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Health officials praise collaboration in Orleans County

Photos by Tom Rivers: Mark O’Brien, director of the Orleans County Mental Health Department, speaks with the Leadership Orleans class on Thursday on GCASA in Albion. The day’s focus was on health services and needs in Orleans County.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 April 2019 at 5:44 pm

ALBION – Orleans County health care providers are working together to expand services to residents, the Leadership Orleans class was told on Thursday.

Paul Pettit, Public Health director in Genesee and Orleans counties, said Orleans continues to struggle with high rates of smoking and obesity.

The class of 26 members each month focuses on an aspect of the county. This month the group is taking a close look at healthcare in the county.

Paul Pettit, director of public health in Orleans and Genesee, went over the county’s latest standings in the annual County Health Rankings, which puts Orleans at 52nd out of 62 counties in the state for health outcomes. Orleans was 54th in health factors.

The county has a high rate of adult smoking (22 percent), adult obesity (36 percent) and a low access to clinical care for primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers, according to the report. (Click here for more on the report)

Healthcare agencies have been working together to improve access to care. For example, the county’s Mental Health Department has gone from providing mental health services at its office behind the County Administration Building to 15 sites in the county, including at the local school districts and the county jail. Mental Health also has a new partnership with Oak Orchard Health, where mental health staff work out of the Oak Orchard site in Albion.

“There’s synergy,” O’Brien told  Leadership Orleans. Human services “is 90 percent about relationships,” he said.

In rural counties, those relationships are even more critical, he said.

John Bennett, executive director of GCASA, speaks to Leadership Orleans. He said addiction is a very difficult illness to overcome.

O’Brien praised the County Legislature, county administrator and Community Services Board for embracing “very progressive” partnerships among the healthcare providers.

O’Brien is president of an eight-county consortium that received a $3.3 million grant to improve services.

O’Brien responded to questions from the Leadership Orleans class. He said there remains a stigma with mental health, where many people are reluctant to seek help. That remains a big barrier to care.

The county is fortunate to have an active Suicide Prevention Coalition, he said. Suicide hits white males, ages 45 and older, at the highest rate.

He also shared about the prevalence of sexual abuse, where 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused or exposed to it, while 1 in 7 men have been sexually abused. A mental health therapist can help people work through the trauma.

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed,” O’Brien said, citing a famous quote. “It means it no longer controls my life.

John Bennett of GCASA leads an agency that has expanded in Orleans County, adding residential services.

Bennett, responding to a question, said addiction is a powerful disease that is difficult to overcome, even when a person has been clean for a year.

Mark O’Brien of Mental Health said the county agency now has Mental Health staff working out of 15 sites in the county.

Anxiety, fear and depression often kick in, leading to a relapse.

“The nature of the illness is when you relapse you are full blown into it,” Bennett said. “It is an illness unlike any other.”

Bennett said is concerned about the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. He cited problems in Colorado, where dispensaries are making marijuana products that look like candy.

There are reports of increased motor vehicles accidents and emergency room trips since recreational marijuana was legalized, he said.

Bennett understands the social justice push for legalizing recreational marijuana, where people don’t tend to fight, resist arrest or be abusive, especially compared to people who use alcohol.

Pettit, the public health director, said public health officials are concerned about misinformation, especially with an anti-vaccine movement that is allowing some illnesses and diseases to spread.

“People should go to agencies and organizations for information that is based in science,” he said.

The local Public Health Department attends many community events, and keeps an active Facebook and Twitter presence, trying to get accurate information out to the community, Pettit said.

More residents also are self-diagnosing on WebMD rather than going to the doctor, which is a concern, Pettit said.

The Leadership Orleans class also was trained on Narcan, which can help stop an overdose. The class also learned how to “Stop the Bleed” and apply a tourniquet if someone is bleeding.

The class heard from other healthcare leaders in Medina, with a focus on healthcare collaborations.

