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October 19, 2020 - 2:49pm

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.

October 19, 2020 - 10:40am

Press release:

The GOW Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with the Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments, has released a new “Linkage to Care” online application to help citizens connect with support centers for opioid rehabilitation and training in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

“We are pleased to be a part of the development of this valuable application,” said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Our region has been working collaboratively over the last several years to provide resources and access to services for those who are struggling with substance use issues.”

Pettit said the app provides locations and contact information for the GOW Opioid Task Force region’s programs and local services that are available in a user-friendly platform to access anytime on a person’s smart phone.

Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services for GO Health, encouraged those who are having issues with drug use and addiction and/or their family members to utilize the services provided on the informational app.

“This is a much-needed tool to find services, but, of course, if there is a life-threatening emergency or crisis, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department for assistance,” he advised.

GOW Opioid Task Force coordinator Christen Ferraro said the group is “committed to finding new ways to make it easier for our residents to tap into community resources.”

Ferraro said the app includes a variety of services in the tri-county area, which can all be found in one place with just one click.

“This truly is a simple way to find help for those that may be struggling,” she said.

The app provides links to 24-hour assistance call lines, detox services, the PAARI (Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative) Program, Naloxone (Narcan) training, self-help meetings, medication and sharps drop box locations, as well as inpatient and outpatient services in the three counties.

Ferraro noted that the app is now live and free to download, and can be found at both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. To access and download it, search “GOW Opioid Linkage to Care App.”

October 12, 2020 - 9:01am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GCASA.

Parents of children from the ages of 5 to 12 are invited to take part in Active Parenting, an evidence-based, video and discussion program sponsored by the prevention department at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

The six-session program will begin on Oct. 26 and continue each Monday through Nov. 30 via the Zoom videoconferencing platform. Sessions will run from 1 to 3 p.m.

“Active Parenting provides the skills necessary to achieve a fuller, more satisfying family life, and will help your children gain an increased measure of happiness and success,” said Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention.

It was written by Michael Popkin, who earned a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the Georgia State University and is one of the nation’s foremost experts on parenting education. Course materials tout a proven and effective approach to parenting that will lead to more harmony and happiness for parents and children.

The curriculum includes seven strategies for school success, along with positive discipline and communication techniques to help families run more smoothly.

Since 1983, more than three million parents have learned program. Topics of discussion include effective ways to:

  • Use nonviolent discipline that really works;
  • Open up lines of communication—before they get clogged;
  • Teach responsibility, courage, and other important character traits;
  • Encourage school success in seven steps;
  • Prevent future problems with drugs, alcohol, and sex;
  • Defuse power struggles with your children;
  • Stimulate independence as your child grows older;
  • Stop scolding and start smiling with your kids again!

To register, contact Diane Klos in Genesee County at [email protected], or Diana Fulcomer in Orleans County at [email protected].

Participants are asked to provide their name, telephone number, email address, and number of children and their ages. Each participant will receive a book, workbook and a certificate upon completion.

Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

September 2, 2020 - 4:28pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, news, GCASA, batavia.

Photo: Congressman Chris Jacobs, left, and GCASA Executive Director John Bennett.

Submitted photo and press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) toured the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse yesterday in Batavia.

“While we have been fighting a global pandemic, the opioid epidemic has continued to hurt our communities and the GCASA has been right there ready to help on the frontlines in Western New York," Jacobs said.

"Last month I was proud to announce they received a grant to continue the vital work they do for our communities, and I was eager to visit to see the great work they are doing firsthand.

"I am committed to fighting to end this epidemic that has taken so many lives in our nation, and I look forward to a strong partnership with GCASA and other organizations fighting for our communities’ safety every day.”

The Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has served Western New York for decades since it was founded in 1975.

They have expanded their service area to Orleans County, and have expanded services to include residential services, Royal Employer Services, and employee assistance programs to provide counseling, grief support, and other issues affecting employees.

August 26, 2020 - 8:17pm


The Genesee County Legislature today sent a timely and vital message of “hope and healing” as it issued a proclamation in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (Sept. 6-12), World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10) and National Recovery Month (September).

Legislator Gary Maha, reading from the decree that also shined a light on mental health awareness, said that “in these challenging times, messages of hope and healing are needed more than ever” as representatives of the County Mental Health Department, Genesee Justice and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse looked on at the Old County Courthouse.

“Where millions of people around the world join their voices to share messages of hope and healing … these observances are united to raising awareness that prevention is possible, treatment is effective and people do recover … in these challenging times messages of hope and healing are more needed than ever,” Maha read.

The proclamation went on to state that county residents have “access to high-quality prevention support, rehabilitation and treatment services that lead to recovery and a healthy lifestyle … and that every day in Genesee County, people begin treatment at behavioral health services and community supports to begin the road to wellness and recovery.”

Maha read that that the “benefits of preventing and overcoming mental health challenges, suicide attempts and loss, and substance abuse are significant and valuable to individuals, families and our community at large … (and) it is essential that we educate residents about suicide, mental health and substance abuse and the ways they affect all the people in the community.”

