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Pennington Is Named New CAER Coordinator

Misty Pennington

Misty Pennington, mental hygiene program coordinator and interim Dunkirk Behavioral Health Clinic director, is taking on the role of the new coordinator of the Countywide Alliance for Enforcement and Rehabilitation.

Pennington has served as a representative of the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene on the group since February 2019. CAER was formed in early 2018 by former County Executive George Borrello to address rapidly increasing opioid use across Chautauqua County. The continued goal of CAER is to bring all sectors of the community together to reduce the incidence and prevalence of opioid use disorder across the county.

“We are pleased to have the knowledge and experience of Misty Pennington as the new CAER coordinator,” said Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel. “This group has helped in the fight of our opioid crisis.”

Since its creation, CAER has included stakeholders from multiple local law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney’s office, and County Departments that convene to address the specific issues occurring locally related to combating the opioid problem.

“Given the recent and sweeping changes to the bail statute, the need for community based services and treatment options is greater than ever before,” said Patrick E. Swanson, Esq., Chautauqua County District Attorney. “The CAER team worked to get these services available in the jail, but now most alleged offenders are not being held trial pre-trial where those treatment options are available. There is also marked drop in defendants entering diversion or treatment court to resolve their cases. We are adjusting our focus to get those struggling with addiction necessary services, but when resources are tight this task proves difficult.”

“The members of CAER are all working together to address the specific issues that are affecting our community and are responding with appropriate actions when necessary,” said Pennington. “The partnerships between all of these entities have substantially strengthened, and the lines of communication have been opened up. This is an opportunity for us to reinforce and utilize the relationships between law enforcement and treatment providers.”

The CAER group benefitted in its foundation in late 2018 by a $200,000 Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) planning grant from The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded to the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene. This grant also served as the seed to launch The Chautauqua Substance Abuse Response Partnership (CSARP) and construct a framework for bringing together community stakeholders in a formal way to address comprehensively the opioid use disorder crisis through prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies and activities.

“The Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene is pleased that Ms. Pennington has taken the lead to continue the important work of CAER and to further support the work of CAER through the activities of the Chautauqua Substance Abuse Response Partnership,” said Patricia Brinkman, Chautauqua County Community Mental Hygiene Services Director. “These initiatives, supported by HRSA grant funds, will strengthen community efforts and further support the collaborative work combatting the opioid crisis in Chautauqua County.”

In the spring of 2019, The Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene was awarded an additional $1 million for a Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) Implementation grant from (HRSA). CSARP, established by the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, is using $1 million to implement a set of prevention, treatment, and recovery activities over three years. The purpose of RCORP is to support treatment for and prevention of substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder, in rural counties at the highest risk for substance use disorder.

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