United We Stand Against Bullying

LIAAC and LINCS employees teamed up to show their support for National Bullying Prevention Month by wearing orange. Gail Barouh, CEO LINCS, said “It was encouraging seeing employees of both LIAAC and LINCS come together to support Unity Day and it’s message against bullying. LINCS is proud to provide several Anti-Bullying initiatives through their BiasHELP program.”

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Governor Cuomo Announced a Series of New Actions to Combat the Fentanyl Crisis

Governor Cuomo announced a series of new actions to combat the fentanyl crisis on September 28, 2017 in Farmingdale, NY. The Governor is advancing legislation to add 11 fentanyl types to the state controlled substance list, allowing law enforcement to go after those who manufacture and sell these drugs. The Governor also wants to stop insurers from placing arbitrary limits on the number of naloxone doses covered by insurance. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of overdoses, and as Fentanyl is 50 times as powerful as heroin, more doses are required.

LINCS was invited to attend the announcement and sent Loida Santos, Director of Agency Programs, to represent the agency. Managing Director, Gail Barouh said, “I felt it was very important for our agency to show our support for this announcement, the deaths from overdoses in Suffolk County have reached epidemic levels.”

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National Bullying Prevention Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a 2016 national survey, 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey. An estimated 16% of high school students reported in 2016 that they were bullied electronically in the 12 months before the survey.

Bullying is a form of youth violence; the CDC defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior that involves an unbalance of power and is repeated multiple times. Bullying can also occur through any electronic device. The LGBT community has seen an increase of bullying, assaults and harassment in 2016.

LGBT bullying statistics show they suffer from more cyberbullying. According to GLSEN and BullyingStatistics.org:

  • 42 % of LGBT youth have experienced cyberbullying
  • 25 % more than once
  • 35 % receive online threats
  • 58 % say something bad is said to them or about them online.
  • 33 % report sexual harassment online, which is four times higher than the experience of other students.
  • Cyberbullying of LGBT youths is three times higher than other student’s experience.
  • 27 % of LGBT youth do not feel safe online.
  • 20 % report receiving harassing text messages from other students.

In recognition of Bullying Prevention Month, the Long Island Network of Community Services will be working with several school districts on Long Island providing workshops on preventing /reducing the incidences of bullying/cyberbullying.

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August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day

Today marks International Overdose Awareness Day – let us take this opportunity to bring awareness to the staggering amount of drug overdose deaths in the United States and how we can prevent this epidemic from soaring even higher.

https://www.overdoseday.com/

Dr. Gail Barouh hosts Girls Day Event

On Thursday June 8th, Dr. Gail Barouh, CEO of the Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc., hosted a group of young women for an event of empowerment and education. Over a dozen motivated, ambitious girls attended the event where an accomplished panel of female executives, directors and management, discussed the challenges, as well as the advantages, of being a woman in a position of leadership.

Harriet Gourdine-Adams, Chief Officer for Care Coordination at LIAAC, explained that this event originated during a discussion of the unique challenges female executives face and the desire to share the trials and the triumphs of being a female executive with the next generation of young ladies. She believes that it is very motivating for a young girl to see a woman in a position of power. Dr. Barouh stated that she wanted to introduce the girls to “accomplished women who came to do this work from different walks of life, at different times in their life” to show that there is no single path to success. She explained to the girls that this was a unique experience for them, as at most companies you would not see a panel of its top leaders being female.

The girls participated in a question and answer session, where they discussed skills necessary to be a good leader as well as how to balance work with personal life. Throughout the discussion, Dr. Gail Barouh offered the girls her insight on what it means to run a company, make hard decisions, and tackle obstacles. She talked about being adaptable, along with the stresses of having to make decisions that some people may not always agree with. Dr. Barouh told the girls “it is harder to be a woman in business, and in life” but that with confidence, open-mindedness, and hard work anything is possible.

