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History of CASAC

In May of 1974, PACT members (Police and Community Together) formed a committee to study the problems of the alcoholic population in Jamestown. The group took the name of Chadakoin Alcoholic Rehabilitation Planning, Inc. Its purpose was to develop a residential center for public inebriates, but the project was expensive and no funding was found. From their plans a drop-in center on Prather Avenue opened in the fall of 1974 under the name of the Jamestown Area Council on Alcoholism (JACA).

The Drop-In Center at 333 Prather Avenue was the only one of its kind in Chautauqua County. It provided a place for alcoholics and their families to meet, work with counselors for referral to other services, and to begin building a new alcohol-free life. David Harris became the first Executive Director of the Jamestown Area Council in July, 1975. Affiliation with the National Council on Alcoholism began in 1975. South County United Way affiliation started in 1976 with a $10,000 allocation.

The Council’s first education outreach program was an innovative four-part Tavern Keepers Training Program in 1976. By mid-1976, the Council developed a sobering-up service in response to the State Legislature’s elimination of public intoxication from the Penal Code. The 24 hour JACA Mobile Outreach Van intervened with the public intoxicant to take him or her to the hospital, home or temporary housing to sober-up. There was a half-way pick-up station for clients from North County. Follow-up interviews with Council staff were scheduled.

Services were expanded during 1976 when the Council was chosen by the Department of Motor Vehicles to operate the county-wide Drinking Driver Program (DDP).

Funding from the New York State Division of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse started in 1977. The Council was providing youth and public awareness programs county-wide. In December 1977, Council offices moved to 316 Pine Street. At the Annual Dinner that year the Council received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Chautauqua County Human Services Committee for the Council’s “continuous, and unselfish service to the citizens of Chautauqua County.”

As a response to increased service requests from the North County, the Council opened a program office at 329 Washington Avenue in Dunkirk in 1979. The Dunkirk office provided the same services as the Jamestown office: information and referral, education and outreach programs. Affiliation with the North County United Way began at that time.

During 1979, three Council staff were the first alcoholism service professionals in Chautauqua County to receive their Credentialed Alcoholism Counselor (C.A.C.) certification from the NYS Federation of Alcoholism Counselors and the Division of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Executive Director David Harris, Program Coordinator Richard Cavness, and Edward Voorhis, a State Alcohol Rehabilitation Assistant assigned to the Council, all completed the written and oral exams required for this coveted credential.

The agency was renamed the Chautauqua County Council on Alcoholism in 1979 to reflect its county-wide service area. By 1980, the Council had developed a wide-range of public education and awareness programs for schools and the community as well as its Information and Referral unit serving as an entry point for persons needing services. Due to funding problems, the Mobile Outreach Van component was discontinued. The Council brought David Toma to the county in 1980. Mr. Toma, nationally known for his crusade against drug abuse, was the Council’s featured speaker at a program for 3,000 students at Jamestown Community College and for 750 adults during an evening session as well as guest speaker at the Council’s Annual Dinner.

At the 1981 Annual Dinner, Brocton School District was given the first Council Recognition Award for 100% participation in the agency’s Alcohol Education program.

1982 saw Executive Director David Harris move to another field of interest. His dedication to the Council and its Mission gave the agency a strong foothold as a service provider for a population neglected and under served.

North County Program Director Bob Kerner presented the first Council program to be aired on local television through BOCES in 1983. It was a program on teenage drinking moderated by seniors from Dunkirk High School. The Council’s Dunkirk office was moved to 410 Central Avenue during that year. Also, in 1983, the Council Board advocated for the State Legislature to raise the legal purchase age to 21.

Both Council offices relocated during 1984. The Jamestown office was moved to the Commons Mall and the Dunkirk office was moved to 318 Central Avenue.

In 1985, the Council received funding from the Sheriff’s Department STOP-DWI program to develop and provide a STOP-DWI education program to high school health and driver education classes. Awareness Theatre began in the North County using improvisational theater techniques and trained teen volunteers to provide information to area high school students on alcohol, other drugs and critical teenage issues.

During the late 1980’s, Council staff continued to develop and provide innovative public education and awareness programs. Special programs such as TWYKAA (Talking With Your Kids About Alcohol), the MAC Pact (Make A Commitment to Not Drink and Drive - which was an original program developed by Drinking Driver Program Director Sylvia Fiorello), a special program for Women in Supervisory and Management Positions on Alcohol Issues, as well as an increased presence in schools helped make the Council a more visible and responsive agency.

The Council’s administrative offices moved in January, 1987 to the Fenton Building to meet the need for more space due to staff and program expansion.

In response to the public spotlight on drugs other than alcohol, the Council obtained funding from the NYS Division of Substance Abuse Services in 1988 to provide a county-wide high school and community substance abuse education component. In recognition of expanded services, the agency changed its name to the Chautauqua Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Council with a Mission to promote public awareness of alcohol and other drug issues by educating individuals, family members, and the community as well as providing them with the knowledge that alcoholism and other chemical dependencies are preventable and treatable. The agency developed a motto, “Hope Through Awareness, Help Through Education and Intervention.”

