Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Victim Impact Panel is personal for some GCASA staff

At the Victim Impact Panel last evening written about in the article below by Dan Crofts, I showed the audience these pictures as I told my story.

My children were killed on March 10, 1993 by a repeat drunk driving offender. The DWI crash that killed my children was his third DWI. He was driving a tractor trailer truck with 48,000 lbs. of flour going from Lockport, NY to Schenectady,NY. He crashed into my wife and 4 children on Rt. 31 in Ogden between Brockport and Spencerport.

This is Brigid. She was born 04/11/87. She was 5 when she was killed. She would be 23 today.

This is Ryan. He was born 05/09/84. He was 8 when he was killed. He would be 26 today.
This is the crash scene on 03/10/93. My wife Angela and daughter Maureen aged 14 at the time, and son, Joseph who was 12 at the time survived. They all had extensive injuries and trauma.

In the early 80s when Mothers Against Drunk Driving started holding Victim Impact Panels about 40,000 Americans were killed in DWI crashes every year. By 2000 the number was down to about 17,000. Last year, 2009, the number if DWI fatalities in the United States was down to about 12,000 with about 500 per year in New York State. New York State and Utah are tied as being the #1 lowest DWI fatalities per 100,000 miles driven in the United States. While things have improved we had 23 offenders at the panel last night from Orleans, Genesee, and Wyoming counties. Between 20 and 35 people attend GCASA's Victim impact panel every month.

I am a Psychiatric Social Worker. I will have been in the field 42 years on 10/31. I have worked with people with mental health and addiction problems my whole career. It seems very ironic that my community, my family, my children, and myself have been victimized by the disease that I have professionally and personally  tried to help so many people fight over the years.

I have been the executive director of GCASA for the last 10 years. The previous executive director had also lost a child to DWI. There are other members of the GCASA staff who have lost relatives to DWI crashes as well. DWI fatalities happen across the board and can happen to any one.

Please do not drink and drive and don't let anyone, anyone, anyone, drink and drive. If you have to, call the police. Hopefully you will won't suffer the tragedies which hundreds of thousands of Americans have.

GCASA's other than personal services almost half the average

As was written about yesterday, Coordinated Care Services Inc., the nonprofit management services company in Rochester, NY recently did an analysis of GCASA's financial operation. Yesterday, we described the personal service cost and benefit costs per units of service and today we are describing what is called OTPS, other than personal services, costs per unit of service.

The average OTPS cost is $11.00 with the highest among the 10 comparable agencies at $20.00 per unit. GCASA's OTPS cost per unit of service in both Genesee and Orleans counties is $6.00 almost half the average.

Other than personal services are expenses such as equipment, supplies, postage, etc.

Once again GCASA is thrifty and frugal in its operations and the taxpayers are getting excellent value for their expenditures.

Here is a graph depicting the findings.

Victim Impact Panel -- An Observer's Review

Our monthly Victim Impact Panel met last night at the Batavia City Centre. A video on the consequences of drunk driving was followed by two very engaging, emotional and honest talks by Brenda Van Horn, who lost a son to a DWI almost nine years ago, and our own David G. Markham, whose two youngest children were killed by a drunk driver in 1993.

Let me tell you what was most interesting to me, as an observer. As people were just arriving, one attendee came in with what seemed to be an emotionally impervious, "I-could-care-less" attitude. But once David was well into his talk, I glanced over -- and it looked like this person was getting misty-eyed.

You almost have to be at a V.I.P. session to truly understand what it's all about. What V.I.P. illustrates is not some wishy-washy, hippie-happy hugfest; nor, on the other hand, is it some vindictive, condemnatory, finger-wagging forum. What V.I.P. does is draw upon the principles of Restorative Justice in order to help people realize how their actions affect others, themselves, and the community as a whole, and to encourage them in their ability to become part of the solution rather than the problem. Those in attendance were asked to fill out an evaluative survey and offer comments afterwards; the resulting comments suggested appreciable changes of minds and hearts.

Hats off to Brenda and Dave for opening up about such a painful and personal topic. By doing so, they may have helped to save many lives. Hats off also to Laura Ricci, who did a marvelous job of coordinating the program. Go Laura!

Articles of interest

As is my custom, I was reading the news yesterday with an eye for what might be relevant to the GCASA blog. I found a couple of articles on Yahoo! News dealing with different topics. We should, of course, take what's in these articles with a grain of salt. The fact that I'm posting these links does not mean that I endorse every statement contained in the articles. But the articles do present some interesting things to consider.

Please click here for an article on the decline of marriage rates due to the poor economy. This is relevant, because family life and attachment are significant preventative factors -- the lack thereof being significant risk factors -- for alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

Please click here for an article on Americans' religious awareness. I thought this would be interesting to look at, given the fact that religious faith is a major preventative factor when it comes to ATOD use.

