Monday, March 30, 2009

Life Without Homebound

The hundreds literally left homebound with the recent closure of the Homebound Transportation program may be getting rides once again. Onondaga County legislators are looking into restoring this program because the cuts have been such a big deal for people in the community. 

Lou Ann Hadley is just one person who depended on Homebound to get out of her home. Hadley has been homebound for two years since she was diagnosed with severe COPD. She can no longer get behind the wheel with circulation problems in her legs, arthritis, and sleep apnea. 

She used Homebound to get to places like the MOST, restaurants, and the mall, until February 28th when the county's contract with Homebound was cancelled. There were 283 people who depended on this service and it only cost 20 dollars. 

But the county had to make budget cuts and Homebound was one of them. Public Health Administrator Amanda Nestor says, "Our mission is health, shelter, and safety. This didn't meet that criteria, there are other resources." 

One of the other services in the county is Centro Call a Bus. It's the local transit authority with fixed routes and also a call-a-bus service. However, Most homebound people need more assistance. 

The County Health Department sent out a list of alternative options, but for Lou Ann none of them met her needs. Right now, Lou Ann and others are waiting for the County Legislature to meet later this month. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Onondaga County Tobacco 19

"Most teenagers know the dangers in cigarettes, but they think that they should be able to choose, but I think the problem with that is the whole aspect of addiction makes it harder," said Ryan DeOrdio.

Tobacco Free Onondaga County reports every year thousands of young New Yorkers make the choice to light up a cigarette for the first time. But now a new law in Onondaga County increases the age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 19. While some teens may find it unfair to wait an extra year, one teenager we found doesn’t mind at all.

"I think that it's very important, because I think that it can help save lives."

Ryan DeOrdio, 17, wrote a story in favor of increasing the purchase age as a contributing writer for the Post-Standard. The high school junior said restricting tobacco sales to people in their late teens or early 20s protects more than just the smoker. He said he published the article because of the cigarette swapping he saw amongst his peers.

"In my school specifically, I didn't see that many of trading cigarettes and whatnot in my school," said DeOrdio, "but I did see it a lot out of school."

"Making cigarettes harder for youth to obtain is a way to reduce youth smoking," said Jenny Dickinson of the Onondaga County Health Department. "In 2006, there's a study amongst seventh graders that found 30 percent of seventh graders obtained cigarettes through friends."

Since the law is so new, there isn't a lot of data to show if the new plan is working or not. Central New York businesses are still adjusting to the changes.

"One of the things that happened was the age difference happened when cigarette prices also increased. We just had a 70 cents increase in packs of cigarettes," said Jack Glisson, owner of Glisson's Mobil on Nottingham Road in Syracuse. "Every time that happens, we see a decrease in sales."

Glisson's store sells tobacco products and the county regularly checks his business to make sure he’s in compliance with who he sells to. He says those under 19 can still go to the nearby Onondaga Nation and buy tobacco products. Glisson says Tobacco 19 is good, but not full proof.

"I think it will notch it down a little bit," said Glisson. "If it's not easily accessible then they won't get it. I'm sure there are places where you can buy the cigarettes." He said older people buying tobacco products for the underage has happened for years, and he expects it to continue.

"It's one prong in a multi-pronged approach to reduce youth smoking, and we really have seen that policy change is the way to go to reduce youth smoking," said Dickinson.

All three people said there are people who think increasing the age to buy cigarettes is a waste of time. According to Tobacco Free Onondaga County, nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started puffing before turning 18. It's facts like these that keep DeOrdio fighting.

"There's a lot of teenagers who start smoking, and then years later they just say 'I wish I could quit.' Even if they could choose, I think that we have to almost protect them from themselves in a way."