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GC Health Department staff is bringing 'Healthy Neighborhoods' to Wards 2 and 5 in Batavia

By Joanne Beck


If you’ve ever had health or safety concerns about certain aspects of your household, but didn’t know who to call, don’t worry: help is coming your way with the Healthy Neighborhoods Program. And there might even be some free goodies thrown in for participating.

That is, if you live in Wards Two or Five in the City of Batavia. Genesee County Health Department staff will be going door-to-door based on census tracts, and this year it’s those two wards, environmental health professional Karen Schmidt said during a recent presentation to City Council.

“The Healthy Neighborhoods program is a grant from the New York State Department of Health. It's a five-year grant and runs from 2020 to 2027. So we just started our second year … health department staff make home visits to people. It's for renters and homeowners, it doesn't matter. And our target area right now is the town and the city of Batavia. Our goal is 200 visits per year,” Schmidt said.

Staff goes door-to-door to survey certain potential health issues, such as smoking and asthma. If anyone in the home smokes or has asthma, “we have more information for those people,” she said. But it’s not all about one’s direct personal health, she said.

“We check for fire safety in the home, for working smoke detectors, windows and doors that are accessible in an emergency, that there’s not a lot of clutter that would prevent you from being able to leave,” she said. “We check for lead hazards in homes that were built before 1978 because that is the year that they banned lead from consumer paint. So for that, we look for deteriorated paint because it’s the dust or the particles that are the hazard.”

Mind you, this doesn’t take off from the initial visit from a stranger at the door. They typically leave a hanger packet of information and set up an appointment if the homeowner is interested in this health and safety review. It also includes indoor air quality, checking to see if anyone smokes inside, and if so, encouraging them to take it outside.

“And then just the general condition of the house, are there major roof leaks, plumbing leaks, are the floors, the stairs, the railings in good condition,” she said. “And we have a referral sheet that’s to agencies or providers of services that might be applicable. We don’t have the budget to do repairs ourselves, or we can try to refer them to community groups to help, and then we have the free supplies (top photo of smoke detector, fire extinguisher, radon test kit, first aid kit, cleaning supplies).”

For those with asthma, staff helps to educate them about potential triggers, the importance of talking to their doctor, when to take their meds, and what to take in an emergency to avoid a trip to the emergency room. Senior citizens may be referred to Office for the Aging to receive assistance for their particular needs, such as handrails or advice for family issues. Staff also can point people to food pantries, the community closet and other resources, she said.

The Batavian asked follow-up questions, and Schmidt and Public Information Officer Kaitlin Pettine gave the following responses.

Does staff give demonstrations of how to use wellness equipment?
“If possible, we want the equipment installed before we leave. We are working with the City of Batavia Fire Department to install smoke detectors going forward. We also make sure that carbon monoxide detectors are activated and discuss the proper placement. For fire extinguishers, we provide a brochure on usage and give brief instructions,” they said.

Why would they want to take a few minutes to listen?
“Most people could use a quick check of hazards to look for in their homes. It is better to be aware and plan for an emergency, than to be caught off guard.”

 What time period are you going out in Batavia?
"We do not have a set schedule for when we go out, and the time changes each week based on the weather, staff availability, etc. However, we try to go into the community several hours a week. We try to alternate between areas and time of day. As the weather gets better and we get into late spring and summer, we hope to spend more time going door-to-door. We also plan to attend community events to spread awareness about the program."

Will you be moving into other areas after the city? If so, where?
"This year, we are going door to door in census tracts 9507 (Ward 5) and 9508 (Ward 2) in the City of Batavia. However, any resident of the City or Town of Batavia is eligible for the program and we accept referrals at any time."  

Will you be distinguishable, so that people will know it's you and not a salesperson?
"When we go door-to-door, staff wear Genesee County Health Department badges and identify themselves as health department employees when someone opens the door,” they said. “If someone is hesitant, we encourage them to go to to get some more information. There they can fill out a referral form online if they are interested in the program. Staff will then schedule an appointment that is at a convenient time for the resident.”

What's the overall message that you hope to convey to families?
"The Healthy Neighborhoods Program can make a difference by reducing housing related illness and injury through home inspections and prevention. Staff will identify problems that exist and refer residents to local agencies or programs when it is appropriate."

The Genesee County Health Department received $477,000 in funding from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to implement the Healthy Neighborhoods Program (HNP) for the years 2022 to 2027.

For more information or to make a referral to the program, call Genesee County HNP staff at 585-344-2580, Ext. 5519, or visit

Photo of free items given during home visits from GO HealthNY.

This week is National Infant Immunization Week

By Press Release

Press Release:

April 24-30 is National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). National Infant Immunization Week is observed yearly and highlights the importance of protecting children from birth to two years of age from serious childhood diseases.

As a parent, you want to protect your little one from harm. Vaccines, which are among the most worthwhile and successful public health tools, have significantly reduced infant deaths and disability caused by 14 preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough, chickenpox and polio.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among children born from 1994-2018, vaccinations will prevent an estimated 936,000 early deaths, 8 million hospitalizations, and 419 million illnesses.

