Written by Elizabeth Monaco, Executive Director of Chenango United Way:

In the summers of 2015 and 2016, the Greater Chenango Cares IRT project partnered with military service members to provide no-cost medical, dental, vision and veterinary care for the greater Chenango County region (and Cortland County region in 2016). In both years, survey data was collected from patients to determine the types of health needs facing our community and the barriers to addressing these issues.

The IRT events and the results of this survey data left our community with many unanswered questions regarding the need for future/on-going services for the un-insured and under-insured families of Chenango County and its surrounding communities. Most notably, the IRT dental clinics were full every day and perspective patients had to be turned away because there were simply not enough providers to see all of the patients in need. 4,969 dental procedures were performed at the 2015 Chenango IRT and 2,350 procedures at the 2016 Chenango IRT. More than 55% of IRT attendees surveyed stated that they did not see a dentist regularly and cited lack of dental insurance and cost as their primary barriers.

Unfortunately, another IRT event will not be held in Chenango County until at least 2019, although an event may be held in 2018 in Cortland and Tioga Counties if funding is awarded through the US Dept of Defense. Therefore, in January 2017 the Chenango United Way (the lead agency for the 2016 Greater Chenango Cares IRT) began convening monthly Health Community Impact Team (HCIT) meetings to look at the issues of dental and oral health in Chenango County based on the collected IRT data.

The current group is comprised of health care providers (including dentists, pharmacists, physicians and hospital representatives), non-profit health and human service organizations, County governmental agencies and insurance representatives.  The group is actively looking at some short and long-term ways to address the issues of dental services for the un-insured and under-insured through both education and public awareness measures and by looking at collaborative opportunities to provide no-cost or reduced cost dental services to those in most need in the community. Meetings of this Health CIT will be held monthly and more information can be obtained by calling the Chenango United Way office at 607-334-8815.