United Way Partnerships Boost NNY Programs

Bob Gorman

Prior to this gig at the United Way of NNY, I was a journalist for 39 years. After interviewing a lot of people over the years and paying attention to what they said one day and then what they said the next, I concluded – only half-jokingly – that I became adept at diagnosing mental illness. I just didn’t know how to treat it.

    Frankly, I am no good at helping anybody who needs serious help. For instance: You have an addiction? Just say no. You’re depressed? Snap out of it.  In other words, I don’t have the right words when it comes to truly helping people.

    But helping the helpers? I figured out a long time ago that THAT is something I can do.

    At the United Way the easiest way to see that help is in the $420,000 or so in grants we make every year to our nonprofit partners. But there’s more to helping the helpers than just money.

    In the last five years we have produced programs with nationally recognized speakers to support the work of agencies that make a difference in the lives of thousands of north country citizens.

That includes:

  • Former NFL All-Pro Joe Ehrmann on the subject “The three lies every boy is told on what it means to be a man.” St. Lawrence Renewal House, Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County, Catholic Charities, Mountain View Prevention and Lewis County Opportunities joined us in bringing Ehrmann to SUNY Canton, Massena and Lowville school districts and Jefferson Community College.
  • Olympic Champion Carl Lewis on organ donation, in which we partnered with Jefferson Community College and area health agencies, including the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network.
  • Roger Breisch, who has spent 15 years on regional and national suicide hotlines. His talk “Finding Life on the Suicide Hotline” was attended by more than 4,000 area high school students. We partnered with the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, Northern Regional Center for Independent Living, and the north country’s suicide coalitions, made up of representatives of dozens of human service nonprofits.

Partnering has allowed us to create the highly successful Food 4 Families programs at the Watertown City School District. By working with officials from the district and city, we developed a program through the Food Bank of CNY that allows the district to provide weekend food to 100 students a week during the school year. The advantages for the district are many: The food is less expensive than from a commercial store; it is already vetted for nutritional value; it is delivered directly to the school district by the food bank.

    Several years ago, a roof leak at the Salvation Army in Watertown forced the agency to close its soup kitchen for a week. But after we made a few phone calls, we put together a temporary daily lunch at the Watertown First Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall with the food prepared by the Mental Health Association of Jefferson County.

    (As an aside, we contract with the Mental Health Association once a year for our annual awards luncheon for state workers who make payroll deduction donations to area nonprofits. If you need to feed 30 or 40 people and want good food at a good value, you should contact the Mental Health Association at (315) 788-0970).

    Partnering works for us. A few years ago we rallied 35 businesses to provide a day of free labor to help build a Habitat for Humanity home in Carthage. And every fall we ask businesses to support our county food drives. Watertown Savings Bank and Northern Credit Union generate huge shipments of food every year, and added to the donations large and small from so many others, we generated 24,000 items that were shared by every pantry in Jefferson County.

    And we partner with individual companies, such as the Wladis Law Firm, to create adult education scholarships, which are awarded through Lewis County Opportunities, St. Lawrence Community Development Program and Community Action Planning Council.

    Helping the helpers is the best way to understand community service. Personally, I have no interest in providing anyone medical care. But donating blood through the Red Cross? Now you’re talking. After donating 13 gallons of blood in the last 50 years I can say without fear of contradiction that blood donation is the lazy man’s way to save a life. You sit on a table for 20 minutes while reading your smart phone, and then they give you snacks and apple juice. It’s the best deal in town.

    Let’s face it: The people who DO help people have a pretty tough row to hoe. Working with people who suffer through poverty, addiction, developmental disabilities, etc., often means a lot of days where progress can be hard to find, and relapse is a constant threat. If the rest of us don’t provide help through board membership, volunteer help and financial donations, those services will wither.

    At the United Way, we are committed to ensuring our community continues to help the helpers.

A New Year To Organize Projects

Brooke Rouse

Chamber professionals have a number of projects throughout the year, with many partners and many moving pieces. Project management and organization, as well as communication with staff and/or partners is something that a number of professionals deal with, whether you work for a nonprofit, small business or large company. There are endless tools and apps out there, some have fees, some do not and some may be better or worse for your industry. If you are part of a professional network, specific to your industry, ask for their advice on what they use for project management.  For the start of the New Year, let us look at some tools to help 2019 be as organized as possible. Take the time to research these and other tools online to find the best fit!

