Quality and Quantity: UConnectCare celebrates expansion of services, honors Friends, scholars

May 16, 2024 | UConnectCare

By Mike Pettinella

Wednesday afternoon’s annual meeting at Terry Hills Restaurant in Batavia may have been the first under the name UConnectCare, but it served as a celebration of the many ways the agency formerly known as Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is having a positive impact on community health.

Chief Executive Officer John Bennett, speaking to 73 employees, board members and award recipients, outlined a long list of recently added programs that, in his words, “are building access to essential services for those in need.”

“As far as quality of care, I look at two things – our staff and board members who go above and beyond each and every day, and the expansion of our service over the past seven years,” Bennett said.

In 2023, Bennett said, the agency received three significant grants:

— A federal Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome II grant for $498,848 from the Health Services and Resource Administration to provide the Healthy Moms/Healthy Babies program to pregnant and postpartum women.

— A federal Targeted Capacity Expansion Special Projects grant in the amount of $375,000 to provide harm reduction services in the community.

— A Statewide Health Care Facility System Transformation grant for $985,250 from the NYS Department of Health to improve building capacity in the integrated outpatient treatment program in Batavia.

UConnectCare’s reach, as indicated by the 2023 numbers, is expanding as well, Bennett said, noting that more than 35,000 people were served by the agency’s Prevention department and more than 39,000 counseling visits were provided.

“Furthermore, we had 2,400 visitors at The Recovery Station (on Clinton Street Road), served 339 people in community residence or detox settings, served 1,538 patients in integrated outpatient services and provided 380 childcare sessions,” he said.


Four individuals, a public health agency and a Buffalo pharmacy received “Friends of UConnectCare” awards at the luncheon.

Honorees are as follows:

— Erin Martin, case manager at Genesee Justice. Nominated by the Batavia clinic, Martin was recognized for her continued service to the agency by helping clients face their legal consequences and by encouraging them to make positive steps toward improving their lives.

— Gordon Luthart, health teacher at Medina Junior-Senior High School. Nominated by Orleans County Prevention, Luthart, a Marine Corps veteran, was awarded for working with UConnectCare over the past decade to provide prevention education in the classroom.

— Pam Gefell, mental health therapist for Orleans County Mental Health. Nominated by Orleans County Treatment, Gefell, a former UConnectCare counselor, provides evaluation and counseling services on a weekly basis in Albion for those who have co-occurring (substance use disorder and mental health issues) disorders.

— Dr. Davina Moss, founder of Positive Direction & Associates, Inc., of Buffalo and creator of The Positive Direction Model. Nominated by Recovery Services, she is instrumental in starting and sustaining the agency’s Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program. Dr. Moss said she shares the award with Jessica Budzinack, coordinator of UConnectCare’s program to help the pregnant and post-natal population.

— Genesee/Orleans Department of Health (GO Health). Nominated by Genesee Prevention, GO Health partners with UConnectCare on the GOW Opioid Task Force and joined forces with UConnectCare on the HEALing Genesee group over the past 18 months. Both agencies have worked to implement new programs focusing on Naloxone and fentanyl education and medications for opioid use disorder, including the launching of the task force’s Text for Naloxone Line.

— Riverview Pharmacy, Buffalo. Nominated by Residential/Detox Services, the pharmacy was acknowledged for its reliable and dependable service to those on medication and its communication with UConnectCare’s nursing staff.

UConnectCare scholars
UCONNECTCARE SCHOLARS: UConnectCare Foundation scholars for 2024 are, seated from left, Brianne Amico and Megan Gates; standing, Kenna MacKenzie and Chloe Crossett.


Three graduating seniors and a Genesee Community College graduate each will be receiving $1,000 scholarships, courtesy of the UConnectCare Foundation.

They are:

— Kenna MacKenzie, Le Roy High School, who will be attending SUNY Geneseo to major in Psychology.

— Megan Gates, Kendall High School, who will be attending SUNY Brockport in the Nursing program.

— Chloe Crossett, Kendall High School, who will be attending SUNY Brockport in pursuit of a degree in Social Work.

— Brianne Amico, who earned an associate’s degree in human services from GCC before enrolling at SUNY Plattsburgh. She plans to work toward a master’s degree in social work at SUNY Binghamton.