Suicide Prevention and Understanding in NNY

Bob Gorman

Suicide remains the death that dares not speak its name.

    Families often write around the word in obituaries to avoid citing the actual cause of death. Medical examiners are occasionally begged to do the same thing if writing the word “suicide” in their report will mean the loss of benefits for a grieving survivor with three small children.

    And all those drug overdoses? Local death statistics include actual question marks. That’s because even though investigators are pretty sure many of these deaths were intentional, they can’t be certain if there were no notes or witnesses.

    If you talk to first responders, nonprofit leaders and high school guidance counselors, you learn quickly that suicide is a topic that can no longer be avoided. Somebody this year will attempt suicide while in jail, or at a halfway house or after another evening of reading texts from a mob attacking the psyche of a solitary teenager.

    My one lone involvement with a suicide was the death of an employee at the Watertown Daily Times in 1999. Charlie Tenny took his life by hanging himself from a tree in his beloved Adirondacks. Because Charlie was a journalist, many other journalists tried to make sense of the senseless.

    One of Charlie’s friends, who worked at the Hartford Courant, wrote a column almost a year after Charlie’s death that included this: “The timing of his suicide remains incomprehensible to me. He did it while his sister, Carol, was in China adopting a baby girl. Carol got the news of Charlie’s death in Los Angeles, between flights on the way home to Pittsburgh. She screamed “No! No! No!” so loud that people came running across the terminal.

    Back home, Carol fell into depression.

    “I did feel my life changed unalterably from the moment I found out that Charlie did what he did,” Carol told me. “I would look at teenagers laughing, and I would just be amazed. They were like foreign animals. What are these people doing? There just seemed to be such a gulf between me and them.”

    In public places, Carol would suddenly blurt out, “I love you, Charlie.”

    “I thought I was saying it quietly, but people would look at me funnily… but I couldn’t talk to anybody without telling them about [Charlie’s suicide]; it was a central fact of my life.”

    To encourage a conversation about the value of life, the United Way of NNY in late March sponsored events at eight high schools and two evening programs with Roger Breisch of Batavia, Ill. Breisch has spent the last 15 years as a counselor on local and national suicide hotlines, often talking to teenagers who think their lives are useless.

    Breisch’ s talk, “Finding Life on the Suicide Hotline” challenged students to take an inventory of their own lives and find ways to value the person they are, and not give credence to a false narrative about who they aren’t.

    His uplifting message comes at a good time. The region’s suicide prevention coalitions in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties are working to reverse a trend that saw 163 people commit suicide in the three-county region over a five-year period.

    Kevin Contino, a data analyst for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, has statistics collected locally and through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    In 2016, the suicide death rate per 100,000 population was:

  • 12.8 for the three-county region
  • 8.5 for New York State
  • 13.9 for the United States

 Over the most recent five years of federal data (2012-2016), the death rate due to suicide was:

  • 14.1 in Jefferson County (83 deaths, 16.6 per year)
  • 21.4 in Lewis County (29 deaths, 5.8 per year)
  • 9.2 in St. Lawrence County (51 deaths, 10.2 per year)
  • The most common mechanisms for suicide were firearms (48 percent), hanging/suffocation (31 percent), and poisoning (19 percent).
  • Eighty-four percent of decedents were male.
  • Sixty percent of suicide deaths were at the decedent’s home, 7 percent were in an outpatient medical facility, and 33 percent elsewhere.
  • During the five year span, the death rate per 100,000 people for the age groups 15-24, 34-44 and 65-74 was almost identical at just over 17 percent.
  • In 2016 residents of the tri-county region had 235 emergency department visits with a principal diagnosis of either suicide attempt or suicidal ideation. The numbers for each county were: Jefferson, 161; Lewis; 15 and St. Lawrence: 59. Seventy-one percent of these patients were younger than 30; the median age was 21 and the percentage of male and female was identical.

