Public Health Summit VIII Draws Crowd to PHC

Collecting Data Begins with “Forces of Change” Assessment

BREWSTER, NY— More than 85 public health partners from nearly four dozen community agencies convened at Putnam Hospital Center (PHC) on Thursday, October 18, for the eighth annual public health summit. This year for the first time, a broad effort was made to invite public participation through social media and nearly 20 Putnam residents were also in attendance. Organized by the Putnam County Department of Health with support from Putnam Hospital Center, the event kicked off the data collection process for formulating the next community health improvement plan, known as the “CHIP.”

County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Putnam Hospital Center President Peter Kelly, interim Health Commissioner Michael Nesheiwat, MD, Commissioner Michael Piazza and Deputy Commissioner Joseph DeMarzo of the Department of Social Services and Mental Health, and County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, chairperson for the Health, Social, Educational and Environmental committee, were among the community leaders in attendance.

County Executive MaryEllen Odell thanked Putnam Hospital Center for its support, saying “This hospital is the heart and soul of our community. Many of us were born here, and had children here. Many also say their final farewells here.” She went on to applaud the hospital’s efforts during the last storm event, when 90 percent of the county was out of power. “All roads led to this center. It was a critical point in getting our county through the crisis,” continued County Executive MaryEllen Odell.

Dr. Nesheiwat welcomed and thanked the attendees, saying “Today’s program examines the ‘forces of change’ that are at work in our community. Your participation plays an instrumental role not only in planning ways to improve population health, but also in the strategic planning for the health department.”

Stephanie Marquesano opened the morning session of presentations by community partners. She is founder and president of the harris project, a unique nonprofit organization committed to co-occurring disorders (COD), a diagnosis of one or more mental health challenges together with substance misuse. She launched the organization after her 19-year-old son Harris died of an accidental overdose, after struggling with COD in a public health system that lacks the cohesiveness to properly address these dual conditions.

The significance of this fractured health care system and the challenges communities face when trying to fix it was described by presenter Ashley Brody, MPA, chief executive officer of Search for Change. His organization, which has received funding and licensure from the NYS Office of Mental Health for over 40 years, has been on the front lines of providing housing and other support for individuals who are faced with emotional, social and economic barriers. He pointed to their historical “abstinence only” orientation to substance use disorders, and the slow, uneven progress toward harm reduction and other alternate approaches. To transform to a more people-oriented care approach, the first step is to recognize that co-occurring issues and conditions are the norm—not the exception, and that recovery occurs through adequately supported, individualized and concurrent, skill-based learning for all conditions.

Other partner updates came from Kristin McConnell, director of the Prevention Council of Putnam, a local substance abuse prevention provider, who spoke about the history, implications and lessons learned regarding the Tobacco 21 Legislation. The legislation limits sales of tobacco products to individuals under 21 years of age, and includes electronic nicotine delivery systems products, commonly known as “vapes.”  Sarena Chisick, community health educator at the hospital, presented on the recent Falls Prevention Expo at PHC and the ongoing efforts of the Falls Prevention Task Force, created to focus on the latest CHIP priority of reducing injuries caused by falls.

The “forces of change” assessment that followed was a fast-moving discussion on a variety of factors including social, economic, political, technological, scientific, ethical, legal and environmental that may affect the county and the country at large. Political trends were more in the spotlight this year with audience members mentioning the possible dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), potential legalization of marijuana for recreational use and the weakened regulation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other social and scientific or technical trends that were named included the continued prevalence of sexual and domestic violence, the dramatically rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases, increase and prevalence of cancer, and growing number of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Identified trends were all discussed in terms of threats and opportunities for change. A full report of the Forces of Change assessment will be drafted and posted on the health department’s website

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

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Please let us know if we can provide any additional information. Feel free to contact our Public Information Officer Barbara Ilardi with any questions at 845-808-1390.

Putnam Prepares for Upcoming Storm by Teaming up with Local Highway Departments

CARMEL, NY – Putnam County’s Bureau of Emergency Services Commissioner Ken Clair is working with the Putnam County Highway Department and the highway departments of the local towns to prepare for the forecasted Nor’Easter that is expected to touch down on Friday night. He is making sure that the highway departments have the necessary supplies and equipment in case downed trees force road closures or worse.

“The two nor’easters we had in March and the tornadoes that touched down in Kent, Patterson and Putnam Valley were difficult, but through it we truly learned that by working together we can get through anything,” said Commissioner Clair. “I can’t say I am looking forward to having another storm, but I can say we are ready for it.”

Commissioner Clair worked with Commissioner Fred Pena of the Highway Department to deliver a battery powered highway sign to Town of Kent Highway Superintendent Richard Othmer. The sign will be able to let residents know about road closures of where to get supplies if needed.

