This Summer, On Instagram!

Attention Instagram fans! Meet Sophie Jones, a rising junior at Cornell University who is interning with The Sophie Fund and taking over our Instagramming for the summer. Sophie majors in psychology, minors in visual studies, skates on the Synchronized Skating Team, and volunteers with the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. You might find her at the Firefly Music Festival, catching Bojack Horseman on Netflix, or sampling the culinary delights of Louie’s Lunch Truck. Sophie is a mental health advocate, and her Instagram posts strive to celebrate the beauty of life in Ithaca and environs. Send her your ideas for images at


Ithaca Is Books

Ithaca is No. 1. The financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St. designated Ithaca as the most well-read city in America.


Buffalo Street Books

The rankings were based on literacy measures such as the presence of higher learning institutions and public libraries, and population education levels.

“You can’t be the #1 Most Well-Read City in the U.S. without a sweet little independent community bookstore!” Buffalo Street Books boasted on Facebook. “And some colleges and our fantastic TCPL (Tompkins County Public Library).”

24/7 Wall St. found that Ithaca has 28 public libraries (26.7 per 100,000 residents), and that 94.6 percent of Ithacans had earned a high school diploma.

Other locales making it into the Top 10: Pittsfield, MA; Urbana-Champaign, IL; Portland, ME; and Santa Fe, NM.

H/T Buffalo Street Books


Autumn Leaves



The Bookery

The Healing Power of Storytelling

“The Path to Recovery: One Story at a Time” is the theme of this year’s Annual Depression Conference being held at the Tompkins County Public Library from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28. Open to the public, the conference includes a keynote talk, a panel discussion on mental health recovery, workshops focused on children/adolescents, adults, and older adults, and a book discussion.


The keynote speaker is Regi Carpenter, an advocate for “narrative medicine,” a medical approach that utilizes patients’ personal stories as part of their healing. She is the author of Snap!, the story of her own severe mental illness as a teenager and her path to recovery, and a memoir, Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner: Stories of a Seared Childhood.

Carpenter was 16 years old when she first experienced severe mental illness and was committed to a New York State mental institution. According to the conference organizers:

“After being released she never spoke of it for over thirty years. As a professional storyteller, author and workshop leader, Regi knows the importance of telling one’s story to overcome trauma, ease anxiety, depression and shame. It wasn’t until she told her story of teenage trauma that Regi knew the healing power of stories to restore and heal the battered psyche. In this keynote you’ll hear stories of Regi’s experience as well as how stories can be used as a therapeutic tool to help clients become more resilient and resourceful.”

From Carpenter’s website bio:

“For over 20 years Regi Carpenter has been bringing songs and stories to audiences of all ages throughout the world in school, theaters, libraries, at festivals, conferences and in people’s back yards. An award winning performer, Regi has toured her solo shows and workshops in theaters, festivals and schools, nationally and internationally.

“Regi is the youngest daughter in a family that pulsates with contradictions: religious and raucous, tender but terrible, unfortunate yet irrepressible. These tales celebrate the glorious and gut-wrenching lives of four generations of Carpenter s raised on the Saint Lawrence River in Clayton, New York. Tales of underwater tea parties, drowning lessons and drives to the dump give voice to multi-generations of family life in a small river town with an undercurrent.”

Ithaca’s 24th Annual Depression Conference is sponsored by: the Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County; Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services; Family and Children’s Service of Ithaca; Finger Lakes Independence Center; Ithaca College Gerontology Institute; The Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; Multicultural Resource Center; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Tompkins County Mental Health Department; Tompkins County Office for the Aging; and the Tompkins County Public Library.

Photo Caption: Regi Carpenter


Ithaca, Opioids, and Trump

Ithaca and Tompkins County are among the American localities severely affected by the opioid crisis, prompting intensified efforts by local officials. Overdoses are a common occurrence, and authorities report an average of 15 drug-related deaths a year since 2011. In 2016, the number skyrocketed to 21, compared to two deaths in 2007.

President Trump put a welcome spotlight on the opioid crisis this week, declaring it a “public health emergency” and describing it as a plague that has spared “no part of our society, not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural.” At least 64,000 Americans died of overdoes in 2016, driven, Trump said, “by a massive increase in addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin, and other opioids.”


Trump said he was “directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis,” but was short on specifics, mainly rattling off various steps that the federal government had previously taken.

Moreover, Trump’s diagnosis of the crisis and prescription for its cure seemed wide of the mark. His speech focused on blaming foreigners—Chinese and Mexicans—for sending illicit opioids into the country, and on criminal gangs for pushing them on America’s streets. (A key part of Trump’s future plan, he said, is a “massive advertising campaign to get people, especially children, not to want to take drugs in the first place.”)

Trump made no mention of two factors that experts increasingly see as fueling the addiction epidemic—pharmaceutical companies pushing legal opioids, and a national mental health crisis in which people desperately seeking relief from depression and anxiety find relief in opioids.

The Atlantic’s Alana Semuels reported in June:

“Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a handful of pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit accuses the companies of spending millions on marketing campaigns that ‘trivialize the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits of using them for chronic pain.’ The companies, the lawsuit alleges, lobbied doctors to influence their opinions about the safety of opioids, ‘borrowing a page from Big Tobacco.’

“The lawsuit follows similar recent lawsuits in Illinois, Mississippi, four counties in New York, and Santa Clara and Orange Counties in California. Last month, the Cherokee Nation filed a lawsuit against distributors and pharmacies in tribal court over the opioid epidemic. In January, the city of Everett, Washington, filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, alleging that the company knew the drug was being funneled into the black market but did nothing to stop it.”

