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Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

Federal grant opens door for UConnectCare to provide harm reduction services, mobile unit

By Press Release
mobile unit
Johnny Vidal, outreach peer specialist, and Erin Phelps, Harm Reduction coordinator/case manager, stand next to UConnectCare's mobile unit that travels to different locations in Genesee and Orleans counties to help those struggling with substance use disorder. Submitted photo.

Press release:

A federal grant to provide harm reduction, treatment and/or recovery support services is empowering UConnectCare (formerly Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse) to meet those struggling with substance use disorder “where they’re at.”

The nonprofit agency has begun an Open Access program that will operate three days per week at The Recovery Station, 5256 Clinton St. Rd., Batavia, as well as a Harm Reduction Mobile Outreach unit that will travel to several locations in the two counties five days per week.

“Both programs reflect the agency’s goal of “meeting them where they’re at, without judgment,” said Erin Phelps, Harm Reduction coordinator/case manager. “Those seeking services will be greeted by a trained Peer Advocate to assist in developing a plan for the next steps and answer questions regarding recovery.”

Phelps and Amy Kabel, project director, emphasized that services will be available to residents, even if they’re not ready for agency intervention.

“Harm reduction is about keeping people alive and being ready to help them when they’re ready,” Phelps said, prompting Kabel to add, “or maybe they never are.”

Walk-ins are welcome to utilize Open Access. The program’s hours of service are 3-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays at The Recovery Station.

The mobile unit will be set up in front of Genesee County Mental Health on the first and third Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and at Orleans County Mental Health on the second and fourth Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also will go to Medina, Le Roy, Lyndonville and other venues in the Batavia area each month.

Johnny Vidal, outreach peer specialist, and Felicia Maybee, Open Access counselor, are part of the team that works on the mobile unit.

Phelps said harm reduction is a “compassionate approach to drug use,” focusing on positive change and safety without requiring that individuals stop using drugs as a precondition for support. Services include peer support, case management, transportation, naloxone training, fentanyl test strips, care/hygiene kits and parent/family support.

She added that a national harm reduction exchange event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 15 at a site to be determined.

Treatment evaluations will be available to provide referrals to the appropriate harm reduction support, recovery support and/or treatment, such as detox, inpatient or outpatient.

For more information about the program, opioid overdose prevention training and to see the mobile unit schedule, go to or the UConnectCare or The Recovery Station Facebook pages, or send an email to

UConnectCare promotes Batavian Kabel to director of Grant Management post

By Press Release
Amy Kabel

Press release:

During her 4 ½ years as an employee at UConnectCare (formerly Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse), Amy Kabel has worn several hats, and she has worn them well.

Hired as a peer recovery advocate in April 2019 to assist those in recovery from substance use disorder, the Batavia resident has been promoted to the director of Grant Management position – a job that is vital to the nonprofit agency’s mission to provide a wide variety of services to those in need.

“We’re excited to announce that Amy has accepted the position of director of Grant Management,” said UConnectCare Chief Executive Officer John Bennett. “Amy has excelled at every level, and the skills she has gained will make her a great addition to the management team.”

Kabel (photo at right) served as the lead peer at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road, a supervisory role, before accepting coordinator positions for The Recovery Station, which is under the auspices of the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports and for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.

In 2021, she was promoted to assistant director of Grants & Projects, working closely with Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, the former director of Project Innovations and Expansion.

As director of Grant Management, she will oversee a team of about 10 grant-funded employees while searching for and writing grants to fund key programs.

“Fortunately, I was able to learn from Rosalie, who was a fantastic mentor,” Kabel said. “She set a high bar, and I will do my best to keep these programs going.”

Before joining UConnectCare, Kabel was employed as an aide on the surgical floor at United Memorial Medical Center and at Hope Haven, the hospital’s inpatient agency for those struggling with substance use.

She earned an associate’s degree from Genesee Community College and went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Community & Health Services from SUNY Empire State College. Kabel has a daughter, Madison, a social worker in the Buffalo area.

Promotion of Allen to project director reflects success of UConnectCare's Reentry Program

By Mike Pettinella
Trisha Allen

In Trisha Allen’s eyes, the need to help men and women returning to the community after being incarcerated far outweighs her job title at UConnectCare’s Reentry Program.

The Lyndonville resident recently was promoted by the agency, formerly Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, for her efforts over the past 2 ½ years to develop and solidify the program that provides case management and peer recovery services to those who have been in jail or prison.

A five-year employee at UConnectCare, Allen (photo at right) has moved up from coordinator to project director -- with expanded duties that include overseeing seven full- and part-time employees and communicating directly with the officer of the Offender Reentry Program grant from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that funds the local initiative.

Allen said the Reentry Program has helped numerous men and women get their lives back on track.

She said the men and women who utilized the services that are offered and “did the work” are the ones that have made a successful transition from incarceration.

“In the end, it’s a matter of ‘what you put into the program is what you get out of it,’” she said.

Chester Shivers, a key member of the UConnectCare Reentry Program team since 2020, said he can relate to what people are going through as he advanced through a reentry program at another location.

“It has helped me to learn patience and to make healthy decisions,” he said. “I take one day at a time and wish to share the same hope that was given to me to others.”

Currently, the program is serving more than 90 participants in the Genesee and Orleans counties, with some of those people living in transitional housing provided by UConnectCare.

The Reentry Program helps connect participants with the following services: substance use disorder treatment, mental health treatment, housing, food, clothing, employment and/or job training, childcare, transportation and medical care. Direct case management and housing services are not billed through insurance, enabling participants to avoid those expenses.

Initially, individuals with a history of substance use who were sentenced to jail for a minimum of three months were eligible to qualify for the program. Today, eligibility is not as restrictive.

“We’re now able to serve people that were sentenced to a minimum of 30 days and have served that sentence,” Allen said. “Government is noticing … especially with changes in bail laws that people are not incarcerated as much and for shorter durations.”

Allen said she would like to see the program expanded to include those who haven’t been formally sentenced but served some time through pre-trial release or have had their case diverted through Genesee Justice or Drug Court. She said she also is an advocate for Medication Assisted Treatment for those in recovery.

