Sunday, June 29, 2014

When Moving Piano B Sharp, C Sharp

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Sunday 6/29/14

So how do you move a heavy piano around the corner and down the street to its new location?

The ROTA Moving Crew scoped out two possible routes, checked narrow spaces with a measuring tape.  Picking the best route they placed the old weathered upright on a large wheeled flatbed and carefully examined each leg of the trek beforehand, anticipating any problems, moving along step by step.

With strain and sweat the piano was finally pushed into the new spot for ROTA Gallery, 39 Bridge Street (former home of The Bargaineer thrift shop).  More work has to be done but ROTA should be fully functioning (more or less) on July 4th.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Newspaper Almost Loses Head

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush


So you're flipping through the 6/6/14 edition of the Press-Republican and you noticed something funny about one article at the top of page A4.  Where's the headline?

Let's zoom in.  

OK, there it is in the upper left-hand corner.  Shouldn't a headline be in LARGE TYPE without a surfeit of white space around it?

And just below the itty-bitty headline that seems to be a cutline/caption in search of a photo.  (Click on image for larger view.)

The other day I was at the grocery store and I heard a man grumbling about the PR while he paid for a copy, three quarters placed on the counter.  "75 cents and it's not worth a nickel.  I'll be glad when they go out of business and something better comes along."


ROTA Summer Solstice Drum Circle 1

ROTA Summer Solstice Drum Circle 2

Monday, June 23, 2014


(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush

A few sugar grains, some tiny drops of sweet liquid.  Vestiges of your meal.  Ever wonder what happens to that micro-litter after you walk away?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Young Artist Shares Insights Into Art And Life

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush


When it comes to art Keagan Bond doesn’t mind sharing “secrets.”

“Anything is possible,” the thirteen-year-old artist tells me.  “Never give up.”

He guides me around the ROTA Gallery during the opening reception for his solo exhibit.  With each work he explains how it was created.

The tour demonstrates his talent in a variety of media: pen and ink, melting beads, painted egg shells.

A number of his works feature superheroes.  His favorites?  He listed Spider-Man, Batman, The Hulk, Captain America, Green Lantern, Thor and Iron Man.

Why does he like superheroes so much?

“They’re cool,” he states.

Speaking of cool the catering table features Keagan’s favorite foods: Hershey candy bars, York Peppermint Patties, and pizza.

Artist Keagan Bond (right) discusses his work with some patrons at the opening reception for his solo exhibit at ROTA Gallery.

On one wall is arrayed an installation of cartoons and text.  The autobiographical “Diary of an Autism Kid” illustrates key events in his life, adapted from Jeff Kinney’s series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

His execution and detail is impressive.  How does he create such work?

He shares another “secret.”  He sees an object or scene in real life and his memory records it in detail.

Keagan even retains details from his dreams.  He explains how he dreamed of a go-cart constructed out of candy including gumdrops.  After he woke up he could still perfectly envision the imaginary go-cart, drawing it exactly as seen in his dream. 

His private art instructor, Jeff Woodard, relates how one time he asked Keagan to expand a small image to fill up a wall.  Working with his photographic memory Keagan enlarged to image to fit the space with proper proportions while not using special references, a natural talent.

Jeff was been working with Keagan to develop his talent.  As an instructor he lets Keagan keep his individualistic style while introducing him to different media.

Jeff adds that Keagan strives for the best, sticking with a project until it’s just right.

When I leave the reception Keagan reminds me of his key secret:

“Anything is possible.  Never give up.”

“Keagan Bond, My Art World” will be on display until June 28th.  ROTA Gallery is located at 50 Margaret Street and is open depending upon volunteer staff.  More info: email - or Facebook - .

Hibiscus Above

In case you're wondering that blurry background is the ceiling, not the floor.  The camera stood up on its back on a sturdy table.

ROTA To Roll Along

© 2013 Luke T. Bush


Deadline: June 30th.

The lease for ROTA Gallery runs out on that date at its present location at 50 Margaret Street.  The alternative music and art venue is looking for a new space.  For years it has featured all-ages substance-free music events.  And since Plattsburgh City has never bothered to create a youth center downtown, ROTA offers a much better option to other possible choices.  Any contributions or help in finding another location would be greatly appreciated.

