Cirello’s appointment is made possible by a state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) grant, announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in May 2017, that provides funding for 20 SUNY and CUNY campuses for a period of five years. A significant portion of that funding went to creating the position of Prevention Coordinator.
Cirello brings extensive experience to this new role. She holds a Master’s degree in mental health counselling from Montclair State University and five years of clinical experience at an outpatient rehabilitation center. She also worked at a Louisiana group home for at-risk youth, during a two-year stint with Americorps.
Through this work Cirello has developed a strong sense of the importance of involving stakeholders throughout the community – including care providers, law enforcement, educators and families – in prevention efforts.
“It’s not just a one-person or one-organization effort,” she said. “I believe in the entire community coming together to help fight these issues. I’ve often found that everyone’s pretty much already working toward the same goals, so collaborating and sharing strategies just makes it that much more powerful.”
New Paltz’s Division of Student Affairs has long worked with regional partners to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse – the Tavern Owners Agreement established in 1999 stands as one noteworthy example – but the OASAS funding and Cirello’s appointment represent an opportunity to expand efforts in these areas.
“We have always done drug and alcohol prevention here at New Paltz, but this is the first time in recent memory that we’ve had someone dedicated solely to this issue, coordinating this work on campus and working with stakeholders in the region, and that’s really exciting,” said Linda Eaton, associate vice president for student affairs, who worked with with Director of Student Development Michelle Combs and retired Assistant to the President Raymond Schwarz to ensure New Paltz would qualify for this grant.
The grant-funded activities begin with a needs-assessment period, which includes a student survey and a partnership with the Counterdrug Task Force, a New York National Guard program that supports communities and law enforcement agencies in combating illicit drug activity through environmental strategies.
Once the results of the needs assessment are available, Cirello will with lead a campus and community-wide effort to develop educational, prevention and intervention strategies, helping reduce overall drug and alcohol use at New Paltz, while also emphasizing individualized care.
“Our prevention and intervention strategies with students can’t be one-size-fits-all,” she said, “so in developing systems to address this issue on campus, we want there to be enough flexibility to adapt to students’ individual needs.”
Students, faculty, staff and alumni interested in getting involved with this work are encouraged to contact Cirello at firstname.lastname@example.org.