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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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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].

March 31, 2021 - 6:17pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today signed a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and over in New York State, action that will be the subject of much debate until and following the new law’s implementation, which is expected in about 18 months.

The Batavian reached out to local government representatives, substance use prevention professionals, hemp producers and retailers, law enforcement and the chair of the Genesee County Libertarian Party for their thoughts on New York becoming the 15th state with legal recreational marijuana.

Chris Van Dusen, president, Empire Hemp Co., Liberty Square, Batavia:

“I think it is really exciting news. The legislation that they have come up with, I think is pretty fair and it doesn’t cut out the potential for small businesses to get into the industry. I think it is a good plan, and the taxation is not too out of control on it.

“I am looking forward to expanding our business into the ‘rec’ market through another corporation that we will start – not Empire Hemp Co. – but we will plan on being involved in a processing capacity.”

Van Dusen said the facility in Liberty Square is for processing – “where we turn all of the raw hemp into CBD oil” – and he is close to opening a retail store on Main Street.

When asked about the legislation having safeguards against marijuana getting into minors’ hands, he said he believes that a new Office of Cannabis Management will implement guidelines similar to what are in place for alcohol use.

“And I think that a lot of the tax dollars will be going back into treatment programs and social programs, and that will be a benefit to the community as well,” he said.

The law, which was passed on party line voting in the Democratic Party-controlled Assembly and Senate on Tuesday, calls for a 13-percent excise tax, with 1 percent going to the county and 3 percent earmarked for the municipality (town, city, village) of the dispensary.

“The growers and the processors are going to get into it, there’s going to be an upfront investment. But as far as the end user costs at the retail level, I don’t think it’s going to be much outside what you are seeing in the other legal states as far as what you get for what price or, frankly, what you find on the black market. I think it hopefully will take more out of the black market – having it regulated like this will allow for a cleaner, safer product that’s regulated versus what’s coming off the street – imported from who knows where.

Batavia City Manager Rachael Tabelski:

“Without having a chance to read the entire bill yet, I can safely say that if there were a dispensary within the City of Batavia, it is my understanding that the city would gain 3 percent of the tax revenue related to that dispensary.

“That certainly is a brand-new revenue source … but it is all hypothetical until you have one. I want to continue to read through the legislation and we’ll be working with NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) – the city’s association. So, we’ll wait and see what their guidance looks like. The local level does have some decisions to make in this. We don’t have any decision-making on adult use, but we do have decision-making on whether the city allows for a dispensary and then we can regulate the times, place and manner through local zoning.

“Whether Batavia has a distribution point in the city or not, people will now be allowed to use it per the regulations and guidelines that came out. If that is the case, it might warrant a legislative choice (by City Council) to be made or the choice to do nothing, and just let it happen. I certainly will be getting information to City Council to help them understand the legislation and how communities align with the legislation.

“There’s growing, there’s retail and there’s use. No matter what happens with the growing and the retail, there is going to be use in our city. It’s going to happen, in that, if we have the ability to bring in revenue, that may be an option for us. We certainly will have some growing pains associated with legalized use and, especially, kind of the edible product that might be included in this.”

Shannon Ford, director of Prevention, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse:

“From a Prevention perspective, I’m very concerned about this. Legalizing marijuana will have a negative impact on our youth for sure. Although youth will not be able to use marijuana legally, we know there will be an increase in access if the adults in their lives are possessing and using it.

“In addition, over the last couple of years, youth perception of harm of smoking marijuana has decreased. With more media messages and legalization/commercialization, I anticipate the perceived risk of harm will further be reduced. Both access and a decreased perception of harm will likely increase youth marijuana use.

“As it is legalized for adult use where it will be monitored for ‘purity,’ youth will still be seeking it on the streets, where we know there is a higher potential of risk.”

Mark Potwora, Genesee County Libertarian Party chair:

“My opinion -- and I would say it is the opinion of the Libertarian Party -- is that it is something that should have been legal a long time ago, and for some reason, what was not legal years ago is legal now. A lot of people suffered because of marijuana laws (on the books). A lot of families and 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids got a marijuana charge that kind of ruined their lives for a while.

“The problem I have with the legalization of the whole thing is that they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. They’re doing it because they want money. They want to raise revenue. They’re not doing it because it’s the right thing to do. That kind of bothers me, but I’m glad that they’re legalizing it.”

Potwora compared marijuana use to alcohol use.

