Oneida County Announces Funding to Improve Healthcare for At-Risk Population

More than $500,000 Awarded by Central New York Care Collaborative

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. announced today, that through collaborative efforts facilitated by the county, $538,893 has been awarded by the Central New York Care Collaborative to improve the healthcare of the local refugee population.

The funding will be awarded to the Neighborhood Center, Inc., as the lead agency, along with Mohawk Valley Health System, the Regional Primary Care Network and the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees to be used for an innovative project that will help reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions, increase access to primary care and address the social determinant of health needs for individuals in the refugee and non-English-speaking community.

“I am happy that Oneida County was able to help facilitate this collaboration between these important organizations,” Picente said. “This funding will strengthen the foundation of one of our community’s most valuable assets — our refugee population — and ensure that its healthcare needs are met in the most effective and efficient way possible.”

The Central New York Care Collaborative is a partnership that connects more than 2,000 healthcare and community based service providers in six counties across Central New York: Cayuga, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego.

The primary goal of the collaborative is to serve the population by improving the coordination of healthcare services, enhancing the quality of performance outcomes and creating an overall better system of care for patients.

“We’re very excited to be able to support creative and innovative healthcare services for the community,” said Virginia Opipare, Executive Director with the Central New York Care Collaborative. “To see this level of collaboration across Oneida County offering much-needed services for the refugee population is exactly why we developed the Innovation Fund. We are pleased to be able to offer this level of support to Oneida County.”

“The Neighborhood Center is privileged to serve as the lead partner agency and commends Oneida County Department of Mental Health for organizing this visionary partnership of community providers,” said Sandra Soroka, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Center. “The objectives to reduce hospitalizations, unnecessary emergency room visits, and ultimately improve medical outcomes for refugees, is much needed in our community.

“Many of our community members struggle with daily stressors, lack of financial resources, inadequate transportation and language barriers; all while acclimating to a new culture. When you compound that with a medical condition it can be overwhelming. Accessing the appropriate medical care with a language difference is often not easy when you can’t just pick up a phone and call a doctor. Language barriers can often result in poorer medical outcomes, unnecessary emergency room visits, poor medication compliance and a higher rate of hospitalizations that could have been avoided.

“There is no single solution and no one agency can meet all the needs, which makes this county collaborative so promising. Bringing together community expertise with multiple partners will enable us to work together to provide meaningful interventions that produce better outcomes for individuals, families and ultimately the community. Alone, we are limited in our reach, together, we are stronger and will have a much greater impact.”

Thousands of Oneida County residents are foreign-born with a large percentage speaking a language other than English. These numbers have a profound effect on individuals, families, hospitals, and healthcare providers in our community. For example, in 2017, the MVHS hospital system saw over 7,500 patients with limited or no English proficiency. At Regional Primary Care Network’s Utica Community Health Center, almost half of the patient population is non-English-speaking.

“Regional Primary Care Network’s Utica Community Health Center has been treating and supporting refugees since we opened in 2010,” said Janine Carzo, Chief Operations Officer of RPCN-Mohawk Valley. “We are a local resource for Refugee Health Assessments by contract with the New York State Department of Health. That means that we see nearly every new arrival and provide a thorough medical screening. We then establish them as our patients.

“We have a department that is just dedicated to refugee health coordination. This department goes outside the four walls and assists refugees with their needs beyond medicine. The funding provided by CNYCC will further enhance our work and close the loop for our non-English-speaking neighbors. This partnership between Utica Community Health Center, MVHS, Neighborhood Center and the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees will help alleviate some of the trauma they have experienced and are experiencing as they settle in a new country with different norms.”

“The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees is excited to partner with Oneida County Department of Mental Health, the Neighborhood Center, Inc., Mohawk Valley Health System, and Regional Primary Care Network, in the Oneida County Partnership for Refugee Health to address the linguistic and cultural barriers refugees and immigrants can face when accessing healthcare,” said Shelly Callahan, Executive Director of MVCR. “While we have a long history of collaboration with these agencies, this grant will generate the intentional creation of care models standardized across agencies that will strengthen interagency relationships to support both the client and the service provider.

“The creation of community connection navigators and refugee coordinators will be transformative for refugees and immigrants accessing health care in the Mohawk Valley, as well as for our healthcare systems, and our community as a whole. Utica is renowned as a model for best practices and innovation with regard to refugee and immigrant programming, and this program will raise that bar.”

"We are very pleased to be a part of this multi-agency initiative to support the care and health of our refugee population,” Scott H. Perra, President and CEO of MVHS. “Our role supports the transition of patients from the inpatient setting to the outpatient setting, including primary care, all designed to better meet the unique needs of our community’s refugees. Each year our interpreters at the Mohawk Valley Health System, along with our primary care program at our Sister Rose Vincent Family Medicine Center in Utica, provide support for thousands of patient visits, both inpatient and outpatient. The opportunity to expand and enhance our services with other known and respected community agencies is most welcome.”

In an ongoing effort to provide comprehensive healthcare services to all Oneida County residents, these partners will work to overcome the challenges that exist for the non-English-speaking population. The services that will be provided through this funding will specifically address the needs of those in the county’s many diverse neighborhoods. By addressing language, acculturation, and other identified needs, these services will open pathways to better primary healthcare, mental health care and a host of other support needs that will greatly improve the quality of life for many in the community.

“The best way to guarantee mental health services in Oneida County are readily available is to bring together providers who work collaboratively to offer a wide and varied array of treatment options,” said Robin O’Brien, Commissioner of the Oneida County Department of Mental Health. “With the support and hard work of Central New York Care Collaborative and local health care providers, we are pleased to be able to reach out to a large and important group in our community. Our neighbors who have limited Englishspeaking skills bring diverse and enriching cultures to our area. One of the problems encountered in the resettlement process is easy access to needed healthcare due mainly to language barriers. “The funding provided through this project will allow the Neighborhood Center, Regional Primary Care Network, the Refugee Center, MVHS and Oneida County to build a bridge between county residents and comprehensive healthcare services. We welcome the opportunity to work together and make easy access to all healthcare a reality.”