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GOW opioid task force

August 2, 2022 - 3:49pm
posted by Press Release in news, GOW opioid task force, batavia.

PRESS RELEASE

The GOW Opioid Task Force will be conducting the annual Overdose Awareness Day from 4-7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Austin Park in Batavia.

Task Force Coordinator Christen Foley said the event – started internationally in 2001 – is designed to help raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and remember the lives that have been lost due to an overdose.

“We will hear from speakers who have been affected by substance use and present information from local agencies,” Foley said. “Additionally, there will be live music, family activities, face painting and free Narcan training.”

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

Those interested in having a table at the event or to register for the Narcan training are asked to contact Foley at [email protected].

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 14, 2022 - 12:07pm
posted by Press Release in news, notify, GOW opioid task force.

“Parent and Family Resources in Our Communities” is the topic of the next quarterly meeting of the GOW Opioid Task Force.

“Local professionals will be joining us to discuss this important topic,” said Christen Foley, coordinator of the group that includes members from Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

The hourlong meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 21 at The Recovery Station, 5256 Clinton St., Rd., Batavia. Foley said that this will be the first exclusively in-person meeting since January 2020.

Speakers include:

  • Jessica Budzinack, case manager at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, specializing in services for pregnant and post-partum women, and for those who have had children born with exposure to substances;
  • Dawn Stone, peer specialist with Spectrum Health & Human Services, who provides mentoring services to individuals and families in recovery;
  • Angela Angora, director of Reintegration Services at Caz Recovery.

All will be presenting on their roles and their experience working with families, women and children, and will outline all of the services they provide,” Foley said.

A free Narcan training session will take place at 11 a.m. at The Recovery Station. All participants will receive a Narcan kit.

The link to register for the meeting and/or the training is as follows:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/july-2022-quarterly-meeting-tickets-361006509187

May 3, 2022 - 10:31am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GOW opioid task force, GCASA, Wyoming County Jail.

gow3a.jpgNo matter what term is used – and there are several of them, the practice of combining medication and treatment for people struggling with substance use disorder has a singular goal: Saving lives.

“Medication-Assisted-Treatment – or MAT – is an evidence-based program that has been shown to make a positive difference in saving lives for persons with an opiate use disorder. And it's considered the gold standard for treatment of opiate use disorder,” said Ann Bowback, clinical director at Spectrum Health & Human Services in Warsaw.

Bowback is the project director for the Partnership to Address Opioid Epidemic and Save Lives in Western New York Through Medication-Assisted-Treatment, a program funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Speaking at the GOW Opioid Task Force quarterly meeting recently, she explained that her program, in collaboration with Evergreen Health, is looking to increase the number of persons receiving MAT within the Spectrum agencies by at least 200 per year.

“We work to link people with a prescriber the same day, if possible, but at the latest within 72 hours of their initial visit with us,” she said. "We also will add two additional data waiver subscribers per year in order to meet the needs of these additional 200 people. And with this grant, our goal is to ensure that all the MAT clients are offered peer services (recovery advocates) within 60 days of admission.”

Other speakers at the meeting, which took place at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road and provided access via Zoom videoconferencing, were Melissa Weingarten, Wyoming County Jail nurse, and Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Bowback said most substance use disorder providers along with jails and prisons are taking a “whole patient approach” to treatment.

“MAT is more than just medication,” she said. “For some members of the recovery community, including our Evergreen partner, they refer to this as MAR – medication-assisted-recovery. This can be a referred term for some people because it emphasizes a person's commitment to recovery while using medications, and they may or may not be involved with treatment.”

She also said it can be referred to as MOUD (medications for opioid use disorder), which zeroes in on the importance of medication and addressing opiate use, and also as OTP (opioid treatment program) or OBOD (office based opiate treatment).

“PWUD stands for people who use drugs as we’re ideally trying to get away from some of the stigmatizing language like addicts and things like that,” she added. “OUD stands for opiate use disorder and OTP is where you would get medication such as methadone.”

Currently, the Food & Drug Administration has approved three medications for treatment of opiate use disorder -- methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine, Bowback said.