    And for every one of these cases, there are dozens of survivors, like Charlie’s sister, who still cry out a loved one’s name.

    As Roger Breisch showed the north country last month, there is never a wrong time to start having a regional conversation to help reduce that suffering.

Bob Gorman is president and CEO of United Way of Northern New York. Contact him at bgorman@unitedway-nny.org or 315-788-5631.

Commitment to the Community: WSB celebrates 125 years

COMBINED PHOTO SHOWS WATERTOWN SAVINGS BANK IN 1921 AND THE BANK TODAY, IN WATERTOWN WITH BANK PRESIDENT MARK LAVARNWAY.

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Personal Testimonies Show NNY Pride

Rande Richardson

“When we decided to move back we wanted to create the culture that we wanted to live in. If it’s something that we love, then we want to help create it. In many ways, if you live in a small community, where you give helps to decide what becomes important. If you want a certain community and you want it to have a certain feel or if there’s an area that you want to strengthen, then you have to go do that.” -Jeff Ginger

“There are a lot of negative aspects of humanity, but you often find what you look for. If you’re looking for the positives in others, you want to recognize the positive gifts that have been given you and then the best way to say thank you is to give them to someone else. It is important to give back to that community. It’s where we raise our kids. It’s our community. It’s our home. We decided to live here, and we want to see the community flourish.” –Brenna Ginger


In 2016, through this column, the Community Foundation, in partnership with WPBS-TV announced the launch of an oral history initiative: Northern New York Community Podcast- Stories from the Heart of Our Community. The intent was to capture personal testimonials about their life in the region, why they’ve chosen to live here, and the various ways they’ve found to enrich their experiences through their community and the organizations that make it special. Since that time, 23 interviews have been conducted, with more scheduled. The full conversations are available at www.nnycpodcast.com.

    As more interviews have been completed, they have come to provide an interesting, diverse and varied portrait, representing Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Some of the interviews are well-known names, but I’ll bet there are some that you don’t know. The more the project progresses, we’ve been able to uncover some great gems of civic pride. While you can find a common thread in the stories, each one has its own special message. One of the primary goals was to capture the essence of what has driven community involvement and citizenship across the generations. It was hoped that providing insight into how others have seen their role in shaping their community’s quality of life could provide the backdrop for conversations with those who will inherit that same community. We still maintain that this type of inspiration will be an important enduring legacy of this endeavor.

    As we’ve begun to capture stories in a multigenerational way, the podcasts help provide valuable insight into the means through which those who will inherit our community will strive to make a difference. I would recommend taking the time to listen to Jeff and Brenna Ginger’s podcast. This young couple was raised in the north country, went away, and came back start their own family and careers. Their message of proactively helping to create the community they want to live in embodies both the mission of the podcast initiative, but also of the Community Foundation itself. The most transformational leadership within all of our region’s nonprofit organizations carry that theme. It is this type of lead-by-example thinking that distinguishes good from great.

    Other than our Youth Philanthropy program and our Young Professional LEAD program, documenting these stories has become one of the Foundation’s most transformational endeavors. Their example can encourage us all to more deeply explore what makes for a fulfilling life. If that is accomplished, our community and the organizations that help enhance it will be much better positioned to continue the tradition and heritage of what makes Northern New York so special.

    This is an ongoing initiative and we want to continue to broaden their scope and reach. Part of doing good comes not only in the good itself, but as a catalyst to inspire others. The best way to honor our community’s history and heritage is to perpetuate its relevancy through meaningful expressions of care. If there is a story that needs telling, there is no better time to inspire than now. Our community’s future is calling.

               

Opportunities Found

Sarah O’Connell

The federal government and New York state are committed to ensuring that economically or socially disadvantaged businesses have an opportunity to participate in direct contracts or subcontracts with government agencies and/or prime contractors. They have instituted specific programs to give these firms an opportunity to certify and register. For some contracts, there is even a specific percentage goal that must include small businesses from these designations (called set-asides).  These designations may include women, minority or service-disabled veteran firms.

