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GO Health educates public on ticks and tick borne diseases

By Press Release
Submitted photo of tick dragging.

Press Release:

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) encourage residents to protect themselves, their children, and their pets from tick-borne diseases. Not all ticks can cause disease and not all bites will make you sick, but as ticks become more widespread, there is a higher risk the ticks will carry disease. 

It is important to learn how to prevent a bite, how to check for ticks, how to remove a tick, and what to do if you think you could have a tick-borne disease. 

“Lyme disease is endemic (widespread) throughout New York State,” states Brenden Bedard, Director of Community Health Services for GO Health. “Lyme disease is also the most common disease spread by ticks in New York, but there are other serious diseases ticks spread including Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. There are many different species of ticks, but locally the most common is the deer tick. The deer tick is a vector (carrier) for several diseases (Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis) and received the name because of its habit of living and feeding on white-tailed deer, however, ticks acquire Lyme disease by feeding on infected mice and other small rodents,” stated Bedard.

“According to the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, Genesee and Orleans Counties have had 36 local cases of Lyme disease between 2018-2020,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for GO Health. “Ticks are here locally and you can’t tell which are infected by disease or not.”

Ticks are found in many types of settings such as woodlands, tree stumps, lawns and gardens, around stone walls, nature trails, outdoor summer camps, and playing fields. Ticks do not jump or fly, they attach to their host when a human or animal makes contact with something that a tick is on, like tall grass, shrubs, or an animal. The risk of human infection with Lyme disease is greatest in late spring and summer, but ticks can be active any time the temperature is above freezing. 

“We know the ticks that cause Lyme disease are in Western New York, that is why it is so important to make sure you do regular checks for ticks while outdoors and when you first get home,” said Pettit. “It is also important to check pets for ticks after they spend time outdoors.”

GO Health started conducting local tick surveillance in both counties this month. Tick dragging is a widely used technique for the active collection of host-seeking ticks and is done by dragging a cloth over the top of vegetation and regularly checking it for the presence of ticks. The collected ticks are sent to the laboratory and tested for the presence of tick-borne diseases. Over the next few months, health department staff will continue tick dragging in local parks and public places.

To prevent tick-borne illness exposure while outdoors, you and your family can do the following: (

  • Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
  • Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
  • Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently while outdoors.
  • Use insect repellent with 20-30% DEET. Follow the instructions.
  • Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid dense woods and busy areas.
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.
  • Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.

Additional prevention tips to create a tick-free zone in your backyard to keep you, your family, and pets safe from tick exposure include: (

  • Keep grass mowed, along with clearing tall grasses and brush.
  • Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and woodpiles.
  • Keep woodpiles and bird feeders away from your home.
  • Keep family dogs and cats out of wooded areas to reduce ticks brought into your home.
  • Place swing sets, sand boxes, decks and patios in a sunny spot away from yard edges and trees.
  • Place a 3 foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment.

To properly remove a tick, you should use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the ticks by its mouthparts, as close to the surface of the skin as you can. Carefully pull the tick straight up without twisting. Do not touch the tick. Do not squeeze the body of the tick (it may increase your risk of infection). Clean your hands and the areas on your skin where the tick was. Watch the site of the bite for rash (3-30 days after bite). 

Removing a tick within 36 hours of attachment to the skin can lower the risk of contracting Lyme disease. You can view the following video to learn more about what you can do if you find a tick attached to you:

To learn more about ticks, Lyme disease and other diseases ticks can spread visit the New York State Department of Health, 

For more information on Health Department programs and services, visit or call your respective health department at:

  • Genesee County: 585-344-2580 ext. 5555
  • Orleans County: 585-589-3278

Follow GO Health on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at GOHealthNY.

Some areas of NY seeing more COVID, Genesee has moderate increase

By Joanne Beck

While some areas in New York are seeing an uptick in COVID cases — enough to warrant stricter masking policies — that hasn’t been the case in Genesee County so far, Genesee and Rochester Regional Health officials say.

Two Upstate Medical hospitals recently reported revised policies to reinstate mandatory masking for all staff, visitors and patients in clinical areas of the hospitals’ spaces, and masking was also strongly encouraged for non-clinical areas as well, according to news reports

Genesee Orleans (GO) Health’s Public Information Officer Kaitlin Pettine said that there’s been an increase in COVID cases in the second week of August, but there has not been any new masking policy considered.

Her agency is reflecting the recommendations set forth by the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at this time, even though “medical centers/systems can also determine their protocols at their own discretion.”

"For the week of August 9 to 15, Genesee County had 10 new cases,” Pettine said. “As expected, we are seeing new strains of COVID. Each strain will present with varying levels of transmissibility and severity.  We will continue to monitor activity in our communities and provide recommendations as indicated."

Rochester Regional Health is seeing some increase in COVID inpatient admissions, but the number is considered “rather small,” communications specialist Cristina Domingues Umbrino said.  

“We are not considering reinstituting the mask mandate at this time,” she said. “Some restrictions remain in high-risk areas.”

Hospital restriction policies are available HERE.

As everyone moves into the fall season, Pettine encourages residents to practice the following public health advice for all respiratory illnesses: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often. If soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider and get vaccinated. 

If you're curious about local cases, GO Health updates COVID-19 data on Wednesdays at the GO Health website 

Taking walkability to the street: finding ways to make crosswalks safer

By Joanne Beck
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
A pop-up demonstration Friday in downtown Batavia showed pedestrians and motorists alike ways to slow traffic and make crosswalks safer. 
Photo by Howard Owens

Ann Falco made a special trip to visit downtown Batavia Friday afternoon to share her many thoughts about sections of Bank Street being safe to cross -- or not.

Members of a county health committee had set up displays of potential future curbing, lights and artistic license to demonstrate ways to help slow down traffic and make crosswalks a more viable way to cross over from the east and west sides of Bank Street at three points between Main Street and Washington Avenue. 

“I came just for this,” Falco said as organizers were wrapping up their survey stations. “It’s a joy to drive down Park Road. I want to see that replicated here.”

Falco said that she didn’t want to use the crosswalk leading closest to the Senior Center, and therefore she spoke to The Batavian as organizers were on the opposite side of the street moments before it began to rain.

She had given the matter careful time and consideration, writing down a page's worth of notes about what’s been done on Park Road at the crosswalk in front of Batavia Downs Gaming. Falco appreciates the small, young trees every five to six feet along the road, the speed bumps before and after the crosswalk, yellow warning cones with reminders to “stop” when pedestrians are in the walk — three of them at the Downs — and decorative street lamps and flags, she said. 

In similar fashion, why can’t Bank Street have speed bumps, more warnings to motorists, and decorative embellishments, she wondered. She hopes that her suggestions will be taken.

Emily, who asked that her last name not be used, was pleased with the new look on Friday. She takes that crosswalk all the time to YMCA, and she liked the new, albeit temporary, setup.

