For the past several years there has been a concerted and sincere effort by local government agencies and nonprofit organizations to build a healthier Sullivan County. Yet, according to the latest …
For the past several years there has been a concerted and sincere effort by local government agencies and nonprofit organizations to build a healthier Sullivan County. Yet, according to the latest 2022 report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sullivan still comes in 61st out of 62 counties in New York in overall health rankings.
In Sullivan County there are more people for less primary care doctors, dentists and mental health specialists. There is a lower median household income compared to other parts of the state and there are, on average, more children living in poverty. Our drug overdose death rate is well above the state average and twenty percent of all deaths in Sullivan County in the month of March were opioid related.
These are the troubling facts.
Division of Health & Human Services Commissioner John Liddle recently stated that, while progress has been made implementing a strategy to address the wide array of challenges that determine the overall assessment of county health, the data that goes into these rankings takes several years to assemble.
“I expect it will be another year or two before we start to see the data reflect the progress we’re making,” Liddle said.
In the meantime, nobody is standing still. There has been progress in easing access to healthcare. There are a growing number of substance use disorder providers including inpatient services at Catholic Charities in Monticello, the Bridge Back to Life mobile treatment van which is traveling to towns and villages throughout the county, and new private sector treatment providers in Monticello and coming soon to Liberty.
While the opioid crisis has grown in size so has the resolve to address it. The possible federal designation of Sullivan County as a “High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” could help bring federal resources to bear and facilitate greater coordination amongst federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
According to the data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sullivan ranks higher in physical inactivity and lower in access to exercise opportunities. That’s surprising in a county where there are so many opportunities for outdoor recreation. It also means that’s one of the simpler problems to address. County, state and federal investment in our local O&W Rail Trail system could mean healthier residents and less preventable health conditions that contribute to premature death.
It would be easy to sit back and accept things the way they are. It’s a hard to offer solutions. It’s even more difficult to roll up one's sleeves and get to work transforming ideas into reality. There are many dedicated individuals who are committed to making Sullivan County a healthier place. Giving up is simply not an option.
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