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Chautauqua County Recognized At UN For Efforts Against Drug Addiction

Pictured left to right: Carmelo Hernandez, Director of Chautauqua County’s Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services; Chautauqua County Executive Paul M. Wendel Jr.; Patricia McClennan, Deputy Director of the Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services; and New York State Senator George Borrello.

NEW YORK, NY – Chautauqua County’s relentless pursuit in combating drug addiction received international acclaim at the United Nations headquarters during the 68th session focused on women’s empowerment.

At the invitation of Ambassador Hugues Sanon, Special Envoy for International Relations of the Council for Justice, Equality and Peace to the United Nations and Global Ambassador of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, County Executive Paul M. Wendel Jr. led a delegation to the UN on Friday, March 22, 2024 to address the pressing issue of illicit drug abuse in rural counties like Chautauqua County, and to present proactive strategies during the World Conference for a Drug-Free World.

This Global conference, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations, was co-hosted by the president and founder of COJEP International, Ali Gedikoğlu; the founder and president of the Americas chapter for a drug-free world, Dr. Bernard Fialkoff, and the Global Peace Ambassador Dr. Hugues Sanon, special envoy for international relations to the UN for COJEP International / Global ambassador For the Drugs Foundation for a Drug Free World, the Americas Chapter, who also co-moderated the conference alongside Dr. Bernard Fialkoff.

Accompanying Wendel was Carmelo Hernandez, Director of Chautauqua County’s Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services and Patricia McClennan, Deputy Director of the Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services. New York State Senator George Borrello, who represents the county in Albany, NY, also participated.

Addressing distinguished guests, Wendel candidly acknowledged the county’s struggle with drug abuse, exacerbated by its strategic location between several major metropolitan areas, resulting in a disturbing rise in illicit drug trafficking.

Pictured left to right: Chautauqua County Executive Paul M. Wendel Jr.; Ambassador Hugues Sanon, Special Envoy for International Relations of the Council for Justice, Equality and Peace to the United Nations and Global Ambassador of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World; and New York State Senator George Borrello.

“Unlike some policymakers, my commitment to combating drug abuse stems from firsthand experience,” Wendel continued. Drawing from his 25-year tenure as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), he recounted the harrowing scenes of heroin and fentanyl overdoses he encountered, underscoring the urgent need for action.

“At the forefront of our efforts stands the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services,” Wendel emphasized, detailing the department’s multifaceted approach, including raising awareness, reducing stigma, forging partnerships with community organizations, and delivering accessible mental hygiene services.

Wendel highlighted Combat Addiction CHQ, a flagship initiative empowering individuals with tools for prevention, treatment, and recovery from addiction. He commended Patricia McClennan, Deputy Director of the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, as an exemplar of empowerment in the fight against substance use disorder.

“I am particularly delighted to recognize one of tonight’s honorees, Patricia McClennan,” Wendel declared. “Trish epitomizes this year’s theme of empowering women in the fight against substance use disorder and addiction.”

Furthermore, Wendel expressed gratitude to the United Nations Global Conference for a Drug-Free World, its sponsors, and co-hosts for their tireless advocacy.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Ambassador Hugues Sanon, Special Envoy for International Relations of the Council for Justice, Equality and Peace to the United Nations and Global Ambassador of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, for this invaluable opportunity,” said Wendel. ”

Chautauqua County was honored with the prestigious “Ambassador for Peace Award” and the esteemed “Leadership Award.” These accolades commend the county’s unwavering dedication to fostering cultural diversity and his relentless efforts in combating illicit drug abuse within Chautauqua County. “I also extend my heartfelt thanks to Senator George Borrello for his tireless advocacy in addressing the scourge of drug abuse and for his unwavering support in our endeavors.”

Chautauqua County, under the leadership of Steve Kilburn, Grant Director for the HRSA grant and Project Manager of the HEALing Communities Study, has spearheaded crucial strategies in the battle against drug addiction. Through initiatives like the Chautauqua Substance Abuse Response Partnership (CSARP) and the Countywide Alliance for Enforcement and Rehabilitation (CAER) project, funded by a $200,000 RCORP Planning grant from HRSA, the County has mobilized community agencies to combat the opioid crisis.

Recognized for its efforts, Chautauqua County received a $1 million RCORP implementation award in 2019, reflecting its targeted approach in implementing prevention, treatment, and recovery activities over three years. Additionally, participation in the HEALing Communities Study, supported by NIH, underscores the County’s commitment to evidence-based interventions to reduce opioid-related deaths by 40%. By integrating practices across healthcare, behavioral health, justice systems, and community organizations, Chautauqua County aims to lead by example in combating the opioid crisis and sharing insights nationwide.

Led by collaborative coalitions like the Behavioral Health and Law Enforcement Collaborative and CSARP, Chautauqua County’s approach exemplifies innovation and collaboration in addressing drug addiction. For more information on CSARP and its initiatives, visit Chautauqua Substance Abuse Response Partnership.

“Our county’s dedication to combating drug addiction is unwavering. Through strategic initiatives like the Chautauqua Substance Abuse Response Partnership and participation in the HEALing Communities Study, we are leading the charge against the opioid crisis. By leveraging federal support and fostering community collaboration, we are making meaningful strides in addressing substance use disorder and saving lives,” said Wendel.

The Global Conference against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, co-organized by Cojep International, provided an invaluable platform for collaborative dialogue and actionable solutions, further amplifying local advocacy efforts on the global stage. This recognition not only highlights the importance of local initiatives in addressing global challenges but also serves as a testament to the dedication and innovation of Chautauqua County in confronting drug addiction head-on.

To learn more about Chautauqua County’s ongoing efforts to combat drug addiction, visit combataddictionchq.com, a website launched in 2020 to provide support and resources to those struggling with substance use disorder.

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