Since May of this year, Allen has served as the jail counselor in both counties. She said that role ties in nicely with her job with the Reentry Program.

“We’ve been able to get nine or 10 new clients from the counseling sessions,” she said, adding that she visits the Genesee County Jail on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the Orleans County Jail on Wednesdays and Fridays.

A graduate of Genesee Community College, where she received an associate degree in Human Services, Allen also has certification as a peer advocate and is working toward become a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor.

For more information about the Reentry Program, send an email to or call 585-813-6570.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for UConnectCare.

Christen Foley promoted to project director of WNY Prevention Resource Center

By Mike Pettinella
Christen Foley

UConnectCare (formerly Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse) has promoted Christen Foley to the position of project director of the Western New York Prevention Resource Center.

The Batavia resident will oversee the implementation of training programs and technical assistance to community drug and alcohol prevention coalitions in the eight-county region. Foley, (photo at right), with the support of two community development specialists, is responsible for collaborating with the prevention providers, coalitions and community groups that make up the WNYPRC.

One of six prevention resource centers in New York State, the WNYPRC is based at UConnectCare’s offices on Clinton Street Road in Batavia and is an initiative of the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

Its focus is on engaging community stakeholders in the development of new coalitions and supporting established community coalitions as they work to reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Additionally, the center provides technical assistance, training and support to communities and coalition partners.

“The WNYPRC encourages the use of the Strategic Prevention Framework, which is a public health, outcome-based prevention approach,” Foley said. “This seven-phase approach helps coalitions assess the community’s needs and address them accordingly. The key is to respond appropriately by utilizing the data that reveals each community’s specific needs.”

Foley was hired by UConnectCare in 2019 to lead the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force. Her efforts helped expand the task force to various segments of the community and resulted in it receiving the 2020 Community Star from the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health. The award is given annual to only one rural entity in New York State.

Shannon Ford, services director of Communications and Development and director of Prevention at UConnectCare, said Foley is “a natural fit” for the project director role.

“Christen was able to refine her community engagement skills with the GOW Opioid Task Force and will now be able to help community coalitions across the region,” Ford said. “Most people don’t understand the science behind substance use disorder prevention and coalition activities. Christen and her team will help community coalitions effectively reduce underage substance use using evidence based approaches.”

Foley has been attending trainings and workshops since her appointment to the new position in June, including the Foundation in Prevention Ethics Training and the CADCA Mid-Year Training Institute, the latter a four-day conference in Dallas.

“As a result, I will now be certified to host and facilitate the six-hour, in-person Foundations in Prevention Ethics course for our prevention providers, coalitions and community partners,” she said, adding that she also is working towards becoming a certified Substance Abuse Prevention Skill Training Trainer.

She said she plans to host an ethics training next year and will be working on establishing coalitions in Genesee and Orleans counties.\

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for UConnectCare.

GCASA's new name signifies capacity to 'connect' public to variety of services

By Press Release

Press release:

As the result of a remarkable expansion of services over the years, the leadership at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has decided to give the nonprofit agency a new name that reflects its mission of “person-centered care.”

Effective Sept. 18, GCASA will be known as UConnectCare Behavioral Health Services – a title, according to Chief Executive Officer John Bennett, “that captures the full scope of what we do and who we are, providing a full spectrum of substance use disorder services, while also supporting the mental and physical health needs of the people we serve.”

“Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is a mouthful to say, and it’s old and uses outdated and stigmatizing language,” Bennett said. “While the acronym GCASA is well known and has served us well, we are long overdue for a rebrand.”

Serving both counties for 48 years, GCASA – now UConnectCare – offers a continuum of care, including prevention, treatment, recovery, residential and detox services as well as an in-house employee assistance program. The staff has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years to more than 150.

“We believe UConnectCare will be a brand that can grow with us and will embody our philosophy that the path to recovery begins with U,” Bennett added.

GCASA's new women and children's residence in Albion to serve Genesee County needs

By Mike Pettinella
women and children's residence
Architect's rendering of GCASA's women and children's residence being constructed in Albion.

Providing a safe and secure place to live for women battling substance use disorder, including those with children, is yet another vital phase of the mission of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to offer a wide spectrum of care.

“This project is only one of maybe three similar facilities west of Syracuse,” said GCASA Chief Executive Officer John Bennett, speaking of the agency’s 25-bed women and children’s residence that will be located on Butts Road in Albion. “We will serve Genesee and Orleans counties, primarily, and also the Western and Finger Lakes regions.”

Part of the wooded nine-acre lot just outside of the Albion village limits is being cleared to make way for the construction of the building frame and roof this fall, Bennett said. The home – which will take on a woodsy look of green siding and black window trim -- is expected to open around October of next year.

“Once open, it will include an early childhood learning center, walking paths in the woods, a large playground, a small workout area for residents, an area for arts and crafts, and more,” he offered. “We continue to find ways to break down barriers for individuals to enter and remain in treatment services. We currently offer extra services such as our drop-in daycare, transportation, case management, recovery services, and a 24/7 peer hotline, as well as our core services.”

GCASA has expanded its programs exponentially under Bennett’s guidance, with its workforce tripling in size over the past 15 years. The women’s and children’s residential facility in Albion fills a great need in substance use treatment, he noted.

“Since 2015, we have seen a significant increase in our female (client) population,” Bennett said. “It used to be 75 percent men and 25 percent women. Now, with opioids – pills – becoming more popular among women, the need in the community to serve women has multiplied.

“One of the barriers for women entering a residential program is, ‘Who will care for their children?’ In our program, women will be able to have their children (under school age) with them while in care.”

Bennett said the Albion location will provide services to women 18 and older during their recovery, with five of the 25 units set up to accommodate women with children younger than kindergarten age. Up to two children can live in those units.

GCASA will operate the facility, with staffing at all hours, seven days a week, Bennett said. A grant from the New York State Department of Health has covered $4.6 million of the $5.2-million cost of construction.

“We looked at buying the Cloverhill Adult Home building in the village but it really wasn’t set up appropriately for the project. It would have taken much to convert and to rehab it,” he said. “When we did purchase the property on Butts Road, the Town of Albion was incredibly welcoming. It’s near to the village but provides privacy for the residents.”

