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BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month

July is Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month. This observance is meant to bring awareness to the unique challenges that racial, ethnic, and sexual marginalized communities face regarding mental illness in the United States.

Studies show that these underserved communities display higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders.  Society’s deep-rooted prejudice towards these groups is a major cause of feelings of rejection, estrangement, and harassment. Barriers to care include equitable access to care, cultural stigma, and lower quality care all can also play a part in affecting the experiences of underserved communities in the US. 

What’s the connection with gambling? 

Mental Health and gambling go hand-in-hand. Gambling can cause anxiety, depression, stress, and low self-esteem.

Just like with mental health, there is a stigma when it comes to gambling. People who are experiencing problems due to their gambling often have a large amount of shame as well as fear about the amount of debt they have. It can be difficult to reach out for help as they often feel alone and isolated. 

The shame and stigma associated with gambling problems can be further compounded within BIPOC communities. This can be because of a distrust of the medical system, or lack of services for those who are undocumented. In addition, treatment options can be limited for those in underserved communities as service availability may not be equitable, culturally specific or in a client’s native language.

Just like with mental health services, these communities are underserved when it comes to problem gambling support. It is important to continue to have these conversations and advocate for resources for those who are part of these populations. Reach out to your local Problem Gambling Resource Center to identify what resources are currently available, what is missing, and to work in collaboration so that we can better serve our communities. 

If you or someone you love is exhibiting warning signs such as being absent from friend/family events because of gambling; feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling; low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with gambling; or lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling, it may be time to reach out to the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center.

For more information or to get help call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org

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ACASA holds 2022 Virtual AHSSUM Camp

The Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. (ACASA) held the 30th AHSSUM Camp from July 11th-July 14th.  For the second year in a row, Camp was held virtually on Zoom.  Each day for two hours, campers from Allegany County participated in guest speaker presentations and crafts.   AHSSUM – “A Happenin’ Safe Summer for U and Me” is a no-cost camp promoting positive alternatives for Allegany County youth ages 8 to 12 years old.  Parents registered their children on-line and supplies were delivered to the participants in-person prior to the start of camp week.

This year’s theme was “Geocaching”.  Day one’s theme was “Finding Your Way to Outdoor Adventures”, presented by Forest Ranger Justin Thaine.  Campers received their own compass as part of their supplies and viewed a pre-recorded video of DEC Officer Thaine in Plum Bottom State Forest explaining how to use a compass.  Following the video, Scout Master Peter Roeske and Eagle Scout son Will Roeske spoke further on the subject and answered questions posed by the campers.  Craft time consisted of using graph paper to map out one’s bedroom and coloring a map of New York and facts specific to our State. Day two was “Geocaching 101” and Belfast teacher Bruce Harrington spoke to campers about geocaching’s purpose, benefits, rules, history, and his experience.  Day two craft consisted of assembling and painting a wooden puzzle of a flamingo, owl, or peacock.  The theme for day three was “Back to the Future”, at which point time capsules were discussed and ACASA staff took turns highlighting specifics about the year they were born.  The craft for this day was assembly and painting of a wooden bird house.  Day four was “Get Outside and Experience Nature”.  Campers viewed a pre-recorded video of Genesee Valley Principal Brian Edmister, co-owner of Healing Waters, who encouraged them to enjoy the outdoors this summer.  Other related videos regarding kayaking were viewed and discussed.  Campers, on day four, had the option of making a milk box carton boat or an egg carton boat.  Most campers made both kinds.  Bingo was played on the final day and winners received art supplies or Legos as their prize. 

Throughout the week, campers were given an opportunity to find historical landmarks in Allegany County and geocache bags in eight different geocache locations.  Campers who posted photos of themselves with their daily crafts on the AHSSUM Camp Facebook page, or emailed photos to ACASA staff, were entered into a drawing to win a Healing Waters kayak trip for a family of five on the final day of AHSSUM.

The AHSSUM Camp program works with Allegany County school systems and other human service agencies to offer camp to youth within the county.  ACASA would like to acknowledge and thank the guest speakers, Wellsville Burger King, Wellsville McDonald’s, Saputo Dairy, and Upstate Dairy for various donations, and the sponsors of this camp: The Dr. Lyle F. Renodin Foundation – “Affiliated with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, NY”, Allegany County Youth Bureau, and ACASA. 

For more information on attending or sponsoring AHSSUM Camp next year, please contact the ACASA Prevention Department at 585-593-1920, ext. 719.

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Local Youth Mobilize Against Big Tobacco in Albany

Youth Raised Awareness of Flavored Tobacco Products, Participated in Altria Shareholders’ Meeting

First row, far left Ritney Castine from Center for Black Health and Equity, middle teens from Reality Check of NY and Dover Youth 2 Youth of New Hampshire, far right retired Director of NYS Tobacco Control Harlan Juster.

On May 19, five teen leaders from Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattraugus, Allegany Counties (TFCCA) in joined other youth from around New York State, as well as Delaware, to call on Big Tobacco to voluntarily remove all flavors, in all their products, for all people. The live rally in West Capitol Park in Albany, NY, took place as Altria Group (Philip Morris USA) was holding their annual shareholders’ meeting, and was livestreamed to young people across the country who participated virtually. The united effort highlighted the tobacco industry’s use of flavored tobacco (including menthol) to target specific populations and drive initiation of and dependence of products harmful to their health.

