Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

January 26, 2023 - 11:31am

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 – www.gcasa.org – or can be obtained by contacting Diane Klos at Diane Klos at 585-815-1883 or [email protected]. 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.

January 6, 2023 - 9:20am

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.

December 23, 2022 - 9:14am

kid_and_santa_trs_1.jpg

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.

trs_kid_6_a.jpg

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.

trs_staff_1.jpg

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.

December 20, 2022 - 11:02am

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.

December 16, 2022 - 4:00pm

longevity_2022_a.jpeg

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.

December 12, 2022 - 3:58pm

luke_granger_1.jpgThroughout 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.

December 9, 2022 - 10:58am

budzinack_sweater_1.jpg

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.tree_sweater_1.jpg

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.

ashley_sweater_1.jpg

December 7, 2022 - 9:54am

Press release:

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse has scheduled in-person and virtual Naloxone & Opioid Overdose Prevention Training sessions into June of next year.

Twelve sessions will take place at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road in Batavia and six will be held at GCASA’s Outpatient Clinic in Albion starting in January. Additionally, six virtual training classes are scheduled, beginning Jan. 9.

The dates at The Recovery Station are as follows:

  • Jan. 20, 10 a.m.
  • Feb. 23, 6 p.m.
  • Feb. 17, 10 a.m.
  • Feb. 27, 6 p.m.
  • March 17, 10 a.m.
  • March 27, 6 p.m.
  • April 21, 10 a.m.
  • April 24, 6 p.m.
  • May 19, 10 a.m.
  • May 22, 6 p.m.
  • June 16, 10 a.m.
  • June 26, 6 p.m.

The dates at the Albion Outpatient Clinic are as follows:

  • Jan. 9, 6 p.m.
  • Feb. 13, 6 p.m.
  • March 13, 6 p.m.
  • April 10, 6 p.m.
  • May 8, 6 p.m.
  • June 12, 6 p.m.

Virtual training dates, all at 1 p.m., are Jan. 9, Feb. 13, March 13, April 10, May 8 and June 12.

Participants are asked to register in advance by sending an email to [email protected] or calling 585-815-1883.

Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. Examples of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, and morphine.

The GCASA series is partially funded by United Way.

November 10, 2022 - 8:38pm

mission_22_walk_2.jpg

Organized by Harry Rascoe, director of The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road, this group participated in the Mission 22 Walk on the Ellicott Trail from the DeWitt Recreation Area on Cedar Street to Seven Springs Road and back to The Recovery Station today to bring awareness to a high rate of suicide among the veteran population. "The Recovery Station (a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse) is here to help everyone in need but on this day we chose to shine a special light on our veterans and their struggles after returning home from military service," Rascoe said. Submitted photo.

October 31, 2022 - 4:47pm

trunk_or_treat_1a.jpg

Harry Rascoe (seated), director of The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road, welcomes a variety of characters during this afternoon's Trunk or Treat event. Six vehicles -- trunks decorated with Halloween themes -- were stationed around the parking lot and each offered treats for children of all ages.

trunk_or_treat_2a.jpg

"Pirate" Jess Budzinack, right, provides treats for 3 1/2-year-old Nevaeh, and Ariel Goldstein.

trunk_or_treat_3a.jpg

Jessica Powers and her children, Aleah and Cierra Greig, embrace the holiday spirit. The Recovery Station is a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

October 24, 2022 - 4:38pm

weddle_1.jpg

Students from Batavia High and Notre Dame participated in “Project Sticker Shock” this morning to kick off Red Ribbon Week, the annual end-of-October alcohol, tobacco, and other drug and violence prevention awareness campaign.

Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 as a tribute to Enrique Camarena, a fallen U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency special agent. According to the DEA, it is the nation's largest and longest-running drug awareness and prevention program.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said ND sophomore Jack Weddle (photo above) as he placed warning stickers on multi-packs of beer and hard seltzer at Tops Friendly Market in Batavia.

He was joined by ND senior Greg Narburgh and members of the ATOP (All Types of People) social club from Batavia High. The exercise was supervised by Carol Nicometo and Shellye Dale-Hall, prevention educators at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and Heidi Meides-Judge, counselor at Batavia High.

The stickers were colored bright orange and featured the following message:

Warning! It is illegal for any persons 21 or older to purchase or provide alcohol to minors. Fines up to $1,000 and/or 1 year in jail.

Prudence Favalora, one of the ATOP members, said that she will be reading the Red Ribbon Week honor code prior to tonight’s Batavia High junior varsity football game (6 p.m. start) at Van Detta Stadium.

Additionally, the Batavia City School District board of education issued a proclamation in observance of Red Ribbon Week and Batavia Middle and Batavia High parents signed pledges to keep their kids drug- and alcohol-free.

