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Displaying items by tag: Saratoga County

HALFMOON — Saratoga County’s first marijuana dispensary opened on Feb. 1 in Halfmoon. F.P. Wellness, located at 1675 U.S. 9, is a medical marijuana dispensary, which means that, in order purchase products the customer has to have a certification issued by the New York State Medical Marijuana Program. According to the New York State Department of Health there are 2,201 registered practitioners that can prescribe medical marijuana and 90,954 certified patients in the state of New York.

Customers need to have one of the qualifying conditions by New York State as well as a prescription from a practitioner that has taken approved courses and is registered by the New York State Medical Marijuana Program. 

“This opportunity was presented to me late fall. I had already been intrigued by it and I like the idea of alternative medicine. It was becoming quite cumbersome as a retail pharmacist with the opioid issue so that was really what my main motivation was,” said Katie Ogden, Pharm.D. and F.P. Wellness dispensary manager.

Ogden had a career in pharmaceuticals working as the pharmacist in charge at CVS in Wilton. Ogden also worked several years in a compounding pharmacy, incorporating her knowledge of compounding techniques and nutritional supplements.

“One of the qualifying conditions of medical marijuana uses opioid replacement therapy so it’s a really unique alternative to using pain medications,” she added. 

Under the New York State Department of Health, qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana include cancer, positive status for HIV or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, chronic pain as defined, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Huntington’s disease, any condition for which an opioid could be prescribed or substance use disorder. 

A typical appointment at FP Wellness would begin with a consultation with the pharmacist. A newly certified customer would have to fill out a patient in-take form. In the consultation, the pharmacist will determine the dosage, product ratio and what type of Cannabidiol (CBD) that would be best for the customer. 

“I would run an interaction check with any medications they are currently taking with marijuana to make sure there are not going to be any interaction. We would discuss the condition they’re looking to treat... and discuss whether they’ve used recreationally,” Ogden said. The level of THC would be adjusted based on the customer’s use of Marijuana. 

F.P. Wellness stands for Fiorello Pharmaceuticals, which is a medical company based in New York City. Other dispensaries under Fiorello Pharmaceuticals are in Rochester, Manhattan and Nassau. The next nearest dispensaries closest to Saratoga County are located in Albany or as far as Massachusetts. 

Products that F.P. Wellness offers include vape cartridges, capsules, tincture, tablets, powder and oral spray. All medical Marijuana has more than 0.3 percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive constituent of cannabis.

To find out more about F.P. Wellness, visit fpwellnessny.com. 

Published in Business
Wednesday, 13 February 2019 19:00

Nick Budesheim: Athlete of the Week

Photos Provided.

SCHUYLERVILLE — Clarkson University will be ushering local varsity basketball player Nick Budesheim into the next phase of his basketball and academic career.

Budesheim comes from a family of Celtics fans, which inspired him to pursue basketball himself when he was in the fourth grade. Though Budesheim also plays for the school’s soccer team, basketball quickly became his favorite sport.

“I just found that to be something that you can do by yourself, it motivates you constantly,” said Budesheim. “Everything about it makes me love it.”

There was not a thing that Budesheim could find that didn’t bring him joy. As he’s matured, Budesheim has learned that the less pleasurable aspects such as early and long practices, running and conditioning are not all that bad, as they only help him to improve his game.

A rigorous sports schedule incorporated into applying to colleges can become overwhelming for any scholar-athlete, but not for Budesheim.

“You just have to find a balance and always keep your head up,” said Budesheim.

Budesheim finds inspiration from his family and friends, who are also his biggest support systems. Their support has aided him through every game, alongside a small before game superstition of his. 

“I always chew the same kind of gum…extra polar ice,” said Budesheim.
Though his time playing for Schuylerville is coming to an end, he does want to leave the up and coming athletes of Saratoga County with a few words of wisdom.
“Work hard when no one is looking,” explains Budesheim.  “Know that if you put in the work, that’s gonna make you a better basketball player.”
Published in Sports
Wednesday, 06 February 2019 19:00

I Can’t Watch

We got a pull-up bar for Christmas — a heavy-duty, thick metal suspension bar that’s also anchored by screws in one of our downstairs doorways (the doorway people have to walk through to go from our entryway into the living part of our house), which is meant for doing pull-ups as part of your home exercise routine. I’d thought that if it was there, in the middle of our traffic pattern, my boys wouldn’t be able to resist using it as they pass through the house, which could only be good for muscle development and general energy burning. 

Oh boy, was I right. My boys love the pull-up bar. What I didn’t expect (but should have) is how nervous I get watching them use it, which has resulted in me yelling things like, “No swinging from the pull-up bar!” “Take your feet off the ceiling!” “Stand there and spot your brother!” “Don’t you dare tickle him when he’s hanging there!” and finally, “No more pull-up bar until Dad gets home!” This is pretty constant, since there’s always someone dragging a chair over to climb up and use the pull-up bar.

