By Mike Pettinella
With a track record of success as an advocate for youth, Sheila Harding is equipped to help facilitate drug and alcohol awareness programs as the assistant director of Prevention at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.
“Sheila demonstrated her abilities to connect with young people as a prevention educator at GCASA for the past seven years,” said Shannon Ford, GCASA’s director of Prevention. “We’re fortunate that she has accepted the assistant director position. Parents and students in Genesee and Orleans counties will be well served by her ability to lead the department.”
Harding oversees seven prevention educators who present evidence-based programming in five Genesee County schools – Batavia, Le Roy, Byron-Bergen, Oakfield-Alabama, Notre Dame and Genesee Valley BOCES – and two Orleans County schools – Medina and Albion.
“We are in these schools from one to four days a week, offering specific programs that illustrate the dangers of illegal substance use, while also providing student screenings, referral services and other presentations,” Harding said. “Our educators also are available when requested by schools that we do not have contracts with.”
Evidence-based programs offered by GCASA include Teen Intervene, Too Good for Drugs, Too Good for Violence, Active Parenting Now and Active Parenting of Teens. Community presentations include the DWI Victim Impact Panel, Responsible Server Training, Narcan and Opioid Overdose Prevention Training, Accountability Circles, Understanding Addiction and Gambling Prevention.
Harding said that reaching parents continues to be a priority.
“Community outreach, especially finding avenues and ways to communicate with parents, is crucial,” she said. “Currently, we participate in required parent meetings at the schools, but we are looking to develop other opportunities to help parents learn and understand the trends concerning alcohol, drugs and tobacco use.”
Harding was employed as a Child Protective Services caseworker at Genesee County Department of Social Services for 12 years prior to working at GCASA. She has a bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Brockport State College.
An Oakfield resident, Harding and her husband, Tyler Harding, have two daughters – Kayla, a junior, and Paige, a freshman, at Oakfield-Alabama Central School.
For more information about substance use prevention efforts at GCASA, contact Harding at 585-815-1883.