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Sheriff Hosts CARES Connections Event

OBSERVER Photos by Christopher Blakeslee The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, CARES Program (Chautauqua Comprehensive Addiction Response and Evaluation System), Monday, hosted a Community Connections event held at the James Prendergast Library.

“Chautauqua County has a lot of resources,” said Sheriff James B. Quattrone regarding mental health, drug abuse and prevention services in the county.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office’s CARES Program (Chautauqua Comprehensive Addiction Response and Evaluation System) hosted a Community Connections meeting recently at the James Prendergast Library. The Community Connections portion of the meeting focused on the plethora of social services providing agencies and support available.

For individuals with substance use disorders, mental health disorders and their families the Sheriff’s CARES Program provides a countywide, multi-sector network of law enforcement, behavioral health and other community service agencies collaborating to further increase accessibility, timeliness and effectiveness of help.

“This is about connecting agencies and organizations with one another and the public,” said Vito Randazzo, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, CARES Program coordinator. “In attendance today are representatives from The Resource Center; CHQ Carts; Safe Point LightHouse; Healthy Community Alliance; Goodwill Good Skills; Monroe Plan; Hillside Children’s Center; Prevention Works; VA Outreach Services; UPMC Chautauqua and N.Y. Matters.”

The sheriff presented statistical data supporting the need for the program and for collaborative efforts on the part of the entire community.

OBSERVER Photos by Christopher Blakeslee Chautauqua County Sheriff James B. Quattrone presented various statistical data Monday, regarding recidivism, mental health, drug abuse and overdoses at the James Prendergast Library, during a CARES Program Community Connections event.

“For 50 years now we’ve been conducting the ‘War on Drugs’, and depending on who you ask, I can find arguments for we’re winning it or we lost it,” he said. “We’ve got to do something different; we must change the way we think about things. It’s been said that doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. …Well, what we’re seeing is at the county jail we had about 5,000 unique and different people incarcerated last year. Out of the 5,000, a total of 1,300 or 27% were in for drug-related charges. Out of the 1,300 drug offenders a total of 1,049 were repeat offenders.”

Quattrone explained some statistics he drew from the federal and state prison systems.

He talked in 2023, statically, between the federal government and state prison systems that:

– 600,000 prisoners were released from the penal systems.

– 60% of those released from these systems will be re-arrested and incarcerated within three-years.

– Between 50% and 80% of those currently incarcerated have severe mental health and drug abuse issues which are untreated or undiagnosed.

Quattrone then spoke about the unintended consequences of what he believes the state’s bail reform changes have done for New York state’s prisoners.

“We’re seeing more and more inmates coming into the jail that have more serious illness – both physically and mentally. Some are extremely thin. When we ask them at intake, who their primary care physician is -many state who the doctor is at the jail’s name. When we ask who their mental health worker is, they say who our mental health worker is at the jail,” he explained. “If you can believe this, many of these same individuals who are incarcerated report gaining weight and sleeping better. However, the jail shouldn’t be the place for one to seek treatment and to get well. This isn’t the way things are supposed to work.”

Quattrone said the follow up of released individuals with the appropriate services, medical appointment/treatments and housing are all keys to preventing recidivism rates from going up.

“Statistically speaking, 75% of those who continue treatment after release will reach healing. Right now, inmates who don’t follow up on treatment, are 129% more likely to end up dead from a drug overdose, post-release, within two-weeks,” he said.

“It takes a village,” said Randazzo. “We are a community, and we are that village and the time to act is now.”

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