McCoy issues prescription for county’s health

 The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“Recreation should not only be available to those with deep pockets,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy in his State of the County speech on Thursday.

ALBANY COUNTY — Health — public, economic, and environmental — was the focus of Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy’s State of the County address delivered on Thursday.

“Our health is not solitary, but a combination of our physical health, mental health, social health, and financial health,” said McCoy near the start of his speech.

Past discriminatory practices have created health inequities, he said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.: “Of all forms of inequity, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”

The pandemic has heightened food insecurity nationwide, said McCoy. Albany County, he said, has worked with United Way, the Food Bank of Northeastern Regional, and “nearly 60 food pantries and soup kitchens to get healthy food to families within our neighborhoods that need it most,” committing a quarter of a million dollars to the effort.

Also, the county has provided $109 million in food-stamp benefits to 19,000 families county-wide, he said.

McCoy, a Democrat in his 13th year as county executive, said that, before he took the helm, Albany County had no parks and recreation department. He cited a long list of recreational initiatives including the Albany County Rail Trail, which runs from Voorheesville to Albany and has hundreds of thousands of users every year.

He went over improvements to Lawson Lake Park and praised the Innovation Fund, a result of the county arena having its name bought by MVP.

The county is purchasing a fitness center in Cohoes, McCoy said, and also building a sports complex. “Recreation should not only be available to those with deep pockets,” he said. “For the sake of our entire community, our youth, seniors and disadvantaged populations, we must provide opportunities regardless of income. This state-of-the-art facility will be available at no cost to these groups.”

McCoy spoke of the importance of mental as well as physical health and said the stigma surrounding mental-health issues needs to be removed. “Just as we drive children and adults to exercise, and promote annual visits to their physician, we should be encouraging preventative mental health visits for everyone,” he said.

Last September, McCoy had announced county, city, court, and state leaders were working with charitable groups in a united effort to stem homelessness and to deal with burgeoning mental-health and addiction crises.

These programs include Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, known as LEAD, and Albany County Crisis Officials Responding and Diverting, known as ACCORD. On Thursday, McCoy said a street outreach program is being added to the mix.

“We cannot turn our backs on vulnerable populations ….,” he said. “We also need to reach out to our children,” he went on, citing mental-health initiatives in the schools.

McCoy spoke of litigation against “Big Pharma” and said money from the settlements will be used “strategically to save lives and battle against the growing number of overdoses from fentanyl and other opioids.”

Fentanyl test strips are available to the public, McCoy said.

The arts were hit hard by the pandemic, he said. “We need this for our soul, the health and mental health of our being,” said McCoy. The county has committed $1.5 million of its federal pandemic funds to arts programs, he said.

McCoy spoke, too, of the importance of fiscal health and said, “We need to ensure that we are working together to incentivize companies to grow here in Albany County so that our families have an opportunity to earn a rate of pay that is sustainable for the future, at a career that will not become obsolete.”

He praised Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for securing $10 billion to develop nanoscience technology locally and also lauded the $1.5 billion for Global Foundries, which, McCoy said, “will further solidify the Capital Region as a hub for semiconductor research, design and manufacturing.”

McCoy noted the $60 million state grant to upgrade the county’s airport and said shovel-ready sites are being prepared near the airport for development.

“​​As important as all of this job creation is,” McCoy said, “we also need to make sure our residents have the skills to fill them.” He said $2.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act grants were awarded to 15 organizations providing training in Albany County to “help meet the needs of high-demand industries like health care and manufacturing.”

Finally, McCoy spoke of the importance of environmental health, arguing that it need not conflict with economic growth.

“This year, we gained designation as a Regional Leader in NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities Program through the completion of climate change and sustainability action items,” said McCoy, referencing the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority.

He went on, “This designation creates the opportunity for the county to gain more funding to use for sustainability projects and allows us to become a member of the Green Purchasing Community through New York State’s Office of General Service GreenNY initiative.”

He noted the county’s five-acre solar facility in Colonie, and also said Albany County has committed to having a zero-emissions fleet by the year 2030. 

“We will also explore the newest technologies, including AI, making services more accessible, efficient, and user-friendly for residents,” said McCoy.

He concluded by saying that 2024 could be Albany County’s “most transformative year yet.”

“By embracing innovation, making strategic investments, and working with our partners,” said McCoy, “we will continue to protect the overall health of the community.”

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