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Medina Memorial Hospital tries to reduce Orleans County’s high smoking rate

Posted 18 November 2019 at 11:45 am

Press Release, Orleans Community Health (Medina Memorial Hospital)

MEDINA – A top-three ranking in the state is a good thing – unless it’s for the number of adults who smoke. According to recent data from the New York State Department of Health, Orleans County unfortunately ranks third in the state (28.6 percent) for prevalence of adult smoking. Orleans Community Health wants to change that.

In partnership with the New York State Smokers’ Quitline (Quitline) and just in time for the nationwide Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21, Medina Memorial Hospital now offers Opt-to-Quit™ for all tobacco-using patients.

After patients are screened for tobacco dependence, those identified as tobacco-users will be automatically enrolled in free Quitline services unless they choose to opt out. Because of this direct referral approach, Medina Memorial Hospital’s tobacco-using patients can expect to receive a call from one of the Quitline’s Quit Coaches within 24 to 72 hours for coaching support and nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine patches, gum and lozenges.

“More than 25,000 New York State residents die from smoking each year, so it’s critical that Orleans Community Health make tobacco cessation a central focus for our patients,” said Cindy Perry, director of community outreach for Orleans Community Health. “By tying in the Quitline’s Opt-to-Quit™ program at our Admissions Department, we can reach every patient who walks through our doors at Medina Memorial Hospital. This is a worthwhile collaborative approach to tobacco dependence treatment, which enhances the care we provide on-site.”

Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free Western New York (HSTFWNY) played a key role in creating the partnership between Medina Memorial Hospital and the Quitline. Just like the Quitline, HSTFWNY receives funding through the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Control and is based at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. HSTFWNY works with healthcare organizations throughout eight Western New York counties to implement systems- and evidence-based methods for tobacco dependence treatment.

“When patients are thinking about quitting smoking, contacting the Quitline is an extra step they might not think to take,” said Kimberly Bank, program coordinator for HSTFWNY. “Thanks to Medina Memorial Hospital’s implementation of Opt-to-Quit™, they’ve removed the burden for patients to have to call the Quitline themselves. One extra layer of support can make all the difference toward a successful quit-attempt.”

The Quitline’s Quit Coaches work with hundreds of smokers daily in developing customized quit-plans to overcome triggers and stay on track. The Quitline also encourages smokers to always talk with their healthcare professionals and access their health plan benefits for additional cessation support and stop-smoking medications.

In addition, as announced in October by the New York State Department of Health, the Quitline now offers expanded services available to help e-cigarette users quit vaping. Based on an assessment via phone at 1-866-NY-QUITS, an e-cigarette user 18 years of age or older may be eligible to receive complimentary patches, gum, lozenges or a combination of these products. Coaching support at the Quitline is available for New Yorkers of all ages, including adolescents.

About the New York State Smokers’ Quitline

The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a service of the New York State Department of Health and based at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. It is one of the first and busiest state quitlines in the nation and has responded to nearly 3 million calls since it began operating in 2000. The Quitline encourages nicotine users to talk with their healthcare professionals and access available Medicaid or health insurance benefits for stop-smoking medications. All New York State residents can call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) for coaching and resources, free of charge, seven days a week beginning at 9 a.m. Visit www.nysmokefree.com for more information.

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8-county health alliance urges flu vaccinations

Posted 12 November 2019 at 5:33 pm

Press Release, WNY Public Health Alliance

The Western New York Public Health Alliance is urging everyone over the age of six months to get a flu vaccine to protect themselves from the effects of influenza.

Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year.

An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.

It is important that people understand how the flu vaccine works. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are used to make the vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Most flu vaccines in the United States protect against four different flu viruses (“quadrivalent”); an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses. There are also some flu vaccines that protect against three different flu viruses (“trivalent”); an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one influenza B virus. Two of the trivalent vaccines are designed specifically for people 65 and older to create a stronger immune response.

It is also important to understand when to get a flu shot. You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begins spreading in your community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. Make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.

Children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected should start the vaccination process sooner, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.

Flu vaccines are offered in many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even in some schools.

Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or workplace.