Responding to questions from citizens in the area, Bennett said that only a small part of the land is designated as wetlands and that area will be left untouched, and that GCASA will put in plantings along the driveway upon completion to provide privacy for those living along Butts Road.

“GCASA always strives to be a good neighbor,” he said. “All of our buildings are well-kept.”

The agency is working with the firm of Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst Architects, P.C., of Orchard Park, the same company that has contributed design expertise for seven other GCASA projects. Whitney East, Inc., based in Le Roy and Rochester, is the general contractor.

Bennett said that once operational, the women and children’s residence will enable GCASA to make the Atwater Community Residence in Batavia a “male-only” facility.

“When this is done, we’ll have significantly expanded our bed capacity for all -- providing stabilization, rehabilitation and re-entry into the community,” he said.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Overdose Awareness Day shines light on effort to spread 'hope and healing'

By Mike Pettinella
Overdose Awareness Day
Overdose Awareness Day at Austin Park on Wednesday featured messages of hope from community members on the dangers of opioids.  Photos by Steve Ognibene.
Cheryl Netter

Cheryl Netter and Scott Davis are two of the fortunate ones. They are people who have survived the grip of addiction and have emerged on the other side, now devoting their lives to helping others who are struggling with substance use disorder.

So many others didn’t make it. More than 100,000 in the United States over the past year alone – and nearly 80 Genesee and Orleans County residents who died of a drug overdose over the past four years.

Netter (photo at left) and Davis briefly shared their stories of anguish successful recovery on Wednesday afternoon at the annual Overdose Awareness Day at Austin Park.

The event, organized to raise awareness of the dangers of opioids and to remember those who have succumbed to an overdose, was coordinated by the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with the National Institute of Health’s HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Initiative.

Recognized as a community “hope coach,” Netter said she is “an overdose and suicide attempt survivor.”

“Leading up to my (suicide) attempt, much of my struggle and pain I chose not to allow people to see. I spent my younger years masking my way through life, not recognizing or even acknowledging my inner struggles,” she said. “This led me to dabbling with mental health issues, risky behavior, substance use and trying to (commit) suicide. I stand with you today only by the grace of God, and with many years of recovery and I'm able to tell my story in my own voice.”

She quickly shifted her focus off of herself to speak about those who are no longer with us because of drugs.

“We're here and I want to remember and acknowledge those individuals gathered here today, along with their families and friends. Those who aren’t able to tell their story with their own voice due to …losing the struggle of addiction and to talk about the crisis we’re all facing right now.”

Netter encouraged family members and friends to keep the stories of those departed alive.

“We’re sowing seeds of hope and healing, not only in the hearts and lives of others, but also in our own hearts and our own life,” she said. “Strength and recovery can be found by giving a voice to the stories of those who may otherwise go unseen and unheard.”

Scott Davis

Davis (photo at right) has been a certified peer recovery advocate for the Rochester Regional Health system for the past two years – a far cry from where he was for most of his adult life while addicted to heroin and fentanyl.

He shared that when his mother died in 2008, his life spiraled out of control, and the result was incarceration, institutions and near death. Eventually, and with the help of medication for opioid use disorder and support from family and friends, Davis pulled himself up, and continues in his recovery.

Two years ago, his brother died from an overdose, a searing pain that he said he is “working through.”

“Every day, there is something that reminds me of him,” he said. “He’s always there with me.”

Other speakers included John Bennett, chief executive officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, and Dawn Stone, peer advocate at Spectrum Health in Wyoming County.

John Bennett: We’re Working to Save Lives

John Bennett

“You would think that in the year 2023, with all of the people who have come out publicly – all the movie stars and athletes that have come out and talked about their addiction – that the stigma would reduce? But it hasn’t. It’s still there,” Bennett said. “So, I just want to thank all the people here today who are recovery warriors. It’s the work that you guys do every day. The support agencies like GCASA, to support the people in the community, that really make a big difference.”

He mentioned how the agency has grown in recent years from 65 to almost 200 employees and adding needed services such as housing for various groups, childcare, transportation and The Recovery Station social meeting place on Clinton Street Road.

“We also provide services for the homeless, particularly through a homeless housing grant that we recently got,” he said. “We’re going to be working on coming up with transitional housing crisis beds for these folks, where they will have a place to stay for seven to 15 days. Those are hard to find, but we’re working to make those come true.”

Bennett said recovery workers are making a difference by trying to save lives.

“My heart goes out to all of you who have lost a loved one. I can’t imagine the grief and loss. But know that we’re trying to make a difference behind the scenes to help future loss of life,” he said.

Paul Pettit: An ‘Urgent Public Health Threat’

Paul Pettit

Pettit said that data shows that the opioid epidemic continues to be a “very urgent public health and public safety threat in our communities.”

“Drug overdose deaths continue to be the number one leading cause of injury mortality in the United States,” he said. “It’s been that way for many years now. And unfortunately, it's probably going to continue to be the number one cause of death. It's more than vehicle accidents and other types of injuries.”

More than 100,000 people died by overdose last year in the U.S., he said, adding that since 2019, there have been 56 overdose deaths in Genesee County and 23 overdose deaths in Orleans County.

“That’s 79 individuals that have lost their lives to overdoses that we could have prevented; that we are working to prevent it. And that's why we're here today -- to bring awareness to that and to honor them,” he said.

Pettit credited the GOW Opioid Task Force, a three-county coalition founded in 2017, and the more recent HEALing Genesee initiative for examples of community human services agencies coming together to fight this epidemic. 

“Three areas that we continue to focus on in the community is opioid overdose prevention and education and naloxone (Narcan) distribution … medication for opioid use disorder and linking individuals to treatment, and safer opioid prescribing and dispensing.

Dawn Stone: ‘It Takes a Community’

Dawn Stone

Noting that she provides support and encouragement for people from the age of 5 to 90, Stone said “it takes a community” to combat the increasing mental health and substance use epidemic.

In recovery for 19 years, she said that 21 people have died due to an overdose in Wyoming County in recent years, with 41 being the average age of those individuals.