I say I should have expected it, because in general I have a really hard time watching or being present when the boys are doing things that the mother in me finds dangerous. Like climbing on playground equipment, for example. There have only been a handful of times in my entire motherhood when I’ve brought the boys to a playground. Fortunately, my husband loves to take them to playgrounds, and they go on the playground at recess, so they’ve had the required childhood experience of playing on playgrounds, which I want for them, I really do—just not when I’m watching. I picture falling, breaking bones, blood everywhere, screaming, and me not remembering to have my cell phone with me that one day, or not being able to properly care for the injured boy because I have a baby in one arm (who would certainly be wailing). I can’t get those images out of my head, and I know how upset I’d be if I let them do something that my mama sense was saying was too dangerous.

This is all despite the fact that I do believe it’s good for them to learn from their bumps and bruises (to an extent). I try not to react immediately or emotionally when I see the baby topple when he’s learning how to walk, or when an older boy wipes out on his bike. I often find that if I don’t react in a dramatic way, the child is able to take a breath and take stock of himself to determine whether or not he’s truly hurt.

I also believe that boys often have a need to expend their energy in physical ways, and while punching bags and running around can do the job, mine also really like wrestling with each other. It often gets pretty rough, but there have been many times when I’ve broken up a wrestling match, thinking it was getting out of control, only to have the sweaty, breathless boys say, “Aw Mom! We were having fun!” Because of this, I try not to interfere with their rough play, but I also instituted the rule that if someone gets hurt or something gets broken, the playing ends immediately. (More than once I’ve heard a boy make a sound of pain, but before I can put an end to the roughhousing, one of the others hisses, “Shh! You’re fine! You don’t want to stop playing, do you?” and the hurt boy will wipe his eyes and leap back into the fray. I’m always both impressed and heartbroken over this.) 

This has been a hard aspect of motherhood for me — I want to be sure I’m not stifling their need to take normal, healthy boyhood risks, but I also want them to survive childhood and beyond! Their dad has been so great in this regard—have you also noticed that dads tend to be far less worried about such things? I’m so glad my boys have him to balance out my worrying.

Just last night, in fact, after telling the boys all day that they had to wait for their dad to come home to use the pull-up bar, they had their chance to go crazy on it. I stayed in the other room where I couldn’t see what they were doing, but I heard whoops and hollers as they competed to see who could do the most pull-ups, and my husband was cheering along with them. By bedtime, they seemed to have worked out all their need to scare their mother to death with their feats of strength and danger, and they went to bed a happy, tired bunch. Tired kids and peaceful bedtime? Now that is something I can definitely get on board with!

Kate and her husband have seven sons ages 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 4, and 5 months. Follow her at www.facebook.com/kmtowne23, or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Families Today
Thursday, 07 February 2019 12:47

Nailing Home Maintenance

Photos provided.

Learn how to stop problems around the house before they start.
A simple fix to that dripping pipe in the bathroom could prevent a major leak. Keeping your refrigerator running smoothly is as simple as cleaning out the dirt and dust from its coils. Avoid catastrophic fires by changing out your furnace filter.

You don’t need to rely on anyone else to take care of these and other chores around your house. In Rebuilding Together Saratoga County’s FREE home maintenance classes, you can learn how to do them yourself.

“It’s a great class for people looking to move out on their own, single women, and people looking to purchase a home who have always relied on a landlord or superintendent to fix things for them,” said Michelle Larkin, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Saratoga County.

Open to anyone over the age of 16, and geared toward beginners, Larkin said even those familiar with basic maintenance learned a few new useful tips when they first offered the classes last fall. 

“It’s universal, everybody wants to know this stuff,” she said.

The four-hour classes feature presentations and hands-on training, answers to your home repair questions, advice on when to call in a professional and how to locate the right one. 

Participants receive a FREE bucket of tools to take home with them, a home maintenance checklist and a copy of Dare to Repair: A Do-it-Herself Guide to Fixing (Almost) Anything in the Home by Julie Sussman.

“We’re trying to get people to feel more comfortable with the concept of self-reliance and that this is stuff they can do themselves,” said Larkin. 

Regular home maintenance saves you money, sustains your home’s value and keeps you safe, which is at the heart of Rebuilding Together’s mission.

“Our goal is to have another resource for the community to help keep them in their homes and to make sure everyone is warm, safe and dry,” said Larkin. 

Developed by Project Manager Lawrence Boutillette, Assistant Project Manager Maria Northrop and Pam Stott of Curtis Lumber, with sponsorship assistance from Adirondack Trust and others, there will be two Basic Home Maintenance Classes offered this March. 

Attend Friday, March 15 from 12:30 until 4:30 p.m. or Saturday, March 23 from 1 until 5 p.m. at Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, 132 Milton Ave., Ballston Spa. Registration is required and class size is limited. Call 518-587-3315 to sign up for your spot in one of these free classes.

Published in Families Today
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 20:00

Opioid Nation - Part Three

EVE SPOKE with her daughter, Katie, just a few hours before she overdosed on heroin. She had been clean for awhile and was doing pretty well. “I’m just glad that the last thing I said to my daughter before she died was, ‘I love you.’ Otherwise, I would have killed myself.”

Ken and Maureen’s only child, Dan, had been struggling to get off opioids and heroin for a few months and seemed to be holding his own. About seven months before he died, he had finally admitted to himself and his parents that he was in serious trouble. He tried to get into a rehab facility in New York, Vermont, anywhere. There just weren’t any available spaces. When Dan relapsed and overdosed, he was at home, where his parents found him. “The thought of him dying on the street, totally alone would be completely devastating to us. Living with that would’ve been worse than what we already have had to live with.”