For more information, please contact your local Health Department or go to the Center for Disease Control website (click here).

The Western New York Public Health Alliance (WNYPHA) is a not-for-profit organization comprised of the Health Commissioners/Public Health Directors and other community public health leaders from the eight counties of Western New York. Their mission is to support collaboration across WNY to further public health initiatives and priorities. As part of this mission, the WNYPHA works to provide health education and information to prevent disease and improve population health.

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Mobile Dental Unit now offering vision screenings for families

Posted 8 November 2019 at 11:59 am

Photo courtesy of Albion Central School: Albion Board of Education members recently toured the mobile dental unit, which visits local schools. Pictured from left include BOE members Margy Brown, Elissa Nesbitt, Linda Weller, Mobile Dental Unit Coordinator Denise Beardsley, BOE President Kathy Harling and Karen Watt, chairwoman of the board for Oak Orchard Health.

Press Release, Albion Central School

ALBION – For 15 years the Albion school district has partnered with Oak Orchard Health to provide oral health services to Albion students and their families.

The services take place during school hours and are intended for students that do not have a dentist. The unit accepts insurances and provides a sliding fee based on family income.

The mobile dental unit visits the school district every year for a couple of months to provide cleanings, dental exams, x-rays, and fluoride applications for cavity prevention. If needed, they also provide fillings, extractions, sealants and stainless steel crowns.

New this year, they are providing vision screenings for students. The simple screen can help identify if a child has vision issues and needs further evaluation. To date, 45 students have used the new vision screening service.

Oak Orchard Health Board Member Karen Watt and Mobile Dental Unit Coordinator Denise Beardsley recently offered tours of the unit to school staff and board members. Margy Brown, Kathy Harling, Elissa Nesbitt, and Linda Weller toured the facility before Monday’s BOE meeting. They were impressed with the services offered by Oak Orchard and commended them for their work serving Albion families.

For more information about this service or to schedule an appointment, contact Denise Beardsley at dbeardsley@oochc.org or call her at 585-267-9236.

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NY law raising age for tobacco, e-cigarette sales starts Nov. 13

Posted 4 November 2019 at 12:10 pm

The law raises legal age for purchasing these products from 18 to 21

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York’s law raising the minimum sales age for tobacco and electronic cigarette products is in effect beginning Nov. 13. The law raises the legal age for purchasing these products from 18 to 21, building on the Governor’s comprehensive efforts to combat health threats from tobacco and e-cigarette products.

“The goal of this law is simple – to prevent cigarettes and vaping products from getting into the hands of our youth, creating an addiction to a deadly habit,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are taking aggressive action to make sure the decades of progress we’ve made to combat tobacco addiction is not undone by a sharp rise in e-cigarette use among younger New Yorkers.”

According to Department of Health data, nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of high school students in New York State are now using e-cigarettes, and this increase is largely driven by flavored e-liquids.

High school use in 2018 (27.4%) is 160 percent higher than it was in 2014 (10.5%). While New York’s high school student smoking rate dropped from 27.1% in 2000 to a record low of 4.3% in 2016, aggressive marketing promoting flavored e-cigarettes stands to turn that trend.

Flavoring is a key youth marketing strategy of the vaping/aerosol industry just as it is in the cigarette, cigar, and smokeless tobacco markets. E-cigarette marketing highlights flavors such as mint chocolate, bubblegum and cherry cola, and creates a mistaken belief that they are not harmful to users. Studies show nearly 78% of high school students, and 75% of middle school students report being exposed to pro-tobacco marketing in 2016.

To further crack down on retailers selling tobacco and vaping products to underage youth, State Police is partnering with the Department of Health to conduct undercover investigations across the state under The Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act, which enlists underage youth to attempt to buy tobacco and e-cigarette products. As of November 1, over 1,700 inspections have occurred since July outside of New York City focusing on youth 18 years and under. Retailers found selling tobacco and vaping products to underage individuals will now face criminal penalties in addition to civil penalties.