“All medications work a little differently, but all basically normalize brain chemistry in order to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms,” she noted. “Methadone was first used in 1947 to treat opioid addiction and critics complained at that time that methadone merely exchanged one drug for another which led to strict government control over methadone, and that continues today.

“Now, in order to receive methadone for an opiate use disorder, you have to obtain it from an OTP. And although methadone is very effective, some individuals are hesitant to take this medication.”

Bowback said Spectrum offers naltrexone (brand name, Vivitrol), which was approved to treat opiate use disorder in 2010.

“The extended-release formulation is generally preferred for the treatment of opiate use disorder,” she said. “But some individuals do still prefer the pill form. Our prescribers will typically start a person on the pill form prior to prescribing the injection just to ensure the person is able to tolerate it. In order to receive this medication, though, the person cannot have opiates in their system; otherwise, they'll experience withdrawal. So, you must be abstinent for at least seven days.”

Spectrum also offers buprenorphine (also known as suboxone) for MAT, she said. In the 60s, buprenorphine was developed for treatment of pain and approved for treatment of opiate use disorder in 2002.

“Unlike methadone, a person almost immediately receives a seven-day script and within a very short time is able to receive a script for 28 days, which results in less daily disruption to lifestyles,” she advised. “You don't have to be present at a clinic daily … and you don't have to be abstinent for seven days in order to receive the medication.”

Medications reduce withdrawal and cravings and, as a result, decreases the use of illicit drugs and overdose, stabilizes the brain and “most of all, saves lives,” Bowback said.

“It also socially decreases criminal activity and reduces risk of transmission of communicable diseases, reduces risky sexual activity, and increases engagement with treatment.”

MAT is at the core of services at GCASA, which offers an integrated treatment and OTP clinic at its main location in Batavia as well as clinical services at its Orleans County location in Albion, Hodgins said.

“When I started at GCASA in 2002, we were already doing medication-assisted-treatment with alcohol, using naltrexone to treat alcohol dependence,” she said. “And then shortly after, we did start using buprenorphine -- suboxone for opiate use disorder individuals that came in.”

Hodgins said GCASA counselors and medical professionals treat medication for substance use disorder “similar to any kind of medication that you take.”

“So, those on medication are definitely in recovery – it just assists with the recovery. And it really does help reduce the cravings and the physical withdrawal.”

Weingarten shared that Wyoming County Jail started its MAT program in early 2020, offering suboxone and naltrexone.

“We provide medication to those who have been on MAT programs in the community, as long as we can verify that they’ve been in treatment and continued to get it,” she said.

She also mentioned that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation that requires all prisons and jails, beginning in October, to provide MAT to inmates.

“So, we've started that way before she's required it,” she said, adding that the jail program includes individual and group counseling – and connection to peer recovery advocates.

Hodgins said “it just makes sense” to keep incarcerated people on medication, especially considering the rising overdose rates. GCASA provides services to inmates in six jails or prisons, including Genesee, Orleans, Albion, Groveland, Wyoming and Attica.

“Our common goal in our community is to save lives and I’m grateful that the state is on board with that,” she said. “I believe the best way to proceed is to start with a thorough assessment while they’re in jail and getting them on the right medication prior to release. That is how we’re going to save additional lives in our community.”

Photo: Melissa Weingarten, right, Wyoming County Jail nurse, makes a point as Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, during the GOW Opioid Task Force meeting at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road. Submitted photo.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

April 9, 2022 - 9:49am
posted by Press Release in news, notify, GOW opioid task force.

Press release:

“Medicated-Assisted-Treatment in Our Communities” is the topic of the GOW Opioid Task Force quarterly meeting scheduled for 10-11 a.m. April 21 at The Recovery Station, 5256 Clinton St. Rd., Batavia.

The hybrid-style meeting – both in person and via Zoom videoconferencing – is open to the public at no charge.

“We are excited to offer this hybrid option and, more importantly, to provide information on M-A-T to the community,” said Christen Ferraro, GOW Opioid Task Force coordinator.

Discussion will center around what M-A-T is, how it is used in substance use disorder treatment and recovery and its effectiveness, as well as sharing their experiences working with M-A-T services in various settings.

