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Health departments say state needs to provide funds for new lead prevention standard

Posted 13 March 2019 at 10:01 am

Press Release, New York State Association of County Health Officials

ALBANY – Local public health officials today expressed concern that a critically important proposal to better protect children from lead poisoning will be impossible to effectively implement without an appropriate commitment of new flexible state resources.

The proposal, which passed the NYS Assembly and is also contained within the Executive Budget, would lower the acceptable blood lead level in children from 10 to 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.

Paul Pettit

Local health officials conservatively estimate that implementing and sustaining the program would increase costs to local health departments by $35 million annually. The Executive Budget proposal allocates just $9.4 million in funding, which is insufficient in both dollar amount and funding structure. Any and all funding for this proposal must be located within the existing Lead Prevention appropriation to allow for nurses and staff to intervene. Without the proper funding structure, local health departments will not be able to hire staff to meet the demands of this policy.

“Lowering the acceptable blood lead threshold is good policy, but it will trigger an avalanche of intervention demands on local health department nurses and staff,” said NYSACHO President Paul Pettit, who also serves as Public Health Director for the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

State Health Department data from the three years most recently reported show that nearly 500,000 children under the age of 6 had been screened for lead poisoning. In 2015 alone (the most recent year reported by DOH) 1,800 children tested above 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. These children and their families required services from local health department staff to engage in the clinical and environmental response strategies necessary to protect the entire household from continued lead exposure. Depending on the magnitude of the poisoning sources and required mitigation, these interventions can last days, weeks and even months.

Lowering the limit to 5 micrograms of lead, while sound public health policy, will dramatically increase the number of children and families who would require similar services. Based on the 5-year average incidence (from 2011-2015), if the lower limit is adopted, approximately 18,000 additional children could require services. Local health departments would be unable to respond to an increase of that scale without a commensurate increase in re- sources that can be used to hire staff.

“Effective public health policy requires public health resources,” Pettit said. “We will continue working with our state leaders to craft a final proposal that will deliver on its promise of better protecting our children from lead poisoning.”

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Weights and Measures uses many devices to ensure public doesn’t get shorted

Posted 4 March 2019 at 10:31 am

Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Public Health Column

The first seven days of March are dedicated to celebrating the world of Weights and Measures. Are you familiar with this? From March 1st to March 7th we commemorate President John Adam’s signing of the first United States weights and measures law on March 2nd, 1799.

Individuals who protect the laws of Weights and Measures have very big responsibilities. “We are responsible for enforcing all applicable laws, regulations, rules, and ordinances prescribed by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets,” stated David Diegelman, Director of Weights and Measures for the Genesee County Health Department.

Weights and Measures officials are responsible for assuring that all commercial weighing and measuring devices throughout the county are tested for compliance and accuracy so that consumers, businesses, and manufactures are protected from unfair practices.

The devices that Weights and Measures focus on includes scales, petroleum pumps, vehicle tank meters, timing devices, linear measuring devices, and calibration of farm bulk milk tanks. Weights and Measures have the jurisdiction to test at any establishment where commodities are being purchased or sold by weight. This includes pharmacies, food stores, delis, supermarkets, hardware stores, and gas stations. Weights and Measures also have the jurisdiction to test at larger industrial locations such as feed and fertilizer businesses, stone quarries, asphalt plants, scrap yards, farms, and food processing and manufacturing facilities.

Orleans and Genesee County Weights and Measures Departments were very busy in 2018. Genesee County did 170 Weights and Measures related inspections and Orleans County had 77 establishments requiring inspections. Genesee County tested and sealed about 600 devices and Orleans County tested and sealed 426 devices. These devices included various scales, petroleum pumps, and timing devices. Genesee County weighed about 500 packages and Orleans County weighed 743 packages to verify the net weight of the contents. In addition, Genesee County submitted 53 petroleum samples and Orleans County submitted 52 petroleum samples from gas stations and wholesale consumers. These were tested to verify the octane or cetane rating of the products.

“Weights and Measures is extremely important. A small weighing or measuring error can accumulate to millions of dollars,” stated Ronald Mannella, Director of Weights and Measures for Orleans County Public Health Department. “Weights and Measures assures that people are getting what they are paying for and assuring the integrity of businesses.”

During the first week of March make sure you take a moment to learn more about what Weights and Measures are, give thanks to the people who assure such accuracy, and look out for the stickers below to see what has been tested by weights and measures.