Because tobacco use persists among youth and adults, New York State continues to prevent young adults from starting smoking. According to the Surgeon General, 88% of adult smokers started using tobacco before age 18 and 90% of the people who purchase cigarettes for minors are between the ages of 18 and 20. By raising the legal purchase age to 21, this legislation will help prevent underage children from obtaining tobacco products from their friends, reducing the likelihood young adults ever start smoking and become addicted, and ultimately save thousands of lives.

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Health Department urges testing young children for lead paint

Posted 24 October 2019 at 3:15 pm

Press Release, Orleans and Genesee County Public Health Departments

Each year, National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 20-26) is a call to bring together families, organizations, and local governments to increase lead poisoning prevention education and awareness.

“Lead poisoning is preventable!” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director of Genesee and Orleans Counties. “Parents and caretakers can reduce their child’s exposure to lead in their environment and have their children tested for lead at ages 1 and 2.”

The 3 key themes of NLPPW are:

  1. Get the Facts: Find out about the hazards of lead.
  2. Get Your Home Tested: Find out how to minimize risks of lead exposure by hiring a certified professional to test older homes for lead.
  3. Get Your Child Tested: A simple blood test can detect lead. Consult your health care provider for advice on testing your children.

Lead can be found inside and outside the home, including in the water that travels through lead pipes or in the soil around the house. However, the most common source is from lead-based paint.

Most homes built before 1978 have old lead paint, often under newer paint. If paint peels, cracks, or is worn down, the chips and dust from the old lead paint can spread onto floors, windowsills and all around your home. Lead can enter the body by breathing in or swallowing the lead dust (especially during activities such as renovations, repairs or painting).

Lead poisoning occurs when lead enters the bloodstream and builds up to toxic levels. Children less than 6 years old are especially at risk because of their small size and developing brains. Children are most commonly exposed to lead by eating paint chips or chewing on surfaces coated with lead-based paint, such as window sills. Children also tend to put their hands and/or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths. Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause:

• Damage to the brain and nervous system

• Slowed growth and development

• Learning and behavior problems

• Hearing and speech problems

During pregnancy, lead can cross over from the mother to the baby. High levels of lead in the blood during pregnancy could affect the baby’s growth and development. This could affect a baby’s hearing, vision, and ability to learn. Very high levels of lead can lead to bleeding, miscarriage (death of fetus), or stillbirth (dead at birth).

A blood lead test is the only way to find out if your child has been exposed to lead and has a detectable blood lead level. Most children with detectable levels of lead in their blood have no obvious symptoms.

New York State requires health care providers to test all children for lead with a blood lead test at ages 1 and again at 2. At every well-child visit up to age 6, health care providers must ask parents about any contact their child might have had with lead. If there’s been a chance of contact, providers are required to test for lead again.

One of the most important things parents, caretakers, and medical providers can do is have children screened for lead at ages 1 and again at 2. The goal is for all children to be tested for lead at these ages.

The table below shows local data from 2018 in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. Lead testing and early detection can prevent long-term health problems for your child and their future. Make sure to talk to your child’s doctor about lead screening at their next appointment.

County           % of Children Tested at 1            % of Children Tested at 2

Genesee          63.9%                                      59.8%

Orleans            60.6%                                     55.3%

Wyoming          63.0%                                    61.0%

“Effective October 1st, 2019 a child whose blood lead level is 5 µg/dl (micrograms per deciliter) or more will be contacted by their local health department who will help families identify sources of lead and create plans to remove it by conducting home inspections,” Pettit explained. “In addition, Public Health Nurses will work with the family and the child’s Primary Care Provider to support the process. Public Health Nurses will contact the parents/guardians to discuss the child’s diet, growth and development, and how to prevent further exposure to lead. The nurses will work with the child’s provider’s office as well to make sure future testing is scheduled, allowing for the blood lead levels to be monitored until they fall below the action level.”

To learn more about the New York State Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, please click here.

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Several flu clinics being offered honor of Leon Sidari

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 October 2019 at 11:40 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Dr. Tony Sidari, right, holds his son Tristan, 3, while he gets his flu shot this morning from Rebecca Manella, a registered nurse at Orleans Community Health. Karrie Mikits, another RN, is helping with the shots during a flu clinic today at Orleans Community Health’s Albion location at the corner of Butts Road and Route 31.