Kellie is a divorced mother of two daughters and a son, all young adults. One daughter is sober after years of substance abuse disorder and she is doing well. The eldest daughter is working on a master’s degree in criminal justice. And the third, her son, is living on the streets in California, addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine. She had no choice but to finally make him leave. He was becoming abusive and she knew there was nothing else she could really do for him. She also had to worry about herself and her own well-being. “Just imagine putting a chain around your waist and hooking it to the car your kids are driving—it’s insane and people don’t understand. But it’s true. It’s very hard to separate yourself from motherhood.”

 “I had to distance myself.” But Kellie feels like the “tough love” is on herself and not on her son. 

Using “tough love” as a way of getting an addict to change his or her behavior or seek help has been, until recently, a generally accepted model. Countless parents tell stories of being told repeatedly by well-meaning and caring friends and family members to kick their child out. Let them see what it’s really like to be on the street; to be truly alone, without a life preserver, with no other options than summoning up that seemingly buried reserve of will power and resolve that would ultimately offer salvation.

Like most parents, turning from a child can be next to impossible. Maureen and Ken understand the hard choices. “As parents, it’s our job to protect our children and to never give up.”

Tough love goes counter to our nature, our natural protective instincts as parents. Eve agrees, and she adds that, like Maureen and Ken, she “detached with love” not from her daughter, but from the addiction. 

All the parents in this article said that they never gave money, or rides to meet friends who they knew were selling drugs. They had rules for their children, which they tried to enforce as best they could. But they couldn’t turn their backs entirely. They held onto hope. And they continued to try to instill that hope in their sick children. 

“You don’t want them to lose all hope—I let Katie know that I had hope for her always. “I’ll never regret not turning from her the night she died,” says Eve.

Brian Farr is an assistant professor at Hudson Valley Community College, in the Human Services and Chemical Dependency Counseling Department. He serves as president of the Prevention Council of Saratoga County and is a substance abuse counselor with SPARC. He is also in his 22nd year of being drug- and alcohol-free. He would like to see the media stop using the word “addict” and call it what it is referred to in DSM 5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: “substance abuse disorder.” 

In a recent panel discussion moderated by Farr at the Maple Avenue Middle School, he cited some sobering statistics: Heroin-related deaths have tripled in the United States since 2010; 78 people will die from an opioid or heroin overdose each day; one in 14 New Yorkers will report substance dependence or abuse disorder this year; the epidemic is killing people at the same rate as the AIDs epidemic in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

And yet, Farr said that addiction—or substance abuse disorder—is the only disease that people get into trouble for having. 

Dr. Joshua Zamer, MD, DABAM, Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at Saratoga Community Health Center, agrees. He explains how the pleasure receptors in the brain’s limbic system respond to stimuli. The limbic system is the brain’s “reward system" and is responsible for human motivation and our survival as a species. “It makes very basic things—like food, water, sex—rewarding." 

He goes on to explain that, if we eat chocolate cake it feels good and it causes a “hit” of dopamine in the brain. “Drugs and alcohol will raise the level of dopamine 1,000 times more than the piece of cake,” something Dr. Zamer says the brain was not designed for. “It’s a massive overload on the system.”

In substance abuse, as the brain is regularly assaulted by these overloads, it develops a tolerance until it “craves” the substance and needs it to survive. Zamer refers to the cycle of increasing dependence and addiction as the “hijacked brain.” 

Once the brain has become addicted to a substance like alcohol or heroin, rational thought, sound judgment and ethical decision-making recedes and the addicted brain will do anything to get that hit of dopamine it now needs to function and survive; anything, including stealing, lying, even resorting to violence.

Zamer calls the challenge of overcoming substance abuse disorder a matter of changing what goes on in the “deep brain,” that part of the mind that is now in control. At the Saratoga Community Health Center, Zamer and a substance abuse counselor work with patients on an outpatient basis to help wean users off drugs and re-establish healthy patterns of behavior. For that, Zamer believes the patient must remain free of all substances—not just the “drug of choice.”

However, similar to the parents, spouses and loved ones who struggle between tough love and enabling, Zamer knows only too well the tough choices that sometimes need to be made. While the classic addiction programs tend to be very rigid and will usually kick someone out for failing a urine test, Zamer says that they grapple daily between giving the patient another chance versus becoming “enablers.”

“It’s the same issues these families must deal with. If the addict in your house continues to use, steal, lie, it gets tricky. Some say that you have to get them out of the house. But it’s tough. If it was my kid, could I cut them off like that? The other thing is that sometimes people need to hit rock bottom in order to see the light. Remember that, with addiction, you don’t care. Your brain has been hijacked and you have tunnel vision. But when people do get some insight and realize they want to change, they can be helped. But the tough thing is, is that rock bottom going to kill them?”

There just are no easy answers. For Kellie, while she is so happy that her daughter is doing okay and staying on the right path, she also says that she tries to continue to hold out hope for her son. But she admits that she has planned his funeral in her mind more times than she cares to count.

