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‘Run for Wayne’ will be Colon Cancer Awareness 5K run and walk

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 February 2018 at 9:08 am

File photos by Tom Rivers: Adam Burlison gets ready to cut the string holding the balloons during the Run for Wayne last April. Mark Moore, the race director, is at right. Adam is the son of the late Wayne Burlison.

ALBION – The fourth annual Run for Wayne, which honors the memory of Wayne Burlison, will return on March 24 as a 5-kilometer run and walk in Albion.

The race, however, will now be formally called “Wayne A. Burlison-Colon Cancer Awareness 5K Run and Walk.”

Burlison was a popular Albion elementary music teacher who also promoted running and fitness in the community. He was 36 when he passed away from colon cancer on March 26, 2014.

The Albion Running Club has organized three “Run for Wayne” events, with the proceeds going towards a scholarship given to graduating seniors and also to a walking trail to be constructed at Bullard Park.

The Running Club is teaming with Oak Orchard Health with the Wayne A. Burlison-Colon Cancer Awareness 5K Run and Walk. Both groups want to raise awareness about colon cancer as the third-leading cause of death by cancer for men and women. Colon cancer is preventable or treatable with the proper knowledge, resources, and early detection.

“We want to unite our voices and educate others while remembering the legacy of a much-loved man,” the Running Club said in an announcement about the race.

The course for the race starts on Clarendon Road by the elementary school and heads to Mount Albion Cemetery before ending at the school’s parking lot.

There will be post-race snacks, overall male and female winners’ prizes, and top 3 winners in 10-year age groups. Each registered participant will also get a runner’s cap with a logo.

Proceeds from the race will go to scholarships in Burlison’s name and towards the walking trail at Bullard.

For more on the event, click here.

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Posters present data about local teen drug and tobacco use

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 February 2018 at 1:52 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

The Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition has created several posters that present data about teen drug, alcohol and tobacco use in Orleans County.

The information was gathered in a survey of 1,450 students in grades 7-12 in Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina school districts.

The posters were created by the coalition using infographic software, Venngage. The posters will be presented at school districts, coalition meetings, community events and on billboards in the county.

The posters highlight the following data:

• In 2017, 82 percent of Orleans County youth did not use alcohol;

• In 2017, 90 percent of Orleans County youth did not use marijuana;

• In 2017, 95 percent of Orleans County youth did not smoke cigarettes;

• In 2017, 98 percent of Orleans County youth did not use prescription drugs (that weren’t prescribed to them);

• Orleans County’s five most important health concerns, according to an adult survey: 65 percent say illicit drug abuse; 40 percent say prescription drug abuse; 40 percent say mental health issues; 33 percent say child abuse/neglect; and 24 percent say alcohol abuse.

Wayne Litchfield, a member of the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition, designed many of the new posters. He is pictured last Thursday during a coalition meeting at the Hoag Library in Albion.

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New Y director has already expanded programs, partnerships

Photos by Tom Rivers: Greg Reed, the director of the Orleans County YMCA, will be leading a new spin bike class beginning today. Reed found 10 nearly new spin bikes at a deep discount for the Y. Reed started as director on Oct. 2.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 February 2018 at 9:49 am

MEDINA – The new director of the YMCA in Orleans County is focused on bringing more people to the Y on Pearl Street.

Greg Reed has the site open a half hour later each day while adding new programs and partnerships in the community.

The efforts seem to be paying off. The Y added 50 new members in January and now has 450 “member units.” A unit may include a family with multiple people under the membership.

“Our goal is to have more people in here,” said Reed, who started as director on Oct. 2. “I see it as a community center.”

Soon after he started the new job, Reed sent out emails introducing himself to different community members. He sent one email to Dan Doctor, Medina Central School’s director of community outreach. Doctor just happened to be looking for a site for an afterschool program that wouldn’t be on campus.

He was at the Y 10 minutes after getting the email. The district and Y formed a partnership for an after-school program in the Y’s basement. Doctor and volunteers gave the basement a fresh coat of paint and brought in furniture and games. The Y is offering the space rent free.

The new Education Recreation Club celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 2.