GO Health encourages parents to make sure their children are up-to-date on their routine vaccinations. “Children who may have missed or skipped vaccinations may be at an increased risk of diseases, which can be serious,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “It is important to stay on track with well-child visits and recommended vaccination schedules. Please check with your healthcare provider to make sure your children are up to date on their routine vaccinations.”

For more information about vaccines and the diseases they prevent, visit these

  • Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule
  • Vaccines for Your Children
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Parenting Website

For more information on GO Health’s Immunization Clinics, visit You can also contact your respective health department:

  • Genesee County: (585) 344-2580 x5555 or
  • Orleans County:  (585) 589-3278 or

This week is National Health Week

By Press Release

Press release:

April 3-9 is National Public Health Week (NPHW). The goal of National Public Health Week is to recognize the contributions of public health, and the workforce and highlight issues that can improve the health and well-being of our communities.

The primary purpose of public health is prevention, protection, and improving the health of the entire population. “Many of the leading causes of death for individuals in our community result from chronic conditions, which are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health challenges,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health).

GO Health supports and implements programming and interventions that address emerging health issues and topics including, but not limited to, chronic diseases, overdose deaths, suicides, communicable diseases, substance use disorders, adverse childhood experiences, trauma, maternal and child health, a safe environment, and social determinants of health.  “At GO Health, we have an enthusiastic staff that aims to protect and improve the health of residents in our community,” stated Pettit. “We thank them for their service and dedication.” 

However, we know that we cannot make a difference without building effective working relationships with partners in healthcare and other sectors. As Chief Health Strategists, GO Health collaborates with partners outside of the health sector, including city planners, transportation officials, educational officials, legislators, and private businesses, because we recognize that other sectors can influence health factors and outcomes. “We would like to take this time during National Public Health Week to thank our partners,” stated Pettit. “We could not make the impact and improve the lives of our residents without the tireless work and effort our partners and volunteers put into our communities.”

This NPHW, GO Health, encourages residents of Genesee and Orleans Counties to help celebrate National Public Health Week by participating in activities to help improve their health and make our community healthier, stronger, and safer. Some suggestions include:

  • Eat less processed foods and drinks.
  • Quit smoking and vaping. Call the New York State (NYS) Quitline at 1-866-697-8487 for free patches and more.
  • Be active. Take a walk or bike ride along the canal, on a trail, or in a village.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on routine screenings for colorectal (colon) cancer, breast cancer, and cervical cancer.
  • Make sure you and your children are up-to-date on routine immunizations.
  • Stay away from wildlife, including injured animals and pets that aren’t yours, to reduce your risk of rabies. Love your own, leave the rest alone.
  • Keep your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination.
  • Learn how to administer Naloxone (Narcan).
  • Volunteer at a local service organization that contributes to the health and well-being of our community.
  • Read to your children, every day.
  • The only way to find out if your children have been exposed to lead is through a blood test. Get your children tested for lead at ages 1 and 2.
  • Make sure your children see their doctors for routine well-child visits to monitor their growth and developmental milestones.
  • Be prepared and make a family emergency plan. Practice your plan with your family/household and make sure your emergency kit is stocked with essential items. For more information, visit
  • Practice mindfulness or try yoga to help relieve stress.

For more information on GO Health Programs, visit

'There is Hope!' HEALing Community launches medication for opioid use disorder education 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. Since 2018, there have been 59 fatal opioid overdoses in Genesee County, with 16 additional deaths still pending official causes of death as of February 2023. In 2021, Genesee County experienced at least 9 fatal opioid overdoses (16.6 per 100,000).

But there is hope! Opioid use disorder is a type of substance use disorder and chronic brain disease that occurs when people continue to use opioids despite negative consequences. Like many other chronic diseases, opioid use disorder can be managed with medications like buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone that reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings and decrease the risk of relapse and overdose death. However, stigma and the fear of being judged or discriminated against keep people with opioid use disorder from seeking the medication they need to support their recovery.

To address this challenge, the Genesee County Health Department, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) and other community partners will implement the second of three communications campaigns from March 6 - May 5, 2023, to help:

  • Increase understanding of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and
  • Reduce stigma that impacts people with the disease from seeking medical care.

A HEALing Communities Study spokesperson, Scott, had taken MOUD for several years as part of his recovery path. Today, he has stayed on track for more than three years without medication assistance.

During an interview led by study staff, Scott provided details of his extensive struggles with substances, including heroin and fentanyl. He also emphasized the importance of medication such as methadone and suboxone. Scott, who has turned his life around and now is a certified recovery peer advocate in Rochester, calls upon his own experience as a “message of hope” for others struggling with opioid use disorder.

“Medication maintenance in recovery can give people a chance to start their journey to sobriety,” he said, “because sometimes people can’t just stop.” His advice to others is to not give up because MOUD does work.

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

“We are so thankful to all of the spokespersons who have shared their powerful stories about their recovery journey and how they have overcome challenges to seek medication for opioid use disorder to support their recovery,” said Charlene Grimm, member of the GOW Opioid Task Force HEALing workgroup. “Their stories continue to save lives by inspiring people with opioid use disorder to stay on medication as long as needed.”  