Speakers are:

  • Ann Bowback, clinical director at Spectrum Health & Human Services in Warsaw. She is the project director of the Medicated-Assisted-Treatment program in collaboration with Evergreen Health.
  • Melissa Weingarten, Wyoming County Jail nurse. In November 2021, she joined the Wyoming County Health Department in a full-time capacity as the nurse for jail medical services, administering medication to the inmates.
  • Kathy Hodgins, chief clinical officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. She oversees the M-A-T services and Opioid Treatment Program clinic in Genesee and Orleans counties.

For more details and how to register, visit www.gowopioidtaskforce.com or contact Ferraro at [email protected].

February 18, 2022 - 11:49am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, UMMC, GOW opioid task force.

rebecca_russo_photo.jpgOpioids for pain management are no longer the standard care for chronic pain, according to a board-certified family nurse practitioner at the United Memorial Medical Center Pain Management Center in Batavia.

“We do not avoid prescription medications, but we work to avoid the management of opioids, which can decrease the perception of pain and not the cause of it,” said Rebecca Russo, responding to questions about non-opioid alternatives for the GOW Opioid Task Force.

Russo, (photo at right), an employee at the UMMC pain clinic since August 2020, said as a pain management nurse practitioner, she recommends minimally invasive fluoroscopic procedures for diagnosis and treatment of pain.

“We work with the patient’s primary care physician and other health care professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for these patients,” she said. “We also like to be as conservative as possible (by utilizing) non-invasive measures such as physical therapy, aqua therapy, chiropractic and massage treatments, and acupuncture.”

When it comes to opioids, Russo is well aware of the long-term effects – including addiction – that can result from prolonged use of these drugs.

“There are so many more alternatives a pain management specialist treating chronic pain that can offer the most benefit for these patients,” she said. “A multimodal approach to management is best in treating chronic pain. Opioids are not used for chronic non-malignant pain anymore as studies have shown.”

Russo said she switched to the pain management field when a colleague recommended her for a pain management and neurology position.

“I have to say I wouldn’t have had a better fit in my career. This specialty is fascinating and bountiful in ways to help patients, which I lay my foundation on,” the Michigan native said. “I have been working in pain management since I graduated with my Master of Science in Nursing four years ago.”

Prior to joining the program at UMMC, she was a registered nurse for six years, working on various units, including intermediate care, medical/surgical, observation and progressive care.

She said the local pain clinic treats a wide range of chronic and acute pain conditions, such as neck pain, cancer pain, myofascial pain, joint pain, back pain, phantom limb pain, bursitis, sciatica, post herpetic neuralgia pain, complex regional pain syndrome, peripheral neuropathy and failed back surgery syndrome.

“Some of the micro-invasive procedures that can be performed at the UMMC Pain Center include nerve blocks in various areas as well as radiofrequency ablations; lumbar, thoracic and cervical epidural steroid injections; trigger point injections; and spinal cord stimulator implantation,” she said.

The practice is growing coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, she reported, with more and more in-person visits being scheduled.

“At this time, we strive to keep our visits in-person, but we can accommodate telemedicine visits when a patient is unable to be seen in-person. This may be for various reasons such as being ill, inability to drive or last minute patient schedule changes,” she explained.

Russo sees the pain clinic as a viable alternative for people dealing with chronic pain, adding that the patient is considered “an important team member.”

“Interventional management is beneficial for patients when their pain continues even after attempting conservative treatments or do not have a diagnosis for their pain,” she said. “A proper diagnosis is the first step to successful treatment.

“Another benefit for these patients is that they want to avoid surgery if possible or if they’ve had surgery, but still experiencing pain, we can provide them alternatives to another surgery unless otherwise indicated.”

The UMMC Pain Center is located at 229 Summit St., Suite 4. For more information, call 585-815-6710.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

January 18, 2022 - 11:30am

rob-kent_photo.jpgPress release:

Rob Kent, former general counsel for the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports who currently is serving in a similar position for the White House Office of National Drug Policy, will be the keynote speaker at the GOW Opioid Task Force quarterly meeting on Thursday.

The public is invited to watch and participate in the meeting, which is scheduled from 9:30 to 11 a.m. via Zoom videoconferencing.

To register, go to www.gowopioidtaskforce.org. Once registered, a confirmation email with Zoom information and a link to join the meeting will be sent.