Those panelists included Dan Ireland, president of United Memorial Medical Center; Mark Cye, CEO of Orleans Community Health; and Mary Ann Pettibon, CEO of Oak Orchard Health.

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Health officials urge people to get tested for STDs

Posted 15 April 2019 at 9:51 am

Many people with an STD don’t realize it because they often don’t have signs or symptoms

Press Release, Public Health departments in Orleans and Genesee counties

April is STD Awareness Month, which is a great time to GYT- get yourself tested! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 20 million new STDs occur every year in this country. In fact, one in two sexually active young people in the U.S. will contract an STD by the time they’re 25 — and most won’t know it. This is why it is important to GYT at least once a year, and more often if you or your partner(s) participate in risky behaviors.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections transmitted from one person to another through sexual activity. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis and HIV. Many people who have an STD don’t know it because they often don’t have signs or symptoms. Even without symptoms, STDs can still be harmful and passed on during sex.

If you are sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Make sure you have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STD testing with your doctor and ask whether you should be tested for STDs.

It is important for sexually active men and women to get tested at least once a year. You should get tested every 3 to 6 months if you do not use protection (latex or synthetic male/female condoms, dental dams, and finger cots) having multiple sexual partners and/or sharing needles/drug paraphernalia. Testing will not only protect your health now, but will protect the future of your health as well.

Brenden Bedard, Deputy Public Health Director/Director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans counties, mentions the serious health outcomes that STDs may have if left untreated.

“Some of the consequences of not receiving timely testing and treatment can include infertility (cannot become pregnant), loss of pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease (inflammation of the female reproductive organs), epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis tub in the testicle), weakened immune system, damage to organs, and various cancers,” he said.

Luckily Bedard also explained that many STDs can be treated or even cured.

“Some STDs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, can be cured by taking antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare provider,” Bedard said. “Although some STDs cannot be cured, such as genital herpes, genital warts, and HIV/AIDS, taking medication can treat and manage the symptoms of these diseases.”

According to the CDCs latest report, in 2017 there were 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis diagnosed in the United States. In 2018, STD rates in Genesee County confirmed 159 cases of chlamydia, 41 cases of Gonorrhea, 5 cases of Syphilis, 6 cases of Hepatitis B. In Orleans County there were 165 cases of chlamydia, 23 cases of Gonorrhea, 2 cases of Syphilis, and 4 cases of Hepatitis B.

There are several ways to prevent STDs. The most reliable way is to not have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal), but there are many other tried-and-true options:

• Get Vaccinated: Vaccines are safe, effective, and recommended ways to prevent Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV vaccines for males and females can protect against certain types of HPV that can lead to cancer or genital warts. The HPV vaccine is given in a series of 3 shots for people ages 15-45. For people ages 9-14, only 2 doses (shots) are needed. You should also get vaccinated for Hepatitis B if you were not vaccinated when you were younger.

• Reduce Number of Sexual Partners: Reducing your number of sex partners can decrease your risk for STDs. It is still important that you and your partner get tested, and that you share your test results with one another.

• Mutual Monogamy: Mutual monogamy means that you agree to be sexually active with only one person, who has agreed to be sexually active only with you. Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is one of the most reliable ways to avoid STDs. But you must both be certain you are not infected with STDs. It is important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner.

• Use Condoms: Correct and consistent use of a condom is highly effective in reducing STD transmission. Use a condom every time you have anal, vaginal, or oral sex. If you have latex allergies, synthetic non-latex condoms can be used. It is important to note that these condoms have higher breakage rates than latex condoms. Natural membrane condoms are not recommended for STD prevention. Contact your local Health Department (Genesee: 344-2580 x 5555 / Orleans 589-3278) about access to free condoms.

• Sterile Needles and Syringes: Persons who inject drugs can substantially reduce their risk of getting and transmitting HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood borne infections by using a sterile needle and syringe for every injection.

For more information on where you can get tested, click here.

