External, financial and societal pressures are leading to internal struggle in Niagara County women and, ultimately, this is leading to substance abuse and a higher number of drug-addicted newborns. That was the message at a press conference on Monday, wherein representatives from Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and more than a half-dozen local service agencies announced a public forum to address this problem.
"A Community Conversation on Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse in Young Women" will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Abate Elementary School, 1625 Lockport St., Niagara Falls.
Data collected by the New York State Department of Health, Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System showed Niagara County with the highest rate of newborn drug-related diagnosis among the 62 counties for the period of 2011-13.
Sheila Kee, chief operating officer at Memorial Medical Center, said, "We have to ask our question: 'Why is this? What is going on in the community? What is leading to such a high rate of newborn babies who are born into this world with a drug addiction?' And we want to direct our remarks to what are the mental health issues that lead to drug addiction among young women; what type of assistance can we provide pregnant women, so that they have healthy babies; what, exactly, do we do to help solve this problem."
The collaborative effort is supported by Community Health Center of Niagara, Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, the Mental Health Association in Niagara County, Millennium Collaborative Care, the Niagara County Department of Mental Health, the Niagara Falls City School District, Northpointe Council and P2 Collaborative of Western New York, as well as Niagara County Legislator Owen Steed.
"We think this is an important topic that needs to be discussed here in Niagara Falls," said Christian Hoffman, communications and development manager at Community Missions. "We want to start that conversation."
"The people you see here are part of a task force that has committed to make change in Niagara Falls," said Kimberly Backey, project manager at Millennium Collaborative Care. "This is our first step into addressing these issues, and we're hoping to have community input. So, we are really hoping for the community to come out, so they can be part of the solution, and not be part of the problem."
Speakers from the supporting organizations will address such topics as strategies to help people avoid addiction, connecting individuals with prenatal and preventative care services, and identifying supportive resources for people and loved ones dealing with addiction and mental health disorders.
"Our goal is to be able to put together a work plan that is based on the community input, and questions and comments that we receive on Thursday," Kee said.
Refreshments will be served at this free event.