“It definitely made me go slower when driving and definitely alerted me of the crosswalk,” she said. “I work at the Y, and one of the worst parts is crossing the street. Anything they can do to make it safer is a good thing.”

She was one of the 94 people that gave positive feedback during the nearly four hours the Genesee Orleans Health Department staff surveyed walkers.

GO Health workers
GO Health staff Meghan Sheridan, Emily Nojeim and Cora Young.
Photo by Joanne Beck

“Everyone loved the set-up. They said the greenery was really pretty,” Emily Nojeim said. “They want safer places to walk.”

She had ticked off 93 people by about 1:45 p.m. after beginning at 10 a.m. She and fellow staff members also asked why people chose that crosswalk over another makeshift one set up several feet north, and most people said because they parked directly across from it in the lot. 

Parked on the sidewalk at the other crosswalk, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari had tallied up 70 pedestrians. 

“They said it was more functional, and it’s a pretty artistic crosswalk. With the bump-outs, it’s a shorter distance to walk, they said. ‘It’s about time’ we had this, and ‘this is where I used to jay-walk,’” Oltramari said. 

There were two people that said his group members were wasting their time and that people will cross wherever they want to, he said. A delivery driver suggested that they reconsider the turf with straw curbing directly across from the Senior Center, as it makes a convenient place to park the truck for deliveries, and a grassy area may not be optimal for that, he said. 

bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Felipe Oltramari, left, works the other side of Bank Street during the pop-up demonstration Friday. Pudgie's Lawn & Garden donated the use of more than 250 plants to help out with the beautification effort.
Photo by Howard Owens

So how did this all begin?
“We had a 10-week course that was funded through the Health Department. And it's to help with reducing instances of chronic disease. So the health department received this grant, it's actually funded originally from the CDC, and it goes through this not-for-profit organization. Five of us took this 10-week online course to learn how to promote walkability in our communities,” he said. “And this is kind of like our final project, we're required to do a popup demonstration somewhere. So we took an existing site design that the city had proposed for this road. And we decided to implement that with temporary materials like we got turf donated from Batavia Turf, and we got straw wattle, that's got straw inside to kind of show where the curbs are. And we got lighting, to show where the new street lighting would be, and planters, to sort of present where some of the things like trees might be, and the new curb extensions. It helps promote walkability but makes it safer to walk across Bank Street and more enjoyable, also, to walk down on the sidewalk.

“So hopefully, some of the comments and the feedback that we get as a result of doing this pop-up will inform the decision makers at the city that will finalize the design for the street when it gets finally redone in a year or two.”

There’s an expected surge in traffic on Bank Street with the impending new police facility right on Bank and Alva in the next year or two, and the Healthy Living campus on the opposite side behind where the current YMCA is now to be completed by the end of 2024. City officials have an infrastructure project planned to coincide with the developments, at which time there would also be upgrades to the streetscape layout. 

Given that this was a county-led project, why was it only implemented on Bank Street?
“We needed to come up with this because walkable places are usually located in villages or cities. The county really doesn't have jurisdiction over those roads. We don't have anything as a county that we could implement on a road like this. So it was just an opportunity that we had,” he said. “So if the village or another village or hamlet or something like that wants to do something like this before they finalize their final street design, we can sort of roll this up and do it in a different community. So that's part of the process; the grant setup was basically to create a committee that could serve to be as kind of informed decision makers along in other parts of the county that might have designed something that will have other communities to kind of take advantage of their knowledge.”

So what’s the next step?
“So we have to create a report. We'll present that to the city as well, just as a document for them to review. And then, hopefully, they'll take that into consideration as to the design of this road,” he said. “And then, like I said, hopefully, other communities take advantage of the knowledge that our team has gained through going through this process, and maybe we can implement this somewhere else in the county.”

bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Aerial photo courtesy Genesee County.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Aerial photo courtesy Genesee County.

GO Health addresses vaping issues

By Press Release

Press Release:

What is a Vape?

Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes), better known as vapes, have become a widely used product for teens and young adults. Vaping is the action of inhaling vapor created by an E-Cigarette device. The devices can look like flash drives and come in many different flavors, sizes, and brands. The vape device works by heating an oily liquid until it becomes vapor. The liquid in the device, also known as vape juice, contains chemicals and can contain marijuana distillate or oil. The liquid also contains some mix of flavorings, aromatic additives that could smell and taste fruity or minty, depending on the flavor of the device.

Is Vaping Bad For You?

“There are still many unknowns about vaping and its long-term effects, including the vape liquid contents,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Although vapes have been advertised as a way to quit smoking regular cigarettes, vapes still contain nicotine, the same addictive chemical in cigarettes. They also contain chemicals that have the potential to damage the lungs and there are no real regulations on how much nicotine and other chemicals are added.”

Vaping Associated Risks

Our lungs are not built to take in chemicals and oils over time. According to John Hopkins Medicine, the oily liquid from vape devices could have the ability to coat the lungs and cause chronic lung diseases such as lipoid pneumonia, a form of lung inflammation. A National Library of Medicine research review article discussed that
nicotine can lead to brain development risks and may cause anxiety. Nicotine also raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline. The heart rate then increases, increasing the risk of heart attack. The risk of becoming a regular cigarette smoker and or developing other addictions is high. Reasons for quitting not only involve the health risks, it is also financially expensive and sports performance can dwindle as vaping may lead to lung

Tips on Quitting

  • Pick a day on a calendar when you plan on quitting, and let friends or family know.
  • Download an app that helps you track your sober days, build new healthier habits, and provide motivation– visit for free apps to download.
  • Get rid of all vaping devices.
  • Understand what the withdrawal symptoms are such as headaches, hunger, trouble sleeping, and concentrating are just a few.

Feeling the urge to vape? Try these instead:

  • Chewing gum or drinking water
  • Exercise
  • Yoga or meditation
  • Keeping your hands busy

The sooner one quits, the quicker the body rebounds and repairs itself. For more help or information, contact your healthcare provider. You can also text, chat or call the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit the New York State Department of Health website.

For more information on GO Health programs and services, visit or call your respective health department at:

  • Genesee County: 585-344-2580 ext. 5555
  • Orleans County: 585-589-3278

Follow GO Health on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at GOHealthNY.

GO Health reminds public about bat and rabies awareness, upcoming clinics

By Press Release

Press Release:

It is early August and the height of summer, which often means the peak of “bat season” for local health departments and when people more commonly have encounters with bats.

Bats can occasionally find their way into houses, particularly in older homes that are not properly sealed. This most often occurs during the summer nights. When you find a bat in your home, it is extremely important to safely capture the animal if it is suspected to have been in contact with people, pets, or livestock so that it can be tested for rabies. If the bat cannot be captured, you should call the health department for advice and next steps.

In some situations, it is possible that a bat bite could go undetected. For example, if you awaken and find a bat in your room, if you see a bat in the room of an unattended child, or if you see a bat near someone who is unable to speak or is under the influence of drugs/alcohol, it is important to seek medical advice and have the bat tested.

