Putnam County Ranks Among Healthiest in NYS, for Ninth Consecutive Year

Brewster, NY—The ninth annual County Health Rankings have been released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and for the ninth year Putnam County ranks among the healthiest counties. Putnam is third in health factors, the influencers of health, up from last year’s fourth place ranking. In health outcomes, based on length and quality of life, this year Putnam was sixth, compared to fifth last year, from among the 62 counties in the state.

“Putnam County continues to be a great place to live and work. We are fortunate to live in a safe, beautiful environment with easy access to parks, recreation and healthy, fresh food. This helps residents maintain a good lifestyle which translates to our health,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “We’ve declared 2019 the ‘Year of the Health Provider’ to honor the hard work of our nationally accredited health department and all the other county agencies and community organizations that work together to help residents remain healthy, safe and productive.”

“The consistency that our county has demonstrated in these annual rankings speaks for itself,” said Michael Nesheiwat M.D., Commissioner of Health. “The numbers always shift a bit. Changes in data collection and the performances of other counties affect the rankings. This data reconfirms much of what we already know and points to areas we will continue to work on.”

One of the identified challenges in the county is a higher rate of excessive alcohol use in Putnam compared to the rest of New York State. Alcohol-impaired driving deaths that had decreased from 27% to 22% last year, are back up to 28%. The health department continues to work on this pressing issue, working closely with two community organizations that spearhead the efforts, the Prevention Council of Putnam and the Communities That Care (CTC) coalition.

Similarly the numbers of sexually transmitted diseases rose, as they have around New York State and the United States. Left undiagnosed and untreated, these illnesses can have serious health consequences including infertility and in rare cases, even death. The PCDOH continues to spearhead prevention and surveillance efforts, including working closely with county physicians to increase routine testing.

For more information on the 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, visit http://www.countyhealthrankings.org

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 www.putnamcountyny.com ; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

 

Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, named permanent Health Commissioner

BREWSTER, NY— Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, assumed appointment as the permanent Commissioner of the Putnam County Department of Health on March 5. In making the announcement, County Executive MaryEllen Odell said, “There is no question that Dr. Nesheiwat is the best candidate for the position. He has proved this many times over the past three years. He is a true gem and we are fortunate to have him here in Putnam. I am thrilled he has decided to accept this as a permanent appointment.”

In the announcement the County Executive listed numerous accomplishments attributed to “Dr. Mike,” as he is known by many throughout the community, and in her 2019 County Address on March 7, she heralded the upcoming year as the “Year of the Health Provider.” This was due in part to Dr. Nesheiwat’s leadership, under which the department took the final step in achieving national accreditation and is on the fast track moving forward to reaccreditation in 2021.

Dr. Nesheiwat’s guidance can be seen in the health department’s ongoing shift toward a quality improvement and performance management work culture. Staff have been trained in the “plan-do-study-act” method or “PDSA,” for short. One of the first issues tackled was the reduction of paper records, while enhancing electronic record keeping. Developed and implemented by department staff, this PDSA project has improved overall productivity. In particular disease reports are now more comprehensive and are completely captured in the New York State electronic reporting system. The ultimate result to better protect residents’ health and well-being.

Another accreditation-required task involves creating a branding communications strategy. Community partners and health department staff members were surveyed for feedback on the department’s current public image and how enhancements can be made. The department is in the process of rolling out a nameplate for their logo.

Other highlights under Dr. Nesheiwat’s leadership include building a blue-green algae monitoring program in which health department staff partnered closely with towns and beaches, and continuing tick surveillance with the New York State Department of Health in efforts to stem the rise of tick-borne illnesses. On the nursing side, flu immunizations continued to rise in the county with the popularity of the department’s school-based and public flu clinics and the promotion of pharmacy-based immunizations. Additionally STD surveillance and investigations are at an all-time high, important because of the rising number of cases.

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 www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  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.

New Electronic Cards for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program

eWic Debit Cards Create Easier Food Shopping for Putnam Families

BREWSTER, NY— Putnam County residents can now shop for WIC food using a new electronic benefit card. The card, which looks like an ordinary debit or credit card, allows a more discreet shopping experience and eliminates delay at check-out. The card also can ease the “roll-over” of unused benefits, so that shoppers can take full advantage of the nutritional benefits the WIC program provides.