“When the tornadoes touched down on the Town of Kent, Putnam County’s Highway Department and the Bureau of Emergency services were there to help us through the recovery,” said Othmer. “I appreciate them sharing their resources and assisting us now.”

“We work together with the local highway departments because it is the right thing to do,” said Commission Pena. “Especially during storm recovery periods. It is not about what is yours and what is mine, it is able helping those who need it.”

County Executive MaryEllen Odell was on hand to show her support. “It is great to see our new Commissioner take the lead and make sure that we are prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings on.,” said Odell. I am confident that Commissioner Clair and Commissioner Pena will be keeping a close eye on the storm and will keep the people of Putnam County safe.”

Commissioner Clair recommends that residents sign up for NY-Alert at if they want to be informed about the latest storm information. He also recommends making a storm plan at In addition, he recommends that people prepare their homes and yards for the potentially strong winds and torrential rain.

For more information, visit


Blue Star By-Way marker dedicated in Carmel

Putnam County District Attorney was very happy to take part in the Blue Star Memorial By-Way Plaque dedication this past Saturday.  The Plaque has been placed in front of the Putnam Historic Courthouse.


The project was named for the Blue Star in the service flag which hung in the windows of homes and businesses to honor service men and women.

The Brewster-Carmel Garden Club sponsored the marker. Trina Hiemcke, chairwoman of the Blue Star Committee, said the local garden club had previously erected a marker in Brewster. “One of our main projects for 2018 was to place a marker in Carmel – our county seat –as well. Thanks to our District Attorney Robert Tendy who donated $500 for the cost of the marker and the county for locating a suitable rock to which the plaque has been attached, the Blue Star Memorial By-Way marker has become a part of our community.”

County Executive MaryEllen Odell told those in attendance, many huddled under umbrellas and shivering from the 41 degree temperature, that “Putnam. County was the most patriotic county in all of New York State. We cannot thank the dedicated members of the garden club enough for bringing this marker to our county seat. Putnam. County is extremely proud of its patriots–men as well as women–who have served our nation with pride, valor and dedication.”

Read the full article at Mid Hudson News.

Calling All Cat Lovers: The Feral Cat Taskforce Needs Volunteers

Brewster, NY—The Feral Cat Taskforce is looking for new volunteers. The organization traps, neuters, vaccinates and releases feral cats in Putnam County. The ultimate goal is to decrease the number of feral cats over time to reduce the risk of rabies. These cats may carry this deadly virus that attacks the nervous system. The taskforce, which began in 2012, operates today through the joint efforts of volunteers from Putnam AdvoCATS, area veterinarians, and the Putnam County Department of Health. Since its beginning the group has successfully trapped, neutered and released over 840 cats. Of these, approximately 160 cats have been adopted.

“Feral cats present a serious risk of exposure to the rabies virus,” says Marianne Burdick, MPH, Supervising Public Health Sanitarian, who oversees the rabies program at the Putnam County Department of Health. “That’s because people are more likely to feed or care for a stray or feral cat, than to feed a wild animal such as a raccoon, skunk or fox, which are also known to carry the disease. Bats however still remain the number-one reason for potential exposure. Our volunteers from Putnam AdvoCATS and our area veterinarians have been instrumental in making the taskforce a success and we are grateful for their work.”

Feral cats do not have owners or may be strays that have been abandoned or lost. The Trap-Neuter-Return concept is a humane and effective approach used for decades in the U.S. after being proven in Europe. Scientific studies show this practice improves the lives of feral cats, betters their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.

Volunteers for the Feral Cat Taskforce do not need any prior experience. They receive training to equip them to assist in compassionately trapping the animals. Veterinarians are also welcomed to join the program as well. The costs of the vaccine and neutering are covered by the Putnam County Department of Health and the PutnamAdvoCATS. For more information or to become a volunteer, contact PutnamAdvoCATS online at or call the health department at 845-808-1390.

Residents with cats, as well dogs and ferrets, may take advantage the health department’s free rabies vaccination clinics. The department partners with area veterinarians to hold three rabies vaccination clinics each year in March, July and November. The next one is scheduled for November 3 at Brook Farm Veterinary Center   in Patterson from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, call the health department or visit the PCDOH at

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at; or visit our social media sites at and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY

Philipstown Senior Center Construction Nearing Completion

CARMEL, NY- Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra recently toured the construction site of the Friendship Center of Philipstown to view the progress of the work being done.

“It is incredible to see how far building’s transformation into the senior center has come,” said County Executive Odell. “The seniors on the western side of the county are finally getting what they have asked for and deserve.”

Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra agreed.

“The space is truly welcoming, and the craftsmanship is impressive,” said Scuccimarra. “The Friendship Center of Philipstown will be an amazing asset for our community and the seniors are looking forward to being there.”