To safely capture a bat:

  1. Turn on room lights and close all the windows.
  2. Close the room and closet doors.
  3. Wait for the bat to land.
  4. While wearing thick leather-like gloves, place a coffee can, pail, or similar container over the bat (Never handle a bat with your bare hands).
  5. Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat.
  6. Firmly hold the cardboard in place against the top of the container, turn it right side up and tape the cardboard tightly to the container.
  7. If you do not feel comfortable capturing the bat or cannot do it safely, contact the Genesee County health department during regular business hours. If it is after regular business hours, contact Genesee County dispatch at (585) 343-5000. 

“Love your own, leave the rest alone”, stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “It is important that residents DO NOT pick up, touch, or feed wildlife (raccoons, foxes, skunks, bats, etc.). This is also true for stray cats and dogs. Wild or feral animals, including their babies, can be rabid.”

By avoiding contact with stray or wild animals, or by safely capturing the bat or other animal that may have had contact with us or our pets, and reporting the incident to your local Health Department, we may be able to avoid unnecessary medical treatment that averages over $3,000.00 per person.

Keep rabies vaccinations current for all dogs, cats, and ferrets. This is important not only to keep your pets from getting rabies but also to provide a barrier of protection for you and your family if your pet is bitten by a rabid animal.

Please take note of our upcoming drive-thru rabies vaccination clinics for dogs, cats, and ferrets in Genesee County offered at no charge.

Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 E. Main St., Batavia):

  • August 10 from 4 - 6:30 p.m.
  • October 12 from 4 - 6 p.m.

For more information on GO Health’s programs and services, visit You can also contact Genesee County health department at 585-344-2580 x5555 or [email protected]

HEALing communities study launches new treatment retention campaign

By Press Release

Press Release:

No matter who we are or where we come from, we all know at least one person affected by opioid use disorder (OUD). An estimated 2.1 million Americans have OUD. 

Since 2019, there have been 53 fatal opioid overdoses in Genesee County, with additional deaths still pending official causes of death.

What many do not realize is that OUD is a medical disorder characterized by an inability to stop the use of an addictive substance, despite the negative consequences associated with its use. Addiction is a chronic brain disease, not a lack of willpower.

Recovery from OUD also requires more than willpower, and medications can be part of the solution. Three FDA approved medications – methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone – can lower the risk of relapse and overdose. The longer a person with OUD stays in medication treatment, the greater the chance of a successful recovery.

However, challenges associated with the availability and acceptance of medication treatment exist. To address these challenges, the HEALing Communities Study will launch a campaign from August 7 - October 6 focused on Staying in Medication Treatment.

This unique campaign aims to help people with OUD and needed supporters (e.g., loved ones, treatment providers):

  • Understand how important medication treatment can be for recovery from OUD
  • Learn how to overcome commonly experienced barriers to treatment retention
  • Improve support for those in medication treatment

Throughout the campaign, real people share their compelling stories about how they have overcome challenges to staying in medication treatment. Treatment challenges addressed throughout the campaign include managing anxiety and depression, coping
with cravings and triggers, finding recovery support that accepts medication treatment, and asking for support from loved ones.

“We are so thankful to all of the spokespersons who have shared their powerful stories about their recovery journey and how they have overcome medication treatment challenges,” stated Sherri Bensley, Program Manager for the HEALing Communities Study. “Their stories continue to save lives by inspiring people with opioid use disorder to stay on medication as long as needed.”

You Can Help HEAL our Communities
Everyone can make a difference by staying on medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) treatment for as long as you need and supporting loved ones in MOUD treatment.

About the HEALing Communities Study
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 2.1 million Americans have OUD, yet fewer than 20% of those individuals receive specialty care in a given year. A menu of evidence-based practices (EBPs) exists, including opioid overdose education and naloxone dissemination programs, prescription drug monitoring programs, FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder.

Unfortunately, these EBPs have largely failed to penetrate community settings. As a result, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched the HEALing Communities Study (HCS) to investigate and identify the EBPs for preventing and treating OUD that are most effective at the local level. The goal of the study is to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths by 40 percent over the course of three years.

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:

Schumer announces major push to upend flow of fentanyal into Western New York

By Press Release
Submitted photo of Chuck Schumer

Press Release:

Following several recent major fentanyl busts in Orleans County, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launch a major new push to upend the flow of fentanyl in Orleans, Western NY, and the Finger Lakes-Rochester area.

Schumer detailed the new bipartisan legislation, the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, he included in the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would not only allow President Biden to place sanctions on China for its role in contributing to our nation’s fentanyl epidemic and declare international fentanyl trafficking a national emergency. 

Schumer is now demanding that the House pass the measure to combat the flow of fentanyl from China and Mexico before it reaches places like Orleans County and Upstate NY.

“From Buffalo to Rochester to right here in Orleans County, fentanyl continues to take the lives of far too many New Yorkers each and every day. We must make getting this deadly drug off of our streets and out of the U.S. a top priority, and the just passed Senate defense bill provides a rare window of opportunity to do just that,” said Senator Schumer. 

“That’s why I’m now calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to quickly pass this measure and help upend the flow of fentanyl overseas, far before it reaches places like Orleans County and Western NY. By including the FEND Off Fentanyl Act in the NDAA and ensuring that we can place tough sanctions on China for turning a blind eye to this issue and giving these deadly exports the green light, I am working to keep our communities safe in Upstate NY and across the nation. Too many lives have been lost, and too many others are at stake, especially here in New York.”

“The opioid epidemic and fentanyl crisis is a significant public health and public safety issue,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Over the past five years, there have been 53 fatal overdoses in Genesee County and 23 fatal overdoses in Orleans County, with additional deaths still pending official causes of death. In 2022, 83% of all fatal opioid overdoses in both counties involved fentanyl, which demonstrates how serious this problem is in our communities. This trend is something that is also seen across New York State and throughout the nation. I applaud Senator Schumer for his support of this amendment that will include stopping the spread of illegal fentanyl at its source.”

Joseph V. Cardone, Orleans County District Attorney said, “In my 31 years as District Attorney this fentanyl crisis is by far the most devastating issue law enforcement has had to combat.  While not one gram of this poison is produced in this Country it is daily killing our youth in every community in America.  Clearly stopping fentanyl from entering our country needs to be a priority.”

Schumer said the Senate passage of the NDAA bill just days ago included a bipartisan plan to officially declare international fentanyl trafficking a national emergency and give the president special powers to impose tough sanctions on China, Mexico, or any other relevant fentanyl supply chain hub. The House passed its own version of the National Defense Authorization Act earlier in July, but now that Schumer has passed NDAA in the Senate, lawmakers will need to reconcile the Senate bill and the House bill by negotiating a compromise version that can pass both chambers.

Fentanyl is trafficked into the United States primarily from China and Mexico, and is responsible for the ongoing fentanyl epidemic in Upstate NY and across the country. China is the world’s largest producer of illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and their immediate precursors. 

