Chasing it

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Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

That ought to be the campaign slogan for the current push to legalize casino gambling in New York State. There will be a hard-fought, big-money campaign designed to win your vote if the state legislature can get out of its own way long enough to twice pass the required constitutional amendment for legalization.

There’s no gambling in New York State. So says the state constitution — except for nine full-service Native-American casinos (Aksesasne Mohawk in Franklin; Lakeside in Cayuga; Mohawk Bingo Palace in Franklin; two Seneca Alleganys in Cattaraugus; Seneca Niagara; and the ever-popular Turning Stone, near Syracuse). Oh, there are also nine Racino facilities at race tracks like Monticello and Saratoga (where no one gambles, right?) equipped with video slot machines. Then, of course, there is the state lottery, where it’s only a dollar, so it’s not really gambling, as the state siphons off proceeds from where they’re supposed to go — to schools (ironic, huh?). And church bingo, on-line poker, millions of Super Bowl pools, and on and on.

So, with all that, what’s the prize? Well, supposedly, full casinos will service the New York City market, for which many fancy suitors have lined up waving cash in the faces of the deciders. And with full legalization, the state’s share of the “earnings” goes up exponentially.

The deliciously ironic aspect of the whole farce is that state lawmakers could actually put an end to the hypocrisy of the state constitutionally-mandated ban on gambling in the face of what is already billions of dollars of gambling.

What the good solons of the state, both houses of the legislature, Senate and Assembly, have already done is step one — approving a 17-word addition to the state constitution that would allow “casino gambling at no more than seven facilities.” Those seven sites have yet to be decided upon (and there’s the rub, but back to that in a minute).

What needs to happen next is for a newly elected state legislature — and elections for such are this coming November — to approve it again. That could happen as early as January.

The governor, of course, then has to approve it. And when that happens, the entire thing is subject to a statewide referendum, and that’s where the campaign slogan kicks in.

The difficult part is deciding those seven sites. That will be the largest part of the battle.

 

Too much cash at stake

Once before, in 1996, a state legislature passed the required bill. The second legislature was set to pass it early in 1997, with New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani’s approval, because there were to be no casinos in the city. But as the legislators were getting ready to vote, a guy started running gambling cruises out of New York Harbor: no gambling until the boat got into international waters, twelve miles out. That enraged Guiliani who, with maximal clout, began to reassess his position. And Donald Trump, owner of an Atlantic City casino, began pouring lobbying money into the fight, seeking to defeat the proposition for competition. Scared leaders in the fight began abdicating, creating chaos on the Albany floor, leaving gaping vacuums of power until the measure was ultimately defeated.

Now, in what are hopefully the dying throes of recession, governmental entities are starving for new fresh cash. The casino effort has been revived.

Lyme warrior speaks

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“Lyme warrior” Katina Makris.

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Ever heard the term “Lyme warrior?” It was included in several e-mails touting this Sunday afternoon’s workshop at Mirabai Books in Woodstock, where author Katina Makris will discuss her book Out of the Woods on healing Lyme disease. She is expected to share some of the practical healing information and inspiration that have made her an icon, and noted warrior for those suffering from chronic Lyme.

Makris’ appearance comes at a time when local awareness of all the symptoms, pains and lasting damage done by the rampaging disease deer ticks carry (along with mice and the cats that transport each) is reaching new peaks.

A county Lyme disease advisory committee is hosting a public forum July 31 at the County Office Building in Kingston from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Members of the public who wish to provide comment (five-minute maximum) are welcome. A new countywide plan to prevent the spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses will be unveiled and discussed.

Among the plan’s many suggestions and proposed actions are the dissemination of “shower cards” reminding people to check themselves for ticks. Poster warnings are being produced for parks and other public spaces. There will be public education opportunities stressing, above all else, how to safely remove those nasty little critters from one’s skin.

Also, County Executive Mike Hein has in the past week announced a new initiative in which the county health department will distribute posters and other information to veterinarians and animal-related businesses throughout Ulster County. Cats as well as dogs can carry the ticks. Among the new suggestions coming from the county is not to allow pets on the bed, for starters.

“I crash at home, feeling as stunned as a bird who has hit a window,” Matris writes in Out of the Woods. “I’m too weak to drive, sleep is raggedy, and my head spins. My blood sugar feels like it’s constantly plummeting; I feel jittery and starving, and have anxiety rushes that only a solid protein meal can assuage. My metabolism has gone way out of whack. Suddenly, I’m packing on weight in a way I never have before.”

Healthy living, small-town style

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Photo of the Village of Saugerties at night by Dion Ogust.

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Staying fit doesn’t have to be a chore.