GCASA officials reported that Red Ribbon Week activities include special events at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road.

sticker_shock_kids_1.jpg

Photo: Students taking part in Project Sticker Shock are, front from left, Casey Reynolds, Kassandra Kessler, Prudence Favalora, Abbigayle Leone, Issac Tidd and Jen Ewert; back, Greg Narburgh and Jack Weddle. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

September 8, 2022 - 9:43am

rascoe_1.jpgFor someone in recovery, every sober day is cause for celebration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

September 2, 2022 - 5:33pm

kent_and_friends_1.jpg

State and local human services agencies, supported by the federal government, must pool their services to fight the scourge of substance use disorder that resulted in 108,000 overdose deaths last year, according to the general counsel of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“It’s no longer an ‘either or’ proposition, treatment instead of medication. We’re losing 100,000 people, so it’s everything and anything we can think of to get to people before they die,” said Rob Kent of Haymarket, Va., a Syracuse native who served as general counsel at the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports for 13 years prior to his appointment with the Biden administration.

Kent spoke at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road as guest of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, which kicked off its National Recovery Month activities this morning. About 30 people from GCASA and other organizations attended.

As a key figure in the adoption of the 150-page National Drug Control Strategy, Kent said his office has placed a high priority on harm reduction – principles and services that include prevention, testing, treatment and care, along with distribution of overdose reversal supplies such as naloxone kits (NARCAN), fentanyl test strips, sharps disposal and medication disposal kits, and sterile needles and syringes.

Kent said billions of dollars have been appropriated to this initiative.

“We were accused of being very heavy in the strategy of harm reduction by certain folks in Congress, but we have to be -- we've got to get to people before they die,” Kent said. “We need to get them connected.”

He added that he will use whatever laws are on the books in an effort to save lives.

'THE RIGHT THING TO DO'

“I'm completely uninterested in winning people's hearts and minds. We will force them to do what they need to do because the law helps us. They'll figure out, by the way, down the road, that it was the right thing to do on a human level,” he said. “They might not be there at the beginning … but they’ll figure it out when they're doing it.”

Kent said that he kept the goal of reducing drug overdose deaths at the forefront of his mind as he wrote the criminal justice section of the national strategy.

“I will say that I'm proud of the document; we believe it is a good blueprint,” he said. “We're going to go around the country trying to tell the folks what we think needs to be done to stop the number of people who are dying from drug overdose.”

He emphasized that law enforcement needs to stop arresting people for drug use or drug possession.

“It just doesn’t work and it has not worked,” he said. “It overwhelms the criminal justice system with folks they're really not equipped to deal with. We want people to be deflected, diverted. And we've written model laws for states. And I'm going to preach that everywhere I go. We ought to be offering help and services to those folks, whatever that might mean.”

Kent acknowledged that people with addictions will commit crimes, and those people may have been receiving counseling and medication-assisted-treatment in the community.

PROVIDING HELP FOR THOSE IN JAIL

“We can't end that when they end up in a state and local jail. We have to continue that,” he said, noting that jails in Niagara, Monroe, Erie and other New York State counties are offering medications for opioid use disorder. “We need a plan and connections, before they reenter society … and we’re working on that across the nation.”

One of those connections locally is GCASA’s Reentry Program, which provides case management, peer recovery support and housing to individuals returning to the community after incarceration.

He said another priority is to “massively increase access to Naloxone.”

“Personally, I believe everybody ought to carry naloxone. And I say that everywhere I go, and some folks will say, ‘No, I don't need to carry that because I'm not around those kinds of people.’ And I politely say, ‘Well, you are.’”

Calling addiction “a human addiction,” Kent said it’s a matter of caring for others and showing love for those in need.

“I don’t like to throw numbers around because those are people (who have died),” he said. “Yesterday I spoke in Rochester, and a woman came up to me and gave me the mass card for her daughter. She was 27 years old and died in April. One time. It only takes once now.”

CARTELS POISONING AMERICA

Kent was referring to the fentanyl epidemic that is being fueled by the cartels south of the border.

“Not only do I know what's happening on the demand side -- the treatment side, prevention, recovery and harm reduction, but I hear about what's coming in,” he said. “And it's scary. The cartels are now pressing fentanyl into fake pills, fake oxycontin, Adderall, Xanax, you name it. And most people don't even know it.”

He said folks will come in and say they’re using meth or using cocaine, “and when you test the drugs, it’s all fentanyl. That’s what’s going on.”

Kent credited the professionals at GCASA, mental health and other agencies who have invested their lives into seeing others recover and succeed.