From China, those substances are shipped primarily through express consignment carriers or international mail directly to the United States, or, alternatively, shipped directly to transnational criminal organizations in Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. Some officials estimate that China is responsible for over 90 percent of the illicit fentanyl found in the U.S.

Schumer explained to disrupt the flow of illicit opioids into the United States, he pushed to include the FEND Off Fentanyl Act into the just-passed Senate defense bill. The bill does the following:

  1. Declares that the international trafficking of fentanyl is a national emergency.
  2. Requires the President to sanction transnational criminal organizations and drug cartels’ key members engaged in international fentanyl trafficking.
  3. Enables the President to use proceeds of forfeited, sanctioned property of fentanyl traffickers to further law enforcement efforts.
  4. Enhances the ability to enforce sanctions violations thereby making it more likely that people who defy U.S. law will be caught and prosecuted.
  5. Requires the administration to report to Congress on actions the U.S. government is taking to reduce the international trafficking of fentanyl and related opioids.
  6. Allows the Treasury Department to utilize special measures to combat fentanyl-related money laundering.
  7. Requires the Treasury Department to prioritize fentanyl-related suspicious transactions and include descriptions of drug cartels’ financing actions in Suspicious Activity Reports.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. It is short-acting and cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled when mixed with other drugs. While pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed for severe pain and end-of-life care, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is produced illicitly and is now common in the illicit drug supply. 

The presence of non-pharmaceutical fentanyl in Orleans County, Western NY, and the Finger Lakes has dramatically increased the number of overdose deaths, and fentanyl is now the “leading cause of death for Americans 18 to 45 years old.”

Since 2020, Orleans County has seen 14 deaths from opioid overdoses, 76 outpatient emergency department visits, and 558 admissions to OASAS-certified substance abuse disorder treatment programs. Several recent examples have underscored the prevalence and danger of fentanyl in Orleans County. 

Earlier this year, 48 members of a local drug ring were charged for selling fentanyl and other opioids across the Finger Lakes region and Orleans. Law enforcement seized more than 10 kilograms of fentanyl and 10 kilograms of cocaine, $9 million worth of illegal drugs. 

Similarly, a raid earlier in the year seized 114 fentanyl pills disguised as other drugs, and just last month, U.S. Attorney Trini Ross announced the guilty plea of a dealer who intended to distribute over 400 grams of fentanyl into both Medina and Rochester. Back in 2018, the rate of overdose deaths jumped to 27.1 per 100,000 – much higher than state and national averages. That number prompted health department officials and others to allocate more resources to the problem.

Looking at the broader region, in 2022 alone, the Finger Lakes saw 295 deaths from opioid overdoses, 843 outpatient emergency department visits, and 5,744 admissions to OASAS-certified substance abuse disorder treatment programs.

Similarly, the Buffalo/Western New York saw 410 deaths from opioid overdoses, 856 outpatient emergency department visits, and 5,036 admissions to OASAS-certified substance abuse disorder treatment programs. In 2021, nearly 107,000 Americans died from an overdose, and 65% of overdose deaths were caused by fentanyl. 

Last year alone, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized over 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl - enough to supply a lethal dose to every American.  

Additionally, Xylazine has been a contributing factor in fatal overdoses across Monroe County for years, with over 180 deaths tied to the lethal drug since 2019. Xylazine opioids caused 59 fatal overdoses in Monroe County and 3 in Wayne County in 2022 and were suspected in 10 fatal OD cases earlier this year in Wayne County. Erie County had 17 confirmed Xylazine deaths since 2022. Xylazine has also been found in drugs seized in cases in Orleans and Genesee County beginning in 2019. Xylazine was involved in four opioid-related deaths In Orleans County and Xylazine was involved in 6 opioid-related deaths in Genesee County. 

Schumer has also been sounding the alarm on the spread of Xylazine, a dangerous, skin-rotting drug that has been making its way to Upstate NY streets, already taking the lives of hundreds of New Yorkers. After a horrific wave of overdoses and deaths in Upstate NY tied to Xylazine earlier this year, Schumer stood with local law enforcement and health officials in communities across the Finger Lakes and Upstate NY to call for further federal action. 

In April, the Biden Administration heeded Schumer’s calls and declared xylazine an emerging threat to the United States, a major step in eradicating the illicit supply of the deadly drug once and for all. 

This past June, the Senate took another major step in the fight against xylazine by passing the ‘TRANQ Act,’ which directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support research and other activities related to identifying xylazine, develop new tests for detection, and establish partnerships with organizations on the front lines of this battle.

Most recently, the Biden Administration took even further action implementing many of the actions Schumer highlighted releasing a new Xylazine Response Plan, to coordinate an inter-agency governmental response to help build the treatment, data, and research capabilities that are needed to help those impacted by xylazine.

“I’m glad the Biden administration has laid out a plan to fight the insidious spread of this Narcan-resistant, skin-rotting, zombie drug. This is a major step in the fight to eradicate this awful scourge in Orleans and across Western NY once and for all,” Schumer added.

“This plan will save lives. I know it won’t be easy to get xylazine off our NY streets for good, and ultimately, we will need more funding for prevention, recovery, and treatment programs for those struggling with addiction. That’s why I am committed, now more than ever, to continuing to push for Congress to provide the necessary funding to increase resources that fight this epidemic on the front lines and rid communities in Upstate NY and across the nation of this terrifying drug.”

The new action taken outlined in the Xylazine Response plan includes increased resources for:

  • Testing - Improve the xylazine testing being conducted in community and law enforcement settings, which is currently uneven across the United States, impeding the development of a full national threat picture. Improved clinical testing to detect xylazine in drug products and postmortem toxicology settings will provide important information about this emerging threat.
  • Epidemiology and Comprehensive Data Systems - Gather additional information to inform, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive and coordinated public health and public safety response, including xylazine sourcing and determining to what degree persons are encountering xylazine alone or xylazine-adulterated products.
  • Evidence-Based Prevention, Harm Reduction, and Treatment Implementation and Capacity Building - Address the concerning health challenges associated with xylazine by developing and disseminating best practices based on emerging clinical efforts with patients exposed to xylazine, evaluating potential xylazine overdose reversal strategies, and prioritizing efforts to educate and equip healthcare providers and first responders on best practices to treat flesh wounds associated with xylazine.
  • Source and Supply Information and Intelligence; and Supply Reduction Actions - Help inform public health and public safety officials about the sources of xylazine in the illicit drug supply chain and markets in the United States by determining whether it is diverted from legitimate supplies and/or synthesized for illicit use, enhancing ability and jurisdiction to regulate the supply chain, and identifying and develop additional targeted and coordinated law enforcement actions and efforts to reduce the illicit supply of xylazine.
  • Regulatory Control and Monitoring Options - Assess regulatory options to disrupt the production, distribution, illegal sale and trafficking, and exposure to illicit xylazine, as the particular chemical nature of this non-opioid tranquilizer may pose challenges for traditional methods of testing drugs in scheduling decisions.
  • Basic and Applied Research - Conduct research to evaluate as quickly as possible potential xylazine antidotes in humans, drug-drug interactions, population-level health, social, equity, and economic drivers and consequences of exposure to fentanyl adulterated with xylazine, and identify the most promising clinical stabilization, detoxification, and treatment protocols. 