Also in June, the Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein reported on a study by researchers at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the University of Michigan that linked greater opioid use and mental health disorders. The researchers concluded that 51.4 percent of 115 million opioid prescriptions written annually in the United States were given to people with anxiety and depression.

“Those patients may have some form of physical pain, said Brian Sites, a professor of anesthesiology and orthopedics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, who led the study team. But their mental condition may cause them to feel that pain more acutely or be less able to cope with it, leading to increased requests for something to dull it.

“Pain that ‘you may report as a two out of 10, someone with mental health disorders — depression, anxiety — may report as a 10 out of 10,’ Sites said in an interview. In addition, opioids may improve the symptoms of depression for a short while, he said, with patients who experience that then asking for continued refills.

“As a result, doctors trying to be empathetic to their patients’ complaints may tend to overprescribe opioid painkillers, he said. About half of all opioids are prescribed by primary-care physicians, who also manage most routine anxiety and depression.”

Trump’s declaration of a “public health emergency” did not involve the release of emergency federal funding, but the White House indicated that the president would soon ask Congress for additional funding to combat the opioid crisis. Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, will hand Trump its final report and recommendations next week.

The New York Times quoted experts saying that an effective policy to fight the crisis will cost billions of dollars:

“Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, said that no emergency declaration would do much to alleviate the impact of opioids without a substantial commitment of federal money and a clear strategy for overhauling the way the country treats addiction.

“‘What we need is for the president to seek an appropriation from Congress, I believe in the billions, so that we can rapidly expand access for effective outpatient opioid addiction treatments,’ Dr. Kolodny said in an interview. ‘Until those treatments are easier to access than heroin or fentanyl, overdose deaths will remain at record-high levels.’”

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state hard hit by the opioid crisis that Trump singled out in his remarks, called for pharmaceutical companies to pay. CNN reported:

“‘This is a business plan. They are liable,’ Manchin told CNN’s Jake Tapper on ‘The Lead’ when asked if he believes the pharmaceutical industry needs to be found legally liable in some cases for the prevalence of opioids in the United States.

“Manchin added that the companies that supply opioids should be charged fees for the drugs they produce and for having inundated the market with the highly addictive drugs.

“‘This is what’s caused it. Can’t we at least charge the pharmaceutical companies one penny per milligram for every opiate they produce?’ Manchin added.

“‘Every state’s been affected,’ he said of the crisis. ‘I’m ground zero, West Virginia, more deaths per capita, more people addicted per capita.’

“‘This is like fighting a war,’ Manchin said about the need for funding. ‘You’ve got your soldiers on the front line fighting … (but) your guys on the front line run out of bullets.’”

Chart: From the Ithaca Voice, October 13, 2017

Ithaca Is Magic

It’s here, Wizarding Weekend kicks off on Friday! All you can say is Wow! This is one of the spookiest Halloween festivals out there. For three days, downtown Ithaca is jammed with witches and black cats, owls and dragons, magicians and potion makers, in one great magical community celebration.


The chance to show off your Halloween get-up starts with the Costume Parade at 3 p.m. Friday from the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) up to the Commons. Afterwards, stores in the Commons, Press Bay Alley, along Aurora and Cayuga streets, and inside Dewitt Mall are welcoming trick-or-treaters.

Throughout the weekend, there’s a City of Magic Ball, a myths-and-legends flashlight tour of city streets, a magical artifact scavenger hunt, non-stop entertainment at the Bernie Milton Pavilion, Quidditch matches behind Press Bay Alley, magic classes at the Tompkins Public Library, and much more.

View the program and download a map of the festivities. Click here for a full schedule of events at

We love the story of how Wizarding Weekend came to be:

When the Whomping Willows that line the Cayuga Lake Inlet were turning gold with autumn, a magical festival was born in Downtown Ithaca. Gabe, an employee at Boxy Bikes and his younger brother (Aiden) hatched the idea to transform Press Bay Alley into Diagon Alley for trick or treating; of course, everyone at Press Bay Alley loved the idea, as it is already a place filled with whimsy and wonder.

What no one knew at that time was how inspiring the idea would be! Within days the event went viral online and thousands of people RSVP’d. This was not going to be a quaint trick or treat for a few dozen kids: families and fans from hours around wanted to come to Ithaca for a magical escape.

Quickly, Darlynne Overbaugh, Bill Overbaugh, Laurence Clarkberg and John Guttridge got to work. They brought Cornell University’s Raptor Club, a Ford Anglia, and myriad vendors, performers and volunteers to downtown Ithaca–all with only days to sculpt a truly magical world, because by this time, national news outlets had picked up the story. More than 8,000 people were planning to attend.

When the big day arrived, no one quite knew what would happen. People arrived in outlandish costumes, their enthusiasm and their love of Harry Potter creating a community instantly. Local business owners rolled with the situation creating interesting products for guests to purchase. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance and volunteers pitched in to help. Wizarding duels, dragons, magic, owls, wizard chess, and wands truly enchanted Press Bay Alley for a day. Visitors received acceptance letters to Hogwarts, found their Houses, traversed the downtown in search of Horcruxes, and teams fought it out in a bicycle-based Quidditch bout. Downtown Ithaca was giddily transformed into a magical world.

In the end, it was the imagination of people who brought out the magic in Ithaca. In 2016, we tapped into this same magical force of nature and 10,000 people attended a full weekend of ticketed events and one day street festival.

Based on the growth and the continued love of all things magic, the Wizarding Weekend Executive Planning Committee has renewed their resolve to  continue this festival for 2017. Instead of focusing on Harry Potter, Wizarding Weekend will celebrate all things magic in a family friendly way every Halloween weekend, until people stop coming or the organizers exhaust themselves.