Partnership Brings Health Care to One Rural New York County

Article excerpt

For health care professionals looking for a better way to reach rural residents, there's a lesson to be learned in New York's Tioga County.

With a largely rural population, the county has many residents who for years rarely, if ever, received medical care. One of the more poorly served areas is in the northern part of the county around the towns of Richford, Berkshire, and Newark Valley.

The area had been without a primary care physician for five years when in 1993 an alliance of community members, the school district, the NY-Penn Health Systems Agency, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and a nearby hospital joined forces to look at the area's health care needs. Now, a little more than two years later, with a grant from the New York State Department of Health, two new family health care centers - one in Richford and the other in Newark Valley - are up and running.

"We started by simply looking at community needs," says Diane Crews, Cornell Cooperative Extension's project coordinator for its New Futures Rural Alliance, one of the many groups involved in the project. "We held meetings with community members, representatives of the school district, and the county Department of Social Services and Department of Planning. Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton became involved and then brought in United Health Services (UHS). Once collaboration began, it just seemed to keep going."

The family health center in Richford, which is operated by Lourdes Hospital, opened in May 1994. Challenged by Lourdes to find a place for the center, the citizens of Richford found a spare room in their tiny post office on Route 38. …