“It’s not just young people,” she said. “Substance use affects all ages. We need to ask our elders, ‘Are you OK?’ and offer them the help they need.”

To conclude the program, Brandi Smith of Batavia, who has been in recovery from heroin, fentanyl and cocaine for six years, read a poem, No Hero in Heroin, in memory of her brother, Jason, who died of an overdose.

In part, the poem states, “So alone, so filled with fear, but I kept on swimming, well, drowning in tears; I never gave up, finally said my goodbyes, found beauty in life, without you by my side; You’re part of my past now, no longer a friend, despite you name, there’s no HERO in heroin.”

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Photos by Steven Ognibene.

agency booth
Information sharing was a big part of the event as representatives of more than 20 human service agencies participated.
Children joined in on the experience by taking part in educational exercises.
Amy Kabel, left, and Sue Gagne served as co-chairs for the observance. Here they stand in front of flags representing those who have died due to an overdose.
face painting
Seven-year-old Elizabeth Dorchak getting her face painted at a GCASA booth.

Overdose awareness day set for August 30 at Austin Park

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with the National Institute of Health’s HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Initiative, will be commemorating Overdose Awareness Day next month to raise awareness of the dangers of opioids and to remember the lives of those who have succumbed to an overdose.

The annual event is scheduled for 4 - 7 p.m. on August 30 at Austin Park in Batavia.

Residents are invited to take part in the family-friendly activities – which include face painting and live music courtesy of Groove -- and enjoy free pizza and refreshments.

Narcan (naloxone) training is on the agenda and local health and human services agency representatives will be on hand to provide information on recovery resources, medications for opioid use disorder, and the benefits of staying on medication treatment for people in recovery.

Guest speakers include:

  • John Bennett, chief executive officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, who will provide updates on substance use treatment programs and lead a moment of silence in memory of those who have died.
  • Dawn Stone, a peer advocate from Spectrum Health in Wyoming County, who will discuss the stigma surrounding substance use disorder and steps that are being taken to remove unhealthy perceptions.
  • Cheryl Netter, a community “hope coach,” who will share a story of hope and healing.
  • Scott Davis, a certified peer recovery advocate for the Rochester Regional Health system, who will share how medication has helped him in his recovery.
  • Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments, will share local data and the initiatives that the health department and local partners are implementing to address overdoses.
  • Nikki Lang of Batavia, who lost a loved one to an overdose.

Additionally, Lynda Battaglia, director of Genesee County Mental Health & Community Services, and Danielle Figura, director of Community Services at Orleans County Department of Mental Health, are expected to talk about opioid use disorder related to mental health.

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

Registration is recommended, but not required. To register, go to

HEALing Genesee banks on proven strategies to reduce opioid-related overdose fatalities

By Mike Pettinella
HEALing Genesee
Leading the HEALing Genesee initiative to reduce opioid overdose deaths are, from left, Columbia University research team members Louisa Gilbert, Nabila El-Bassel, Timothy Hunt and James David; Christen Foley, Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force coordinator; Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee & Orleans Health Department; Randi Johnson, physician assistant at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

A wide-ranging, cooperative effort is being made at the grassroots level to “HEAL” those afflicted by opioid use disorder and to prevent opioid overdose deaths.

Professionals in the substance use treatment/prevention and mental health fields in Genesee County have been working in conjunction with a research team from Columbia University over the past year to develop and implement evidence-based strategies as part of the HEALing Communities Study.

HEALing refers to Helping to End Addiction Long-term and is the catchphrase of a program launched by the National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The goal is to identify evidence-based programs that are most effective at the local level in preventing and treating opioid use disorder – with a target of reducing opioid-related overdose deaths by 40 percent.

HEALing Genesee is part of the second phase of the HCS, which will run through the spring of 2024. Other counties in this phase include Broome, Chautauqua, Cortland, Monroe, Orange, Sullivan and Yates.

Members of the Columbia University research team, along with officials from the NIH’s Institute on Drug Abuse, came to Batavia last week to meet with the Genesee County Health Department and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse personnel who have been serving on the county’s implementation team.

“Drug overdose requires a comprehensive approach to first define the breadth of the problem and then to promote harm reduction and evidence-based treatments known to be effective with opioid use disorder,” said Timothy Hunt, PhD, of the Columbia U. School of Social Work, who is the HEALing Communities Study Intervention and Community Engagement Investigative Lead.

“The partnership for the HEALing Communities Study between the Genesee Department of Health and organizations like Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse illustrates a community coming together, even when challenged by the COVID pandemic, to focus on this highly stigmatized public health crisis.”

Hunt applauded the Genesee group for its “commitment to capturing up-to-date data on fatal and non-fatal overdoses thus allowing the community to plan and focus strategies to populations and locations at high risk.”

HEALing Genesee leaders have identified several strategies to reach its goal, including various ways of getting naloxone (brand name Narcan) into as many hands as possible. Naloxone is a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.

Initiatives include distribution of leave-behind kits by the Batavia City Fire Department, establishing a text-for-naloxone hotline (text KIT to 1-877-535-2461) and placing NaloxBoxes at businesses.

Columbia U. Professor Nabila El-Bassel, HCS principal investigator, said she was impressed with the amount of collaboration in Genesee County.

“The Columbia University team and our funder from the National Institute on Drug Abuse who visited Genesee HCS coalition extend our gratitude for their unwavering commitment to addressing the overdose crisis with a data-driven solutions and improving access to treatment and care for those in need in Genesee,” she said.

“Today, we witnessed the innovation in delivering drug treatment and services with high integrity and responsiveness to community needs.  The success of the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force and HEALing Communities Study is also a testament to the extraordinary power of collaboration that exists.”

Staff from more than a dozen local agencies have collaborated with HEALing Genesee, including professionals from Genesee County Mental Health, Genesee County Department of Social Services, Genesee Justice, VA Medical Center, City of Batavia Fire Department, GCASA, Horizon Health Services, Rochester Regional Health (United Memorial Medical Center, Hope Haven Center and Batavia Primary Care), Oakfield Family Pharmacy, Oak Orchard Health and Lake Plains Community Care Network.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 2.1 million Americans have opioid use disorder, yet fewer than 20 percent of those receive specialty care in a given year. New York State has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the nation, with Genesee County having one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in New York State.