    For specific federal programs, the SBA.gov website is an excellent resource. Specifically for women-owned businesses, the federal government offers the Women-Owned Small Business designation (WOSB). Doing any business with the government requires registration in the System for Award Management (SAM), and women can self-certify their company as women-owned. However, to get access to what are considered “underserved” industries, women must apply specifically to be a WOSB company. These industries are identified in the WOSB section of the Small Business Association’s website. If the company is determined to be eligible (more on that later) it can work its way through the process at certify.sba.gov.

    In the New York State MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises) program, the woman-owned business must already have been in operation for a minimum of one year. The process is fairly rigorous and calls for uploading of a number of documents as part of the application process, followed by an interview by the agency to confirm the business is truly woman-owned and operated. (Note: the OGS – Office of Government Services – oversees the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business program.)

    How is a business determined to be woman-owned? Some of the basic requirements include at least 51% ownership (where one partner is not female) and meeting the benchmarks that determine that a company is considered a “small business.” These may include reporting that annual sales fall below a certain mark and that personal assets also fall below a certain mark.

    The business must also prove that the business is truly woman-owned and operated, so that a male owner can’t just designate or add a female owner to take advantage of the system.  It must show that the female owner had financial investment in the start-up and continues to have an integral role in the operation of the business. Being the “keeper of the books” is not enough – the woman owner has to have knowledge of and show control over all facets of the business which may include bid estimating, contract writing, control over ordering, etc.  The female owner must spend the majority if not all work hours involved in the business; employment in another workplace is a red flag and may result in rejection of the application.

    The advisors at the Small Business Development Center can help steer companies through the certification processes for both WOSB and MWBE.  Once the requirements are met, opportunities open up for the woman-owned small business. In Jefferson County, 31 companies are certified in the federal WOSB program (according to the Dynamic Small Business Search at sba.gov). The New York State Contract System identifies 108 women-owned business enterprises (WBEs) in the North country region which covers Plattsburgh to Watertown to Oswego.

    Once a business is certified as woman-owned, it can start exploring opportunities that exist within its service area. Many of our businesses work closely with the local PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center), located at the Greater Watertown-North country Chamber of Commerce to identify potential projects to bid. The north country PTAC will be offering a matchmaker event on April 4 where all small (not just women-owned) businesses interested in government contracts can meet with key people from government agencies and prime contractors to introduce themselves and share their capabilities. Visit http://www.northcountryptac.com

for details.

    Planning is underway for our 14th Annual Business of Women networking conference in May. Watch facebook.com/BusinessofWomen/ for more information.

    The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties. For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu.  St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu.

SARAH O’CONNELL is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at soconnell@sunyjefferson.edu. Her column appears bi-monthly in NNY Business.

Breaking Biases

AMANDA COLTON

It can often be difficult for individuals with criminal convictions to find employment or housing, even years after serving their sentence. Even with protections in place, some employers and landlords can’t fight an unconscious bias towards these individuals. Local attorney Matthew Porter has begun using a new law passed in October of last year to protect his clients from such bias.

    New York State does not have any laws in place to erase, or expunge, criminal records. Instead, New York offers a processes for sealing certain criminal records. For an individual experiencing additional hardship due to an old conviction, applying to have their records sealed may be an attractive option.

     “When a person’s record is sealed it is not erased, but any related fingerprints, booking photos, and DNA samples may be returned to the individual or destroyed, and records of their crime will no longer be available to the public,” explained Mr. Porter.

    Under New York’s Executive Law Section 296(16), employers are prohibited from inquiring about or taking any discriminatory action based on an individual’s sealed record. This means that if a record is sealed it cannot be considered in an application for employment.

    “However,” said Mr. Porter, “this law does not apply to law enforcement agencies, nor to those charged with federal licensing for firearms or other deadly weapons.”