Lynda Battaglia, director of mental health and community services at the Genesee County Mental Health Department, said it was “wonderful” that the legislature was acknowledging these issues and spoke of the “incredible collaboration” across agencies – calling it “a shared mission” to provide help and hope.

She said that every day, on average, 132 people die by suicide.

“Every number is a person … a loved one,” she said.

Battaglia encouraged those contemplating suicide or having serious mental health or substance use issues to reach out because they “are not alone.”

“There are people who want to help you and care for you,” she said. “We are your lifeline.”

Photo, from left, Shannon Ford, GCASA services director of Communications, Development and Prevention; Sue Gagne, Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition coordinator and GCASA recovery center coordinator; Maha; Catherine Uhly, director of Genesee Justice; Legislator Gordon Dibble; Battaglia. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

August 17, 2020 - 11:41am
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA, naloxone.

Press release:

The Recovery Station, an innovative program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, is presenting an Overdose Awareness Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 28 at its 5256 Clinton Street Road location (formerly Bohn’s Restaurant).

“The event is all about raising the public’s knowledge of the opioid epidemic and the dangers of overdose, and reducing the stigma of drug-related deaths,” said Sue Gagne, coordinator of the agency’s recovery center.

Gagne added that the GCASA Prevention Department will conduct naloxone training and members of the GOW Opioid Task Force will be in attendance to answer questions and share information about the group’s mission.

A “memory tree” will be on site for those who wish to add a friend or loved one’s name in remembrance, and tours of The Recovery Station will be available.

Additionally, Genesee County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Erion and his K-9 partner, Frankie, are expected to conduct a demonstration at 1 p.m.

“All are welcome to attend – those in recovery, family members and area residents,” Gagne said, reminding everyone that face coverings must be worn during the tour and all social distancing and other COVID-19-related protocols must be observed.

For more information about GCASA’s recovery services or The Recovery Station, call Gagne at (585) 815-5248.

August 10, 2020 - 4:25pm
posted by Press Release in GCASA, NY-27, Chris Jacobs, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) is announcing a $1,000,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services has been awarded to the Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA).

“I am pleased to announce that this great local organization is receiving a grant to further combat alcohol and drug addiction, and the opioid crisis in our community," Jacobs said. "While our nation has focused on fighting another public health battle, substance abuse has continued to hurt our communities.

"That is why the work the Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is critical to our region. I am proud to see this funding go to an organization working to make our communities safer for all members, and I am committed to continuing our efforts to end the substance abuse and opioid epidemic."

“This grant will allow GCASA to continue a multi-fold aim of removing barriers to recovery and improved quality of life for people suffering from alcohol and other drug problems," said GCASA Executive Director John Bennett. “Far too long, we have treated addiction only as an acute disease when, in fact, it is a chronic long-term health condition.

While treatment is a guiding force to assist individuals in establishing abstinence and getting them on the path to recovery, it does not address how to sustain individuals and families in recovery over long periods. Grants like this will help build the recovery supports and address the social determinants of health to overcome the long-term effects of addiction.

"It is designed to break down the barriers to long term recovery so people can manage their own conditions over time and build on the resources needed for sustained recovery.”

The grant was awarded through a $101 million grant program through the Department of Health and Human Services to combat substance abuse disorders (SUD) and opioid use disorders (OUD). This grant program supports 116 organizations in more than 42 states – the grant is intended to expand and enhance service delivery for SUD and OUD in rural communities.

Two other organizations in New York State received this $1 million grant -- The Reach Project Inc., Ithaca, and Rochester Institute of Technology Inc.

August 6, 2020 - 12:58pm

Press release:

For the third consecutive year, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has been named one of the “2020 Best Companies to Work for in New York State.”

GCASA was selected as the 11th best company to work for in the state in the medium employers’ category (100-249 employees).

The agency was honored on Wednesday afternoon during a virtual celebration conducted by The Rochester Business Journal, Best Companies Group and the New York State Society for Human Resource Management.

All told, 75 companies earned places on the 13th annual Best Companies to Work for in New York list, including 21 in the medium employers’ division. The other 54 honorees were in the small and large employers’ categories.

“Being honored for three years in a row – and now moving up to 11th place in the medium size category – is a testament to our employees and the contributions they make each and every day to make GCASA a great place to work,” Executive Director John Bennett said, noting that the agency was in the small employers’ group the first two years.

Bennett was quick to point out that the results are determined by employee opinions.

“The best part about this honor is that it is driven by all of you – GCASA employees,” he said. “The 80-plus question surveys you completed in the fall were the driving force behind us making the list of best companies.”

Created in 2007, these awards are part of a distinctive program that evaluates and ranks the best places of employment. This statewide survey/awards program is designed to identify, recognize and honor businesses whose practices benefit the state's businesses, economy and workforce.