The county’s opioid overdose death rate peaked at more than 36 deaths per 100,000 in 2017 and was still around 22 deaths per 100,000 in 2022. As a result, Genesee was selected as a HEALing Communities location.

Hunt concluded that HEALing Genesee, by virtue of its evidence-based strategies and robust communication campaigns, and with support from agencies such as GCASA, is on the right track.

“Our HCS partner, GCASA, provides needed care along a continuum of readiness, and is a rare accommodation to needed levels of care which include harm reduction, detox, rehabilitation and outpatient care, including much-needed access to methadone and Buprenorphine,” he stated. 

To learn more about the HEALing Communities Study and to help end overdoses in Genesee County, visit:

-- HEALing Communities Study Website:

-- GOW Opioid Taskforce Website:

-- GO Health Facebook:

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Scholarship recipients, 'friends' honored at GCASA event

By Mike Pettinella
GCASA 'Friends'
Receiving “Friends of GCASA” awards for 2023 are, seated from left, Heather Jackson, Jay Balduf, Megan Boring; standing, Patrick Cecere, Pam McCarthy, Scott Wooten, Matt Prawel, Lt. Bob Tedford.

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse officials on Wednesday afternoon honored six “friends” of the nonprofit agency and five GCASA Foundation scholarship award winners at their annual meeting at Terry Hills Restaurant.

Friends of GCASA awards went to the City of Batavia Fire Department, Orleans County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Prawel, Patrick Cecere, Heather Jackson, Mercy Flight EMS and the United Memorial Medical Center MOMS Program.

Scholarship recipients for 2023 are Carly Cerasani, Arianna Hale, Valerie Pastore, Lauren Reimer and Lilly LeTourneau. They each received $1,000 for enrolling in fields relating to human services and/or social services.


-- City of Batavia Fire Department was recognized for its role in becoming the first Public Safety Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative fire department in New York State. It is one of only a few fire companies in the United States to take part in PAARI, which enables people struggling with substance use to reach out to police and fire department personnel for help, without fear of arrest.

-- Deputy Matt Prawel, a school resource officer for the Albion Central School District, developed a fentanyl awareness presentation to fifth through 12th graders, which includes a video about the deadly drug for families to view. He also is a leading member of the school’s prom awareness committee, and is committed to delivering the message of making safe and healthy choices.

-- Patrick Cecere works at the Genesee County Public Defender’s Office as a social worker/case manager. He consistently has assisted clients of GCASA as they navigate the legal system, advocating for all with fairness, professionalism and compassion.

-- Heather Jackson, an Orleans County Social Services caseworker and former probation officer, has worked collaboratively with GCASA counselors in various areas, notably assisting with patient-centered treatment plans and through programs that provide essential services to youth clients of GCASA. She also chairs Orleans County’s National Night Out, an event that brings law enforcement and community groups together in an alcohol- and drug-free setting.

-- Mercy Flight EMS, with its operations center on Call Parkway, Batavia, has been called on upon more frequently as GCASA’s medical needs have increased since the inception of its detoxification program, and was recognized for the “kind and respectful way in which personnel has interacted with clients.” Mercy Flight EMS staff also were commended for listening to GCASA’s clinical recommendations, especially when it comes to transporting individuals to other facilities.

-- The UMMC Moms Program, specifically Megan Boring and Jay Balduf, has partnered with the Health Moms/Healthy Babies initiative at GCASA. Boring and Balduf were honored for making themselves available to serve GCASA clients as a referral source to those who have yet to receive support for their substance use disorder. Boring has made great strides through her coordinator role of the Prenatal Task Force in Batavia, while Balduf shared her wealth of experience as a registered nurse and maternal health educator at UMMC Healthy Living.


-- Carly Cerasani, a 2023 graduate of Pembroke High School, who is considering attending Brown University in the fall to study Psychology, with a long-term goal of obtaining a doctorate degree. She aspires to improving others’ lives, especially children.

-- Arianna Hale, a 2023 graduate of Pembroke High School, will be attending Genesee Community College in the fall to study Humanities and Social Science, with plans to go on from there to earn a degree in Psychology.  She said that she wants to focus her energies on people who need care and support.

-- Valerie Pastore, a 2023 graduate of Byron-Bergen High School, plans to attend Alfred University in the fall to study Psychology. She seeks to work in the healthcare field, with an eye on helping people through research.

-- Lauren Reimer, a 2023 graduate of Batavia High, will be receiving her associate’s degree from Genesee Community College this spring through advanced placement credits. Her future college plans are to be determined, but she plans to study Biomedical Sciences.

-- Lilly LeTourneau graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz and currently is enrolled in the New York State Fellowship Program through the Genesee & Orleans Health Department. She has assisted in a project with Genesee County Mental Health to assess the impact of COVID-19 on mental health services. She is pursuing a master’s degree in social work from the University of Buffalo.


Lynn Strzelecki and Bradley Mazur were elected as new members of the GCASA Board of Directors while President Tim Batzel and directors Jackie Dunham and Pattie Kepner were re-elected. All terms are three years.

Strzelecki is a previous GCASA director while Mazur, the Genesee County undersheriff, joins for the first time. Mazur is the chair of the Genesee County Stop DWI Advisory Council.

Batzel, Vice President Katie Cotter and Secretary-Treasurer Fred Rarick were re-elected.


In 2022, GCASA prevention educators provided services to more than 36,000 youth and adults, with the WNY Prevention Resource Center providing 18 trainings to nearly 500 people. The GOW Opioid Task Force lists 460 active members, with many of them trained in the administration of Naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses.

On the clinical side, GCASA opened a 16-bed detox center in Batavia in early 2022. Medication programs now serve more than 300 individuals in two locations, with clinical visits topping 21,000 last year. The Genesee Opioid Treatment Program and outpatient clinic were awarded an integrated certification to create a seamless program for outpatient services.

GCASA scholarships
GCASA Foundation scholars for 2023 are, seated from left, Lauren Reimer, Lilly LeTourneau; standing, Carly Cerasani, Arianna Hale, Valerie Pastore.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

GCASA expands substance use disorder care through psychostimulant support project grant

By Mike Pettinella

As the deadly drug fentanyl wreaks havoc in the United States, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths last year according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of psychostimulants also continues at an alarming rate.

