CASAC Celebrates 45th Anniversary

CASAC Staff members in photo are listed in order below from left to right: Back row: Alex Rodriguez, Trish Whetstone, Natasha Juma, Tracy Jespersen, Susan Lepley, Amy Beato Front row: Intern Hannah Jaroszynski, Laurie Reynolds, MelanieWitkowski, and Jamison Jaffray

Article Contributed by
Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council

Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) will be celebrating 45 years of service to the Chautauqua County community with an open house on Tuesday, August 6th at its’ Jamestown Office, 501 W. Third Street, Suites 3 & 4 Sprinchorn Building, from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Beginning as a group of police and community members studying the problems of the alcoholic population, the group took the name of Chadakoin Alcoholic Rehabilitation Planning, Inc. and a drop-in center on Prather Avenue opened in the fall of 1974 under the name of the Jamestown Area Council on Alcoholism. The Drop-In Center was one of its kind in Chautauqua County and provided a place for alcoholics and their families to meet and work with counselors for referral to other services, and begin building a new alcohol-free life. The first education outreach program began in 1976, and a sobering-up service was developed in response to the State Legislature’s elimination of public intoxication from the Penal Code. A 24-hour mobile outreach van intervened with the public intoxicant to take him or her to the hospital, home or temporary housing to sober-up. Services expanded during 1976 when the Council was chosen by the Department of Motor Vehicles to operate the county-wide Drinking Driver Program (DDP), now known as the Impaired Driver Program. With increased service requests from the North County, a program office opened in Dunkirk in 1979. The Dunkirk office provided the same services as the Jamestown office: information and referral, education and outreach programs. By the 1980’s, a wide-range of public education and awareness programs were developed for schools and the community, and Information and Referral services were added as a point of entry.

Since the 1980’s, CASAC has continued to grow and the number of people we reach in Chautauqua County has tripled since 2017. Last year, over 8,000 individuals contacted CASAC seeking help and resources to address alcohol and other drug issues. CASAC also provides prevention education to students in all 18 Chautauqua County School Districts and reach over 7,700 children annually with our evidence-based prevention programs and presentations.

As we celebrate 45 years of service we reflect on the amount of work that staff, community partners and foundations, school districts, youth-based agencies, clients, volunteers and interns have accomplished throughout the years. Prevention is a powerful thing and we’ve had many opportunities to join forces in our effort to prevent substance use and the risks associated with it throughout Chautauqua County.

With that being said, in addition to providing 45 years of quality service to the communities of Chautauqua County, the open house will also be a time to celebrate a name change! Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) has announced that effective immediately, it will be officially changing its name from CASAC to “Prevention Works”. Executive Director Melanie Witkowski states that “CASAC has often been associated with counseling and treatment and that is not who we are.” Additionally, “substance abuse” is no longer an acceptable term and should be referred to as a “substance use disorder”. Witkowski acknowledges that “Prevention Works will more accurately reflect who we are and what we provide to the communities of Chautauqua County”. This name change is a true representation of our vision of having a united community that encourages and supports healthy behaviors though prevention efforts. Our mission remains…to build a safe and healthy environment by effectively educating the community on positive life choices. The Prevention Works logo will also be revealed at the open house to reflect the new name.

Staff and Board are optimistic about the change and really want to demonstrate that we are not only about drug and alcohol prevention, but for any risky behavior. It’s about finding the skills and tools to cope with everyday challenges and being proactive to a healthy lifestyle.

Throughout the school year, Prevention Works recognizes two area teachers each month, one from the North County and one from the South County, who demonstrate drive and interest within Prevention Works’ mission. Teachers who receive this recognition are involved in the prevention education process and extending lessons into their daily plans. Educators who received this award during the 2018-2019 school year will be publicly recognized during the open house celebration. These teachers include: Rachel Swan (Chautauqua Lake), Emily Scholeno (Falconer), Michael Green (Dunkirk), Andy Burnside (Dunkirk), Michele Schnars (Jamestown), Melissa Forster (Jamestown), Michael Chitester (Falconer), Tina Fermier (Westfield), Diane Weakley (Ripley), Brandi Pettit (Forestville), Paula Levandoski (Sinclairville), Dawn Thompson (Forestville), Lori Mazzurco (Jamestown), Jackie Bohall (Falconer), Toby Marvin (Brocton), and Marie Persch (Brocton).

Individuals from other local organizations will also be recognized for their dedication and service to the community. These individuals include Breeanne Agett, Chautauqua County Epidemiology Manager; Shauna Anderson, Hospice & Palliative Care; and Dottie Carlson, Mental Health Association volunteer.

Please join us on Tuesday, August 6th from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. for a fun, educational, and interactive open house!

Since 1974, Prevention Works, a United Way partner agency, has provided prevention education and community awareness regarding alcohol and other drugs. Prevention Works is the only New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) approved and supported alcohol and other drug prevention agency in Chautauqua County. For further information about Prevention Works programs and services, call the Jamestown office at 664-3608, or the Dunkirk office at 366-4623.