GOW Opioid Task Force wins state-wide award as ‘Outstanding Rural Health Program’
Courtesy of Mike Pettinella, publicist for the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
The Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force has been selected as the Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year by the New York State Association for Rural Health.
The award was announced at the organization’s conference from Sept. 25-27 in Niagara Falls.
Nominated by Julie Gutowski, Vice President of Clinical Operations and Services for Spectrum Health & Human Services, the task force was recognized for its efforts in developing an emergency department screening process used at local hospitals that helps to identify people using opioids that then connects patients with Peer Advocate or Recovery Coach in addition to a referral for treatment.
The NYSARH also mentioned the task force’s tri-county crisis line, which has resulted in a measurable decrease in drug overdose visits to local hospitals as well as opioid-related deaths between 2017 and 2018.
“It is truly a great honor for the GOW Opioid Task Force to be recognized as the Outstanding Rural Health Program from the New York State Association for Rural Health,” said Allison Parry-Gurak, task force coordinator. “I am humbled every day by the amount of passion and dedication our tri-county region has shown to ending the opioid crisis for our communities.”
Parry-Gurak said the task force has “embraced a tri-county approach to our mission,” realizing that rural communities thrive when there is grass-roots support.
“The task force is a wonderful example of the strength and impact rural communities can have when they collaborate to address public health concerns,” she added. “While we have had great success thus far, our work is not finished yet. We accept this award on behalf of our members and our community partners, but also on behalf of our community members that we have lost to the opioid crisis, those who are still fighting and the family members and loved ones who have been impacted.”
The goal of the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force is to address the growing opioid crisis in the tri-county area. It currently has more than 350 members from across the tri-county region.
Members represent various sectors of the community, including public health, mental health, human services, local government, substance use disorder treatment and recovery agencies, law enforcement, EMS, faith-based groups, health systems and medical practitioners, education, businesses, concerned individuals, families, and individuals in recovery. There are six active work groups that meet regularly to address the needs of the community.
John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, expressed his gratitude to the task force, which includes several GCASA staff members.
“Congratulations to Allison Parry-Gurak for her great work coordinating the task force and for Shannon Ford’s guidance in assisting her,” Bennett said. “And also to the many staff who sit on or chair a sub-committee of the task force.”
The mission of the New York State Association of Rural Health is to improve the health and well-being of rural New Yorkers and their communities. Functioning as a “voice for rural health,” the NYSARH is a statewide organization that advocates at the national and state levels on behalf of its membership.