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BRiDGES is chamber's non-profit pick

Joining the Canastota Chamber of Commerce's class of Distinguished Service Award winners is BRiDGES, Madison County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. The non-profit organization will be honored at a dinner March 7.

Located on Route 5 just west of the village, BRiDGES was founded by a group of private citizens who wanted to establish an organization in the county dedicated to prevention, education and advocacy about alcohol and other drug issues. Its mission is to improve the quality of life by providing services to the community, the workplace, for families and individuals affected by addiction and the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other substances. Its board of directors incorporated the organization in 1987.

BRiDGES expanded its services to include tobacco control and problem gambling. Its employee assistance program serves 18 businesses in the Central New York area.

Serving as its executive director since 1991 is Susan L. Jenkins. Prior to that, Jenkins was a prevention/education specialist with BRiDGES.

BRiDGES employs 15 people.

Youth programs include INROADS, information on alcohol and drugs for schools. Individual or group sessions are offered and presentations for staff, parents and classrooms. The after school group Teen Connection is part of the INROADS program. The INROADS facilitator also helps coordinate the Drug Quiz Show.

The substance abuse prevention program, "LifeSkills Training" is provided to youth in sixth through eighth grade at four local schools.

Another program, "Choices & Consequences," is for teens that have experienced legal or other consequences as a result of drugs or alcohol.

"Reality Check," a statewide youth action movement targeting the "manipulative marketing tactics" of tobacco companies receives its funding from the state Department of Health. Local youth sit on boards and have the opportunity to participate in policy development. One of its missions is to educate the public.

BRiDGES also is the lead agency for "Tobacco Free Madison County."

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