesses honored through the Best Companies to Work for in New York program was created by the New York State Society for Human Resource Management and Best Companies Group.

This statewide survey and awards program is designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in New York, benefiting the state's economy, its workforce and businesses.

The 2021 Best Companies to Work for in New York list is made up of 72 companies, including the not-for-profit GCASA, which offers services in the areas of substance use prevention, treatment and recovery.

GCASA Executive Director John Bennett said he was proud to be honored for a fourth year, recognizing his staff “as amazing individuals who help people in our communities every day.”

“Our employees give back in so many ways and are deserving of having a great place to work,” he said. “We try to be family-oriented and give staff flexibility in creating their own schedule which is a highly-rated perk we offer. This year, we are improving our in-house training and education opportunities and addressing some salary inequities compared to other regional organizations in our category.”

To be considered for participation, companies had to fulfill the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be a for-profit, not-for-profit business or government entity;
  • Be a publicly or privately held business;
  • Have a facility in the state of New York;
  • Have at least 15 employees working in New York; and
  • Must be in business a minimum of 1 year.

Companies from across the state entered the two-part survey process to determine the Best Companies to Work for in New York. The first part consisted of evaluating each nominated company's policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. This part was worth approximately 25 percent of the total evaluation.

The second part consisted of a survey to measure the employee experience. This part was worth approximately 75 percent of the total. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final rankings.

Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process in New York and also analyzed the data and used their expertise to determine the final rankings.

Kim Corcoran, GCASA’s director of Human Resources, said the agency’s staff is committed to providing the best possible services to its communities.

“GCASA is extremely honored to be recognized once again,” she said. “Along with an employer-completed survey, 125 staff were asked to respond to a survey to include areas regarding GCASA’s leadership, corporate culture and communication, work environment, pay and benefits, supervision, and overall engagement. This is quite a tribute to our staff and reflects the positive environment fostered by our leadership.”

All honorees will be celebrated at an online event at 5:30 p.m. July 28. For more information about the event go to https://rbj.net/events/best-companies/

To learn more about attending the event or sponsoring contact [email protected].

For more information on the Best Companies to Work for in New York program, visit www.BestCompaniesNY.com.

June 21, 2021 - 3:49pm

Press release:

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and the Batavia Community Schools initiative are joining forces to present a “School’s Out for Summer!” informational fair from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Recovery Station at 5256 Clinton Sreet Road.

Shannon Ford, GCASA’s director of Communications/Development/Prevention, said the event is set up to provide available resources, such as summer activities and educational opportunities, for both parents and youth.

“GCASA’s Prevention Team is very excited to partner with Batavia Community Schools to host this event at The Recovery Station,” Ford said. “After a long, challenging school year, we want to make sure parents and youth have the resources they need to stay healthy and safe. We’re hoping families will stop by, have some fun and get some important information that we plan to share.”

Batavia Community Schools is a new program developed by the Batavia City School District. Its mission is to unite the Batavia community and schools through shared resources, working partnerships, and open, collaborative communication.

Julia Rogers, coordinator of Community Schools, said the event with GCASA “aligns nicely with our vision of building a better Batavia by promoting equitable learning activities, cultivating healthier families and establishing a stronger community.”

Thursday’s activities include Hidden Mischief (a hidden-in-plain-sight experience) for adults from 6:15-7:15 p.m. and special games for children during that time. Attendees will be able to tour the facility.

Refreshments will be available from Pub Coffee Hub.

Other participants include Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hillside Children’s Center Young Life, The ACT Program.

It isn’t too late for other community agencies or organizations to participate, Rogers said, adding that she can be reached at (585) 343-2480, ext. 1004.

CLICK HERE for more information about Batavia Community Schools.

June 2, 2021 - 11:16am
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA.

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Press release:

The executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse said he feels fortunate that the agency’s detoxification building project on its campus at 430 E. Main St. has yet to hit any major supply delays and he's excited about the prospect of opening the 20-bed facility ahead of schedule.