Public Health Law requires that testing and treatment for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis be made available for everyone regardless of if they do not have health insurance or if their health insurance does not cover such services. For those without health insurance or who are underinsured the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments contract with the following agencies for respective residents:

Orleans County – Planned Parenthood, 222 West Main Street, Batavia.

Genesee County  – Batavia Primary Care, 16 Bank Street, Batavia; WorkFit Medical, 178 Washington Ave, Batavia.

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Public Health director supports raising legal age for buying tobacco products

Posted 8 April 2019 at 3:51 pm

Press Release, Public Health departments in Genesee, Orleans counties

ALBANY – Paul Pettit, the public health director for Orleans and Genesee counties, has issued a statement in support of raising the legal age to buy tobacco to age 21. Pettit is also president of NYSACHO, the New York State Association of County Health Officials.

“The Senate’s recent passage of Tobacco 21 legislation is another critical and historic step in our fight to prevent millions of New Yorkers from developing tobacco-related illnesses,” Pettit said.

“Both houses have now passed the bill and the governor has announced that he plans to sign it into law.

“We enthusiastically await his action and thank him for his support of this lifesaving measure. We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored this legislation in their respective houses, and who worked tirelessly to ensure its passage.

“NYSACHO and our members will continue to provide expertise and support to help lawmakers craft policy that protects and improves public health, and we look forward to more public health victories in the remainder of the legislative session.”

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April begins with National Public Health Week

Posted 1 April 2019 at 2:20 pm

Health Education Team for Genesee & Orleans Counties

The first week of April is National Public Health Week, a week set aside showing us how we can choose healthier living.  National Public Health Week started in April of 1995 by the American Public Health Association with a focus on Public Health prevention topics. This years’ theme is, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: For science. For action. For Health.”

The topics for each day are:

• Monday, April 1st – Healthy Communities: People’s health, longevity and well-being are connected to their communities. Americans face many issues in their community such as being exposed to air pollution, lead, and even unsafe places to walk. Working with transportation planners to create safe walking and biking paths and organizing clinics for vaccines such as flu shots are all steps that can be taken to benefit people in the community and prevent preventable deaths. By making health a priority in policymaking we can help make a difference in communities.

• Tuesday, April 2nd – Violence Prevention: Violence is a significant public health problem in the United States, whether it is gun-related, rape, domestic abuse, suicide, or even child abuse. As public health professionals, it is part of our job to prevent acts of violence. This can be done through urging policy makers to inforce stricter gun laws, working with local colleges to help victims of sexual violence, and enforcing home-visits to prevent child maltreatment. It is important to advocate community-driven solutions that target the source of where the violence is coming from that do not punish the community as a whole.

• Wednesday, April 3rd – Rural Health: Americans who live in rural communities have an increased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. There has also been a higher rate of suicide and opioid overdoses shown in rural communities. To improve rural community’s health it is important that we focus on social determinants that negatively impact health. By offering telemedicine, increasing job training opportunities and helping children achieve success academically; we can help improve the health of those living in rural populations.

• Thursday, April 4th – Technology and Public Health: Technology can be a powerful public health tool. It can be used to help educate and advocate communities, can help practitioners swap their best practices, can be used for GIS mapping, and can even be used as a text line to find out information about certain health topics. It is important that public health funding levels continue to be supported to allow workers to have access to the latest technology.

• Friday, April 5th – Climate Change: Climate change is seen as one of the greatest threats to public health. It can lead to natural disasters, impact food security, water and air quality, and even increase the risk of vector-borne diseases. Climate change is a real issue that has already begun to occur. Supporting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carpooling, and steering toward renewable, clean energies instead of fossil fuels can help make a difference in climate change and our health.

• Saturday and Sunday, April 6th & 7th – Global Health: America’s health and the world’s health are fundamentally connected. Consider that during the H1N1 flu pandemic, the virus quickly traveled around the world and a global effort was required to track its movements and eventually contain the disease. Across the world, communities still struggle with preventable and often-neglected diseases. The World Health Organization’s top 10 threats to global health include: pandemic flu, cholera, violent conflict, malaria, malnutrition and natural disasters.