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Residents urged to get pumped about heart health

Posted 19 February 2019 at 6:56 pm

In 2015, 144 people died from heart disease in Orleans County

Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming Public Health Column

The Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming County Health Departments are encouraging county residents to “Choose Health.” By taking small steps in our day-to-day living and making positive health choices, people have the ability to change their future health for the better.

During an average lifespan, the heart beats more than two billion times. The heart is vital to your health and without it, blood wouldn’t be able to move through your body. February is American Heart Month, a time to remember how important this muscle is and educate ourselves on how to take better care of it since it is the reason we are all still alive.

More people die of cardiovascular diseases than all other causes of death combined

In fact, approximately 610,000 people die in the United States every year from heart disease, making the disease accountable for 1 in every 4 deaths.

In 2015, Genesee County had 201 deaths from cardiovascular disease, Orleans County had 144 deaths, and Wyoming County had 120 deaths. The most common cardiovascular disease is coronary heart disease (CHD), killing an average of 370,000 people every year. This disease occurs when the small blood vessels that carry oxygen and blood to our hearts get very narrow. Coronary heart disease is usually caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries.

Plaque is a waxy substance that forms in the artery wall made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances. The buildup forces the arteries to become narrow, slowing down or completely stopping the blood flow to the heart. Narrowing of the arteries can lead to chest pains (stable angina), shortness of breath, or even heart attack.

Heart disease has a close relationship to lifestyle choices. This is why it is so important that you make healthy decisions, participate in physical activity, and eat healthy. The New York State Department of Health recommends people of all ages engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes on all or most days of the week. If you do not exercise at all, start slow and discuss with your doctor steps you should take to get active and help improve your heart health. This may include going to the gym, getting involved in a sport, or even walking the mall with a friend. You can even break the exercise up and do 10 minutes three times a day building up to 30 minutes a day, if 30 minutes all at once seems to be too overwhelming. By repeating these small changes daily, they are likely to turn into a habit and your heart will thank you for it in the long run.

It is also important when focusing on heart health to pay close attention to nutrition. Poor nutrition can lead to many health problems, including high blood cholesterol levels, obesity, and diabetes. Consuming food high in saturated fat (whole milk, butter, and red meats), trans fats (foods with hydrogenated oils like boxed cookies, crackers, and doughnuts) or sodium (found in many processed foods) can increase your risk of getting heart disease.

To improve you’re eating habits and lower risks of heart disease you can eat more fruits and vegetables, limit processed foods, eat foods high in fiber, reduce your sodium intake and limit trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol. When choosing to eat meats avoid red meats and go for lean meat instead, these would include meats such as lean ground turkey, fish, and skinless chicken. “Staying on track when it comes to eating healthy can be a difficult thing to do but is extremely necessary to stay healthy and prevent cardiovascular disease,” states Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans Counties.

Although poor nutrition and lack of exercise are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, the single largest risk factor is smoking.

Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as nonsmokers are, and are between two and four times more likely to die suddenly from heart disease. This is due to the nicotine in cigarettes raising blood pressure and the carbon monoxide limiting the amount of oxygen that can be carried by your blood. Although you may not smoke, exposure to smoke in the home and workplace has also been shown to increase risk from the second hand smoke. Talk with family members about quitting smoking or discuss designated smoke areas to reduce second hand smoke. The New York State Smoker’s Quitline is a great resource for free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and support services. Call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866- 697-8487) or visit

There are also other factors that increase your risk for heart disease. Unfortunately some of those factors may be out of your control. One factor happens to be gender. For example, men in their 40’s have a higher risk of heart disease than women. However, as women get older, their risk increases so that it is almost equal to a man’s risk. Secondly, genetics can play a role in developing heart disease. If someone in your family has had heart disease, especially before age fifty, your own risk increases as you age. It is especially important that precautions are taken and healthy habits are made in order to decrease risk of developing heart disease.

So how do I know if I am having a heart attack? Well, here are some signs:

• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and then comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or just pain.

• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort

• Breaking into a cold sweat

• Nausea

• Lightheadedness

• Palpitation ( feeling like your heart is pounding or beating fast)

It is important to understand that men and women often have different signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience the less known symptoms of the jaw and back pain, nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, many people are unsure of what is happening to their body and wait to seek help instead of going in right away to find out what is wrong.

It is important to learn the signs, but also remember that even if you are not sure if it is a heart attack, to tell a doctor about your symptoms. Just one call to the doctors, explaining your symptoms could save your life. Minutes matter! If you think you are having a heart attack, do not wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.