It doesn’t require an expensive gym membership, nor take a huge investment of time. Every small step taken leads to better health overall. Saugertesians are fortunate to have options. This town offers plenty of ways in which to make those small steps taken add up to better fitness. For instance, Saugerties is known throughout the region for its extraordinarily wide range of organized (and disorganized) recreational activities. But here are a few other suggestions.

Check out the farmers’ market

Maintaining a healthy diet is easier when the available choices are fresh and appealing. The Saugerties Farmers’ Market, about to open its eleventh season, offers a wide range of locally-grown produce, some of it certified organic and naturally grown. Knowing what to do with the bounty is the other half of the battle, and the market helps out with that, too, hosting chef demonstrations, with tastings and recipes.

Beyond the produce, the market also presents a variety of other healthy goods, including artisan breads, freshly laid eggs, fresh herbs, local cheeses, honey, jam and sauces, baked goods, pasture-raised meats and free-range poultry from local sources. When the weather is hot and cooking doesn’t seem like a very attractive prospect, ready-made goods are available at the market to be eaten on-site or taken home as well.

The Saugerties Farmers’ Market is held in the village at the juncture of Main and Partition Streets every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend, May 26, through October 20. For information, visit www.saugertiesfarmersmarket.com.

Take a short walk

It’s been recommended in recent years that for optimal health we take 10,000 steps every day. This adds up to about five miles, a figure that, unless one has a very active job, isn’t likely to be achieved during normal daily activities. Still, every step counts, and even things like parking the car a distance from your destination and walking there to get in some extra steps, or going for a walk while waiting for your car to be serviced, will add up.

Drs. Denice and Bob Martin, husband-and wife-chiropractic team at the Center of Health in Saugerties, say that their patients have found it beneficial to get involved in walking groups. They’ve started two such groups, one leaving from Cantine Field and the other from Seamon Park. “This isn’t power walking,” says Bob, “or something you need a new jogging outfit for. Anyone can do this.” A spouse or family member can be enlisted for support, too; a walk into the village for lunch is a reason for both to get moving.

Rather than being intimidated by 10,000 steps, say the Martins, start small. Start with ten steps if that’s all you can do. “No matter what your age or current activity level,” says Denice Martin, “start small and build from there.”

 Take a longer walk

Getting extra steps in while going about your daily routine is great, but sometimes it’s easier to stay motivated walking when you choose a beautiful location in which to immerse yourself. Saugerties offers an array of choices for scenic walks, from the easy-to-navigate area around the Saugerties Lighthouse to the more rugged rock ledges on the trails along the edge of the river at Falling Waters Preserve.

A short distance from downtown Saugerties, Falling Waters Preserve was once the site of the Mulford Ice House, which in its day held 10,000 tons of ice yielded by the river awaiting shipment to New York City. Remains of the icehouse are still there on one of the trails, and other paths feature a scenic waterfall and dramatic views of the Hudson River and the Catskills. For information, visit www.scenichudson.org/parks/fallingwaters.

Ride a bike

Another option for fitness in Saugerties is to ride a bike, either around town to do errands, or on a day-long outing. Revolution Bicycles in the village rents bikes by the hour or the day for a nominal fee, and offer the accessories like car-trunk racks and bike baskets for rental as well. There are even tandem bikes available. A helpful map of bike trails around Saugerties and places to see by bike can be printed out from the tourism section of www.village.saugerties.ny.us.

 The Suggestion Guy

Jerome Hollick bills himself as the One-Stop Outdoor Resource guy. “I’m kind of the unofficial tour guide for the area,” he says.

He’s not kidding, either. He has suggestions for everything from kayaking or trout fishing on the river to hiking at Kaaterskill Falls; from rowing at the Kingston Rowing Club for low-impact fitness to going for the zipline at Hunter Mountain, the highest zipline in North America, he says. (Turns out it’s also the fastest and the longest in North America at 3200’ long and 600’ high.)

“Where we live, there’s a lot of outdoor activities all over. There’s no other place quite like it, absolutely beautiful, picturesque, a lot of nice wilderness. And what’s unique is that there’s mountains and a river close together,” he says. “Next year we’re thinking of doing a surf -and-turf day where you go skiing up at Hunter Mountain during the day, and then you leave and drive a half hour to the river in Saugerties, where you’d then go sailing and watch the sun set over the mountains that you just skied or snowboarded,” he says.

Hollick runs the Tivoli Sailing Company, offering sailing lessons and charters for adults, as well as kids’ programs.