“A well-balanced meal of healthy foods is an important part of caring for young children,” says County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “This new technology will make the WIC program more accessible to families in our county who need extra assistance, without having to endure any stigma. This is a very welcomed change.” The first eWIC purchase occurred in Albany last April. The system started in Putnam last December as part of a planned roll-out across New York State.

“The importance of good nutrition for proper childhood development and overall good health cannot be emphasized enough,” says interim Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, who encouraged residents who think they may qualify for the program to get more information. For example, a family of four earning $46,000 a year can qualify for WIC benefits.

Residents can learn more about qualifying for WIC by going online at www.health.ny.gov/wic, or by calling or visiting one of the two Putnam County WIC offices. One is located at the main office of the health department at 1 Geneva Road. The second is at 121 Main Street in the Village of Brewster. Appointments are preferred, but not required. Call 845-808-1337 for the main office, or 845-808-1416 for the village location.

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 www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth 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 County Remains a High Risk Radon Zone Test Your Home and Protect Your Health

BREWSTER, NY— Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States among non-smokers. For those who smoke, radon greatly increases the cancer risk. This naturally occurring odorless gas claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA designates January as National Radon Action Month and encourages all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools and other buildings for radon. Radon however is a concern year-round.

Radon can easily accumulate to dangerous levels inside buildings. The natural decay of uranium leads to the release of radon in rock, soil and water. High levels of radon in homes usually come from the surrounding soil. Radon gas from the soil enters buildings through cracks and openings. The EPA has identified Putnam County as a “high risk” radon zone. However, the only way to know if you have high radon levels in your home is to test it.

“The good news is that you can perform a simple, at-home test to discover your radon levels, and elevated radon levels in your home can be corrected,” says Interim Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD. “With the high rates of lung cancer in Putnam County, we absolutely must talk about radon and take it seriously. Radon-resistant construction can be utilized when building new homes but older homes must be tested. Remember, just because your neighbor’s house has safe levels of radon does not mean that your house is also safe.”

For $11, which includes the lab fee, the NYSDOH offers short-term radon testing kits. The test remains in the home for a few days and then the kit is sealed and mailed in for analysis. Results are typically returned to the homeowner within a few weeks. At-home radon test kits can also be purchased inexpensively at local home and hardware stores. If elevated levels are found there are various corrective measures, ranging in cost. To learn more about radon, order a test kit or discover mitigation options, visit the New York State Department of Health website or New York Radon Information website.

The Health Department’s mission 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 the PCDOH website at www.putnamcountyny.com/health or visit the social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth 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.

Free Smoking Cessation Program Starts Today—Wait List Forming

The eight-week smoking cessation program, “Freedom From Smoking,” created by the American Lung Association and widely regarded as the gold-standard in quit-smoking programs, gets underway Tuesday, January 8, with the first session at the Putnam County Department of Health’s main office. Ten participants have registered and will begin their journey to a smoke-free life.

Quitting is not easy and it usually takes multiple attempts to quit for good. Every past attempt to quit should be viewed in a positive light and a step in the right direction. This program helps participants better understand their own relationship with tobacco, one of the necessary steps in the transition. By using proven tools and activities, smokers move closer to success and a smoke-free life.

If you are considering making this change, please call the health department at (845) 808-1390, ext. 43155. A waiting list is being kept for the next session, planned for later this year.

New Year’s Resolution—Free Smoking Cessation Program Begins January 8

Brewster, NY– The Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) is encouraging residents who smoke to begin their journey toward a smoke-free life.  Quitting smoking isn’t easy and the PCDOH is supporting residents with an evidence-based approach to kicking the habit.

By offering residents a free smoking cessation program, with a group “Quit Day”, residents can make a new year’s resolution that could save their lives. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 38 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world.

The eight-week Freedom From Smoking (FFS) program starts January 8, and continues on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 12:30 p.m., at the health department’s main office at 1 Geneva Road, Brewster. Each session lasts 45 minutes. The last class is on February 28.

