Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

December 2023

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

January 2022–December 2022

Delivering health care services in the North Country region of New York State is challenging; at least 25% of residents in rural Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties do not have a primary care provider.

Barriers to care include primary care provider shortages, long appointment wait times, and lack of transportation to and from visits. Residents with limited resources often forgo seeking health treatment to prioritize basic needs such as food and shelter. Giving voice to disadvantaged populations by inviting them to share their experiences and offer feedback is essential to create meaningful and long-term solutions 

In 2021, NYHealth awarded Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) a grant to develop a community needs assessment and implement an action plan to improve access to primary care in the North Country.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Through this grant, FDRHPO: 

  • Conducted a regionwide quantitative mixed-mode survey, successfully polling nearly 2,000 North Country residents on primary care utilization. The residents surveyed shared feedback on their primary care utilization, including experiences with a personal doctor and barriers to accessing care. Results showed: 
  • Barriers to primary care access in the region include unavailable care, inconvenient care, transportation barriers, and personal/situational barriers.  
  • 12% of respondents who indicated having any challenges accessing health care services in the region stated their biggest barrier was their work schedule.  
  • Respondents expressed a desire for more integrated services and mobile and virtual health services as solutions to overcome those barriers to getting care. 
  • Among respondents who reported having difficulty accessing health care in the region in the last year, 12% cited their largest challenge as having a poor prior experience with a provider. Survey participants stressed the importance of positive experiences with and feeling connected to their providers as a motivator for continuing their care.  
  • Partnered with 15 primary care provider organizations and facilitated qualitative focus groups and interviews with 69 Medicaid-insured, Medicare-insured, and uninsured individuals in the region. 
  • Produced a comprehensive report that documented the regional challenges and offered community- and provider-informed recommendations to increase access to primary care for Medicaid-insured, Medicare-insured, and uninsured populations in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties 
  • Led trainings for area primary care providers to promote greater awareness and sensitivity to the unique challenges under-resourced rural communities face and to develop ways to improve patient-provider relationships.  
  • Presented findings and actionable implementation plan for improving access to regional primary care practices and at several statewide gatherings, including the Primary Care Development Corporation Rural Health Roundtable, the North County Initiative Care Collaborative, the Adirondack Health Institute, and FDRH’s North Country Leadership Summit.  

This grant enabled FDRHPO to collect valuable insight into the health care experiences of North Country residents and make recommendations on ways to promote greater utilization and adherence to care. It established a baseline understanding of the community’s current needs and created guideposts to inform quality improvement efforts, advocacy projects, and provider trainings in the North Country region in the coming years.  

Fort Drum will continue to work with participating primary care practices to support their journey to improve internal practices and build stronger clinician/patient relationships that are intrinsic to high-quality health care. It will also work with the North Country Initiative, the region’s clinically integrated network, to establish contracts with hospitals, independently owned primary care practices, pediatric practices, behavioral health and substance use providers, and federally qualified health centers to meet the health and social needs of North Country residents. 

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A