Speakers at the youth-led press event included Ritney Castine, a health advocate and leader with the Center for Black Health and Equity and Harlan Juster, PhD, retired Director of Tobacco Control for the New York State Department of Health. Youth leaders Louisa Pelletier of Dover Youth to Youth and Kristina Donders of New York State Reality Check also spoke.

“While the tobacco industry constantly denies that they target youth with their marketing, you can’t argue with the facts,” said Kristina Donders, NYS Reality Check champion. “The fact is that 85% of e-cigarette users use flavored products.”

”The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced proposed rules that would ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars,” said Harlan Juster, PhD, retired Director of Tobacco Control for the New York State Department of Health. “But I believe that state and local communities must pursue banning the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars; in fact, they should ban all flavors, in all products, for all people and not wait for the FDA to act.”

”We know that 40,000 African Americans die each year due to tobacco-related illnesses and that the overwhelming majority of Black Americans who smoke cigarettes use menthol products,” said Ritney Castine of the Center for Black Health and Equity. “The time is now for New York to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and save lives.”

In preparation for Thursday’s in-person demonstration, youth spent Wednesday doing team-building exercises, planning the rally, learning about tobacco control policies, and how they can stand up, speak out and make a difference in the fight against big tobacco. Trainers were from Corporate AccountabilityCounter ToolsDover Youth 2 Youth, and the Hawaii Youth Council.

The press rally was part of a bigger effort, the third annual Mobilize Against Tobacco Lies (MATL 2022). Teens from Dover Youth 2 Youth in New Hampshire, the Kick Butts Generation in Delaware and Reality Check in New York were in-person in Albany, while youth leaders from Texas, Arkansas and Hawaii participated virtually.

Some youth took their demands right to the top – the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Altria Group, Billy Gifford. Teens from Dover Youth 2 YouthNew York State Reality CheckTexas Say WhatHawaii Youth Council and Project Prevent in Arkansas were made a designee for a shareholder to address corporate tobacco executives and ask questions during the virtual shareholders’ meeting while others spoke out on social media.

For more information on Mobilize Against Tobacco Lies follow them on Facebook, @mobilizeagainsttobaccolies on Instagram, @Tobacco_LIES on Twitter, or check out their website.

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Double Trouble: Substance Use and Mental Health

May 8 through the 14 is National Prevention Week. Wednesday, May 11’s theme is Preventing Suicide: Everyone Plays a Role. Mental health and substance use disorders affect people from all walks of life and all age groups. These illnesses are common, recurrent, and often serious, but they are treatable, and many people do recover. Mental disorders involve changes in thinking, mood, and/or behavior. These disorders can affect how we relate to others and make choices. Reaching a level that can be formally diagnosed often depends on a reduction in a person’s ability to function as a result of the disorder (SAMHSA).

For example:

  • Serious mental illness is defined by someone over 18 having (within the past year) a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • For people under the age of 18, the term “Serious Emotional Disturbance” refers to a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year, which resulted in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits the child’s role or functioning in family, school, or community activities.
  • Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.

The abuse of alcohol or drugs is second to depression as the most frequent risk factor for suicidal behavior. The risks increase if substance use disorder (SUD) co-occurs with depression (major depressive disorder) or other mental health disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and some personality disorders. Those who experience depression, or these other disorders often turn to drugs or alcohol as coping measures which can sometimes evolve into SUD.

Alcohol and some drugs can lead to suicidality through loss of inhibition, impulsivity, and impaired judgement. SUD can also lead to changes in the brain that result in depression over time and can be disruptive to relationships—causing isolation and a loss of social connection. Furthermore, they can be a means to ease the distress associated with carrying out the act of suicide.

Risk Factors for Suicide

Risk factors are factors that can increase the possibility of someone making the decision of taking their own life. There are several risk factors that can lead to suicide. These risk factors include:

  • Substance use disorder that coincide with other disorder such as: Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety Disorder, and Some Personality Disorders.
  • Substance Use Disorder.
  • Stressful life events.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Living alone.
  • Lack of social support.
  • History of childhood abuse.
  • High aggression/impulsivity.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • History of suicidal behavior.

Protective Factors for Suicide

There are some individual characteristics and things we can do in communities that may help protect people from suicidal thoughts and behavior. There is not as much research about these protective factors as there is about risk factors but identifying and understanding them is especially important. These protective factors include:

  • Identifying reasons for living.
  • Being clean and sober.
  • Coping and problem-solving skills.
  • Connections to friends, family, and community support.
  • Limited access to lethal means.
  • Availability of physical and mental health care.
  • Having a trusting relationship with counsellors, physicians, and other service providers.
  • Employment.
  • Religious attendance/ and or internalized spiritual teachings against suicide.
  • Attendance to SUD support groups.
  • Optimistic perspective on life.

Demographics – Special Populations

Adolescents

A key risk factor that often underlies suicidal and substance use behaviors is poor impulse control. Adolescent substance use may increase the risk for suicidal behavior due to both acute and long-term effects. Stressful life events, both traumatic and interpersonal, are shown to contribute to suicide risk in adolescents. Additionally, nearly 52% of NYS students in grades 7-12 reported their parents had never talked to them about the dangers of underage drinking. If you know your child is using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, you have good reason to be concerned. You may feel helpless, fearful and even ashamed, but you CAN do something. Contact the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse for help at 585-593-6738 or call HOPENY at 1-877-846-7369.

