Columbia Memorial Health (1) Careers

Towns meet with CMH about future of Rapid Care facility

Is CMH’s Copake Rapid Care facility closed permanently? File photo

COPAKE—Town and state officials, local community groups and citizens worked hard to get the Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) Rapid Care health facility to come to town—now they want to make sure it stays.

At the May 11 Copake Town Board meeting, Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said in her monthly report that the CMH Rapid Care facility in Copake was closed—maybe forever. Subsequently, Ms. Mettler arranged a May 17 meeting with CMH officials including new CMH President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Dorothy Urshel, two CMH board members, representatives from three Roe Jan area towns (Copake, Ancram and Hillsdale), the Community Rescue Squad, the Copake Fire Company and Copake Economic Development Advisory Committee (CEDAC) Chair Tom Goldsworthy, among others.

Ancram Councilperson Amy Gold, who attended, reported on the discussion at the May 18 Ancram Town Board meeting. She said the Copake Rapid Care Center faces financial and staffing problems. She said the doctor who was going to anchor the center died and CMH has not been able to fill the position.

Just before it closed, when it was still operating, she said the center could only open random hours and could not post its hours because it was never sure when it could be staffed.

She said financially the center breaks even at 6,400 visits per year and last year only 1,700 patients showed up, so CMH is subsidizing in excess of $200 to $250 per visit.

Ms. Gold said the hospital itself faces financial issues related to bed occupancy. She said of the hospital’s 190 beds only 70 are filled. Patients are not going to the hospital for a variety of reasons, including high insurance co-pays or no insurance at all. She noted, “since the pandemic everything has gone pear-shaped.”

Copake CEDAC Chair Goldsworthy prepared a powerpoint presentation about the importance of the center for the meeting with CMH. Among the significant facts revealed in the presentation was that 25% of the county’s population lives within a 10 mile radius of the center’s 283 Mountain View Road location in one end of the Community Rescue Squad building.

A snapshot of census data showed:

• A population of 4,652 resides within 5 miles, 14,729 within 10 miles of the location (not counting seasonal visitors)

• Median age of that population is 54 years old

• Percent over 60–40%

• Poverty rate 7.4%

• Copake has the largest town population in eastern Columbia County and is the site of a school district campus.

The presentation noted a large seasonal influx related to six area summer camps: Taconic State Park, Camp Pontiac, Camp Anne, Camp Eisenberg, Copake Camping Resort, Waubeeka Family Campground, as well as Camphill Village which is a permanent year-round residential community for adults with developmental disabilities and service volunteers.

Area attractions/activities which generate the need for care include: Catamount Mountain Resort ski and zip line, Taconic State Park and Bash Bish Falls (270,000 annual visitors), Ancram Town Pool, Copake Lake boating and swimming, bicycling destination Roe Jan Ramble, local music festivals and other outdoor sports and recreation.

The presentation characterized the area as “underserved,” with no medical facility presence in eastern Columbia County and the nearest hospitals in Hudson, Great Barrington, MA, and Sharon, CT,—all a half hour away. There are no family care drop-in facilities and all CMH facilities are west of Taconic State Parkway.

The report states the Copake Rapid Care may be made viable by creating sustainable revenue; having consistent regular hours; improved marketing and communication; preventing unnecessary Hudson ER visits; offering annual physical exams for public workers and volunteer firefighters here and offering local lab services here.

Ms. Gold said it was recognized at the May 17 meeting that CMH’s marketing of the rapid care center is “horrendous” and many in the area are unaware the facility even exists. If the center is to be viable, a better job of marketing and outreach is necessary.

According to Supervisor Mettler’s May report, in striving to bring the Rapid Care Center to Copake several years ago, the Copake Hamlet Revitalization Taskforce chaired by Roberta Roll was among those working to convince CMH to commit. This included raising $25,000 in contribution to the project.

The Community Rescue Squad not only supported the project but gave CMH two years free rent. “Additionally, then State Senator Marchione gave $350,000 toward the establishment of Copake Rapid Care. The groundbreaking was in 2015 and in 2016 the new facility opened its doors.”

Ms. Mettler said Copake Rapid Care made a “vital contribution to the healthcare of our rural community and we’re extraordinarily grateful to CMH.

“It was therefore very sad for all of us to see CMH forced to reduce its hours during the pandemic, and more sad when more recently Rapid Care was actually closed. Still, CMH maintained doctor’s offices here in Copake.”

She said no decision has been made to leave the Copake office.

“Copake Rapid Care was a very important addition to Copake and we want to see them here for many years to come…I am doing whatever I can to encourage them to stay here in Copake,” the supervisor said.

Reached for comment on the matter this week, CMH VP of Marketing and External Affairs William Van Slyke said by email: “Our center in Copake was established through a unique partnership between CMH, the state and the local community. Since that time, however, both national and regional staffing shortages have steepened the challenges associated with maintaining both a rapid care center and a primary care practice in a rural area. Therefore, we’re talking with community leaders and others to identify a way to meet the local community’s needs in way that is sustainable in the long run. We aren’t certain what that might look like at the moment, but we are committed to doing all we can to find a way to make it work.”

Ancram Councilperson Gold said meetings are planned with Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) and state Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-41st) to discuss state funding and other tactics and that the three Roe Jan area towns will meet sometime in early June.

“It would be really unfortunate if the center would close. It’s an essential service for the area,” said Ms. Gold.

To contact Diane Valden email

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