“If you don't think that the staff in a program is pained when one of their folks who left dies, then you don't understand the programs,” he shared. “I've been to too many conferences where staff came up to me and talked to me about the trauma they were experiencing because people left treatment. Before, when people would leave (treatment), they were able to come back. They might not now.”

Photo: From left, Lynda Battaglia, director of Genesee County Mental Health & Community Services; Avi Israel, president and founder of Save the Michaels of the World, Inc., of Buffalo; Rob Kent, general counsel of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Danielle Figura, director of Community Services of Orleans County Department of Mental Health. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

August 24, 2022 - 8:32pm

jarett_1.jpg“My name is Jarett LoCicero and you can find me at the GCASA recovery center, helping out with services for those looking to be themselves, feel better and maybe even live their dreams.”

That’s the way LoCicero, a Batavia resident in his fourth year of recovery, ended his six-minute talk this afternoon at the annual Overdose Awareness Day hosted by the GOW Opioid Task Force at Austin Park. He was able to pack a powerful message into his speech -- reflecting the event’s theme of reducing the stigma attached to addiction and letting people know that help is right around the corner.

Now a case manager at The Recovery Station operated by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, LoCicero (photo above) shared that changing the perception of himself was key to his road to recovery.

“Today, we're speaking vaguely from a person's point of view that's been afflicted with the disease of addiction, and their capacity to change that perspective,” he said. “Ultimately, what stops the person from this change? And, maybe when someone is scratching at the fronts of their eyes to see themselves follow through with the decision, a change or a commitment, they fall short again, and again, ultimately not feeling as if they could succeed despite the best and most pure of intentions?”

He talked about the agony felt by the person caught up in substance use and for their families. As a result, he said, that person “can die for this or die for change, a desire to feel different -- the very nature of an overdose or instant gratification, and why many of us have gathered here today.”

Upon realization that someone has a problem, LoCicero said it then becomes a matter of perspective – and the change in that perspective can be accelerated by the encouragement from those who care.

“Once perspective may be supported by ‘I’ statements, such as I am, I can't, I won't, I come from this, I'm cut from that cloth, this is my culture, stay in your lane. This will never happen or workout for me,” he said. “But, despite all of that, a person will say to themselves if I just had X, Y and Z, I could do this. If the light could just shine down on me. I could do this and make a difference in my life.

LOVE AND SUPPORT ARE VITAL

“Because it's my life. What X, Y and Z boil down to being mostly in every case is our common and essential needs -- love and care support, personal needs that allow one the opportunity to self-actualize and become their dream.”

LoCicero said that once he saw his life through a different filter – “and put in some effort” – his perspective changed and his life changed “nearly instantly.”

He said his breakthrough to believing in himself has led to a desire to help others do the same thing.

“It’s what we can do for folks, (show that) we care about suffering with the disease of addiction, a disease of a lifestyle, and we can contribute to optimal conditions necessary for growth and opportunity by making folks aware of our want and commitment to help, most importantly, proving to them that it's possible,” he said.

LoCicero said those in attendance representing human services and health agencies want nothing more but to reach out to those struggling with addiction and “have you join the community – your community – or at least to reduce your potential for harm.”

In closing, he shared a three-step approach that pulled him out of bondage.

“If you can put yourself in front of God, you will find a miracle. If you work hard enough and grind hard enough, you may find your cure. If you be yourself, that's the only way you can find change and find happiness. If you do all three of these things, and if you ask for help, undoubtedly you will recover.”

PETTIT: PREVENTING DEATHS ARE A PRIORITY

oad_scene_1.jpg

Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, (in photo above), applauded the work of the GOW Opioid Task Force, the three-county partnership of agencies that has been is place for the past five years.

“Preventing opioid overdose deaths … is one of the priority goals of the GOW Community Health Improvement Plan,” Pettit said, mentioning that drug overdose is the leading cause of injury mortality in the United States. “The opioid epidemic is an urgent and serious public health and public safety issue.”

Nationally, more than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses last year, and worldwide, the number approached 600,000. And, after trending down in 2018 and 2019, the numbers are increasing once again, he said.

“In Genesee County, there were 15 fatal opioid overdoses in 2020 – 15 too many,” Pettit said, “with six in Orleans County and seven in Wyoming County.”

He cited the rise in fentanyl and synthetic opioids and in concurrent stimulant use, especially cocaine.

“The takeaway from this is that people are dying of fentanyl overdoses when they only mean to take cocaine or another stimulant, and might not know they are at risk of an overdose at all,” he said.

BENNETT: OPEN ACCESS TO TREATMENT

GCASA Executive Director John Bennett shared that the Overdose Awareness Day initiative, which was started in Australia in 2001, now is celebrated internationally, with 367 events in the U.S. and around 600 outside of America’s borders.