At the 1988 Annual Dinner, the Council recognized five community members for their efforts in alcohol and substance abuse prevention education. Recipients were Jamestown High School Guidance Counselor Lynn Chapel, County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Gerace, Jr., Dunkirk/Fredonia Youth Ministries Director Gail Hassett, Dunkirk Mayor Madylon Kubera, and Jamestown Boys and Girls Club Program Consultant Rick Walters. County Executive John Glenzer made the presentations.

During 1989, more service requests led to increased staff in the North County and the need for more office space. 314 Central Avenue provided the increased space and professional atmosphere for client and program work.

To provide comprehensive, age appropriate programs at all grade levels, Youth to Youth and BABES(Beginning Alcohol and Addictions Basic Education Studies) were added in 1990 and 1992. Youth to Youth targeted middle school students and BABES began providing health and prevention messages to children from Head Start to 4th grade. A BABES take-home parent component was translated into Spanish during 1993 to provide Head Start families with parenting and family information along with alcohol and other drug prevention information.

Over the years, the Council has provided this county with many first time events in alcohol and other drug services. The Council sponsored the first jail counseling program for 2 days a week in 1976 as well as starting the Youth Outreach Program to provide alcohol prevention education services in elementary, middle and high schools as well as JCC. The agency contracted with Employee Services Program of Wellsville in 1984 to provide employee assessments for local employers affiliated with this employee assistance program. The problems and needs of children of alcoholics were not addressed by any service provider until the Council took the lead. An on-going series of education and support groups for adults (Horizons) and children (Discovery) was led by Information and Referral Specialist Suzy Joyce beginning in 1984. Nationally recognized speakers such as Dr. Joseph Cruse and John Flannigan from the Caron Foundation, and Dr. Luther Robinson, nationally recognized for his work in genetics and for diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, have provided workshops and programs sponsored by the Council.

During 1994, Board, staff and community members participated in a strategic planning process that resulted in a five year plan for the Council. This was the first time such a comprehensive planning effort was undertaken. The Strategic Plan will be revised and up-dated during 1999 to take the Council into the year 2000 and beyond. Our Mission Statement: ...preventing the abuse of alcohol and other drugs through Advocacy, Hope and Awareness.

The Jamestown office started 1995 in more spacious offices on the fourth floor of the Fenton Building to provide space for increased staff and programs. The Council, along with MADD , the County District Attorney’s Office Victim Services Coordinator, Probation and the Stop-DWI Program started the Victim’s Impact Panel (V.I.P.) modeled after other successful panels across the nation. The Victim’s Impact Panel enables the audience to understand drunk driving from a victim’s perspective.

1996 was the “Million Dollar Golf Shoot-Out” fund raising event along with the first ever “Pregnant Pause” education event. “Pregnant Pause” included a contest by local bartenders for the best tasting non-alcoholic drink as well as information on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other services available to pregnant women in the county.

In order to serve the County’s growing Hispanic population, the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County provided a grant to obtain the excellent eight week “Parent to Parent” video series in Spanish. Joint Neighborhood Project was the pilot group in 1997 for the Spanish version. Falconer School District was the English pilot. Both were well received. Parent to Parent continues to be an effective tool helping parents learn how to communicate with their children about alcohol and other drugs.

A Day Reporting Program for Probation and education groups for Birdie Turner House residents and the Salvation Army’s Women Shelter started in 1997. 1997 also began an increased effort to provide Fetal Alcohol Syndrome education and training to parents-to-be and other professionals in the community. By 1998, Council staff were involved in trying to start a Fetal Alcoholism Support Group.

Late in 1997, the Council was awarded three special grants for pilot projects. The first two came from NYS OASAS (Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services). The Council received a three year grant to organize a Community Prevention Coalition of grassroots citizen’s groups to help reduce alcohol and substance abuse problems. Another three year grant from OASAS was received to develop the Life Skills Training project in four county schools. Life Skills Training (LST) is a federally recognized in-school program that measurably reduces substance abuse and other problems among student populations. The Council’s third special project starting in late 1997 came from the County Health Department. The Youth Partnership for Health (YPH) project through the Chautauqua County Tobacco Control Coalition was awarded to the Council. YPH ’s membership was solely high school students who worked to provide peer messages against tobacco use.

The summers of 1997 and 1998 saw Council staff providing a “Safe Summer Carnival” to area playgrounds and community fairs. Council staff and volunteers used games with a message along with other fun activities to help raise funds for the Council along with providing a drug-free message and alternative summer activities.

National Red Ribbon Week was brought to the Chautauqua Mall in October 1998 to compliment the successful awareness event held yearly in Dunkirk. 1998 also included FAS screening in conjunction with The Resource Center. Implementation of Life Skills Training (LST), BABES, Youth Partnership for Health (YPH) and the Prevention Coalition along with normal CASAC education and awareness efforts were seen this year.