After years of being overcrowded in the American Legion in Cold Spring, which was used by the Office of Senior Resources to provide its meals, social activities, physical fitness classes and other services for many years, the Philipstown seniors asked the county for a center that was more comparable to the other Friendship and Nutrition Centers in Putnam Valley, Mahopac and Carmel.

The American Legion allowed the seniors to use about 250 square feet of its facility. The Mahopac Koehler Center is 18,766 square feet. When completed the Friendship Center of Philipstown will provide 6,000 square feet for the seniors to use.

The construction if expected to be completed within the next month.

Photo Caption: County Executive MaryEllen Odell looking at the craftmanship of the archway at the new Friendship Center of Philipstown.

Putnam County Organ Donor Day

Putnam County Unites with Hospitals, Businesses, Celebrities, Elected Officials & Advocates for 4th Annual Organ Donor Enrollment Day

Now in its fourth year, Organ Donor Enrollment Day has one goal: to enroll as many New Yorkers as possible to be organ donors. Individuals, teams and organizations spent the day focused solely on educating and registering people to save the lives of the 120,000 Americans, 10,000 of which live in New York, currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant. The event is led by LiveOnNY.

“Every day 21 people die every day due to the lack of available organs.  Over 98 percent of New Yorkers who enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry do so through their local DMV offices which makes our efforts on this behalf even more important.”  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said, “We can make a significant difference in increasing the numbers of donors through our outreach to the county employees and to our residents, and I am happy to work alongside County Clerk Bartolotti and LiveonNY to make their goal of a significantly increased registry a reality.”

Organ donation is an issue that affects people in Putnam County and beyond. Every 18 hours a New Yorker dies waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. A contributing factor to this statistic is that there are not enough people registered as organ donors. While 92 percent of New Yorkers support organ donation, and despite having the fourth fastest growing registry in the country, just 30 percent are registered. Powered by LiveOnNY, Organ Donor Enrollment Day urges New Yorkers to make their support for organ donation known and register as an organ donor.

There are over 15 million New Yorkers; yet only 27 percent of adults in New York State are registered donors, compared to the national average of more than 50 percent,” said Putnam County Clerk Michael Bartolotti. “While 37 percent of Putnam County residents are registered donors, we believe we can do better.”

For more information about Organ Donor Enrollment Day, please visit and follow LiveOnNY on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #DonorDay2018.

Odell Concludes Successful Term as NYSAC President

CARMEL, NY – Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell concluded her term as president of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) in September.

“NYSAC is grateful to County Executive Odell for her leadership over the past year. She is a strong voice for counties and was always ready to share the county perspective with state and federal leaders,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “This was an important and challenging year for counties, and County Executive Odell provided strong and steady guidance to our membership.”

NYSAC provides representation, education and advocacy for New York’s counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.

“Counties deliver vital services to our residents, and NYSAC gives us a strong voice before the State and Federal government,” said County Executive Odell.

During her term, Odell was a strong advocate for counties, meeting with state and federal leaders regarding county concerns such as the opioid crisis, 911 funding, infrastructure needs, and foster care. Odell also oversaw the launch of the NYSAC Climate Resiliency Committee and the NYSAC Women’s Leadership Council.

“My year as President has given me broader insight into the important roles counties have in our communities and the challenges facing our local governments. I am grateful to my colleagues for their support as I worked on their behalf in Washington and Albany.”

Current NYSAC President Charles H. Nesbitt Jr., Chief Administrative Officer of Orleans County, appreciates all the effort that County Executive Odell put forth during her term.

“I extend my sincere thanks to MaryEllen Odell for her service these past 12 months as NYSAC President,” Nesbitt said. “MaryEllen provided great leadership to NYSAC even as she faced several natural disasters and adversity back home in Putnam County, where devastating storms knocked out critical infrastructure and left some communities without power for weeks. She spearheaded emergency response efforts not once, but several times in her communities over the past year. All the while she kept our association focused the state level. County Executive Odell’s leadership is a great model for us all.”

Odell has been a member of the NYSAC Board of Director since 2013. She is currently pursuing her third term as Putnam County Executive. In this role Odell has made it a priority to bring social and fiscal responsibility to county governance.

She has also served as Chairperson for the Mid-Hudson South Transportation Coordinating Committee (MHSTCC) and currently co-chairs the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC). Her knowledge and expertise on transit-oriented development projects has helped to propel Envision Brewster, a revitalization initiative designed to attract millennials to live, work, and recreate in Putnam County.

Prior to being elected County Executive in 2011, Odell served as a legislator for five years. This included two terms as the Deputy Chairperson of the Putnam County Legislature, in which role she successfully fought to identify and reduce unnecessary government spending.