“It’s an honor for us to be able to present this to our community,” he said. “As I go to the different booths here today, I am hearing people having good conversations with community members. It’s all about reducing the stigma of people with addiction. It's about giving people who've lost loved ones a place to talk about-- without stigma, without shame and without guilt -- in a really kind, positive and friendly zone.”

Bennett pointed the agency’s recently-opened Detox Center on East Main Street as a place “that is already saving lives.”

“We offer open access; you can just walk in and we’ll see you. Just last Thursday, I think we have seven admissions,” he said. “Doing events like this in the community brings awareness. So, my advice is if you need help, there's open access centers all around Western New York. Go to one of them, and they'll get you where you need to be. Or call me. My number is 585-815-1850 and I'll find you a place.”

Other speakers were Christopher Budzinack, a residential counselor at GCASA’s Atwater Community Residence, who spoke about his recovery from addiction and jail time, and Niki Lang, who read a letter and poem written by her son, Jason, who died in 2017 due to substance use disorder.

More than a dozen agencies had booths at the event, including Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans counties, Genesee County Office for the Aging, Batavia Community Schools, Genesee County Mental Health, Genesee Justice, National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, Job Corps, Rochester Regional Health, CORE, Restore, Genesee County Health Department, Oak Orchard Health, Suicide Prevention Coalition, Care-A-Van Ministries, Horizon, Fidelis Care, Molina Healthcare and WNY Heroes (for veterans).

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

prayer_1.jpg

The Rev. Vern Saile, pastor of Northgate Free Methodist Church, giving the invocation at Overdose Awareness Day.

groove_1.jpg

"The Groove" belts out covers of classic rock songs -- from left, Joe Gagne, Pete Gomez, Neil Gagne and Bob Smith.

messages_1.jpg

Messages of hope form the pieces of the puzzle at the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence. Erin Egloff, left, and Kaitlyn Mellina provide services in the Finger Lakes region.

face_paint_1.jpg

Melody McMaster brightens up the day for 8-year-old Avi at the face painting booth.

rrh_1.jpg

The team from Rochester Regional Health (parent of United Memorial Medical Center) is ready to share with the public.

funny_farm_1.jpg

Animal attraction in the form of Frega's Funny Farm of Stafford.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

August 15, 2022 - 2:14pm

detox_2a.jpg

In an ongoing effort to meet people right where they’re at, the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse staff is offering an “open access” first step to substance use disorder recovery.

“We’re pleased to announce that men and women seeking detoxification are able to come to our Detox Center (attached to the Atwater Community Residence at 424 East Main St.) without appointment from Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. to begin their path to wellness,” said Allison Parry-Gurak, GCASA’s director of Residential Services.

Upon arrival at the recently-opened Detox Center, which provides 16 beds for short-term (usually three to seven days) detoxification treatment and services, the person in need will be screened by a medical professional and, if appropriate, will be assigned to a bed the same day, Parry-Gurak advised.

The facility enlists the services of medial and technical staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week and counseling services 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Our Detox Center employees are specially trained and certified to assist people who require these short-term services – those showing mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms and suffering from mild, moderate or severe substance use disorder stemming from alcohol, opioid or benzodiazepine addiction.”

Parry-Gurak said the Detox Center – along with GCASA’s supportive living residences – have beds available.

“We encourage people not to try and detox at home,” she said. “Here, we will provide the care and treatment they need – meeting with a counselor every day, participating in individual and group therapy sessions and supported by peer advocates – before guiding them to medically-assisted treatment.”

The Detox Center is, in many cases, the initial phase in the road to recovery provided by GCASA.

After detoxification, patients can transition to the Atwater Community Residence, a 17-bed facility for men and women that provides counseling and treatment services for up to a six-month stay.

“The criteria (for admission) is a bit different,” Parry-Gurak said. “People have to have at least 10 days since their last (substance) use, but it is open to those struggling to an expanded area of substance use disorder.

GCASA’s supportive living program features 24 beds in Genesee and Orleans counties.

Parry-Gurak said supportive living works well for adults who have been in recovery for some time and are ready for independent care.

“It’s apartment-style living, with openings for men and women,” she said, adding that appointments are required for entry into Atwater and the supportive living homes (by calling 585-813-6508).

As far as the Detox Center’s benefits, she said having the facility in Batavia makes it much easier for Genesee area residents to get immediate help.

“In the past, we would have to send people to Erie County Medical Center, Strong Memorial (in Rochester) to Warsaw (Wyoming County Community Hospital),” she said. “With our center now open and having all insurance approvals in place, we’re providing that immediate care for those still actively using.”

For more information about the Detox Center, call 585-815-1860.

