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March 28, 2023 - 10:08am

scott_davis_1.jpgLooking back at Scott Davis’ journey to recovery, it is clear to see that the Orange County native – and former Batavian – was ahead of his time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•           HEALing Communities Study Website: www.HealTogetherNY.org/Genesee

•           GOW Opioid Task Force Website: www.gowopioidtaskforce.org/

•           GO Health Facebook: www.facebook.com/GOHealthNY

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

March 23, 2023 - 11:39am

morgan_1.jpgThe chairperson of the Batavia Downs Operations Committee this morning urged the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board of directors and senior management to take a proactive approach toward the placement of an outdoor smoking area at the Park Road establishment.

Edward Morgan (photo at right), who represents Orleans County on the 17-member board, said the powers-that-be at Batavia Downs Gaming “need to move ahead” in case the smoking waiver now in force is terminated.

Currently, Batavia Downs Gaming has an indoor enclosed smoking room only.

“The two-year waiver could be gone any day,” Morgan said at today’s board meeting. “We need to be prepared, even if it’s just a small heated outside area with no machines in it.”

Morgan said he visited the Del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo recently to check out its smoking accommodations. He reported that a 50- by 150-foot area, featuring about 150 gaming machines, has been installed outside – “exposed to all the elements."

“From the looks of it, people seem to use it to smoke and then go back inside to play,” he said, adding that he saw about a dozen people in the area during his midweek midday stop.

Morgan pointed to Batavia Downs Gaming surveys that reveal “how important it is to some of our patrons to be able to smoke at a machine.”

Scott Kiedrowski, vice president/operations, said that although a tri-county commission has approved a waiver for another two years, “there’s always a fear that something might change in the health department regulations or state regulations and we could lose our smoking designation.”

“A lot of casinos in the area and throughout New York and other states might have some stringent smoking requirements,” he said. “They have some outdoor areas, called smoke gardens, if you will, that are heated and covered with games outside … to have the ability to have smoking on the property but not inside the building.”

Morgan said it would be prudent for the board and management to start looking at options, including the location of an outdoor smoking area.

“Even if it was outdoors and heated, with no machines,” he reiterated.

February 23, 2023 - 12:35pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp..

If and when iGaming comes to New York State, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials say they want a piece of the action.

Speaking about the corporation’s lobbying efforts in Albany, President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said that he is keeping abreast of a bill that would allow iGaming in New York.

“Six states actually have it already and they’re reporting record levels (of revenue),” he said during this morning’s board of directors meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

An internet search of iGaming reveals that it’s an increasingly popular form of mobile betting or gambling that includes Casino games, real money slot games, sports betting and horse race betting. Per Transparency Market Research, the iGaming sector is set to generate $100 billion by 2024.

“iGaming is something that’s being proposed by State Senator (Joseph) Abbaddo (Jr.), who’s the chair of the Senate Gaming Committee,” Wojtaszek said. “He’s submitted it as a bill and it allows for mobile or remote gaming on your computer or on your phone.”

Wojtaszek said Batavia Downs Gaming would be asking to be included in this opportunity, along with Finger Lakes and Buffalo Raceway.

“We would be looking to establish an online platform, as well as other casinos across the state, so that we can be competitive within the industry,” he said, noting that WROTB’s Batavia Bets interactive online platform covers harness race betting only.

Currently, the other six states that permit iGaming are New Jersey, West Virginia, Michigan, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, he said.

Abbaddo, a Democrat who represents the 15th District (Queens), recently spoke about the bill, which moved forward into the State Assembly on Feb. 3.

He cited projections that iGaming would surpass mobile sports betting (which already is legal in New York State) and urged his colleagues to pass the bill into law.

“Every year we don’t do iGaming in New York, if you do the math, there’s roughly $4 billion lost – if you think of it that way; revenue lost – and lost to another state and to the illegal market,” he was quoted as saying.

Abbaddo said his goal was to get the bill passed by the end of this year’s legislative session.

In other developments:

  • WROTB directors approved the promotion of Danielle Fleming to the Director of Human Resources position, a move up from her current role as payroll supervisor.

“We had three excellent candidates from within who applied and Danielle is the one who has been recommended for hire,” Wojtaszek said, adding that she started in the marketing department before moving to payroll. “She is very smart and very talented and we’re glad to have her here.”

