Learning more about the challenges of a rural community

by Jessica Soule, Executive Director of the Cayuga Community Health Network


Cayuga Community Health Network partnered with Lifespan Therapies to learn more about challenges faced by rural communities in accessing and receiving health care. Eight community members came together for lunch February 10, 2017 to discuss the challenges and circumstances facing residents living in rural communities. Many represented local community agencies and organizations.

This community conversation was funded by the CNY Care Collaborative to help understand the barriers and facilitators for our residents and as a way to identify potential solutions.


Participants discussed the trials of living in a community with intermittent internet and cellular service. Not only is this inconvenient to residents, but it impedes people’s abilities to do their jobs. Likewise, this situation causes difficulty in recruiting workers who would make the rural communities their home. Several people spoke about having a corner of their properties or workplaces scoped out where service works.


Workforce and finding home aids was a subject that many people wanted to speak about, and indeed, CCHN hopes to have another discussion focused on this particular topic. Some people pointed out that home health care aides are key to having loved one stay at home and age in place. However, aides are in short supply in the southern end of the county. Many people have helpers who come from out of county, which may translate to no-shows during significant snowfall.


Ensuring that families of migrant workers get their needs met, especially facing many cultural and language barriers, was another topic many participants spoke about.


Other topics were lack of volunteers, and fewer people taking their spots as current leaders and active community volunteers age. Transportation is a huge challenge for rural residents. Even with Medicaid transport, people are still limited. Lack of total dental care for children and adults was a concern.


With a focus on healthcare, some mentioned that deductibles and co-pays are devices that prevent some from even seeking total medical care. Ambulance services are funded by towns, and are frequently forced to fight for continued funding. Lifespan Therapies President, Dana Mandel, pointed out that some towns don’t consider future costs of mandated emergency services when they consider ending funding for local services. Local services can respond faster and for less money than regional models.


“When you’re there on the floor bleeding, you want someone there,” he said. “You don’t want to have to wait.”


All collected information will be summarized and sent to the regional organization CNY Cares, as well as used for possible future projects by CCHN. Kendra’s Culinary Creations provided a delicious lunch. This was the second listening session hosted by CCHN that month. The first one was a partnership with Auburn Housing Authority to have a discussion with residents about health care in the county and their experiences.