Submitted photo: The Detox Center at GCASA, which opened in March, is attached to the rear of the Atwater Community Residence on East Main Street.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

July 26, 2022 - 11:15am

gow_group_july_2022_a.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHILDCARE SERVICES AVAILABLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THRIVING NETWORK IN BUFFALO AREA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIG PLANS FOR ORLEANS COUNTY

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

July 13, 2022 - 1:57pm

clyde_graphic_1.jpgDid you know:

  • That more than two-thirds of students in Genesee and Orleans counties in grades 7, 9 and 11 who reported drinking alcoholic beverages said they got it at home – some with their parents’ permission and others without their parents’ knowledge of the behavior?
  • That slightly less than 20 percent of 11th graders in the two counties reported past 30-day use of an electronic cigarette or vape pen with nicotine?
  • That less than 40 percent of students perceive there is harm caused by marijuana use, which represents a significant decrease over previous years?

Those are just three of the critical data points derived from the Community-Level Youth Development Evaluation survey administered to students in grades 7, 9 and 11 in 2021. The survey was commissioned by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and facilitated with the assistance of Catalyst Insight of Depew.

The survey, known as CLYDE, is modeled after the former Communities That Care Youth Survey, a nationally validated study developed at the University of Washington to assess youth attitudes, behaviors and community risk and protective factors. It also incorporates elements from the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey by Bach Harrison.

GCASA has been surveying youth at the Genesee and Orleans schools it has had relationships with for several years. The latest survey resulted in 2,234 valid responses from pupils in the three grade levels.

“It was determined to survey these particular grades, especially 11th graders – understanding that they would be seniors the following year and that strategies could be applied to prevention efforts targeting those students, if needed,” said Shannon Ford, director of Prevention at GCASA.

GAUGING PUPILS' USAGE, PERCEPTIONS

The survey’s questions are formulated in a way to procure accurate information regarding students’ usage of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and their perception when it comes to parental attitudes and the degree of harm caused by these substances.

Core measures include past 30-day use, perception of harm of substance use, perception of parental disapproval of substance use and perception of peer disapproval of substance use.

Risk factors explored -- related to an increased likelihood of substance use problems for youth -- included favorable laws and norms, perceived availability of drugs, family conflict, commitment to school and peers’ attitudes and use of alcohol, cigarettes and/or drugs.

Protective factors, or areas where youth can be shielded from substance use, include opportunities for social involvement, family attachment and belief in laws and norms.

“In general, students believe that their parents are opposed to ATOD (alcohol, tobacco and other drug) use, but it is concerning that 69 percent of those who reported they drink – about 23 percent of those surveyed – say they obtained the alcohol at home, both with and without parental permission,” Ford said.

Sheila Harding, GCASA’s assistant director of Prevention, said the agency continues to emphasize the dangers involved with students’ drinking at home or at their friends’ homes.

“Too many parents are not understanding the risks involved in allowing underage drinking in their homes,” she said. “There are liability issues, potential injury or even death and criminal implications. The responsible answer is to not allow this activity.”

VAPING: AN INCREASING CONCERN

Vaping is an increasing concern, Ford said, adding that “an alarming number” of 7th-graders – 3 percent -- have indicated they are vaping with nicotine.

As noted above, 19.7 percent of 11th graders in the two counties reported vaping with nicotine in the past 30 days while another 11.1 percent reported vaping with marijuana over the same time period.

“Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances around and now we’re seeing vaping with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis),” Harding said. “These vape pens are being marketed to our youth and we’re seeing harmful effects on the adolescent brain which isn’t fully developed.”

The survey revealed that marijuana use by 11th-graders was at 14.4 percent – which is down by about 50 percent from the survey of three years ago. Interestingly, the students’ perception of harm is at 38.7 percent, which also is less than previous years.

“This perception data is likely due to cannabis legalization and the use of medical marijuana,” Ford said. “But just because it is legal for adults, it doesn’t remove the risk to students. It’s still illegal for those under 21.”

LEGALIZING POT CHANGES VIEWS

 On a national level, rapid decreases in marijuana risk perceptions by adolescents have not translated to a dramatic drop in usage, however.

“Prevention leaders may need to consider different strategies as well as targeting cannabis use risk perceptions,” Ford offered. “As more states legalize recreational marijuana use, further monitoring of predicted use trends are essential.”

Ford pointed out that although much of the national focus is on the opioid epidemic, GCASA and other agencies haven’t pulled back their prevention strategies when it comes to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

“We’ve been able to secure grants for compliance checks of retail establishments in both counties – something that we haven’t done in awhile but will be getting back to,” she said. “In the past, we have found that bars, restaurants and convenience stores are doing a good job of not selling to those under the legal drinking age.”