    Evernote (and Evernote Business) is an application that can be used on your Smartphone, computer or tablet. One account will allow all of your information to sync between devices, allowing you to add and share information from your desk, at a meeting or on the go.  The app allows you to create notebooks for different project, committees, etc. The ability to attach files, photos, and audio to notes that you type or write with a stylo means that everything is paper free and in one place. The other perk of this tool is the to-do feature. Tasks, goals, and projects can be managed with timelines, checkboxes and reminders, as well as the ability to tag teammates or coworkers to complete the tasks.

    If workflow of multiple projects is a priority, consider Asana. Asana allows you to manage the many roles you play in your job (or leadership role). A visual dashboard allows you to see all of your tasks in one window.  If you use Google Drive, Asana integrates with it, allowing you to attach a document to a task for easy access.  Asana has a great communication tool for team projects, with the ability to set deadlines and assign tasks, as well as check on progress and comment on any tasks. There is a mobile app for Asana, so that you can receive reminders or notices when your teammates complete a task.

                Google. Everyone knows what Google is, but not everyone knows how it can be used for business. There are endless opportunities for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing, however, we are focused on some of the organizing tools in GSuite. A business or organization can use Gmail as the official company email. To increase your branding and professionalism, company emails should be sent with a URL associated with your website (ex: Brooke @SLCChamber.org). GSuite allows you to set up, access and manage email accounts easily. Google Drive allows you to create, save and share documents. Multiple people can edit the same document and you can share with teammates outside of the company. Google Calendars will keep your team schedules in one place, allowing for ease of planning. The Google tools have apps for ease of access on the go, with automatic syncing and saving to the cloud.

Brooke Rouse is the executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and tourism promotion agent. Contact her a brouse@stlawrececountychamber.org or 315-386-4000.

Personal Testimonies Show NNY Pride

Rande Richardson

“When we decided to move back we wanted to create the culture that we wanted to live in. If it’s something that we love, then we want to help create it. In many ways, if you live in a small community, where you give helps to decide what becomes important. If you want a certain community and you want it to have a certain feel or if there’s an area that you want to strengthen, then you have to go do that.” -Jeff Ginger

“There are a lot of negative aspects of humanity, but you often find what you look for. If you’re looking for the positives in others, you want to recognize the positive gifts that have been given you and then the best way to say thank you is to give them to someone else. It is important to give back to that community. It’s where we raise our kids. It’s our community. It’s our home. We decided to live here, and we want to see the community flourish.” –Brenna Ginger

In 2016, through this column, the Community Foundation, in partnership with WPBS-TV announced the launch of an oral history initiative: Northern New York Community Podcast- Stories from the Heart of Our Community. The intent was to capture personal testimonials about their life in the region, why they’ve chosen to live here, and the various ways they’ve found to enrich their experiences through their community and the organizations that make it special. Since that time, 23 interviews have been conducted, with more scheduled. The full conversations are available at www.nnycpodcast.com.

    As more interviews have been completed, they have come to provide an interesting, diverse and varied portrait, representing Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Some of the interviews are well-known names, but I’ll bet there are some that you don’t know. The more the project progresses, we’ve been able to uncover some great gems of civic pride. While you can find a common thread in the stories, each one has its own special message. One of the primary goals was to capture the essence of what has driven community involvement and citizenship across the generations. It was hoped that providing insight into how others have seen their role in shaping their community’s quality of life could provide the backdrop for conversations with those who will inherit that same community. We still maintain that this type of inspiration will be an important enduring legacy of this endeavor.

    As we’ve begun to capture stories in a multigenerational way, the podcasts help provide valuable insight into the means through which those who will inherit our community will strive to make a difference. I would recommend taking the time to listen to Jeff and Brenna Ginger’s podcast. This young couple was raised in the north country, went away, and came back start their own family and careers. Their message of proactively helping to create the community they want to live in embodies both the mission of the podcast initiative, but also of the Community Foundation itself. The most transformational leadership within all of our region’s nonprofit organizations carry that theme. It is this type of lead-by-example thinking that distinguishes good from great.