For Ken and Maureen, they now speak for a son who no longer can. The couple has become very active in the regional treatment and counseling movement and they try to get their story out to young people and their parents. “If we can reach just one or two people, that is what we can do to keep Dan with us,” says Maureen. Ken recalls the valiant effort that Dan made, first to get into a treatment program and, when the system failed him, to try on his own. He remembers the good times he spent with his son during that time. If they had forced him onto the street, they would not have those memories to cherish.

For Eve, there were times when she had to tell Katie to get away, but it was never for long and the “real Katie always came back and said, ‘I’m sorry.’” 

“I wasn’t happy with her disease,” she adds, “but I would never stop loving her. And they need to know that they are loved despite everything.”


Local Help

Published in News
Thursday, 12 April 2018 20:34

Opioid Nation - Part Two

IN THE 1960’s during the height of the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” counterculture, 80 percent of people who sought treatment for heroin addiction reported that their addiction began with the use of heroin, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Citing a 2014 study, the Institute reported that a staggering 75 percent of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction reported that their use began with a legitimate prescription, written by their doctor or administered in a hospital. Those drugs – oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, to name a few – prevent the pain message from reaching the brain.They also facilitate a feeling of relaxation and euphoria, which is one of the reasons it is so easy to become addicted. 

The major drug companies – who have made billions of dollars with these drugs – created marketing campaigns and tactics that were not only unethical; for millions of people whose lives have been forever altered, they might be seen as downright criminal. As the American public became hooked on painkillers, regulations and monitoring programs were being instituted, which made it more difficult to obtain prescription opioids. Many people have turned to the streets, looking for cheaper and more readily-available heroin.

The resulting costs to families and communities are obvious, and the American taxpayer – whose tax dollars go to fund our police departments, our first responders, our prevention and treatment programs – ultimately are the ones footing the bill for the unfettered greed of the behemoth pharmaceutical companies, for whom profits win out over ethics. A perfect example is Purdue Pharma.

In 2001 Oxycontin, manufactured by Purdue, generated $3.1 billion in revenue for the drug giant. It is a powerful opioid, which Purdue touted in the late 1990’s as being nearly “addiction-proof.” Just a decade or two earlier, physicians had been very conservative about prescribing opioids because of their highly addictive nature. This class of drugs was typically reserved for use only in cancer patients and others suffering from extreme pain.

But a “perfect storm” was brewing, to borrow the expression used by Dr. Joshua Zamer, Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at Saratoga Community Health Center. The medical profession had embraced the model of thinking of pain as a “fifth vital sign.” Physicians were being trained to view pain as equally important as other vital signs like blood pressure and respiratory rate, and they were increasingly under pressure to alleviate pain.

That pressure, combined with the marketing genius of companies like Purdue, resulted in a shift in how members of the medical community viewed drugs like Oxycontin. They became a viable option for patients dealing with chronic or severe pain. As more and more people gained access to opioids to make their pain go away, the insidious and invisible epidemic began to seep into every layer of the nation’s socio-economic strata.

Purdue Pharma publicly acknowledged just how brilliant their marketing efforts were, and in 2007 the company pleaded guilty to“intent to defraud and mislead the public,” paying $635 million in penalties. Indeed, it was a small price to pay, given the profits the company had already reaped.

According to a recent article in The Daily Beast, over the next two years the opioid epidemic is expected to cost the United States about a trillion dollars and result in the deaths of nearly 100,000 people.

The costs to our cities, towns and counties come in the form of increased spending on police and first responders, higher insurance costs, and the need for more prevention education and outreach in the schools and in the communities. President Trump has declared the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis; but, to date, there has been no move by the Administration or Congress to increase funding to alleviate the devastating effects on towns, municipalities and counties.

To date, approximately 250 cities, towns and counties across the country have filed lawsuits against Big Pharma in the hopes that they can recoup the monies that have been spent – and will continue to be spent – on the many efforts to combat the epidemic.

Peter Martin, Public Safety Commissioner for the City of Saratoga Springs and former Saratoga County Supervisor, voted in 2017 with his fellow supervisors to file a lawsuit against the major drug companies on behalf of Saratoga County. Schenectady County also filed its own lawsuit in 2017 and, in the past two weeks, the city of Schenectady has followed suit.

Martin said that, while the city of Saratoga Springs is currently considering whether to join a multi-district litigation – which is similar to a class-action lawsuit – he said that damages are easier to obtain at the county level. “The county is responsible for Medicaid, which is where some of the largest damages are incurred and, certainly, a city like Saratoga wouldn’t have the same magnitude as the county, which is why we are waiting for more advice on the issue,” said Martin.

The law firm of Dreyer Boyajian LLP is representing several cities, counties and towns in New York State, including the city of Schenectady, Fulton County, Plattsburgh and other entities such as hospitals, American Indian tribes – in short, anyone who has been harmed by the ongoing epidemic. According to partner Don Boyajian, joining a multi-district litigation can increase the effectiveness of the actions. He pointed out other lawsuits in past years where corporations ended up pleading guilty and making reparations.

In all of this, the model has been the Big Tobacco lawsuits that were filed by the states in the 1990s. The end result of those suits in 1998 was a $246 billion payout, which the tobacco companies will not be done paying until 2025. The goal of these city, town and county lawsuits is to make Big Pharma feel the same pain that Big Tobacco experienced. In the process, we can only hope that Big Pharma will feel a twinge of conscience as well. 