    The two processes for having criminal records sealed are outlined in New York’s Criminal Procedure Law Sections 160.58 and 160.59. Section 160.59, effective October 2017, has created a new opportunity for individuals who have not been convicted of a crime in the past ten years to apply to have their criminal convictions sealed.

    Due to the individual nature of applying this new law, Mr. Porter is unable to state that any conviction will be automatically sealed. However, he was able to provide certain requirements a person must meet in order to apply to have a conviction sealed under the new law, primarily including but not limited to:

  • The individual may have up to two convictions, including only one felony conviction;
  • To be considered an “eligible offense” the conviction(s) must not have been for any of the following:

    ◦ sex offenses,

    ◦ other crimes requiring sex offender registration,

    ◦ Class A felonies (including but not limited to the following non-violent felonies: aggravated enterprise corruption, criminal possession or sale of a controlled substance in the first or second degree, operating as a major trafficker or conspiracy in the first degree)

    ◦ violent felonies, and

    ◦ attempts to commit any ineligible offenses under the categories listed above;

  • It must have been at least ten years since either

    ◦ the date the sentence was imposed, or

    ◦ the date of release from the individual’s last period of incarceration; and

  • The individual must not have been convicted of any new crimes during the ten-year waiting period.

    Once the application is filed, the local district attorney’s office has forty-five (45) days to notify the court whether they will oppose sealing the record. Then a judge must consider a number of factors in determining whether to grant a sealing application, including:

  • the amount of time since the individual’s last conviction,
  • the circumstances of the offense the individual seeks to have sealed,
  • any other convictions,
  • the individual’s character,
  • statements by any victims of the offense,
  • the impact sealing will have on the individual’s reintegration into society, and
  • the impact sealing will have on the public.

    Any experienced criminal attorney can help individuals determine whether they are eligible for sealing and to guide them through the sealing application process. The attorneys at Conboy, McKay, Bachman & Kendall, LLP, with offices in Jefferson County and St. Lawrence County, understand this new law and have begun aiding clients in having their criminal records sealed.

AMANDA COLTON is from Ogdensburg. In 2016, Amanda received her J.D. from Hofstra University and she is currently pending admission to the bar. Once admitted, Amanda will be practicing in the areas of domestic relations and criminal law.

Legal Duties and Responsibilities of Directors & Officers

Megan Kendall

An individual must fully understand the duties and responsibilities that accompany being a director and/or an officer of a nonprofit organization. Directors and officers have fiduciary responsibilities to steer the organization towards a sustainable future, to adopt policies that are sound, ethical and legal, and to ensure the organization complies with the required laws and regulations. The directors and officers are responsible to ensure that the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.

    Directors and officers are held to the standard that they will act in good faith, and will use the degree of diligence, care and skill which a prudent person would use in their similar position and under similar circumstances. Directors and officers are expected to comply with the three fundamental areas of legal and fiduciary responsibilities, including the duty of care, duty of loyalty and the duty of obedience. 

Duty of Care

    The directors and officers are required to participate in the governance and oversight of the organization’s activities.  Directors and officers are required to specifically uphold the following duty of care requirements: 

1.) To attend board and committee meetings regularly;

2.) To review and understand the financial documents and reports;

3.) To help develop a strategic plan that identifies and helps to manage risk;

4.) To take all necessary steps to advance the organization’s mission goals;

5.) To take reasonable steps to ensure the organization is compliant with all of the applicable laws and regulations;

6.) To read the minutes and reports from prior meetings, including meetings that were missed;

7.) To approve the process for fundraising, professional fees, compensation and construction contracts;

8.) To ensure the board minutes reflect any dissenting votes or actions that are taken;

9.) To read all of the literature on the organization’s programs;

10.) To make sure that monthly financial statements are available, that they are clear, and communicate the proper information;

11.) To ensure that all policies are written, safeguarded and are used to protect the organization’s assets. The polices must be updated regularly;