Nearly one in five overdose deaths involve cocaine, one of a host of drugs (both illegal and legal) that are categorized as psychostimulants. More than 5 million Americans reported cocaine use in 2020, which is almost 2 percent of the population, and an estimated 6 million people misused prescription stimulants, such as amphetamines, in the past year.

The misuse of psychostimulants has spread to all populations in all settings, significantly contributing to the overdose epidemic in the U.S.

Locally, the professionals at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse have recognized the impact of drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and prescription stimulants (brand names Adderall, Ritalin, etc.), and the nonprofit agency has received funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration Rural Communities Opioid Response Program – Psychostimulant Support.

The grant, $500,000 for three years through July 2025, will allow GCASA to provide treatment and recovery services to those with psychostimulant use disorder along with prevention education strategies to address the condition and to reduce stigma associated with the disease.

Amy Kabel, assistant director of Grants & Projects, has been assigned as the HRSA RCORP-PS project director; Jarett LoCicero, (photo at left), has been hired as the project coordinator, and Lisa Schutt has been appointed as the project’s lead counselor. GCASA is accepting resumes for the prevention educator position and for peer advocate positions attached to the grant.

Already, project leaders have linked to a consortium that includes Genesee County Mental Health, Orleans County Mental Health, Oak Orchard Health and Lake Plains Community Health, and have started a community support group that meets from 2-3 p.m. every Tuesday at the County Building on East Main Street Road, Batavia.

“The program is very person-centered and we focus on connecting people to what they want and need to overcome the disorder and be successful in their recovery,” LoCicero said. “We understand that there is a huge mental health component and are fortunate to be able to partner with the agencies in our consortium.”

LoCicero said the grant opens the door for GCASA to expand its “continuum of care” philosophy that encompasses treatment, recovery, prevention, maintenance, transportation and supportive living programs.

“Psychostimulant use, cocaine and crack cocaine as well as meth, is an ever-increasing problem, especially among young people and those in “commonly overlooked populations such as the LGBTQ and Black communities,” he said. “Our goal is to reach as many people as we can.”

Kabel, a four-year employee at GCASA, said the project will be successful “because Jarett (who is in recovery) is very focused and understands what substance use disorder is all about.”

She said that more people are hearing about the support group and that residents of both Genesee and Orleans counties are in counseling programs led by Schutt.

The HRSA RCORP-PS project at GCASA offers prevention, treatment, and recovery services specific to individuals who struggle with psychostimulants. Those services include 24/7 peer support, case management, support group, transportation, recovery activities, wellness and fitness, parent and family support, insurance/resource navigation, hepatitis/HIV navigation and naloxone training.

Transportation to the support group at The Recovery Station is available by checking the schedule on The Recovery Station calendar on Facebook or by calling LoCicero at 585-664-4146.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Former Batavian's road to recovery aided by MOUD -- Medication for Opioid Use Disorder

By Mike Pettinella

Looking back at Scott Davis’ journey to recovery, it is clear to see that the Orange County native – and former Batavian – was ahead of his time.

Davis took his first sip of alcohol at the age of 11, escalated his drug use to LSD and ecstasy in his early teens and eventually became addicted to heroin and fentanyl, behavior that resulted in separate stints in rehabilitation, shock camp and prison.

Today, the 43-year-old Davis has been in recovery for more than three years. He has a good job as a certified peer recovery advocate for the Rochester Regional Health system, a loving fiancée, Heather, and a beautiful 18-month-old daughter, MacKenzie.

While his story may seem like the typical “former drug user who went to jail and came out on the other side” variety, there’s much more to it than that when you learn that Davis relied upon his instincts and intellect to turn his life around.

Even before it was accepted as a key component of substance use treatment, Davis said he embraced the concept of “medication for opioid use disorder” – MOUD for short.

In 2012, as he was fighting a losing battle against cocaine and heroin, Davis found out that there was medication available to counteract the hard drugs.

“I had spent time in county jail and nine months in prison shock (camp) after violating probation (stemming from burglary and other felony charges),” he said. “I went on methadone because I could not stop using heroin. The legal system did not understand the importance of medication. They said I was replacing one drug for another.”

Davis said neither law enforcement officials nor counselors supported his desire to use methadone at that time.

“The stigma was alive and well,” he said. “I tried to be responsible on it. It was working for a while. But they didn’t care; they did not approve of it. It was all judgment.”

He went to outpatient and inpatient treatment facilities but all he heard was that he needed to get off hard drugs without any so-called replacement therapy.

“It definitely wasn’t the person-centered care that we have today,” he said.

Davis recalled that he got into drugs as a result of his feelings of isolation as a kid and it only got worse after his mother’s death in 2008.

“After that, I went right to heroin,” he said, adding that it led to the destruction of his marriage six years later.

His legal problems continued as well when he tested positive for heroin and was sent to separate 90-day rehabilitation programs – St. Christopher Inn in Garrison and St. Joseph’s in Saranac Lake.

“During that time, I was using suboxone off and on,” he said, referring to another type of MOUD. “It was really difficult to maintain recovery for 14 months, having no resources, support, peers or maintenance services.”

Short stays in three jails and two more shock camps finally “led me to where I’m at today,” he said. “I was valedictorian (in the camp class) and was successful each time I was evaluated for meeting certain criteria. I am proof that you can bounce back physically.”

He was still living downstate at that time when he was paroled to Batavia in December 2016.

“I was sent to live with my father (David, who died of cancer in January 2021) and my stepmom in Batavia,” he said. “I was able to complete one semester of a college course online as I wanted to become a counselor, while using suboxone.”

Unfortunately for Davis, he hadn’t hit rock bottom yet. He succumbed to his demons once again, and started using crack cocaine, heroin and “a full year hard core on fentanyl,” he said.

“I sold everything that my father had and everything I had, and I drained all the bank accounts,” he noted.