Local Help

Published in News
Thursday, 29 March 2018 16:42

County Economic Index Released

CLIFTON PARK – On Thursday, the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership released its exclusive Saratoga County Economic Index, according to a statement provided by The Janack Group Principal Steve Janack. The index portrays a robust economy that is fueling revenue and employment growth among businesses and generating strong optimism for the future.

“The Saratoga County Economic Index makes crystal clear what we promote on a daily basis: Saratoga County is among the nation’s most desirable places to start, locate and grow a business,” said Prosperity Partnership President Marty Vanags. “Our strategic and proactive approach to economic development is essential to ensuring our economy remains vibrant and delivers long-term, sustainable results.”

The Economic Index revealed that businesses are bullish on Saratoga County’s economy. Of more than 130 business leaders across all industries who responded to a Pulse Survey, 64 percent said their businesses are doing better today than they were a year ago. Additionally, 58 percent reported increased revenue last year, and 56 percent expect another rise in sales this year.

Also, 41 percent of businesses expect to create jobs in 2018, on par with the 47 percent who said they created jobs in 2017.

The index captures a host of key economic indicators that illustrate the strength of Saratoga County’s economy, including:

Labor force participation, at 68 percent, continues to exceed the Capital Region (64 percent), New York State (63 percent), and the United States (64 percent).

The unemployment rate has remained low, at or below 5 percent, for several years.

There is a diversity of industries in Saratoga County and employment within these industries is growing, with 114,800 total jobs representing a 29 percent increase since 2000.

Median household income, at $74,080, rose 3.6 percent from a year ago and 14.5 percent since 2010. That figure outpaced the Capital Region by 17 percent ($63,080), New York State by 22 percent ($60,741), and the United States by 34 percent ($55,322).

The workforce is highly educated, with 40 percent of residents earning bachelor’s degrees, a figure that compares favorably with the nation’s largest semiconductor areas.

With estimated population growth of 4.5 percent since 2010, Saratoga County leads upstate New York – and is one of only two counties to see both domestic and international migration rise – and is also one of the fastest growing in the Northeast.

The 853 single- and multi-family housing permits issued in 2016 (the most recent statistics available) represented a 28 percent increase from five years earlier.

The value of housing permits issued, at nearly $280 million in 2016, has risen 33 percent over the past five years.

The average median value of an owner-occupied housing unit, at $259,600, was up more than 3 percent from last year, and is expected to rise another 3 percent this year.

“As a private-sector business owner and resident of Saratoga County, I am encouraged to see sustained economic growth that benefits both businesses and families,” said Prosperity Partnership Board Chairman Kevin Hedley. “The Saratoga Partnership has the right strategy, the right team, and the right resources in place to ensure that expansion continues.”

“The Saratoga County Economic Index illustrates once again that Saratoga County is the gold standard when it comes to economic health and well-being,” added Board of Supervisors Chairman Edward Kinowski. “I commend the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership for their efforts in driving an economy that keeps businesses humming, residents working, and families proud of the place they live.”

In terms of challenges, 76 percent of businesses expect costs to increase this year. Asked about their biggest concerns, 25 percent said local taxes; 24 percent named attracting talent; and cost of living and affordable housing were each cited by 21 percent of businesses.

The index was presented during a luncheon on March 29 at Van Patten Golf Course in Clifton Park, which also featured a panel discussion involving leaders from the region’s business, finance and government sectors.

Panelists included Charles Wait, Chairman and CEO of Adirondack Trust Company; David N. Deutsch, Founder and President of David N. Deutsch and Company; Saratoga County Treasurer Drew Jarosh; and Saratoga County Administrator Spencer Hellwig.

The Economic Index is at http://saratogapartnership.org/2018/03/economicindex/

Published in Business
Thursday, 29 March 2018 14:13

Opioid Nation - Part 1

THE PAIN in her voice was still there, beneath the surface. Even though her daughter had just completed an extensive stint in rehab and was on her way to a halfway house somewhere down South, her fear and anxiety were palpable, even over the phone. 

While Mary’s story (not her real name) is uniquely her own, it is nevertheless a story with familiar themes. No matter how many times people have told me their own tales of bailing their kid
out of jail, kicking her out of the house for stealing, or finding him passed out on the bathroom floor, the needle still sticking out of his arm, I cannot get over the constant and pervasive threads of the truths each family shares about their shared journey through addiction.

And make no mistake about it. It is a journey, one the addict does not make alone. Addiction is a family disease. It is a community disease and it runs roughshod across socio-economic, educational, and ethnic lines. Addiction is an equal opportunity perp.

According to the NYS Department of Health, in 2016 there were 1,238 deaths from heroin and opioid use, 6,621 people were seen in emergency rooms for overdoses and 1,855 hospital admissions. While other states experienced severely higher instances of overdose, hospitalization and death during that same period, Lieutenant Dan Morley of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s department says that the number of calls coming into the dispatcher office is still entirely too high and warrants a new level – and a new kind – of response.