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Albion healthcare clinic adds occupational services

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Orleans Community Health is now offering occupational therapy at its Albion site. Paul Graupman, occupational therapist, is working with Mary Stack of Medina to regain mobility in her fingers after breaking her wrist.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 19 February 2019 at 8:19 am

ALBION – Orleans Community Health is broadening its healthcare services by offering occupational therapy at its Albion Walk-in Healthcare Center.

Physical therapy is already offered in Albion on an out-patient basis, said Nancy Fallon, director of Occupational Services at Orleans Community Health. Occupational therapy was offered there for a short time a few years ago, but was discontinued when they lost their therapist.

Nancy Fallon, director of Rehabilitation Services at Orleans Community Health; Paul Graupman, occupational therapist; and Allyn Christopher, certified occupational therapist assistant, discuss the new occupational therapy service now being offered at the Albion Walk-in Healthcare Center.

“We want to get awareness out there that we can now offer this service in Albion,” said Allyn Christopher, certified occupational therapist assistant.

Occupational therapy is different from physical therapy, as OT works with issues necessary for day-to-day living, Christopher said.

Occupational therapy works to regain mobility due to muscle injuries, orthopedic issues, sports injuries, amputation and strokes.

Occupational therapy has always been offered at Medina Memorial Hospital, Fallon said. It is beneficial for a variety of orthopedic and neurological conditions, work-related injuries and arthritis.

“There is a definite need for this service, especially for hand therapy,” she said. “We are excited to expand our services and offer have them available close to home.”

The Albion Walk-In Clinic also offers primary care, lab, X-rays and physical therapy. It is located on Route 31 just east of the village.

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Flu is on the rise locally with 84 confirmed cases in Orleans since September

Posted 15 February 2019 at 4:50 pm

Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Public Health Column

The flu is wide spread both locally and in New York! In the past few weeks, there have been an increase in the amount of flu cases. According to New York State Communicable Disease Electronic Surveillance System, since Sept. 1 to today, there have been 84 lab confirmed cases of flu in Orleans County, 142 lab confirmed cases of the flu in Genesee County, and from Dec. 8 to Feb. 9, there were 28 lab confirmed cases of the flu in Wyoming County.

According to the New York State Department of Health’s Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report as of Feb. 9, there have been 8,591 lab confirmed cases of the flu state wide. Additionally there is a 23 percent increase of lab confirmed flu cases during the week ending in February 9th in all counties and in NYC. The flu virus spreads from October to May with the majority number of cases occurring in January and February.

“If you have not received your flu vaccination yet there is still time. Getting your flu vaccination from December through March can still help protect you from influenza,” stated Paul Pettit, Director of Genesee and Orleans Health Department.

This vaccine is available locally but it is recommended that you call your medical provider, pharmacist or health department to assure they have a supply of flu vaccines in stock.

“It is recommended that everyone six months and older get vaccinated in order to fight the flu,” Pettit said. “This vaccine will help protect yourself and your loved ones.”

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone to follow “Take 3” actions to stop the flu from hitting you:

1. Get your flu vaccination. By getting your yearly flu vaccine you can reduce flu illness, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to the flu.

2. Take every day preventative measures to prevent the spread of germs

a. Try to avoid close contact with sick people

b. While sick, practice social distancing (staying home, not going to crowded places, wearing a mask when out)

c. If you are sick, CDC recommends that you stay home 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever reducing medicine

d. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and throw that tissue away. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow making sure your mouth and nose are covered by your sleeve.

e. Wash your hands often with soap and water

f. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

g. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu

3. Ask your doctor about getting antiviral drugs when experiencing the first signs of the flu.

If your symptoms worsen talk with your primary care provider. Take the steps to stay safe. More information about the flu is available at the State Health Department Web Site (click here).

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Teddy Bear Clinic helps kids feel more comfortable with hospital

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 February 2019 at 9:32 am

Photos contributed

MEDINA –  Albion Elementary School children recently attended the Teddy Bear and Doll Clinic at Medina Memorial Hospital. They visited the nurses’ station, where nurse manager Mary Dunham (pictured) patched up their dolls and Teddy Bears with splints and Band-Aids.

The hospital welcomes kindergarteners for the Teddy Bear and Doll Clinic. The students are urged to bring in a stuffed animal or doll that could be bandaged with pretend injuries. The hospital hopes the event will help children to feel more comfortable if they ever need to go to the hospital.