Schumer has a long history of fighting for additional resources to support law enforcement and boost addiction recovery services. Most recently, he secured $445 million for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) grants, an increase of $30 million from FY22. 

He secured $16 million for the COPS anti-methamphetamine program and $35 million for the COPS anti-heroin task force that helps ensure the safety of local communities. He also secured $302 million for the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program in this year’s budget. 

In addition, Schumer led the fight to secure $44.9 billion to address opioid abuse in the most recent Omnibus, an increase of over $345 million over the previous year. That includes nearly $1.6 billion in State Opioid Response grants, $100 million more for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment program, $111 million for medication-assisted treatment programs, $145 million for programs targeted towards rural communities, and more.

Oral rabies vaccine field evaluation is August 15 – 17

By Press Release

Press Release:

Depending on the weather, aerial and hand distribution of oral rabies vaccine baits will take place in Western New York from Aug. 15 - 17. Areas of New York State are once again taking part in a nationally coordinated effort to halt the spread of raccoon rabies in 16 states. Ongoing field evaluation of oral rabies vaccine (ORV) called ONRAB will occur in Clinton, Essex counties in the Empire State as part of an evaluation that also includes parts of northern Vermont and New Hampshire.

Additionally, evaluations will also occur in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming counties. These sites were selected in part because of
ongoing collaborations with Quebec and Ontario, Canada in the fight against rabies to protect human and animal health and reduce the significant cost associated with living with rabies across broad geographic areas.

“Rabies is a serious public health concern because if left untreated it is generally fatal. Costs associated with detection, prevention, and control of rabies conservatively exceed $500 million annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, greater than 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the United States are in wildlife,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). 

The cooperative USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program (NRMP) was established in 1997 to prevent the further spread of wildlife rabies in the United States by containing and eventually eliminating the virus in terrestrial mammals. The majority of the NRMP efforts are focused on controlling raccoon rabies, which continues to account for most of the reported wildlife rabies cases in the U.S. 

Raccoon rabies occurs in all states east of the established ORV zone that extends from Maine to northeastern Ohio to central Alabama. Continued access to oral vaccines and bait options that are effective in all target wildlife species remains critical to long-term success.

ORV was designed to test the safety and immunogenicity (provoke an immune response in the body of a human or other animal) of the oral human adenovirus-rabies glycoprotein recombinant vaccine ONRAB (Artemis Technologies Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Ceva Sante Animale S.A., Guelph, Ontario, Canada), which has been successfully integrated into comprehensive rabies control programs that resulted in elimination of raccoon rabies from Canada.

Encouraging results from the U.S. trial in West Virginia represented a major milestone that led to expanded evaluations in 4 additional states (NH, NY, OH, and VT) in 2012-2021 and expansion into 2 new states (PA and TN) in 2022. Data from these evaluations could lead to licensing of this vaccine for broader, more aggressive management of raccoon rabies
by the NRMP and partners, with the goal of eliminating the variant of the rabies virus that cycles in raccoons.

The ONRAB bait consists of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) blister pack, containing the vaccine. To make the baits attractive, the blister packs are coated with a sweet attractant that includes vegetable-based fats, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavor, and dark-green food-grade dye. 

Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait. However, people who encounter baits directly are asked to leave the bait undisturbed. Should contact with bait occur, immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap and contact your local health department at 585-344-2580 ext. 5555 for Genesee County or 585-589-3278 for Orleans

Please do not attempt to remove a bait from your dog’s mouth. The bait will not harm the dog. If you have additional questions related to the field evaluation in New York, please contact the Wildlife Services office in Rensselaer at 518-477-4837.

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

GO Health reminds public about dangers of radon in your home

By Press Release

Press Release:

Did you know that radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is released in rock, soil, and water? Radon has no smell, taste, or color and kills more than 21,000 people each year. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Radon can build up to dangerous levels in your home, which can occur in new homes or older homes. “Radon can enter your home through cracks in the foundation, cracks in basement walls, holes, joints, dirt floors, sump pump holes, suspended floors, and in the well-water supply,” stated Darren Brodie, Environmental Health Director for Genesee
and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Any house that has contact with the ground has the potential for radon to enter the home.”

Both the EPA and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) have identified Genesee County as having a high average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter). “Testing your home for radon is the only way to know if high levels are present and corrective action is needed,” stated Brodie. When radon tests are
completed, they should be performed in the lowest primary living area of the home. 

GO Health encourages residents to test for radon when buying a home, doing a major renovation, every 2 years if there is a mitigation system installed or every 5 years otherwise. You can purchase a short-term radon test kit from your local hardware store or through a radon-testing laboratory.

A limited supply of Radon Test Kits are also available for Genesee County Residents at the Genesee County Fair this week from 12 p.m. - 7 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. Stop by the health department booth and ask for a free kit. For more information on radon or other GO Health programs and services, visit

GO Health encourages adults over 45 to get screened for colorectal cancer

By Press Release

Press Release:

If you are 45 years old or older or have a family history of colorectal cancer, now is the time to talk with your primary care provider about what screening option is right for you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and women.

It is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The CDC also notes that in New York State among all races and ethnicities, the age-adjusted rate of colon and rectum cancer was 32.8 per 100,000 people in 2020. (

Colorectal (or colon) cancer is a disease where the cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. The colon is the large intestine. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus. When screening for colorectal cancer, providers are looking for abnormal growths called polyps, which may turn into cancer over time. Removing any polyps early on may decrease the risk of cancer.

For some people, there are no symptoms of colorectal cancer at first. Most colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum. “The only way to determine if a person has polyps or colorectal cancer is through regular screening,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health).

“There are several types of screening (stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography) and you should talk with your healthcare provider to determine which is best for you. Early detection is key in preventing colorectal cancer and also helps to reduce a person’s risk.”

Choosing to eat healthier has shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer as well as other chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. People are also encouraged to increase physical activity, keep a healthy weight, limit alcohol consumption and avoid the use of tobacco/nicotine. Talk with your healthcare provider about how you can reduce your risk and when you should start screening for colorectal cancer.

For more information on Health Department programs and services, visit or call your respective health department at:

  • Genesee County: 585-344-2580 ext. 5555
  • Orleans County: 585-589-3278

With air quality advisory in place, GO Health offers masks

By Press Release

Press release:

The New York State Department of Health recommends that with the reduced air quality, everyone should limit his or her outdoor activities to reduce exposure. Masks will be available to the public at the following locations in Genesee and Orleans Counties during normal business hours while supplies last. 