About the HEALing Communities Study
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that 2.1 million Americans have opioid use disorder, yet fewer than 20% of those receive specialty care in a given year. New York State has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the nation. A menu of evidence-based practices (EBPs) exists, including opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution programs, prescription opioid safety, FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder, behavioral therapies, and recovery support services. 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 identify the EBPs that are most effective at the local level in preventing and treating OUD. The goal of the study is to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths by 40 percent. The first phase of the study, which ended June 30, 2022, occurred in Cayuga, Columbia, Greene, Erie, Lewis, Putnam, Suffolk, and Ulster Counties. The second phase of the study will now run through December 2023 in Broome, Chautauqua, Cortland, Genesee, Monroe, Orange, Sullivan, and Yates counties. In support of this work, Genesee County is collaborating with local partners in a new workgroup of the Genesee- Orleans- Wyoming (GOW) Opioid Task Force to launch three communications campaigns:

  1. Naloxone-Fentanyl Education (occurred 10/3/2022-12/2/2022)
  2. MOUD Anti-Stigma & Awareness (3/6/2023-5/5/2023)
  3. MOUD Treatment Retention (8/7/2023-10/6/2023)

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

GO Health provides update on Weights and Measures

By Press Release

Press release:

Promoting a fair and equitable marketplace is the work of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, Department of Weights & Measures (GO Health W&M). This department protects open market transactions, ensuring fairness for both buyers and sellers.

“The worth of county and state Weights & Measures departments are more valuable than ever. Persistent price increases of everyday necessities are straining our communities, and people are stretching their money to new levels. We are here to make sure you get what you are paying for,” stated Ronald P. Mannella, GO Health W&M Director.

2022 included 470 inspections accounting for 1,211 devices in 209 businesses. These tests involved pumping more than 26,000 gallons of fuel and using more than 5.9 million pounds of test weight. The department handled 13 complaint investigations, confirmed 591 package weights & 300 item prices, and collected 132 fuel samples confirming fuel sold within both counties met a variety of parameters.

With support from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, GO Health has already confirmed over five times as many item prices compared to 2022. “This is just another way we are able to protect consumers. Pricing accuracy is our top priority going forward,” stated Mannella.

2023 Audits (to date):

  • 92 Overcharges (Prices at checkout were higher than shelf tags)
  • 30 Undercharges (Prices at checkout were lower than shelf tags)
  • 8 Missing shelf tags

Keep a watchful eye on your receipts to confirm prices match at checkout.

Sharing Services, Reducing Costs
After recently celebrating 10 years of shared services between the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, GO Health W&M started its fourth year of the cross county collaboration. Savings have exceeded $150,000 in W&M costs alone.

Health Department encourages home radon testing

By Press Release

Press release:

January is Radon Action Month, an annual observance that focuses on increasing the public’s awareness of the health risks of radon and how you can take action. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no smell, taste or color. When radon forms from the breakdown of uranium found in soil, it can enter a home through cracks in the walls, basement floors, foundations and other openings.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and claims the lives of approximately 21,000 Americans each year. This January, we are encouraging all homeowners, renters, real estate agents and building managers to conduct radon testing. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) recommends testing for radon during the buying/selling of a home, after doing a major renovation, and every two to five years, depending on previous radon level readings.

The EPA and NYSDOH have identified Genesee County as having a high average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter). The good news is, testing your home with a short-term radon test kit is a quick and easy way to determine if there are high levels of radon present in your home. The test kits are easy to use and contain basic instructions on how to receive the most accurate results when testing your home for radon.

“The only way to know if high levels of radon are present in your home is by testing your home for radon,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). The Genesee County Health Department was awarded a five-year grant through the NYSDOH to provide radon prevention education and distribute free radon test kits to Genesee County residents. Currently, there is a limited supply of radon test kits that can be given to residents of Genesee County, and this process is free of charge when you request a kit. If you live outside of Genesee County, you can purchase an inexpensive radon test kit from your local hardware store.

If test results come back and the radon levels in your home are greater than 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), you can contact a certified radon mitigation contractor to install a radon reduction system in your home. This would be at the homeowner’s expense.  

For more details about the program or to seek a radon test kit, call the Genesee County Health Department at (585) 344-2580 ext. 5555. For more information on radon or other GO Health programs and services, visit

Health Department seeking information on dog that bit person in Le Roy

By Press Release

Press release:

The Genesee County Health Department is seeking information about the location of a dog and its owner(s) following a dog bite incident on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 4:30 p.m. The incident occurred on the corner of St Marks Street and North Street in the Village of Le Roy.

The dog was described as a brown, pit bull/boxer mix. The owner was walking their dog on a leash, and the victim was walking toward the owner. As the victim was walking past the dog, the dog jumped up and bit the victim's left, upper arm. After the incident, the owner proceeded toward Church Street.

It is important to locate the dog to determine whether or not it is current on its rabies vaccination. If the health status is not identified, post-exposure rabies shots will be offered to the victim.   

If you have information about the location of the dog and its owner(s), please contact the Genesee County Health Department at (585) 344-2580 ext. 5555.