Other key findings from the 2021 CLYDE survey are as follows:

  • Past 30-day alcohol use in grade 11 fell to 19.6 percent – down from 46 percent in grade 11 in Orleans in 2019 and from 33 percent in grade 10 and 50 percent in Genesee in 2018.
  • Around 90 percent of 11th-graders indicate parental disapproval of alcohol and cigarettes but that drops to 78 percent when it comes to marijuana.
  • Concerning peer disapproval, overall the percentages range from 78 to 88 regarding alcohol, tobacco and prescription drug use, but it falls to 74 percent concerning marijuana.

When looking at risk factors, 60 percent of students surveyed indicated a low commitment to school was the leading risk factor, followed by 45 percent that reported parental attitudes favorable to substance use and conflicts in the family unit.

ADDRESSING PROTECTIVE FACTORS

On the protective side, 71.6 percent responded that social skills were important, followed by 65 percent who indicated the importance of extracurricular activities in school and 60 percent who indicated the availability of community service programs.

“Social skills are enhanced by evidence-based programs in schools offered by GCASA and by the individual schools, while prosocial involvement is enhanced by community service hours and volunteering,” Ford said.

Prevention initiatives – by agencies such as GCASA and through school-based programming – have led to a significant decrease in binge drinking (five or more alcoholic drinks in a row over the past two weeks), she added.

“Overall, just 5 percent reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. That means that 95 percent of students are not doing this,” she said. “We’d like to believe that our prevention efforts are taking hold.”

Another area of concern is the mental and emotional health of students, especially coming out of two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The survey indicated that 33.4 percent of students reported that sometimes life is not worth it, 44 percent said I am no good and that 40 percent were depressed – and it was consistent across the three grade levels,” Ford said. “Without question, COVID has had an effect on students, but more resources need to be devoted to addressing this issue.”

For more information about the CLYDE survey or GCASA’s Prevention efforts, contact Harding at [email protected].

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

April 21, 2022 - 11:51am

gcasa_trio_1.jpg

By integrating the opioid treatment program and outpatient counseling clinic, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has connected the care warranted in a society dealing with the effects of a global pandemic and the stress caused by economic uncertainty.

“Here at GCASA and, hopefully, at other agencies in the behavioral health field, we take a person-centered approach, and medication and treatment go hand-in-hand,” said Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer at the nonprofit agency based on East Main Street in Batavia.

The medication prescribed to a person struggling with substance abuse disorder, whether it be suboxone or methadone, is going to help with the physical symptoms, Hodgins said, while counseling with GCASA trained clinicians is important in unlocking changes in behavior.

“It’s the same with a medical condition, such as diabetes and heart disease. You can give a medication to lower blood pressure, but it's not going to be as effective if you do not have a change in lifestyle to go along with it,” she added. “We give them the tools, not just medication, to learn how to cope with anxiety, depression and trauma without using illicit drugs.”

The OTP (or methadone) clinic attached to the back of the main building opened in the fall of 2018 as a “standalone” clinic.  Hodgins said GCASA recently applied for – and received – a license to integrate the OTP clinic with the outpatient clinic.

“Until now, individuals receiving treatment at the OTP clinic could only participate in services offered through the OTP clinic.  This really limited treatment options for individuals in the OTP,” she said.

STAFFING FLEXIBILITY IS PARAMOUNT

With the integration, GCASA has been able to optimize the utilization of its medical professionals and counselors, she said.

“This really allows our counselors to help our patients at the OTP and outpatient clinic by providing a more person-centered approach to care – regardless of whether the individual is on suboxone or methadone. Patients can now attend groups and individual sessions that fit their individual recovery plan and needs,” she explained.

Shannon Murphy, director of Treatment at the Batavia clinic, said the integration has additionally resulted in scheduling flexibility for the staff, something of utmost importance in light that about 10 full-time counselors are providing services to around 240 patients in OTP and another 220 or so in the outpatient clinic.

The demand for services has gone up considerably in the past two years, she said, referring to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on those at risk of a reoccurrence as well as other societal factors.

Along with substance use disorder counselors, GCASA’s Batavia clinic also employs a medical director, assistant director, clinical supervisors, two nurse practitioners, five full-time nurses and a physician’s assistant.

FENTANYL: A GAME-CHANGER

Having the proper number of medical personnel on staff has taken on added significance with the emergence of the deadly drug fentanyl, Murphy said.

“Fentanyl has dramatically changed our work as people are sicker now than ever before,” she offered. “Treatment methods that used to help people – prior to the opioid epidemic are just not enough anymore. Medication Assisted Treatment has become a vital part of the services we offer.

“Before we can start to help someone heal from an opioid use disorder, people need to physically feel better.  Fentanyl has made this more challenging due to how harmful it is and how prevalent it has become.”