From there, it was on to Hope Haven (a RRH facility) and then to the Atwater Community Residence, a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. He successfully completed his time at Atwater before he was admitted into GCASA’s Supportive Living program for 18 months.

He credits peer advocates and Atwater Residence staff at GCASA for helping him to set some goals and sharing their life experiences.

“They and all the staff at The Recovery Station, another GCASA program, inspired me, motivated me and encouraged me,” he said. “They saw something in me before I could see it myself.”

He also mentioned a close friend, Toby Nagel, who runs The Bridge House in Batavia, for providing a spiritual component.

“Toby was there for me and still is,” he said.

Knowing that he had to stay in recovery to get a job as a peer advocate, he attained that goal in September 2020 when GCASA offered him a position. A year later, he was hired by RRH as a recovery coach, peer advocate who works with clients through Monroe County treatment courts – providing support, transportation and other services.

“It’s a very fulfilling position,” Davis said. “Aside from providing support and encouragement to individuals who accept treatment court and/or are coming out of jail, we provide bed-to-bed transportation for individuals going straight to inpatient from jail.

“Transportation is very important for those who have made that decision to get help, and the peers play a key role by providing not only rides but as caring listeners in these individuals’ road to recovery and a better life.”

As far as MOUD is concerned, Davis was prescribed suboxone.

“I had hard-core cravings for fentanyl and it was my personal choice to go on the suboxone,” he recalled. “I knew that suboxone, at that time, was going to save my life.

“I trusted what the doctor at GCASA said and I could see that he was on my side all the way,” he said. “We had a plan, and I knew I was going to be successful. Today, I am working the plan for my life.”

His advice to others was to not give up because MOUD does work.

“Medication is a vital component to treatment. Anybody can be successful with the right program and support and can maintain a successful life. I don’t know where I would be without MOUD,” he said.

To learn more about the HEALing Communities Study and to help end overdoses in Genesee County, visit:

•           HEALing Communities Study Website:

•           GOW Opioid Task Force Website:

•           GO Health Facebook:

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

GCASA Foundation to award four scholarships; application deadline is March 10

By Press Release

Press release:

Officials at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse have expanded the qualification criteria of the nonprofit agency’s annual Foundation scholarships.

GCASA Chief Executive Officer John Bennett has announced that four $1,000 scholarships will be awarded in May to students enrolled in schools or colleges located in Genesee and Orleans counties.

“The major change is that now students enrolled in a Genesee County or Orleans County school can apply for the scholarship even if their primary residence is in a different county,” Bennett said. “Previously, the scholarship eligibility stipulated that the high school students had to live in Genesee or Orleans.”

While one scholarship will go to a student in Genesee and another to a student in Orleans, the other two scholarships will go to a technical/trade school student and an adult student pursuing a bachelor’s and master’s degree who will be attending college in the fall of this year.

Bennett said the GCASA Foundation was established to support the work of GCASA and other human service agencies who are working to improve community health.

“The board of directors of both GCASA and GCASA Foundation are committed to providing quality services,” he added. “Educated, skilled employees and board members are the necessary ingredients for effective service delivery systems in the behavioral health field.”

Applications are available on the GCASA website – – or can be obtained by contacting Diane Klos at Diane Klos at 585-815-1883 or Completed applications must be received via email or postmarked by 3/10/2023.

Other pertinent scholarship information is as follows:

• Applicant must be accepted at an accredited college or university and enrolled in or matriculated in an eligible program/major.

• Eligible programs or majors include: Social Work, Nursing, Health Science, Mental Health Counseling, Psychology, or Human Services.

• Current GCASA employees, board members and GCASA Foundation board members are NOT eligible.

• Relatives of GCASA employees, board members and GCASA Foundation board members ARE eligible.

• Applicant must provide academic history such as high school and/or college transcripts.

• Applicant must provide two letters of recommendation from someone who knows the applicant’s work/volunteer/academic history. Letters from relatives will not be accepted.

• Applicant must provide a resume or personal biography including work history, volunteer experiences, and extra-curricular activities.

• Applicant must provide an essay that addresses educational and employment objectives as they relate to the mission of GCASA. Financial need, volunteerism, employment history and civic involvement will be given careful consideration.

• The scholarship recipient will be announced at GCASA’s annual membership meeting in May 2023 upon verification of acceptance into an accredited college or university.

• The scholarship monies will be awarded upon completion of the fall semester. The award recipient must provide a copy of their transcript demonstrating at least a 2.0 GPA.

• Applicant may be invited for an interview before final awards are made.

All but three establishments pass alcohol compliance checks conducted by law enforcement

By Press Release

Press release:

The director of the Prevention department at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is applauding the results of the alcohol compliance checks conducted last month by local law enforcement.

“Of the 60 retail establishments that were visited, 57 of them were in compliance,” said Shannon Ford, who also serves as GCASA’s director of Communications & Development. “Overall, we think these are pretty great results.”

The City of Batavia Police Department visited 20 stores and found that all 20 were compliant. Thirty-seven of the 40 establishments visited by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office were in compliance – meaning that the store employee did not sell alcohol to the underage customer taking part in the exercise.

Ford said that GCASA prevention educators are using the latest round of compliance checks as an “educational opportunity.”

“Responsible Server Training will be offered to anyone who wants it,” Ford added.

RST courses focus on several aspects, including the effects of alcohol on the brain and nervous system, state Alcohol Beverage Control laws, levels of intoxication, and the proper way to check IDs and spot false IDs.  All those who take the course will receive Responsible Server certification.

The rates for the training are as follows:

-- For businesses – Individual rate, $75 per person; group rate, $375 (five or more employees);

-- For not for profits – Individual rate, $50 person; group rate, $250 (five or more employees).

To schedule RST for an establishment, contact Diane Klos at 585-815-1883.

Santa spreads joy to little ones at The Recovery Station

By Mike Pettinella


Eighteen-month-old Flora Moon sits on grandma Kim Flowers' lap during her special time with Jolly Old St. Nick on Thursday afternoon during the "Cookies & Crafts" with Santa event at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road. Each family received a free printed picture of their child or children with Santa and a Christmas book to take home.


Lehla, 3, couldn't be happier after getting her coloring book from Santa as Jessica Budzinack, an employee of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, looks on.