Health Department offers 'Year in Review' report

By Press Release

Press release:

As we say goodbye to 2022, Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) would like to wish you all a healthy and Happy New Year. This was a full year for the Health Departments. Not only were staff involved in ongoing COVID-19 activities, Monkeypox (Mpox) and polio were added to the list of emerging issues. Staff were determined to keep working towards Public Health Accreditation (expected in 2023) and also kept many public services and operations running smoothly to help improve the health and well-being of residents.

The Community Health Services staff have been working diligently, including remaining up-to-date on the evolution of the COVID-19 vaccination guidelines. Throughout 2022, immunization clinics (including COVID-19 and traditional), as well as outreach to migrant and seasonal farmworkers, resulted in 3,212 vaccinations being administered. This includes 42 individuals who received post-exposure rabies treatment after being exposed to a confirmed or suspected rabid animal. Not including COVID-19, 472 communicable disease investigations were conducted. During the growing season, staff provided various healthcare services to 1,388 seasonal and migrant farmworkers on location to reduce barriers to receiving care.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness started in 2022, responding to a tidal wave of COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant.  However, due to the lower severity of this variant combined with increased immunity within the community, efforts to contain this variant began to lessen, and public health emergency preparedness eventually began focusing on risks associated with new infectious threats, which ranged from avian influenza and Ebola to Mpox and polio. Experience from COVID-19 response led to dramatic changes for Emergency Preparedness, including revision of major preparedness plans, re-organization of the medical reserve corps and revision of an emergency preparedness mobile app.  

Environmental Health staff continue to regulate permitted facilities throughout Genesee and Orleans Counties through compliance with the New York State (NYS) Sanitary Code. They help assure the community is safe from foodborne illnesses by conducting inspections of food service establishments. Staff also routinely inspect septic systems, monitor Public Water Supplies, enforce the NYS Clean Indoor Air Act, and offer free rabies clinics. The Lead Program continues to promote education and outreach to enhance lead poisoning prevention and promote testing of children for lead exposure. GO Health was awarded a second grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to expand an existing home-repair program to address lead hazards and prevent childhood lead poisoning throughout the entire Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming (GLOW) region.

Staff within our Children’s Programs work with families of our youngest children, providing case management, education, support and referrals.  Some of the services children may need that are provided through this program are speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and special education teacher services. Staff works closely with families to make sure children receive the services they need.   

The Public Health Education team spent the majority of the year developing the 2022-2024 Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming (GOW) Counties Community Health Assessment (CHA)/Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and in partnership with local hospital systems, Community Services Plan (CSP). The team was also responsible for implementing the ‘Strengthening Capacity in Suicide, Overdose, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) Prevention for Local Health Departments’ technical assistance grant. This funding improved the internal capacity of GO Health to address the intersection of suicide, overdose and ACEs and brought together community partners for a GOW Trauma & Resiliency Conference.

Weights & Measures (W&M) completed 470 inspections accounting for over 1,190 devices within the two counties. These tests involved pumping more than 26,000 gallons of fuel and using more than 5.9 million pounds of test weight, ensuring all commercial weighing and measuring devices meet NYS standards. The department handled 13 complaint investigations, confirmed 591 package weights & 300 item prices, and collected 132 fuel samples confirming fuel sold within both counties met a variety of parameters. Since transitioning to a department of one in 2020, W&M has shown savings in excess of $150,000.

“It is our extreme pleasure to serve the residents of Genesee and Orleans Counties,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for GO Health. “We thank the Genesee and Orleans County Legislatures, the Board of Health, our community partners and other volunteers for their support and collaboration. We look forward to another productive year of improving the health and well-being of our community and wish everyone a safe, healthy, and happy New Year.”

For more information about GO Health programs, visit

GC Health Department launches 'Healthy Neighborhoods'

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee County Health Department received $477,000 in funding from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to implement the Healthy Neighborhoods Program (HNP) for the years 2022 to 2027.

Residents in the Town and City of Batavia are eligible to participate in the program and the goal is to visit 1,000 households over five years. The program offers home evaluations for asthma triggers, indoor air quality, lead-based paint hazards, fire risks, and other health hazards. At the evaluations, residents are
educated on asthma management, childhood lead poisoning prevention, carbon monoxide poisoning, radon gas, fire safety and prevention, and other home safety issues.

Free safety and cleaning supplies are also available to eligible participants. There are four main goals of Healthy Neighborhoods Program:
1) Reduce hospital visits due to asthma: According to the NYSDOH Asthma Dashboard from 2017 to 2019, residents of the zip code 14020 (which includes the City and Town of Batavia) visited an emergency department for an asthma attack at a 28% higher rate than the average for Genesee County. The Healthy
Neighborhoods Program aims to provide participants with tools to better manage their asthma and avoid emergency room visits by evaluating their symptoms, triggers, and medication usage. Participants are encouraged to ask their primary care doctor to create a written plan to follow during an asthma attack.

2) Prevent childhood lead poisoning: The majority of housing in Batavia was built before 1978, which is when the federal government banned consumer use of lead-based paint. In partnership with the Genesee County Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, homes will be assessed for lead-based paint hazards and lead poisoning prevention education will be provided.