Sex and Gender Differences

Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs, and illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths for men than for women. “Illicit” refers to use of illegal drugs, including marijuana (according to federal law) and misuse of prescription drugs. For most age groups, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women. However, women are just as likely as men to develop a substance use disorder. In addition, women may be more susceptible to craving and relapse, which are key phases of the addiction cycle.

Middle Aged Males

Middle-age and older men that are dependent on alcohol and have mood disorders are at an elevated risk of suicide. Instead of talking about stress or trying to seek help for their depression men will often mask their stress and deal with their depression through harmful behaviors and actions. Depression is a common risk factor that might turn into other dangerous behaviors such as, denial of illness, and reliance of self-medicating strategies.

65 and older

While illicit drug use typically declines after young adulthood, nearly 1 million adults aged 65 and older live with a substance use disorder (SUD), as reported in 2018 data. Physical risk factors for substance use disorders in older adults can include chronic pain; physical disabilities or reduced mobility; transitions in living or care situations; loss of loved ones; forced retirement or change in income; poor health status; chronic illness; and taking a lot of medicines and supplements. Psychiatric risk factors include avoidance coping style; history of substance use disorders; previous or current mental illness; and feeling socially isolated.

How YOU can support Mental Health for All:

Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and substance misuse can affect anyone. Whether for a brief period of time or a chronic problem, While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health.

To ensure mental health for all and prevent suicide, we need your help to reduce stigma, build awareness, and support those at-risk for suicide. You have the strength and power to reach out and save a life. Knowledge, awareness, advocacy, and empathy are the tools you may already have.

Recovery is possible. There is not a criteria that you check off and then all of a sudden you are considered “recovered”. Recovery looks different for everyone, and progress is measured differently. Recovery is a winding road, with twists and turns and possible pitfalls here and there – and that is okay. Be kind to yourself and to others, accept and learn from your mistakes or lapses. Celebrate progress, whether it is yours or a loved ones.

Together We Can Prevent Suicide…Prevention Works!

WHAT TO DO

  • If your life or someone you know is in imminent danger, CALL 911
  • Offer help and support; listen
  • Assess the environment for your safety and theirs – Remove any objects that may be used for harm
  • Stay with the person until assistance arrives
  • For additional help call:
    • Allegany County Crisis Hotline at 1-888-448-3367.
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (5233).
    • Text the word “hello” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

WANT TO DO MORE?

Join the Allegany County Suicide Prevention Coalition at any of our upcoming workshops; including SafeTalk, Talk Saves Lives, ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), and Youth Mental Health First Aid, or share your time and support as a member of the Coalition.

Are you a survivor of suicide loss? We can help connect you to local support groups.

To learn more, like us on Facebook at Allegany County Suicide Prevention Coalition or call Jose Soto at 585-610-9765.

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Kicking Off National Prevention Week 2022

The week of May 8th marks National Prevention Week, a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.  This is an opportunity to join with other individuals, organizations, and coalitions in the community to promote prevention efforts, educate others about behavioral health issues, and create and strengthen community partnerships.

National Prevention Week is held near the beginning of summer, due to the increased risk of substance use and abuse occurring at celebrations and recreational activities, including graduation parties, proms, weddings, and sporting events.  Schools are encouraged to initiate prevention-themed activities for the purpose of raising awareness in students of all ages.  According to SAMHSA, the percentages of marijuana, cigarette, and alcohol use among youth increase between spring and summer (April-July), and the timing of this week helps educate both youth and their families at this crucial time of year.

Beginning on Monday, each day of that week highlights a specific topic.  In previous years, a major emphasis has been on the prevention of using specific substances.  This year, some of the daily themes focus on prevention efforts. 

Since the first observance in 2012, community organizations across the country have hosted health fairs, block parties, educational assemblies, town hall meetings, memorial walks, social media campaigns, and outdoor events.  SAMHSA offers ideas and tips on how to host a community event around National Prevention Week.

SAMHSA’s website at www.samhsa.gov/prevention-week is a wealth of information that includes resources, collaborating organizations, materials, and a toolkit.  Let’s band together as a community and continue to set the example that prevention works by promoting a safe and healthy spring and summer with positive alternatives to alcohol and other drug use! 

National Prevention Week Toolkit.

Remember Prevention Works!

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April is Stress Awareness Month

Stress Awareness Month in April reminds us to pay attention to our health. Experts have shown that stress can have a dramatic impact on us mentally and physically. A variety of factors can relate to stress, and we’re familiar with many of them – our jobs, our relationships, our finances. One that might not come to mind immediately is the negative impact of gambling. Problems related to gambling have a close link to stress and anxiety, both for the people gambling and their loved ones.

Over 600,000 New Yorkers have experienced a gambling problem in the past year. The effects can include sleep issues, strain on relationships with loved ones, financial problems and increased alcohol or drug use, all of which can cause stress. People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for other mental health problems. Two out of three individuals reported that their mental health suffered because of their gambling.

Not only do people start to be stressed after they have had problems because of gambling, but stress also itself can often lead to gambling. Some people experience distress over life events and circumstances and use gambling to distract or escape from the things that are bothering them. Unfortunately, though, the negative impact of gambling can compound an already-stressful situation and result in an unhealthy cycle.