Public Health covers a wide variety of topic areas. According to the WHO, public health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Its activities aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and focus on entire populations, not on individual patients or diseases. It is important to remember that most of public health is prevention!

“As you can see, public health isn’t just about being physically healthy,” stated Paul Pettit, Genesee and Orleans County Public Health Director. “It includes the health of the whole body and mind, as well as community resiliency, and the safety of the environment we live, work and play in.  The Health Departments’ are moving into the role of Chief Health Strategists, we want to embrace and encourage our communities to work with us to create new and innovative ways to improve health, so please reach out.”

The benefits of prevention are undeniable. For example, public health is credited with adding 25 years to life expectancy of people in the United States. “Promoting public health in community development, local businesses and through community events will help us move toward being the healthiest counties in New York State,” stated Dr. Gregory Collins, Commissioner of Wyoming County Public Health.

What can you do throughout the year to encourage better health in your home, neighborhood, work place and county?

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County opposes push to legalize recreational marijuana

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 March 2019 at 9:32 am

‘We don’t need more intoxicants in society.’ – Dr. Tom Madejski, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York

Photo by Tom Rivers: Dr. Tom Madejski of Albion (left), who is president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, joins Paul Pettit, the Public Health director for the Health Departments in Genesee and Orleans counties, and sharing their concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. Pettit is also president of the New York State Association of County Health Officials. The two are speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the Orleans County Legislature.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature went on the record Wednesday in asking the state to hold off on legalizing recreational marijuana, saying there are many negative impacts to society, as well as financial hits to local governments if marijuana gets the state’s blessing.

Two local health officials, who lead state-wide organizations, also said there are too many unknowns for New York to allow legalized recreational marijuana.

There will be impacts with more impaired drivers, likely leading to more serious motor vehicle accidents, Orleans County legislators were told on Wednesday by Dr. Tom Madejski and Paul Pettit. Madejski of Albion is president of the Medical Society of the State of New York. Pettit is the Public Health director for the Health Departments in Genesee and Orleans counties. He also leads the NYS Association of County Health Officials.

They said legalizing marijuana will likely lead to more use among teen-agers and young adults, and that use at a young age makes them far more likely to develop drug addictions, the two said.

“If this goes badly we’ll damage another segment of society,” Madejski told county legislators.

He has helped lead the Medical Society of the State of New York’s response to the opioid epidemic, which Madejski said started about 20 years ago when opioids were pushed for pain relief, only to become highly addictive for many people.

He said legalizing recreational marijuana is “bad social policy.”

“We don’t need more intoxicants in society,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature have been debating legalizing recreational marijuana.

County Legislator Don Allport, R-Gaines, said the push for legalization is a money grab by the state, which wants to tax marijuana sales.

Proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana say it will take marijuana out of the black market. However, Madejski and Pettit said the black maret will continue to thrive because marijuana will be available without a big tax likely to be imposed by the state, making it more expensive.

Pettit said the state needs to fund a public education plan about the dangers of marijuana use, if it is legalized for recreational use. He worries that children will be exposed through second-hand smoke or through edible marijuana that may be left around a house and appear to be candy or cookies.

Pettit said today’s marijuana is highly potent. “These aren’t your grandma’s brownies,” he said.

Several organizations are opposing recreational marijuana in New York include the Medical Society of New York, NYS Parent Teachers Association, NYS Sheriffs’ Association, NYS Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, Association of School Business Officials, and Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Pettit presented a slide show to county legislators on Wednesday. He shared the following:

• Some of the ways of using marijuana include combusted products (joints, pipes, bongs, bowls, blunts and splits); vaporizers (electronic vaping devices); edibles (brownies, cookies and candies); drinks (elixirs, syrups and hot chocolates); and dabbing (using concentrates and waxes).

• The use of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults increased 900 percent from 2011 to 2015 among high school students, Pettit said, citing the surgeon general. E-cigarettes grew 78 percent from 2017 to 2018 among high schoolers. There are currently 3.6 million youth in the US using e-cigarettes.