  • Batavia Downs harness racing’s handle in January and February 2023 represented a 35 percent increase from the handle at Buffalo Raceway for those two months in 2022. There had been no January-February racing at Batavia Downs previous to this year, when WROTB officials reached an agreement with the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association to conduct a slate two or three days a week during those months.

Wojtaszek called the limited meet a “great success” and will be exploring continuing it in 2024 depending on the WNYHHA’s position.

  • Directors voted to enter into a contract with PPR Energy to provide the infrastructure needed to prepare for the installation of 16 electric vehicle charging stations at Batavia Downs Gaming.

Wojtaszek said the stations would be built in two locations – 12 of them in the general parking lot and four in the valet parking area. Right now, there are two EV charging stations in the valet parking lot.

  • WNY Tile and Stone Corp. of North Tonawanda has been hired to install new floor and wall tile on the second floor in the restroom area at Batavia Downs Gaming and the same in the Park Place banquet room and boardroom on the first floor at a total cost of $160,000.

It was reported that the expense would be covered by insurance, stemming from flooding at the facility several months ago.

Additionally, directors approved a $69,900 contract with Painters Plus Home Decorating of North Tonawanda as the lowest bidder to paint the 67 rooms at the Hotel at Batavia Downs.

  • Directors voted to purchase a block of eight tickets with parking from Live Nation for the 2023 concert series at Darien Lake at an amount not to exceed $30,000.
January 26, 2023 - 11:31am

Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other pertinent scholarship information is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 19, 2023 - 2:43pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GOW opioid task force, GO Health.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

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

January 19, 2023 - 12:49pm

otb_leadership_2023_a.jpg“Leadership matters” and that, according to the directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., is why Richard Bianchi of Monroe County is continuing on as the public benefit company’s chairman of the board.

“It’s my honor and pleasure to nominate (Bianchi) as chair because leadership matters,” said Director Dennis Bassett, who represents the City of Rochester, as he wholeheartedly endorsed the Monroe County delegate for a 13th consecutive one-year term. “He has taken us through tough times and through it all, I have learned that leadership matters.”

Bassett, speaking at this morning’s board meeting at the Park Road facility, said that Bianchi has the corporation’s “best interest at heart” while making the tough decisions and presenting a vision that has resulted in the purchase of a hotel, expanded summer concerts and providing exhibit space for public events.

“We’re experiencing our best years in OTB history and it is the direct result of the leadership of our board chair,” Bassett continued. “There has been sniping at the heels of the chair and this organization, but we have persevered.”

Director Richard Ricci (Seneca County) seconded the motion – noting that Bianchi “gives his heart and soul to this place” – before the board voted unanimously in favor of Bianchi.

That vote was followed by a unanimous vote to keep Edward Morgan (Orleans County) as the vice chair, a position the Murray resident has held for four years.

Bianchi thanked the board for its support, praising the directors’ work as well as the job done by WROTB officers, management and rank-and-file employees.

“The current board is more engaged than ever,” he said. “Let’s just keep up the great work.”

WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek echoed Bassett’s sentiments.

“Under Mr. Bianchi’s leadership, we have really good morale here with the workers, we've resolved a lot of the labor issues … and the business is at an all-time high,” he said. “And I think the outlook for the future is very bright. The physical plant is in great shape and WROTB is in the best shape it has ever been in.”

In other developments from today’s board meeting:

  • Directors voted to contract with Mind Squad Consulting LLC of Orchard Park for up to $75,000 for training and professional development for WROTB’s key officers, starting with Wojtaszek and VP/Administration William White.

“Bill and I will enroll initially and then we will see the results of that type of training. If we think it is beneficial, we will continue on and then we’ll send our other two officers (Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach and VP/Operations Scott Kiedrowski),” Wojtaszek said.

He said the leadership team has done its “due diligence” regarding Mind Squad Consulting, with the goal to “have us operating at the highest efficiencies that we can.” He said the training will consist of in-person and virtual sessions, lasting up to eight months.

  • The board authorized the purchase of a suite at Highmark Stadium for Buffalo Bills’ games for the next four seasons in the amounts not to exceed $109,000 for 2023, $113,000 for 2024, $117,000 for 2025 and $117,000 for 2026.

The resolution states that the expenditure is in line with WROTB’s “ongoing patron attraction and retention program … to provide entertainment event tickets for a certain level of our patrons as well as for special promotions.”

In a related move, directors approved spending $51,878 with Mark-It-Smart of Santa Ana, Calif., for Buffalo Bills’ clogs, coaster sets, backpacks and coolers to be used as promotional items.

