COVID numbers, mental health and the rent

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 9/14/21

MONTICELLO, NY — Health and family services committee chair Nadia Rajsz opened her September 9 meeting with a moment of silence for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

John …

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COVID numbers, mental health and the rent

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MONTICELLO, NY — Health and family services committee chair Nadia Rajsz opened her September 9 meeting with a moment of silence for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

John Liddle, the commissioner for that department, added Kyle Van De Water’s name. Van De Water, who ran against Antonio Delgado for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, died by suicide earlier this month. He was an Army veteran and served in Afghanistan.

Possible good news on the COVID front

As of the meeting on September 9, the county had 205 active COVID-19 cases, Liddle said. He stood in for public health director Nancy McGraw. “The numbers are certainly not encouraging,” he said, “but the upward curve has slowed a bit.”

He cited more participation in vaccination clinics, and that McGraw has been working closely with school superintendents and school nurses to encourage vaccination among eligible students.

“We’re feeling very good about how we’ve started out [in the school year],” he said.

Total first-shot vaccination rates for those 18 and up is 65.8 percent. For the entire population, including kids under 12, who are currently ineligible, the rate is 54 percent.

“That’s pretty good,” said Rajsz.

“It’s going in the right direction,” Liddle said. “We are in the middle of the pack” when it comes to counties.

Community services update

“They’re still not accepting new patients,” Liddle said. The big challenge is to recruit new social workers. “Even nationwide, there are still not enough to go around.”

The health and family services department has been working with Restorative Management in Newburgh, which provides outpatient substance abuse services in Orange County, to supplement county services.

On future changes to the department of community services, “We sent messages back to interested bidders on a hybrid clinic,” Liddle said, “where we’d bring in outside providers to supplement what we’d need in terms of pediatric services... there’s still a lot to be worked out there.”

Rent money… yes, still due

But the state has slowly been releasing Emergency Rental Assistance funds, Liddle said.

The money helps households whom the COVID-19 pandemic has left unable to pay their rent or utilities.

It will also help landlords who didn’t always receive rental income during the pandemic.

The county has acquired some of the money and “slowly but surely we are making good progress on getting those funds out,” Liddle said.

Homelessness: probably not connected

Even though the eviction moratorium has been extended again, due process protections are now put in for landlords. “We are seeing an increase in homeless numbers,” Liddle said. “I’m not sure yet if it’s connected to the changes in the eviction moratorium... I actually think it’s related to disasters, the fire in Kiamesha Lake, the flooding from Ida.”

The number of known homeless is up to 89, “which is the highest in quite a while,” he said. Staff members are working to get the people placed. The greatest challenge is those who have income trouble. “There’s just not a lot of real estate in general on the market just now.”

Foster care numbers down

Danielle Mann, health and family services department director of services, presented the results of a challenging year. But for her department, that translated into success: they managed to get the number of children in foster care down by 22 percent.

“July 2020 had the highest amount of foster children in Sullivan County history,” she said. “We’ve reduced the number.”

More importantly, they’ve cut the number of children in the highest levels of care—group homes and therapeutic residential care—from 22 to 13.

They did this by recruiting in-county for foster parents, increasing the number of homes available. “Now, with a larger pool, they can better match children,” Mann said.

They’re also trying to “appropriately use our services as best we can. The work that our group is doing, we’re really proud of that.”

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