“It’s just like alcohol. It shouldn’t be administered to young kids and there is an age limit. And, along the lines of medical marijuana -- which a lot of people have – it is not a negative. It’s probably a good thing. Whoever smokes marijuana or pot now, I don’t think they’re going to create a whole new industry of pot smokers. If you didn’t smoke it before – because it’s so easy to get – I don’t see any big problem coming up that they aren’t already addressing.

He also said the current marijuana laws give police “an in” to search people.

“They (police) say, ‘Oh you’re smoking pot. Come here, I want to pat you down.’ And they always took it farther and farther. This is one less thing for them to have a reasonable cause to mess with you, I guess.”

Nola Goodrich-Kresse, Genesee Orleans Public Health educator:

“Public Health has had a standing position in opposition of legalization of marijuana in New York State for several years. Our state association, The New York State Association of County Health Officials, officially has maintained opposition to legalized adult use of cannabis, based on the quantifiable adverse impact it will have on public health.”

She then offered the following bullet points for consideration:

  • Legalization will create a similar path to tobacco with the need to build infrastructure and systems around dealing with the downstream issues that will come.
  • Legalization does not mean safe and healthy, it creates a false sense of security and belief, especially in youth that it is safe since it is legal.
  • There has been general support for medical use of cannabis, which has been in place for over five years, and has been effective in helping those with identified medical conditions.
  • Evidence indicates that long-term cannabis use can lead to addiction. There is cannabis withdrawal syndrome, which makes cessation difficult and contributes to relapse.  Adolescents are particularly susceptible as compared to those who begin use in adulthood. Adolescence are approximately two to four times as likely to have symptoms of cannabis dependence within two years after first use.

Jeremy Almeter and Pavel Belov, co-owners, Glass Roots, 12 Center St., Batavia:

"While today is certainly a step in the right direction, we are still far from declaring this our 'milestoned' moment. We at Glass Roots have been committed to destigmatizing and normalizing cannabis for over 15 years. By building trust and serving our community, we have seen there are no applicable stereotypes for cannabis usage.

“ ’Recreational’ cannabis is a misleading term; adult-use is what we are truly achieving today. This legislation specifically addresses and builds the foundation for an infrastructure, which ensures that cannabis products will be handled in a safe and secure manner from seed to sale.

“The fight has just begun. Access to plants and the many benefits they offer us and our animal friends is a basic right. To all the people who grew up indoctrinated with lies that compare cannabis to heroin use or its ‘gateway’ -- we are here to say the light at the end of the tunnel is upon us.

“Moving forward, we plan on working closely with community leaders to cultivate a safe and educational environment for cannabis culture within Genesee County.”

Glass Roots is an on-site glass-blowing facility that sells art pieces as well as CBD oils and other hemp products.

An email and phone call to Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron Jr. were not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

More about the today’s legalization, called the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act:

  • The new law erases convictions for marijuana possession that would now be legal, and directs 40 percent of pot tax revenue to communities of color that excessively faced pot charges.
  • Possession of up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated forms of the drug will be allowed for recreational use.
  • Three Senate Democrats voted against the bill, which passed 40-23, while no Democrats voted against it in the Assembly, where it passed by a 100-49 tally.
  • State officials are indicating that marijuana sales are expected to generate $350 million in revenue to the state per year, and around 50,000 jobs will be created.
January 25, 2021 - 1:34pm
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA, The Recovery Station.

Press release:

Next month’s Stand Up For Recovery Day is a virtual event this year but the question it poses reflects the reality that everyone can contribute to helping those suffering with substance use disorders.

Staff at The Recovery Station, a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, are asking those who wish to support the effort to post a video or picture that answers the following:

“What do you stand up for when it comes to recovery?”

Sue Gagne, coordinator of The Recovery Station, is inviting all community members to voice their support or showcase their artistic talents for the cause.

“Whether you are an individual in recovery, family member, friend, or ally, you are an important part of our recovery community,” Gagne said. “We hope you join us in showing support for the recovery movement in Genesee and Orleans counties. You are not alone!”