Doctor said Reed has been “awesome” to work with. Doctor had been working on the ERC for 18 months. It came together quickly at the end with Reed’s support, Doctor said.

Reed is hopeful many of the kids and their families will become Y members once they see what the organization has to offer.

“We just wanted to have a partnership with the school,” he said. “I just wanted more people in the building. When they’re here, they’ll see what assets we have.”

Reed is pictured on Friday with Dan Doctor, Medina Central School’s director of community outreach. The Y is offering use of the basement for a new Education Recreation Club, which meets after school at the Y.

Reed, 33, joined the Y after working five years as a physical education teacher and athletic director at a charter school in Denver, Colorado. Reed moved to Stafford with his wife and three children to be closer to her family. Her father is pastor of the Grace Baptist Church in Batavia.

When he was athletic director at the charter school, Reed made providing opportunities for kids his focus. He is bringing the same philosophy to the Y.

That may mean partnering or complementing what is offered at a school district. Reed stressed he doesn’t see the Y as a competitor for existing programs at the school or in the community.

The Y has two full-time employees and 35 part-timers. Besides the main site at the former Armory on Pearl Street, the Y runs a before- and after-school childcare program at Albion Central School, and an after-school program at Medina Central School.

The Y is running a “Strong Communities Campaign” with a goal of $28,000. That would support memberships and programs for people unable to pay. Reed said the organization doesn’t turn people away if the can’t pay for a program.

The Y offers many youth and adult sports programs, as well as other group exercise classes, including sunrise yoga.

Some other recent changes at the Y include:

• The site is open a half hour later, now 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 on Friday, and 1:30 on Saturday. The Y also is staying open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Reed expects the Sunday hours to continue around Memorial Day. Once it gets warm out, there is less demand to be open on Sundays.

• A batting cage in the attic is now available.

• The facility is brighter after Reed used a lift to change 60 lift bulbs at the ceiling. He also got the big fans working.

• The Y purchased 10 spin bikes at a deep discount and Reed is leading a class with those bikes that starts today.

• The weight room was reorganized with one wall knocked out to open up the space.

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Medina hospital, Rosenkrans Pharmacy added to state’s drug take-back program

Posted 18 February 2018 at 9:44 pm

Press Release, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the second group of participants in the State’s $2 million Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program.

Participants include 172 retail pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities across the state. Two-hundred and forty-six facilities are now enrolled in the program, which began in 2017.

Two sites on the list are from Orleans County, including Medina Memorial Hospital at 200 Ohio St., Medina; and Rosenkrans Pharmacy, 526 Main St., Medina.

The second-round locations enrolled in the Pilot Pharmaceutical Take Back Program will officially begin accepting waste medications in May 2018, when medication collection boxes are delivered to and installed by participating pharmacies.

“Installing medication drop boxes in community pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities, increases opportunities for New Yorkers to properly and easily dispose of unwanted medications,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The hundreds of pharmacies and facilities participating in New York’s free drug take-back program are protecting their communities and the environment.”

Under the drug take-back program, DEC will purchase medication collection boxes and pay for the disposal of waste pharmaceuticals collected by participating facilities for two years. Implementation of this pilot program will help improve water quality, protect public health by removing medications from home medicine cabinets, and reduce potential adverse impacts to fish and aquatic organisms. The Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program complements Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ongoing efforts to combat opioid addition by removing unused and expired pharmaceuticals from the waste stream.

In addition, in his veto of Senate Bill Number 6750, which would have required chain pharmacies to provide drug disposal options paid for by customers, Governor Cuomo directed DEC to engage with stakeholders and local governments to prepare a report on the feasibility of creating and implementing a comprehensive, statewide pharmaceutical product stewardship program. DEC will issue the report later this year.

The statewide Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program is funded with $2 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. These resources will cover the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of pick up, transport, and destruction of collected waste pharmaceuticals for a two-year period. The Governor’s Proposed Executive Budget for 2018-19 includes an additional $1 million to support this pilot program.

With technological advances in analytical techniques, it is now possible to detect low levels of drugs in surface water and groundwater. Some drugs pass largely unaltered through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waterways.

Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers, and streams and can negatively affect the waterways. A national study conducted in 1999 and 2000, by the U.S. Geological Survey found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives, and steroids in 80 percent of rivers and streams tested. Medications adversely affect fish and other aquatic wildlife and increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

In addition, there are concerns about unused pharmaceuticals getting into the wrong hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one U.S. citizen dies every 16 minutes from a drug overdose and has declared this public health threat an epidemic.

The pilot program is open and is accepting applications. Retail pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities are encouraged to enroll online at the Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program web page on DEC’s website (click here) or by (clicking here).

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Survey of students in Orleans shows drop in alcohol, tobacco use

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 February 2018 at 10:28 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Patricia Crowley, director of the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition, is pleased that the latest survey of students shows a drop in drug, alcohol and tobacco use.

ALBION – Alcohol and tobacco use among students in grades 7 through 12 has seen a big drop in the past 12 years, according to a survey of 1,450 students this fall, although their perceptions about risk are also down, especially with marijuana use.

The Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition has done the survey every two years, beginning in 2005. Orleans United’s survey includes students in Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina school districts. Albion does its own survey.

The survey has always been given in October or November. Students are asked if they used alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, non-prescribed medications and e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

• The survey shows alcohol use among students has dropped from 28.1 percent in 2005 to 17.5 in 2017, a 37.8 percent decrease. It was on a steady downward trend, but went up slightly from 2015 to 2017.

Alcohol use was 28.1 percent in 2005, then 23.6 percent in 2009, 20.3 percent in 2011, 19.1 percent in 2013 and 16.7 percent in 2015. The latest survey shows 17.5 percent. Nationally it’s at 19.9 for students in grades 7 through 12, said Dr. Dan Webb, co-owner of Catalyst Research in Depew, which does the survey for Orleans United.

• Tobacco use with cigarettes is down from 13.6 percent of students in 2005 to 5.4 percent in 2017, a 60.3 percent drop. The 5.4 percent rate is exactly the national average, Webb said.

Dr. Dan Webb goes over the survey results, which he said show progress in many areas. However, there is concern about the growing acceptance of marijuana.

Students since 2015 have also been asked about e-cigarettes. Orleans United added e-cigarettes after vape shops appeared in many communities selling flavors of products like they are selling candy. In 2015, 14.7 percent of students said they used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. The latest survey shows 14.0 percent of students used an e-cigarette recently.

• Marijuana use is at 10.4 percent in 2017, which is down from 12.1 percent in 2005. The rate hasn’t changed much in Orleans in the 12 years. Webb said the national rate is 14.5 percent, and other communities have seen a big increase in marijuana use among students.

In Orleans, it went from 12.1 percent in 2005, 9.3 percent in 2009 and then 10.2 percent in 2011, 10.3 percent in 2013, and 10.4 percent in 2015 and 2017.

• Orleans United started asking students about non-prescribed medications in 2013 and 2.7 percent said then they had taken non-prescribed prescriptions in the previous 30 days. That percent increased to 3.4 percent in 2015, but dropped to 1.7 percent with the latest survey, a 54 percent decline from 2013.

• The survey also asked youth if they used heroin in the past month and 0.2 percent said yes, compared to 1.0 percent in 2015.

“Overall these are really encouraging statistics,” Webb told members of Orleans United on Thursday, when he presented the results.

This slide from Webb’s presentation shows survey results, indicating a drop in use for most substances, except for marijuana which has remained steady.

Webb had concerns in the section of the survey that measures perception of harm in using different substances, including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and unprescribed pills.

“Overall the perception of harm is down,” Webb said. “That is trend nationwide.”

The perception of risk in drinking alcohol regularly (every day) has dropped from 69.2 percent in 2005 to 63.2 percent in 2017. Students also reported a big drop in the perception of risk in smoking marijuana, down from 80.6 percent seeing it as harmful to health in 2005 to 49.0 percent in 2017.

“There has been a large shift culturally in the acceptance of marijuana,” Webb said.