Genesee County- Business Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

  • Emergency Management Office, 7690 State Street Road, Batavia
  • County Building 2, 3837 West Main Street Road, Batavia
  • Old Courthouse, 7 Main Street, Batavia
  • Office for the Aging, 2 Bank Street, Batavia

Orleans County- Business Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

  • Orleans County Administration Building, 14016 Route 31 West, Albion

The New York State Department of Health provides the following tips to stay safe: 

  • Limit time outdoors 
  • Keep windows and doors closed
  • Avoid strenuous activities outdoors, especially for those with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory health issues 
  • Avoid prolonged exposure outdoors, especially for those with health vulnerabilities, such as cardiovascular disease or lung disease, and those who are pregnant
  • For those that must be outside for a prolonged period of time, wear a tight fitting mask 

Exposure to reduced air quality can pose negative health risks, including: 

  • Irritation to eyes, nose, or throat
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath

Individuals with symptoms or related health concerns should contact their healthcare provider.

To monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) Forecast, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation Website

To monitor the current Air Quality for your area, visit the EPA AirNow website.

To access the Fire and Smoke Map, visit the AirNow Website

For more information, residents can call the New York State Air Quality Hotline at 1-800-535-1345. 

GO health gives reminder about removing lead-based paint

By Press Release

Press Release:

With the warmer weather here, more home renovation projects are starting. If you have a home built before 1978, it is important to make sure renovations are done safely. 

Homes built before 1978 are more likely to have lead-based paint that can be disturbed when renovating. Renovations can put lead dust into the air as well as into the heating and cooling systems of homes with lead-based paint.

Children (and adults) exposed to this lead dust are at risk of lead poisoning. There is no safe level of lead to have in the body. The effects of lead poisoning are permanent and can affect a child into adulthood. 

“Lead poisoning can affect anyone, but is especially dangerous for infants and small children,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). 

“Childhood lead poisoning can harm the brain and nervous system leading to learning challenges, lower IQ, difficulty in paying attention/hyperactivity, kidney damage, and very high levels can be fatal. Lead poisoning can also be dangerous for pregnant women because lead can pass to the baby during pregnancy.”

While thinking about renovation plans for this summer, consider using a lead-safe certified contractor if you live in a home built before 1978. If planning to do the work yourself, here are some simple steps you can take to keep both you and your family safe.

  1. Set up safely in a way that should prevent dust from escaping the work area and keep anyone not working on the project from entering. This can include removing all furniture, rugs, curtains, and other household items, tightly wrapping items that cannot be removed with plastic sheeting, covering floors with plastic sheeting, closing and sealing all doors, turning off forced-air heating and
    air conditioning systems, and covering vents with sheeting. All sheeting should be taped in place to ensure it is secure.
  2. Protect yourself. Wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when working, wash your hands and face every time you stop working, wash your work clothes separately from the rest of your family’s laundry, and do not eat, drink, or smoke in your work area. Dust and debris can contaminate food or other items and cause you to ingest dangerous lead dust.
  3. Minimize Dust. Many renovation tasks (drilling, cutting, opening walls, etc.) create dust that may contain lead. Using proper tools and simple practices can help limit and control dust. 
  4. Clean your work area at the end of every day. This helps minimize dust and protects you and your family. Easy ways to keep your work area clean include; putting trash in heavy-duty bags as you work, vacuuming with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cleaner frequently, cleaning tools daily, disposing of or cleaning PPE, and keeping non-workers out of the work area.
  5. Control Waste. Collect all waste and secure it tightly with duct tape or a double bag to prevent lead dust or debris from escaping before disposal.
  6. Clean again. When your renovations are complete and before using the room again, use wet-cleaning methods in order to control the dust and prevent the dust from going back into the air. Make sure to mop uncarpeted floors thoroughly, clean walls with a HEPA vacuum or damp cloth, thoroughly vacuum all remaining surfaces and objects with a HEPA vacuum, and then wipe down all surfaces with wet cloths until the cloths are clean.

For any questions and more information on GO Health Lead Programs, contact the Genesee County Health Department at (585) 344-2580 ext. 5555 or [email protected]. You can also visit the GO Health website at

Genesee County ranked 42nd in overall health outcomes

By Press Release

Press release:

According to the 2023 County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), Genesee and Orleans Counties rank 42nd and 55th, respectively in overall Health Outcomes. The Rankings are available at

“Each year, we look at the County Health Rankings to get an overview of our health and factors that influence our health,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments(GO Health). “The county with the lowest score (best health) gets a rank of #1 for that state, and the county with the highest score (worst health) is assigned a rank corresponding to the number of total counties ranked in each state. New York State has 62 counties.”

According to the Rankings, the five healthiest counties in New York State starting with the most healthy are Putnam, followed by Saratoga, Nassau, Rockland and Tompkins. The five counties with the poorest health, starting with the least healthy are Bronx, Cattaraugus, Sullivan, Chemung, and Montgomery. The rankings are broken into two main categories, Health Outcomes, which include length of life and quality of life, and Health Factors, which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. The 2023 County Health Rankings findings for Genesee and Orleans Counties are: 

Genesee County

  • Ranked 42/62 in Health Outcomes compared to 38/62 counties in 2022
  • Ranked 22/62 in Health Factors compared to 16/62 counties in 2022

Orleans County 

  • Ranked 55/62 in Health Outcomes compared to 54/62 counties in 2022
  • Ranked 57/62 in Health Factors compared to 55/62 counties in 2022

“As Chief Health Strategists, we collaborate with our partners and community members to provide quality training, education and referrals as well as develop coalitions to explore the best way to help our county residents thrive and improve health factors,” stated Pettit. 

As referenced below, both Genesee and Orleans Counties have health factors that could be improved, specifically with local access to physicians, mental health providers and dentists, along with excessive drinking, adult obesity, and adult smoking. Access to care significantly impacts and drives the rankings for both counties. Additionally, it is a substantial barrier for residents and, ultimately, has an impact on not only an individual’s physical, social and mental health, but their overall quality of life.

Genesee County/Orleans County/New York State

Primary Care Physicians to Patient Ratio

  • 3,350:1/13,330:1/1,170:1

Mental Health Providers 

  • 570:1/1,610:1/300:1


  • 2,750:1/4,470:1/1,220:1

Excessive Drinking 

  • 23%/21%/18%

Adult Obesity 

  • 29%/34%/27%

Adult Smoking 

  • 18%/21%/12%

This year, the focus area of the Rankings was the connection between civic health and the health of the community. The factors that were added included Voter Turnout (Genesee at 64.3%; Orleans at 56.9%) and Census Participation (Genesee at 64.3%; Orleans at 54.0%). Voting and participating in the U.S. census are both examples of civic participation, which can help influence residents’ quality of life and help improve the health of our community. 

The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all. Working collaboratively with community partners in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties (GOW), Genesee and Orleans counties have completed the GOW 2022-2024 Community Health Assessment and are working on the chosen priorities in the Community Health Improvement Plan over the next three years. We analyze the Rankings along with New York State data and community input from the Community Health Assessment survey and Community Conversations to determine these priorities. 