In 1999, Awareness Theatre hit two milestones: they presented their 2,000th performance and had performed to over 90,000 people.

1999 was the year of the Youth Partnership for Health (YPH) media blitz and advertising campaign, “Let’s Clear the Air.” Also in 1999, CASAC recognized April is Alcohol Awareness Month by participating in National Alcohol Screening Day and by sponsoring the first Checker Tournament. This tournament succeeded in generating substantial funds for programing as well as promoting “It’s Your Move - Make it Alcohol Free!” The Council celebrated its 25th Birthday on April 23, 1999. Community members, along with past and present Board, staff and volunteers, were invited to help celebrate 25 years of Council service to the community.

In August, CASAC teamed up with Pizza Hut for a fund raiser. This not only generated additional funding for programs but was an opportunity for staff to talk to the public about alcohol and drug issues.

October brought Red Ribbon Week activities with school and community programs and a team of community leaders attending an Underage Drinking Conference in Albany making it possible to receive additional funding for an Underage Drinking Campaign.

The Chautauqua County Community Prevention Coalition began a Ripley Underage Drinking Coalition. In honor of the Council’s 25th anniversary, an end of the year “25th Anniversary Silver Club” was established to help raise funding for programs. To end the year, “Celebration 2000” was sponsored by CASAC and other organizations at Jamestown Community College.

The year 2000 started with CASAC Board and staff committed to a new three year Strategic Plan. The Council will provide more training and workshop events focusing on educating teachers and human service professionals in their roles as care givers concerning alcohol and drug prevention.

2000 also ushered in the 2nd Annual Checker Tournament, offering CASAC staff an opportunity to raise additional funds for programs. Awareness Theatre celebrated it’s 15th Anniversary with a picnic and “Osgoods” awards night. Former student performers sent congratulations or attended the event.

Two special events in June, 2000 kicked off a year- long “Underage Drinking—It’s not a Minor Problem” campaign. An Underage Drinking Conference was held at Bellinger Hall at Chautauqua Institution on June 1, 2000 to organize local community teams to address alcohol problems and issues within their community. On June 12, the Council was joined by the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office to kick-off a year-long media campaign to coincide.

CASAC’s Training Department held its first training in the Fall of 2000. Kathy Colby took over the Training Department in 2003. On average CASAC holds 25-40 trainings per year with anywhere from 250 – 450 participants each year.

In 2000, three CASAC staff members, Pat Munson, Eli Tederous and John Blackman, received their CPP (Credentialed Prevention Professional) from OASAS.

In 2002, the first annual CASAC Poster Contest was held. Flyers were mailed to all schools in Chautauqua County. The purpose of the contest was to obtain posters to be incorporated in the new CASAC brochure. 130 posters were submitted in the first year. Prizes were awarded to 12 finalists at an award ceremony at Jamestown City Hall. A Theme Contest was added to the Poster Contest in 2004. The Poster Contest has become an annual event and participation has increased to approximately 250 students each year. Since the printing of the CASAC brochure, the finalist’s posters have been printed in various CASAC publications, such as The Family Guide and book covers for students. The Poster Contest continues to be a great way to get the youth of Chautauqua County involved in CASAC’s mission.

In August 2003, CASAC held its first Live and Silent Auction at the Salvation Army. The auction helped CASAC raise funds for programs and services. In 2005, an online auction was held to reach a larger audience.

2004 marks CASAC’s 30th anniversary. On May 6, 2004 a 30th Anniversary Dessert Reception and “An Evening with Bill W.” was held at Lutheran Social Services to celebrate the milestone. The evening was based on reenactments of historical conversations and speeches of one of AA’s cofounders, Bill Wilson. The presentation recreated the time leading up to the beginning of the largest self-help group in the world.

In 2004, CASAC received a grant to work with incarcerated youth. The goal of the Incarcerated Youth-Transition from Jail to the Community is a successful reentry of incarcerated Chautauqua County youth, ages 16-20, to their family and community by staying drug-free, with major reduction in recidivism and changing negative patterns of behavior, thinking and feelings that predispose drug use.

In 2005, CASAC received a grant from OASAS for the Gambling Initiative. Tony Bellanca was hired as Gambling Prevention Specialist. Through this new venture, CASAC will be educating the public on the dangers of problem and compulsive gambling.

In 2005, two CASAC staff members, Billie Jean Hubert and Jeffrey Thomas, became certified as Family Intervention Professionals through a training sponsored by the National Council of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence. The training allowed CASAC to join the National Intervention Network operated by NCADD. A Family Intervention guides family or friends of people with drug or alcohol problems through each step of the intervention process. The Interventionist provides education and helps the family plan, rehearse and conduct an intervention for the greatest chance of success.

Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) has come a long way since 1974, but its basic mission remains the same—providing quality alcohol and other drug prevention education, intervention and referral services throughout Chautauqua County.