Student responses also show a drop in perceived harm in using tobacco, from 86.5 percent in 2005 to 76.0 percent in 2017, and in taking unprescribed pills, from 82.5 percent in 2013 to 76.0 percent in 2017. Students who view using e-cigarettes as harmful is about the same from 44.0 seeing it as bad in 2013 to 44.9 percent in 2017. That shows a majority of students don’t view e-cigarettes as being harmful.

There has been a rise in perception of parental disapproval for using drugs, marijuana, alcohol and pills. It’s well over 90 percent saying their parents would disapprove.

However, the survey shows growing acceptance among peers for trying different substances and drugs.

The perception of disapproval from peers for using marijuana, for example, has dropped from 81.4 percent would disapprove in 2005 to 74.0 percent in 2017.

“This is something we have to work on as a coalition,” Webb said.

Orleans United has the results for the four school districts and will be presenting those answers, as well as the countywide data, to each school district that participated in the survey.

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Cuomo says state will help counties with added flu costs

Posted 8 February 2018 at 6:01 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to authorize emergency assistance funding to counties as flu diagnoses continued to increase in communities across the state.

This action provides enhanced reimbursement to counties and will help fund expanded efforts to promote and increase access to flu vaccines statewide. Governor Cuomo is calling on all 58 local health departments to expand efforts to more readily accommodate New Yorkers still needing a flu shot.

“As flu diagnoses and hospitalizations continue to increase to epidemic proportions, this administration is doing everything in its power to protect New Yorkers from this especially durable strain of influenza,” Governor Cuomo said. “I ask all New Yorkers to take advantage of this expanded access to flu vaccines and join us in slowing down and stopping the spread of this virus in the Empire State.”

With 15,753 laboratory confirmed influenza cases reported to the New York State Department of Health, and 2,349 New Yorkers hospitalized with confirmed influenza, these numbers are again the highest weekly numbers in both categories since reporting began in 2004 and exceed last week’s record high 11,683 confirmed cases and 2,221 hospitalizations.

Governor Cuomo has also directed local health departments to re-focus enhanced outreach to vulnerable populations, including daycares, nursing homes, senior centers, and homeless shelters, to reemphasize the need for flu vaccinations, provide targeted education regarding the signs and symptoms of flu, and to identify and assist those populations with low vaccine rates. Furthermore, local health departments will coordinate with local school superintendents to identify schools experiencing an increase in absenteeism rates due to illness among students and staff and link them to ongoing education and vaccination efforts. These partnerships will further ensure effective education and guidance is provided to protect children.

Last month, the Governor signed an executive order allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18 – increasing vaccine accessibility for New York children and families as influenza continues to spread across New York. The executive order suspends the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18 to allow vaccines to be administered to anyone age 2 and up.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to call pharmacies ahead of their visit, to ensure they are ready to receive patients in this age group. Parents and guardians with children between the ages of 6 months and 24 months are still encouraged to see their primary care provider for the vaccination. As a result of the Executive Order, more than 5,400 children have been reported as being vaccinated in pharmacies.

In addition to getting a flu shot and staying home when sick, it’s essential to practice good hand-hygiene:

• Unlike some viruses, influenza is easily killed by soap and hot water.

• Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds to protect yourself from germs and avoid spreading them to others.

• Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when soap and water are not available. Choose a product with at least 60 percent alcohol.

• Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. Instead, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. People with the flu are infectious for up to seven days after symptoms begin.

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Orleans sees 5-fold increase in flu

Posted 2 February 2018 at 5:30 pm

Health Department recommends vaccine, other precautions

Press Release, Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments

Alert: Over the last few weeks, flu cases are on the rise locally and throughout New York. The flu virus tends to spread from October to May, with most cases occurring in January or February.

“It is important to note that vaccinations can be given at any time during the flu season,” said Brenden Bedard, Director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “Even getting a vaccination later in the season (December through March) can still help protect you from influenza.

Locally, Orleans County has 131 confirmed flu cases from Sept. 1, 2017 through Feb. 1, 2018. Last year during this same time period there were 26 confirmed cases.

“Flu vaccine is still available locally, but we recommend you call your medical provider, pharmacist or the health department to make sure they have a supply of flu vaccine in stock before going,” Bedard said.