Emotional and psychological distress is not exclusive to just the person gambling either – each of those individuals can affect up to 10 other people in their lives. A study found that nine out of 10 people impacted by someone else’s gambling problems felt emotional distress. Between the people gambling and their close friends and family, nearly six million New Yorkers are affected by problem gambling and may experience mental health issues because of it.

Gambling is rarely a positive or effective method for coping with stress. April is a great month to explore healthy alternatives to cope with stressors, big or small. If you notice yourself or someone you care about starting to gamble or increase the amount of time or money spent on gambling activities, it might be time to explore why.

The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center is available for anyone exhibiting warning signs of a gambling problem, such as being absent from activities with friends or loved ones because of gambling; feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling; low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with gambling; or lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling. When people call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org, they confidentially speak with a knowledgeable PGRC staff person who will listen to and connect them with the resources that best meet their needs. Whether someone is ready to get help or wants to know how they can help a loved one, call us today.

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36th ALCOHOL AWARENESS MONTH

This April marks the 36th Annual Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) since 1987.  This year’s theme is “For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction”.  Alcohol-Free Weekend has traditionally been observed the first weekend in April, which is April 1-3.  This is a time when parents and other adults are asked to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages for 72 hours to show our youth that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time.  If participants discover they can’t go without a drink during this period, they are urged to call the Allegany Council’s outpatient clinic at 585-593-6738 for signs and symptoms of a possible alcohol related disorder.

No other substance is more widely used and abused by America’s youth than alcohol, making alcoholism and alcohol-related problems the number one public health problem in the United States.

Many youth drink because of social pressure to “fit in” with their peers, while others may drink alone because they are bored or depressed.  This puts them at greater risk for developing alcohol-related problems.  Drinking is also associated with the leading causes of death among young people, including car crashes, murder, and suicide.  Even though teenagers know that people should not drink and drive, almost a third of teens will accept rides from someone who has been drinking.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), those who regularly engage in underage drinking are at a higher risk of using other drugs, engaging in risky behavior, doing poorly in school, and having serious health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Research has shown that one of the biggest protective factors in reducing the likelihood that a child will develop a substance abuse problem is strong parental disapproval of alcohol and other drug use.  Fostering healthy and responsible attitudes, talking openly and honestly, encouraging supportive relationships, and showing children that their opinions and decisions matter, are all ways to help prevent the use of alcohol and other drugs.

According to a New York State survey, over half the students in grades 7-12 reported that their parents had never talked to them about the dangers of underage drinking.  According to the 2021 Risk and Protective Factor Survey, administered to 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in Allegany County, 85% of students do NOT use alcohol!  Let’s continue to help keep kids safe from alcohol and other drugs by starting the conversation.  For tips on how to do this, log onto www.Talk2Prevent.NY.gov.  For additional information and resources, visit ppaccentral.org

Let this be your call to action, and remember, PREVENTION WORKS!

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12th Annual National Drug Facts Week

This March 21st marks the 12th National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, first launched in 2010 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  The purpose of this week is to counteract the myths that youth get from the Internet, television, movies, music, or friends, and replace those myths with scientific facts about drug abuse and addiction.  The more informed our youth are about substances and the negative impact those substances can have on their lives, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.  “Shatter the Myths” is a free NIDA publication that parents can use to talk to their kids about substance abuse, and can be found for download at www.drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov.  NIDA’s “Family Checkup” is a wealth of information relevant to parenting skills that help prevent the initiation and progression of youth drug use.  Topics include clear communication about relationship issues, encouraging positive behaviors on a daily basis, negotiating emotional parent/teen conflicts and working toward a solution, setting limits when behavior ranges from defiant or disrespectful to more serious problem behavior, monitoring teens to assure that they are not spending too much time unsupervised, and knowing your child’s friends.  Visit www.drugabuse.gov/family-checkup to access these tips and to view video clips that display positive and negative examples of the skills, as well as additional videos to help parents practice positive parenting skills. 

According to the local Allegany County data from the 2021 Risk and Protective Factor Survey, 12th graders reported the following related to 30-day substance abuse.  74.1% had NOT used alcohol; 95.9% had NOT used traditional cigarettes; 72.4% had NOT used e-cigarettes; and 84.1% had NOT used marijuana.  We can all do our part by supporting our youth, getting the facts, and reminding them that NOT all youth are using substances, which is a popular myth among this population. 

Remember, Prevention Works!

Other Resources:

8 Ways to Connect with Children, Teens, and Young Adults

Partners for Prevention in Allegany County

Talk 2 Prevent Parent Toolkit

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From Niagara Falls and the Seneca One Building to the Mario Cuomo Bridge: NY Shines the Light on Problem Gambling

Niagara Falls and the Seneca One Building in downtown Buffalo are among several NYS landmarks joining the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) to recognize March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM). The two local landmarks will be lit up yellow on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Other sites honoring PGAM are the five towers in the City of Rochester, Yates Co. Government Building, Syracuse City Hall, National Grid Building, Barclay Damon Building, SUNY System Administration Building, Mid-Hudson Bridge, and the Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge.

