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Columbia Paper News Article

HUDSON – “I’m excited to see where this goes,” said Hannah Calhoun, executive director of the newly-incorporated Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition (CGAC), on April 28. “I hope to get individuals from the community involved.”

The CGAC is a “multi stake holder community organization” whose mission includes to “raise awareness of the risk of substance abuse” to “plan and deliver prevention activities and harm reduction activities,” and to “support treatment and recovery efforts throughout the counties.”

The CGAC became a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in March, completing a process begun months before.

It’s immediate goals, Ms. Calhoun said, include:

•Getting a federal Drug Free Community grant to “increase prevention education at both the individual and the environmental [community] level”

•Developing a diverse and inclusive Board of Directors with about 10 members

• Developing community events

Substances whose abuse has caused problems in Columbia and Greene counties include fentanyl and alcohol, Ms. Calhoun said. Vaping of tobacco and marijuana is also an issue, including in schools. Though less noticeable than smoking, vaping creates an aerosol that is “toxic” to inhale, she said.

Trying to stop substance abuse before it starts includes minimizing risks, maximizing protection, educating parents, and working with businesses and law enforcement, Ms. Calhoun said. Factors that influence whether someone will start abusing substances include home, school, and community life, as well as parents’ use or non-use of these substances. Protections against such abuse include communities working together, supervision, and emotional support.

But as for people who already abuse substances, “we should treat them with compassion, because addiction is a disease,” Ms. Calhoun said. She advises against calling them addicts, because “addict is a stigmatizing word.”

The CGAC currently has one employee, Ms. Calhoun, whose salary comes from a grant, and an advisory board consisting of four individuals: Jason Fredenberg, board president, the director of Community Services for Greene County; Dan Almasi, director of Community Services for Columbia County; Amanda Lyons; and Melissa Scheriff

Ms. Calhoun was born and raised in Chatham and now lives “right outside of Hudson.” Prior to her CGAC position, she was a community support specialist and a director of a Youth Advocate Program in Ulster County. She holds a BA in Psychology from Buffalo State University.

The CGAC’s meetings are open to the public and posted on its website at www.columbiagreeneaddictioncoalition.org

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