Everyone six months and older should be vaccinated against the flu. The vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu, and it can help protect the ones you love.

Flu-related complications can result in hospitalization and occasionally result in death. Complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus or ear infections. The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, those who have asthma, often experience more asthma attacks when they are ill with the flu.

“Everyone can play a part in preventing the spread of the flu,” Bedard said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone to follow “Take 3” actions to fight the flu:

1. Take time to get a flu vaccine. A yearly flu vaccination can reduce flu illness, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalization.

2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.

a. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

b. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

c. If you are sick with flu symptoms, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, unless you need to get medical care or for other necessities.

d. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.  If no tissue, cough or sneeze in your elbow making sure your mouth and nose are covered by your sleeve.

e. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

f. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

g. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. Antiviral drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. Make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

It is important to remember if your symptoms worsen to talk with your primary care provider or if you are having trouble breathing or are unable to keep food and water down to go to the emergency room or urgent care center.

More information about the flu is available at the State Health Department website by clicking here.

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Mobile dental unit begins another year at local schools

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 February 2018 at 10:47 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Joseph Zaremba, a dentist with Oak Orchard Health, worked out of the mobile dental unit in Albion on Thursday.

ALBION – The mobile dental unit returned to Albion Central School this week and about 200 children are expected to get teeth cleanings and dental exams for about three weeks, until the mobile unit heads to Medina.

Oak Orchard Health has been taking the unit to local school districts since 2005, serving several hundred children each year, cleaning teeth, doing sealants and extractions.

“People know it and they look forward to it,” said Denise Beardsley, coordinator of the mobile dental unit since it started.

Denise Beardsley has been coordinator of the mobile dental unit since it started in 2004.

The mobile unit also spends several months of the year in Albion behind the Oak Orchard office at 301 West Ave. There the mobile unit is open for adults and others in the community.

The unit debuted with Oak Orchard in 2004 and spent its first few moths in Warsaw. Oak Orchard has since opened dental offices in Warsaw and also in Hornell, so the mobile unit doesn’t need to travel to those communities.

Having Oak Orchard dental services in Warsaw and Hornell also has allowed Oak Orchard to keep the unit in Albion when it isn’t visiting school districts.

Oak Orchard has dentists, a hygienist and Beardsley working out of the unit. Beardsley sets up the appointments and walks to the classrooms, leading to children to the mobile unit, which is parked behind the elementary school.

Students get their dental care during the school day and parents don’t have to leave work or try to cram in an appointment after school.

Beardsley said the dental health in the kids has improved since the first few years of the service.

“It’s much better now than it used to be,” she said. “We instill brush and floss.”

About 30 to 40 percent of the kids that get dental exams at the mobile unit don’t have cavities these days. Some need fillings, extractions and restorations. If there is a more serious problem, such as a crown or root canal – which is rare for children – the child will be referred to have the work done at Oak Orchard’s dental offices in Brockport.

Joseph Zaremba, an Oak Orchard dentist, spent his workday on Thursday with the mobile unit. He said the facility is actually roomier than many dental offices.

The site has two dental chairs. It has its own hot water tank, and a sterilization unit to clean equipment and instruments.

Zaremba and Beardsley both said there aren’t very many mobile dental units in the state. They believe it is providing a critical service in Orleans County.

Beardsley has been with the mobile unit since day one. She said she has stayed because she enjoys working with the children.

“It’s stability for them,” she said.  “The kids now know it.”

Beardsley said the mobile dental unit plans to go to all five school districts, completing the visits near the end of May.

Oak Orchard accepts Child Health Plus, Medicaid, other insurance and also has a sliding fee for people without insurance.

For more information on the mobile dental unit, call 585-267-9236 or click here.

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Cuomo urges vaccination as flu cases increase across state

Posted 2 February 2018 at 8:00 am

Press Release, Governor Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said the influenza epidemic continued to increase across New York State over the past week, with 11,683 laboratory confirmed influenza cases reported to the New York State Department of Health, and 2,221 New Yorkers hospitalized with confirmed influenza.

These numbers are again the highest weekly numbers in both categories since reporting began in 2004 and exceed last week’s record high 7,779 confirmed cases and 1,759 hospitalizations.