To be considered for participation, organizations had to fulfill specific registration eligibility requirements, then participate in a two-part survey of employee satisfaction and engagement, as well as workplace practices and policies.

Best Companies Group, an independent firm that manages Best Places to Work programs on state, regional and national levels around the world, conducted the survey, then evaluated the results and determined the winners.

A special publication will profile all 75 winning organizations and their unique employment perks. It will be distributed at the event and sent to higher education institutions and thousands of human resources professionals and organizations across New York State.

GCASA Human Resources Director Kim Corcoran applauded the staff for going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have a great, talented staff that always endures stressful times during our nation’s opioid epidemic -- and then even more so specifically during this unprecedented period,” she said. “It's a testament to how our staff can pull together and continue to provide necessary services in our community. It's just what they do!”

GCASA, located at 430 E. Main St., Batavia, and 249 East Ave., Albion, has been serving Genesee and Orleans counties for more than 40 years. Services include prevention education and outpatient and residential treatment for individuals with substance use disorders; and an employee assistance program.

For more information about the Best Companies to Work for in New York program, or to find out about participating in the 2021 program, visit www.BestCompaniesNY.com.

August 6, 2020 - 8:44am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GCASA, St. Jerome Hospital, Holley Presbyterian Church.

c_mcann_1.jpgGuided by an inner conviction greater than herself, Cheryle McCann poured her heart and soul into a career spanning five decades as a registered nurse, with the last 15 of those years serving those with substance use disorders at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

McCann, an ordained Presbyterian minister, retired in May, but not before sowing seeds of compassion and care to hundreds of people caught in the anguish of addiction.

“When working with the patients, I figured it was all ministry,” she said. “The 12 steps (to recovery) talks about the spiritual aspect – not religion – along with the emotional and physical. That’s how I looked at it.”

Her kind-hearted manner was not lost on her coworkers.

“It was truly a pleasure to work along side of Cheryle over the years and I know that she is and will be missed by staff and patients, said Shannon Murphy, director of outpatient treatment services. “She is quite the force to be reckoned with -- small but mighty and incredibly spiritual with a wonderful sense of humor.”

Dr. Bruce Baker, medical consultant at GCASA, said McCann’s contributions were invaluable.

“When I was asked to be the employee physician at St. Jerome Hospital, I accepted it without a clue as to what I was supposed to do but, no problem, with Cheryl's guidance I muddled through,” he said. “When St. Jerome opened the inpatient substance abuse (program), I was asked to replace the original medical director who had reassigned after the unit 's first year. Once again, Cheryl was there to mentor me. And when I was asked to come on board at GCASA there was no hesitation, I knew Cheryl was there to mentor me.”

Baker said he learned many lessons from his relationship with McCann, with a team approach at the top of the list.

“What was the most important part of our relationship?” he asked, rhetorically. “I had learned very early in my life the importance of teamwork in any endeavor. Cheryl helped me hone that concept.”

An Attica native, McCann arrived at GCASA in 2005, working out of the Genesee County Department of Social Services doing intakes and health assessments there and also at the clinic on East Main Street.

She later worked in medication-assisted treatment with Dr. Charles King in both the Batavia and Albion clinics, and was GCASA’s opioid treatment coordinator for several years.

“That’s where I would triage people and explain to them what the suboxone program was all about, providing counseling and informing them of the guidelines,” she said. “When New York State instituted a health care coordinator, I did that job and continued with that until last fall. But, no matter what role I was in, the happiness at GCASA remained.”

While employed at GCASA, McCann also worked at St. Jerome Hospital in several capacities over a 36-year career there, including pediatrics, intensive care, emergency room, infection control and in-patient chemical dependency, and performed pastoral work at four churches.

She was pastor of the Holley Presbyterian Church from 2000-2006, and still is an ordained minister.

“For about 20 years, I worked two or three part-time jobs, often working seven days a week,” said McCann, who resides in Stafford with her husband, Ronald. “This allowed me to serve churches that could not afford a full-time minister, and allowed me to continue working in nursing and counseling capacities while doing church ministry.”

McCann worked up to four days a week at GCASA in both in-patient and out-patient treatment.

“I certainly have worked with every drug of choice,” she said. “The one thing that I always thought with the patients who sought care for opiate treatment was ‘your biggest hurdle was crossed; you didn’t have to convince them that they had a problem.’ They came to you saying, 'I have a problem.’ I really felt that a large percentage of people were there because they really wanted the help."

She helped with insurance piece, and, worked with Dr. Matthew Fernaays, GCASA medical director, and nursing colleague Barb Worthington to administer vivitrol and suboxone to her patients. She said that most of them were “people who basically were pretty stable – getting stable in their recovery – and we’re starting to make headway.”

She did, however, acknowledge the distressing side of addiction.

“It’s always very painful. In those particular settings there is a lot of death and suffering,” she said. “It’s very difficult to watch that … you lose people to the disease, and that is true with alcohol as well.”