  • The board extended a contract with Kim Crawford to provide consulting services in respect to the surfacing and banking of the harness horse racing track for the 2023 winter meet that is currently taking place.

WROTB will pay Crawford an additional $21,000 to the previously agreed upon contract of $65,000 for 2023.

  • Leach reported that $49,780 in surcharge from November activity will be distributed to the corporation’s member municipalities.

Photo: From left, Henry Wojtaszek, Richard Bianchi and Edward Morgan. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

January 9, 2023 - 4:07pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GOW opioid task force, GO Health.

Press release:

padilla_2.jpgDiana Padilla, research project manager at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Division of Substance Use Disorders, Columbia University Medical Center, will be the keynote speaker at a “Reducing Stigma in Our Communities” training in the Village of Alexander.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reducing-stigma-in-our-communities-training-tickets-500138155687

December 23, 2022 - 9:14am


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


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


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

Photos by Mike Pettinella, publicist for GCASA.

December 21, 2022 - 10:25am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, PAARI, GO Health, GOW opioid task force.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Genesee County PAARI locations are as follows:

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist at GCASA.

December 20, 2022 - 11:02am

Press release:

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

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

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

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

For more information, call 585-815-5248.

December 16, 2022 - 4:00pm


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others receiving longevity awards are as follows:

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

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist at GCASA.

December 12, 2022 - 3:58pm

luke_granger_1.jpgThroughout a civilian and military career that includes nearly two decades outside of the United States, Luke Granger said he has made it his “mission” to help others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

December 9, 2022 - 10:58am


Press release:

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

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

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

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

Winners in the other categories are as follows:

Ugly But Classy – Cindy M.tree_sweater_1.jpg

Most Beautifully Tacky – Jessica Budzinack and Charlene Grimm.

Made by Grandma – Vicky M.

Best Ugliest Sweater – Ashley Stelmok (photo below)

Most Original – Jolene S.

Most Festive – Kat Russell.

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

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


December 7, 2022 - 9:54am

Press release:

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

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

The dates at The Recovery Station are as follows:

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

The dates at the Albion Outpatient Clinic are as follows:

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

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

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

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

The GCASA series is partially funded by United Way.

December 5, 2022 - 1:34pm
posted by Press Release in news, Batavia Middle School, notify, centennial.

Press Release

In celebration of Batavia Middle School’s 100th anniversary, the Batavia City School District is hosting a celebration on Thursday, December 8, at 7:00 PM with a special concert by the Batavia Middle School Band, Orchestra, and Chorus, as well as a presentation of the recently restored historic bells that called students to school more than 150 years ago. 

Construction of the current Batavia Middle School building began in 1922. The building originally housed both junior and senior high school students. The existing Batavia High School building was built in 1961, and 96 Ross Street was officially redesignated Batavia Middle School. 

“We’re proud to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Batavia Middle School. The history of 96 Ross Street is the foundation of the Batavia City School District. Whether through the old Batavia High School building or the Middle School building we enjoy today, generations of Batavians have passed through these halls,” said Superintendent Jason Smtih. “Batavia Middle School is a jewel in our District, and we can’t wait to see what the next 100 years will bring.” 

Over the last year, Batavia Middle School staff members, in collaboration with Genesee Valley BOCES, worked to restore a pair of historic bells that were once used at 96 Ross Street, then Batavia High School, through 1924.

With support from the Batavia City School District leadership team and in collaboration with our BCSD Maintenence Department and the Genesee Valley BOCES Auto Body Department, the bells have been restored to working condition and will be placed inside the Batavia Middle School auditorium on both sides of the stage. 

“It’s been so rewarding to restore these historic bells to their original beauty and purpose,” said Batavia Middle School Principal Nathan Korzelius. “It truly was a collaborative effort between our BMS team and the wonderful crew of teachers and students at Genesee Valley BOCES. These bells will be displayed proudly and will remind every student who passes through these halls of the history of this wonderful building.” 

The 100-year celebration and presentation of the restored bells will take place in the Batavia Middle School Auditorium (96 Ross Street) on Thursday, December 8, at 7:00 PM. The school’s band, orchestra, and chorus will perform a special arrangement designed especially for this event. The celebration is free and open to the public.

December 3, 2022 - 5:39pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Christmas in the City, downtown batavia, notify.


Carter Ianiro, 2, shares some special time with Santa Claus Saturday at Santa's Village in Batavia City Centre. 

