Recycling Reaps Rewards; Third Annual America Recycles Day Contest Scheduled for Nov. 15

BREWSTER, NY— Plastic film is everywhere: Store “carry-out” bags are made of it and paper towels come wrapped in it. Unfortunately most of it is not recycled, but the Putnam County Department of Health is trying to change that. Thursday, November 15 is America Recycles Day, and the health department is holding its Third Annual “Caught-in-the-Act” Contest that day and the following day, Friday, November 16.

On both days, the recycling coordinator from the health department will be looking for residents who recycle plastic film and rewarding them with a free reusable shopping bag, and social media recognition for their efforts. Thursday’s event will take place in the morning at Acme in Mahopac, 149 Route 6, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and then from 2 to 4 p.m. in Brewster at DeCicco & Sons, 15 Independent Way at the intersection of Route 312 and Interstate 84. On Friday, the event will end with a morning session in Cold Spring at Food Town, 49 Chestnut Street and Route 9D.

“Plastic film is an environmental hazard, and an eyesore when found scattered along the roadside in our beautiful county,” says County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “Many people don’t know it can be recycled because it is not collected from your home. Instead, plastic film must be dropped off. Many of the larger stores we shop in every day are required to collect it. It’s the right thing to do, for your family and for your community.”

“The number of plastic bags that people use is staggering and less than one percent are recycled,” says interim Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD. “The positive impact on the environment would be immense if everyone would make the effort to start and it then becomes routine.”

The health department works with stores in the county that are required by law to accept plastic films. All large retail stores, or chains with more than five smaller stores, must participate. Currently there are 24 drop-off locations in Putnam County, including Home Depot, Acme, and Kohl’s in Brewster, Acme in Mahopac, and at Foodtown in Cold Spring. A complete list is posted online at the PCDOH 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.

Tobacco 21 is Now Law; Smoking and Vaping Regulation Aims to Protect Youth

BREWSTER, NY It has been a long road, but Tobacco 21 is finally law in Putnam County. The new legislation, which goes into effect early in 2019, makes it illegal to sell tobacco, nicotine and vaping products to anyone under the age of 21. Previously the legal age to buy these products had been 18. Putnam County joins 24 other New York State municipalities that have enacted Tobacco 21 laws.

            County Executive MaryEllen Odell signed the bill into law earlier this week. She thanked the legislators for coming together on this issue, saying, “The health and safety of our young people has prevailed. It may have taken some compromising, but this is the right thing to do. Vaping is a significant problem in our schools. It has serious health consequences, and unfortunately many youth think otherwise.”

            Debate on the bill, spearheaded by Garrison resident and County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, heated up last summer. The measure passed from the Health, Social, Educational and Environmental Committee, which Legislator Scuccimarra chairs. Lawmakers heard from numerous experts, as they spoke about both the health and business factors involved in the issue. Representatives from health advocacy groups including The American Cancer Society and POW’R Against Tobacco, offered not only evidence on the health risks of smoking tobacco at a young age, but also on the epidemic of teenagers who try and continue to vape. The business perspective was presented by the retailers’ trade organization the New York Association of Convenience Stores.

A number of local Putnam County agencies and organizations have been battling the war on tobacco and other addictions on many fronts. The One Army in the War on Addiction Task Force, chaired by Legislator Scuccimarra, brings together representatives from the County Executive’s Office, the Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services and Mental Health, and the District Attorney’s Office. Represented community organizations include The Prevention Council of Putnam, the Putnam Communities That Care (CTC) Coalition, Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, and CoveCare Center, as well as other provider organizations that tackle the addiction crisis daily.

At the recent Public Health Summit, research was presented by Kristin McConnell, director of The Prevention Council, which for many years has spearheaded local research and provides education on all forms of addiction. Ms. McConnell showed an alarming picture of Putnam County’s youth vaping numbers, which are double the national averages. The percentage of Putnam County tenth graders who used e-cigarettes (vaping) in the past 30 days is 27.3 percent, compared to the national average of 13.1 percent. For twelfth graders the national average is 16.6 percent and Putnam’s is at 33.8 percent. Another concern of The Prevention Council from their data is that 5.8 percent of teen e-cigarette users report using marijuana in the vaping devices, while 66 percent think the device, as purchased, holds just flavoring.

“That’s why this legislation is so important,” says Interim Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD. “We had been winning the battle against teen smoking until vaping came along. This is a very sad story. People think vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes. The truth is that it is far from harmless. One of the inhaled chemicals, particularly in the flavored variety, has been linked to what is commonly called ‘popcorn lung.’ There is also ample research showing that among youth, vaping leads to a switch to tobacco cigarettes later on.”

When the bill came to a full legislative vote back in early September, it hit a bump as lawmakers voted 6 to 3 to table the measure. Among them was the Legislature Chairman Joseph Castellano, who explained that while he had been undecided, he was moving toward favoring the bill, saying, “I have teenage daughters myself so I can see value in raising the age. We need to work out the issues so we can get this on the books.”

Work it out they did: in early October Tobacco 21 passed with a solid 6 to 3 vote.

The Putnam County Department of Health, which currently conducts “compliance checks” to ensure that retailers are not selling tobacco to minors under age 18, is initiating a campaign to educate retailers and the public about the new law.

“We have approximately two months to get all establishments up to speed on this new law,” says Dr. Nesheiwat. “It’s a large undertaking, but it’s what we do—protecting the public’s health. It’s for the best—and now it’s the law.”

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. If you need further help, contact our Public Information Officer Barbara Ilardi with any questions at 845-808-1390.

County Executive Odell and Sheriff Langley release a joint statement on Nelsonville hate crime

CARMEL, NY – Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langely have released the following statement about the hate crime reported in Nelsonville on Oct. 30.

“We have met regarding the hateful incident in Nelsonville. We are working together to make sure all resources are being deployed to apprehend those responsible for this heinous and shameful act. We stand with the good people of this great county who believe hatred and violence against neighbors will not be tolerated in Putnam County.”

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.