McCann had high praise for Murphy, her supervisor, as well as her coworkers and GCASA, in general.

“Shannon, well I just love her,” she said. “We worked together for a long time and she is wonderful. I can honestly say it was always a pleasure to work in this environment. GCASA is a wonderful organization.”

She said patients at GCASA “are treated with respect and dignity, and the staff is professional and work together as a team.”

“You didn’t have back-biting and you didn’t have gossiping about one another that you may see in other places at times. It was a really positive environment – and all of that starts right at the top. The senior leadership sets the tone for the expectation and how people are to be treated,” she offered.

McCann’s nursing career began in 1973 as a part-time supervisor in the obstetrics unit at Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. She was there for four years and then moved to Iowa, working two years in the labor and delivery units at the University of Iowa hospitals and clinics before returning to this area.

She holds an associate degree in Nursing from Trocaire College, a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Brockport State College and a master’s of Divinity from Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

McCann said she realized it was time to call it a day when COVID-19 hit, and the work schedule of her daughter, Amanda Whitbeck, an employee of Finger Lakes Community College, was disrupted.

“Amanda needed help with child care and with the COVID, we weren’t sure if the college would be open,” she said. “So, when she did have to report, I could watch her two children.”

The McCanns have two other grown daughters – Rachel Obrokta, of Williamsville, and Kristen Maskell, of Manassas, Va. -- and five grandchildren, ranging from 14 months to 10 years old.

As she nears her 70th birthday, McCann said she won’t have any problems remaining active. Her hobbies include needlework, tai chi, reading, gardening, cooking, travel and language study, and, of course, spending time with the family.

“I’ve studied Spanish, French and Italian, depending on where we are planning to travel next,” she said. “I gave up on Dutch.”

DISCLOSURE: Story written by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

July 22, 2020 - 12:01pm

Six months after seeking approval from Batavia City Council to build an auto service station on his Ellicott Street property, Eric Biscaro may be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

On Tuesday night, the City Planning & Development Committee voted in favor of allowing what the municipal code classifies as a “public garage” in an I-1 (Industrial) zone, contingent upon the granting of an accompanying special use permit.

Currently, the City code allows auto repair shops in the P-1 (Planned Development) zone, specifically the Batavia Industrial Park, and in a C-2 (Commercial) zone with a special use permit.

According to Code Enforcement Officer Doug Randall, the PDC’s decision to open the I-1 zone to include public garages will now go back to City Council for its review.

“If City Council decides in favor of it, then it will go to the Genesee County Planning Board for its review and recommendation to Council,” Randall said. “From there, Council again will review the county’s recommendation and hold a public hearing and vote, or schedule a public hearing (prior to a possible vote).”

If and when the change becomes a local law, then Biscaro – or anyone else for that matter – would be able to file an application for a special use permit which, in Biscaro’s case, would mean going back to the County Planning Board since the location is within 500 feet from a state highway.

In late January, Biscaro petitioned City Council for permission to place a motor vehicle repair shop on the site of his other two companies at 653 Ellicott St. – Classic Home Improvements and Armor Building Supply.

Prior to that, his request for a variance was rejected by the County Planning Board because a public garage was not an allowable use in the I-1 district.

Council members forwarded Biscaro’s request to the PDC for review and subsequent recommendation, action that was taken last night.

According to the municipal code, a “public garage” is a building or part thereof used for the storage, hiring, selling, greasing, washing, servicing or repair of motor vehicles, operated for gain.

Randall said that the shop’s principal use would be to repair cars and trucks.

Biscaro’s proposal calls for expanding an existing open shed into a two-bay garage behind the Armor side (of the facility), a building that he said will not be visible from Ellicott Street.

Contacted today, Biscaro said he was disappointed when he learned that the auto repair shop wasn’t permitted in the first place, but is pleasantly surprised to hear of the PDC’s ruling.

“At the time, being in the Industrial zone, I thought it would absolutely be OK,” he said. “Since then, I lost my tenant – he had to find another place – but I still wish to go forward with it.”

In other action, the PDC, as expected, approved a pair of major construction projects:

-- Ellicott Place, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative venture of V.J. Gautieri Constructors Inc., to renovate the Save-A-Lot supermarket building at 45-47 Ellicott St.;

Both projects received recommendations of approval last month from the Genesee County Planning Board.

Following several minutes of discussion about siding materials, color selection, window types and placement, exterior design, dumpster location and designated parking areas, PDC members OK'd Gautieri’s request for a special use permit to allow the firm to create 10 apartments on the vacant, 11,600-square-foot second floor.

The approval, however, comes with the stipulation that additional enhancement – or bump-outs -- be placed around two windows on the south side of the second floor to conform with the rest of the architectural design.

Victor Gautieri, company president, said financing is expected to be finalized by the end of the month, with work to begin about four weeks later.

He and David Rowley, director of project management, answered questions from the board.

PDC Member Ed Flynn, who made the motion to add the window treatment, said the final plans “were pretty consistent to what was (originally) submitted” a couple years ago.