The shots were offered this morning from 9 to 11, and will again be available again from 1 to 3 p.m. today at the Albion healthcare site.

Today is one of the “Say Boo to the Flu” events in honor of Sidari’s late son, Leon, who died from the flu on Christmas day in 2017.

At the time, the Sidari family was living in san Antonio where Tony and his wife Laura were both working as doctors. The couple grew up in Albion.

The family recently moved to Ithaca, where Laura’s parents, Nathan and Gail Lyman, are located. Tony works as a rheumatologist and Laura is a psychiatrist.

Cindy Perry meets Aria Sidari, 4 months, who is held by her mother Laura Sidari at Orleans Community Health in Albion this morning. Perry is the director of education, outreach and marketing at Community Partners, which is part of Orleans Community Health.

Perry and OCH are running a “Say Boo to the Flu” clinic in honor of Laura’s son, Leon Sidari. The event includes funding from the Albion Rotary Club. The flu shots are covered by private insurance or through a child vaccination program.

The first clinic was last week at Holley Central School and 118 children received flu shots.

Last year there was the one “Say Boo to the Flu” event. This year is has expanded throughout the county by Orleans Community Health in partnership with Orleans County YMCA, Orleans County Health Department, Oak Orchard Health, Rotary and Middleport Family Health Center.

Other upcoming clinics include:

• Oct. 15, from 2:30 to 6 p.m. at Lyndonville Elementary School

• Oct. 16 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Kendall  Elementary School

• Oct. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Orleans County YMCA in Medina

• Oct. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Oak Orchard Health, 301 West Ave., Albion

• Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hoag Library in Albion

The “Say Boo to the Flu” welcome team at Orleans Community Health’s Albion location today includes Cindy Perry, Albion Rotary Club member Bonnie Malakie, and Jessica Capurso, a prevention educator with Community Partners at Orleans Community Health. All three are members of the Albion Rotary Club. They have several activities for children while they wait for their shots.

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Governor says 2.6 million have enrolled as organ donors since 2015

Posted 11 October 2019 at 11:37 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

On New York State Organ Donor Enrollment Day, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday urged New York State residents to register as organ donors through the newly-modernized New York State Donate Life Registry.

According to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, nearly 10,000 New Yorkers are among the 113,000 Americans currently awaiting an organ transplant. Nationally, 20 people each day die while awaiting a match for a transplant, according to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. A person is added to the wait list every 10 minutes, but one donor can save as many as eight lives.

“New York State has made it easier than ever to become an organ donor,” Governor Cuomo said. “Now when you’re signing up for health insurance or renewing your license, you have a chance to potentially save a life by simply checking a box.”

Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order in 2017 that made increasing the number of registered organ donors a priority, directing the State Health Department to work with all state agencies, Donate Life NYS and other partners, to provide the public with additional opportunities to register as organ donors through the NYS Donate Life Registry. That directive has helped to drive enrollment numbers through new portals such as the New York State of Health Insurance Marketplace, where 213,252 people have enrolled to become donors while purchasing or renewing their health insurance plans since the option was introduced in April 2017.

Registering through the DMV is one of the simplest ways to sign up to be part of the organ donor registry. As of this week, more than 5 million of the 5.9 million enrolled in the registry did so through the DMV. The DMV includes on its driver’s license application and renewal forms the choice for New Yorkers to enroll in the NYS Donate Life Registry.

Under “Lauren’s Law,” named for Lauren Shields, a Rockland County resident who received a life-saving heart transplant at age 9, DMV customers are required to check one of two boxes related to organ donation for their driver’s license or non-driver ID application to be processed.

In 2017, 16-and 17-year-olds became able to register their consent to donate the first time they applied for their permit, driver’s license or non-driver ID. As of this week, more than 60,665 people in this age group have signed up to become donors, and since 2015, these initiatives and legislative actions have in total yielded more than 2.6 million new donors.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “We are working hard in New York State to increase the number of organ, eye and tissue donors. Through collaboration across state agencies, we are highlighting the need for life-saving organs and seizing on opportunities that put the choice to donate front-and-center for New Yorkers by reminding them during everyday activities of the importance of becoming an organ donor.”

