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Niagara County restores Healthy Neighborhoods Program

LOCKPORT – Niagara County’s Healthy Neighborhoods Program, which closed almost a year ago because of a loss of funding, is back in business.

However, the revived program isn’t what it used to be, with only one employee instead of three. On the other hand, the effort at improving quality of life is now countywide, instead of being restricted to certain areas that were primarily in Niagara Falls.

Public Health Educator Theresa M. McCabe was rehired in mid-March to return to the program that she and two others left last April, after the county lost a state grant that had kept the Healthy Neighborhoods effort going since 1997.

The program specialized in finding lead-based paints, installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and advising residents of poor neighborhoods how to improve their personal health. Workers often went door-to-door in Niagara Falls’ poorest census tracts, governed by the terms of the state grant.

After the county lost out on its grant renewal last year, Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton tried to convince the County Legislature to foot the bill itself, and he finally succeeded on budget adoption night Dec. 9.

Legislator W. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, the Legislature’s representative on the county Board of Health, sponsored a successful budget amendment to provide enough funding to reopen the program on a reduced basis.

“After being on this board for the months I have been, I had conversations with Mr. Stapleton about the importance of the program,” McNall said.

“This program had been successful for 20 years. It’s unfortunate that we have only one person,” Stapleton said.

The restoration of the $46,000-a-year job put McCabe to work, Stapleton told the board Thursday. “She’s already hit the ground running,” Stapleton said.

“We’re off and running and meeting with different agencies and re-establishing our partnerships,” Environmental Health Director James J. Devald said.

Legislators have been informed of the reboot and have been asked to refer constituents with problems the program could fix to McCabe.

Education is the focus, with McCabe able to offer help on everything from removing injury hazards from homes to food safety, fire prevention and smoking cessation.

McCabe can be reached at 439-7444 or by email at theresa.mccabe@niagaracounty.com.

Also at the Board of Health meeting, Devald presented his annual rabies report. In 2014, the county had nine confirmed rabid animals: four raccoons, two skunks and three bats.

At the Health Department’s five free clinics for rabies immunizations of pets, 2,993 animals were vaccinated. The department investigated 557 animal bites and submitted 157 dead animals for rabies testing. Rabies can be confirmed only by examining an animal’s brain. Fifty-four county residents had to undergo post-exposure preventive rabies treatments.

The county will again take part in the airdrop of animal baits coated with fish emulsion and containing rabies vaccine. The distribution normally occurs in late August.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com