Kate Brauen, pharmacist at Medina Memorial Hospital, greeted children from Albion Elementary School during the Teddy Bear and Doll Clinic. The children learned medication safety and what a pharmacist does.

Students were also served a healthy snack during the Teddy Bear and Doll Clinic. Children taste tested some new foods and learned about healthy eating.

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Oak Orchard Health receives $456K grant for alternative pain therapy

Posted 7 February 2019 at 5:29 pm

 Program will help address opioid crisis in community

Press Release, Oak Orchard Health

BROCKPORT – Oak Orchard Health has been awarded $456,953 by the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System in response to a proposal submitted to the FLPPS System Transformation Fund.

The funding request was made to create a program that offers non-opioid pain therapy options for their patients. While patients will be educated on effective alternative pain treatments, this program will help address the opioid crisis in the community.

OOH provides a model of care that integrates patient-centered primary care, behavioral health, dental and vision services – treating the whole patient and focusing on wellness and prevention.

OOH believes that the alternative pain therapy program can help to prevent opioid addition that results from acute or chronic pain and they plan to provide convenient alternatives to treat and manage pain, some of which might include osteopathy, music therapy and massage therapy.

“The intent is to not only reduce hospitalizations and higher cost treatments for pain management and possible complications, but also to mitigate loss of life and mental wellness complications related to opioid addiction, an unintended consequence of opioid prescription,” said Mary Ann Pettibon, chief executive officer of Oak Orchard Health.

The organization has healthcare sites in Albion, Lyndonville, Brockport, Warsaw and Hornell. Staff will begin planning for the program immediately.

“This program presents patients the opportunity to take advantage of wellness options and alternative methods to manage symptoms – working together with their health care providers and therapists as a team,” Pettibon said.

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GCASA awarded $4.7 million state grant for residential program for women and their children

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 February 2019 at 12:01 pm

The Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has been awarded a state grant for $4,672,255 to construct a new 25-bed intensive residential substance use disorder treatment program for women and their children.

The grant is among $204 million in state funding to support 95 projects that will protect and transform New York State’s health care system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

This funding from the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program will improve patient care through the development of high-quality medical facilities and programs serving the inpatient, primary care, mental health, substance use disorder and long-term care needs of communities throughout the State.

“While the federal administration has spent two years working to roll back healthcare access, we are investing more than ever in programs and facilities to ensure New Yorkers get the high-quality services they need,” Governor Cuomo said. “These investments in cutting-edge infrastructure will expand 21st century healthcare options in every corner of the state and improve the health and wellbeing of families for decades to come.”

The funding was awarded under the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program, which was enacted as part of the FY 2018 Budget. These awards continue the state’s commitment to preserve and expand essential healthcare services in communities throughout New York State.

In addition, the Governor’s 2019-20 Executive Budget will authorize the Department of Health to allocate up to $300 million of the $525 million in Health Care Facility Transformation Funds authorized in the 2018-19 Enacted Budget to support project applications from health care providers that were not awarded grants during this round of funding.

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County’s Public Health director testifies in Albany, sharing concerns about state funding

Posted 6 February 2019 at 1:38 pm

Press Release, Orleans and Genesee County Public Health Departments

Paul Pettit

ALBANY – New York’s county health officials on Tuesday urged Legislative leaders to issue a “call to action” to counter elements of the Governor’s 2019-2020 Executive Budget proposal that significantly underfund local health departments which will be critical partners in implementing new health policies, including legalized recreational marijuana, “Tobacco 21” and an expanded child lead poisoning prevention plan.

The public health officials’ concerns were shared in formal testimony by the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO), presented at the joint Legislative hearing on the health sections of the Executive’s 2019- 2020 budget proposal.

While lauding policy elements of the Governor’s budget plan, including the expanded lead exposure prevention plan and raising the legal tobacco use age to 21, NYSACHO President Paul Pettit told members of the Legislature that the proposal cuts millions from public health, under what is known as Article 6 funding, while significantly increasing the obligations of local health departments. Pettit also is the public health director for Orleans and Genesee counties.

“We’re asking the Legislature to initiate a call to action for a reinvestment of resources into public health and safety infrastructure in New York State through bolstered funding of Article 6. By doing so, you will be demonstrating your commitment to public health preparedness and safety measures aimed to protect residents of New York State,” testified Pettit, who is also the Public Health Director of Genesee and Orleans counties.