Donate Life New York State Executive Director Aisha Tator said, “There are thousands of New York’s men, women and children currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. This annual event serves as a rallying cry to encourage New Yorkers to help save a life by enrolling as organ donors. Enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry is a way to ensure that individuals’ wishes about donation after death will be clearly known and carried out.”

Don’t wait, enroll in the NYS Donate Life Registry online today through the following online options:

The NYS Donate Life Registry website – www.donatelife.ny.gov

The NYS Department of Motor Vehicles website – dmv.ny.gov

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GOW Opioid Task Force wins state-wide award as ‘Outstanding Rural Health Program’

Posted 10 October 2019 at 1:48 pm

Provided photo: The Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force was honored recently by the New York State Association for Rural Health as the Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year. From left are Matthew A. Kuhlenbeck, President & CEO of Greater Rochester Health Foundation; Paul Pettit, director of Public Health Departments in Genesee & Orleans counties; Charlotte Crawford, Lake Plains Community Care Network;  Nicole Anderson, GCASA; John Bennett, GCASA; Allison Parry-Gurak, GCASA; Shannon Ford, GCASA; Holli Gass, Spectrum Health & Human Services; and Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, GCASA.

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.

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Health Department waiting on details for $1.3 million lead hazard reduction program

Posted 10 October 2019 at 8:24 am

Courtesy of Howard B. Owens, The Batavian

Local health officials are still waiting on details from the federal government on a $1.3 million grant awarded to Genesee and Orleans counties for lead-hazard abatement and reduction in older homes.

Paul Pettit

At a meeting of the Human Services Committee in Genesee County last week, Paul Pettit, director of the health departments in both counties, said he is waiting to hear about the formal guidelines for the grant.

“This is a significant amount of funding to come into Genesee County and to Orleans County and it would really help us to help those who don’t have the means and the funds potentially to fix the problem,” Pettit said in an interview with The Batavian.

Pettit’s office applied for the grant over the summer.

The grant will enable the health departments to identify housing stock with potential lead hazards and make available grant money to the property owners to remediate the hazard.

“This funding is very important because what it does is, it allows, number one, a potential partnership with the homeowners or rental landlords to be able to fix a problem before a child gets poisoned and have funding available to remediate those homes prior to the poisoning occurring,” Pettit said. “So when you look at it from a primary prevention standpoint, that’s what we want to do. We want to try to prevent a child from getting poisoned in the first place.”

The grants will be available to both homeowners and landlords of residences built prior to 1978 in three of the four census tracks in the City of Batavia and one census track in Albion.

Until the guidelines are in place, Pettit said it’s not possible to provide details on how properties will be identified, inspected and what the criteria will be for providing assistance to property owners.

“We’re gonna have to stand this program up fairly quickly when we get the formal announcement of the funding,” Pettit said.

Health department staff has recently been through training for lead risk-assessment certification, Pettit told the Human Services Committee.

He also told the committee there is legislation pending in Albany that would require landlords with housing built prior to 1978 to receive annual lead-safe certification for their units, unless they made the property lead free, which would mean doing likes like removing trim, replacing windows, installing siding on the outside of the building.

“We do not want to see any child poisoned from lead exposure,” Pettit said. “It can lead to developmental delays and other health impacts that could affect them over their entire lives. It’s very important to identify and find these hazards early and then protect the children so they’re not getting lead poisoning.”

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GCASA’s Peer Recovery advocates support those dealing with substance use issues

Posted 4 October 2019 at 3:40 pm

Provided photo: The GCASA Peer team – front from left, Chris Budzinack, Charlene Grimm and Gina Schelemanow; back, Cheyenne Richardson, Madeline Rodriguez, Sheila Smith, Nicole Anderson, Amy Kabel and Nick Volpe. Other team members are Trisha Allen, Shawn Kitcho and Marty Taber.

By Mike Pettinella, GCASA Publicist

Unlike a courtroom jury of your peers, the team of Peer Recovery Advocates at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is not there to pass judgment, but to provide much-needed support and encouragement to those struggling with substance use disorders.