Task Force Coordinator Christen Ferraro said that Kent (pictured above) will share the federal government’s perspective on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as what is being done at the national level to combat the opioid crisis.

“It is important that we continue the conversation surrounding the opioid crisis and ways we can help amidst the pandemic,” Ferraro said. “People in our community are still struggling and in need of support and treatment services. This virtual meeting helps us to stay connected and to safely reach even more of the concerned citizens in our tri-county region.”

Ferraro said she will share highlights of the task force’s accomplishments over the past year and provide updates on the various work groups.

Kent is well respected among several professional groups, receiving glowing endorsements from the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Association upon his hiring by the Biden administration.

In his role at OASAS, Kent provided overall legal support, policy guidance, and direction to the OASAS Executive Office and all divisions of the agency.

He led OASAS efforts to implement New York State’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force recommendations, which included the Combat Addiction/Heroin Campaign, the Federal Opioid Targeted Grant program, and Medicaid Redesign Team initiatives. He also led efforts on the implementation of historic legislation to increase access to treatment, including harm reduction services.

Kent has co-authored articles on patient confidentiality and sober homes and has presented nationally and throughout New York State on the addiction system of care.

Most recently, he served as vice president of Advocacy and general counsel for the American Association of Orthodontists, a national healthcare organization.

For more information on the GOW Opioid Task Force, contact Ferraro at [email protected].

October 31, 2021 - 4:35pm

greg_ireland_1.jpgIn the eyes of City of Batavia Fire Captain Greg Ireland, his department made a wise and potentially life-saving decision to join the Public Safety Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative in Genesee County.

Ireland, speaking at the GOW Opioid Task Force meeting via Zoom earlier this month, said access to a specially-built foyer in front of the fire headquarters on Evans Street for those struggling with substance use has made a big difference – not only for those individuals who are seeking help but also for the fire department personnel assigned to support them.

The Task Force, in conjunction with the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, hosted a public event at the fire station this summer to welcome the City of Batavia FD into the fold – joining the City of Batavia and Village of Le Roy police departments and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

The City of Batavia FD is the first fire department in the state to be a part of the PAARI network.

Ireland (photo at right) said that by educating them about substance use and addiction, firefighters learned to understand what some people are going through.

“There were some in our department who said they didn’t want those people in our building; that they didn’t want to deal with addicts,” he said. “Through education, that was a very easy hurdle to change. Educating our firefighters and employees to the opioid crisis.”

PERCEPTIONS HAVE CHANGED

He also said a key factor in the education process was when a GCASA peer advocate came to the fire department and met with every one of the firefighters.

“That really bridged that gap. They were able to see that these are real people who have real struggles and eventually can be successful,” he said.

Ireland, in thanking the GRHF for a grant that made it possible, pointed to the secure area for PAARI intake at the building’s front door as overcoming another hurdle.

“We were able to build a double-door foyer for intake now, and that’s where the process starts,” he said. “But a firefighter is assigned to stay with that person from the minute they walk in until the peer counselor from GCASA arrives.”

Ireland took on the role as coordinator of the PAARI program for the department after learning the success the Chatham Police Department had in starting several years ago. The initial thought of Chatham organizers was to reduce petty crime by taking those with substance use disorder off the street by getting them help.

“Think about these folks who have that substance use disorder, and they’ll basically take from anything to feed their habit,” he said. “So, what they found is that by eliminating the people with substance use disorder in his community, they reduced the petty crime – theft and things of that nature because people weren’t stealing to buy drugs. That was the whole goal of this program. It reduces crime and there’s some scientific evidence to prove that.”

Ireland said medics use special business cards – printed with “Addiction is not a crime, it’s a disease” and “Help is available 24/7” – when responding to calls involving drug use.

“We will leave the cards on the kitchen table as we leave,” he said. “Our hope is someday maybe they will pick that up, see it and maybe it’s the right time for them to accept the help.”

NON-ARREST PATHWAYS TO TREATMENT

PAARI’s mission is to provide training, guidance, support, and resources to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

It was founded by the Gloucester (Mass.) Police Department along with the Angel Program in June 2015 – creating a simple, stigma-free entry point to treatment and reframing addiction as a disease.