Pettit told legislators that local health departments (LHDs) have “reached a tipping point” and require additional resources to adequately maintain core public health services, address emerging threats, and respond to new policies. Specifically, NYSACHO highlighted the following priorities:

  1. Restoration of the proposed cut to State Aid Reimbursement for NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which would reduce the percent of reimbursement above the base grant from 36% to 20%. This cut would strike a severe blow to the core public health services protecting 43% of our state’s citizens.
  2. Allocation of additional resources to Article 6 base grants to ensure crucial public health services can be deployed and sustained.
  3. Consideration of a slow and cautious approach to legalization of an adult-use marijuana program with the interest of public health and mental health at the forefront of decision making by:
  4. Ensuring local health departments receive flexible funding to expand work-force capacity. Protecting public health must be the first major pillar of a regulated marijuana program and must be funded sufficiently to ensure harm reduction.
  5. Guaranteeing local health departments, through NYSACHO, have a seat at the table as regulations and policies are developed.
  6. Support for, and reinforcement of the Executive’s proposal to adopt Tobacco 21 policy statewide and all components of the tobacco control package which will protect millions of New Yorkers from exposure to dangerous tobacco products.
  7. Recognition that unfunded public health policy results in poor policy. Local health departments are committed to supporting and carrying out effective public health policy, but the success of new or expanded policies can only be achieved with investments in Article 6 state aid, or within flexible grant programs to allow for effective implementation at the local level.
  8. Early Intervention: NYSACHO supports the proposed 5% rate increase for targeted service providers. Though it remains to be proven whether or not this rate increase will improve provider capacity, we believe this increase may prevent further erosion of existing capacity. Furthermore, the proposed budget does not yet account for this rate increase in cost to localities.
  9. Lead Poisoning Prevention: NYSACHO supports lead poisoning prevention efforts to lower the actionable blood lead level to 5 ug/dl. However, local health departments must be resourced with sufficient and flexible funding if we are to implement the expanded work this will require on the local level. NYSACHO conceptually supports primary lead poisoning prevention activities, including those such as the Governor’s lead safe housing policy. However, to adopt such a policy without providing the resources local health departments will need for effective implementation would doom the policy to certain failure.

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Orleans United will be presenters at national conference

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 February 2019 at 6:19 pm

Provided photos: Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition meets recently to discuss an upcoming presentation at a national conference. Pictured from left include Dr. Dan Webb, Pat Crowley, Sarah Stendts and Wayne Litchfield.

ALBION – The Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition has been selected to be a presenter at the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America 29th National Leadership Forum.

That conference, from Feb. 4 to Feb. 7, is at National Harbor, MD. The forum brings together nearly 3,000 local, state and national experts in the drug prevention and treatment fields.

Pat Crowley, project director for Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition, and Dr. Dan Webb, program evaluator, were selected to be presenters on behalf of Orleans United., Sarah Stendts, Coalition program assistant, and Wayne Litchfield, Visual Data Committee chairman, will also be attending.

The training session – “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words! Using Infographics in Coalition Work” – is one of more than 70 in-depth training sessions offered at the CADCA Forum.

Crowley noted that coalitions must use as many ways as possible to disseminate their data. The organizations also need to be creative in disseminating data to different target audiences.  In the Orleans United session, the group will demonstrate how Orleans United has used infographics to educate and inform the community in situations where traditional data tables and graphs are inappropriate and/or potentially ineffective.

“We will talk about the basics of infographics, discuss types of infographics and situations in which to use them, and show attendees how to create their own infographic using a popular online service,” Crowley said.

These are some examples of infographics that were created by Orleans United to highlight some of the local survey results from the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, completed by 1,450 Orleans County youth in 2017.

Litchfield designed many of the posters that present data about teen drug, alcohol and tobacco use in Orleans County. The posters were created using infographic software, Venngage. The posters have been presented at school districts, coalition meetings, community events and on billboards in the county.

The posters highlight the following data:

• In 2017, 82 percent of Orleans County youth did not use alcohol;

• In 2017, 90 percent of Orleans County youth did not use marijuana;

• In 2017, 95 percent of Orleans County youth did not smoke cigarettes;

• In 2017, 98 percent of Orleans County youth did not use prescription drugs (that weren’t prescribed to them);

• Orleans County’s five most important health concerns, according to an adult survey: 65 percent say illicit drug abuse; 40 percent say prescription drug abuse; 40 percent say mental health issues; 33 percent say child abuse/neglect; and 24 percent say alcohol abuse.

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