CORTLAND, NY [07/22/2021] -- Access To Independence (ATI) and NY StateWide Senior Action Council (StateWide) have teamed up to offer free, confidential internet access at ATI’s main office at 26 N Main Street for telehealth appointments and other virtual needs. This collaboration between ATI and StateWide is a part of StateWide’s larger Community Telehealth Access Project (CTAP). CTAP was launched in response to the lack of equitable internet infrastructure across Central New York, which has left rural residents out of the telehealth boom, despite needing it the most due to transportation barriers and fewer local healthcare specialists in their communities.
“To address the lack of home internet connection, community leaders on StateWide’s Cortland County Health Access Task Force identified Access To Independence as a key community hub and strong broadband equity advocate to launch Cortland’s first agency-led telehealth site,” says Stefania Buta, CNY Task Force Coordinator.
StateWide and Access To Independence, awarded $5,000 from the Central New York Community Foundation’s “Bright Ideas” grant for this initiative, will work alongside the County’s five local libraries to bring free WiFi access and equipment in their buildings to Cortland residents. These sites are not meant for sick visits and participants must continue exercising COVID-19 safety-protocols.
“We realized the need for this type of space by having conversations with our consumers. People tell us all the time: ‘I had to miss my doctor’s appointment today because the bus never came,’ or ‘My counselor said we could do sessions over the phone, but I don’t have the minutes,’” explains Alison McCabe, ATI’s Education & Advocacy Coordinator. “Our telehealth site, which will be equipped with iPads, a wheelchair accessible scale, a talking blood pressure cuff, and other adaptive equipment, is going to help fill that gap.”
To reserve a time slot, community members should call Access To Independence directly at 607-753-7363 beginning July 26, 2021. As part of this initiative, ATI will also be linked to Cayuga Medical Associates Primary Care clinic at 14 Kennedy Parkway. Patients can consult their provider during scheduling to set up a virtual appointment at ATI’s office.
“It is imperative that healthcare organizations collaborate with local agencies to remove as many barriers as possible in order to provide our community and our patients the healthcare they need. We are very fortunate to partner with Access To Independence and the NY Statewide Senior Action Council as we work together to connect patients and providers in a setting that is both confidential and comfortable,” states Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health.
On average, adults with disabilities report poorer health, an increased need for chronic disease management services, and more barriers to accessing healthcare. Yet, they are less likely to receive preventative or specialized care than their peers without disabilities. “Private and secure tele-health access in a location that has already been made accessible will lessen some of these barriers, which is why Access To Independence, who serves people with disabilities, is uniquely poised to launch this program in Cortland,” says Maria Alvarez, Executive Director of StateWide.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming more community members into our space. If you can get to downtown Cortland, you can get to us,” says Susan Lewis, ATI’s Independent Living Coordinator.
The Community Telehealth Access Project is a program of New York StateWide Senior Action Council, with funding and support from the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.