HCAT, MHA, AAUW Team Up For Community Drug Education Forum

Community partners will once again stand together in the fight against the ongoing drug epidemic.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Jamestown Community College’s Schermann Theatre, a community drug education forum will be held titled, “The Many Faces of Addiction; No One Cause, No One Solution.” The forum is being presented by the Health Care Action Team, the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County and the American Association of University Women.

This will be the second drug forum held in Jamestown presented by the HCAT, which is a volunteer group working to improve health care in the community. The first HCAT community drug education forum was held in September 2014 and it was entitled “Striking Back at the White Plague.”

Dr. Lillian Ney, HCAT chairwoman, said the first forum HCAT sponsored was well-attended and received a lot of feedback, which made for an educational program. She said HCAT has been working for almost a year on the second drug education forum because there has been no end to the community-wide epidemic.

“It is important to continue learning, discussing, collaborating and working towards solutions,” she said. “What is different now in our area as compared to a few years ago is that we have many organizations and groups working together in a definite collaborative ways, working towards common goals and even helping each other reach individual organizations goals.”

Ney said when HCAT officials were putting together the community forum, AAUW officials approached MHA officials to present a program on addiction.

“I was a common denominator in a way. Kia Narroway-Briggs is a member of HCAT and knew of our plans, and since I also chair the MHA Advisory Committee, she told me of AAUW’s request,” Ney said. “It then seemed natural that the three organizations might join forces and work together to present a very special forum for the public. Janet Forbes, program vice president of AAUW, was enthusiastic about this merger, and with MHA and HCAT on board, before long, we were three organizations strong, symbolic of our byline, ‘Our Community Stands Together.”’

Ney said many other organizations have joined in support, further emphasizing the significant collaboration that is going on in the area.

“There are at least two dozen collaborators and all are assisting in one way or another,” she said. “This kind of meaningful collaboration is what is needed to have impact. We also want the public to know what the current situation is, what has been learned in the past two years, what inroads have been made in our area to handle the epidemic, what additional services are being added, how best to educate and prevent, which is essential to curbing the epidemic.”

The additional community partners for the forum include: Jamestown Community College, The United Way, city of Jamestown, Chautauqua County, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, The Post-Journal, YWCA, CASAC, A Fresh Start, HOPE Coalition, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, UPMC Chautauqua WCA, the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, The Resource Center, The Chautauqua Center, Jamestown Area Medical Associates-Great Lakes Physician Practice, United Christian Advocacy Network, Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System, Addiction Response Ministry, Chautauqua Works and Burgett and Robbins.

Speakers will include Karen McElrath, professor of criminal justice at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina; Davina Moss-King of Positive Direction and Associates; Andrew O’Brien, consultant and UPMC Chautauqua WCA; Leanna Luka-Conley, Chautauqua County Health and Human Services Department deputy commissioner; Harry Snellings, Jamestown police chief and public safety director; the Rev. Luke Foder, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Ney said topics that will be discussed will include: The current drug situation in the area; stigma attached to addiction; human trafficking situation in the area; addiction during pregnancy and effects on newborns; harm reduction and resources; and spiritual dimensions. She said a panel discussion with audience questions will be held after the presentations and will include a physician trained in addiction medicine.

Ney said thanks to several local officials many initiatives have been started since the first forum in 2014.

“Thanks to County Executive Vince Horrigan, countywide drug forums have been held and numerous committees have been organized and continue to meet,” she said. “Our state legislators, Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell, have work with our local officials and organization, such as the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Health and UPMC Chautauqua WCA to advocate at the state for services for Chautauqua County and there have been publicized successes. Additionally, new organizations have been formed to educate, increase awareness and fund raise, all necessary components to stemming the tide of addiction and subsequent loss of support networks, jobs and even lives. There has also been a welcome increase in the strength and numbers of the faith community joining the other organizations to address the problems we are facing.”

Ney said she believes that with the collaborations of several community organizations, Chautauqua County and the greater Jamestown area is doing more than many communities to fight the addiction epidemic.

“We are small enough to see whether an impact is being made and many of the goals set in the last four years have been met,” she said. “Note that the disease of addiction didn’t appear overnight and the solutions will not be possible in the short term. We also need to keep in mind that recovery is a very long process, likely taking a year or more, and remissions are always possible. The degree to which collaboration between organizations and entities is now taking place is commendable and needs to be actively continued. Every sector in the community has to be involved in education, prevention, mentoring and overall support.”

There is no charge for the forum and the public is welcome to attend. Refreshments will be served by the numerous partner organizations.

HCAT is a subcommittee of the Jamestown Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission and was formed to focus on the impact of health care on development in the community, as well as accessible, high-quality health care for residents. Partners on the team consist of City Council members; various foundations; UPMC Chautauqua WCA; Jamestown Area Medical Associates; The Resource Center; Jamestown Primary Care; Chautauqua County Health Network; The Chautauqua Center; Mental Health Association of Chautauqua County; Workforce Investment Board; SUNY Fredonia; Jamestown Community College Nursing Program; and Chautauqua County Health & Human Services and Mental Hygiene departments.