• Pettit said evidence shows long-term use of marijuana can lead to addiction. There is recognition of cannabis withdrawal syndrome, which makes cessation difficult and contributes to relapse.

Adolescents are particularly susceptible, compared to people who start using cannabis as adults. Those who begin using marijuana in adolescence are 2 to 4 times as likely to have cannabis dependence within two years after first use.

• The use of cannabis in adolescence could influence multiple addictive behavior in adulthood, he said.

District Attorney Joe Cardone was at Wednesday’s meeting and he shared concerns about marijuana becoming more accepted, even legal.

“Certainly not everyone who uses marijuana goes on to use more serious drugs,” Cardone said. But everyone who uses serious drugs has used marijuana.”

• Weekly or more frequent cannabis use by adolescents and young adults is associated with impaired learning, memory, math and reading achievement, even 28 days after last use, Pettit said.

Marijuana use is strongly associated with failure to graduate from both high school and/or college, he said.

• County legislators, in stating their opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana, said more research is needed on the long- term health outcomes of marijuana use.

• There will also be an impact on law enforcement agencies, which will need approximately 650 more drug recognition experts to determine if drivers are impaired by marijuana.

• Legalizing regulated marijuana also will necessitate retiring a large majority of police K-9 dogs that are trained to detect marijuana, as their detection capabilities would no longer be admissible in court and the replacement of these K-9 officers could easily take 5-7 years at great cost to taxpayers, legislators said.

Legislator John DeFilipps, R-Clarendon, said the push by the state is contrary to decades of messages about the dangers of using drugs.

Legislator Allport said the state shouldn’t legalize marijuana.

“It’s ludicrous, it’s hypocritical,” he said. “They’re putting money above the health and welfare of residents.”

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Oak Orchard Health achieves Diabetes Education accreditation

Posted 20 March 2019 at 1:38 pm

Press Release, Oak Orchard Health

BrOCKPORT – Oak Orchard Health has achieved accreditation for Oak Orchard as a Diabetes Education Accreditation Program.

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

OOH believes that we need to treat patients holistically and educate them on what they need to do to maintain good health. This accreditation comes from the only organization dedicated solely to diabetes education, the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment and allows OOH to provide diabetes self-management education, which removes barriers to care,” said Dr. Nancy Ciavarri, OOH’s chief medical officer.

Remarked Mary Ann Pettibon, CEO, “Removing barriers to care for our patients is of paramount importance to us at OOH, and we are so delighted that this accreditation will assist us to do just that.”

Erin Goodrich, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, Oak Orchard’s Registered Dietician will oversee the education program.  Ms. Goodrich, a native of Albion, received her undergrad degree at Daemen College and then pursued her master’s degree in dietetics at D’Youville College in Buffalo.

“Passionate about bringing more healthcare opportunities to Albion,” said Ms. Goodrich who has been working at OOH for over a year-and-a-half, and received her certification as a Diabetes Educator, which is an interdisciplinary specialty in diabetes education.

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TeleMedicine may be coming to local school districts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 March 2019 at 9:12 pm

HOLLEY – The Orleans County Health Department wants to facilitate TeleMedicine for local school districts, where sick students and possibly even staff could have access to a doctor or nurse practitioner. They would diagnose a health problem and prescribe medication. The diagnosis likely would be sent to a child’s primary care doctor.

Frontier Middle School in Hamburg is the first school in the state to offer the program. Frontier started working with Mobile Health Partners in October. Now, Orleans County health officials want to bring the program to local school districts.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Paul Pettit, the county’s Public Health director. “We’ll be one of the first places in the state to try it.”

Pettit said the county’s access to primary care physicians is one of the worst ratios in the state. In Orleans it’s one primary care doctor for every 13,780 residents. That compares to the state average of 1 primary care doctor for every 1,200 people, and a national average of 1 to 1,326 people.

