News of Otsego County


Noteworthy: Opioids: Examine the Risks, Benefits, Alternatives
News from the Noteworthy: LEAF

Opioids: Examine the Risks, Benefits, Alternatives

Pain. It’s an unfortunate, often highly impactful, fact of life. Some pain is in the moment, like stubbing your toe or accidently touching a hot surface. Some pain can be lasting, such as back, knee, nerve and neck pain. Because of these things, most people will need a version of pain control at some point in their life. There may even be a point where a medical provider suggests an opioid (such as Percocet or OxyContin) to manage pain on a short-term basis.
Opioids have been the focus of much media attention and public information for about the last 10 years. They are credited with sparking this country’s most devastating addiction, overdose and death crisis in known history. And although nearly every person walking the planet is aware of this, how much do we, as a culture, actually know about the medication? Let’s start with a few important things:

1) Opioids can be an effective, short-term pain management tool for many people.

2) Opioids may not be the most effective form of pain management.

3) Opioids can quickly create tolerance, causing reduced effectiveness within a relatively short period of time (days to weeks).

4) Any exposure to opioids increases the risk of long-term use, dependency, addiction and/or overdose.

5) Even when taken as prescribed by a medical provider, opioids can create physical dependence or addiction.

6) There are effective alternatives to opioids that carry less risk.

Because the medication can be effective short-term, a medical provider may offer an opioid prescription for such things as surgical pain or more serious injuries. Should this happen, it is excellent practice to have a discussion with that provider about the risks, benefits and potential alternatives to opioids. So, here are a few tips:

Talk to the doc: If your medical provider suggests an opioid for short-term pain, here are some good questions to ask. (This article does not contain medical advice. These are conversation starters.)

• What is the lowest effective dose I can take?

• Are there alternatives to this medication that may help me manage pain?

• What are my specific risks related to this medication?

• Should I be concerned about interactions with other medications, supplements or alcohol?

If you are seeing a medical provider about a long-term or chronic pain issue, here are some common alternatives to opioid pain medication that you may wish to inquire about:

• Over-the-counter medications

• Non-medication pain management tools such as exercise, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, counseling, weight management, yoga, tai chi and stress management

• Physical therapy

• Other prescription medications (non-opioid)

Pain is not a simple inconvenience. It can be a seriously impactful quality of life issue in the lives of many. And, often, it is a quality of life issue that is invisible. We can’t necessarily see when an individual is in pain. People who are in pain often suffer in silence because pain can be too often minimalized by people in their lives. It is not minimal—it matters.

What is important to know is that pain management has come a long way. Medical providers have a wide arsenal of tools at their disposal to help. An opioid may be the best option in the moment, and it may not be. The discussion is everything. Providers, more than anyone, know the reality of pain and its impact on overall health. They are our allies in helping us to get better and feel better.

The next time you get to talk to your provider about any pain you might be experiencing, write your list and expect to be heard.

Julie Dostal is executive director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

Paving the Way for Recovery-Friendly Environment

Paving the Way for
Recovery-Friendly Environment

ONEONTA—Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism/Addictions Foundation Executive Director Julie Dostal was front and center on January 12 to receive a check in the amount of $378.704.00 from the Appalachian Regional Commission. These funds will support the North4 INSPIRE program, providing those in substance use disorder recovery with education, workforce training and wraparound services.Front row, from left, are: Jen Cutting (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council, Delaware County), Dostal, Mary Rosenthal (ADAC, Delaware County), Kyleen Joslyn (LEAF, Otsego/Chenango). Back row, from left: Sean Lewis (Otsego County Chamber of Commerce), Ray Pucci (Delaware County Chamber of Commerce), Justin Hamm (Schoharie County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse), and Jen Gregory (Southern Tier 8, Regional Planning and Development Board).

News from the Noteworthy: Remove Temptation By Disposing of Unused Medications
News from the Noteworthy

Remove Temptation By
Disposing of Unused Medications

It is not news to anyone that we, as a nation, are in the midst of the worse overdose and drug-related death crisis in the entire history of our country. Based on numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, we have lost 107,000 people to drug overdose in the last 12 months. That number would equal losing about the same number of people who live in Chenango and Otsego counties combined…in one year.

It is a slow-rolling tragedy that causes moms, dads, brothers, sisters, spouses and children to bury a human that is precious to them. There have been over a million (yes, 1,000,000.00) overdose funerals since 1999, the identified beginning of this crisis. It is a real human tragedy that receives far too little attention.