For the 2022-2024 Community Health Improvement Plan, preventing chronic disease, promoting well-being, and preventing mental and substance use disorders were selected as the priority areas that will be the focus moving forward.

For more information on Health Department programs and services, visit or
call your respective health department at:

  • Genesee County: 585-344-2580 ext. 5555
  • Orleans County: 585-589-3278

Health departments announce the completion of community health assessment

By Press Release

Press Release:

Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming County Health Departments, in collaboration with Rochester Regional Health at United Memorial Medical Center, Orleans Community Health, and Wyoming County Community Health System, have announced the completion of the 2022-2024 GOW Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan.

Every three years, health departments, local hospitals and community partners come together to complete a comprehensive assessment of the community’s current health status and needs. This process includes collecting quantitative data, qualitative data, and community feedback related to health in our community. Much of the data looks beyond the traditional medical definition of health to examine the social determinants of health, such as housing, income, employment, education, and access to healthy food, all of which play an integral role in health outcomes.

“With the help from the public and our community partners, we were able to collect a total of 2,094 survey responses between March and June 2022,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “The Community Health Assessment compares the data trends in the GOW region and guides the selection of priority areas for the Community Health Improvement plan.”

The Community Health Improvement Plan is an interactive document that is continuously updated based on the needs of the community. It is a strategic plan for local health departments, hospitals and community partners to work on over a three-year period to address the priority areas identified in the Community Health Assessment, and to improve the community’s health. 

In the 2022-2024 GOW Community Health Improvement Plan, the community survey and community conversations helped inform some of the public health initiatives that the local health departments and hospitals will focus on in the coming years. The 2022-2024 priority areas are:

  • Prevent Chronic Disease
  • Prevent initiation of tobacco use
  • Increase cancer screening rates
  • Improve self-management skills for individuals with chronic diseases
  • Promote Well-Being and Prevent Mental and Substance Use Disorders
  • Prevent opioid overdose deaths
  • Prevent and address adverse childhood experiences

"We look forward to collaborating with community partners throughout the GOW region to address these local public health issues and improve the health of the communities we serve,” stated Laura Paolucci, Wyoming County Health Department Public Health Administrator. “By working together to address these priority areas, we can increase access to public health programs and services to meet the needs of our residents.” To access the 2022-2024 GOW Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan, visit your respective health department website. 

  • GO Health Website
  • Wyoming County Health Department

To provide comments on the GOW Community Health Assessment, complete this feedback form.

GO Health announces free anti-rabies clinic on Feb. 9 at Town of Batavia highway garage

By Press Release

Press release:

The Genesee County Health Department will be hosting a FREE anti-rabies immunization clinic on Thursday, February 9th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Batavia Town Highway Garage (3833 West Main Street Road, Batavia). 

“We encourage residents to take advantage of this opportunity to make sure that their animals are immunized against rabies and that the vaccinations are kept up to date,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Rabies continues to be a serious public health concern in Genesee and Orleans Counties and is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Please leave wildlife alone and do not feed, touch, or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or cats.”

Vaccinations are free for dogs, cats, and ferrets, but voluntary donations are accepted. Animals must be at least 3 months old. Each animal must be leashed or crated and accompanied by an adult who can control the animal. Limit 4 pets per car maximum.

To save time, please click here to fill out your registration form in advance. Be sure to print out two copies for each pet to be vaccinated and bring them with you to the clinic.

The next anti-rabies immunization clinics are as follows:

  • Genesee County Clinics at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia, NY)
    • Thursday, May 18th, 2023 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
    • Thursday, August 10th, 2023 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
    • Thursday, October 12th, 2023 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Orleans County Clinics at the Orleans County Fairgrounds (12690 State Route 31, Albion, NY)  
    • Saturday, April 15th, 2023 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    • Wednesday, June 7th, 2023 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, August 26th, 2023 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    • Saturday, October 21st, 2023 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For more information on Health Department services, visit or call 589-3278 for Orleans County or (585) 344-2580 ext. 5555 for Genesee County.

Behavioral specialist urges ‘person-first approach’ to mitigate effects of substance use disorder stigma

By Mike Pettinella


Attitudes toward substance use disorder and words that reflect those attitudes can have a tremendous effect on the recovery process of those struggling with addiction.

“Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace and that (disgrace) is a pretty powerful word,” said Diana Padilla, a longtime behavioral health specialist who was in Genesee County on Wednesday to present a training seminar for social workers and providers at the Alexander Recreation & Banquet Facility.

Padilla, in her 90-minute “Reducing Stigma in Our Communities” presentation, provided tools for counselors to counteract the negative connotations associated with substance use and mental illness.

A research project manager at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Division of Substance Use Disorders, Columbia University Medical Center, Padilla communicated that stigma against people with substance use disorders can create barriers to treatment, such as an increase in shame and isolation from family, friends and community, and treating those with addiction as criminals.

She bemoaned the fact that the healthcare and judicial systems have not fully recognized that substance use disorder is an illness, and that recovery is possible.

“Stigma can lead to more substance use disorder and people can lose hope,” she said. “It really becomes a vicious cycle.”

Padilla said she has seen how health insurance companies and the law continue to view substance use disorder as a “result of a moral weakness and flawed character.”

She noted that some providers blame the individual for causing the problem and will reject treatment coverage, which can lead to substandard, non-science-based care.

When it comes to mental health treatment, Padilla said statistics show that stigma prevents 40 percent of people with anxiety or depression from seeking medical help, and affects people in treatment even when their mental health problem is a distant memory.

To combat stigma, she encouraged counselors to utilize “people-first language” in their interactions with their clients:

  • Speak or write the person first, then the disability, i.e., Sam is a “person with a disability,” or “Sheila is visually impaired…”
  • Emphasize abilities or accomplishments, not limitations.
  • When communicating about a group, “individuals with disabilities.”
  • Allow and expect that individuals with disabilities will speak for themselves.
  • Be careful not to idealize people who have disabilities as being brave simply because they have a disability.

In recent years, there has been a shift toward supportive and affirming language used by public health professionals, she said.

“By using the term, substance use disorder (instead of substance abuse or addiction), it meets a diagnostic criterion,” she said.

Padilla promoted “trauma-informed care” as a key component to successfully reaching someone with substance use disorder and/or mental illness.

She referred to the Adverse Childhood Experience study that reveals a direct link between traumatic experiences at an early age to subsequent alcohol and drug problems. According to the ACE study, 64 percent of adults have faced one adverse childhood experience (emotional, physical or sexual abuse) and 40 percent have faced two or more adverse childhood experiences.

“A person with four or more ACEs is five times more likely to develop substance use disorder,” she pointed out.

It is important for counselors to understand the impact of traumatic events upon their clients’ lives, Padilla said, and to adhere to the guiding principles of trauma-informed care – safety, transparency, peer support, collaboration, empowerment and cultural, historical and gender issues.

