MAYVILLE, N.Y.: -- May is National Mental Health Month and this year National Prevention Week is May 14 through May 20. Each year around this observance, communities and organizations across the county come together to raise awareness about the value of positive mental health and the importance of substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery. In recognition of local groups’ educational efforts on drug addiction, Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan will be proclaiming May 2017 as Drug Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in Chautauqua County.
“Our nation is faced with a growing opiate use and abuse epidemic,” said Horrigan. “In Chautauqua County in 2016, there have been more than 50 opioid overdose emergency department visits, over 350 clients admitted to an OASAS-certified Chemical Dependency Treatment program, and far too many tragic drug-related overdose deaths. By proclaiming May as Drug Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, I encourage individuals to increase awareness and education about drug addiction, inspire others to champion recovery as possible and attainable, and to further promote the implementation of prevention, treatment and recovery support programs in our county.”
Horrigan will be taking part in three of these awareness events to discuss the county’s ongoing efforts to combat opioid abuse and he encourages residents to attend.
On May 13, a Rockin’ for Recovery Concert and Drug Awareness Fair will be held at 2 p.m. at Shawbucks, 212 W. Second St. in Jamestown. This event is for all ages and it will showcase prevention, awareness and recovery complete with a concert starring Billboard Pop Sensation Brielle.
Horrigan will be presenting his proclamation at this event. He will also be joining keynote speaker Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to discuss their counties’ efforts on the opioid epidemic, what is happening on a national level and answer questions. Individuals who have been directly affected by opioid addiction will also share their personal stories and the programs available to assist those struggling with addiction. Representatives from the Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council (CASAC), Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County (MHA), UPMC Chautauqua WCA, a Fresh Start, Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, and other professional organizations will also be on hand to discuss their services and answer questions.
The concert and drug awareness fair is organized by Kim Carlson and local community members.
On February 26, 2016, Kim Carlson lost her only son, Alex, to a heroin overdose. Because of her love for her son and her love for the community, Carlson reached out to see if anyone would be interested in being part of the solution to raise awareness and to educate the community on the growing heroin addiction problem.
“Our goal is to help people understand abuse disorders, addiction and alcoholism,” said Carlson. “So many people don’t get the help they need because of stigma and not knowing where to go. We are going to have the resources available to educate them. My son Alex had a zest for life. He was hard working, well-mannered, physically fit, and by all accounts a happy and healthy 26-year-old man. I knew that if this could happen to my son, our family, that it could happen to anyone. I had to take a stand to find a way to bring light to this situation. Losing a child is the most horrific pain a parent will ever feel. I say that I talk about my child so people can talk to their children. Through our experience, communication, knowledge, open minds and open hearts we can bring change so that others might not feel our pain.”
On May 16, Hope and Healing for Chautauqua will be held at 9 a.m. at Chautauqua Suites, 215 W. Lake Rd. in Mayville. This free, day-long event will feature guest speakers, presentations, and addiction resources for the community. Horrigan will be opening the event and the featured keynote speaker is Rodney Wambeam, Senior Research Scientist at the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center of the University of Wyoming. Wambeam will present on “Boomers, Xera and Millennials: How New Research on Generations Can Inform the Future of Prevention.”
In addition, Level Up Talks will be given in the form of micro presentations to provide further information about prevention, treatment and recovery concepts with the potential to “level up” hope and healing in Chautauqua County. Breakout sessions will complete the day with HOPE Youth Empowerment Program for Youth Advocacy lead by Laurie Reynolds and Tracy Jespersen of CASAC, Planning and Evaluating Environmental Prevention Efforts lead by Wambeam, Success in Treatment and Recovery with Lifestyle Changes lead by Dr. Davina Moss-King, and Peer Specialists and Peer Recovery Supports lead by Kia Briggs, MHA and Pastor Leecroft Clarke of Addiction Response Ministry. Information and resource tables will be available throughout the day. Additionally, New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Credential Hours for CPP/CPS and CASAC will be available. Attendee registration to the event is open until May 1 and those who register after this date may not be guaranteed a lunch.
Another Hope and Healing event, Combating the Addiction Epidemic: Hope and Healing for Chautauqua Overview, will be held on May 17 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 601 Washington Ave. in Dunkirk. This event includes prevention, treatment, and recovery resource presentations and a resource fair. It will be followed by an Opioid Overdose Response/Narcan Training at 4:30 p.m., which will be led by Alison Espin of the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services. Representatives from the County Behavioral Health Clinic in Dunkirk, TLC Health Network, UPMC Chautauqua WCA , Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy Group, Addiction Response Ministry, HOPE Chautauqua, and CASAC will also be in attendance. Registration is required for the Opioid Overdose Response/Narcan Training.
The Hope and Healing events are put on by the Healthy Opportunities for Prevention Education (HOPE) Chautauqua Coalition. This diverse group of community partners has been working together to plan local events that promote hope, highlight resources, and strengthen substance abuse efforts in Chautauqua County. The planning committee includes representatives of CASAC, Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, Chautauqua Tapestry, Evergreen Health, HOPE Chautauqua Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, MHA, UPMC Chautauqua WCA, local faith leaders, and other dedicated community members.
For more information about the Rockin’ for Recovery Concert and Drug Awareness Fair, please contact Kim Carlson at (716) 499-5070.
For more information about the Hope and Healing for Chautauqua events, registration information and additional details, visit the HOPE Chautauqua Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hopechautauqua/.