Thanks to people like Morley and his team, new strategies are being used to reach out to families of addicts. Morley said that, about a year ago, the sheriff’s department began implementing a procedure of following up at an addict’s home after an overdose. For Mary, when Lieutenant Morley showed up at her door the day after her daughter’s overdose, it felt like a life-line being tossed to her.

Before this, Mary had struggled. She didn’t know who to turn to and, in many instances, she was told that there was a two-week or longer waiting list to get her daughter into rehab. Once she was even told that her daughter wasn’t “sick enough” to warrant being admitted into a rehab facility.

When you’re an addict, sometimes two weeks is too long to wait.

People like Lieutenant Morley are doing the vital outreach and serving as life-lines between addicts, their families and the help they need. Within a few hours of meeting Morley, Mary received the kind of help and information she had been so desperately seeking for the last few years. 

“He comes to help people. He is just the most compassionate person. He offers so much help and knowledge about where to go. He is the most wonderful person in the world. I would not have known where to go without him,” said Mary.

One of the places he told Mary about is Healing Springs Recovery Community and Outreach Center, a recently created resource for addicts, their families and loved ones who are struggling along the dark path of addiction. Located at 125 High Rock Avenue, Suite 105A in Saratoga Springs, Healing Springs is funded through state grants and is part of a larger network, Southern Adirondack Recovery Alliance (SARA) with additional sites in Johnstown and Hudson Falls. Its purpose is to serve as a “hub” for recovery support services and it welcomes both addicts and their families and loved ones.  It is a peer-driven and peer- delivered support services-based organization. For many people, this is good news. People 18 years or older are welcome into the program, regardless of what stage of recovery they are in. 

12 13 A group meeting at Healing SpringsA group meeting at Healing Springs. Photo provided.

Fawn Montanye, CRPA-P, is the site coordinator for the Saratoga Springs program and she stressed the importance of peer-on-peer support, mentoring and education. She also talked about the importance of providing support to families. 

The organization is free, and no insurance is necessary to gain access to the facility and its many programs and group activities. Some of those activities include recovery yoga, Narcotics Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous meetings, Reiki, and young people’s group AA. 

Montanye explained that Healing Springs is different from other support systems in that it is not abstinence-based. “Somebody may want to stop using opioids, but maybe they are not going to stop smoking marijuana,” said Montanye.  While Healing Springs is not a faith-based organization like Alcoholics Anonymous, they do use some of the questions that have become a standard means of determining if a person is an addict or alcoholic. Questions such as: “Do you feel powerless to stop using your drug of choice? Has your life become unmanageable? Are you struggling to hold onto a job or a relationship?” The non-abstinence feature is a marked departure from many programs that adhere to a stricter philosophy of abstinence across the board. The prevailing school of thought has been that, if a person is an addict, he or she cannot be considered “sober” unless they are completely free of any drug or alcohol.

Healing Springs is different and Montanye explains. “My job is not to judge. We are not dictating or telling people how to achieve recovery, or what recovery looks like.” That does not mean that someone in recovery should feel free about indulging in other substances. For far too many addicts, using a substance that was not previously their “drug of choice” can often lead them back to the addiction that got them into trouble in the first place and jeopardize their lives and their futures.

Healing Springs is not bound by the more restrictive mandates that other recovery centers operate under. Annabel Lago-Pedrick is the Director of Out-Patient Services at Twin County Recovery, based in Hudson and Catskill. 

She explained that, while much of their operating capital also comes through OASAS and state funding, 96 percent of her Twin County’s clients are mandated to seek treatment there, either by a probation or parole board, the Department of Social Services or the courts.

“That makes it tough because those entities want to see abstinence. So, it’s tough when we have to report back and comply with those agencies, said Lago-Pedrick, who has been counseling addicts for ten years.

She added that, while she agrees that everyone’s recovery is different, in her experience, for most people who return to the facility because of relapse, the reason is usually that they have stopped going to their sober support meetings or they’ve begun using another substance, which makes it easier for them to revert to old behavior patterns.

“When we ask, ‘Why are you back?’ they pretty much say the same thing – “Oh. I smoked pot, drank beer.’ So much of addiction has to do with behavior, habits and loving the feeling of being high. It’s very easy to do that,” said Lago-Pedrick.

However, she concedes that the opioid epidemic has changed the way so many people are being treated. Because addiction has reached epidemic proportions, centers like Healing Springs are vital to the community and serve as a place where people can begin – or continue – their journey into recovery.

“The reality is that we still don’t have enough treatment centers and we still have issues getting people who need it getting into rehab facilities. Now with the crisis, we are in a place where, if we don’t provide Medicaid-assisted treatment, someone can die,” said Lago-Pedrick.

Montanye agrees with how critical it has become to get people the help they need. “Here, we want to support everyone on their own path. I do agree that, if someone goes back to using something when they were using nothing, then yes, it is still a substance that is filling a void and they haven’t had a spiritual awakening,” said Montanye.

She quickly clarifies that by “spiritual awakening,” she is referring to finding that something in oneself that will enable them to do the hard work of recovery and lead them – and their loved ones – out of the dark place of addiction into the light of recovery and sobriety.