“We want to improve access to care,” Pettit said. “Right now we have one of the worst accesses to health providers.”

Many parents struggle to get students to doctor’s appointments due to work commitments or transportation issues, he said.

With TeleMedicine, students would go the nurse’s office, where the nurse would check pulse and blood pressure. The nurse would direct a robot that can “see” in ears and in throats. Those images could be seen offsite by a doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse’s assistant.

Holley schools officials discussed the program during the Board of Education meeting on Monday. The district likes the idea. The access to health professionals could help prevent illnesses or limit sicknesses to the early stages. That would improve attendance.

“Ultimately our goal would be to have them not be so ill so they can be in school and learning,” Brian Bartalo, the Holley superintendent, told the Board of Education on Monday.

The program would be grant funded for the start-up costs and the first year, with the services also being billed to insurance companies or Medicaid, Pettit said.

Bartalo said parent permissions would be needed for any student to participate in the program.

Pettit said the permissions or parent consent forms could be sent out during the beginning of next school year.

The Health Department has already met with Holley school leaders about the program, and will be having a meeting with officials from all five school districts in the county. The company and the robot would be available for demonstrations to show schools how it works.

Pettit would like to have the program start in Orleans this fall.

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Latest County Health Rankings report puts Orleans, Genesee near bottom in state

Posted 19 March 2019 at 4:00 pm

Counties making gains in some areas

Press Release, Public Health Departments in Orleans and Genesee

According to the 2019 County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Genesee and Orleans counties rank 42nd and 52nd, respectively, in overall Health Outcomes. The Rankings are available at

“As Chief Health Strategists, we use the County Health Rankings to help us identify factors that are important for residents to live long and healthy lives and understand how we compare to other counties in the state,” stated Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “With this knowledge, we can take steps to improve the health of our residents.

The rankings are broken into to two main categories. Health Outcomes include length of life and quality of life, while Health Factors include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Genesee County ranked 42nd out of 62 counties for Health Outcomes and 29th in Health Factors. Orleans County ranked 52nd in Health Outcomes and 54th in Health Factors.

“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” Pettit said. “The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face — whether it’s rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic — so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions.”

According to the 2019 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in the state, starting with most healthy are Rockland, followed by Nassau, Westchester, Saratoga and New York. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy are Bronx, Sullivan, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara.

What’s new for 2019? This year’s Rankings explore severe housing cost burden and health. The 2019 Key Findings Report highlights the link between housing and health that the RWJF and the UWPHI are seeing across the nation. As housing costs have outpaced local incomes, many families not only struggle to acquire and maintain adequate shelter, but also face difficult trade-offs in meeting other basic needs.

Did you know increases in the share of households that are severely housing cost burdened are linked to more children in poverty and more people facing food insecurity? New measures this year that help to illustrate how counties are fairing including Severe Housing Cost Burden, Homeownership and Life Expectancy. A new ranked measure included this year is Flu Vaccinations. In addition, an updated data source for the ranked measures of Preventable Hospital Stays and Mammography Screening are being used.

“The County Health Rankings show how Genesee and Orleans Counties rank on factors that influence its overall health ranking,” Pettit said.

For example, Genesee County has an improved Clinical Care ranking, scoring 40 this year as compared to 57 out of 62 counties five years ago. This improvement can be attributed to a lower uninsured population (under age 65) than the NYS average, as well as an increasing number of mental health providers available although still far behind the state average. A similar trend can be found in Orleans County in regards to these two ranked measures.

Additional strengths in Genesee County include a lower percentage of children living in poverty, which is 15% as compared to the state average of 20%. The high school graduation rate in Genesee County (91%) and Orleans County (89%) in 2019 is higher than the state average of 82%.

The rankings of Social Associations, Severe Housing Problems, and Long Commute-Driving Alone are also fairing well in both counties compared to the NYS averages. Orleans County has also improved in the Physical Environment and Health Factors rankings, by 11 points (21st out of 62) and 2 points (54nd out of 62) compared to 2018.