12.) To ensure background checks are done on employees;

13.) To determine the amount and level of director and officer liability coverage;

14.) To encourage diversity within the board members; and

15.) To be involved in the selection and review of the chief executive officer and any other key employees involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Duty of Loyalty

    The Duty of Loyalty requires officers and directors to act in the best interest of the organization at all times. Directors and officers need to ensure that all potential conflicts of interest are identified and disclosed prior to joining the board. New York State specifically requires that all nonprofits have a written conflict of interest policy. The policy must be re-signed each and every year by the directors and officers. Specifically, directors and officers must:

1.) Be able to identify circumstances that render conflicts of interest;

2.) Be involved in setting forth procedures to disclose conflicts of interest;

3.) Prohibit other individuals from being present during or participating in deliberation, voting on the issue, or influencing the vote on the issues that directly involves the conflict of interest; and

4.) Ensure the organization documents and resolves each conflict;

Duty of Obedience

    The Duty of Obedience requires that directors and officers work to ensure that the organization complies with all applicable laws and regulation, ensure that the organization complies with its own policies and ensure that the organization is carrying out its mission.  Directors and officers have a duty to ensure that the organization is complying with the requirements to maintain their tax-exempt status by filing the appropriate forms with the IRS and the attorney general.  

    Before joining the board, make sure you complete your due diligence. You should research the expectations of board members, governance responsibilities, the time commitment, the regularity of board and committee meetings, fundraising obligations, the current board of directors, the leadership style of the board, the number of employees, and the organization’s policies. In addition, you should verify that there are no pending regulatory investigations or any other pending investigations. You must review the organization’s by-laws and verify that the organization has directors’ and officers’ liability insurance coverage.

Joining a nonprofit board can be an extremely rewarding experience.  Now that you have the knowledge to make an informed decision, go join a nonprofit board!

 

Megan Kendall is an associate attorney at Conboy, McKay, Bachman & Kendall LLP, and practices in areas of estate planning, real estate, and business law. She is a member of Clayton Lions Club, Clayton Improvement Association, Herring College Trust, T.I. Community Foundation, Association of the Blind and Clayton Opera House. Contact her at 315-788-5100

Trees Play Major Role in Enhancement of Downtowns

Judy Drabicki

At the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), our division of Lands and Forests is actively working on conservation easements, forest preserve management in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, state land management, and urban forestry. At DEC, we do this for more than regulatory reasons. Trees play a major role in producing the oxygen we breathe and clean carbon dioxide out of the air. A walk in the woods is scientifically proven to slow heartbeats and lower blood pressure. Trees also prevent soil erosion and sequester carbon. In addition, trees provide habitat and food for birds and other animals.

    On a much smaller scale, urban forests do the same. Urban forestry is the care and management of single trees and tree populations in urban settings.

    In terms of downtown development, tree planting is a relatively economical way to make simple and long-lasting improvements to the landscape. Last year in the city of Watertown, nearly 230 new trees were added to the landscape. The city’s planning department oversees the Tree Watertown advisory group comprised of concerned citizens, department of public works officials, and of course, DEC Region 6 Forester Glen Roberts.

    Roberts became involved with Tree Watertown after the 1998 ice storm, which decimated hundreds of trees across the city. “Glen’s value is in his professional expertise as a forester,” says Mike Lumbis, city planner. Roberts guides species selection and shares advice when trees need to be removed due to disease or damage. He has also helped train staff and volunteers in planting. “Glen makes sure our trees are off to a good start, which gives them a better chance at survival,” says Lumbis.

    Roberts estimates that Watertown and its partners have planted more than 6,000 trees throughout the city and its parks. To its credit, for nearly 20 years, the city of Watertown has been identified by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a “Tree City USA.”

    Watertown has also received an Urban and Community Forestry grant for tree inventory, allowing it to create a citywide community forest management plan. The city’s inventory will be implemented this spring.