More info: .  Email: .

Guest musician Kayln Rock from Hudson, NY performs at a recent ROTA event.  ROTA is searching for a new venue so that it can continue with affordable music programs.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Impeerium Takes Independent Approach To Recovery

© 2014 Luke T. Bush

[ NOTE: This article is based on information provided through email and sit down interviews.  The interviewees reviewed the pre-publication copy for any factual errors and minor revisions were made to the final version below. ]


Peers, not clients.

“I like to describe myself as a friend with connections,” said Nicholas Dubay when discussing his role as an Impeerium peer specialist.

Impeerium Peer Network is unlike most traditional mental health services.  Participants in the program are treated as equals.  There are general guidelines with a peer contract, said Nicholas, such as treating others with respect, but no one is told what to do.  There is no doctor-patient or client-provider relationship.

The program is affiliated with NAMI-Champlain Valley, the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).

Impeerium Program Coordinator Amy Belair explained how her agency differs in its services from NAMI-CV.

“Impeerium,” she said, “is a program that works with adults and not children and families, which comprises a significant portion of NAMI-CV's clients.  Additionally, where NAMI may be more of a intermediary for an individual when dealing with community services, Impeerium is designed to be more of the next step for individuals who have been able to get their basic needs met and are not in crisis mode.”

“One of the cool things about Impeerium,” she continued, “is that we are able to create activities and opportunities that interest people, not just people with mental illness.”  

The organization sponsors various public events where peers do not self-identify, creating a sense of community where everyone is equal.  One example is the Creative Expressions program, a weekly event that allows participants to express themselves artistically and personally.  Impeerium also sponsors an open mic night held monthly at the Koffee Kat.  

With a traditional community services, observed Nicholas, a client is supervised, told to attend meetings, appointments, take medication.  Impeerium is for someone to take the next step, learning how to make decisions on his own. As a peer specialist Nicholas only offers advice, allowing the peer to see the right path for himself.

Nicholas explained: “We want people to get to their own version of better.”

Another difference, explained Peer Specialist Terri Satoris, is that Impeerium employees can understand what someone else has gone through because they have experienced similar situations.

Before joining Impeerium Terri had found help through traditional community services.  In contrast to those services, she said, Impeerium allows creativity while focusing on each individual to help that person reach mental wellness.

Impeerium specialists offer various viewpoints and suggestions at staff meetings when brainstorming ways to help someone.  Sometimes there are differences of opinion and various viewpoints are debated but, said Terri, the main focus is on what is best for a peer.

One time Terri was working with a peer who needed to release bottled up feelings.  This person didn’t have a car and had limited mobility.  Terri brought the peer to a secluded spot where the peer could yell and scream.  The peer said that was the best gift ever because the peer couldn’t get away to do that.

Not the type of solution, Terri noted, that could be accomplished with an office-bound service.

Coordinator Amy Belair also appreciates the independent and individualized model.  There is no cookie cutter approach to helping peers, she said.

She found that there were problems with traditional services while working as an employee for public health services and the prison system.  Sometimes there was disrespect towards those needing help.  The programs were inefficient.  Too much emphasis was placed on making money or keeping the numbers up.  Mental health, she added, was regarded as an ugly stepchild.

Amy emphasized that Impeerium doesn’t provide counseling services.  She explained: “Impeerium is designed to be more of the next step for individuals who have been able to get their basic needs met and are not in crisis mode.”

Impeerium is unique, she explained.  While it is based on aspects of the drop-in center recovery model it doesn’t operate like such a center.  Peers don’t usually connect with specialists at the office.  Depending upon the individual a peer might meet with a specialist one-on-one for coffee or be invited to an Impeerium public event.  

Impeerium tries to smooth out the road for those on their way to recovery and mental wellness.

For info about Impeerium: Amy Belair,, or call (518) 324-6250.

2 Stories: Achieving Freedom From Isolation

Impeerium Peer Specialist Nicholas Dubay (right) helps some kids tie-dye white socks during the latest First Weekend event.  This activity served as an outreach program for the Anti-Stigma Alliance of Champlain Valley, a group affiliated with NAMI/Impeerium.