The Western New York Problem Gambling Resource Center, a program of the NY Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG), is calling on everyone in WNY to shine the light on problem gambling, an issue that impacts millions of American adults. With the rapid expansion of gambling and the record-breaking introduction of mobile sports betting, it is imperative that all our communities collaborate to raise awareness of problem gambling, prevent any additional problems related to gambling, and get those in need to adequate, local support services.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 2 million U.S. adults (1%) are estimated to meet criteria for severe gambling problems in a given year. Another 4-6 million (2-3%) would be considered to have mild or moderate gambling problems; that is, they meet one of more of the criteria and are experiencing problems due to their gambling behavior.

The effects of problem gambling are not isolated to the individual gambling. It’s been estimated that 8-10 additional people can be negatively affected by one person’s gambling behaviors (Petry et al, 2005). These people include family members, friends, neighbors and even coworkers. If we account for individuals experiencing gambling problems and others who are affected, the estimate of those affected by problem gambling is between 64 and 80 million people.

Not only are we shining the light on the issue of problem gambling, we also want that light to be a beacon for anyone who might be negatively affected by a gambling problem – there is hope and help! If you or someone you know is experiencing things like distress, financial problems, or relationship conflicts because of gambling, the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center provides local, confidential support. Call (716) 833-4274 email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org or visit our website NYProblemGamblingHELP.org. We’re here to help.

The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) is a program of the New York Council on Problem Gambling dedicated to addressing the issue of problem gambling within New York State. The vision of the PGRC is the positive transformation of lives harmed by problem gambling. The PGRC focuses efforts on increasing public awareness of problem gambling; connecting clients with treatment, recovery and support services; and promoting healthy lifestyles which foster freedom from problem gambling. Visit www.NYProblemGamblingHELP.org to learn more about the PGRC network.  The New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG) is a not-for-profit independent corporation dedicated to increasing public awareness about problem and compulsive gambling and advocating for support services and treatment for persons adversely affected by problem gambling. NYCPG maintains a neutral stance on gambling and is governed by a Board of Directors. Find out more at NYProblemGambling.org.

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Fillmore’s Reality Check Participates in Through with Chew Week

ACASA’s Ann Weaver and Fillmore’s Reality Check member Selena Leonard.

While youth vaping may be the topic on everyone’s lips, many high school students and adults use chew and other forms of smokeless tobacco.

During Through With Chew Week, February 20-26, members of Reality Check groups in Fillmore raised awareness in their community, on the dangers of chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products.

Students created a display in the form of a mouth, with teeth displaying facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and additional health studies on potential health problems.

Smokeless tobacco:

· Can lead to nicotine addiction.

· Can cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas.

· Is associated with diseases of the mouth.

· May increase the risk for death from heart disease and stroke.

“Many people think that smokeless tobacco is less dangerous or harmless compared to smoking cigarettes, and that just isn’t true” states Reality Check Coordinator Jon Chaffee. In addition, a study of internal tobacco industry documents found that smokeless tobacco product manufacturers added flavors to their products to attract new users, especially young men.

Allegany County residents who want to quit can contact ACASA’s Ann Weaver at (585) 593-1920 for free local cessation or visit alleganycouncil.org. Also, the New York State Smokers’ Quitline provides FREE support to those thinking about quitting smokeless tobacco, including patches, gum or lozenges, as well as support from a Quit Coach. Call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit www.nysmokefree.com to explore all the free services available to New Yorkers

Reality Check wants to give a special “Thanks” to Fillmore Shop’n Save and owner Randy Ellis for allowing them to decorate the front windows and help them educate the community.

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Children of Addiction Awareness Week

The week of February 13th marks the Children of Addiction Awareness week, formerly known as Children of Alcoholics Awareness week, a campaign led by The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) to raise awareness of children affected by parental alcohol problems.  NACoA is now known as The National Association for Children of Addiction, as 1 in 7 people will experience a substance use disorder, and 18 million children are directly affected.  COAs are more likely than others to have emotional, psychological, or physical problems related to their childhood.  Many develop an alcohol problem and/or other addictive habits, and/or marry someone with an alcohol problem or some other type of addiction.  COAs often learn special rules and roles, which include attempting to protect the family image, keeping feelings to themselves, not trusting others, assuming parental responsibilities, excelling at school, trying to make others feel better, adapting to situations in a detached fashion, or using negative behavior to attract attention.  If these behaviors are not addressed, an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) may have trouble expressing feelings, can’t seem to relax, are loyal to others beyond reason, are overly responsible, fear losing control, fear being abandoned, are overly self-critical, and have difficulty with relationships.  In general, COAs have higher rates of stress-related illnesses and conditions, including ulcers, depression, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, tension, anxiety, and eating disorders.  The positive news is that help is available, and COAs can be helped even when their parent continues to drink.  It is important that COAs recognize the special risks they face, understand how past experiences may be affecting their lives, and get the kind of help that is best for them.

For more information visit NACoA and COA Awareness Week.

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#OneCaringAdult

Positive relationships protect children from high-risk behaviors. Sometimes all it takes is #onecaringadult to make a difference.

The Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. (ACASA) is a proud partner of the Trauma-Informed Communities throughout Allegany County Coalition in creating a new initiative that supports adults in their role as mentors, coaches, and caregivers.

The project provides basic tips and strategies adults may use if they encounter a child who reports, or they suspect, of:

  • sexual abuse,
  • dating violence,
  • bullying,
  • online sexual exploitation,
  • sexually transmitted infections,
  • questioning their sexuality,
  • misusing alcohol and/or other drugs,
  • pregnancy,
  • mental illness,
  • toxic stress or academic stress, or
  • contemplating suicide.