3) Improve indoor air quality: According to the NYSDOH, about 1,800 people in New York visit an emergency room due to carbon monoxide poisoning each year. Carbon monoxide poisoning is more common during the winter months due to use of heating sources. The Healthy Neighborhoods Program provides education on carbon monoxide poisoning, radon gas, smoking cessation, and pest management. In addition, eligible participants may receive carbon monoxide detectors, radon test kits, and cleaning supplies.

4) Reduce household injuries from fires and accidents: Residential fires are more common in the winter months, according to research by the National Fire Protection Association. A small fire can become a major fire in less than a minute, so working smoke detectors are crucial to alert residents so they can escape in time. The Healthy Neighborhoods Program encourages participants to practice fire escape routes. Participants may even receive free smoke detectors and small fire extinguishers.

For more information or to make a referral to the program, call Genesee County HNP staff at 585-344-2580 ext. 5519 or visit

Health Department promotes Opioid Emergency Kits at area locations

By Press Release

Press release:



According to the CDC, 75 perent of the nearly 92,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2020 involved an opioid. Thankfully, opioid overdoses deaths can be prevented with the use of naloxone. Naloxone, also commonly called Narcan, is an emergency response medication used for the treatment of an opioid overdose. Individuals known to be at risk of experiencing or witnessing an overdose should have direct access to naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose until emergency services can arrive.

Locally, in 2020, there were 15 fatal opioid overdoses (25.7 per 100,000). “For the last several years, Genesee County’s opioid overdose death rates have surpassed the state’s average as a whole, as well as excluding New York City averages,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Unfortunately, this public health crisis is continuing in our community, and in an effort to increase access to naloxone to save lives, the Health Department is providing Naloxone Boxes for free to interested businesses and organizations to install at their location(s),” Pettit explained.

What is a Naloxone Box? It is a metal box that contains two doses of Narcan nasal spray. These boxes are intended to increase access to Naloxone at the time of a life-threatening emergency. They can be placed in a high-traffic area at your business/organization or alongside an AED, as both provide a life-saving resource and instructions for use.

“Currently, 8 Naloxone Boxes have been installed, which are all located within the City of Batavia. This is a great start but having these boxes at many locations, including every village and town, is the goal. We want to help save lives because the possibility of recovery is lost if the person is no longer with us. That is why I am calling for businesses and organizations to act and get involved by installing a box,” said Pettit.

If you are a business or organization located in Genesee County and are interested in receiving more information about having a Naloxone Box(es) at your location, contact: To complete the Naloxone Box Application, visit

For information about Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, visit You can also visit GO Health on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching @GOHealthNY.

Health Department reminds residents of the importance of flu shots

By Press Release

Press release:

National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is December 5-9, 2022.  This is an annual observance in December to remind everyone that there is still time to get vaccinated against the flu to be protected during the upcoming holidays and winter months.  “The best way to reduce your risk from seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is by getting the flu vaccine every year,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “The vaccine lowers the chance of getting you and those around you sick with the flu. It also reduces the burden on the health care system by reducing doctor visits and hospitalizations.” 

Everyone 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine every year. It's best to get the flu vaccine early on in flu season, ideally by the end of October. You might wonder, is it too late to get vaccinated?  The simple answer is no. “Getting the vaccine later is better than not getting it at all,” said Mr. Pettit. “Once you have the flu vaccine, research shows that the vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness if you do get the flu.”

Vaccination is also important for people who live with or care for high-risk individuals to prevent spreading the flu to them. Individuals who are considered higher risk include younger children, pregnant people, people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or lung disease, and people 65 years and older. Children younger than 6 months old are also at a higher risk of serious flu illness because they are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for or are around infants should be vaccinated to protect those that are vulnerable and cannot be vaccinated.

Below are the number of reported flu cases for Genesee and Orleans Counties since 2018, according to the New York State Department of Health. Note that there was limited flu reported in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 compared to annual averages because of the heightened focus on practicing public health precautions such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, staying home when ill, limiting social gatherings, and wearing face coverings. During that period, less germs were spread due to people staying home and limiting their contact with others outside of their households as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 NYS Department of Health Confirmed Cases of Influenza


Genesee County

Orleans County













2022-2023 (as of 11/26/22)



In addition to receiving your flu vaccine, you can take preventative actions every day to help stop the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • If you are sick, stay home and limit contact with others as much as possible so that you prevent the spread of infection.
    • For flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Please note that stay-at-home guidance is different for COVID-19.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently shared surfaces and objects

To find a vaccine site near you visit:

For more information about Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, visit You can also visit GO Health on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching @GoHealthNY.

Taking health on the road: county health department seeks RV, pursues lead detection efforts

By Joanne Beck

From the study of diseases and visiting people where they're at, to finding families that have been exposed to toxic levels of lead, it would seem that the Health Department of Genesee Orleans is taking health on the road. 

The Health Department would like to set up a mobile clinic to provide various services, such as health checks and vaccines, and had issued a request for proposals. Only one bid came in — for a 25-foot and a 30-foot recreational vehicle from Don Brown Bus Sales, Inc. of Johnstown, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said during Monday’s Human Services meeting. 

Pettit asked that the county reject the bid in lieu of finding something for a smaller price tag.