    Other than our Youth Philanthropy program and our Young Professional LEAD program, documenting these stories has become one of the Foundation’s most transformational endeavors. Their example can encourage us all to more deeply explore what makes for a fulfilling life. If that is accomplished, our community and the organizations that help enhance it will be much better positioned to continue the tradition and heritage of what makes Northern New York so special.

    This is an ongoing initiative and we want to continue to broaden their scope and reach. Part of doing good comes not only in the good itself, but as a catalyst to inspire others. The best way to honor our community’s history and heritage is to perpetuate its relevancy through meaningful expressions of care. If there is a story that needs telling, there is no better time to inspire than now. Our community’s future is calling.


Process begins to reshape NNY health care landscape


ALBANY — The process that will shape the health care landscape in the north country over the next five years began in Albany on Wednesday.

An 18-member oversight panel approved “performing provider system” applications for Central New York, which includes Lewis County General Hospital of Lowville and the Adirondack Health Institute, which includes Canton-Potsdam Hospital of Potsdam and Massena Memorial Hospital.

Over a three-day period ending Friday, the panel is assigning scores for 25 Performing Provider System applications statewide in the state’s new Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program.

The review process will determine how much hospital funding each PPS will be tentatively awarded over a five-year period — but they’ll need to achieve annual milestones to earn it.

In March, each PPS will be awarded funding from a $6.42 billion pool for the program. The state Department of Health has set a goal of preventing avoidable hospital visits by 25 percent over the period, urging hospitals to consolidate services and team up with primary-care providers and other agencies.

The panel — whose members were hand-picked by the DOH — is set to review the Samaritan Medical Center PPS application Friday morning. In addition to Samaritan, hospitals in the PPS are Carthage Area Hospital, River Hospital of Alexandria Bay, Clifton-Fine Hospital of Star Lake, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center of Ogdensburg and Massena Memorial Hospital, which is also affiliated with the Adirondack PPS.

A schedule of the hour-long PPS reviews through Friday, which are webcast live, is available atwdt.me/pSup8E.


Panelist William L. Owens, former representative of the 21st Congressional District, told the Times on Wednesday that while some PPS applicants tentatively will be awarded more funding than others, they won’t earn it all unless they achieve milestones established by their plans. He said the scores for applications — decided on by a group of independent assessors — have ranged from the low 80s to mid-90s.

“The dollar amount actually received by the applicant will be determined by their performance against the proposal,” Mr. Owens said.

If a PPS received a score of 95, for example, it would not receive the entire amount of awarded funding if the applicant doesn’t meet milestones to perform at that level, Mr. Owens said. If a PPS received a score of 85 and exceeds expectations in its plan, it would then receive more than the funding initially awarded.

Awarded funding “will be what you can possibly secure over the five-year period,” Mr. Owens said.

Wednesday, the panel had the chance to disagree with scores for each PPS by voting to increase or decrease them, affecting how much funding would be awarded. Scores were already established before the panel review by a group of six independent assessors from Public Consulting Group of Buffalo.

Each PPS was allowed to pursue five to 11 projects, which received a score out of 100 points. If a PPS proposed 11 projects, for example, their overall score would be based on 1,100 points. The panel changed the score established for the Central New York PPS, but it slightly increased the score for the AHI PPS by adding two points to one project. Total scores were not disclosed Wednesday by the panel.

Mr. Owens said changes made to scores by the panel will only have a marginal impact on their overall score.

“As long as the evaluation has not made a change in a gross area and the scoring is within a narrow band, I don’t believe there’s going to be a significant impact,” he said.

Mr. Owens said he recused himself from voting on the PPS application for Adirondack because the hospital is a client of his law firm, McKenna, Long & Aldridge of Washington, D.C.


Mr. Owens said Lewis County General Hospital’s decision to be affiliated with the Central New York PPS makes sense because it will benefit from being served by larger hospitals in the Syracuse area.

