Sullivan County moves up one notch in health ratings – Mid Hudson News Website

LIBERTY- According to the latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF’s) County Health Rankings and Roadmap report, Sullivan County has jumped from 61st out of 62 counties to 60, in terms of health care.
“While 60th is not something to celebrate, I was very encouraged to see that we improved our results or stayed steady on 25 different metrics,” said County Health & Human Services Commissioner John Liddle.
“This year’s data reveals that while Sullivan County’s health continues to be challenged by many factors, there is reason for optimism,” Liddle said. “We saw modest improvements in a variety of measures, including clinical care statistics, healthier behaviors, and social determinants of health, such as employment, air quality and access to exercise opportunities. That said, we have issues to confront, and we are doing so.”
“Premature death of young adults, especially due to drug overdose, continues to hurt our overall health as a community,” said Acting Public Health Director Karen Holden. “The prevalence of illicit fentanyl, not just on its own but mixed in with other drugs, is incredibly dangerous and far too easy to access.”
The RWJF rankings regarding overdose deaths are based on a rolling three-year average, and this year’s number consolidated reporting from 2018-2020 – 2020 was, by far, the worst year for opioid deaths in the County since data has been regularly recorded.
“We did see a significant decrease in overdose deaths in 2021, and preliminary data from 2022 suggests that we stayed on the right track, so we should see improvements in these statistics in future rankings,” said Holden. “At the same time, while we are getting better at preventing deaths with Narcan and harm-reduction methods for those not ready to enter treatment, opioid overdoses do not appear to be decreasing. As the potency of fentanyl and related drugs increase, we could easily lose the progress we’ve made. That’s why our Drug Task Force actively incorporates leaders of multiple local agencies engaged in this effort, and continuing that work is vital.”
“The other particularly troublesome statistic was a seven percent increase in child poverty versus last year,” Liddle said. “Among many efforts to that end, I volunteered last year to become a member of the New York State Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council and have been assigned to the Council’s Housing Committee,” which Liddle believes will help the county build a larger voice at the state level.
“Perhaps most importantly, we’ve taken massive steps forward in the collaboration between Child and Adult Protective Services, Maternal Child Health providers in our Public Health Department, and community partners like Sullivan 180 and Cornell Cooperative Extension to break the cycle of poverty and strengthen families,” the commissioner said.
“With employment recovering well from pandemic losses and the effort being put into post-secondary education, rail trails, and all of the other work already mentioned, there is definitely reason to be optimistic about the future,” Liddle. “We have a long way to go, but we appear to be getting on the right track.”
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