So many of these problems are related to, or a result of, adverse childhood experiences that can last a lifetime. #onecaringadult equips community members with resources and information to help.

For further information on #onecaringadult, visit www.traumainformedalleganycounty.org.

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New Year, New Start 2022!

The beginning of a new year often brings intentions of making positive changes.  Regardless of one’s views on substances, here are a few things to consider.

A study conducted by John Hopkins University revealed that the alcohol sales from retail locations the week of 3/21/20 was 54% higher than the same week in 2019.  Online sales increased 234% in 2020 during the first 6 weeks of COVID, compared to 2019.  Just last month, Buffalo News reported that alcohol consumption has increased.  Due to easy access to online ordering, lack of monitoring for proper identification of legal purchasing age, and the idea that it’s safe to drink at home as driving is unnecessary can lead to higher risk drinking.  Those 21 and older may be self-medicating in isolation, “passing out” from drinking too much, and experiencing health issues of which others may not be aware.  For those under the age of 21, accessibility and availability are both risk factors for experimentation and possible addiction.  Parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives and need to set the example for a substance-free lifestyle.  Sixty one-minute conversations on the importance of not using substances tend to be more effective than a one sixty-minute conversation, including key points that alcohol can damage the brain and body, which continue to develop into the mid-20’s, and family history of addiction.

The results of another recent study showed that women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41%.  Possible reasons may include attempting to “keep up with men” and pressure to handle stress, which may be connected to drinking in secret.  In addition, alcohol packaging/marketing and drinks that appeal to women, such as seltzers, carbonated beverages, fruity flavors, and those claiming lower calories may lead some to mistakenly believe that those drinks are less harmful and/or intoxicating.

Quitting tobacco is rarely successful on the first attempt, due to the addictive nature of nicotine.  However, effective supports do exist, including the New York State Quitline at 1-866-697-8487, or online at http://www.nysmokefree.com.  Allegany County residents are encouraged to call Allegany Council at 585-593-1920, ext. 713, for free classes. 

Tips for quitting include “S.T.A.R.”:

Set a date.

Tell people about the quit attempt.

Anticipate challenges.

Remove triggers. 

Applying the “5 D’s” is also important:

Drink water.

Deep breathe.

Delay the urge for a craving.

Do something else.

Discuss feelings with someone. 

Cinnamon-flavored gum, candy, or tea may also help to fight cravings to use tobacco.     

The legalization of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older has provided opportunities for further education in the community.  Depending on the individual, it is possible to become psychologically addicted, while others do experience physical withdrawal symptoms when cutting back or attempting to abstain.  When speaking to those under 21 who may be tempted to use illegally, due to the same reasons of availability and accessibility that accompany underage drinking, remember the “4 M’s”: memory, motivation, maturity, and motor skills.  The hippocampus is the part of the brain connected to learning and memory, and is directly affected by marijuana use.  As mentioned earlier, protection of the brain and body until fully developed is crucial, as studies have shown that delaying the onset of substance use is directly related to the decreased probability of lifelong harmful effects and addiction.     

If you as reader are wondering how you can make a difference, be the responsible adult who does not enable underage substance use.  Use teachable moments to talk to youth about positive alternatives to substance use, such as exercise, connecting to positive people, playing games, painting, reading, etc. 

Resources pertaining to the topics above include Talk2Prevent, for marijuana facts through Smart Approaches to Marijuana, PPAC Central, and the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. (ACASA).  Call the Allegany Council’s Clinic to schedule an evaluation if you are struggling with substance use at 585-593-6738.  Counselors are there to help! 

Don’t give up your resolutions! 

Make a plan, get back on track, and remember: Prevention Works!

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NEW YORK COUNCIL ON PROBLEM GAMBLING CALLS FOR THE LEGISLATURE AND COMMUNITY PARTNERS TO FIGHT PROBLEM GAMBLING IN ANTICIPATION OF MOBILE SPORTS BETTING CONSEQUENCES

Albany, NY– On December 6, 2021, the New York Council on Problem Gambling is asking NYS Lawmakers, the press and community partners to join together to show support for problem gambling prevention, treatment and recovery.  This 30 minute, live, Zoom event will briefly educate attendees, provide recommendations, and call on all New Yorkers to take action.

Council Executive Director, Jim Maney said, “more than ever before we need to show our strength in numbers, we need to educate the public about what is coming, and we need to take action to ensure the consequences experienced by our legalized mobile sports betting predecessors are prevented and mitigated”.

During this event the Council will call on the State of New York to do more for those individuals and families who are struggling with the consequences of problem gambling.  “Resources are inadequate at the current level”, said Assistant Executive Director of Program, Michelle Hadden, “the question from all of us should be why?  With billions of dollars in revenue coming from state sponsored gambling, why aren’t we providing adequately to prevent the problems and deal with the consequences?” To join the hundreds already registered for this event on December 6th from 12:30-1:00 PM EST., register here.

For more information on People, Purpose, Passion or to chat with someone immediately for help, please visit StrongerThanYouThinkNY.org . For local information and resources on problem gambling visit the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center.