News from the Noteworthy: Celebrate Safely, Responsibly This Holiday Season
News from the Noteworthy

Celebrate Safely, Responsibly
This Holiday Season

The celebration season has begun! It is time for festivities, holy days, gatherings, traditions, family, parties, events and maybe a little football. With that, I wish a great big happy holidays to all who are reading this. I also hope for each of you a safe and joyful season. If you follow LEAF at all on Facebook (please do!), you will see that our theme for the month is, “Celebrate Safely!” We have been sharing tips and suggestions for making sure that everyone has a good time and gets home without incident.

Here are the highlights for hosting an event:

Let’s start with this: It is always okay to celebrate without alcohol! We are fully aware that our culture nearly demands that alcohol be present at any gathering. However, gatherings without alcohol tend to be less expensive (and who’s not trying to save a buck these days?) and less prone to a spirits-infused incident. It’s a win-win, so it is worth consideration.

Great Otsego Light Trail Switches On

Great Otsego Light Trail Switches On


OTSEGO COUNTY – With end-of-year holidays around the corner and Santa Claus making appearances countywide, locals are warming to the season’s festivities. To add to the list of anticipated events this December, Otsego County welcomes back The Great Otsego Light Trail.

Started in November 2019 by LEAF, an area nonprofit health and safety organization, The Great Otsego Light Trail maps a county-wide outline of the best light shows on display this holiday season.

Organization Changes Name, Prepares for Holiday Events

Organization Changes Name,
Prepares for Holiday Events

ONEONTA – First Night Oneonta has announced a name change to Hill City Celebrations and a new collaboration with the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. This expansion and re-branding better reflects the year-round events and activities First Night organizes for the community.

The mission of First Night has always been to provide healthy, alcohol-free activities and events for families, the announcement reads. Community partners include LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, Five Star Subaru and dozens of generous local foundations, individuals, and businesses. Hill City Celebrations also works closely with the City of Oneonta, SUNY Oneonta, Hartwick College and Bassett Healthcare Network to produce events such as the Oneonta Festival of Lights, First Night at the Foothills, and the Hometown 4th of July.

NOTEWORTHY: Asking for, Offering Support are Skillsets We Can Re-learn
News from the Noteworthy

Asking for, Offering Support
are Skillsets We Can Re-learn

In my last “News from the Noteworthy” column, I wrote about the wellbeing struggles that are keenly felt across the workforce. I shared the results of a recent survey where business leaders, managers, and supervisors told us they are spending an average of 39 percent of their time on issues such as employee burnout, fatigue, stress, anxiety, mental health, and substance misuse issues. That number went up as high as 70 percent for some owners and supervisors.

News from the Noteworthy: Workforce Wellbeing Impacts Business Bottom Line
News from the Noteworthy

Workforce Wellbeing Impacts
Business Bottom Line

The cost of doing business and staying in business is rising these days. It’s not just inflation, supply chain, COVID fallout and keeping the lights on. For most business owners and managers, that would be more than enough to contend with. We also know that it’s about the workforce and the overall wellbeing of the people we work with and work for. We are emerging from a dual pandemic (COVID and overdose deaths). Together, they have taken a significant toll on working adults and their families.

In a recent pilot study of central New York businesses (, we found many hidden costs related to the wellbeing of people in the workforce. I identify them as hidden because they don’t typically show up by name in the usual metrics that are tracked by businesses.

News from the Noteworthy: September Is National Recovery Month
News from the Noteworthy

September Is National
Recovery Month

It is an opportunity to celebrate with those who, through one path or another, have survived the disease of addiction. One well-known path is a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Al-Anon, where groups of peers support each other through meetings, fellowship, and “working the steps.”

Regardless of their path, many in recovery use the arts, writing, poetry, and photography as expressions of healing. I know I did!

This poem (or set of poems) came from pondering the 12 steps.

It is a “Haiku Cycle.” I was drawn to the simplicity of envisioning each step as a short description of nature as the life of recovery moves through all of the four seasons.

News from the Noteworthy: Consider the option: Dry January

News from the Noteworthy:
Consider the option:
Dry January

Let’s be honest: 2021 was not a year that most of us will look back on with a wistful sigh of nostalgia. I’ve heard words like stressful, overwhelming, awful, endless, depressing, and devastating. And, if the Facebook newsfeed is any indicator, many of us have turned to an extra glass of wine or bottle of beer to calm our frayed nerves.

“Dry January” offers an option to hit the reset button on our health or even on habits that might have snuck up on us. This annual observance has risen in popularity since its start in Great Britain about eight years ago.

This year, approximately 15 percent of the United States population will choose to not consume any alcoholic beverages for the entire month. That’s on top of the nearly one-third who already are teetotalers for one reason or another. I realize that we are already a couple of days into January, but it’s not too late to get started.

Oneonta ‘Festival’ and county ‘trail’ light up the holiday season

This year’s Festival of Lights has over 40 displays for your enjoyment.

