AHI announces 2019 Rural Health Champions

Adirondack Health Institute’s Nancy Gildersleeve, far left, and Gallagher’s Todd Edwards, far right, flank 2019 Rural Health Champions (from left) Jennifer Neifeld of The Baywood Center, Lee Rivers of Community Connections of Franklin County, Susan Allott of the Essex County Health Department, and Leah Breeyear of Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson. Not pictured are Rural Health Champions Trip Shannon of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, Valerie Ainsworth of the Mental Health Association in Essex County, and Maggie Rowley of Nathan Littauer Hospital & Nursing Home in Gloversville. (Photo provided)

GLENS FALLS — In recognition of National Rural Health Day Nov. 21, Adirondack Health Institute announced that seven individuals have been recognized as 2019 Rural Health Champions.

The annual recognition is a collaborative effort of four of the North Country’s rural health networks, including the Adirondack Rural Health Network, a program of AHI supported with funds from the state Department of Health’s Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health. Each year since 2015, the rural health networks in northern New York ask their network partners to nominate individuals who exemplify the selfless, community-minded, can-do spirit that prevails in rural America.

The 2019 Rural Health Champions are as follows, with excerpts from their nominations:

­ ¯ Valerie Ainsworth, executive director, Mental Health Association of Essex County, 2019 Rural Health Community Empowerment Champion of the Year: “Valerie Ainsworth not only runs the Mental Health Association in Essex County, which has been recognized for excellence by the Office of Mental Health, but is a passionate advocate for veterans through Homeward Bound. She is a tireless worker for residents of Essex, Franklin, and Clinton count(ies).”

¯ Susan Allott, assistant director of public health, Essex County Health Department, 2019 Rural Public Health Champion of the Year: “Susan is dedicated and compassionate to her staff, but first and foremost an advocate for those in our community who are under-served. Sue holds a Master of Science degree in Nursing and a certificate in public health, giving her a unique perspective into health care. It is through that lens that she guides us to deliver compassionate, culturally-competent, trauma-informed, evidence-based public health initiatives.”

¯ Leah Breeyear, regional education and outreach coordinator, Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson, 2019 Rural Health Education and Outreach Champion of the Year: “Being an education and outreach specialist is not just a job for Leah. She understands and wears with pride the fact that she is the face of the organization in our local community. Leah never stops educating, whether it is before or after events or even in her day-to-day in the community, she provides informative and accessible information to everyone who needs it.”

¯ Jennifer Neifeld, chief operating officer, Baywood Center, 2019 Rural Health Community Collaboration Champion of the Year: “Jennifer has been a visionary with several projects, willing to take the lead in the community to tackle critical issues standing in the way of improved health and wellness. She has a can-do attitude and takes on whatever is needed to make these critical programs come to fruition. We are grateful for her energy and commitment to the communities in Warren and Washington counties.”

¯ Lee Rivers, executive director, Community Connections of Franklin County, 2019 Rural Health Community Impact Champion of the Year: “Lee Rivers is one of the most collaborative leaders in the field of behavioral health in the North Country! He is an out-of-the-box thinker who looks for solutions that support community members across the North Country region, and not just in his backyard. He works tirelessly to find funding, obtain resources and bring together partners to help improve the health care of the residents in our area.”

¯ Maggie Rowley, manager of care coordination, Nathan Littauer Hospital, 2019 Rural Health Care Coordination Champion of the Year: “Maggie’s vision, leadership and personal engagement with patients and families has been extraordinary! She is a superstar! By instinct and experience, Maggie is acutely aware of the non-clinical drivers that prevent patients from seeking appropriate care environments, follow care plans, or understand how to manage their health. Maggie has played a crucial role in the integration of hospital and community-based care navigation, development of warm hand-offs to community-based organization representatives, data tracking, and direct patient intervention.”

¯ Edward “Trip” Shannon, chief development officer, Hudson Headwaters Health Network, 2019 Rural Health Advocacy Champion of the Year: “Trip Shannon has made a lasting contribution to the health care of the entire region through his work at Hudson Headwaters. His role as chief development officer means that he is at the forefront of new projects, enhanced services, relationship-building with elected officials and creating relationships among health-oriented organizations throughout the region. Trip’s daily motivation stems from his passion to identify and address needs in communities throughout Warren, Essex, Clinton, Washington, Hamilton and Saratoga counties.”

Created by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, National Rural Health Day showcases the work being done to address the unique health care needs of rural communities. For more information, please visit www.nosorh.org/nrhd.

The Adirondack Rural Health Network includes members from New York’s Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Warren and Washington counties.

Adirondack Health Institute, an independent nonprofit organization since 1987, is a joint venture of Adirondack Health, Glens Falls Hospital, Hudson Headwaters Health Network, St. Lawrence Health System, and the University of Vermont Health Network’s Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.