Under this program, those struggling with substance use can go to the law enforcement agency 24/7 and receive help, stigma-free, GOW Opioid Task Force Coordinator Christen Ferraro said.

“What that means is that an officer will meet them at the door and they will help them to get the help that they need,” she said. “If they have drugs on them, police or fire officials will dispose of those drugs for them, they will connect them with the resources for treatment and recovery, and kind of be that first entry point to getting help.”

One of those resources is the support of a GCASA peer support advocate – a team player, often in recovery, who steps into the role of providing a bridge between providers and clients that facilitates the medical and psychosocial care of the client.

Rob Shields, who spoke during the meeting, is one of those people.

MAKING CONNECTIONS IS THE KEY

“As someone in recovery, I wish that I knew about a program like this due to the fact that I might have not gone through the struggles that I went through,” Shields said before explaining his responsibilities.rob_shields_1.jpg

He said that those struggling with substance use need someone they can connect with – someone who can relate to their situation.

“A peer advocate or peer support advocate emphasizes their support for the peer they're working with,” he said. “They connect with the peer and fight for what they need. Peer advocates can be found next to peers in court. They help them come up with coping skills and ways to monitor their own progress.”

Shields (photo at right) emphasized that substance dependency can be “a scary place.”

“You get to the point where you don’t know where to turn, and you don’t know who to talk to. You’re in so deep, that nothing else matters in your life,” he explained. “You think that people won’t give you the time of day, but with the PAARI program you have people that are there to support you and connect you to the resources to help you on your road to recovery.”

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Along with the options of going to the agencies mentioned above, other avenues for those seeking help with substance use disorder are the 24/7 telephone hotline -- CARE + CRISIS / WYO CO CRISIS 585-283-5200 / PEER PHONE LINE 585-815-1800 -- and GCASA’s The Recovery Station at 5256 Clinton Street Rd., Batavia.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

August 26, 2021 - 1:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GOW opioid task force, GCASA.

vinyard_talk_1.jpg

Over the 12 months prior to September of 2020, 90,237 in the United States – a 30 percent increase from the previous year.

In 2017, 585,000 worldwide.

In 2020, 15 in Genesee County and seven in Orleans County.

Those figures represent the number of people who have died from an opioid overdose – staggering figures that reveal the extent of the epidemic that continues to devastate society.

Healthcare and mental health professionals in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties on the front lines of this scourge came together on Wednesday afternoon at Austin Park for the annual International Overdose Awareness Day observance.

Representatives of a dozen agencies plus area residents whose lives have been affected by opioid use attended the event, which was to raise awareness and to remember those who have been lost due to an overdose.

Genesee/Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit shared that in 2020, 58 people from Genesee County went to the emergency room and another 38 from Orleans County went to the ER due to drug overdoses – both up from 2019.

“That can be attributed to COVID; people were isolated and feeling alone,” he said.

Pettit had encouraging words about the efforts of the GOW Opioid Task Force, an organization comprised of people from various sectors of the community.

“We’ve been working together for many years and are making great strides,” he said, mentioning an increase in access to care and the amount of Narcan training being done. “We want to get more people trained. We have a medication that can save lives.”

He said that since 2018, about 3,500 people have been trained.

“We’re making gains but we still have a ways to go,” he said.

John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, spoke about the impact of Overdose Awareness Day throughout the world, noting that events such as the one in Batavia are taking place throughout the state and in around 40 countries.

International Overdose Awareness Day was created in 2001 by Sally J. Finn at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia.

“As we come together today, not only think about those locally who have lost their lives, but this is a worldwide problem that’s killed over a million people,” he said.

Agencies taking part in the event included GO Health, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Erie County Health Department, Spectrum Human Services, The Recovery Station, Wyoming County Mental Health, Fidelis Care, Rochester Regional Healthy, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Horizon Health.

GOW Opioid Task Force Coordinator Christen Ferraro said the Old County Courthouse will be lit up on Aug. 31 and signs commemorating awareness day will be placed in the front of the building.

Photo caption: Melissa Vinyard, a peer advocate at GCASA, shares her story of recovery at Wednesday’s Overdose Awareness Day. Vinyard said drugs and alcohol use nearly killed her, but she sought help and now has been sober since Dec. 30, 2017. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the GCASA publicist.