The group leader is a FFS/American Lung Association-certified facilitator from the health department. The sessions start with discussions and guidance for preparing and planning to quit. Each person’s experience with quitting smoking is different. The Freedom From Smoking program uses proven activities and tools to help participants understand their own relationship with tobacco—and how to have a smoke-free life. Nicotine replacement products (NRT) such as the patch and gum will be available, also for free, while supplies last. Using NRT is encouraged, and will be discussed in detail as part of the program, but it is not required.

Widely regarded as the gold standard in quit-smoking programs, the FFS program was created by the American Lung Association, an organization with more than 50 years of experience helping smokers quit. Some smokers feel hopeless after unsuccessful attempts at quitting. The FFS Program recognizes these feelings are part of the journey to become a non-smoker and stresses the fact that most successful quitters have failed at it before. The program empowers participants to create their own path to success by instilling strategies for managing stress, avoiding weight gain and staying active during their quit, and after.

“There are health benefits to quitting no matter your age or the length of time you have been a smoker,” says interim Commissioner of Health Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, from the PCDOH.  Dr. Nesheiwat emphasizes that quitting tobacco today means something different than it did ten years ago. “Whether you are a longtime smoker or you have switched from cigarettes to e-cigarettes or another tobacco product, this could be your time to successfully avoid tobacco altogether.” Combustible tobacco products kill seven million people worldwide each year.

Pre-registration is required, as group size is limited. More information on the program can be found online at www.freedomfromsmoking.org. For more information or to pre-register, contact the Putnam County Department of Health at (845) 808-1390, ext. 43155.

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 www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

Last Chance Public Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Clinic

Celebrating National Influenza Vaccination Week, the Putnam County Department of Health will be offering a Last Chance Flu Vaccine Clinic for anyone who lives or works in New York State ages 18 years and older on Tuesday, December 4 from 2 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Health Department’s main office, 1 Geneva Road, Brewster, NY. Cost is $25 (cash or check only). Free to those with a Medicare Card. For more information or for weather-related updates, call the Flu Hotline at (845) 808-1390.

Additional Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Day Scheduled for Saturday, Dec 1

BREWSTER, NY—Putnam County will hold a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Drop-Off Day for Putnam County residents on Saturday, December 1. The Putnam County Department of Health and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are co-sponsoring the FREE event, scheduled from 9 am to 12 noon (rain or shine) at Fahnestock State Park, Canopus Beach Parking Lot on Route 301 in Kent, NY. Pre-registration is required.

Improper storage or disposal of hazardous waste poses a health risk to residents and their families. For this reason, the HHW Drop-Off Day event continues to be maintained in the budget by County Executive MaryEllen Odell as an opportunity for Putnam residents to safely dispose of certain toxic materials.

The health of the community is paramount and all waste brought to the event is subject to inspection. Residents bringing in items that are deemed to present a threat to residents, workers or the environment may be held responsible for the costs of any additional safety measures taken.

Items accepted include household products that can typically be purchased in a hardware, grocery or big box store, including cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, oil-based paint (not latex), solvents, thinners, mothballs, rodent poisons, gasoline, kerosene and small propane tanks (up to 20 pound size). For a more complete list of acceptable items, see “Special Wastes” under “Recycling” on the Green Putnam webpage at https://www.putnamcountyny.com/green-putnam/.

Disposal items must be labeled and identifiable to be accepted. Items not accepted include: water-based paints (latex/acrylic), used motor oil, lead-acid batteries, plastic bags, household alkaline batteries, tires, or electronic waste. Materials that are of commercial or industrial type or quantity will not be accepted.  Items packed into garbage or lawn bags will also not be accepted. Latex paints can be discarded by routine means, after they have been dried out.

Call early to reserve a spot. For questions or to pre-register, contact the Putnam County Department of Health at (845) 808-1390 or register by emailing your three preferred times (every 15 minutes beginning at 9 a.m.) along with your town of residence to PutnamHealth@putnamcountyny.gov. You will be sent an email with directions in order to confirm your registration. If you do not receive a confirmation email within 2 business days, please call the above number.

For information regarding electronic waste disposal, call your local town. Please note that household hazardous waste items are not accepted at the town electronic waste drop-off locations.

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 www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

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 www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  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 www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  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.