“We've been working on trying to get a mobile RV in place with some of the COVID money. We could have utilized one of these to do things through all of the last couple years with our testing clinic and also the vaccines,” Pettit said. “Unfortunately, when we put it out, all things came in over our price point. So I'm working with Jeff to modify that and put it back out again, and hopefully get something that's within the budget. So we have to reject this one.”

The bid would have been about $40,000, which is several thousand more than what’s available, he said. When asked for other uses of the mobile van, Pettit pointed to migrant outreach.

“So we do go to the farms and different things, we take it out to different clinical activities in the evening. And it’s available for other departments, essentially a mobile vaccination clinic,” he said. “But if we use it for other purposes, we're also looking to get a sprinter van, and they are in Orleans County. So we'll have different types of approaches and so forth … and to have it available, again for, hopefully, we don't have to use the word pandemic again, but for a similar situation.”

Pettit proposed an inter-municipal agreement for a shared position of director of health promotions and epidemiology coordinator to the current agreement between Genesee and Orleans counties. The annual stipend for shared administrative staff listed in this agreement will increase to $8,500 annually, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

A year from then, effective Jan. 1, 2024, the contract would include a 2 percent cost of living increase. Related expenses to this move are eligible for state aid, the resolution states.

Epidemiology is the study of the presence or absence of diseases, including the frequency and origins of diseases that occur in different groups of people.

Human Services Committee members were also asked for preliminary approval of a grant from the Housing and Urban Development agency to support a lead removal effort in Genesee, Orleans, Livingston and Wyoming counties.

The total grant of $2,455,000 would help minimize hazards, especially from older homes that may contain higher levels of lead in paint.

“So you're dealing with homes with younger kids, typically. We obviously are going to get their blood level tested when they want to do it, and if it's elevated, that's where we get involved. But there's probably a lot of scenarios where these homes just don't have the kids anymore, and you're not getting blood tests,” he said. So the XRF machines (considered the gold standard in lead paint testing) are pretty amazing. And they literally — you could shoot this wall and it can tell you all the layers of paint. They literally can read it right through a textbook. Yeah, I mean, it's pretty amazing.”

The committee agreed to pass the resolution on to the Ways & Means Committee, and then on for a final vote by the Legislature. The $2.455 million grant would be for related lead detection and treatment through December 2026.

No tin, but two-county health department earns gold seal this week

By Joanne Beck


There was no tin or aluminum present when Genesee and Orleans County officials celebrated a decade-old relationship, but it might have been proper, given the description of the two-county health system.

Gifts have been tin or aluminum for such 10-year bonds, as the metals traditionally symbolize strength and resilience. 

A proclamation to commemorate the occasion did include a gold seal and description that aptly translated to those two character traits. It states that residents of both counties have “benefited fiscally and operationally,” and that staff of both health departments “worked cohesively to fill workforce gaps, provide natural redundancy, drive efficiencies and look at innovative ways to advance collaborations” since an agreement was signed on Oct. 1, 2012.

Working as integrated departments, both were able to manage the needs, surges, tests and vaccinations, plus provide updated information to the public, during those crucial times of the pandemic, it states.

Perhaps most importantly, the proclamation — signed by Genesee County Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle Stein and Orleans Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson — calls on their respective citizens to celebrate by “helping our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and leaders better understand the value of public health, and integrated services.”

In doing so, there would also be an understanding of how this connection supports "great opportunities" as officials acknowledge  "GO Health's accomplishments over these last 10 years and into the future."

The event was conducted in Genesee County’s chambers as members of Orleans County participated via Zoom.

Being able to count on such a merged relationship has meant a lot to Genesee County, Stein said.

“It is absolutely an incredible service to this community,” she said.

Photo of Genesee County Legislature and GO Health members courtesy of Steven Falitico.

GO Health hosting conference on trauma and resiliency on Nov. 9

By Press Release

Press release:

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) recently received a grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to learn more about the intersection of trauma, suicide, overdose, and health.   This conference will help attendees understand how these issues influence our communities and help us work toward becoming a Trauma-informed Care GOW Region.   

To that end, GO Health is coordinating a Trauma & Resiliency Conference this Nov. 9 at the Batavia Downs from 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.  This conference will be looking at what Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are, ACEs data from Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, and what it means to be a trauma-informed care community.

If you are in education, behavioral health, mental health, department of social services, law enforcement, the court system, probation, human services, etc. please take the time to register now.  Seating may be limited.  For more information or to register go to:  Registration is required before November 2, 2022.

Deadly fentanyl has local law enforcement, health professionals on high alert

By Mike Pettinella


Those on the front lines in the battle against the opioid epidemic are unified in their message: Fentanyl is wreaking havoc across the United States, including right here in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

“We’re seeing the human toll that fentanyl is having on our communities,” said Investigator Ryan DeLong of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, one of four speakers at Tuesday morning’s GOW Opioid Task Force meeting. “Probably everyone in this room has been affected (by substance use) by a family member or friend.”

DeLong and Deputy Ken Quackenbush, both trained as Drug Recognition Experts, spoke on what local law enforcement is dealing with as the scourge of fentanyl – a synthetic, prescription opioid that is 50 times stronger that heroin – has found its way, mostly from Rochester, into the rural counties.