For Mary, her recovering daughter and hundreds more who have already been helped by Healing Springs, the fact that they were able to receive the kind of help they needed – when they needed it – is a comfort and a source of hope. “There is help, right here in Saratoga, and I never knew about these places,” said Mary. If not for the tireless efforts of people like Lieutenant Morley, Fawn Montanye and so many others, Mary’s daughter’s story may have had a different ending.

Local Help

Published in News

BALLSTON SPA – They descended on the village of Ballston Spa Tuesday – politicians and lawyers and election officials, members of the media and curious onlookers – on an unpredictable morning which gave no hint of the cold winter that will surely come, and no clue about how the prized chips of the day might fall.

All present crowded into a sub-level room at the county complex, Building Number Five. The “solar building,” as employees call it, was constructed atop land deeded to Saratoga County nearly 200 years ago by a New York City merchant named Nicholas Low for the development of a County Clerk’s office, assuring Ballston Spa would stand at the center of county government.

On this day, the 30-or-so people inside the building’s sub-level basement came to witness the opening and counting of approximately 550 absentee ballots. Some carried with them a cautious optimism to re-affirm the seat they’d won on Election Night remained secure, others with an angst-riddled hope that what they had lost might be regained. Most came to witness the counting of votes of the public referendum that could change the only form of governing the city of Saratoga Springs has known in its 102-year history.    

The Election Night tally depicted a city divided and a race too close to call. Of the nearly 8,500 ballots cast, the difference was a measly 48 votes. There were 4,202 YES votes cast that urged Charter Change. There were 4,154 NO votes registered in favor of maintaining the status quo. The counting of the absentee ballots, most assumed, would settle the final score.

The current Commission form of governing relies on five elected part-time council members, each of whom are responsible for administering their own department, as well as serving as legislators. The proposed Council-Manager form of governing would see that the council hires a non-partisan, professional city manager to carry out city policies.

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10:16 a.m.: The first handful of ballots are taken from their envelopes and displayed to watchers. Saratoga Springs District Two, Embury Apartments: Yes. No. Yes. No. No. Yes. No. No. Attorneys scrawl stick figures atop their legal pads. The No’s have gained two votes. The overall Yes lead of 48 drops to 46.  

11 a.m.: More districts come in. The count: 18 Yes, 32 No. Overall Yes lead drops to 34.

12:30 a.m.: Break for lunch. The count on the day: Yes 128, No 161. Yes lead drops another 19 votes. Math update, overall: Yes 4,330, No 4,315. Overall Yes lead drops to 15. Fortified by sandwiches and fueled by caffeine, everyone returns from lunch and is moved upstairs to a bigger room. First up, one of the Senior Citizens Center’s voting districts. Result: 7 Yes, 14 No. Overall: 4,337 to 4,329. Yes lead up by eight.

2:02 p.m.: Saratoga Springs High School Gym voting district - 10 Yes, 17 No. Overall: 4,347 to 4,346. Yes clings to the lead by one vote.  Stress begins to show on the some of the faces in the room.

2:15 p.m.: City Center voting district: Yes 24, No 18. Yes back up by seven. Deep breaths on all sides.   Over the next half hour, voting districts at United Methodist Church, a second Senior Citizens Center, and the Interlaken Community Center are presented, collectively giving the No count 18 additional votes, and the lead. The room loses its mind. There are some audible noises. Whether these are cries of joy, or cries of pain are difficult to determine. At this point, it’s hard to tell the difference. 

3 p.m.: The mailman arrives. An election commissioner is dispatched to meet the mail carrier to learn if any last-minute absentee ballots have arrived on this, the deadline day. Inside the room, the counting continues of ballots from the city’s two final districts. And then it is over. The No votes have it, by seven.

But, wait, suddenly five more ballots are presented. These were set aside during the course of the day’s counting, one of the election officials explains.

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“It ain’t over til it’s over, and it ain’t over yet,” says Richard Sellers, a spokesman for SUCCESS, a citizen organization that supports maintaining the current form of governing.  “It feels a lot better to be up by seven than down by 48, or whatever it was a week ago (but) “I’ll celebrate when they tell me it’s over.”

“It’s a squeaker,” says Charter Review Commissioner Treasurer Gordon Boyd. The commission, which officially disbanded when the polls closed Election Night, conducted 16 months of study, staged dozens of public meetings and voted to pursue the possibility of Charter Change and adopt a council-manager form of governing. A decade ago, Boyd was a member of the SUCCESS group. This time he is part of the pro-change group. In the exploration of Charter alternatives, some residents have changed their minds over time and party lines crossed, making it all the more difficult to gauge which way the majority will go.

Adding to the unpredictability, the members of the City Council have also taken sides - this despite the words of state Board of Elections attorney Brian Quail, who said advocacy by a municipality on a referendum question is unlawful, and that a municipality hiring counsel to participate in a canvas conducted by the Board of Elections is, in his 16 years of experience, unprecedented.

Twenty-four hours earlier, City Council members John Franck, Michele Madigan and Anthony “Skip” Scirocco – each of whom have spoken in favor of maintaining the current form of governing, approved by a 3-0 vote the hiring of a Glens Falls attorney and an associate attorney at the combined rate of $525 per hour to observe Tuesday's event and “defend the city’s right to have all proper absentee ballots counted.” The two council members who have spoken in favor of changing the form of governing, Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, did not attend Monday’s “Special” City Council meeting.  John Aspland, the main attorney hired to observe the absentee ballot count does just that, occasionally inking notes on a legal pad throughout the day.