“Empowerment, giving the client a voice and a choice, can make a huge difference,” she said. “We should support those choices even when we don’t totally agree.”

In closing, Padilla shared that people are more likely to get treatment and recover when their families, friends, providers, and communities support them without judging them.

“We can choose supportive, respectful, and nonjudgmental words that treat people with respect and compassion,” she said.

The training seminar was hosted by the GOW Opioid Task Force and Genesee County Health Department and supported by the HEALing Communities initiative.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Submitted photo: The Genesee County Health Department and GOW Opioid Task Force sponsored a "Reducing Stigma in Our Communities" training on Wednesday. From left are presenter Diana Padilla, Emily Penrose and Paul Pettit of the health department, Christen Foley of the task force and Jennifer Rowan of the health department.

Columbia University official to share ways to reduce stigma of substance use disorder

By Mike Pettinella

Press release:

Diana Padilla, research project manager at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Division of Substance Use Disorders, Columbia University Medical Center, will be the keynote speaker at a “Reducing Stigma in Our Communities” training in the Village of Alexander.

The session is set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Alexander Recreation & Banquet Facility on Route 98.

Hosted by the GOW Opioid Task Force and Genesee County Health Department, the training is designed to help healthcare and social services professionals, as well as members of the general public, learn how to identify and address stigma surrounding opioid use disorder and improve access to services in the Genesee Region.

Padilla, photo at right, has worked in the field of behavioral health for more than 24 years. Her experience includes service provision to communities with substance use, HIV/HCV, trauma and stress, and other psychosocial conditions.

In her capacity as a research project manager, she develops curriculum and is a senior staff trainer for the Northeast & Caribbean Addiction/Prevention Technology Transfer Centers.

Using a cultural and recovery oriented perspective, Ms. Padilla instructs on how to enhance strategies and interventions to best engage and meet the needs of substance using communities, LGBTQ+ people, diverse and other traditionally underserved populations.

Her areas of expertise include culturally and linguistically responsive services, trauma informed care, community disparities, racial stigma, social determinants of health, and affirming and inclusive best practices with clinical, non-clinical and peer support professionals.

Registration deadline for the free training is Jan. 12. Lunch will be provided.

To register, go to

Public safety, peer advocates come together to help others through PAARI program

By Mike Pettinella

Deaths from drug overdoses, many of them involving fentanyl, are on the rise, and all neighborhoods – urban and rural – are at risk.

Officials of public safety agencies and the health department in Genesee County say they are united in their effort to provide the support needed to those struggling with substance use disorder through the Public Safety Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative.

“The City of Batavia Police Department is determined to do our part in the fight against the opioid epidemic in our city and region,” Chief Shawn Heubusch said. “To that end we continue to partner with the GOW Opioid Task Force to support programs such as PAARI, where anyone suffering from addiction can come to our department, any time day or night, and get connected to a professional for assistance.”

The Genesee County sheriff, Le Roy Police chief, City of Batavia fire chief and Genesee County public health director echoed Heubusch’s sentiments – with each official affirming their agency’s participation in PAARI.

PAARI is a valuable partnership between local public safety agencies, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and the Genesee County Health Department. This resource is available so that residents who are suffering from substance use and want to seek help, can access a safe place in the community at all hours, without judgment or legal implications.

“The PAARI program provides residents with the support that they need when they are ready to seek help and treatment,” Public Health Director Paul Pettit said. “Our partners are trustworthy, compassionate people who want to get our residents that are struggling the help that they need and connect them to the resources available.

“We know that the holidays can be a difficult time for some, but know that you are not alone. There are people in the community that care about you and want to help you.”

Pettit said that 15 Genesee County residents died from an overdose in 2020, and in almost all of those cases fentanyl was involved.

“Since then, at least 17 additional community residents have died from an opioid overdose,” he added.

Sheriff William Sheron Jr. said his office “stands ready to assist in any way possible those individuals and families who are combatting addiction.”

“Addiction can affect anyone, anytime.  We are available; our doors are always open, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Please do not hesitate to reach out and together we can work to overcome addiction within our communities,” he said.

Batavia Fire Chief Josh Graham said his department will continue to partner with the other agencies in PAARI to provide a safe place where anyone suffering from addiction can come to help.

“When I first learned about the PAARI program within the City of Batavia Fire Department, I was immediately impressed with the idea,” he mentioned. “Doing everything we can to aid in the fight against opioids is imperative.”

Peer advocates at GCASA are available at all hours to assist those who utilize the PAARI program, said Melissa Vinyard, a certified peer recovery coach and someone in recovery.

“My fellow peers and I get the opportunity to go reach out and offer a hand to help those who suffer with SUD,” she said. “For that, I truly believe we are responsible. It is my privilege to give back to our community what was so freely given to me.”

Residents seeking treatment or prevention services can also access the GOW Linkage to Care App. The free app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play by searching “GOW Opioid Linkage to Care.”

The Genesee County PAARI locations are as follows:

  • City of Batavia Fire Department, 18 Evans St., Batavia, (585) 345-6375.
  • City of Batavia Police, 10 West Main St., Batavia, (585) 345-6350.
  • Genesee County Sheriff, 165 Park Rd., Batavia, (585) 345-3000.
  • Le Roy Police, 3 West Main St., Le Roy, (585) 768-2527

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist at GCASA.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

By Press Release

Press release:

November is designated as Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a global effort to reduce stigma for a disease that affects both smokers and non‐smokers and takes more lives annually than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers – combined.

Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, but lung cancer can occur in people that have never smoked. Other risk factors include being exposed to secondhand smoke, having a family history of lung cancer, exposure to asbestos, and exposure to radon gas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an estimated of 21,000 Americans die from radon-related lung cancer every year.

The leading cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers is radon exposure. Radon is a clear, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that is naturally found in the Earth. Radon dissolves in groundwater and forms pockets under homes and buildings. The primary method of radon exposure is through cracks in home foundations, new or old. In fact, one-fifth of all houses in the United States have dangerous levels of radon. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if you smoke and live in a home with high radon levels, your risk for developing lung cancer significantly increases. 

Homes with a radon level over 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/l) need to be evaluated by a Certified Radon Mitigator to determine the type of radon reduction system that may need to be installed.  “By knowing your home's radon level and reducing it if necessary, you can protect yourself and your family,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health).

Testing for radon is fast and inexpensive and is the only way to determine the radon levels in your home. GO Health encourages residents to test for radon when buying a home, doing a major renovation, every 2 years if there is a mitigation system installed or every 5 years otherwise. When purchasing a new house, make sure the seller completes a radon test kit and has the results available.  If you are building a new home, make sure to have radon-resistant construction features installed and tested prior to moving in.

You can purchase a short-term radon test kit from your local hardware store or through a radon-testing laboratory. For more information about radon visit, For more information about radon or other GO Health programs and services, visit

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