In less than a decade, the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization has transformed itself from being a pilot program with no money to a nonprofit with an annual budget of $2.5 million.
Because health care changes rapidly, so has the agency. The organization was formed in 2005 to help the north country meet the medical needs of its expanding military population and fill in gaps in the regions medical services. It did not have its first staff member, Denise K. Young, until 2007.
A lot has been accomplished in five years, Mrs. Young said. Our missions never changed. Our focus is on analyzing the health care system, identifying gaps, and leveraging resources to fill those gaps.
Its rapid growth has been in more than just its partnerships and programs; it also has outgrown its third-floor office space at 120 Washington St. The organization recently relocated to the second floor there, where there are more offices and a large conference room to accommodate the nearly 30 employees it has among its programs.
The regional group was formed based on building cooperative health care arrangements and agreements between military installations and regional health care systems. The organizations board members include representatives from the military post, hospitals and health care facilities.
One of its first grants was $15,000 in 2006 from Health Net Federal Services, the managed care contractor for Tricares 23-state North Region, which includes New York. That money helped go toward the organizations goals of analyzing ways to save money.
Since then, FDRHPO has accomplished numerous projects, including more than $84 million in master-planned upgrades to five hospitals in the Fort Drum health service area; a $500,000 commitment from the state to address growing behavioral health needs; four newly licensed outpatient mental health clinics and an additional 70 Tricare-credentialed behavioral health providers; more than $16 million in secured technology infrastructure upgrades; more than $648,000 in state and local investment to improve coordination and delivery of emergency medical services surrounding Fort Drum; and mobilization of $4.1 million in community, state and federal grant investments for physician and allied health professional recruitment in the region.
FDRHPO also helped bring back air medical services to the region.
All successes weve had depends on the network of partners to help us, Mrs. Young said. Were really working on solutions together.
A bulk of health IT work is through the North Country Health Information Partnership, which helps implement electronic medical records and health information exchange. Corey M. Zeigler, information technology program manager, said 26 of 117 providers in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties are now a part of the partnership.
Recent health IT demands mean the health IT workforce is growing. The organization helped bring the health information technology certificate training program to Jefferson Community College.
What you need are professionals that can speak the language, and who can understand both professions on the health and IT sides, said Patrick A. Fontana, a health IT implementation specialist.
He is also the agencys manager of a $900,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to help build the health IT network.
Other agency highlights include the Emergency Medical Services Program, run by former Watertown Police Chief Joseph J. Goss, and regional care coordination, which is overseen by Patricia M. Fralick. Ms. Goss is working with the 17 ambulance squads in Jefferson County to join an EMS cooperative to help them maintain identity while FDRHPO helps provide administrative tasks, and help with training, billing and ordering of supplies.
Mrs. Fralick said the case management program is still in development. Eventually, a team of care transition coaches will work with discharge planners, patients, primary care physicians and support staff to help reduce health care costs and improve patient outcomes for people who have Medicaid and Medicare.