On September 14th-15th, CACTC staff joined public health professionals from across the state for the annual symposium of the NYS Association for Rural Health (NYSARH) in Oswego, NY. NYSARH works on the state and national level to advocate for the specific public health needs of rural communities. Part of their work is an annual member symposium that brings together expert practitioners from a wide range of sectors to share their experiences and learn from each other.
The 2023 Rural Health Symposium featured a plenary about rural perspectives on the state plan for aging and a keynote talk about the rural healthcare workforce. In addition to concurrent presentations sessions, the conference included several roundtable discussions--on topics like EMS service in rural areas, transportation, housing, suicide prevention, end-of-life care and dignity, and HIV/AIDS--and a panel discussion on substance use.
Matt Whitman, CACTC Executive Director, and Aster Parrott, Community Engagement Coordinator, tabled during the concurrent session on first day of the symposium to talk with partners from across the state about our expanding data, design, and facilitation work and our plans to expand to work with rural communities across the state. We made some great connections with other people doing coalition and data/assessment work and learned about some parallel but distinct challenges other communities face.
Matt also participated in a roundtable discussion and a panel. Kicking off day two, Matt moderated the Using Data and Evaluation for Grants roundtable. This was an informal space for participants to discuss challenges and successes around collecting and using data about communities and service delivery to write more compelling and more evidence-driven grant applications.
Later that day, Matt sat on the Rural Substance Dependence panel. This moderated discussion dug into some of the unique challenges for addressing harm related to substance use in rural areas. Linda Beers, from Essex County, discussed some of the themes of SUD and harm reduction work in rural New York. Jennifer Donadio, from Friends of Recovery, New York, spoke about language, stigma, and decision-making. Matt discussed CACTC's experience facilitating Cortland's involvement in the NIH-funded HEALing Communities Study in the Healing Cortland Project, a community-driven project aimed at reducing opioid overdose deaths. The panelists then addressed questions about harm reduction as a tool for addressing the overdose crisis, possible uses of (and challenges around) opioid settlement funds, issues related to transportation and telehealth infrastructure, and what we can learn from other states' efforts.
Following the symposium, Matt also gave a presentation as part of the Rural Health Webinar Series put on by NYSARH and the New England Rural Health Association. Along with John Coppala, Executive Director of NYASAP, Matt discussed the scope and impact of the overdose epidemic in rural New York, especially Cortland County. They explored possible funding sources to support prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction services.