“It’s great to see a DRI project moving forward,” Flynn said.

About half of the project’s cost will be paid for by a $1.15 million DRI award. It also will be receiving about $130,000 in sales tax and mortgage tax abatements from the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

Previously: Planning boards to consider Ellicott Place residential/commercial venture special use permits

-- A two-story, 20-bed detoxification center addition to the Atwater House residential facility on the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse campus at 424 E. Main St.

Eleanor Asquith, an architect with Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst of Orchard Park, presented the nonprofit agency’s proposal to build an 8,788-square-foot medically supervised detox center.

Questions from the PDC dealt primarily with the need to install another parking lot (13 spaces), which would increase the available umber of parking spots to 113 – including 18 spaces that are being leased from property owned by Cornell Cooperative Extension off Masse Place.

Asquith pointed out that GCASA officials anticipate that at least 94 parking spaces will be required since the addition of the detox center will create about 26 more jobs.

The $3.6 million addition is being funded by OASAS capital projects.

Previously: 'A welcome addition': County planners support GCASA's detoxification center project

July 21, 2020 - 2:52pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GCASA, Atwater House, The City Church.

Calling him “part of the fabric of our team,” the executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse fondly remembers longtime residential services kitchen manager Sterling stroman_photo.jpgStroman who passed away on Sunday after a six-year battle with cancer.

“It is so sad to hear about the passing of Sterling. He was part of the fabric of our team at GCASA and always brought his kind energy to everything he did,” John Bennett said.

Stroman, a Batavia native who graduated from Oakfield-Alabama Central School, was 55.

His wife, Ella, informed family and friends of his death.

“I would like to let you know that my husband Sterling has passed away … he went very peaceful and did not suffer any more than he did,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “He is in a better place. I also would like to thank everyone for your love and prayers.”

A fun-loving and caring individual who made friends easily, Stroman made the headlines last November when, through arrangements made by HomeCare and Hospice, was able to scratch off a couple big ticket items on his “bucket list.”

First, he and his family were treated to a Buffalo Sabres game, where he was able to meet star Jack Eichel and Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek, and a couple weeks later, he was able to meet his pro sports hero, John Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback of his beloved Denver Broncos, when the team faced the Bills in Buffalo.

Closer to home, on May 2, Stroman was honored with a parade – led by the City of Batavia Fire Department – that traveled past his house on North Lyon Street.

Organized by his sister, Michelle, and sister-in-law Robin Gangarossa, the parade of love and support included about 50 cars, filled with friends, GCASA colleagues and family members.

Nicole Davis, director of residential services at GCASA, said Stroman was “committed, dependable and dedicated to those that we serve.”

“Sterling certainly was a staple in residential services,” Davis said. “He was that employee that would positively boast about our staff, services, and residents, and he would always make us laugh with his many quips and life stories. We all count ourselves lucky to have known a man like him, and we miss his presence every day.”

Bennett said Stroman’s memory will live on as part of the nonprofit organization’s expansion to the Atwater House residential facility. Stroman worked at GCASA for more than 20 years.

“It will be fitting to honor his memory in our new residential program as we plan to dedicate the new kitchen and cafeteria in his name,” Bennett said. “Preparing and serving meals were his way to share the love he had for others.”

Friends are invited to call from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at The City Church, 210 E. Main St., Batavia. A 1 p.m. “Celebration of Life” will immediately follow at the church. He will be lain to rest in Grand View Cemetery.

The Rev. Martin Macdonald, City Church pastor, said that Stroman was “one of the kindest and gentlest men I ever met.”

“Sterling would truly help or do anything for anyone at any time,” Macdonald said. “We loved him, and he definitely will be missed.”

Memorials may be made to: GCASA Atwater, 430 E. Main St., Batavia, NY 14020.

To leave a message of condolence please visit www.gilmartinfuneralhome.com or for more information call (585) 343-8260.

Arrangements completed by Gilmartin Funeral Home & Cremation Company Inc.(585) 329-333 W. Main St., Batavia, NY 14020.


July 9, 2020 - 3:58pm

Genesee County officials today learned that its mental health department will be getting 20 percent less in state aid this year.

The cut equates to a loss of $132,710 in revenue for mental health clinical services in the county, said Assistant County Manager Matt Landers.

“We’ve been told all along that there would be cuts of 20 to 50 percent,” Landers said. “We’ve been bracing for that.”

The county’s budget for the mental health department for 2020-21 is $5.6 million, he said, with state aid just one part of the revenue stream.

New York State took a bigger chunk – a 31-percent cut – out of its annual support to the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, action that will have a direct impact upon services provided by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

“Just in the third quarter alone, this is a $160,000 loss in state aid, with $134,000 of that for Genesee County,” GCASA Executive Director John Bennett said. “Not only will this affect services, but it could very well result in potential layoffs.”

Bennett mentioned that the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program loan will help soften the blow somewhat.

There has been no word on cuts to the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (formerly Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities).

