MAYVILLE – The public will have three chances next week to learn more about the drug problem in Chautauqua County, County Executive Vincent Horrigan and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Patricia Brinkman announced.
The Community Drug Forum will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Chautauqua Suites, 215 W. Lake Road, Mayville.
There will be two family forums in conjunction with the major community event.
The first will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Room 116 at the Jamestown Community College North County Center, 10807 Bennett Road, Dunkirk.
The second family forum will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Carnahan Theater at Jamestown Community College, 525 Falconer St., Jamestown.
Both of the family forums will be led by parent representatives from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and will offer families of those struggling with addiction the opportunity to share their stories, identify system barriers and suggest courses of action going forward.
“The issue of substance abuse in our county is a top concern of mine, and we need to come together to find real solutions,” Horrigan said. “Together with my co-moderator, Dale Robbins, we will moderate this forum to engage the conversation and find real solutions to help address the terrible impacts of substance abuse in our community.”
Brinkman said Chautauqua County native Dr. David Withers from Geisinger Health System, an expert on addiction as a disease, will offer his expertise in describing addiction’s effect on the brain.
County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said he hopes the forum will be the first of many events that bring government, public and nonprofit agencies together. He said his department has seen a large increase in drug crimes.
“I would say that a majority of our violent crimes in Chautauqua County are related to drug issues,” he said.
In addition to Withers, morning keynote presentations will include Michele Spahn of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration; William Matthews of the Harm Reduction Coalition; and parent advocate Avi Israel, who lost his son as a result of addiction.
Afternoon presentations will include a panel discussion and question-and-answer session.
Panelists will include Gerace; Family Court Judge Judith Claire; Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano; Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings; David O’Rourke, district superintendent of Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES; Public Health Medical Director Dr. Robert Berke; Dr. William Geary, president of the county Board of Health and a pathologist and opiate addition specialist; Andy O’Brien, director of chemical dependency and outpatient mental health at WCA Hospital.
Also, Danielle Kennelley, a registered nurse at the Resource Center; Leanna Luka-Conley, director of care coordination and behavioral services counseling and psychiatric services at the Resource Center; Pat Munson, executive director of the Chautauqua Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Council; and Rick Huber, executive director of the county Mental Health Association.