The young ladies in attendance shared their dreams for the future. Among them were wishes to be a news reporter, an animator, a doctor, lawyer, marine biologist and fashion designer. Though each child has a unique future and path, they gained from this lesson the notions of female empowerment, being supportive of one another, and to always work hard and dream big.

The Digital Age of Sexting

We live in a day and age where information is at your fingertips. Teens and young adults can access the internet through PCs, laptops, tablets and even cell phones. Through these devices, pictures and information can be shared with anyone at any time. Nearly one out of every two 10-13 year olds and 83% of 13-18 year olds own a cell phone. The cell phone has been a tool utilized by parents to keep in contact with their children while they are not home. As technology has become more advanced, the cell phone has become a tool for teens and young adults to keep in contact with one another through text messaging and the usage of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The average teen generates 50-70 text messages a day or about 18,000 messages a year. About 27% of teens who own a cell phone use it to access the internet.

While this does not look like a big deal, the type of information being shared over these text messages and social media sites is. Over the years, there has been a rise in the amount of cyberbullying taking place over electronic devices among teens and young adults, but a new frontier has come along that parents and teens should be made aware of: Sexting. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, between cell phones and on social media sites like Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger. About 20% of teens between the ages 13-19 have posted or sent nude/semi-nude photos of themselves. Teens send sexually suggestive content to be fun and flirtatious, to be sent as a “sexy present” or a “joke”, but what teens do not realize is that these messages can be damaging to any of the parties involved in the act.

Sending sexually explicit pictures and messages to someone can lead to several different outcomes such as; the messages or pictures that were sent can be shared with others who are not meant to see them; the pictures or messages can be posted on social media blogs and sites for an entire audience to see. States are being forced to apply adult laws to teens for sexting and if the person who receives these messages/pictures shares them with others, this person can face criminal charges for child pornography and have to register as a sex offender.

The reason for the growing concern about Sexting is due to the pitfalls and misconceptions that surround it. A misconception that is common among teens and young adults is that what they send will remain private but about 40% of teens and young adults say they have had sexually suggestive messages shown to them. There is also a misconception that any sexually explicit messages, posting or pictures will go away once deleted, but what teens do not realize is, even when you do hit the delete button, it can still be accessible in cyberspace. One of the reasons why teens send these sexually suggestive messages or images out is to impress a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, but sending these messages can have legal consequences such as sex offender charges or jail time.

There are ways to prevent teens and young adults from sexting and suffering the consequences that come from this act. Parents can talk with their children about sexting and the legal consequences that can come from it; teach your child that just because you deleted a photo, does not mean it is gone forever; monitor the text messages being sent and the social media sites your children are on; and talk with your cell phone provider about plans that can eliminate the type of texts your child can receive and the amount of access your child can have on their phone to the internet.

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Marcelo Lucero Remembering 9 years later

November 8, 2017 will mark the ninth anniversary of the tragic death of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was racially targeted by a group of seven boys and stabbed to death on a Patchogue street. His murder shocked Long Islanders, attracted national press coverage and refocused community attention on the horror and tragedy of hate crimes. It highlighted, like few events before, the need for policy reform and radical environmental/cultural change.

An investigation that followed the murder revealed that the Suffolk County Police Department had failed to fully investigate previous attacks by teens targeting Latino immigrants in the town of Patchogue. A pattern of real
anti-immigrant discrimination and intimidation was missed.

But discrimination in the town of Patchogue was only part of the issue. It was clear that Suffolk County, as a whole, had serious discrimination problems.
During the past few decades, the County has experienced a large influx of undocumented Latino immigrants. A number of locals have responded with violence and hostility.

Nine years ago, just before Marcelo Lucero’s murder, the climate for Latino immigrants in a number of Suffolk County neighborhoods was tense, at best, and often dangerously hostile. Many in the Latino community reported that police turned a blind eye to violence or persuaded victims not to press charges. This was especially the case when adolescents were the ones perpetrating the hate-related violence.