August 15, 2021 - 1:38pm
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA, GOW opioid task force.

Press release:

Join us to help raise awareness and remember the lives that have been lost due to an overdose.

Backed by that clear but hard-hitting mission statement, members of the GOW Opioid Task Force will be coming together on Aug. 25 to host their version of the International Overdose Awareness Day observation.

The event is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. at Austin Park in Batavia.

“We’re thankful to be able to welcome everyone to join us in recognizing the significance of the opioid epidemic upon the residents of our community,” said Christen Ferraro, project coordinator for the GOW Opioid Task Force, which is funded by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation. “Those in attendance will be able to hear first-hand from those who have experienced loss due to overdoses.”

Representatives of local human services agencies will be on hand to share information, and free Narcan training and kits will be offered, Ferraro said. Free food and refreshments will be served.

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

International Overdose Awareness Day was created in 2001 by Sally J. Finn at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia, and now is held on an annual basis. Locally, it took place virtually last year due to COVID-19. In 2020, there were 602 Overdose Awareness Day events held in 37 countries.

To register for this year’s event, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/overdose-awareness-day-event-tickets-165953867485.

Those interested in having a vendor table are asked to contact Ferraro at [email protected].

April 19, 2021 - 3:33pm
posted by Press Release in news, GCASA, GOW opioid task force.

Press release:

The proper way to dispose of medications will be the focus of Thursday’s quarterly meeting of the GOW (Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming) Opioid Task Force.

The meeting will be livestreamed via Zoom, starting at 9:30 a.m. It is expected to last for an hour.

Scott Wilson, superintendent of the Orleans County Jail, has agreed to make a presentation on National Drug Take Back Day, which is scheduled for this Saturday, with locations in the three counties.

Wilson has worked closely with this event for the past few years. In his presentation, he will discuss the organization of these events, collection of medications and their proper disposal, and the impact this day has on our community.

This meeting is open to the public and the community is invited to join and share any questions they may have.

“With National Drug Take Back Day coming up on April 24th, we felt this would be a great topic to cover with the members of the Task Force and our community,” said Christen Ferraro, GOW Opioid Task Force coordinator.

Ferraro noted that prescription opioid misuse is an ongoing and escalating epidemic as 70 percent of opioid dependence, overdoses and deaths begin with leftover drugs in the medicine cabinet.

“It is important to help remove the risks that leftover medications pose to you, as well as your families and friends. With this meeting, we hope to increase awareness of safe disposal methods, as environmental studies have shown that flushed medications flow into our water supply and negatively impact the fish we eat and water we drink,” she added.

To access the meeting link, go to www.gowopioidtaskforce.org. Once registered, participants will receive a confirmation email with Zoom information and a link to join.

January 15, 2021 - 2:57pm

Press release:

The GOW Opioid Task Force will be hosting its second virtual Quarterly Meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21st.

This meeting will focus on highlights from the past year, plans for 2021, and how we have adjusted our efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, local addictions professionals will speak on how the pandemic has directly impacted their agencies, treatment services, and any trends they are seeing in our community. 

“It is important we continue the conversation surrounding the opioid crisis and discuss ways we can help amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Christen Ferraro, project coordinator. “People in our community are still struggling and in need of additional support. This virtual setting of our Quarterly Meeting helps us to stay connected and reach even more people across our tri-county region.”

This meeting is open to the public and the community is invited to join and share any questions they may have.

Please visit the GOW Opioid Task Force website for more details and to register. Once registered you will receive a confirmation email with Zoom information and a link to join.

December 23, 2020 - 4:06pm
posted by Press Release in news, GOW opioid task force, PAARI.

Press release:

With Christmas just two days away, many people in our community aren’t experiencing the joy that the season brings, but are struggling with substance use disorders and the resulting feelings of depression and loneliness.  

Leaders of the local law enforcement agencies and fire department involved with the Public Safety Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative want residents in those situations to know that they understand and are available to help them on a road to recovery and sobriety.

