Public health summit addresses “Moving Forward Together”

Sarena Chisick (left) Educational Coordinator at Putnam Hospital Center welcomes John Bourges, Meghan Castellano and Karl Rohde to the hospital for the county’s 9th annual Health Summit.

CARMEL – Dozens of community leaders both in and out of the medical profession have joined forces by participating in the county’s ninth annual Putnam Health Summit.

Organized by the Putnam Health Department and Putnam Hospital Center, the event stimulated discussion regarding “moving forward together” in an effort to prevent chronic and communicable disease as well as mental and substance abuse disorders while promoting well being and a healthy and safe environment.

Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael Nesheiwat explained the seminar last Wednesday highlighted the CHA (Community Health Assessment) and the CHIP (Community Health Improvement Plan) that “involves the partnering of all agencies within the county to do what’s best for the healthcare of Putnam’s 99,000 residents.”

One of the workshops that attracted wide attention centered on the New York Warrior Promise Wall, established last December, that honors members of the military from New York State who have taken their own lives.

County Director of Veterans Services Karl Rohde, John Bourges, chairman of the Dwyer Vet2Vet program and Meghan Castellano, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Putnam were all extremely passionate with the program.

Rohde described veteran suicide as an epidemic. “Twenty-two veterans per day take their own lives throughout the United States.”

Bourges described the number as “outrageous. We must change the concept of people believing the high rate is a result of failure of the Veterans Administration. It’s not the V.A.’s issue. It’s a community issue that must be addressed allowing communities near and far to become proactive and address the concern by finding individuals in need.”

Castellano noted no one is alone. “A person must reach out for help. Peer-to-peer support affords individuals someone who has walked in those shoes and underwent similar experiences.”

Rohde noted the 22 veteran suicides each day consists of seven percent of the population: “In New York State, the numbers are even higher since 29 suicides occur daily.”

Of those taking their own lives, many are senior citizens.

Rohde said “veterans always have a mission and are mission-oriented men and women. When they retire, a spouse passes away or family moves on, the mission is no more.”

Bourges added that Putnam has had its share of suicides including those of veterans. “All we want a person to do is reach out for help.”

Last Wednesday evening, the Putnam Suicide Prevention Task Force conducted a special   Veteran Suicide Awareness event where the public was requested to “become part of the solution.”

Tee shirts with the logo “In Your Darkest Hour when the Demons Come, Call on Me Brother and We will Fight Them Together,” were available.

Castellano said help is only a phone call away. “Vet2Vet, Cove Care, Mental Health Association, Veteran’s Affairs Office or the V.A. itself is always available. Better yet, have that person contact you. You are the one who will provide support while figuring out where they can connect and get the assistance needed.”


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