GCASA's employees productive and efficient in comparison

Coordinated Care Services Inc, a nonprofit management services organization in Rochester, NY, recently reviewed GCASA's financials and compared GCASA to 10 other substance abuse agencies in the Rochester area, 6 of which were stand alone substance agencies and four of which were part of hospital systems. GCASA compared very favorably. Over the next few days I will be sharing some of the findings with readers of this blog.

In looking at the GCASA's treatment programs in Genesee and Orleans Counties the average cost of a unit of service delivered was $38.00 per unit in Genesee and $41.00 per unit in Orleans. the average of the 12 agencies, the other 10 plus GCASA's two clinics was $38.00 per unit. A number of agencies were spending significantly more with three agencies spending $49.00, $48.00, and $45.00 per unit.

In looking at the cost of benefits per unit GCASA was below average with $8.00 per unit while the average was $9.00 per unit. The high agencies were one at $12.00 per unit and three at $11.00 per unit.

GCASA's personnel costs both cost per unit of service and costs for benefits per unit of service are lower than most other agencies. These agencies are all nonprofits. If a similar comparison were done for State and County employees the disparities would much greater.

Is GCASA's salaries and benefits per cost of service a good thing or a bad thing? It definitely is a bad thing if you are an employee. It is a good thing if you are a funder or a client.

It terms of organizational performance, GCASA outperforms most substance abuse agencies in the region for many reasons. It has a great staff who are very productive, a great managerial team, and a great board of directors.

In terms of being accountable to the communities we serve, they couldn't be getting better services at a lower cost by any other provider.

The accusation heard from time to time that GCASA's employees are rich and only want money and that GCASA is only a Medicaid mill bilking the taxpayers out of money is not borne out by the facts. GCASA operates most effectively and efficiently and provides great returns for the money spent.

Click on charts to enlarge for easier reading.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

GCASA is pioneer in medication supported recovery

This comes from the OASAS update newsletter of 09/27/10:


New York leads the nation in support of individuals who are in recovery from substance use disorders. As part of September’s Recovery Month, OASAS began an initiative for all programs called “Medication Supported Recovery.” With the support of our prevention, treatment and recovery partners: COMPA, ASAP, NAADAC, ATPA, TCA and NAMA, this will enable programs to provide – directly or by referral – the use of addiction medications as treatment options, when appropriate. The OASAS Office of Health, Wellness, and Medical Direction and the Bureau of Treatment, along with Field Office and Technical Assistance Staff are available to assist providers in integrating addiction medications into programs. Resources to help providers move forward with this initiative are available on the OASAS Web site addiction medicine pages.

I am proud to write that GCASA is a pioneer in Medication Supported Recovery. GCASA's Medical Directors and Psychiatrists have provided psychotropic medications to GCASA's clients. We also have been and still are pioneers in using Suboxone for opiate addiction. In addiction, GCASA has been a pioneer in the use of nicotine replacement therapy and beginning 10/01/10 will begin a pilot project with Electronic cigarettes as a nicotine delivery mechanism.

GCASA also works collaboratively with the mental health clinics in both Genesee and Orleans counties and with many private providers in managing the care of our mutual patients.

Murder of a Mexican mayor brings home perils of community drug activity

As everybody is, I'm sure, aware, Mexico has been struggling with major drug problems for quite some time. Being at somewhat of a distance, we here in the States -- especially if we live in small towns or suburban communities where drug problems are not quite as extreme -- tend to forget that drugs are not just an annoyance, but a a recipe for disaster.

The discovery of small-town mayor Gustavo Sanchez and one of his aides yesterday was a case in point. According to Gustavo Ruiz' article entitled "Small-town mayor stoned to death in Western Mexico," which was published on Yahoo! News last night (Sept. 27th, 2010) at 8:41 p.m., the town in question "is in a region where soldiers have destroyed more than 20 meth labs in the last year." It is not yet clear whether Sanchez' murderers were members of a drug cartel, but given the amount of drug activity in that area it is not unlikely that drugs were a factor in some form or other, directly or indirectly.

The reason I mention the meth labs should be obvious -- we've had quite a few of those in Genesee County in the past year or so. Fortunately, our drug woes have not escalated to anywhere near the level seen in Mexico. But every now and then, we could use these reminders of how important it is to stay on top of it.

On that note, I want to allude to something one of my colleagues said yesterday. Stephanie Armstrong, DFC Program Assistant at the Orleans site, observed that if we limit ourselves to closing down meth houses, culprits will just move to another house. Understanding that we do need to keep closing down any meth lab we find, she noted that we should also addresss the social problems that give rise to such things -- widespread unemployment, for example. Granted, we don't know how much we can do with regard to that sort of thing, but clearly we can't do nothing.