For the past 13 months or so, about a dozen Peers at GCASA have bonded into a motivated, close-knit group that has had a positive impact on hundreds of people at various stages of recovery.

All of these professionals have lived through recovery – most of them are in recovery themselves. Knowing what it takes to reach and sustain sobriety, they now are sharing with others in need what they have experienced and learned.

“Living with substance use disorder – either personally or dealing with a family member – gives Peers the tools to aid in others’ road to recovery,” said Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, director of project innovation and expansion who also serves as director of the recovery programs at GCASA.

Mangino-Crandall explained that specific training requirements must be met to become a Peer.

“There is a required six-day training for CRPA-P (Certified Recovery Peer Advocate-Provisional), then there are 500 field hours and 25 supervision hours that must completed to become a CRPA,” she said. “GCASA LOCAL Peer onboarding and training program lasts one to two months. In that time, Peers go to trainings and do work that applies toward the credential.”

She added that it takes at least four months at GCASA to have enough hours to be credentialed, however, and can take longer depending on full-time equivalent hours per week, job assignments and other factors.

There also is a test that must be passed to become a CRPA. Re-credentialing is required every three years with 30 more hours of training.

Mangino-Crandall said all but one of the Peers is full-time, with funding derived from a variety of grants.

Apparently, GCASA’s program is paying off in big ways as its Peers have reached out to more than 1,200 people in recovery over the past year. The positive results include the following:

• Improved relationship with treatment providers;

• Increased treatment retention;

• Increased satisfaction with the overall treatment experience;

• Improved access to social supports;

• Decreased criminal justice involvement;

• Reduced relapse rates;

• Reduced substance use and greater housing stability.

“We’re here to support our clients in whatever pathway they are choosing (to reach and maintain recovery),” said Charlene Grimm, the Peer Supervisor who assumed that role in August 2018 after nearly 10 years as a Counselor and  Supportive Living Coordinator.

Grimm, in recovery for 19 years, said her history made it a “good fit” for her to become a Peer leader.

“I have years of experience with the agency, I’m from this area and I know the community,” she said. “All of us understand that we’re equals in one sense but we have ethical standards that enable us to mentor them and support them.”

According to guidelines from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Peer Recovery Coaches walk side by side with individuals seeking recovery from substance use disorders. They help people to create their own recovery plans, and develop their own recovery pathways.

Recovery coaches such as Grimm and Nicole Anderson, a Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Task Force Peer Recovery Advocate, perform the day-to-day tasks necessary to move the recovery process along – things such as linking clients to food and social services’ sources; providing transportation to medical appointments, meetings and church services; attending court sessions, and offering coaching and motivational support.

“The Peer program allows people to know that they don’t need to walk through this alone,” said Anderson, whose stepfather passed away due to a heroin overdose. “We celebrate little victories and continue our support even if they take a step back. We’re friends on a professional level and we’re here to listen.”

Chris Budzinack Sr. is another Peer Recovery Advocate who began employment at GCASA after working at City Church.

A married father of three teenage boys, he has been in recovery for 10 years. He said he owes his life to the people that reached out to him and just wants to pay it forward.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for those who helped me and supported me,” he said. “Now, we as a team have made a difference. It’s not do we ‘think’ we have – I know we’re making a difference.”

With such a highly-trained team on hand, GCASA is set up well to move into its recovery recreation center at the former Bohn’s Restaurant on Clinton Street later this fall. Several of the Peers will be assigned to the recovery center, with Budzinack serving as the Lead Peer at that location.

“Batavia can become an amazing recovery community,” he said. “Right now there is no place for people to go to socialize without alcohol. There is so much potential (with a place like that).”

Grimm said Peers also support the residential clients of GCASA –people currently at the Atwater House and those in supportive living – and can utilize a fleet of vehicles acquired from grants to transport clients as needed.

“One of the key reasons for its success is that it offers a lot of things needed outside of the clinical setting,” Mangino-Crandall explained. “The Peers offer more flexibility and can provide essential support with other non-clinical elements of recovery.”

She added that the Peer program is expanding.

“Yes, we’re looking for a few more Peers,” she said.

For more information about the Peer program at GCASA, go to the agency’s website – www.gcasa.net.

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