Sailing lessons are intimidating to some people, according to Hollick, but “if you can drive a car and drink a cup of coffee at the same time, you can sail a ship,” he says. “You’re only going five to seven miles per hour. If you drove a car at that speed you’d never get in an accident.” Sailing isn’t just for the young or very fit, Hollick says. “Like a lot of things, it’s just a matter of perspective and learning.” For information, visit www.tivolisailing.com.

Benedictine survives

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Benedictine Hospital. (photo by Dan Barton)

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[HAHV CEO David] Lundquist said the organization plans to retain as many quality patient services as possible but will reduce the total number of licensed beds operated from the 300 currently shared between the Benedictine and Kingston hospital campuses. “We are proceeding with the utmost sense of urgency to define the future of HealthAlliance,” Lundquist said. An urgent in-depth review of the Mary’s Avenue facility will be done, and a certificate of need will be prepared for the state Department of Health.

— From a HealthAlliance press release Monday afternoon, July 9

 

The headline was that HealthAlliance will be closing Kingston Hospital and consolidating operations at Benedictine Hospital. The change in direction from its previous plan was a painful and humbling step for northern Ulster County’s central healthcare institution, which had three years ago completed a new central emergency room at Kingston Hospital as its centerpiece for inpatient care.

Yet it is quite possible that the total number of healthcare jobs in the community will not plunge, as so many anticipate. The jobs lost at HealthAlliance may for the most part simply shift to other parts of the sprawling industry.

Here’s why.

Nationally, the number of jobs in healthcare is dramatically increasing, not decreasing. And it is projected to increase for the remainder of this decade, accelerating from 2.6 percent per year in the past decade to 3.0 percent per year in the present one.

That doesn’t mean that the number of jobs is rapidly increasing in all segments of healthcare. Employment within healthcare, like employment in other industries, is constantly shifting — between categories of workers, between geographical regions, and between occupational subsectors. As more advanced and more cost-effective ways of dealing with health care evolve, employment is shifting among the providers. Hospitals are not unaffected by these shifts.

What’s currently happening with the “rightsizing” of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley (HAHV) is not atypical. At a public information meeting a couple of weeks ago, HAHV CEO Dave Lundquist said that average bed occupancy in the two Kingston hospitals had dropped to 70 percent. At an average time only 210 of the 300 licensed beds in the two hospitals are occupied. With the present configuration, that level of occupancy doesn’t produce sufficient revenue to cover the costs of the hospitals’ infrastructure and staffing.

Lundquist noted that Benedictine had 220 beds prior to agreeing to reduce the number to 150. There’s room to restore them.

Healthcare jobs up

According to government national projections updated in the January 2012 Monthly Labor Review, total national employment in health care and social assistance rose from 12,718,000 in 2000 to 16,416,000 in 2010. The federal government predicts that number will increase to 22,954,000 by 2020.

A monthly survey of labor statistics provides details on the different currents involved in the healthcare employment stream. Hospital employment rose from 4,126,000 employees in March 2002 to 4,808,000 this March. Meanwhile, the number of people working in physicians’ offices increased from 1,959,000 to 2,412,000 in the same decade — about the same pace. That’s close to a 2 percent annual growth rate, but it’s much less expansion than the other major categories of health care have experienced. The growth in the number of jobs in nursing-care facilities increased more slowly, from 1,569,000 in 2002 to 1,665,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the number of ambulatory care workers increased nationally from 4,589,000 employees in March 2002 to 6,290,000 this March. Employment in outpatient care centers — a rapidly growing category — went from 408,800 to 649,700. Employment in home healthcare services — another important growth area — soared from 666,000 to 1,169,000 during the same decade.

Good food is self-love

[wide][/wide]We all know that Americans’ poor eating habits are responsible for the obesity pandemic. Many people still don’t know what good food is or believe that eating well just isn’t possible. Fighting those assumptions has transformed Health Quest nutritionist Roufia Payman’s job into a mission.

Payman works out of Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck. She said she’s much busier than when she started her career 30 years ago. She’s seeing many more young people now. More people are coming to her with gastro-digestive problems that are a direct result of eating junk food. Others suffer from hypertension, elevated cholesterol and elevated triglycerides. Unhealthy food is the cause of at least 40 percent of the cases of diabetes, cancer, stroke, and other diseases, Payman said she had calculated. Poor diet impacts even a disease such as arthritis, since too much animal fat and sugar causes inflammation and excess weight puts stress on the joints.