In another development, Landers said the county has called back 19 of the 48 employees who were furloughed, including a Department of Motor Vehicles worker needed to help process a heavy load of work since the office reopened.

The furlough program ends on July 31, said Landers, adding that the county’s strategic hiring freeze continues.

July 9, 2020 - 11:43am


Whether they were spending time at their Albion home or on the job at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Albion residents Nick and Cyndi Mardino are grateful for the opportunity to share their experiences together.

The Mardinos retired at the end of May after long careers at GCASA, primarily at the Albion clinic on East Avenue but also at the Batavia campus on East Main Street.

Cyndi began employment there in 2000, the last 18 or so years as the agency’s customer service supervisor, while Nick started in 2005, first as a part-time maintenance man while he worked his full-time job as a corrections officer at Orleans Correctional Facility and then, over the past year, in a full-time role.

Driven by a mindset focused upon togetherness and teamwork, and guided by a strong faith in God, the Mardinos made a tremendous impact upon GCASA staff and clients, alike.

“Both Cyndi and Nick were excellent employees. They always went above and beyond their job duties, and they were loyal and dedicated to GCASA,” said Kathy S. Hodgins, chief clinical officer, a close friend of Cyndi.

Hodgins said Cyndi, as support staff supervisor, “treated her staff with respect and valued each one of them,” while Nick made sure “the building and grounds in Albion were always immaculate.”

Interviewed by telephone on Wednesday, the Mardinos said that working at GCASA has been “a blessing” and while they miss the work, they miss their colleagues and clients even more.

“I have enjoyed my experience with GCASA and getting to know so many people who over the years had become like family to me,” Cyndi said. “I have enjoyed working with the front staff and Beth Collee and Rachel Patten were the most amazing people to work with and they were family to me. The front office team was a joy and I was very sad to leave.”

Nick, an Air Force veteran, said his time at GCASA was “a pleasure,” and he especially enjoyed taking on all kinds of projects with coworkers Jeff Helenbrook and Ron Hall.

And they said it was extra special to be able to interact with each other at different times.

“We always worked well together, so if somebody needed something, I would say, ‘Nick, can you do this?’ Or if one of the counselors needed something done, I would ask him and he’d always take care of it.”

Cyndi said people would ask her how she could work with her husband and then go home. “I would say, ‘You know what? He’s my best friend.’ ”

Nick agreed, simply stating, “We do everything together.”

Cyndi believes that working at GCASA was meant to be.

“Kathy (Hodgins) always said 'you’re here for a reason,' ” she said. “Because I grew up in an alcoholic family and my first husband was an alcoholic, so there’s always a reason.”

The Mardinos were always quick with a smile and a word of encouragement, traits of their outgoing personalities.

“I always enjoyed talking to the patients because you wanted to have a good rapport with them. I told the staff -- my team – ‘Listen guys, they’re walking in here and a lot of times that first step is the hardest to do.’ When they walk in that door, they have to be treated as a human being,” Cyndi said. “They have problems and we can’t help them with that, but we can be that smiling face – that person who could be there if they have questions or if they just need someone to smile at them.”

The Mardinos were looking to retire a couple years down the road, but changed their plans, opting to close the full-time employment chapter of their lives at the young Social Security ages of 62 (Nick) and 63.

“God intervened and we said it was time,” Cyndi said.

They had anticipated to take a cross-country trip this summer, but that’s on hold due to the coronavirus.

Still, they said they have plenty of projects around the house, are welcoming family members (they have three grown children and six grandkids), love the time with Bella, their chocolate Labrador retriever, and soon hope to be able to visit Nick’s mother who is in a nursing home.

The Mardinos met as a result of a blind date 33 years ago and were married in 1993. Cyndi lived in California, Oklahoma, Texas and Maine before returning to her hometown of Albion to stay. Nick is a native of North Collins in Erie County.

GCASA Executive Director John Bennett tried to keep the Mardinos on a bit longer, but that wasn’t in the cards. He did, however, manage to convince them to stay on as “per diem” employees.

So, in a pinch, GCASA employees may be able to share some moments with Cyndi and Nick once again – giving the Mardinos another chance to express their well-wishes, thanks and appreciation for two decades of service.

DISCLOSURE: Story written by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

June 12, 2020 - 4:47pm

Submitted photos and press release:

Jillian Menzie (top photo), a senior at Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School, and Ashlyn LeBaron (bottom photo), a senior at Albion’s Charles D' Amico High School were selected as this year’s recipients of $1,000 scholarships from  Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) Foundation. 

GCASA Foundation supports the work of GCASA and other nonprofit organizations in Genesee and Orleans Counties. Several organizations have received mini-grants in the past to help sustain the crucial work they do in our community. The Foundation also invests in the future substance use disorder workforce by supporting individuals pursuing a degree in health sciences or human services. 

The Board of Directors of both GCASA and GCASA Foundation are committed to providing quality services. Educated, skilled employees and board members are the necessary for effective service delivery.

