January 25, 2014


Group fights 'rampant' drug abuse

Setting up a Narcotics Anonymous group among task force's goals

Staff Reporter

Cortland County officials trying to tackle the county's drug problem Friday said the issue is a difficult one to get a firm hold on.
The group, spearheaded by Public Health Educator ReBecca Canzano, has been meeting since last summer and Friday it outlined its new objectives: to stress educating the youth, the medical community and parents and community members at large.
Canzano and other members are fighting the overwhelming nature of the problem and will be combating various aspects of the drug problem in small focus groups over coming months.
The group met Friday at the Wishing Wellness Center, which offers counseling services through peer educators like Victoria Gohl, Dave Lang, Linda Martin and Director Mike Johnson who were present Friday. Also in attendance were JoAnn Wickman, chair of Cortland Area Communities That Care environmental strategies workgroup, Cortland Prevention Resources prevention specialist Deidre Plumley, and Garra Lloyd-Lester, youth services development director at Cortland County Mental Health Department.
The group has been struggling with combating the drug problem in the community and each agency focuses on a different area of the problem. Plumley talked about how Cortland Prevention Resources, a division of Family Counseling Services, emphasizes prevention through education, visiting local school districts and talking to students about the consequences of drug use.
Through the Wishing Wellness Center, Gohl plans to start a Narcotics Anonymous group for youths ages 12-20. She hopes the group will be formed by mid-February and says the need for such a group is great in the community.
"There's not just a huge problem of family members using, they're using and they don't talk about it. It's easier for them to talk to their peers," Gohl said of teens. She said marijuana and alcohol use would be the most common substances abused but there are also problems with harder drugs like heroin and prescription drug abuse.
The Narcotics Anonymous group would provide a safe place for these struggling youths to go and talk about their problems in a nonjudgmental atmosphere, she said.
Gohl said she is gathering the proper materials from the national organization of Narcotics Anonymous and then she will be circulating fliers to places like the Youth Bureau and the alternative schools.
But the group Friday also emphasized the importance of reaching parents and Canzano will be breaking down the group into subcommittees tasked with coming up with a news media campaign to do this, as well as dealing with other aspects of the problem.
All involved know addiction intimately, through their own personal struggles with it.
Lang faulted the community for being "behind the eight ball" in terms of not keeping up with the problem.
"This is a train that's just plowing through," Lang said of the community's drug problem. "Everyone is looking to get high on something and they don't care what they do."
He advocated contacting other communities that have dealt with rampant drug use for a much longer time, saying Cortland can learn from what other places have done.


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