PAARI, a program of the GOW (Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming) Opioid Task Force, is a joint venture of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, City of Batavia Police Department, Le Roy Police Department, and City of Batavia Fire Department that provides support and resources to create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

Those dealing with substance use issues can connect with these agencies throughout the coronavirus pandemic and holiday season to access safe and nonjudgmental support, said Christen Ferraro, task force coordinator.

“We appreciate our law enforcement and fire department locations for continuing to offer this line of assistance to our community,” she said.

City of Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said his department is “committed to helping those in our community that need help the most.”

“We have worked closely with the Opioid Task Force and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to make the City Police Department a place that anyone suffering from substance abuse can come to and be connected with services, no questions asked,” he said. “If you or a loved is in need, you can access the Department 24/7 by coming to Police Headquarters located at 10 West Main Street and ask to speak with an officer. They will connect you with a peer advocate from GCASA to help you on a road to recovery.”

City of Batavia Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano echoed Heubusch’s sentiments.

“The City of Batavia Fire Department, located at 18 Evans Street, is pleased to provide a judgment free and safe area of refuge for those seeking assistance in dealing with substance abuse,” he said. “Having the ability to partner with so many agencies to assist those in time of need coincides with our department's mission.”

Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron said his office is “proud” to participate in the initiative.

“We fully recognize that addiction has no boundaries, and we are committed to providing assistance to anyone at any time,” he said. “Please do not hesitate. Let us help you obtain the treatment that you deserve to overcome your addiction.”

For more information, contact Ferraro at [email protected].

November 12, 2020 - 9:19am

task_force_-_community_star_award_1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These communities also face unique healthcare needs.

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

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

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

Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

October 21, 2020 - 5:00pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GOW opioid task force.

dr.-terry-daniels.jpgIf more people utilized the services of nonmedical practitioners such as chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists and pain management professionals, it could significantly reduce addiction to prescription opioids, according to a Wyoming County chiropractor who will be one of the guest speakers at Thursday’s GOW Opioid Task Force quarterly meeting.

Terry Daniels, DC, who, with wife, Dawn, owns and operates Daniels Family Chiropractic in Warsaw, said a recent study shows that noninvasive procedures – spinal adjustments or alternative drugless therapies – “demonstrate an inverse relationship between chiropractic utilization and opioid use for patients with spinal pain.”

He said an article in Pain Medicine from Sept. 27, 2019, cited statistics revealing that those who saw a chiropractor were 64-percent less likely to use opioids compared to those who did not.

“And regarding lumbar spine surgery, if the first provider a patient sees for back pain is a chiropractor as opposed to a surgeon, 42.7 percent of workers who first saw a surgeon had back surgery whereas just 1.5 percent of workers who first saw a chiropractor required surgery,” he offered.

Daniels’ presentation on the topic of “Non-Opioid Alternatives to Pain Management” will focus on the benefits of nonmedical practices, especially as they relate to preventing injuries and conditions that could lead to chronic pain.

The virtual meeting is scheduled for 9:30 to 11 a.m. tomorrow via Zoom videoconferencing.

Task force members are asked to register by going to www.gowopioidtaskforce.org. Once registered, a confirmation email will be sent with Zoom information and a link to join the meeting.

“As a chiropractor, I tend to look at health and health care from a different perspective,” Daniels said. “I am thankful and grateful that in our society we have developed medical specialties and have the best specialized care in the world. I see the new cancer institutes going up and new cardiac centers going up … however, the question I always ask is, “Where is the new center for prevention of disease, or where is the new how to avoid getting heart disease and how to avoid getting cancer center?”

Daniels said if society concentrated more on prevention, then it would have “to worry much less about treatment.”

“The practice of medicine is the treatment of disease. Optimization of one’s health is rarely addressed other than in passing. We as health consumers have become lazy and reliant upon just getting a prescription and paying lip service to prevention,” he said.

Concerning the opioid crisis, Daniels wonders why society doesn’t do a better job “of fighting this problem on the front end now that the cat is out of the box.”

“What can we do to better manage and treat and eliminate pain from the onset that we are not doing now?”

The majority of opioid prescriptions are for musculoskeletal injury, Daniels said, with an estimated 126.6 million Americans (one in two adults) affected by a musculoskeletal condition. People with these conditions -- back pain, neck pain, headaches and joint injuries – comprise the bulk of a chiropractor’s work.

