Liberty, NY – According to the latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings and Roadmap report, Sullivan County remains 61st out of 62 NYS counties in overall health, but County leaders aren’t standing still.
“We expected 2022 would be another tough year for us, but we are implementing a strategy that is addressing a wide array of challenges,” explains Division of Health & Human Services Commissioner John Liddle. “We’ve made tremendous progress in implementing that strategy over the past year, but the data that goes into these rankings takes several years to assemble. So I expect it will be another year or two before we start to see the data reflect the progress we’re making.”
“On the good news side,” he adds, “because of the hard work and sacrifice of Public Health, our local healthcare providers, and the general public, our COVID death rate was found to be second lowest among Mid-Hudson and downstate counties in 2020.”
“It takes many years of targeted focus and investment in a variety of community initiatives to change overall health rankings,” states Public Health Director Nancy McGraw. “These efforts, over time, will propel us in the right direction, but it will take a few years for the data to catch up with current efforts.”
Those efforts include:
Easing Access to Care
- United Sullivan project rolled out to medical and mental health providers and human service agency partners in March 2022. Over time, the United Sullivan project will ensure anyone requesting help from a human service agency or healthcare provider receives person-to-person referrals and enhanced customer service to ensure anyone in Sullivan County who needs help with life’s challenges is connected to any and all agencies that can serve them.
- An intervention and prevention dashboard was created by County Government to inform the public on the variety of services available to them, including substance use treatment, transportation, food pantries, and many more services.
- Sullivan 180 produced their 2022 Community Resource Guides. Tens of thousands of these guides have been distributed throughout the County.
- An RFP has been drafted and will soon be released to bring 24/7/365 crisis response and peer support services to those in need. This will also reduce the burden placed on fire, police and EMS personnel in our community by diverting calls from the 911 system to mental health and social work providers as needed.
- RFP issued and contracts are getting finalized to supplement services at the Sullivan Community Department of Community Services Behavioral Health Clinic with Astor Children’s Services (pediatric mental health) and Lexington Center for Recovery (substance use treatment services)
- Greatly increased access to substance use disorder providers including inpatient services at the Catholic Charities facility in Monticello, Bridge Back to Life mobile treatment van reaching towns and villages throughout the county, and new private sector treatment providers in Monticello and coming soon to Liberty.
Ending the Opioid Crisis
- Obtained federal support via Senator Schumer for so-called High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area support from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies
- Began implementation of the NY MATTERS medication assisted treatment program at Garnet-Catskills and the Sullivan County Jail. This program creates opportunities for substance use disorder sufferers to begin treatment immediately after discharge, greatly enhancing opportunities to stay connected to treatment
- Secured $72,000 grant from NYS Department of Health to promote services and advance prevention efforts
- Increased access to Narcan; 28 training events were held for 420 participants in 2021. Additional events held to ensure best possible response time in local school districts
- Initiated Narcan “Leave Behind Program Training” for EMS/911 personnel
- Installed Narcan kits (aka Nalox Boxes) in public schools with accompanying training
- Initiated the “Hope Not Handcuffs” pre-arrest diversionary program, joining ease of access to treatment utilizing community volunteers.
- With support from Sullivan County Sheriff, increased the frequency of Drug Drop Off pickups at various county sites
- Catholic Charities expanded services to provide 24/7 treatment including medically supervised detox, stabilization, rehabilitation and reintegration services
- Established a very active Housing Task Force to minimize the impacts of the end of the eviction moratorium and other post-pandemic challenges related to homelessness
- Implemented an Emergency Housing Voucher program that is providing vouchers to at least 60 previously homeless persons
- Worked with Catholic Charities to revitalize a dormant Permanent Supportive Housing program for more than 25 persons with significant disabilities, opening opportunities for additional slots from the US. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
- Increased rental supplement rates and facilitated more than 1,000 Emergency Rental Assistance Program applications, outperforming all similar-sized counties in NYS
- Increasing subsidies to parents seeking assistance for childcare services
- Additional childcare providers opening, including two facilities in Monticello and one in Liberty next month
- Sullivan County Legislature investing in major community development efforts, including broadband expansion and expansion of the O&W rail trail system
- The Sullivan Promise Scholarship will cover the cost of tuition and fees to Sullivan County 2022 high school graduates for one year of full-time study in a degree program at SUNY Sullivan.
Encouraging Healthy Behaviors
- Partnering with Sullivan 180 on the Empowering a Healthier Generation campaign to enhance health and wellness activities in local schools
- Bringing back mobile mammogram van to Sullivan County after pandemic-induced hiatus
- Expanded workplace wellness activities
- Partnered with Sullivan 180 to deliver mental health first aid and suicide prevention training
- Public Health launched the process of updating the 2022-24 Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plans in collaboration with Garnet-Catskills and Siena College. Currently, Sullivan County has the most surveys collected of the seven Hudson Valley counties participating in the online survey about community health concerns and needs
- Public Health is partnering with NYU Langone Health, an academic medical center, to evaluate food insecurity in Sullivan County with documented poor health outcomes, as well as to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While our ranking has not yet improved, our response to myriad public health issues continues to improve,” notes District 4 Legislator Nicholas Salomone, chair of the Legislature’s Health & Human Services Committee. “We can’t and won’t give up on making Sullivan County a vastly healthier place.”
The full report can be found at https://www.countyhealthrankings.org.