According to the New York State Department of Health, there are more than 25,000 deaths per year on average in the state that are attributable to smoking.

Through Southern Tier Health Care System’s coordination of tobacco cessation, two Jamestown medical practices are among the first in New York to implement a program aimed at assisting tobacco users in the process of quitting, titled “Opt-to-Quit.” A news conference was held Wednesday to announce the adoption of the program.

Opt-to-Quit is a new partnership between healthcare facilities, including primary care sites and hospitals, and the NYS Smoker’s Quitline. It was designed to reach and assist tobacco-using patients by the adoption of a system-wide policy.

Howard Howlett, chairman of the board for the Southern Tier Health Care System, said that few things have as great an impact on someone’s health and well-being as stopping tobacco use.

“Our mission is to improve the health and wellness of the communities we serve in the Southern Tier,” said Howlett. “Helping practices to implement the Opt-to-Quit program is one of the most effective ways I can think of to achieve our mission.”

Jamestown Primary Care and Chautauqua Physical and Occupational Therapy are the first primary care and first physical and occupational therapy practices in New York to adopt the program, which was developed by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

“Quitting is not a one-time event,” said Patricia Bax, marketing coordinator for the NYS Smokers Quitline. “It takes providing the tobacco user with the resources and support that they need in their quitting process. The quit line is that vehicle that can enhance the already wonderful services provided by Jamestown Primary Care to ensure that the user can not only be successful in becoming tobacco free, but also staying tobacco free.”

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in New York. According to Patrick Green, physical therapist and owner of Chautauqua Physical and Occupational Therapy, they have found that by having a multi-level impact that is started by the physician and reinforced by a physical therapist, along with access to the support from Opt-to-Quit, patients have seen a better success rate.

“We urge all health-care professionals in the area to join us in this effort to help the program spread,” said Green. “We think this program can help save lives.”

Dr. Rudy Mueller, co-founder of Jamestown Primary Care, echoed the sentiments voiced by others, saying that nicotine is a difficult drug to stop using because of its addictive nature.

“Many patients that quit start back up if they don’t have the necessary support,” said Mueller. “About one out of every five adults uses nicotine in this country, and it’s a big problem. It’s really important for the health of the community, and I’m glad that we have this program to help. If people can quit smoking, it can help them lead better lives.”

“I’m proud to say that Jamestown Primary Care is the first primary care provider in New York to be doing this program and that Chautauqua Physical and Occupational Therapy is the first of their kind to be doing it in the state as well,” said Erica Sebastian, coordinator for the Southern Tier Health Care System Tobacco Cessation Center. “These groups are leaders in the community, and I hope that other providers will follow suit.”

For more information about quitting smoking, the Tobacco Cessation Center can be reached at 372-0614, or the toll-free NYS Smoker’s Quitline can be reached at 1-866-697-8487. More information about Southern Tier Health Care System and its programs is available at www.sthcs.org.