They were joined by Emily Penrose, an epidemiologist with the Genesee County Health Department, who reported data on opioid-related deaths in Genesee and Orleans, and Christen Foley, task force coordinator, who described the basics of fentanyl and the telling signs of an overdose.

About 35 people attended the quarterly meeting at The Recovery Station, operated by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, on Clinton Street Road.

DeLong and Quackenbush said that they are encountering scores of people using fentanyl through their road patrols and other drug crackdown initiatives. DeLong noted that the opioid is usually packaged in a wax envelope, about an inch square, but recently, they are finding it mixed with other substances for smoking purposes.

While police used to deal with heroin and other stimulants, Quackenbush said that he has “never seen heroin or seen heroin come back on a toxicology report” in his six years with the sheriff’s office.

“It’s always fentanyl,” he said.

Fentanyl is being distributed in both powder and pill form, with some pills in bright colors to mimic candy, the officers said. DeLong said fentanyl is much cheaper than heroin – a factor leading to its widespread use.  Last year, more than 100,000 Americans died of opioid overdose.

DeLong explained that law enforcement is staying up to date in several ways on the drugs coming into the United States:

  • Through regular emails from the federal government on packaging, quantities, forms and trends;
  • Through communication among all local and regional police agencies;
  • Through pro-active policing such as traffic stops and field testing of seizures (confirmed by lab results);
  • Through narcotics trainings at both the “macro and local levels.”

“Every deputy carries and is trained in the administration of Naloxone (popular brand name, Narcan) and we respond to overdose calls for service along with EMS (Emergency Management Services) and fire (personnel),” DeLong said. “We’re also involved in the Public Safety Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, where we link individuals to services through GCASA peer recovery advocates (without criminal implications) and conduct Drug Take-Back programs throughout the year.”

Penrose presented charts that showed a spike in opioid deaths in both Genesee and Orleans counties in 2017 and 2018 – both rates per 100,000 people well above the national average. She said the rate has decreased in the past three years but continues to be cause for concern.

“We’ve seen a big raise in fentanyl-related deaths since 2014, where before that, the overdose deaths mostly stemmed from heroin,” she said. “Additionally, we’ve seen fentanyl in stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and bath salts.”

As far as leading causes of death in the U.S., unintentional injuries – including poisoning from alcohol and drugs – is the leading cause of death in every age group from 1 through 44.

“When you look deeper into unintentional injuries, we see that poisoning is the No. 1 cause for the 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55-64 age groups – and that’s fentanyl,” she stated.

The health department is currently involved in a new initiative, HEALing Genesee, which is working to prevent overdose death through education and awareness, increasing access to Naloxone (which saves the lives of people experiencing an overdose) and safe prescribing practices.

The GOW Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with GCASA, regularly schedules trainings in Naloxone administration, Foley said.

“We encourage as many people as possible to get trained in how to administer Naloxone,” she said, noting that just 2 milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose in most people. “It’s important to know the signs of an overdose, which including drowsiness or unconsciousness, slow or shallow breathing, choking sounds or skin tone changes.”

For more information about Naloxone training or the task force, contact Foley at 585-815-1863.

Photo: Speakers at the GOW Opioid Task Force meeting on Tuesday are, from left, Christen Foley, Emily Penrose, Deputy Ken Quackenbush and Investigator Ryan DeLong. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

DISCLOSURE: Mike Pettinella is the media specialist at GCASA.

Genesee, Orleans counties marking 10 years of shared services for health departments

By Press Release


Press release:

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) are celebrating 10 years of working collaboratively through their cross-jurisdictional shared services arrangement.  This initiative was the first of its kind in New York State and is at the forefront of providing best practices for local governments looking to become more efficient through sharing services. 

The shared services began as a PILOT project for two years and was part of a national initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that helped establish the Center of Sharing Public Health Services (  Following the first two years, the benefits, both fiscally and operationally have resulted in an ongoing agreement by Genesee and Orleans Counties to continue forward with sharing public health services.

“The Genesee County Legislature saw this collaboration as an opportunity for our residents to be served by high quality staff, which is key to improving the quality of healthy living in Genesee and Orleans Counties,” stated Shelley Stein, Genesee County Legislative Chair.  “Since the beginning of this venture, both counties have made significant progress and now have shared services with the Youth Bureau and Weights and Measures.  These shared services reduce local taxes and lower cost of governments.  Additionally, across New York State our best practices and case studies have been studied by other counties seeking to cut costs for their residents.”

“The cross-jurisdictional collaboration to create the shared Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, now known as GO Health, was a transforming idea of two legislative bodies,” stated Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislative Chair.  “This would not have been achieved if it weren’t for the faith we had in Public Health Director, Paul Pettit to lead the initiative.”

The support and technical assistance of the Center for Sharing Public Health Services for our integrated health departments helped identify the value for our leaders and provide the financial support to jump-start the collaboration.  The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) also added its support to the pilot project of joining resources, which leads to the benefit of residents in both of our counties, and is key to our ongoing success.

Working together has helped fill workforce gaps, provide natural redundancy and attract additional candidates for vacant positions.  The public health staff in both counties have become more creative and have worked together on several joint projects, including, but not limited to, a joint strategic plan, workforce development plan, quality improvement, branding and communication plan, and working on a joint application to become nationally accredited through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) as GO Health.

