State Health Commissioner Toured Refugee Center, Health and Education Facilities in Mohawk Valley

Tour Highlighted Programs That Expand Access to Health Care, Eliminate Health Disparities & Achieve Health Equity for All New Yorkers

Commissioner Has Toured All Ten Regions in New York State in 2022

Photos of Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett's Visit Can Be Viewed HERE

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 30, 2022) – New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett yesterday met with leadership of the Mohawk Valley Health Systems (MHVS), the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (The Center), the Martin Luther King School Based Health Center, and the Oneida County Health Department during her day-long visit, which focused on expanding access to health care, eliminating health disparities and achieving health equity for all.

The Commissioner has been touring the state, engaging with the state's health delivery system and discussing local challenges, with the Mohawk Valley being the tenth and final region she visited this year.

"Eliminating disparities and achieving health equity has been our primary goal at the New York State Department of Health," State Commissioner of Health Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "That's why I am so pleased to see the real progress being made in the Mohawk Valley—whether it's the construction of a new state-of-the-art hospital, helping refugees pursue a better life, or giving children who would otherwise go without health care an opportunity to flourish—thanks to the many dedicated professionals who call this community home. When we all work together, we can help reduce the disparities across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups that for far too long have impacted health equity across the United States and in New York."

Dr. Bassett began her tour at the construction site of the new Wynn Hospital, a 10-story, 703,000 square foot facility located on a 25-acre parcel adjacent to the Downtown Utica business district. MVHS received a $300 million grant from the State of New York toward construction of the new hospital.

Dr. Bassett, also visited the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. The Center is a resettlement agency that provides comprehensive refugee resettlement services and supportive programs that help integrate refugees and others immigrants into the local community. Along with the MVHS and other community-based groups, the Center is a key leader in the Health Equity Task Force.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately afflicted neighborhoods with a large concentration of minorities and underserved groups, the Task Force focused its outreach efforts there. The Center was one of fourteen programs nationwide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked expand their vaccine program due to the success of their outreach to underserved communities. The MHVS is utilizing the same outreach model to educate underserved communities about heart disease and stroke prevention.

To complete her tour, Commissioner Bassett stopped by the Martin Luther King School-Based Health Center. The School Based-Health Center is a unique venture between the Utica City School District and Upstate Family Health Center, Inc. In total, 86 percent of the students receiving care at the Martin Luther King School-Based Health Center identify themselves as non-white, with many from Burma, Puerto Rico, and multiple African countries. Additionally, 81 percent of students are enrolled with the School-Based Health Center.

With limited access to comprehensive health services because of financial, geographical and other barriers to care, the Martin Luther King School-Based Health Centers provides access to comprehensive primary care services to the place where children and youth are during the day and address critical health problems that make it difficult for students to learn.

Commissioner Bassett was accompanied by the Department's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eugene Heslin, who has been with the Department since 2017, and was appointed to Commissioner Bassett's leadership cabinet in July as part of the Commissioner's initiative to enhance the Department's talent, workflow and collaboration, the integration of new systems, and increase diversity as part of its overall mission to build a healthier, more equitable New York.

Under Governor Kathy Hochul's leadership, the Department of Health has also worked to improve health care in New York State through robust investments in the workforce and health infrastructure. In April, the enacted Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget included a historic $20 billion multi-year health investment. In October, Governor Hochul also announced pay increases for nursing positions to benefit approximately 6,500 New York State staff in 15 state agencies.

During each stop of the tour, Commissioner Bassett met with individuals who dedicate their lives each day to the health and wellbeing of the people in the Mohawk Valley. She met with administrators from MVHS, primary care providers, educators, local health department officials, and representatives from the refugee resettlement community.

These stops are part of a series of visits for the Commissioner this year. In October, the Commissioner conducted a seven-county tour of communities in the North Country to meet with health care providers. Over the summer, Dr. Bassett spent a day at the Great New York State Fair for a tour of the many health-related exhibits.

In September, she visited the Southern Tier to celebrate the New York State Veterans Home's 125 anniversary in Oxford. Later that month, she toured Binghamton University Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City. This is in addition to previous stops at health care related sites in Capital District, Finger Lakes, New York City, Long Island, Mid-Hudson, and Western New York.