Report: Free health care event in Cortland County saved residents $850K

Veterinary technicians perform surgery on a dog during the Healthy Cortland event at Homer Junior High School.

Veterinary technicians perform surgery on a dog during the Healthy Cortland event at Homer Junior High School.

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Residents of Cortland County collectively saved more than $850,000 during a free health care event held earlier this year in Homer, according to a new report.

The Innovative Readiness Training program, which brought hundreds of U.S. military to Homer Junior High School to perform various medical procedures free-of-charge, was valued at $851,426, according to a report from the Cortland County Planning Department.

During the 10-day event in July, members of the U.S. Army, Navy, National Guard and Air Force performed medical, dental, optometry and veterinary procedures on more than 1,800 patients, according to Dan Dineen, chair of the planning department.

Hundreds of volunteers from around the area helped coordinate the event.

See related: U.S. military serves residents during free health care event in Homer

Addressing the Cortland County Legislature Thursday night, Dineen said attendance for the event was, at least initially, underwhelming.

“Our program was a little slow at the beginning,” Dineen told the legislature. “People were a little skeptical about no-cost cost services, but once they found out that these were legitimate services, it really picked up. We actually had to turn away people towards the end of the event.”

Here’s a breakdown of some of the services that were provided:

  • 7,613 total procedures
  • 1,854 dental procedures
  • 725 eyeglasses distributed
  • 427 rabies vaccinations
  • 168 spay and neutering

About 42 percent of patients were between the ages of 50 and 59, while just under 6 percent were under the age of 20, according to a survey conducted by SUNY Cortland’s Economics Department.

Eighty-five percent of people were Cortland County residents, while the remaining 15 percent came from 11 other counties, the survey said.

Approximately 82 percent of attendees who came for medical services already had insurance, though just 35 percent had dental insurance and 25 percent had optometry insurance.

So how much did it cost the county to put on the event? $860.

That’s due in large part to a $15,000 contribution from the Southern Tier East Regional Planning and Development Board and more than $3,000 in outside donations, Dineen said.

Dineen said Cortland County can apply for the IRT program again in 2017. If the county applies in 2018 and secures the grant, there would be a shared event between Cortland and Tioga counties, he said.