“As a member of the selection committee, it was wonderful to read about all the applicants’ academic accomplishments and their commitment to community service," said GCASA Foundation Board Treasurer Virginia Taylor. Our recipients, Ashlyn and Jillian, were exceptionally impressive and we are thrilled to award scholarships to help cover some of their college costs."

GCASA Foundation has been pleased to honor many commendable students over the past several years. Typically, the scholarship award recipients are honored at GCASA’s Annual Membership Meeting and Luncheon. Due to COVID-19, this meeting will be held virtually this year.

“We are disappointed that we are unable to recognize and honor these deserving young women in person with their parents and school representatives present," said Shannon Ford, GCASA director of Communications and Development. "Their scholarship applications were outstanding."

Both young women plan to pursue a degree in Nursing.

June 11, 2020 - 1:24pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GOW opioid task force, GCASA.

Press release:

As part of its continuing education strategy, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse – in cooperation with the GOW Opioid Task Force – will present another Opioid Overdose Prevention Online Narcan Training.

The training is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, and will feature three one-hour sessions – 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Attendance is required at just one of the sessions to receive credit for the training.

“We’re pleased to be able to present our second online training and look forward to hearing GCASA’s Prevention Educators’ new perspective on addiction, the opioid crisis and the administration of Narcan,” said Christen Ferraro, GOW Opioid Task Force coordinator.

Topics to be discussed include the disease of addiction, a brief history of the opioid crisis, signs and symptoms of opioid use and overdose, the overdose reversal drug Narcan, administration of Narcan and where to obtain Narcan.

Those who successfully complete the training will receive a Certificate of Completion and a free Narcan nasal spray kit, Ferraro said.

To access a registration form, click here. To access a pre-test, click here.

Both forms should take only a few minutes, Ferraro said, and both must be completed in order for the participant to receive his or her link to the training.

“Both forms should only take a few minutes and there are no wrong answers,” Ferraro noted.

The registration deadline is June 23.

For more information or to have the registration documents emailed, contact Ferraro at [email protected].

May 2, 2020 - 9:11am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GOW opioid task force, GCASA.

Press release:

A free opioid overdose prevention online Narcan training is scheduled for May 13.

Hosted by the GOW Opioid Task Force and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Prevention Department, the videoconference training offers two one-hour sessions -- 10 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.

Participants need to attend only one of the sessions to receive credit.

Topics to be covered include: the disease of addiction; a brief history of the opioid crisis; signs and symptoms of opioid use and overdose; the overdose reversal drug Narcan; the administration of Narcan; and where to obtain Narcan.

“After completing a registration form, an attendee will be sent a link for this online training. Once the training is complete, that person will receive a free Narcan nasal spray kit from a licensed provider,” said Christen Ferraro, task force coordinator.

To register, send an email requesting a registration form to:   [email protected]

For more information, visit www.gowopioidtaskforce.org.

April 29, 2020 - 4:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GCASA, peer recovery advocates, Recovery Station.

As our nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic by practicing social distancing and other safety measures, counselors and peer recovery advocates at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse have expanded their use of the telephone and internet to support those in recovery.

Understanding that people recovering from substance use can be adversely affected by isolation and boredom, GCASA professionals are taking effective steps to keep in contact with those at risk despite the inability to meet on a face-to-face basis at this time.

“What is most important to know is that GCASA is still here for people – every day of the week, all day and even into the evening,” said Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, director of the recovery programs as well as project innovation and expansion. “We are still finding ways to support people and help them in recovery and doing what they need to do to get better.”

Mangino-Crandall added that just talking to a person or hearing a soothing voice of encouragement can have a profound impact.

“One of the advantages of phone support is that it concentrates that support on the person and what he or she wants to talk about,” she explained. “It really focuses the support on the recovery conversation.”

GCASA’s peer recovery advocates, or peers for short, are people who have lived through recovery (with some of them still in recovery) and have received specialized training to share their experiences with others in need.

According to Amy Kabel, a lead peer at the agency’s Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road, her team continues to connect with their clients on a regular basis.

“While things have changed a lot, what hasn’t changed is that we are checking with people about what they are doing for self-care, and making sure they are reaching out to any support system they may have – to us and their counselors – and making sure they are staying active,” Kabel said.

Kabel said those currently living at Atwater House, GCASA’s residential building on East Main Street, are able to utilize Recovery Station under specific guidelines.

“We allow them to use the facility in small groups, and we are doing social distancing – keeping everyone six feet away from each other,” she said, adding that peers and other staff there are wearing masks as a precaution. “Some come for a couple hours and some come at 10 in the morning and pretty much stay all day until we close at 8 p.m.”

Recovery Station is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday but, until state-mandated restrictions are lifted, it is available only for Atwater residents.

Peers are working from home, with extended hours, and reaching out by telephone to their clients, Kabel said.