Stand Up For Recovery Day is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, and features a full agenda of activities promoted by Friends of Recovery – New York (www.for-ny.org/surd-registration), including:

  • Networking and sponsor presentations;
  • Opening plenary session including entertainment by Katharine Pettit Creative (KPC) and George Feaster Band;
  • Inspirational message, remarks by For-NY Board President Chacku Mathai and Executive Director Angelia Smith-Wilson, Ed.D.;
  • Presentation of the group’s policy statement by statewide recovery advocates;
  • Remarks by partners from the New York state government and legislature;
  • Presentations on advocacy by Richard Buckman and Ashley Livingston;
  • Video Rally.

Optional events including a legislature chat session and virtual visits with area legislators.

Friends of Recovery – New York (FOR-NY) is a statewide Recovery Community Organization working on behalf of millions of individuals and families in New York to educate decision makers and the general public about recovery from addiction.

Leaders anticipate nearly 1,000 recovery warriors from various Recovery Community Organizations throughout the state to gather virtually in order to both celebrate recovery from addictions, but more so, to educate decision-makers and the general public about the recovery movement.

FOR-NY has identified its four priorities when it comes to help those in recovery as housing, personalized treatment and treatment on demand, recovery oriented systems of care, and transportation. It also supports racial justice as well as a public health response to COVID-19 which is inclusive of the recovery community.

For more information about the Stand Up For Recovery Day or The Recovery Station, contact Gagne at (585) 815-5248. To support recovery efforts in Orleans County, call (585) 210-8750.

January 25, 2021 - 8:14am
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA.

amy_klos_1_.jpgPress release:

Ask any of Amy Klos’ coworkers or supervisors and they’ll all say the same thing when it comes to the 21-year employee’s job performance at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse: She’s the one that holds things together.

“Amy is always available to us no matter what is happening, she can multitask better than anyone and she always gets the job done well,” said Shannon Murphy, director of treatment at the Batavia clinic on East Main Street. “Amy truly cares about every staff member and our patients, and on most days, she is the glue.”

Murphy’s glowing assessment reflects the commitment and dedication that Klos (in photo at right) has provided to the agency since starting as a secretary at its former Growney building location at Bank Street and Washington Avenue in 1999.

Since then, she has taken on more responsibility and, just recently, was promoted to the position of customer relations manager for GCASA’s Batavia and Albion clinics as well as the Opioid Treatment Program facility in Batavia.

A lifelong Oakfield resident, Klos found her way to GCASA after receiving a two-year degree from Central City Business Institute in Syracuse in the mid-1980s and working at the office of Dr. Yeong Lee, a Batavia pediatrician.

“I found out about the GCASA job from women who worked there and took their children to Dr. Lee,” she said. “They told me that they were in need of a secretary at GCASA, they posed the question and checked it out.”

Klos said she and two or three others worked in the front office (located in the basement of the Growney building) checking clients in, answering the telephone and verifying health insurance.

“I worked there for about 10 years before moving to the agency’s current location on East Main Street,” she said. “John Bennett was running the outpatient clinic – he now is GCASA’s executive director – and I was his secretary and also worked in the front office at the same time.”

As time passed, Klos moved into the director of treatment secretary position while continuing to assist the support staff, and in the late 2000s, she was elevated to supervisor of the Batavia office, overseeing a half-dozen employees.

“The agency was expanding at that time – the numbers in the clinic were increasing and the opioid epidemic also hit, which increased our workload and productivity,” Klos said, “and along with that came changes to policies and procedures.”

Three years ago, Klos was promoted to supervisor of the treatment and OTP (methadone) clinics and now has added an oversight role at the Albion clinic.

She said she is tasked with getting everyone on the same page, so to speak.

“Generally, the responsibilities across the clinics are very similar, so we’re trying to make all three offices the same as far as protocols and policies,” she explained. “There are some slight differences depending upon the doctor you’re working with, the day of the week and the prescribed dosage.”

Klos is a key player in the integration of services and procedures and, when at full strength, she is supervising eight full-time and part-time secretaries.

She said the best thing about GCASA is the “teamwork” displayed by the staff, which, by the way, includes her daughter, Katie, a nurse.

“The employees here help each other out and it’s great to know that people have your back. And it’s also nice to know that you can help people,” Klos said. “Change happens frequently but no matter what, you still have the basics. You have to remember to say please and thank you. That goes a long way and too many people don’t realize that.”

Klos said she strives to make a positive impact upon clients’ lives.

“When people are struggling, giving them a helping hand really does make a difference. I say to patients all the time, 'I’m here if you want the help. If you don’t want the help, that’s up to you, but we’re here to help you 100 percent along the way.’ ”

When not on duty, Klos is keeping an eye on her mom, Ann Perfitt, who lives across the street from her in the village; joins in her husband as they “flip houses” on the weekends, enjoys outdoor activities and has fun with the family dog, Sam.

