October 19, 2021

IRT helps 2,500

$1.1 million in medical care provided during 10-day event

Photos provided by Provided by U.S. Air National Guard

A U.S. Army Reserves dentist performs a dental exam July 11 during the Healthy Cortland mission in Homer. The Healthy Cortland and Greater Chenango Cares Innovative Readiness Training mission includes active-duty Air Force, Army, Navy, Reserves and National Guard troops working alongside local partners providing health care and veterinary services to underserved communities of Cortland and Chenango counties.

Cortland County saw 37% more patients and twice as many health procedures during the Innovative Readiness Training event this year compared to its first event three years ago.

The IRT event — also known as Healthy Cortland — was a no-cost medical event in July at Homer Intermediate School. About 200 military medical providers offered services including eye exams, physicals, dental fillings and veterinary services during the 10-day event.

It is the second time Cortland has seen the event, both times in conjunction with Chenango County. The last time was in 2016.

This year, 2,477 patients were seen in Homer, according to data provided by Dan Dineen, the county planning director. That’s up 607 people from 2016. Procedures almost doubled, with 15,121 in 2019 compared to 7,613 in 2016.

“I think a lot of it (the increases) has to do with the fact that this was the second time we held the Healthy Cortland event,” Dineen said, and people felt more comfortable because they knew what it was about.

The value of the care came to a little more than $768,309, a slight decrease from 2016 when it was $851,426.

“The numbers were prepared by the military,” said Eric Mulvihill, the clerk of the Legislature and county spokesman for the event, and it did not calculate the value the same way for both events.

Dineen said he is working with military personnel to get an updated value figure, in perhaps a week. The military not only used a different formula to calculate value, but also did not include the value of all the prescription glasses it dispensed.

“That alone would increase the cost significantly,” he said, considering almost everyone who went through the optometry services got glasses.

A family waits for optometry care during the Healthy Cortland mission in Homer on July 11.

Chenango County also hosted a no-cost medical event this year in conjunction with Cortland County and had about 200 military personnel at its site in Norwich. However, Chenango County saw fewer patients and did fewer procedures than it did three years ago.

It saw 1,131 patients, down from 1,850 in 2016 and did 6,160 procedures, down from 10,310 in 2016. The value of care provided there this year was $370,572.

Dineen said he could not explain why Chenango saw fewer people, noting it was the third time Chenango County had hosted the event.

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center was one of the leading contributors to getting the event together, along with other departments in the county, businesses and Seven Valleys Health Coalition.

Hospital President Mark Webster said he was happy the hospital could partner with other agencies to make the event happen.

“One important aspect of our success involves population health, as this role takes us beyond our four walls and gives us an opportunity to partner with other non-profit organizations, governmental agencies and businesses in our region,” Webster said. “The IRT (event) allowed us to showcase that teamwork with our community. Many communities could not achieve what Cortland has — namely hosting this successful and impactful event two times in the last three years. Everyone involved should be proud.”

Dineen said the earliest the county could have the event here again would be 2021. However, he said there are ongoing discussions to apply to have it here again in 2022 “because that three-year span seemed to work out well” for planning everything.

The next IRT, should it happen, doesn’t need to limit itself to medical care, the Southern Tier 8 regional planning board noted. “In planning for future missions, Southern Tier 8 is seeking community partners who are interested in hosting an IRT mission,” it said in a release. “IRT missions are not limited to medical, additional services include cyber security, engineering and transportation training missions. If your organization is interested in participating in a medical mission or has a shovel-ready site in need of military-grade engineering services, we want to hear from you.”