“It’s an 8,600-square-foot building that will house four people on the first floor and 16 on the second floor (two per unit) for short-term detox – five to seven days,” John Bennett said. “It will be connected to the back of the Atwater Home and, when finished, will continue the look of that structure.”

Javen Construction, of Penfield, is the general contractor for the venture, which broke ground in January.

Bennett said the detox center originally was scheduled to open in December, but could be moved up a couple months.

Amber Gorzynski, a construction field representative with the Dormitory Association of the State of New York’s Buffalo office, said lag time to get materials hasn’t been an issue.

“So far the lead times have been similar to we had before COVID,” she said. “We’re scheduled for December but we’re hoping to beat that.”

Gorzynski said she is looking forward to turning the building over to GCASA.

“It’s needed and I just appreciate that I am part of this,” she said.

Tim Ryan, superintendent for Javen Construction, said the outside walls are finished and inside insulation has been installed, setting the stage for fire inspection in the coming days.

Subcontracting work is being done by local companies, such as Turnbull Heating & Air and Genesee Plumbing.

The facility will be open to Western New York and Finger Lakes Region residents.

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dining_room_1.jpg

Photo at top: The front of the detoxification center under construction at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse campus on East Main Street. Photos at bottom: The connection of the new building with the existing Atwater residential facility; the area where the first-floor dining room will be located.

April 19, 2021 - 3:33pm
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA, GOW opioid task force.

Press release:

The proper way to dispose of medications will be the focus of Thursday’s quarterly meeting of the GOW (Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming) Opioid Task Force.

The meeting will be livestreamed via Zoom, starting at 9:30 a.m. It is expected to last for an hour.

Scott Wilson, superintendent of the Orleans County Jail, has agreed to make a presentation on National Drug Take Back Day, which is scheduled for this Saturday, with locations in the three counties.

Wilson has worked closely with this event for the past few years. In his presentation, he will discuss the organization of these events, collection of medications and their proper disposal, and the impact this day has on our community.

This meeting is open to the public and the community is invited to join and share any questions they may have.

“With National Drug Take Back Day coming up on April 24th, we felt this would be a great topic to cover with the members of the Task Force and our community,” said Christen Ferraro, GOW Opioid Task Force coordinator.

Ferraro noted that prescription opioid misuse is an ongoing and escalating epidemic as 70 percent of opioid dependence, overdoses and deaths begin with leftover drugs in the medicine cabinet.

“It is important to help remove the risks that leftover medications pose to you, as well as your families and friends. With this meeting, we hope to increase awareness of safe disposal methods, as environmental studies have shown that flushed medications flow into our water supply and negatively impact the fish we eat and water we drink,” she added.

To access the meeting link, go to www.gowopioidtaskforce.org. Once registered, participants will receive a confirmation email with Zoom information and a link to join.

April 12, 2021 - 4:07pm
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA.

Press release:

Added to the list of programs offered by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse last September, the GCASA Reentry Program continues to provide support to men and women seeking to find their place in the community after being incarcerated.

“The main goal of this program is to help reduce or remove some of the barriers that are associated with reentry,” said Christopher Budzinack, program coordinator. “As a former offender myself, I know how difficult this can be and we just want make sure our clients have an opportunity to get all the support they need in order to be successful.”

Simply put, the GCASA Reentry Program provides case management and peer recovery services to those who have been in jail or prison by connecting them to the following necessities:

  • Substance use disorder treatment;
  • Mental health treatment;
  • Housing, food and clothing;
  • Employment and/or job training;
  • Childcare;
  • Transportation;
  • Medical care.

Eligible individuals are those who have a history of substance use, who were sentenced to jail or prison for a minimum of three months and who are returning to communities in Genesee County or Orleans County.

For more information about the GCASA Reentry Program, call (585) 813-6570 or send an email to [email protected].

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