Forget the fad diets. Payman, one of the speakers at Health Quest’s women-only Better than Chocolate event this past Thursday night, June 28, said she coaches her patients to change their eating habits permanently. They are told to eat fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, nuts, and whole grains and to avoid processed, refined foods, which she calls “poison.” One of her patients, a schoolteacher who was a couch potato when she first consulted Payman five years ago, has lost over 110 pounds and now is a fitness enthusiast, teaching Zumba classes. Another is an 85-year-old who lost 15 pounds in two months and now enjoys rounds of golf.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” Payman said. “You eat bad food, which makes you tired and depressed, [and] which causes you to eat more to comfort yourself. My mission in life is to teach people that food is your medicine. Don’t make medicine your food.”

Payman grew up in Iran, where everyone shopped at local markets, bought their meat from butchers, and only ate fresh foods. Spinach, cilantro, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, onions, parsley, radishes, and scallions were key components of the Iranian diet, with a few tablespoons of plain yogurt served at each meal.

Educating people to deal with marketing hype is a big part of Payman’s job. “The most important think I teach them is how to read labels,” she said. “Sugar is poison. Soda, fruit punches and other juice, even sports drinks — are garbage.”

She reads the ingredients from a box of raisin bran to her patients, showing them that the cereal, contrary to marketers’ claims of its cancer-fighting antioxidants, is full of sugar and refined carbohydrates. The additives in food are particularly designed by food companies “to get you hooked,” she said.

Her program includes consultations and recipes tailored to each person. “You have to really get to know your client, their background and relationship with food,” she said. “You teach them step by step.”

The basic message, however, is the same: “Learn to love the food that loves you back.”

“We’re too focused on a number on the scale or vanity,” Payman explained. “It’s about wellness, the quality of your life. I always say life and death are in the hand of God, but the quality of life is in your hands. What determines that quality is how you fuel your body.”

Payman advises her clients to avoid “anything white” — choosing brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-grain bread over white. Refined carbohydrates affect blood sugar, leading to dangerous swings, she said. For breakfast, a meal that she says should never be skipped, she recommends eating a lean protein like an egg. Natural almond butter or peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain bread is an excellent option.

Payman advises eating six meals a day — three smaller sit-down meals and three snacks and eating smaller amounts of good food more frequently. Protein is particularly important. It keeps blood sugar stable and prevents the kind of ravenous hunger that causes people to eat a bag of chips in one sitting.

Nuts, such as almonds or pistachios, fruits (washed, of course), raw carrots, grape tomatoes, and low-fat cheese are excellent snack foods. Busy commuters can keep some nuts in the car and bring pieces of cut-up apple or other fresh fruit or vegetable along. For drinks, water is best, along with herbal and black teas and coffee in moderation.

Given people’s busy lives, planning is key, she said. “Make dishes such as vegetarian chili or turkey burgers in advance and freeze them, so when you come home you simply take the food out of the freezer and it’s ready. If you don’t plan your meals, you won’t succeed.”

There’s never an excuse for not eating well, she added. “Today I was screaming at some poor man: Don’t tell me you don’t have time. Boil a dozen eggs in the morning and take one with you. For lunch eat a peanut-butter sandwich.’”

It’s a myth that good food costs too much. Payman said she was in complete agreement with a point made by keynote speaker Jessica Applestone, co-owner of Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats, Such foods as hormone-free, grass-fed beef don’t have to break the bank. Applestone said $50 worth of beef, sausages, chicken, pork, and bacon was enough to supply 10 meals, an affordable $5 per meal.

A small, three-ounce serving of meat is sufficient and in fact healthier, said Payman. Your dinner plate should be filled half with dark green leafy vegetables, a quarter with a whole grain such as brown rice, bulgur wheat, quinoa, or barley and the remaining quarter with a lean protein. Payman also recommended an eight-ounce serving of seafood a week.

In her talk, Applestone lambasted the labeling that prevails at the supermarket. Except for “organic,” all other health-suggestive labels, such as “free range,” “all-natural” and “artisanal” should be suspect, she said, given that they aren’t backed up by a certifying organization. Similarly, a consumer shouldn’t assume that a meat branded with the name of a farm means the animal was hormone-free and raised in a free-range pasture. Usually, it’s just another marketing ploy.

Better than Chocolate, held at Poughkeepsie’s Grandview, also featured Kelli Mayfarth, a board-certified genetic counselor at Health Quest. In her talk about genetic testing for breast cancer, Mayfarth said that genetic testing continues to evolve, with a new test for 20 genes introduced just this year. However, she noted that only 10 percent of overall cases of breast cancer are attributable to heredity.

Payman said that the best way to avoid falling prey to one of modern society’s common diseases was to eat well, exercise at least half an hour five days a week — and enjoy both. “Food isn’t just one thing. It’s the body, mind, and soul,” said Payman. “Always take 60 seconds to meditate before you eat. It’s about learning to love yourself. Good food is love.”