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Sullivan Steps Up in Health Rankings

Liberty, NY – According to the latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF’s) County Health Rankings and Roadmap report, Sullivan County has jumped from 61st out of 62 counties to 60.

“While 60th is not something to celebrate, I was very encouraged to see that we improved our results or stayed steady on 25 different metrics,” observed Sullivan County Health & Human Services Commissioner John Liddle.

Released today to the public, the report offers an exceptional level of detail and data that health officials across the nation will use to inform and guide public policy. The report for Sullivan County can be found at

“This year’s data reveals that while Sullivan County’s health continues to be challenged by many factors, there is reason for optimism,” Liddle noted. “We saw modest improvements in a variety of measures, including clinical care statistics, healthier behaviors, and social determinants of health, such as employment, air quality and access to exercise opportunities. That said, we have issues to confront, and we are doing so.”

“Premature death of young adults, especially due to drug overdose, continues to hurt our overall health as a community,” said Acting Public Health Director Karen Holden. “The prevalence of illicit fentanyl, not just on its own but mixed in with other drugs, is incredibly dangerous and far too easy to access.”

The RWJF rankings regarding overdose deaths are based on a rolling three-year average, and this year’s number consolidated reporting from 2018-2020 – 2020 was, by far, the worst year for opioid deaths in the County since data has been regularly recorded.

“We did see a significant decrease in overdose deaths in 2021, and preliminary data from 2022 suggests that we stayed on the right track, so we should see improvements in these statistics in future rankings,” explained Holden. “At the same time, while we are getting better at preventing deaths with Narcan and harm-reduction methods for those not ready to enter treatment, opioid overdoses do not appear to be decreasing. As the potency of fentanyl and related drugs increase, we could easily lose the progress we’ve made. That’s why our Drug Task Force actively incorporates leaders of multiple local agencies engaged in this effort, and continuing that work is vital.”

“The other particularly troublesome statistic was a 7% increase in child poverty versus last year. This year’s number is based on 2021 data, so the pandemic impacts on our local tourism industry – including the large number of folks who couldn’t participate in the workforce because they had to stay home or could not find affordable childcare – likely were the driving force behind the increase,” Liddle said. “Nevertheless, this is something we’re going to take a close look at with State and local partners to ensure this does not turn into a longer-term trend. Among many efforts to that end, I volunteered last year to become a member of the New York State Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council and have been assigned to the Council’s Housing Committee.”

The County’s Department of Social Services and local agencies who work on providing affordable housing have also helped to bring $11 million in housing assistance to Sullivan since the Emergency Rental Assistance Program opened, with more help on the way through the County’s own new Rental Assistance Program, plus more supportive housing services from the County’s Planning Division, Land Bank and key local partners like Catholic Charities, Access: Supports for Living, Rehabilitation Support Services, and Action Toward Independence.

“Perhaps most importantly, we’ve taken massive steps forward in the collaboration between Child and Adult Protective Services, Maternal Child Health providers in our Public Health Department, and community partners like Sullivan 180 and Cornell Cooperative Extension to break the cycle of poverty and strengthen families,” Liddle added.

“With employment recovering well from pandemic losses and the effort being put into post-secondary education, rail trails, and all of the other work already mentioned, there is definitely reason to be optimistic about the future,” he concluded. “We have a long way to go, but we appear to be getting on the right track.”

33 Outcomes Measured in Sullivan County

Improved in 2023 report vs. 2022 report:

1. Premature death (years of potential life lost)

2. Reports of poor or fair health to primary care providers

3. Reported poor physical health days

4. Adult smoking

5. Adult obesity

6. Food Environment Index (accessibility of healthy food)

7. Physical activity

8. Access to exercise opportunities

9. Alcohol-impaired driving deaths

10. Sexually-transmitted infections

11. Ratio of population to primary care providers

12. Ratio of population to mental health providers

13. Number of preventable hospital stays

14. Flu vaccinations

15. Unemployment

16. Air pollution

17. Driving alone to work

18. Driving alone w/long commute


1. Reported poor mental health days

2. Low birthweight

3. Percentage of population uninsured

4. High school graduation rate

5. Number of deaths by way of injury (traffic accidents, suicide, homicide, overdose, drowning, etc.)

6. Drinking water violations reported

7. Severe housing problems (rent burden)


1. Excessive drinking

2. Teen births

3. Ratio of population to dental care providers

4. Mammogram screening

5. Participation in post-secondary education

6. Income inequality

7. Children in single-parent households

8. Participation in social associations