© 2014 Luke T. Bush

[ NOTE: This article is based on information provided through email and sit down interviews.  The interviewees reviewed the pre-publication copy for any factual errors and minor revisions were made to the final version below. ]


Impeerium Peer Specialist Nicholas Dubay is a self-described “punk,” as in punk rocker.

He fits the image with his beard, tattoos and ear gauges but at 33 years old he isn’t a young punk.  Or an angry cynical one — that’s evident from his friendly tone.  He belongs to that segment of punk subculture that wants to better the world while still enjoying and creating loud raging music.

Raised in the town of Jay he was home schooled and then attended SUNY-Plattsburgh where he graduated with a BA in Theater.  Before he became employed by Impeerium Peer Network, a program to help someone working towards mental wellness, he found himself isolated, dealing with depression and addiction.

 “I had stigma that I had created for myself,” says Nicholas,  “that said if you go out and you tell people that you are depressed or mentally ill, that you're not well today, that you're going to get shunned, people are going to not like you anymore.  So I was depressed and I hid.  I hid and it was not good.  Fortunately I have great support, I have a great understanding family."

It was this support that helped free him from isolation.

"My daughter,” he continued, “is what pulled me through my depression. She wanted to go do something and I told her I was sad.  She said, "Dad, don't be sad.  I love you.’"

From that moment he decided he had to get better.  He said he was lucky because unlike many other people he had the support to do it on his own without using traditional mental health services.  He adds that he would have recovered sooner if he did seek out those services.

He had to decide what steps he could take to break out of his isolation.  So he did something radical: he became a bouncer at a local bar.  In that setting he saw others dealing with mental health issues.

Then he met Amanda Bulris, director of the NAMI-Champlain Valley, the local organization affiliated with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  Impeerium in turn is affiliated with NAMI-CV.

NAMI describes itself on its website as “the nation’s largest grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families.”

Talking with Amanda at an anti-stigma event he appreciated NAMI’s independent approach to “mental differences,” its “punk attitude.”  Until he met Amanda he didn’t realize that advocating for those suffering from mental illness could be a career.

Like Nicholas Peer Support Specialist Terri Satoris experienced the realization that only she could lift herself from the pit of mental illness.  Hailing from Malone she moved to Plattsburgh sixteen years ago.  In her fifties she is married, the mother of two grown children.  A pleasant person who found it easy to laugh on occasion during my sit down interview with her.

"Today is my one year anniversary working at Impeerium,” she told me with a smile.  Terri coordinates the Creative Expression group that meets weekly to work on various art projects, a time to relax and talk.  She related how she transitioned from being a peer to becoming a peer specialist.

In contrast to Nicholas Terri went through traditional services and was finding the right help ­— until her insurance no longer paid for it.  Through an outpatient program she had a therapist and just as importantly she talked with peers with similar circumstances who understood her struggle.   But a change in family income made her ineligible and she found herself without the support she needed.

Fortunately she noticed an item in the newspaper about Impeerium that mentioned its arts group.

“I’ve always loved art,” she said, “and so the idea of being involved in an art program thrilled me.”

After attending the art group she became involved with Impeerium outreach efforts.  One day she showed up at a Headstart Easter egg hunt to assist another volunteer with face-painting for kids.  The other volunteer had to drop out.  Terri took the big step and filled in.

"I wanted to say 'I'll help,' but I was so scared,” she said.  “At the time my anxiety around people was overwhelming but I thought, 'No, I can't let them down,’ the little kids."

A few weeks later Impeerium asked Terri to join the staff as a peer specialist.  After being a specialist for two months her love of art and helping others came together when she started running the Creative Expressions group.  She had traveled a long way from keeping to herself, afraid to leave the house, afraid to even enter other rooms in her home.  She realized she could longer be a prisoner of isolation.

“I was extremely motivated,” she said, “to change my life because I knew if I didn’t do something I was going to die without a shadow of doubt.”

Sometimes working with peers helps her maintain her mental wellness.  And while her life is greatly improved, she continues to work on staying free from anxiety and depression.

 “Even though I’m better I still have to deal with my mental illness,” she said.  “I still have to learn how to deal with it and do a full time job and support other people.”

Terri talked about the stigma and stereotypes that some people have towards those with mental health issues.