Those last five ballots, the “set-asides,”are presented. Two are ruled invalid. The other three are held up, one at a time: No, no, and…no.      

The unofficially tally stands at 4,458 No, 4,448 Yes. It is a calculation that would require the re-beading of an abacus: 50.06141926 percent No, 49.943858073 percent Yes. Approximately half the city’s eligible 18,000 voters took part in the vote.    

“The absentee ballots came in strong just as they did in 2012 when the Commission form of government beat down a challenge,” Sellers says.

The 2012 vote which proposed amending the Charter and replacing the Commission form of government with a Manager-Council form resulted in 6,738 - 4,872 No victory, a 58-42 percent difference. A referendum in 2006 proposing a change to a strong-mayor form of government was voted down 5865-3615, roughly a 62-38 difference. Counting this year’s referendum, the margin of differences have grown smaller with each successive vote. 

 “I don’t think the issue of the form of government in Saratoga Springs is going to go away any time soon,” a disappointed Boyd says.  “But I think we have a lot to be proud of, a lot to build on. This was a people’s campaign. We had the forces of both political party leaderships and the government of Saratoga (springs) mobilized against this proposal and we fought them pretty much to a draw.” 

Eighteen Military Ballots were requested, as of this week, none have been returned. They must be received by the Board of Elections by Monday, Nov. 20 to be counted, and indications are any which do arrive will be counted Tuesday, Nov. 21. 

Boyd was asked whether the referendum vote could be headed for the courtroom. “I don’t know. I just don’t know,” he responds. “We want to be sure that every valid vote has been counted.”

Bob Turner, who served as chairman of the Saratoga Springs City Charter Review Commission, said there are currently conversations being had regarding “overvotes,” which occurs when one votes for more than the maximum number of selections allowed in a contest. Turner said he doesn’t know the specific number of overvotes that appeared on voter’s ballots, but the incident could occur when voters hand write-in candidates on the front of the ballot and inked traces appear as multiple markings appear on the ballot’s reverse side, which is where Charter Change proposition question was printed.

“We’re exploring the processes. That could lead to a hand count of all 8,000-something ballots,” Turner said. That decision whether to pursue the matter could come early next week. The ballot numbers remain unofficial until they are certified by the Board of Elections. That process is anticipated to take at least a few weeks.

Published in News
Thursday, 20 July 2017 13:32

Memorial Golf Tourney Celebrates Four Years

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A local memorial golf tourney returned to the McGregor Links Country Club to once again honor the memory of the late course superintendent, Mark Printsky.

The fourth annual Mark Printsky Memorial Golf Tourney took place at McGregor Links on July 15, with 40 local golfers taking part in the tourney itself, and around 75 people being in attendance overall. The tourney is held each year to raise money in honor of the late Mark Printsky, the longtime course superintendent for McGregor who passed away suddenly in 2014 after 32 years of service. Money raised at the event goes towards the Mark D. Printsky Memorial Scholarship fund at Mark’s Alma matter, SUNY Cobleskill.

In 2014, Mark’s wife Mary Beth Printsky found him passed on their bed. Despite her efforts with CPR, Mark tragically and suddenly passed away, leaving friends and family stunned and mourning. Around 6-8 weeks after his passing, those same friends and family came together to organize a memorial golf tourney in Mark’s name, and they were happily able to get it set up at his former place of employment, McGregor Links. Initially, the funds raised by the event went to Mary Beth herself, with subsequent annual tourneys raising money for the scholarship fund.

“I didn’t want him to be forgotten,” Mary Beth Printsky said about continuing the tourney and establishing the fund in the last few years.

As the course superintendent, Mark Printsky was responsible for managing all of the upkeep duties at McGregor Links. As his wife put it, his work keeping the greens in top condition was one of the main reasons that people remembered and returned to course over the years.

“In a way, he was the heart of the golf course,” Mary Beth Printsky said. “He was the reason people came to play.”

Over the course of three years, the tourney has raised around $6,000 for the scholarship fund. Funds were raised this year through entrance fees, raffles, mulligan sales, and other methods. Saratoga Eagle Sales & Services donated beverages to the event. A plaque dedicated to Mark and his time with the club was also set up at the event. Mary Beth Printsky herself designed the plaque.

“It just gave me so much joy,” Mary Beth Printsky said about this year’s event. “It was a real labor of love.”

This year’s event saw returning Cobleskill senior Patrick Murray of Buzzards Bay, Mass., graciously accept the fund’s first scholarship, valued at $500. Once over $10,000 is raised for the fund, the amounts granted to each student will increase, according to Mary Beth Printsky. To qualify for the Mark D. Printsky Memorial Scholarship, one must be a returning student in the Grass Management Studies Program.

Mary Beth Printsky expressed gratitude to many individuals involved in helping in the tourney come to fruition. This included the owners of McGregor Links, Blake Crocitto and Bill Ahl, for providing the venue for the event and giving her a lifetime membership to the club, and Annemarie Kissane, McGregor’s assistant pro who helped her improved her golf game.

All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com

Published in Sports
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