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Community Members Clean Out Medicine Cabinets at Fall Pill Drop

Belfast and Whitesville– On Saturday, October 23 the Allegany County Fall Pill Drop was held in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Belfast and Whitesville were chosen for the fall locations.  The pill drop event allows the community to drop off unused, expired, or unwanted medications, vape devices, and provides the opportunity for education on the location of the pill drop boxes in the various communities.

This event was held in partnership with the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.(ACASA), the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, and Partners for Prevention in Allegany County(PPAC). Medications were accepted from 10am to 2pm, and between the two locations, a total of 30 cars participated and 61.8 pounds of medications were collected.

Each car that stopped received a Take It To The Box magnet, which lists all of the pill drop box locations throughout Allegany County, which includes: the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office and Nicholson Pharmacy in Belmont, Alfred Pharmacy and Alfred State’s Office of University Police, Cuba Police Department, Fillmore Pharmacy, Friendship Pharmacy, Jones Memorial Medical Practice in Bolivar, Wellsville Police Department and the Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville. This calendar year, 722.8 pounds of medications have been collected from the pill drop box locations.

“The pill drop boxes continue to be a great asset to our county. By utilizing these boxes to dispose of unused medication, it ensures their safe destruction which prevents possible abuse. The drop boxes are conveniently located at various locations across the County and are easy to use. We continue to encourage all of our residents to take advantage of this program” said Undersheriff Scott Cicirello.

The pill drop events and boxes are completely anonymous and confidential. The collected medications are transported to an undisclosed location for incineration by the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office. Incinerating the medications makes them harmless to the environment. “The pill drop events allow us to educate the community on the importance of safe storage, safe disposal, and where the drop boxes are located throughout the county” states PPAC Coordinator Jonathan Chaffee. “We are currently working on establishing two more Take It to the Box locations, which would help outlying communities properly dispose of unwanted and unused medications.”

Allegany County also has free sharps/needle disposal available at all Allegany County Transfer Stations. The days and times that these locations are open are different per location. Below is a listed of all the locations.

  • Alfred, 394 Satterlee Hill Road. Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Belmont, 6006 County Road 48. Open Tuesday through Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Bolivar, 135 Reed Street. Open Wednesday and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Canaseraga, 89 West Main Street. Open Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Caneadea, 9425 Molyneaux Road. Open Wednesday and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Cuba/Friendship, 7912 County Road 20. Open Thursday and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Wellsville, 77 Dyke Street. Open Tuesday through Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.

For any questions on the Allegany County Sharps Disposal Program contact Recycling Coordinator Tim Palmiter (585) 268-7282.

The agencies involved would like to send out a special “Thank You” to the Belfast Fire Department and Independence Emergency Squad for giving us a space to hold the pill drop event. The next pill drop event will be held in April, 2022.  More information about the pill drop box locations can be found at https://ppaccentral.org/takeittothebox/ .

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September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: The Impacts of Problem Gambling

According to the CDC (CDC, 2020) suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. This is a concerning statistic and many people struggle with their mental health every day. There are many factors that may lead someone to think that suicide is the only option, but have you ever thought about problem gambling as a source of emotional distress for someone?

There are many people who struggle with problem gambling in the United States. It is estimated that 2 million adults in the U.S. meet the criteria for gambling disorder, with another 4-6 million people in the U.S. struggling with problem gambling (National Council on Problem Gambling, 2020).

For many people, they can gamble and not have a problem. However, for some, gambling can cause problems in their lives.  Problem gambling is anytime gambling causes problems or negative consequences in someone’s life. Gambling disorder is a diagnosis by a qualified, trained professional determined by the criteria set forth in the DSM5.

 According to the DSM5, a diagnosis of gambling disorder requires at least four of the following during the past year:

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity
  8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

It is important to remember that while all those with a gambling disorder are experiencing problem gambling, not all those struggling with problem gambling have a diagnosable gambling disorder. Whether someone is struggling with problem gambling or gambling disorder, they are at risk of having the negative consequences from gambling seep out into their everyday lives. These effects may not only impact the person struggling with gambling, but also impact their loved ones.

People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for struggling with other mental health disorders. Two out of three gamblers reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling problems.  In addition to struggling with gambling, they may be struggling with other mental health problems such as a mood disorders like depression, personality disorder, and anxiety. Someone struggling with their gambling may be cashing in retirement funds, college funds, or taking out additional credit cards and loans. These impacts can cause someone to feel hopeless, desperate, and alone.

These negative effects can take a toll on one’s mental health. Sadly, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. When we look at suicide in the United States, 3.9% of the adult population have suicidal ideations and 0.6% attempt suicide each year (CDC, 2015). While this statistic is alarming, we find that for problem gamblers, the concern continues to grow. It has been found that 37% of those struggling with problem gambling and 49% of those with a pathological Gambling Disorder have suicidal ideations. Statistics also show that 17% of problem gamblers and 18% of those with a Gambling Disorder attempt suicide. This rate is much higher than the general population, and we believe it’s important to raise awareness of this issue through educating community providers and clients.

Problem gambling is often referred to as “the hidden addiction” because there are no physical warning signs to “test for” problem gambling. It can be very difficult to spot, so it may be difficult to know if someone is struggling with this and may be having suicidal ideations. While there are no physical signs, there are still signs to look for if you think someone may be struggling with a gambling problem.  

