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NNY Rural Health Care Alliance considering merger with FDRHPO

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The Northern New York Rural Health Care Alliance soon may merge with the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.

After an executive session of the alliance’s board Wednesday, President Ben Moore III said he and fellow board members will approach the planning organization “to discuss various options for a joint relationship to address this request for proposal.”

“I put a call in to Denise Young at Fort Drum Regional Health Organization,” he said. “If they’re interested, we hope to get a proposal from them and present it to our board. We’ll see how it works.”

Denise K. Young, executive director of the planning organization, said while the idea is preliminary, both boards’ executive committees will explore that option and see if it fits in with the mission of health care being served effectively in the north country.

Mr. Moore, who is also CEO of River Hospital, Alexandria Bay, said he was approached a few months ago by fellow board members who were concerned that the agency’s upcoming request for proposal with the state to continue to fund the agency will be data-driven. The alliance, he said, does not have all data the state might want to track its initiatives and programs.

“There were questions if we can file a successful RFP,” he said. “From that — what does it mean for the organization going forward? This is to try to get a feeling of what the organization is now and what’s the best way to respond.”

Mr. Moore said with health-care reform unfolding, states are moving into data-focused initiatives.

Typically, the agency receives about $300,000 a year from the state Department of Health to fund the alliance’s entire operation.

“We can’t afford to lose that funding,” Mr. Moore said.

According to the alliance’s most recently available 990-tax form, from 2010, obtained by Guide Star, a little more than $106,000 is spent just on salaries for the alliance’s two staff members, Executive Director Patricia M. Bishop and Program Manager Sandra L. Hazen.

Mr. Moore said the bulk of funding goes toward supporting programs, including nurse leadership, Medical Academy for Science and Health camps and the annual Women’s Day, which will be held Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“By the RFP, the Health Care Alliance isn’t supposed to be in a permanent delivery environment,” Mr. Moore said. “They help seed (programs/ideas); it’s planning for new services and get networks provided.”

Mr. Moore said the RFP has yet to come out, but should be announced in the next couple of months. The state Department of Health’s fiscal year ends in March, he said, so board members want to have a plan in place long before then.

“This is like a preliminary discussion as to what the best thing to do for this community,” he said.

Mr. Moore said although the two agencies are separate, they have many similarities. The alliance was founded in 1995, and the planning organization in 2005.

“They’re about the same geographic area,” he said. “There’s a big overlapping component of the boards of both.”

A merger of the two organizations is a potential outcome from the alliance’s RFP discussions, he said.

“Logically, that’s something that will be discussed,” he said. “You have two similar charters. I have to hand it to board members; they’re looking at these issues.”

A merger with the FDRHPO makes sense, Mr. Moore said, as the planning organization already is data-driven and “has a real good start on the technology piece.”

The planning organization has accomplished numerous tasks and 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 and operational 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.

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