Even with the above mentioned positive trends, both counties continue to have challenge areas and are still struggling with health factors specifically with adult smoking (Genesee – 20% / Orleans – 22%), adult obesity (Genesee – 35% / Orleans – 36%), physical inactivity (Genesee –29% / Orleans – 31%), access to exercise opportunities (Genesee – 61% / Orleans – 70%), driving alone to work (Genesee – 84% / Orleans – 80%), and access to clinical care for primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers.

Orleans County is also ranked as having a higher percentage of children living in poverty (24%) as compared to the state average mentioned earlier.

The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all. Working collaboratively with community partners, Genesee and Orleans counties have a number of initiatives to expand health opportunities for residents, including providing the National Diabetes Prevention Program (Prevent T2), a lifestyle change program to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes; the Get Fit! Program, an 8-week family-friendly physical activity and nutrition focused program; a tri-county Opioid Task Force; and decrease smoking/nicotine usage through referrals and increase cancer screenings.

“The Rankings data will be used in conjunction with additional local sources, such as the Community Health Assessment Surveys and Community Conversations that are being collected and occurring now, to develop the 2019-2024 Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Community Health Improvement Plan, which will be submitted to the NYS Department of Health this December,” Pettit said.

The CHA survey is available online in English and Spanish until March 31. Paper copies are also available at various locations in each county. The survey is anonymous and only takes about 15 minutes to complete and focuses on the health of the person taking it. If you are younger than 18, be sure to receive permission to take the survey from your parent(s) or guardian(s).

To access the GOW CHA survey visit.



The GOW Health Departments are also seeking to schedule Community Conversations with willing groups to learn what they feel are the greatest health concerns or issues in their community and thoughts on how they can be improved.

Responses from the confidential surveys and conversations will help identify services that are working, need improving, or to be created. The more members of the public who participate, the larger and stronger the “building block” of these plans will be!

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Medina hospital speaks out against proposed state Medicaid cuts

Photos by Tom Rivers: Medina Mayor Mike Sidari speaks during a new conference on Friday. The mayor said Medina Memorial Hospital is critical to the community for providing care to people in Medina, Orleans County and eastern Niagara. The hospital also is an important employment provider, Sidari said. Marc Shurtz, who is next to Sidari, is the hospital’s corporate compliance director and head of information technology.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 March 2019 at 10:15 am

MEDINA – Orleans County’s lone hospital is trying to raise awareness about proposed cuts in Medicaid, which would reduce Medina Memorial Hospital’s revenue by $400,000 the next two years.

For a rural, low-volume hospital those cuts can be devastating, said Larry Knox, political and community engagement coordinator for 1199SEIU, a union for healthcare workers.

“In rural hospitals there is no fat to cut,” he said during a news conference and rally on Friday at Medina Memorial Hospital.

Gov. Cuomo proposed the Medicaid reductions as part of his budget proposal in January. Healthcare workers from throughout the state will be in Albany on Tuesday to send a message to state legislators to restore the $500 million in Medicaid funding for hospitals of all sizes.

Larry Knox, right, is the political and community engagement coordinator for 1199SEIU, a union for healthcare workers. Several union members attended the conference at Medina Memorial on Friday. Healthcare workers will be in Albany on Tuesday to protest the proposed Medicaid cuts.

“The union and the hospital administration do not always agree on issues but in this case we are in total agreement,” said Amy Stiles, a respiratory therapist at Medina Memorial the past 19 years. “These cuts will assuredly lead to more layoffs which will severely impact safe patient care.”

The hospital is part of Orleans Community Health, which has healthcare sites in Albion, Medina and Batavia.

Mark Cye, OCH chief executive officer, said the Medina Memorial is the only “safety net” hospital in the region.

“Consistent state and federal funding cuts jeopardize the future of hospitals across our state,” Cye said.

Stiles, the respiratory therapist, urged the state to look for cuts elsewhere in a $175 billion state budget.

“The health of our community is at stake,” she said.

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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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