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Behavioral Health Hub reports on efforts amid pandemic
In back-to-back meetings on Jan. 6 at Town Hall, the Philipstown Town Board covered topics ranging from appointment of a new deputy supervisor to the (literally) surprising debut of Putnam County’s local COVID-19 testing, the pandemic’s effect on the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub and the new supervisor’s hopes for town civility in 2022 and reflections on events in Washington, D.C., a year earlier.
During the annual reorganization meeting, the evening’s first order of business, Supervisor John Van Tassel tapped Councilor Robert Flaherty as deputy supervisor. “I couldn’t ask for a more trusted individual,” Van Tassel said. “And there’s not a harder working soul on the planet.”
Later, presiding over his first formal monthly meeting as supervisor, Van Tassel reported on the launch of county-sponsored COVID-19 testing at the town Recreation Center in Garrison. He and Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery, whose district includes Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, both said that Putnam failed to notify Philipstown in advance of its plans.
“I have to apologize for the lack of communication,” Montgomery told the Town Board. “I was just as surprised as you were that this was happening at the Rec Center.” Fortunately, the town government quickly pulled things together, she said.
“It was a bit of a surprise we were hosting the testing center,” Van Tassel concurred. “We found out after it was announced” by county officials. “But we’re happy to have it.” He encouraged residents to get tested if they suspect they harbor the virus. “The more people that use the facility, the more likely we’re going to continue to have it,” he said. “I’m concerned we’re going to lose this if we don’t utilize it.”
The lone Democrat on the otherwise all-Republican, nine-person county Legislature, Montgomery said the breakdown in communication points to an ongoing problem. “You weren’t aware” of what Putnam intended, she said. “That’s what needs to change.”
She has consistently clashed with her legislative counterparts and County Executive MaryEllen Odell, but told the Town Board that as her second, three-year term begins, “I’m hoping to work with the county executive, with the county Legislature. We’ve got a lot of repairing to do. We need to share information.”
Danielle Pack McCarthy, executive director of the town-supported Behavioral Health Hub, which helps residents obtain assistance in dealing with addiction and mental health difficulties, related that “things are busy” because “this pandemic has not been easy on anyone.”
She said the Hub, based in Cold Spring, with a fully vaccinated staff, is one of the few agencies to continue on-site, in-person consultations during the pandemic. “The numbers [of clients] just keep growing” and some attend Haldane, she said. “A lot of adolescents are really struggling.” Similarly, The Hub worries about teachers and staff members “as they juggle so many different issues that come up with the pandemic.” Through it all, she concluded, “we just keep plugging away.”
The Hub “is perfect for our community,” Van Tassel declared, in appreciation.
He expressed hopes for continued cordial town government meetings and operations as supervisor. “I want everybody to feel welcome here and everybody to be respected,” he said.
Van Tassel also mentioned the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as Congress met to certify the election of Joe Biden as president. Watching TV, he recalled, “I just couldn’t believe my eyes, saying to myself: ‘Is this happening in the United States of America?’ ” Then, when the harrowing hours of violence ended, members of Congress reconvened to complete their duty. “It was the lowest day and probably one of the proudest days. We continued,” he said.