“Flu season is in full-swing, and as the number of influenza cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at alarming levels, we must take every action to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Cuomo said. “I am urging everyone to get vaccinated and take other necessary steps to stop the spread of this virus in New York.”

Last week, the Governor signed an Executive Order allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18, increasing vaccine accessibility for New York children and families as influenza continues to spread across New York.

The Executive Order suspends the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18 to allow vaccines to be administered to anyone age 2 and up. Parents and guardians are encouraged to call pharmacies ahead of their visit, to ensure they are ready to receive patients in this age group. Parents and guardians with children between the ages of 6 months and 24 months are still encouraged to see their primary care provider for the vaccination.

In addition to getting a flu shot and staying home when sick, it’s important to practice good hand-hygiene:

• Unlike some viruses, influenza is easily killed by soap and hot water.

• Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds to protect yourself from germs and avoid spreading them to others.

• Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when soap and water are not available. Choose a product with at least 60 percent alcohol.

• Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. Instead, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. People with the flu are infectious for up to 7 days after symptoms begin.

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Stigma about addiction keeps many from seeking help

Photos by Tom Rivers: JJ Crane, center, shared how his life became embroiled in addiction and how he has worked to overcome it. He is joined as a panelist by his brother Cody and mother Chris Crane.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 January 2018 at 11:22 am

MEDINA – Cody Crane urged his Medina classmates to educate themselves about the dangers of addiction, and say no to popping pills, underage drinking and drugs.

Crane, a senior at Medina, worked with GCASA to put on a 2-hour forum about the opioid epidemic on Tuesday evening.

Crane nearly lost his brother to an overdose. JJ Crane was a panelist at the forum, and he shared how he started drinking and using drugs in high school. It escalated to cocaine and heroin after high school, and nearly killed him on Aug. 1 when he had an overdose.

JJ hasn’t used drugs since then. He is nearly six months without using, and currently stays in a halfway house in Niagara County.

“I was scared one day I would wake up and my older brother who I love so much wouldn’t be here,” Cody told about 50 people at the forum. “I’m proud of how far he has come. He has worked so hard.”

JJ said he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety and depression. The addiction grew more compulsive. He would work and use own money to buy drugs, and he often stole to get drugs or ran up big debts with drug dealers.

“It’s who you know and how far are you willing to go,” he said. “I needed the drug because without it I would have withdrawals and would shake to the point of almost being in a seizure.”

JJ said the addiction took over his life.

“I’m an addict,” he said. “I’m sorry for what I’ve put my family through.”

JJ’s mother Chris urged parents to be aware of what’s going on in their children’s lives, even if that means searching their rooms.

“Don’t pretend,” she said.

Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention for GCASA, said stigmas can push many addicts from seeking treatment.

JJ said the judgement he feels from many in the community steered him away from seeking treatment when he knew he was in trouble with his addiction almost three years ago. After a near fatal overdose on Aug. 1, he had enough.

JJ said he knows people look down on him because of his past drug use.

“Once I started recovery, I knew it would change the way people look at me,” he said. “To them I’m an addict or a junkie. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want people to think so little of me.”

GCASA prevention educators said that stigma prevents many from seeking treatment, or having a relapse.

Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention for GCASA, said addiction doesn’t discriminate. She urged people to be compassionate to addicts and their families.

“Addiction is a disease,” she said. “That is somebody’s child, or somebody’s mom or dad.”

JJ Crane said he no longer worries too much about other opinions. He is committed to fighting his addiction.

“Now I tell myself it doesn’t matter what other people think,” he said. “It only matters what your family thinks and your real, true friends.”

GCASA urged people to seek help. They can walk into the GCASA clinic on Route 31 in Albion.

Kathy Hodgins, the treatment coordinator in Albion, said the addicts and their families show courage and resilience in seeking treatment and fighting the addictions.

“A lot of families get tired and want to give up,” she said. “They need strength, because even recovery takes a toll.”

GCASA shared this slide showing when people start using drugs. If people can get through their early 20s without trying drugs, they almost always will never start using them.

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