Daniels noted that chiropractic is the largest drug-free health care profession in the world, and is documented to be effective in the acute and chronic neuromusculoskeletal pain environment. He added that other nonmedical professionals such as massage therapists, physical therapists, yoga instructors, pain psychologists and mindfulness-based stress reduction classes also produce encouraging results.

Along those lines, he said more emphasis should be placed on directing patients to nonpharmacological approaches.

“In my opinion, based on this information, thousands to hundreds of thousands of cases of addiction and even deaths could be avoided if we utilized these practitioners more,” he said. “It is important to bring awareness to this topic because people are dying. The same level of thinking that got us into this problem is not going to get us out of it.”

The doctor said he is thankful that Gov. Andrew Cuomo considered chiropractic physicians as “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic, mentioning that the “vast majority of the emergency chiropractic treatments were performed on essential workers and many medical providers.”

Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.

October 19, 2020 - 10:40am
posted by Press Release in GCASA, GOW opioid task force, health department.

Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 8, 2020 - 1:13pm

COVID-19 is not about to stop the GOW Opioid Task Force from continuing its vision of collaboration and engagement leading to a community free from opioid-related deaths and overdoses.

Task Force Coordinator Christen Ferraro today announced that the group will conduct its first virtual quarterly meeting from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Oct. 22 via Zoom videoconferencing.

“Now, more than ever, it is important we continue the conversation surrounding the opioid crisis,” Ferraro said. “This new virtual setting of our quarterly meeting will help us to do that and reach even more of the communities across our tri-county region.”

Ferraro said the meeting will focus on the topic of non-opioid alternatives to pain management.

“Two local professionals have agreed to share their knowledge on this topic with an opportunity for questions to follow,” she said. “This meeting is open to the public and the community is invited to learn more on this topic and share any questions they may have.”

To register, visit www.gowopioidtaskforce.org for more details. Once registered, a confirmation email will be sent with Zoom information and a link to join.

The task force, serving Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, currently has more than 350 members from across the tri-county region.

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

Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella. GCASA publicist.

August 3, 2020 - 4:26pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GOW opioid task force, health department.

Press release:

COVID-19 may have temporarily put a stop to large gatherings, but the coronavirus pandemic is no match for the GOW Opioid Task Force’s commitment to informing the public of the dangers of opioid drug use and ways to prevent potentially deadly overdoses.

“Our Overdose Awareness Day is not able to be held this summer due to social distancing guidelines and restrictions on the use of parks, so we will be transitioning to an online event,” said Christen Ferraro, task force coordinator. “All the information that would have been shared at Austin Park in Batavia will be put on our Facebook page.”

Ferraro added that the task force plans to post – on a regular basis throughout August -- articles, videos, local data and stories from individuals that have been affected by an overdose.

Genesee/Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit, a member of the task force, said he is well aware of the widespread impact of the opioid epidemic.

“Any loss of life is devastating to a community,” he said. “The effect is far-reaching as it devastates the family system – economically as a number of financially productive years are lost and emotionally as no dollar amounts can equal the loss of a life due to addiction.”

Pettit said that setting aside a period of time, be it a month or a day, to remind people of the various issues surrounding opioid use is important.

“There are so many services available for those experiencing addictive behaviors or are experimenting with various substances, and we encourage people to use those services before it is too late,” he said.

Ferraro also advised that another virtual opioid overdose prevention and Narcan training is scheduled for Aug. 26, with sessions at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The training will cover the disease of addiction, a brief history of the opioid crisis, signs and symptoms of opioid use and overdose, the overdose reversal drug Narcan and the administration of Narcan.

Attendance is required at just one of the sessions for the participant to receive credit for the course.

“Those completing the training will learn more about how to prevent an opioid overdose and will receive a free Narcan nasal spray kit,” Ferraro said. “It is important to bring awareness to this day and the impact an overdose can have on an individual, their families and the community.”

The registration deadline is Aug. 24. To register, contact Ferraro at [email protected]

For more information and to see the event flyer, go to Facebook.com/gowopioidtaskforce.

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

Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The registration deadline is June 23.

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

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

Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit www.gowopioidtaskforce.org.

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