Murphy said she hopes Klos stays with the agency for another 20 years.

“Personally, I have had the pleasure of working next to Amy for over 15 years. She is diligent, smart and able to do her job while truly caring about everyone involved,” Murphy said. “I cannot imagine what I would do without her right next to me and as my friend. She truly is loved by all.”

In other GCASA news, the following employees were recognized recently for their longevity with the company:

Five years -- Brenda Post, QA/corporate compliance officer, Genesee County Clinic; Shandi Temperato, chemical dependency counselor, Orleans County Clinic.

Ten years -- Diana Fulcomer, prevention educator, Orleans Prevention Program; Cherlyne Gerould, payroll manager, Genesee County Administration.

Fifteen years -- Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention, Orleans Prevention Program; Nick Mardino, maintenance, Orleans County Clinic.

Twenty years -- Cyndi Mardino, secretary, Orleans County Clinic; Stephanie Nadolinski, house manager, Atwater Community Residential Program.

Thirty years -- Kim Corcoran, human resources/administrative assistant, Genesee County Administration.

November 12, 2020 - 9:19am

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When it comes to commitment and dedication to battling opioid addiction in rural areas, the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force shines brightly.

That’s the viewpoint of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, which has awarded the local collaborative organization with a 2020 Community Star.

The award is given to only one rural entity in New York State.

“We are deeply honored to be recognized by the NOSORH,” said Christen Ferraro, GOW Opioid Task Force project coordinator. “It is a tribute to the efforts of the hundreds of people in the tri-county area who volunteer their time and work together to help end opioid addiction and overdose.”

The honor is being presented in conjunction with National Rural Health Day on Nov. 19, according to the NOSORH.

Ferraro said an e-book publication featuring the GOW Opioid Task Force’s story, along with the other winners, will be released on that date on the NRHD website. The link to the story also will be posted on the GOW Opioid Task Force website – www.gowopioidtaskforce.org – and on its Facebook page.

The NOSORH singled out the local outreach for its flexibility in delivering key services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic hit Western New York, the task force shifted its education efforts online. Virtual Narcan trainings were held and kits were mailed to participants. Since these online trainings began, more than 150 community members have been trained, and for 2020, more than 300 have received this training.

“We knew we had to make adjustments so our community could continue to have access to these needed resources," Ferraro said. “The positive response we received from the community was overwhelming, and we definitely plan to utilize this new way of education to help continue supporting our rural community in these difficult times.”

The task force, which is supported by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, currently has more than 400 members from across the tri-county region.

Members represent various sectors of the community, including public health, mental health, human services, local government, substance use disorder treatment and recovery agencies, law enforcement, EMS, faith-based groups, health systems and medical practitioners, education, businesses, concerned individuals, families, and individuals in recovery.

The NOSORH founded National Rural Health Day as a way to showcase rural America, increase awareness of rural health-related challenges and promote the efforts of NOSORH, State Offices of Rural Health and others in addressing those challenges, said Teryl Eisinger, the agency’s chief executive officer.

An estimated 57 million people – nearly one in five Americans – live in rural and frontier communities throughout the United States.

 “These small towns, farming communities and frontier areas are wonderful places to live and work; they are places where neighbors know each other and work together,” Eisinger said. “The hospitals and providers serving these rural communities not only provide quality patient care, but they also help keep good jobs in rural America.”

These communities also face unique healthcare needs.

“Today more than ever, rural communities must tackle accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens,” she said. “Meanwhile, rural hospitals are threatened with declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels that makes it challenging to serve their residents.”

All 50 states maintain a State Office of Rural Health, each of which shares a similar mission to foster relationships, disseminate information and provide technical assistance that improves access to, and the quality of, health care for its rural citizens.

Photo: The GOW Opioid Task Force has been honored with the 2020 Community Star from the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health. From left are Charlotte Crawford, chief executive officer, Lake Plains Community Care Network; Julie Gutowski, vice president of Clinical Operations and Services, Spectrum Health & Human Services; John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Christen Ferraro, task force project coordinator, and Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee/Orleans County Health Departments.

Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

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

proc_8_26_20_a.jpg

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.

Previously:

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

mardinos.jpg

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.

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