Santa's helpers (the staff at The Recovery Station) are, front, Chris Budzinack; seated from left, Tiffany Downs, Santa Claus, Ginger Burton; standing, Harry Rascoe, Luke Granger, Kat Russell, Jessica Budzinack, Sue Gagne.

Photos by Mike Pettinella, publicist for GCASA.

Cookies & Crafts Thursday at The Recovery Station

By Press Release

Press release:

A gift for the entire family awaits participants in the Cookies & Crafts with Santa event on Thursday at The Recovery Station, 5256 Clinton St. Rd., Batavia.

“We’re celebrating the holiday season with Jolly Old St. Nick, himself,” said Harry Rascoe, director of the social club, a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “All are invited to join us.”

The event will take place from 3-6 p.m.

Each family will receive a free printed picture with Santa and a Christmas book to take home.

For more information, call 585-815-5248.

GCASA salutes Dr. Baker, presents longevity awards

By Mike Pettinella


Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse leadership and staff on Wednesday afternoon celebrated Dr. Bruce Baker’s many years of dedicated service to the agency.

Chief Executive Officer John Bennett, at the organization’s annual holiday luncheon, applauded Baker’s work as GCASA’s medical director.

“Bruce has been a tremendous asset to our agency, helping hundreds of people in their efforts to overcome substance use disorder,” Bennett. “We are fortunate to have had him as part of our team and we wish him the best in his retirement.”

Bennett said that Baker shared his knowledge and compassion in a variety of roles for GCASA, including medical director, consultant, teacher and general practitioner.

A physician for 60 years, Baker has made an impact throughout Genesee County as a primary care doctor, school physician in Le Roy and Pavilion, medical consultant to the health department and medical director at Le Roy Village Green Health Care Facility.

He has worked in the addiction field for more than 40 years and was an early proponent of Medication Assisted Treatment.

“Dr. Baker recognized early on, especially as the physician at the Genesee County Jail for a quarter of a century and at Hope Haven (inpatient clinic), that individuals who suffered from addiction needed treatment, both medically and therapeutically,” Bennett said.

Dr. Baker thanked GCASA for the gift he received, adding that he treasured his time with the agency.

“I’ve made many wonderful friends along the way,” he said, noting that his “mission was to treat those suffering from substance use disorder with respect and dignity.”

GCASA management also recognized several employees who reached longevity milestones, led by Chief Financial Officer JoAnn Ryan, who has worked at the agency for 35 years. She said that she plans to retire next year.

Others receiving longevity awards are as follows:

  • 25 years -- Lori Brade, manager of Billing Operations;
  • 20 years -- Linda Ackley, residential aide; Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer;
  • 15 years – Carol Nicometo, prevention educator; Jim Garber, jail services counselor; Charlene Grimm, assistant director of Peer Services.
  • 10 years – Diane Klos, prevention secretary;
  • 5 years -- Danielle Ludeke, outpatient treatment supervisor; Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, director of Project Innovation and Expansion, and Jordan Smart, residential peer.

Submitted photo: GCASA honored Dr. Bruce Baker and presented longevity awards at its annual holiday gathering at Terry Hills Restaurant. Seated from left are Danielle Ludeke, Dr. Baker, Kathy Hodgins; standing, Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, Carol Nicometo, JoAnn Ryan, Diane Klos, Charlene Grimm, Lori Brade, Jordan Smart, Linda Ackley

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist at GCASA.

GCASA hires Luke Granger as recovery services director

By Mike Pettinella

Throughout a civilian and military career that includes nearly two decades outside of the United States, Luke Granger said he has made it his “mission” to help others.

“Whether I’ve been working in full-time ministry, teaching in the military or working in IT (information technology), I’ve always tried to focus on people,” said Granger, who was hired last month as Director of Recovery Services at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Granger, 58, (photo at right), is back in Western New York after spending 11 years as a senior IT director for a Dallas, Texas company. He and his wife, Teri, are residing in Mount Morris.

The Wellsville native and Army veteran calls his latest assignment, which includes supervision of around 30 GCASA recovery staff members, “one of the most important things I’ve ever done.”

“I’m honored and privileged to be in this position, and am excited for the opportunity,” said Granger, who has been in leadership roles for most of his adult life.

Granger earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Theology from Jacksonville Baptist Theological Seminary and went on to full-time ministry in the Southern Baptist denomination.

He spent eight years in active military service before running military schools in Germany for 10 years – teaching young men and women to become successful soldiers.

From there, his travels took him to Costa Rica and Honduras, conducting mission trips for three years.

He then was the pastor of a church in Coleman, Fla., for about six years prior to taking a position as Director of Religious Education for the Department of Defense, both in Germany and then in Fort Drum (N.Y), from 2007-2010.

“It has been very rewarding. I’ve had a great life,” he said, adding that he also spent some time in Russia and Ukraine for pastoral training.

Granger’s responsibilities at GCASA include overseeing programs involving peer recovery advocates, transportation, re-entry (after incarceration), and The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road, along with working with management of the treatment, residential and prevention departments.

When not on the clock, Granger said he makes time to craft items out of wood and likes to travel with his wife.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Holiday spirit takes shape at The Recovery Station

By Press Release


Press release:

The creative juices were flowing on Thursday as a couple dozen folks, including staff members, participated in the “Ugly Sweater (or Shirt) Making & Contest” at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road.

The Recovery Station is a social club-themed outreach of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Judging was conducted in six categories, including “Most Disturbing,” which was won by Tyler Budzinack (photo above).

When asked how he would describe his work, Budzinack simply replied, “Gorgeous!”

Winners in the other categories are as follows:

Ugly But Classy – Cindy M.


Most Beautifully Tacky – Jessica Budzinack and Charlene Grimm.

Made by Grandma – Vicky M.

Best Ugliest Sweater – Ashley Stelmok (photo below)

Most Original – Jolene S.

Most Festive – Kat Russell.

The Recovery Station’s holiday celebration continues with “Cookies & Crafts with Santa” from 3 to 6 p.m. Dec. 22.

Each family will receive a free printed picture with Santa and Christmas book to take home. Call 585-815-5248 to register.


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