More than nine years have passed since the death of Marcelo Lucero. It’s important to examine how the community has responded and what has changed.
There have been a number of positive changes since 2008:

1. Suffolk County Police

The Suffolk County Police Department made some changes immediately after Marcelo Lucero’s death and committed itself to additional changes in a December 2013 agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.

Some of the key requirements of the 2013 agreement are as follows:

  • All complaints of discriminatory policing must be forwarded to the Department’s Internal Affairs Office.
    A full investigation must be initiated within 48 hours of the reported incident.
  • All reports alleging discrimination must be reported to the Justice Department every six months, along with self-assessments. Police officers must provide annual reports, accompanied by an analysis of traffic stops and hate crime trends. The Justice Department will have full, unrestricted access to the county staff, facilities and documents.
  • All police officers must participate in periodic trainings which focus on cultural sensitivity, hate crimes, and best practices for bias free policing.
  • All information/complaint forms must be available in multiple languages, including Spanish. In addition, bilingual phone operators must be available.
  • Each police precinct must have a bilingual community liaison. Outreach to the Latino community by high ranking officers must be improved.

2. The Federal Government

  • At least once a year, the Federal Government will monitor SCPD compliance with hate/bias crime investigations.

3. The Patchogue/Medford Community

  • In the aftermath of the murder, local religious congregations joined forces to address the fear and anxiety in the community.
  • Mayor Paul Pontieri met immediately with all segments of the community to try to heal wounds, assure public safety and chart a path forward.
  • The Mayor provided safe forums for members of the Latino community to express their fears and concerns.
  • The Mayor contacted BiasHELP to facilitate community workshops aimed at reducing and healing tensions and community divisions.

4. BiasHELP (In 2013)

  • Created the A VOICE Project (Against Violence In Communities Everywhere)
  • Created and developed the A VOICE coalition involving community leaders, clergy, school administrators, community members, students, parents and businesses, etc.
  • Hosted community events
  • Facilitated workshops in the community with schools, community based organizations, religious congregations, medical facilities, etc.
  • Facilitated Family Voices, providing a safe environment where families could support each other and heal
  • Introduced the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program to the Patchogue/Medford School District
  • Participated in community events, i.e. Live After Five and Play for Peace
  • The Knapp Swezey Foundation, which supported all of the above initiatives with a generous multiyear grant, joined BiasHELP and the whole community of Patchogue/Medford in fostering a vision of a revitalized, diverse community

5. Lucero de America Foundation

  • Community members, businesses, professionals, etc. established a foundation to assist Latinos to get involved in community activities through educational workshops

6. PBS

  • Not In My Town – Light in the Darkness, a documentary produced by The Working Group

Orlando Night Club Massacre

The Long Island Network of Community Services is in mourning for the dozens of lives lost in the horrific attack at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the dead and injured.

While the nation has made progress in ensuring the rights of LGBT persons, including the right to marriage just last year, continuing violence and discrimination against people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion must be condemned in the strongest terms. And because the perpetrator may have suffered from internal homophobia, a virulent form of self-hate, which clearly is as dangerous as societal homophobia, we call for the availability of mental health services for LGBT persons struggling with anger and violent behaviors.

LINCS, inc. via its BiasHELP project, provides self-assessment and counseling services; as well as education, technical assistance and consultation to schools and community organizations to prevent and address discrimination, harassment and violence. Utilizing a team of skilled educators, BiasHELP conducts specially tailored trainings on bullying/techno bullying as well as trainings on racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

Coming Out in the NFL: The Story of Michael Sam

Michael Sam, Defensive End for the St. Louis Rams, was born on Jan 7, 1990 in Galveston, Texas. His story begins in Texas, playing Defensive End and Offensive Tackle for Hitchcock High School. After a highly successful four years and scholarship offers from numerous high profile universities throughout the country, this All-American chose to make the University of Missouri his home for the next four years of his career. Michael Sam continued his impressive run from 2009-2013 accumulating numerous honors and an impressive record. In August of 2013, prior to his graduation from the University of Missouri, Michael Sam courageously came out as gay to his fellow teammates. In the 2014 NFL Draft, as a 7th Round Draft pick for the St. Louis Rams, Michael Sam overcame a long up and down ordeal, to become the first openly gay football player ever drafted into the NFL.