Murphy said that five or six years ago, individuals would test positive for heroin, for example, and they would be shocked when they learned they also had fentanyl in their system.

“At that time, they were scared. Now, they come in and they’re positive for fentanyl only and they are not afraid of it because they don’t think they will be the next to overdose,” she said. “Similar to when we drive too fast or check a text on our phone while driving. We don't think getting hurt will happen to us, until it does.”

Allison Parry-Gurak, director of Residential Services, said tests are showing that fentanyl is present in many illicit substances, not just heroin.

“For example, we have individuals with a stimulant use disorder whose primary substance is cocaine.  More and more frequently, we are finding when we test them they are also positive for fentanyl but they have no history with opioids.” she said.

The scariest part of the fentanyl epidemic is the frequency of overdose.

“We've gotten phone calls from agencies in Rochester and reporting they’ve had six overdoses,” Murphy said. “The hardest part is that the people we see that are having fatal overdoses are patients who have gone long periods without use. And then for various reasons or circumstance they have a reoccurrence, sometimes only one time, and those are the people that are dying because their bodies aren't used to the fentanyl.”

A CONTINUUM OF CARE

Parry-Gurak oversees the Atwater Community Residence, as well as several other residential programs offered by GCASA. She said the agency’s ability to expand services over the years gives patients a greater chance in their recovery.

“Well, I think the beauty of this campus is that we pretty much offer the whole continuum of care all on one campus. Additionally, all of our programs have such great working relationships with each other and are able to work collaboratively to support our patients,” she said.

“So, there’s the residences plus now we have the detox center for those in need of medical supervision while they start their recovery journey (usually three to seven days), and then there is the outpatient treatment programs all in one place.”

Hodgins mentioned that the system is working.

“Having a campus like this where we can do the continuum of care is a great thing,” she said. “People will come to detox and then transition to Atwater, and/or walk over to the clinic for their treatment.”

GCASA also offers The Recovery Station, a drug- and alcohol-free social setting at the former Bohn’s Restaurant building on Clinton Street Road, and a shuttle service for those in need of transportation.

For Hodgins and Murphy, both longtime employees at GCASA, integration, effective medications and counseling, and expansion of services provide opportunities for people with a substance use disorder to live healthy lives.

TIME TO WITHHOLD JUDGMENT

All three women also mentioned the need to eliminate the stigma associated with substance use disorder.

“We deal with a disease that is encompassed in shame, guilt and hurt,” Parry-Gurak said. “A lot of times, people that are pointing the finger saying to us, ‘What are you doing? You're not helping them? Or you're just giving them more ‘drugs’ are either someone who has been hurt by someone with a substance use disorder or someone who truly does not understand how difficult and complex this disease is.”

Murphy acknowledged that substance use disorder is “an ugly disease, and the behaviors that can be associated with it are not pretty.”

“Therefore, the stigma associated with substance use disorder is so strong in our society and this creates an additional obstacle for those with a substance use disorder,” she added.

When asked how she measures success, Hodgins said the word has different meanings for different people.

“It's really hard to define,” she responded. “People ask me all the time, what's your success rate? It's very hard to define because it's all individualized.”

ACCESS TO SERVICES

Hodgins, Murphy and Parry-Gurak said they know that many area residents are in need of substance use services and that GCASA has an open access policy where walk-ins are accepted.

Murphy said all prospective patients are assessed to see what treatment is appropriate,

“It’s about having a conversation.  With methadone, it’s a little different because things need to be done before they're actually admitted,” Murphy said. “There's a very specific process but it all starts with a phone call to our main number, 343-1124.”

For more information about GCASA’s treatment programs, call 585-343-1124 or visit gcasa.net. Walk-in assessments, with no appointment necessary, are done on Tuesday through Thursday prior to 11:15 a.m.

Photo: From left, Holly Main, assistant director; Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer; Danielle Ludeke, integrated clinic director, at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

January 28, 2022 - 11:42am

rob-kent_photo.jpgAccording to the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, about 100,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses in a year’s time through May 2021 and that number only will increase unless treatment providers emphasize the human aspect of substance use disorder.

That was the message conveyed from Haymarket, Va., by Rob Kent, general counsel for the White House Office of National Drug Policy, during last week’s GOW Opioid Task Force quarterly meeting via Zoom videoconferencing.

“We need to understand in that 100,000 number … that’s 100,000 people who have brothers, sisters mothers, fathers, grandparents and kids themselves. It’s human,” said Kent, who previously served in a similar position for the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports and frequently worked with personnel at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Kent said that when people view addiction beyond the human element, “we just we lose the opportunity to do what we need to do -- which is to help people stay alive.”