This collaboration has also seen an increase in the services we are able to offer our residents due to the ability to be more competitive with grant applications with a combined population of almost 100,000 residents.  GO Health has been very successful in applying for and receiving approximately $7,500,000 dollars in grant funds since we began joint applications 10 years ago.  These funds have helped to reduce county costs while enhancing services to county residents.  GO Health has regionalized service delivery further and is also the recipient of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Lead Poisoning Prevention and Remediation grant in collaboration with Wyoming and Livingston Counties (GLOW region).  These lead grants are going to assist residents in reducing lead poisoning and remediating hazards in their homes.  GO Health has also benefited from three CDC Public Health Associate Program fellows that spend a two-year assignment working in both counties at little cost to the counties.

“Seeing all that we have accomplished over the past 10 years shows that our initial goals were on target,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director of GO Health.  “We continue to look at innovative ways to advance our collaboration, drive efficiencies, and be fiscally responsible.  Where we are today with our integrated operations is a testament to the buy-in and hard work of our county administration, the GO Health leadership team, and all the public health staff.  The staff has been instrumental in the success of our work as they operate as a team, share ideas, deliver services, and promote health as a cohesive unit.”

The COVID-19 pandemic response put our integrated departments to the test.  Having the ability to work together through sharing employees helped balance the surges over the past couple of years and was essential to meet the needs of contact tracing, administering COVID-19 testing and eventually vaccinations in both counties.  One of the most effective benefits of our shared response was with public communications and messaging which allowed us to reduce redundancies and leverage staffing to push information across our shared media.

“We recognize our public health staff for their hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic and over the past 10 years,” stated Mrs. Johnson. “We look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the years to come.”

“Throughout the pandemic, I was able to volunteer my time at clinics and experience firsthand how caring and committed our health department staff are,” stated Mrs. Stein.  “Watching folks mature into highly functioning teams with only one goal – serve and care for the health and recovery of our residents.  I am in awe of the dedication to public service that was very evident in each member of GO Health each day.  They are a true gift to our communities.  The GO Health partnership gives us the opportunity for health specialists here at home to be comparable with urban counties.  I am grateful to know them.  Our shining stars!”

“Looking forward, we expect to see GO Health continue to mature and provide further savings and enhanced service delivery to our residents,” stated Mr. Pettit, “GO Health is in the final stages of becoming a nationally accredited health department, which is planned for mid-2023.  GO Health will continue to integrate and serve as chief health strategists in our communities.  We look forward to serving both counties as GO Health- onward.”

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens from 2019 at a Genesee County Human Services meeting.  Pettit was public health director in Orleans County before the shared services agreement was signed and has served as director of GO Health since the agreement.

Health Department: Healthy diet can reduce lead in bloodstream, decreasing risk of poisoning

By Press Release

Press release:

Lead is a metal that is toxic to our bodies. It has been found in many products including lead-based paint, plumbing, leaded gasoline, toys, ceramics, and more. No amount of lead in our bodies is safe. Young children under 6 years old are most at risk for lead poisoning because their bodies are rapidly developing. A child with lead poisoning can experience learning difficulties, lower IQ, difficulty paying attention, organ damage, and anemia. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

“The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible, but there are ways to decrease lead in our blood,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Eating food high in vitamin C, iron, and calcium can help reduce lead being absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream.”

Vitamin C absorbs iron and can remove lead from the body. Lack of iron has been associated with higher blood lead levels; however, eating enough iron-rich foods will help reduce lead absorption. Lastly, calcium helps to build and maintain strong bones. Eating enough calcium will reduce the amount of lead being stored in bones.

You can include many foods with vitamin C, iron or calcium in your diet.  

Foods containing vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as:

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Raw Spinach
  • Melon
  • Peppers

Foods containing iron include types of meats, seafood, beans, fruits, and vegetables such as:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Spinach
  • Red kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Enriched and fortified breads and cereals

Foods containing calcium include dairy products and some seafood such as:

  • Milk
  • Cheese and yogurt
  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as collard greens and kale
  • Pinto beans and lentils
  • Canned salmon and sardines
  • Calcium-fortified beverages (juices, almond milk)

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

Health Department encourages residents to test for Radon

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 to 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. For more information on radon or other GO Health programs and services, visit

Health Department schedules drive-thru anti-rabies clinic

By Press Release
Video Sponsor
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Video from clinic in 2020


Press release:

The Genesee County Health Department will be hosting a FREE drive-thru anti-rabies immunization clinic on Thursday, Sept. 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia).

“Rabies continues to be a public health issue in Genesee County. We urge pet owners to take this opportunity to ensure their pets are protected against rabies,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Our drive-thru clinics are well-organized, run very smoothly and prevent animals from getting into any altercations with other animals.”

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 you 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, October 13th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Orleans County Clinics at the Orleans County Fairgrounds (12690 Rt. 31, Albion, NY)  
    • Saturday, October 15th, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

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

Overdose Awareness Day speaker: Caring people provide hope for those struggling with substance use disorder

By Mike Pettinella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.


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


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


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


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


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


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

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

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