GCASA says new 25-bed residence in Albion in response to opioid epidemic’s toll on women

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 August 2022 at 10:34 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: John Bennett, executive director for GCASA, goes over the plan for a 25-bed women and children community residence, which he said will help women in recovery. The project will primarily serve women in the four rural GLOW counties.

ALBION – The Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s proposed 25-bed women and children community residence on Butts Road would be the first residential program for GCASA that serves women and their children.

The agency has seen more women in recovery and addiction programs with the opioid epidemic, with the prevalence of addictive painkillers, said John Bennett, GCASA  executive director.

He spoke during a public hearing on Wednesday at Albion Town Hall about the site plan for a proposed $4.6 million community residence, the first in the GLOW region for women in recovery.

About 12 years ago, women accounted for 23 percent of the GCASA census or people served by the agency. But by 2016-17, that percentage jumped to nearly 40 percent, Bennett said.

GCASA has residential programs for men, but doesn’t for women. The Albion site will allow women, 18 and older, to receive services to aid in their recovery while in a residential setting. Five of the 25 units will accommodate women with children younger than kindergarten. Up to two children can stay in those units. The property will include walking trails and a playground.

Keeping the mothers with the children eliminates a huge barrier preventing some women from going into acute recovery programs, Bennett said.

This project will be one of the few residential programs in the state that is solely for women with room for their children.

“Women have been neglected in residential programs,” Bennett said.

GCASA picked Albion for the project because many of the agency’s other residential and treatment programs are based in Batavia.

The project has been awarded a $4.6 million grant from the state Department of Health for construction of the residence. That grant doesn’t include the operation of the site, which will be staffed 24-7, including two employees at night.

GCASA will have 25 employees at the site, including mental health counselors, a nurse, peer counselors, aides, drivers, a child care coordinator, administrators and kitchen staff.

Bennett would like to break ground on construction this fall with the site opening in about a year.

Bennett said the site will be primarily self-contained, but the women will be encouraged to shop locally, and use the local library, gym and other services.

The Town of Albion Planning Board held a public hearing on the site plan on Wednesday. An environmental impact study is close to being complete. Because that isn’t done, the Planning Board voted to keep the public hearing open until Sept. 7. The board will accept comments until then.

Cassandra Irvine spoke during the hearing on Wednesday. She lives on Butts Road and said she didn’t hear about the project until recently. She said she is concerned about the site being so close to the Butts Road railroad overpass, which is often struck by trucks or vehicles will back up when they see the low clearance often using her driveway as a turnaround.

Planning Board Chairman Isaac Robinson said most traffic to the site would come off Route 31 and wouldn’t go near the bridge. (The residence would be just north of the Orleans Community Health center and south of the bridge.) Robinson said the board can’t tell people how to drive and observe signs.

He said GCASA has been meeting with town officials for about two years on the project. The meetings have been publicly posted, he said.