During his time with OASAS, Kent was instrumental in creating the Certified Recovery Peer Advocate program that enlists people, primarily, who are in recovery and can relate to those in need.

“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” he said. “We mandate that insurance -- both Medicaid and private insurance -- pay for them because they help engage people and they're even more critical right now.

“People respond positively to others who can come to them and say, ‘I know what you're going through, I walked that walk before -- I know what it's like.’ I'm not saying they're the end-all, but they’re certainly a key component of what needs to be done.”

GCASA has woven CRPAs into its recovery policy, utilizing peers at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road and in other programs in both counties.

Kent pointed out that illegal fentanyl has become a major problem.

“I know there's an uptick with meth (methamphetamine), but illegal fentanyl is being mixed into everything,” he said. “And I think it's important for us to understand that it is lethal; it kills people easily. And it it's changed the ballgame.”

Of that 100,000 number, more than 5,000 are dying in New York State, Kent said.

Kent said the federal government has sent billions of dollars to the states in supplemental block grant funding. In March 2021, New York received $104 million from the stimulus package and, a few months later, received another $90 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

He said another $50 million to $100 million is expected to flow to the states over the next few years.

While the money is vital, spending it properly is just as important, Kent said.

“I’m not paying enough attention to New York to know how much has been spent, but they should be spending it because people are dying right now,” he said. “I’m very optimistic with the new (OASAS) commissioner (Chinazo Cunningham) that she gets what's going on. She has a heart; she cares and she will try her best to do the right thing.”

Kent said the Biden Administration has made harm reduction a key element of its comprehensive approach to addressing substance use disorders through prevention, treatment, and recovery where individuals who use substances set their own goals. Federal funds are being used to purchase fentanyl test strips and other testing equipment, sponsor syringe service programs, expand access to Naloxone and create guidelines for streamlined and expanded buprenorphine prescribing.

“I know there's reactions (from people) to harm reduction generally into the services I just talked about,” he said. “Some folks will tell you, you're enabling the drug use. I say that when we don't do those things, we're ignoring that it's happening.”

Connecting with those dealing with substance use disorder in genuine and meaningful ways ultimately will make the biggest difference, Kent said.

“We need to understand that we can continue to sit here and talk about drug use as a failure of will – a lack of personal strength, whatever you want to call it -- and we can continue to do that and watch more and more people in this country die from drug use, or we could embrace people,” he said. “We could understand they're human beings. They have families, they have loved ones, and when we focus on it from that perspective, everything then becomes possible.”

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

January 25, 2022 - 9:54am

Press release:

Evidence-based prevention services at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse will be receiving a nearly $40,000 boost thanks to an award announced over the weekend by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

GCASA is one of 87 agencies throughout New York’s 10 economic development regions that had their services negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants will be administered by the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

The local nonprofit organization will use the funds to enhance its environmental strategy efforts, specifically to fund law enforcement compliance checks in Genesee and Orleans counites, and also to purchase programming for school prevention education and to upgrade its ability to use technology in the delivery of its services, Prevention Director Shannon Ford said.

“We are thankful to Gov. Hochul’s office for accepting our grant application,” Ford said, “and are looking forward to working with the City of Batavia Police Department, Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and Orleans County Sheriff’s Office to make sure establishments that serve alcohol are checking IDs.”

About two-thirds of the $39,417 in funding will be appropriated for environmental strategies, including social media posts and targeted advertising, Ford added.

In its grant application, GCASA indicated that individuals or businesses found to be out of compliance in the distribution of alcohol will be referred to the agency’s Responsible Server Training program for employees.

“For the media portion of the strategy, we will submit press releases to local media recognizing establishments who are in compliance with the Alcohol Beverage Control laws specific to underage drinking,” Ford said. “We will also use social media to boost prevention messages and create targeted ads for youth and adults regarding the dangers of underage drinking and consequences for serving underage youth.  In addition, we will create and print materials targeting adults and youth with prevention messages regarding the dangers of underage drinking.”

In announcing the awards, Hochul spoke off alcohol’s impact on her family.

“Like many New Yorkers, my family has been affected by addiction," she said. "Expanding support services for those dealing with addiction is as vital as ever as we battle the opioid crisis. We will continue to work with local partners to boost preventative measures and treatment to help set New Yorkers on the path to recovery.”

OASAS Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham said, “Prevention is an important pillar of the OASAS continuum of care, and during the COVID-19 pandemic our prevention providers have faced unprecedented challenges in delivering their services. Providers awarded funding through this initiative have the opportunity to greatly increase their prevention infrastructure, and make the changes that they need to continue to provide these lifesaving services in the communities they serve.”

Subscribe to The Batavian - Local Matters

Copyright © 2008-2022 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
 

blue button

News Break