Downtown Batavia was bustling with visitors and shoppers during the annual Christmas in the City Saturday at Batavia City Centre and along downtown streets. Hosted by the Business Improvement District, this year's indoor activities featured Santa's Village, with a workshop, carolers, dancers, and the jolly ol' elf himself, Santa Claus.

As with any successful event, planning and hands-on help make it happen. And Christmas in the City is no exception.

“We spent a week here decorating and setting up the chairs for people,” BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said. “And there’s face painting, cookie decorating, ornament making, and we’re trying to get people to the horse and buggy from 3 to 6, and then it will swing by and pick up Santa and me for the parade.”

Morning long rain slowed down by the afternoon, which should make for a drier horse and buggy ride up to 6 p.m. That will take off from Center Street Smokehouse on Center Street, and tickets may be purchased at Adam Miller Toy & Bike shop.

Batavia City Centre was filled with kids playing games, people shopping the many vendor items, eating and drinking, and, of course, some whispering in Santa’s ear.

“I am very excited about the turnout. I thought it would be busy but didn’t know it was going to be this busy,” said Maute, aka Santa’s elf. “Most of the kids are saying they just want to have a happy Christmas, they’re not even asking for gifts. This is great, it’s not great weather out, so I’m glad we had a backup. Hopefully, the wind calms down for the parade. It has been a really nice turnout, with lots to do, we have a kid's zone where kids could play with the toys.

“And having it in this space really brings everyone together, and they’re having a really great time,” she said.

The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. and runs from Jefferson Avenue to Summit Street along Main Street.


BID Executive Director Shannon Maute, aka Santa's elf.










Christmas in the City draws plenty of visitors to Batavia City Centre Saturday for some shopping, games, face painting, woodwork crafts, musical entertainment, a live nativity and Santa Claus. The vendor fair goes to 8 p.m. Photos by Howard Owens.

December 3, 2022 - 4:41pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, le roy winterfest, notify.










Top Photo: Oisin and Leandro Manamon, each 2, have a visit with Santa Claus during Winterfest Saturday in Le Roy; Rebekah Connors assists Paige, 4, and Braeden, 2, with crafts at The Hope Center; other scenes are of visitors and activities during the annual event in the village, including kids participating in an obstacle course at BeyonDriven. A tree lighting is set for 5:30 p.m. Photos by Howard Owens.

December 2, 2022 - 1:34pm
posted by Press Release in news, notify, batavia police department, Sheriff's Office.

Press release:

Caring about the community’s wellness is the underlying theme of a joint effort of the City of Batavia Police Department and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office to conduct alcohol compliance checks at retail businesses this month.

“Our department continues to partner with prevention educators at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to provide this service to ensure that vendors are attentive to properly identifying the age of those purchasing alcohol,” said Assistant Police Chief Chris Camp. “Abuse of alcohol by underage individuals is a cause of accidents and other poor choices for this age group.”

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Brian Frieday echoed Camp’s sentiments, adding, that “compliance checks demonstrate to vendors and young people, alike, that this community cares about the wellness of its citizens.”

This round of compliance checks – which are funded through a grant from GCASA -- will take place in December, prior to Christmas, and will focus on off-premise establishments only (supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores).

“We are planning to check off-premise establishments at this time because our data shows that kids are not drinking in bars or restaurants,” said Shannon Ford, GCASA’s director of Communications & Development and director of Prevention. “We are hoping to not find anyone out of compliance, but will offer Responsible Server Training to anyone who is caught or for those who would like to be proactive.”

December 2, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Christmas in the City, batavia, notify.


December means a triple-play for Batavia Players, Pat Burk says.

Actually, there’s only one play, “A Christmas Carole,” that runs Thursday through Sunday, plus Our Hometown Christmas all day Saturday inside Batavia City Centre, and spaghetti with Santa event on Dec. 11.

If that schedule tires you out, it has been plenty for members of the theater group. In addition to many of them participating in the show, they will also be helping out for a vendor fair throughout the mall concourse from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and at Santa’s Village at the concourse stage.

Home Depot has donated wood kits so that kids can put their hands to work at Santa's Workshop making birdhouses and other creations, he said. Photos with Santa Claus will be from 1 to 5 p.m., with the outdoor parade to begin at 6 p.m. and take off from Jefferson Avenue to Summit Street.