“We are making calls and we’re getting calls on the peer support line – 585-815-1800. Since OASAS (NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports) has changed some of the rules, we can bill for telehealth, so we’re able to keep everybody involved.”

She said that a couple of her colleagues, Nick Volpe and Sheila Smith, have been picking up food at various food pantries for clients.

“They’re making calls and making sure everybody has enough food. And if clients don’t have vehicles, we can make deliveries, and drop it off at their doors.”

Sue Gagne, GCASA’s recovery center coordinator, said the Recovery WOW support group has launched new ventures designed to perpetuate its “together we are stronger” philosophy.

“We are starting up a Guided Journaling workshop on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30 and we have partnered with NAMI Rochester (a mental health organization) to provide a family support group on Friday mornings at 10,” Gagne said. “We’re doing this through Zoom meetings … and hopefully will be working with the peers to put some videos up.”

Thus far, all three women agreed that the modifications are working well.

“All of the (seven) peers have full workloads as we interact with dozens of people in various stages of recovery,” Kabel said, noting that peers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mangino-Crandall said that navigating around the coronavirus has been tough, but it’s not insurmountable.

“I think it’s a challenging time for everyone. Certainly, everybody out there is trying to deal with it in their own way and it is difficult kind of being on your own, so it’s good for folks to know and get the word out that we’re available to talk,” she said.

She also pointed out a silver lining in the midst of these unprecedented times.

“With all of us in the same situation, there are a lot of remote opportunities to connect with people, not only locally but across the state and the country, that you might not have had normally,” she said. “That’s an advantage in that it opens the recovery community up much more broadly than you would typically find.”

Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist

March 26, 2020 - 10:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCASA, news, video, live stram, covid-19, coronavirus.
Video Sponsor

We're talking with John Bennett, executive director of GCASA.

March 25, 2020 - 3:18pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GCASA.

Press release:

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse remains open during the COVID-19 pandemic with modifications in place to protect the health of patients and staff.

“We are open and providing treatment services in Albion and Batavia,” Executive Director John Bennett said. “Group sessions have been cancelled, but we are still accepting appointments for individual counseling sessions or phone sessions.”

Bennett advised patients to call their GCASA counselor for further information, noting that tele-practice sessions are being set up to eliminate any exposure.

“It is also important to note that GCASA’s methadone clinic is the first of its kind to provide medication outside, something that’s being modeled at other agencies in the state,” Bennett said.

Residential services continue, again with preventive measures in place, and although Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road is temporarily closed to the public, it is being made available for GCASA’s Atwater House residents.

GCASA Prevention Department group programs, such as the DWI Victim Impact Panel and Children of Addiction Support Groups, have been cancelled for the time being.

Prevention Director Shannon Ford and her staff are working on creative ways to advance prevention messaging via social media and through the school districts.

Bennett said all employees are adhering to the coronavirus protocol during the crisis, with many being able to work remotely to decrease the number of people on site.

He encourages everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones by doing the following:

-- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
-- Maintain social distancing, keeping at least six feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;
-- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth;
-- Practice respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately;
-- Seek medical care early if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

DISCLOSURE: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

January 31, 2020 - 9:32am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GOW opioid task force, GCASA.


Gone, never forgotten and now providing inspiration for those reaching out to help others whose lives have been adversely affected by the opioid crisis.

That was the message conveyed by Nicole Anderson, Statewide Targeted Response case manager at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, as she provided information about a “remembrance painting” at the recent GOW Opioid Task Force meeting in Batavia.

“As part of Overdose Awareness Day last summer at Austin Park, we asked people to participate in remembering those we have lost to overdose deaths,” she said. “This beautiful painting – created and donated by one of our members -- was displayed at the event for loved ones to put a heart with the name of those they have lost.”

Anderson, who lost her stepfather to a heroin overdose 17 years ago, went on to say that the task force put the painting on display in agencies across Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, and now has extended the opportunity for community members to add their loved ones’ names to the painting.

“It is our hope that the task force will continue to support those who have lost loved ones and honor the memories of those who have passed and, this year, with the support of the GOW Opioid Task Force Steering Committee, we would like to donate this painting to the GCASA Recovery Center,” she said.

The Recovery Center, located at the former Bohn’s Restaurant on Clinton Street Road, is scheduled to open by the end of February.

Anderson also serves as the secretary of the task force’s Families, Loved Ones and Allies Work Group, which is committed to providing support and resources for those distressed by the opioid epidemic.

She said another Overdose Awareness Day is planned for this August. The 2019 inaugural event drew more than 100 people and more than a dozen representatives from substance abuse prevention agencies in the tri-county area.

Photo: Members of the GOW Opioid Task Force display a “remembrance painting” dedicated to those who have died as a result of the opioid crisis. From left are Nick Volpe, Marlowe Thompson, Brandon Fogg, Scott Davis, Chris Budzinack, Debbie Dutton, Ricco Oquendo, Sue Gagne, Nicole Anderson and Christen Ferraro.

Disclosure: Story and photo by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

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