Some things to look for are:

  • being absent from friend/family events because of gambling,
  • feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling,
  • low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with betting, and
  • lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling.
  • relying on others to get out of debt, asking for loans or bailouts
  • using money needed for necessary expenses, such as food, rent, or medication for gambling

While we cannot physically test for problem gambling, there are screening and diagnostic tools that can be used to initiate a conversation about gambling. A common tool to use is the Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen, or the BBGS.

It is a simple three question screen that consists of yes or no answers.

  1. During the past 12 months, have you become restless, irritable or anxious when trying to cut down on gambling?
  2. During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled?
  3. During the past 12 months, did you have such financial trouble as a result of your gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family, friends or welfare?

If you, someone you know, or a client you work with answers yes to any of these questions, it may be time to start talking about problem gambling. Problem gambling can affect anyone at any point in their lives and can impact friends and families of those struggling with their gambling.  It can develop into a gambling disorder, which leads to damaged relationships with loved ones, difficulty at work, and financial problems. These problems can be detrimental to an individual’s mental health. It is important that we start to realize the importance of talking about problem gambling, and what impacts it may have on individuals. If we take the time to educate ourselves and start the conversation, we can help break the stigma and shame out of problem gambling and get those struggling the help that they need. If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, they can visit Western New York Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) or call 716-833-4274 to find out more and get connected to resources.

Submitted by: Jeffrey Wierzbicki

Authored by: Colleen Jones

Western Problem Gambling Resource Center

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Be a Family Day STAR!

Monday, September 27th, marks the 21st anniversary of Family Day: Making Every Day Special, founded in 2001 by the Center on Addiction.  Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has consistently found that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use other drugs.  Conversations during mealtime are a way for parents to stay connected and involved with their children.  Including youth in meal prep and clean-up instills a sense of responsibility and they are likely to feel like part of a team.  In addition to family bonding, kids who eat with their families are more likely to learn healthy eating habits, eat smaller portions, do better in school, and are less likely to stress about food.  Depending on weather, a picnic with board games would be a fun way to enjoy nature and appreciate each other’s company.

Televisions, cell phones, and other mobile devices should be turned off during dinner so each person can share the day’s events without distractions.  Trips in the vehicle can also be used as teachable, quality bonding time, as parents have a “captive” audience.  The earlier parents start connecting with their kids, the better.  If kids aren’t used to talking to their parents about what’s going on in their lives when they are eight or ten, it will be more difficult to get them talking when they are older.    

Teens are at greater risk of substance abuse as they move from middle school to high school, so, parents need to be especially attentive during this transition period.

If parents are unsure of how to start an age-appropriate conversation, they can access tips in the Parent Toolkit on the CASA Family Day website.  Other valuable information can also be found in the toolkit, such as “connecting” with kids, preventing substance use, background facts on substance use, family activities and worksheets, and tips for talking to kids about substance use.  To follow Family Day on social media like Partnerships to End Addiction on Facebook, partnershiptoendaddiction on Instagram and @ToEndAddiction. Family photos can be shared on social media using #NationalFamilyDay and #MyFamilySelfie. 

This year’s sponsors are Quest Diagnostics, American Express, and ACOSTA.  Partners include CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), Faith and Fabric, Fathers Incorporated, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), National Military Family Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Prevent Child Abuse America, SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Super Healthy Kids, The Family Dinner Project, and The Moyer Foundation.

Celebrate with parents nationwide and pledge to commit to:

  • Spend time with your kids by playing games, taking a walk, or enjoying another family activity.
  • Talk to them about their friends, interests, and the dangers of using substances. 
  • Answer their questions and listen to what they say.
  • Recognize that parents have the power to keep their kids substance-free! A warm, supportive relationship between parents and their children is linked to better judgement, increased self-control, and resilience, which are strengths that help reduce the risk of future drug use.

Remember, parental engagement does make a difference, and prevention works!

Resources

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Gambling Problems Don’t Make You a Terrible Person: September is Recovery Month

Often when problem gambling makes headlines, the focus is on the financial toll and the devastation experienced by spouses, children, and other loved ones. Although these are very impactful consequences of someone’s gambling problem, it can unfairly vilify the person without providing insight into their own struggle.

Problem gambling is the result of gambling causing problems in someone’s life, which may include poor mental health, conflicts with friends and family, financial trouble, and the like. For many, their problems can be the result of gambling disorder, a diagnosable behavioral disorder. As we have learned with issues related to alcohol or drug use, this behavior cannot be boiled down to a moral failing or lack of discipline.

Mental health issues could be the cause or effect of a gambling problem. Some people may have started gambling for fun but now experience a compulsion or need to keep gambling. Others may use gambling to escape worry, stress, or trauma in their lives. Either situation can lead to painful depression, anxiety, shame, thoughts of suicide, all of which can decrease the ability to make positive, rational decisions.

Certainly, there may be consequences for which a person with a gambling problem must take responsibility. However, to ensure that he or she can make amends for wrongdoing and avoid future problems, we must promote the individual’s and family’s health and wellness through support, treatment and recovery for problem gambling and gambling disorder.

The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) is here to support anyone being negatively impacted by problem gambling. If you’re dealing with problems related to your own gambling or someone else’s, call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org to speak with a caring and knowledgeable PGRC staff who will connect you to the resources that will best meet your needs. Recovery and healing are possible.

Resources

Problem Gambling Palm Card

Underage Gambling Palm Card