"We're really no different than they are,” she observed.  “That when they feel really sad and it goes on for a really long time that's depression.  It's no kind of weird scary thing.  When you're really scared about going to the doctors, that feeling inside, that's anxiety, again it's not some weird mystical creepy thing, it's worse, it lasts longer."

For anyone thinking about joining Impeerium Terri said that peer specialists offer more than what can be learned out of a book. “We can give you support because we’re been there,” she explained.

Terri believes that “no one can make you better, you have to do it yourself.”  While people go to counselors and doctors hoping they can be fixed, she said, the truth is that everyone has the tools inside to better their situation.  They just have to learn to use those tools.

For info about Impeerium: Amy Belair,, or call (518) 324-6250.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

And Crash Goes The System

Caption This Cartoon by Drew Sheneman: . Word balloon dialogue by LTB.

(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush


Funding shortfall?  If that was the only problem Clinton County faces with its public bus service.  The Big Picture suggests a potential system failure far greater than just one local program.

Recently Clinton County Public Transportation (CCPT) was hit with a funding shortfall from New York State and also a drop in ridership, meaning less money coming in for the service.  (Previous blog article: “Shortfall Means Rough Ride For County Bus Service”)

But there's more to the story.  Like most local agencies across the nation CCPT depends upon on budgetary assistance from higher up, state and federal sources.  To receive this money there are strings attached, rules and laws to be followed to maintain eligibility, such as compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

As an activist for disabled citizens Debra Buell has been raising the issue of CCPT being ADA non-compliant for years.  In a Press-Republican article published on 1/6/13 — "Noncompliance puts funding at risk" [1] — she explained at a public meeting that agencies must provide equal access to all citizens, including the disabled.

Debra has been vocal regarding the problems faced by disabled Clinton County citizens including the lack of adequate transportation.  While the county has added another vehicle to its paratransit bus service, Debra says the service is still underserving the disabled community overall. 

Unlike the fixed route buses the paratransit vehicles provide door to door services and the driver can assist any riders who need help.  Also, the fixed route buses can only accommodate one wheelchair at a time and that spot can't be reserved.

The problem with the parantransit service, says Debra, is that too many Medicaid enrollees are being booked for medical appointments while there are other transportation options for them.  This means that disabled citizens who want to commute to a job, attend classes, or go shopping find themselves being excluded.

CCPT Planning Technician James Bosley has stated the bus program is working on the ADA compliance issue but it takes time to effect change.

Obviously it usually costs more to fix problems when something is broken right out of the gate.   If ADA non-compliance becomes a prominent issue then changes will have to be made, maybe costly ones.  If they can’t be made funds could be cut.

Besides non-compliance there is the bigger picture of fraud and waste: the Federal Government is looking into how Medicaid dollars are being spent in New York State.  According to a report issued by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — "Billions of Federal Tax Dollars Misspent on New York’s Medicaid Program" [2] — the authors state:  "As Table 1 shows, New York’s per resident Medicaid spending is nearly double that of Pennsylvania and more than double that of California and the entire country." (Page 7)

In the report's Executive Summary this point is made on page 4:

"Reforming Medicaid in New York faces several significant challenges. For one, many powerful special interest groups in New York benefit from the State’s large Medicaid expenditures and lobby strongly against changes that would reform the State’s program. Another challenge is the long-standing New York practice of increasing Medicaid as a way to leverage extra Federal money into the State."

The summary also refers to "waste, fraud, and abuse within New York’s Medicaid program."

Loosely translated: The Powers That Be are gaming and milking the system which has become a huge gravy train.  (Now if you're looking for the real welfare cheats...)

FBI probes [3] and other ongoing investigations [4] targeting fraud at the higher levels that could quickly thin out that gravy for all sorts of services, including those at the lower levels like CCPT.


[1]  "Noncompliance puts funding at risk" - Press-Republican - January 6, 2013 -

[2] "Billions of Federal Tax Dollars Misspent on New York’s Medicaid Program" — March 5, 2013 -

[3]  "New York City Employee Charged in Manhattan Federal Court with Medicaid Fraud" - April 24, 2014 -

[4]  "Report finds $60.8 million in fraudulent New York Medicaid reimbursements" —