Entertainment will be provided at 12:15 p.m. by Main St. 56 Dance Company, and dancing and musical performances are scheduled throughout the day, he said. Other activities include cookie decorating and a live nativity at EverPresent Church.

There were 49 vendors registered just before Burk talked to The Batavian Tuesday afternoon, he said, and there were a few more interested, so expect several dozen ready and waiting to sell their wares, from Christmas and general craft items to kitchen goods, woodwork and assorted foods. Many of the usual Mall Market participants will be there throughout the day as well, he said.

A concessions food truck will be available beginning at 9 a.m. outside the former Sunny’s restaurant site in the parking lot. That vendor’s specialties include deep-fried Oreos, flavored french fries and various barbecued items, Burk said.

If you’ve got some time to spare, volunteers are needed for miscellaneous tasks, such as helping visitors locate certain activities, vendors find their assigned spots, and other volunteers so that they can take periodic breaks.

Neck deep in the construction of a new Main St. 56 theater means that Batavia Players is raising money to help make the costly endeavor happen. The vendor fair and weekend shows are fundraisers and will be complemented by a basket raffle, specifically for the group’s Building Committee. Tickets are $5 for a sheet, and drawings are to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, just before the parade.

Speaking of the show, Burk and fellow actor Paul Spiotta are thrilled to be celebrating their 15th season of singing a duet during the weekend performances, Burk said.

“We were both 50 years old when we first sang together,” Burk said. “We’re pretty excited to still be around to do it.”

Burk is sort of amazed at how much he’s learned about construction, having been part of contractor meetings for the theater, he said. He now knows the gritty details of HVAC systems and supporting walls, and, unfortunately, also about how slowly such projects can progress with stalled and rising costs of materials due to post-COVID supply chain issues.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to put the finishing touches on it,” he said. “After January 1, we’ll actually be doing a big fundraising effort.”

There have been sacrifices, mostly behind the scenes, he said, by reducing bathrooms from four to two and shifting the configuration of dressing rooms. However, patrons are still getting nice new restrooms, and there won’t be cost-cutting with aesthetics if he can help it, Burk said.

The final fundraiser for this season will be a Spaghetti With Santa event, set for 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia. Photos with Santa will be from 3 to 5 p.m., and there will be a basket raffle. Meals are for dining in or take-out and are $12 a person. To purchase tickets ahead of time or obtain further details about these events, go to Batavia Players

Christmas in the City, sponsored by the Business Improvement District, will also be happening throughout downtown from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Local shops, restaurants and organizations will be offering holiday specials, activities and food samples, including Letters to Santa at The Coffee Press on Jackson Street and horse and buggy rides beginninning at Center Street Smokehouse, with tickets availalbe for purchase at Adam Miller Toy and Bike shop, on Center Street. While at Adam Miller, check out the toy specials and warming chili.

Over on Main Street, Hunt Real Estate will be hosting an ornament-making craft while The YNGodess will provide adult tastings, and make sure to track down the Dickens carolers and Scrooge from 3 to 5 p.m.

 The outdoor fun will be topped off with a holiday parade at 6 p.m. down Main Street. There are 35 participants registered for the parade, BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said, and judges include City Council members Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Bob Bialkowski, and BID community members Carol Hunt, Sandy Licata and Ken Mistler.

"We have added giant blow-up decorations for downtown, and added more things for kids. We are working hard on creating memories for all ages, especially the kids," Maute said. "I am overwhelmed with the participation and the generosity of everyone. I have a great board, an amazing committee, and a fantastic community.

"The BID Christmas in the City Committee will be transforming downtown Batavia into your favorite Christmas movie!" she said.

Volunteers are welcome to join the parade line-up or Santa's Village to help out, she said.

File photo of Christmas in the City parade, by Howard Owens.

December 1, 2022 - 4:53pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, le roy winterfest, notify.

Le Roy's Winterfest is carrying on with a tree-lighting even though the event's usual donor won't be providing the tree, said someone who preferred not to be identified.

An issue that has become public chatter on social media will not prevent the annual festivities from taking place, the source said. Winterfest will be "merry and bright" and a positive event for the community this Saturday, the source said, and it's not about the size of the tree, but about people coming together to enjoy the yearly happening together.

Andrew Lathan has usually donated a tree for the lighting, but has apparently notified organizers that he will not be doing so this year, the source confirmed. Le Roy Business Council is instead purchasing a tree, which is set for a public lighting celebration at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Click here for more about Winterfest.





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