By the end of summer, there will be a new program to help military families new to the area better understand how and where to access health care.
The Military Family Health Education Program is funded by the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Jefferson County and will cost $30,500.
"We are finding that the freedom of choice to choose providers is overwhelming for some," said Kathryn G. Burgess, the program educator. "The health care near Fort Drum, compared to other same-size installations that have a full-fledged hospital, ours is better because all the money isn't staying on the installation. It's being pumped into the community and that allows specialty-care providers to stay open."
Mrs. Burgess said the program will really start at the end of this month with focus groups to help identify problem areas. She said the groups will discuss how to get the information on the area health care system out to families coming to Fort Drum.
She said Fort Drum is the largest Army post of its size that does not have an on-post hospital. To many military families being stationed at Fort Drum for the first time, this translates into bad health care.
This is not the case, according to Denise K. Young, executive director of the health planning organization.
"It's a different model, but we find that once they are out and accessing our services, they see how great our services are," she said. "It's just a matter of getting folks to understand our health care services and feeling comfortable accessing those services."
While the program will stress how to access primary care from Tricare providers in the region, Mrs. Burgess said there is bound to be discussion on how to access specialized care.
Kate L. Falb, community mental health educator for the extension, said the project is really about making the services more accessible to new families.
"The data shows that there is better care here and we need to make sure the health care is easy and understandable," she said. "We want to help families realize what we have here."