November 28, 2021

IRT ready to mobilize

Support volunteers, patients still needed for military’s free health care event set for July

Todd R. McAdam/contributing photographer

Air Force Capt. Kelly Machado and Maj. Amanda Hill outline the military training purpose behind the Innovative Readiness Training program coming in July to Cortland County. More than 400 military medical providers will provide free health and dental care, the second-largest such program in America this year, behind efforts in Puerto Rico.

Four hundred military personnel will make the coming week of free health care in July the second-largest Innovative Readiness Training program in America this year, military organizers announced Tuesday.

Those people are likely to provide services to at least as many people as they did in 2016, when they provided 7,613 services to 1,807 patients, including 725 eyeglasses distributed, 727 pets vaccinated for rabies and 168 spayed or neutered, Cortland County planners said. That was more than $850,000 in free health care.

The event is the second largest IRT hosted event in 2019, behind IRT Puerto Rico with its 517 medical providers.

“Folks are really excited to see this coming back,” said Mark Webster, president of Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, which donated $15,000 and offered to take care of medical waste.

Cortland County needs it, said Air Force Maj. Amanda Hill, the medical commander of the operation. No dental service in the county accepts any more Medicare or Medicaid patients. The county has too few primary-care providers for its population.

And while 93% of the county is insured, said county Public Health Director Catherine Feuerherm, much fewer have dental or vision coverage.

The details

What: Healthy Cortland Innovative Readiness Training program
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 12 to 20
Where: Homer Intermediate/Junior High School, Homer
Details: Go to

The 400 military personnel will stay at SUNY Cortland, but the effort also needs volunteers — hundreds giving a total of 3,000 hours, said Shane Butler, planning director for Chenango County, which is partnering with Cortland on the effort, as it did three years ago.

The event already has the support of a number of organizations: the hospital, college and school district, Seven Valleys Health Coalition, the United Way and Southern Tier 8 regional planning board.

Patients can come from anywhere: Broome, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Tioga, Tompkins counties. The 2016 event saw patients from Onondaga and farther away, too.

“This no-cost medical event will provide every resident of the County, regardless of insurance coverage or financial background, the means to receive basic medical and veterinary services,” Cortland County Planning Director Dan Dineen said in a Tuesday release. “This event offers the community a chance to partner with the Department of Defense to provide beneficial training and much needed services in our community.”

Patients don’t need health insurance to be treated and only 82% of the patients were covered at the 2016 event. The numbers fall much lower, to 35% and 25% for dental and vision plans, respectively.

In discussions about the event last year, Cortland County Legislator Ann Homer (R-Cortland) said dental care is a huge need.

Marathon is the only village in Cortland county that fluoridates its water to prevent cavities, even though 74.4% of the U.S. population in 2014 had fluoridated water, reported the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The event will provide referrals to dental providers as well as on-site care.

SUNY Cortland student Marissa Dauber got involved with Cavity Free Cortland last year as a class project. She wrote articles, and handed out toothbrushes during parades, but her research found Cortland residents had little education about dental health.

Cortland County is among the worst in the state for its rate of adults with no tooth extractions, reports HealtheCNY. It also lags the rest of upstate New York and the state in the number of adults who have seen a dentist in the past year, county Health Department data show.

Glasses will be crafted at the event and participants will have access to preventive screenings.

The area is an “underserved area medically,” Butler said and 47% of Chenango County residents struggle to pay their bills.

Feuerherm said the event can lead to “major long-term” benefits for greater Cortland area.

“This event will not only help to improve overall health of our community but will also be used to connect attendees with local health care practitioners and services so that the impact of this event will be felt long after the two-week service period has concluded,” Feuerherm said in the release.