Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

CMH looks to towns for donations

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By DIANE VALDEN

ANCRAM—Columbia Memorial Health’s Copake Rapid Care Center at 283 Mountain View Road remains closed and is still seeking public monetary support to get the center up and running.

Ancram Town Board member Amy Gold gave an update on where things stand with the center at the January 18 Town Board meeting. Ms. Gold said Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) is still in an outreach process soliciting contributions and has so far collected $125,000 toward its reopening goal.

A letter dated November 2023 and signed by Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) President and CEO Dorothy M. Urschel was sent to members of the Roe Jan Community “seeking your financial support to continue [CMH’s] delivery of health care services in the Roe Jan Community.” The letter says, “A critical component of our fundraising initiative is to reopen Copake Rapid Care in 2024.” The CMH Foundation has established a restricted “Copake Rapid Care Fund” to support the center’s operational expenses.

CMH has not said specifically when the facility, which has been closed since late 2022, will reopen, but is “hoping for” sometime in the first quarter of this year, Ms. Gold said.

She noted that CMH has sent letters to each of the five Roe Jan area towns—Ancram, Copake, Hillsdale, Taghkanic and Gallatin—primarily served by the center, seeking donations.

Councilmember Gold said she has spoken about the matter to Ancram Supervisor Jim MacArthur, who in turn has spoken to Kirk Kneller, a CMH Board of Trustees member. Mr. MacArthur confirmed his conversation with Mr. Kneller and that a $25,000 donation from the Town of Ancram is sought.

Mr. MacArthur said he had spoken to some of the other town supervisors and some were going to donate and some were not. In a phone call this week, Copake Supervisor Richard Wolf said the Copake Town Board will consider the donation request.

During an ensuing discussion, Jack Lindsey, co-chair of the Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors charitable organization, said Neighbors had collected $3,200 in donations earmarked for Copake Rapid Care and thought it would be a good idea for the town to donate.

Councilmember David Boice likened the request to the 414 referendum held a few years ago on funding for the Roe Jan Library. Councilmember Bonnie Hundt reminded the board that this donation would be “a one time thing” not annually like the library tax is now. Prior to the passage of the library referendum, the town did make annual donations to the library.

Supervisor MacArthur said in his conversation with Mr. Kneller he asked if more donations will be needed once the rapid care center is open. Mr. Kneller told him once the center is open and operational it will be self-sufficient, the supervisor reported.

Town resident Tom Dias pointed out “there is no guarantee” the center won’t “go out of business again, it could easily happen again.”

CMH is a not-for-profit organization, Mr. MacArthur noted, “They don’t make any money.”

Ancram resident Jane Plasman noted that if the donations are not enough to get the center open, the donations will be returned. She underlined the 30-minute distances to other area emergency care facilities and said she is in favor of town and individual support for the Rapid Care Center. In answer to a question, she said she is not aware of what hours the center would be open.

Councilmember Gold said CMH has also extended its funding outreach to Catamount, the summer camps and other “activity areas” that often send injured people to the center. She said the center is of value to area residents.

In response to an instance described by his wife, Jen Boice, who made the point that a visit to Rapid Care can be less expensive than an emergency room visit given a $500 insurance deductible, Councilmember Boice said in this case another rapid care could not perform the needed services, such as xrays, and the patient ended up going to the emergency room anyway.

Town resident Donna Hoyt said that while she thinks rapid care is a “great thing,” she also thinks the town would be donating to something that is supposed to pay for itself. “If it doesn’t pay for itself, two years down the road they could close the doors again.” She said the town needs a guarantee, otherwise the donation will be like “throwing money down a black hole.”

Supervisor MacArthur and Ms. Gold both confirmed that CMH has hired a physician’s assistant to staff the Copake location.

Asked for an update on the matter, CMH Spokesman Bill Van Slyke said by phone this week: “CMH remains committed to reopening the service and our fundraising efforts continue in that regard.”

A bit later in the meeting Town ZBA Chair Steve Olyha suggested that a multi-town meeting be held at which someone from CMH would make a public presentation giving financial information and answering basic questions about staffing, hours and services to better educate officials and the public so an informed decision about whether to donate can be made. Mr. MacArthur said he would speak to Mr. Kneller about addressing an informational gathering.

The board’s next regular meeting is February 15, 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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