It’s possible that the most revolutionary moment in Michael Sam’s courageous journey toward a position with the St. Louis Rams football team was ‘The Kiss.’ When he was finally chosen as a rookie Defensive End, he instinctively kissed his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano – cameras rolling and the international media watching. It was a tender, moving gesture and completely in keeping with the moment. It would have been nothing special if Michael were kissing a girlfriend – but he wasn’t – and that’s why it was a revolutionary moment.

Michael Sam’s decision to come out shortly after finishing an illustrious college football career at the University of Missouri (All-American, Southeastern Conference Player of the Year) was startling and brave. The decision by the Ram’s organization to recognize his talent and draft him was also a breakthrough. But the spontaneous kiss when he heard the news was the real revolutionary moment.

The kiss meant Michael Sam was a real person with a life and feelings, not just an abstract symbol of gay progress. The semi-shocked press reaction and the turmoil on Twitter were indicators that this country might be ready for the idea of an out gay football player, but not quite prepared for the reality of a full bodied flesh and blood person moving about on the football stage.

Good for Michael Sam. He shoved the story in the right direction. We don’t need an abstract symbol of liberation. We need actual people. Haters have an easier time attacking abstractions. Real living people with partners and families and struggles and laughter and tears are harder to trash and marginalize.

It remains to be seen how far Michael Sam’s career will go or how accepting the NFL will ultimately be, but what Michael Sam accomplished this year was enormously important. He moved the gay liberation narrative forward. He moved it into the heart of football culture.

The culture of football is vitally important because it’s the place where many Americans forge their identities, their notions of success and their sense of what’s permissible and what’s not. To change football is, in many ways, to change America.

This is a lot to put on football – a dangerous sport run as a ruthless business. It’s facing enormous challenges at the moment: racism, locker room bullying, the ongoing tragedy of head injuries. But if football can evolve – become more accepting of diversity, draw the proper locker room boundaries for behavior – perhaps America can also evolve.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2014 Edition of Community Voices, a Biashelp magazine.

White House Drug Policy Director Awards $88.2 Million to Local Communities to Prevent Youth Substance Use

The Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc. (LINCS) is pleased to announce that we have been awarded funding by the Drug Free Communities program for the North Fork Alliance Coalition. LINCS has been spearheading the coalition for the past five years and is pleased to be able to continue its work. LINCS is a community-based not-for-profit agency whose goal is to build capacity and to enhance the programs of publicly supported health and human service organizations and coalitions across Long Island. “Drug prevention programs
like the ones at LINCS help our entire community by reducing substance abuse on Long Island,” Rep. Steve Israel said. “This grant is an acknowledgement of the good work they do and it will help them continue to have an important impact on Long Island.”

The Drug Free Communities program is directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). LINCS will receive the maximum of $125,000 each year for five years in DFC grant funds. We are proud to report that the North Fork Alliance was the only new grantee from Long Island, and one of five new grantees for New York State. LINCS would like to thank the North Fork Alliance members for all their continued efforts in making the community safer for the youth and is looking forward to an additional five years of working together.

“Efforts to keep our youth drug free are critical to healthy and safe communities here on the North Fork”, said Jennifer Fazio, LINCS Project Director for the North Fork Alliance Coalition. “This new funding will allow the North Fork Alliance to mobilize and organize the community to prevent and reduce youth substance use.” The North Fork Alliance serves communities on the North Fork of Long Island with over 45,000 community members. “I strongly support the North Fork Alliance’s mission to fight back against the scourge of youth drug abuse,” said Congressman Tim Bishop. “I am pleased that federal funding to LINCS through the Drug Free Communities Program will further the Alliance’s vital work to strengthen our community and help our young people make the right choices for their future.”