Photo Caption: Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell with her fellow colleagues from NYSAC. From left to right: Steven F. McLaughlin, County Executive – Rensselaer County; Stephen J. Acquario, Executive Director – NYSAC; Cheryl Dinolfo, County Executive – Monroe County; MaryEllen Odell, County Executive – Putnam County; Charles H. Nesbitt, Jr., Chief Administrative Officer – Orleans County; Daniel P. McCoy, County Executive – Albany County.

Reducing Mental Health Stigma is Priority for Putnam

Brewster, NY—  When Putnam County  residents were asked about the most important health priorities, mental health was a top concern—specifically reducing depression, anxiety and stress.  These local concerns are reflective of the current health trends. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.  To encourage those at risk to seek treatment, reducing stigma is the first step. Mental health advocates locally and nationally are increasing awareness of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. The designation of Mental Illness Awareness Week, the first week of October, aims to support advocacy initiatives that fight stigma surrounding mental illness, educate the public and provide support to Americans faced with the realities of living with a mental health condition.

MaryEllen Odell, Putnam County Executive, urges all residents of Putnam County to get involved. “Mental illness is more common than most people think. Someone you know may not seek healthcare because they are concerned about what people think,” County Executive Odell says. “The responsibility of reducing stigma falls on our entire community— we must come together and raise awareness about mental illness.”

One in five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Yet nearly 50% of youth aged 8-15 and almost 60% of adults with a mental illness didn’t receive mental health services in the previous year. The shame, fear and silence that stem from the stigma surrounding mental illness often prevent people from seeking treatment. “When you realize that those facing mental illness may be too ashamed to ask for help, then we must take a step back to see the bigger picture. As with any other disease, education and prompt, quality treatment are key components in reducing death. And it all begins with communication,” says interim Commissioner of Health Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, from the Putnam County Department of Health.

Megan Castellano, executive director of The Mental Health Association in Putnam County says, “Mental health is a public health issue, an important conversation that we all need to have about connecting people in need to support.  When you empower people with facts, information and resources, they can make decisions about the treatment options that are best for them and then they can begin, or continue, their recovery journey.  Most importantly, to let them know that they are not alone and that recovery is possible.”

This year, NAMI’s awareness week campaign aims to encourage people to speak up about mental illness. “Mental illness does not discriminate. We must remember that just like asthma, diabetes or any other chronic disease, mental illness cannot be cured by simply wishing it away. By bringing to light the existing stigma against those facing mental illness, the #CureStigma campaign invites people to replace their judgments and insensitivities with compassion and awareness so that those who need help feel free to get it,” says Ed Murphy from NAMI’s Putnam County chapter.

One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14 and while diagnosing mental illness in children can be complicated, pediatricians encourage parents to address mental health concerns as soon as they arise. “Speaking up on behalf of people impacted by mental illness may not be easy, but by sharing stories we have the power to spread hope and inspire others to cure stigma,” adds Ed Murphy. By using the hashtag #CureStigma and promoting an online assessment tool, NAMI is encouraging more empathetic dialogue about mental health conditions.

For resources on mental health services in Putnam County visit The Mental Health Association at or NAMI at To learn more about #CureStigma visit If you are someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or is in need of immediate mental health support, contact the Putnam County Mental Illness Crisis hotline at 845-225-1222.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

District Attorney’s Office Provides Computers To Cold Spring Police Department

CARMEL, NEW YORK – October 9, 2018: District Attorney Robert Tendy and Village of Cold Spring Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke announced today the purchase and installation of two Panasonic Tough Book Laptop computers. The computers have been installed in two police vehicles and were purchased using District Attorney Asset Forfeiture money.

“These computers brought us from the 18th to 21st century,” Burke said. “They are so fast, and they enable us to access information very quickly. It could be a routine traffic stop, an accident scene, a need to run a quick background check on a license or vehicle or driver. They are great tools.”

Tendy said that the purchases were part of an effort to help law enforcement fill identified needs which couldn’t be filled through ordinary budgeting procedures. “Police Departments, particularly the smaller ones, run on a very tight budget and don’t always have the funding necessary to purchase equipment like these computers. Whenever we can help out a department through asset forfeiture we’ll do it. I know how useful these computers are, and I’m glad we could supply them. They are very high-tech state of the art machines.”

Asset forfeiture money is the result of the proceeds of a crime being seized by law enforcement. “We usually get it from DWI vehicles, sometimes narcotics sale proceeds. If a person has numerous DWIs we will forfeit their car. We won’t allow that person to drive anymore. They are simply too dangerous to the public,” Tendy said. “If a person is selling drugs we will forfeit their vehicle if it is used to facilitate the sale or the transportation of the drugs, and if we can take sale money we will.” Officer Burke let us know what his department needed and we were very happy to help.