Oneonta ‘Festival’ and county ‘trail’ light up the holiday season

By Kevin Limiti

The Christmas season is officially here, which means holiday music, gathering with family, opening gifts, and waiting for Santa Claus.

But there is nothing that screams holiday spirit more than what the Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism/Addictions Foundation (LEAF) is doing to draw attention to the great light displays local residents proudly show off in Otsego County.

And it’s all for a good cause: LEAF created the ‘Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail” three years ago as a safe way to promote sober driving.

News from the Noteworthy: Prepare against holiday disappointment

News from the Noteworthy:
Prepare against holiday disappointment

Deck the halls! Light the candles! Hang the lights! Prepare the feast! And then wait with excited anticipation of family and friends coming over to share the celebrations of the season.

Whether you observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or a blend of traditions, the hopes for joy and peace are high in the hearts of most.

Then, for some of us, there are the thoughts of “that” guest or “that” situation everyone knows can turn delight into disappointment. We hope it will be different this year, and sometimes it is. For the most part, though, the disruption is fairly predictable. This is a real circumstance that many families deal with year after year.

How do you break that cycle? Can anything be done to increase the chances of a peaceful, happy gathering?

Gratefully, there are ways to disrupt a disruptive pattern. Because it is so common, a lot has been written on it. You can find lots of suggestions beyond the ones listed here. Generally, within families, a few themes can set off uncomfortable interactions. You probably know what they are: discussions of controversial topics, intoxication, and old family disputes.

Knowing that, here are a few strategies that you can try. They take a little planning, you will need to be vigilant for signs of trouble, and you will likely need some allies.

But remember, the goal is a joyful, fulfilling gathering.

1) In an upbeat way, create a family agreement about non-festive topics and turn it into a game. Before the gathering, make a “swear jar” (or a Krampus jar?) and list the non-festive topics like politics, religion, vaccines, social issues, etc. You may want to pre-arrange to have a few allies who will quickly agree to the game. And when someone brings up a topic on the list, they get to put a dollar (or a quarter) into the jar and come up with a new topic. It can be fun if everyone buys in and quickly catches someone veering off into controversial territory. At the end of the gathering, draw a name for who gets the contents of the swear jar.

2) If you plan to serve alcohol, do so in limited quantities. For some people, alcohol consumption results in a relaxed, jovial response. For others, it can result in a more emotional, agitated, or aggressive
response. So, put away the alcohol in the house to limit access and make delicious low-alcohol punches or festive drinks. Be sure to include alcohol-free options as well. Actually, serving no alcohol at a gathering is perfectly okay. No need to explain yourself — it’s your party. You’re allowed to serve what you wish.

3) Have a strategy in place for heading off a conversation that might be drifting into the red zone. Announce that you are honoring the spirit of giving and that you have some surprises for the gathering that will be handed out at unexpected times. Have small grab-bag gifts for guests and at random times (or when the mood starts to shift), have one of the kids pull a name from a basket for who gets to pick the next gift. Be creative. Sometimes even small redirection strategies can help stop an uncomfortable situation before it starts. They’re also fun.

These are not the last word in ways to keep spirits bright. They are just a few suggestions to start new traditions and slightly change the dynamics of potentially explosive situations. Taking a bit of our control back in what has felt like an out-of-control situation is a major step forward.

May your holidays be merry and filled with peace.

Julie Dostal is executive director of The LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

Opinion by Julie Dostal: Substance use keeps dropping among our youth

Opinion by Julie Dostal:
Substance use keeps
dropping among our youth

In a world that seems full of bad news, scary headlines, and social media battles, who couldn’t use a little uplift? I know I certainly could and was delighted when I was given some good news I could share! And just where did the information come from? Our youth told us.

At the end of the last school year, 948 students nationwide responded to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. They let us know how they were doing in relation to certain behaviors, how they were feeling, as well as indicating which risk factors and protective factors were present in their lives. About half reported their sex as female and half reported their sex as male and there was a fairly even split between ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. We have been asking the same questions of high school students in Otsego County since 1997, which gives us good perspective on trends.

Opinion by Julie Dostal, PH.D.: Prevention comes in many forms for LEAF

The drunk-driving roadster is being used at local schools to show students how drug and alcohol use affects driving. (contributed)

Opinion by Julie Dostal, PH.D.

Prevention comes in many forms for LEAF

Prevention is a common word in our culture. We use it in a variety of contexts, such as prevent heart disease, prevent bug bites, or prevent kitchen fires. It’s good that it is common, because, at the root, prevention simply means, “to stop a problem before it ever starts.” That’s the work we do at the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions. It is at the heart and soul of our connection to the people of Otsego and Chenango Counties.

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