“If you’re going to have to transport a patient either to Samaritan or Syracuse, they may have made the decision that they believe their patients would be better off in the Syracuse area because you have larger institutions,” he said. “They may have a greater number of specialty providers, and it could be the population was saying they prefer to go to Syracuse rather than Watertown for their care.”

The lead agents of the PPS are Upstate University Hospital of Syracuse, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, Auburn Community Hospital and Faxton St. Luke’s Health Care. The four hospitals originally planned to establish their own PPS applications, but they reversed course last year and decided to form one PPS. The PPS — called the CNY Care Collaborative — will be governed by a 22-member board of directors. The board will include 11 representatives from hospitals and 11 from community groups, and all decisions will require a two-thirds majority vote, according to Shawna Craigmile, project manager for the collaborative.

“We were challenged by our rural communities saying, ‘We don’t want this to be Syracuse-centric or hospital-centric,” Ms. Craigmile said during a presentation Wednesday morning. “The experience of our Medicaid population varies in regard to access of quality care between an urban and rural setting. Someone in Syracuse may choose to go to an ER for a non-acute condition, but someone in Oswego County or Lewis County might not do that and wait until their condition becomes worse. We want to make sure the diversity across urban and rural populations is very well represented.”

Major challenges health care providers face in the PPS include providing sufficient prenatal care services and transportation for low-income residents, according to Michael Kelleher, an independent assessor. He pointed out that the PPS covers 9,700 square miles — roughly the size of Vermont.

“It goes from a dense, urban population in Syracuse and Utica to rural areas. Lewis County has 27,000 people,” Mr. Kelleher said, adding that Upstate serves a population of about 1.8 million in Syracuse. “It’s a broad area and transportation is a significant problem for access to care … About 32 percent of the population is low-income, about double the regional rate. So lack of employment and transportation are issues.”

After the presentation, Mr. Owens asked how the PPS plans to solve transportation problems in the regions that have restricted access to care.

“If they need the transportation system to bring people for care and return them home, will they get funding in advance to create the transportation system, or is that funding a result of achieving a goal?” he said.

In response, Jason Helgerson, New York state Medicaid director, said that transportation services are already covered by Medicaid and would not be aided by DSRIP funding. But “I think the issue is that in some rural communities there is a lack of providers,” he said, “so I think the issue is to better connect them to that manager so they have better access to transportation.”

Mr. Owens told the Times that transportation issues are especially a concern in rural Lewis and Oswego counties, because people will need to travel long distances to receive care.

“It’s a significant issue in those two counties, just like it would be for large sections of Jefferson County,” he said. “In more urban settings they may well have access to public transportation, and that may mean providing a voucher to someone. But in rural areas you have limited options, and in many cases you don’t have cabs or buses. You have to come up with some form of rural transportation system that delivers people to health care providers.”


During the panel’s review of the AHI PPS application, Mr. Helgerson praised the region for having already established a strong collaborative network. Based in the eastern half of Northern New York, the 14-hospital region’s management structure includes Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, Hudson Headwaters Health Network and Glens Falls Hospital. The 11,000-square-mile region runs from Malone to Gloversville and it is geographically one of the largest proposed networks in the state.

“They have been actively involved in one of the nation’s most successful patient medical-home pilots that brought together a whole array of providers who have actively participated in the Medicaid program,” he said. “That positions them well, because they have already been collaborating. I would say that Adirondack is one of the furthest and most advanced from an implementation standpoint.”

Mr. Owens said that Massena Memorial’s choice to be affiliated with both the AHI and Samaritan PPS proposals is not uncommon. He said the hospital will be awarded funding based on the number of patients it serves within the boundaries of both districts.

“Massena has people who come to it from the east and the west, so I believe people are going to want to go to Samaritan and the Adirondack Health Institute for care,” he said. “So we want to make sure we have access to both of those areas.”

Of Canton-Potsdam’s decision to affiliate with the AHI PPS, Mr. Owens said, “I think that’s a geographic decision. They’re physically closer to the eastern side of the district and they have a relationship with Fletcher Allen hospital (Fletcher Allen Health Care, now the University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington, Vt.).”



By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

NNY Chambers of Commerce

[Read more…]