For the Yahoo! News article on Mayor Sanchez' death, click here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Peaceful Genesee is working to educate the public about restorative justice

Peaceful Genesee, a volunteer coalition dedicated to tackling the problem of community violence, is holding a workshop right now at the YWCA. Let's hope for their current and future success in promoting peace and restorative justice.

Click here for the insert in The Batavian.

Genesee County Drug Court graduation 10/12/2010

Click on image to enlarge for easier reading.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Study shows kids are swearing at a younger age

This might not seem to have any direct correlation to the issue of alcohol, tobacco and drug (ATOD) use, but I think it speaks to the overall moral and family atmosphere in the context of which our youth are growing up nowadays. And this has been shown to be significant with regard to risk and protective factors for ATOD use. One might argue, 'How will kids learn to care about what they put into their mouths if they have no care for what comes out of their mouths?'

Click here for the Yahoo! News article.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Here is the latest on the Muckdogs. Let's continue to support them throughout the next two years and beyond, as they are among our most valuable partners here at GCASA.

See yesterday's articles in:

The Daily News

The Batavian

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

GCASA's 2011 funding sources

As GCASA's Executive Director I often get asked where GCASA gets its money. A lot of people mistakenly think we are a county or state governmental agency. GCASA is a private nonprofit agency which has contracts with State and County government but less than 45% of its revenue comes from New York State and less than 1% of its revenue comes from Genesee or Orleans County.

Here is a chart which lists GCASA's funding sources and the percentage of the revenue that that funding stream makes up of the over 4 million dollar budget.

Click on image to enlarge for easier reading.

GCASA has four programs: treatment, prevention, residential services, and Employee Assistance. While it serves primarily Genesee and Orleans counties it provides many services to all the counties in Western New York.

DWI in the News

The trial of Ronald J. Wendt, of Alexander, is soon to begin. The Batavian has been tracking the progress of this story since August of last year, when Wendt was accused of manslaughter in the three-car crash that killed 18-year-old Katie Stanley of Dansville.

What has yet to be determined is whether or not alcohol consumption was a factor in the accident. Wendt claims to have had his last beer 15 minutes before the accident occurred.

Two articles on the most recent developments were posted yesterday. Click here for those articles and for all previous coverage on The Batavian (it goes in reverse chronology, from top to bottom).

Sheriff Maha and his deputies help keep Geneseans safe.

Underage drinking TIPLINE on front page of Genesee County Sheriff's Department web page.

Underage Drinking TIPLINE

(585) 343-1932


"You know you care…make the call"

Many thanks to Sheriff Gary Maha and all his deputies for making Genesee County safer due to DWI and underage drinking.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thursday, Grand Opening of Hope Center at the Sallie

GCASA Art Show Thursday, 09/30/10

Click on image to enlarge for easier reading.

U.S. DWI fatalities hit all time low since data was first collected by MADD 30 years ago

From Injury Board blog:

New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that drunk driving deaths dropped to their lowest level since MADD has been tracking the data.

The number of fatalities in 2009, 10,839, represents a 7% decrease from 2008.

MADD was founded 30 years ago, at which time the number of fatalities was twice as high as the 2009 number. MADD started its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving four years ago, and the number of deaths from drunk driving declined by 20% since that campain began. However, close to 11,000 deaths is still way too high, so we must all continue to promote better awareness.

Just think about how much better educated our children are about the dangers of drinking and driving than young adults were in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's.

There have been DWI deaths in Genesee County recently in Oakfield.

GCASA runs a Victim Impact Panel every month for offenders from Orleans, Genesee, and Wyoming counties. It is usually attended by 35 -50 people monthly.

Even though deaths are down, there is still a problem locally and nationally. 11,000 DWI deaths a year is nothing for us to brag about.  By way of comparison, there were 3,000 on 9/11.

Emergency room visits for abuse of opiates doubles between 2004 and 2008

Click on image to enlarge for easier reading.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gateway effect of marijuana is overblown new research says

New research from the University of New Hampshire shows that the "gateway effect" of marijuana -- that teenagers who use marijuana are more likely to move on to harder illicit drugs as young adults -- is overblown.

Whether teenagers who smoked pot will use other illicit drugs as young adults has more to do with life factors such as employment status and stress, according to the new research. In fact, the strongest predictor of whether someone will use other illicit drugs is their race/ethnicity, not whether they ever used marijuana.

Conducted by UNH associate professors of sociology Karen Van Gundy and Cesar Rebellon, the research appears in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

"In light of these findings, we urge U.S. drug control policymakers to consider stress and life-course approaches in their pursuit of solutions to the 'drug problem,' " Van Gundy and Rebellon say.

For more information click here.