Sullivan County has once again been named one of the unhealthiest places in New York State to live. When it comes to unhealthiness and poverty we are only second to The Bronx.
These statistics are nothing new and changing these rankings is a very difficult nut to crack.
People simply cannot change their eating habits, lifestyle, or financial situation overnight.
There needs to be motivation to change ones eating habits as well as an abusive lifestyle. Tragically, Sullivan County has a severe drug epidemic.
This legislature has been very serious in trying to correct our health rankings.
Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez along with Vice Chair Nadia Rajsz has been very serious in waging the war to make Sullivan County healthy.
Nancy McGraw, Sullivan County’s Public Health Director, and Joe Todorra, Commissioner of Health and Family Services, are working endlessly to improve our ratings. They are pushing a measure to raise the smoking age in Sullivan County to 21.
Our County Government has teamed up with community leaders and officials in their efforts to make us healthy.
The Sullivan Renaissance along with the Gerry Foundation are taking an active role with the formation of new not-for-profit “Sullivan 180” with the sole objective to turn things around in Sullivan County.
Last week County officials and Community Leaders joined together to respond to the recent release of The Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings which again placed Sullivan County at 61 of 62 in New York for health outcomes.
These leaders came out to share their vision and efforts to change the overall health and wellness of Sullivan County.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will be exploring different projects that are being initiated to make us healthy.
Legislative Chairman Luis Alvarez kicked off the discussion building on his theme “Walk with Us”.
Alvarez committed to lead, support, and work alongside efforts to improve the County’s health. He cited policy initiatives already underway, including paid time off for cancer screening and the formation of a wellness committee led by County Manager Josh Potosek.
Health and Family Services Chair Nadia Rajsz told the crowd, “We have been actively working with various partners for the past year promoting the health and wellness of our residents and employees.”
Rajsz spoke further about the importance of the Tobacco 21 legislation and noted that smoking is statistically the leading cause of preventable death in New York State.
Rajsz said, “It is important that we protect and prevent our youth from purchasing tobacco products. Which as we all know the outcomes are very bad.”
“We have clean air, clean water, open space,” Rajsz frustrated asked, “Why would we be the unhealthiest County in New York State? It doesn’t make sense!”
Rajsz said, “We cannot do this alone, we cannot do this overnight, it took us years to get here. We need to start somewhere by bringing everyone together to work together to make us healthy.”
Rachel Steingart speaking on behalf of Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther shared her continued commitment to improving the health of Sullivan County residents through advocacy for funding and programs.
Commissioner of Health and Family Services, Joe Todorra stressed the role of the environment in terms of opportunities for good food, access to care and healthy choices. He said, “Changing the health outcomes of a community is like changing the direction of a ship at sea. It is not an event, it is something we are going to do as a process.”
Nancy McGraw, Director of Public Health, mentioned the substantial efforts underway to reverse the trend and more somberly touched on our opioid epidemic.
McGraw noted that since the inception of the naloxone program over two years ago, there has been extensive training of law enforcement and community members. She said over 40 lives have been saved.
McGraw added, “Yes, we have an overdose problem, but 40 lives saved is 40 lives saved.” She acknowledged that there is more work to do but we are moving in the right direction.
Dr. Gerard Galarneau, CEO and Chief Medical Officer at Catskill Regional Medical Center said that “Having a small community we appreciate when we look at these rankings that every life matters; not only statistically, but for this community.”
Galarneau said that this all goes beyond our ranking and to the question we need to ask ourselves ‘What kind of community do we want to live in?” He pledged CRMC’s commitment to partner with anyone working to advance the health of our community.
Amanda Langseder, Director of Community Health for the Greater Hudson Valley Health System spoke about the effort to not just improve rankings but to improve the lives of people.
She acknowledged the connected collaborative group of organizations determined to find solutions. “As health organizations of varying size, strength and capacity, we will continue to drop our egos at the door and work hand in hand to inspire change.”
Colleen Monaghan, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County remarked “Places that have been successful in changing their health outcomes have used partnerships. They have changed the way they do things or do business. They place a focus on making the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Denise Frangipane, Executive Director at Sullivan Renaissance, spoke about the formation of Sullivan 180, a non-profit formed to change the health of Sullivan County one degree at a time.
Frangipane noted that changing the health of the County will require policy and system changes, but it will also require a grassroots movement, one person at a time. There is a role for everyone. “We can do more together than alone.”
Bethel Supervisor Daniel Sturm spoke about the programs throughout the town that support a healthy lifestyle and the work of the Healthy Community Task Force. He called upon other elected officials to set the tone, initiative change and be hands on leaders in the effort to improve our health.
Stay tuned for additional news as we explore in more depth the individual and collaborative work being done to improve the health and wellness of Sullivan County.
The entire Make Sullivan County Healthy Press Conference can be viewed at the County’s website at
Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.