DEC involvement doesn’t end at advice and planting. Roberts and colleague Mike Giocondo, also a DEC forester, hold pruning workshops for the city’s public works staff and other municipalities in Jefferson County. These workshops provide an overview of tree anatomy, proper pruning techniques, methods, and evaluation of trees for pruning. The main focus is on younger trees and proper training to develop good structure.

In addition, at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s direction, New York State is investing in efforts to limit the spread of invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer (EAB). Across the state, DEC foresters are combatting the effects of EAB, and in DEC’s Region 6 are working closely with Tree Watertown on EAB education and preparedness, sharing tips for early detection and management with landowners.

    An invasive pest first discovered in Michigan in 2002, EAB has destroyed millions of ash trees across in the United States. In New York, EAB was discovered in Cattaraugus County in 2009, and along the Hudson River Valley in 2010. By 2017, this pest was found in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. New York has committed $13 million to combat the spread of invasive species that threaten our environment.

    As with so many things, DEC is more effective when we partner with others. The city of Watertown has demonstrated its commitment to—and understanding of—the value of urban forests, and DEC is pleased to be a long-term partner with the city on this and many other efforts.

Judy Drabicki is regional director, Region 6 NYSDEC, with a career that spans three decades of ensuring the natural beauty of the north country is protected and enjoyed for generations to come. She oversees a staff of more than 200 people, including engineers, biologists, permit writers, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation officers, operations staff, and many others.

20 Questions: Guiding downtown development

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS

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Focus for a Vibrant Future

Kylie Peck

I often find myself ringing in the New Year by reflecting on the past twelve months both personally and professionally and categorizing what worked and what didn’t, how fortunate I am and how I can make improvements for the future. For the sake of this column, I will leave the personal reflections out and focus on the efforts put into the future of the Chamber of Commerce.

    At the chamber office we regularly discuss the importance of our members and how to best serve the needs of businesses in the Greater Watertown region. For 2018 we are focused on strengthening the value of our organization to promote and support business and industry and enhance the community in which we live, work and do business. Plans are in place to educate members on the tools and programs available to them through the chamber. We will focus on retaining the interest and involvement of our existing members and want an even better understanding of each of the businesses we serve. What are your wants and needs? How can we fulfill them? I look forward to having these questions answered by getting to know each of our member businesses better, and continuing to build upon our success while attracting new members, focusing on young professionals and enhancing our overall communication.  

    With changes to the horizon on many levels – federal, state, local – the chamber looks to establish partnerships more than ever. There are many entities in the region that can broaden opportunities to our membership base. We look forward to strengthening partnerships in the areas of business development, education and networking and continue to foster our relationship with Fort Drum. If you are a business or organization that would like to partner with the chamber, or if you have thoughts on a partnership that you feel would benefit the business community, please share them with us. We are always accepting of suggestions from the community we serve.

    As we take on 2018 and focus on our goals established for the upcoming years, we are excited to have two new team members on staff. We welcome Director of Events Kayla Perry and Director of Marketing Jessica Piatt. Each of these women bring vibrancy and enthusiasm to our organization and will help us reach our goals of connecting with young professionals in the region and enhancing our utilization of social media among many others. Kayla and Jessica join us with skill sets that complement each other and enhance the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce team.

    As you continue to map out your year and implement established plans, I encourage you to visit our office to see how we can play a part in a successful 2018. The GWNC Chamber office is located at 1241 Coffeen Street, Watertown, and meetings can be scheduled by calling (315) 788-4400.

Kylie Peck is the president and CEO of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. She lives in Clayton with her husband and two young boys. Contact her at kpeck@watertownny.com or 315-788-4400.

20 Questions: Senator Ritchie Looks to 2018

CHRISTOPHER LENNEY / NNY BUSINESS Patty Ritchie in Ogdensburg City Hall talked with NNY Business about the year gone by and plans for the year ahead.

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