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FDRLO, FDRHPO get combined $600,000 from state

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A pair of regional agencies that advocate for Fort Drum and local medical outlets for its soldiers has received a combined $600,000 from the state to support retaining its troop levels through planned federal defense budget cuts.

The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization and the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization will each receive $300,000 through the New York State Military Base Retention Grant Program, run by Empire State Development. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the grants Friday afternoon as part of a combined $2,875,220 in funding to groups that support installations around the state.

The liaison organization will use the money to continue its advocacy for the post.

“We have a good story to tell,” said Carl A. McLaughlin, FDRLO’s executive director. “We want to tell that to industry, we want to tell it to the people, we want to tell it to legislators.”

He said the post’s frequent deployments and its use as a training center for units across several states have proven its value.

“It doesn’t need promotion, but there are a lot of people who don’t fully appreciate what goes on here at Fort Drum,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

He also noted investments such as the soon-to-be opened Paul Cerjan Memorial Highway, which connects the post to Interstate 81, showed signs of the state’s interest in the post’s activity.

However, he acknowledged the installation may see cuts as the Department of Defense moves to reduce the Army’s size over the next five years.

“The first thing is ensuring the force structure we enjoy at Fort Drum,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

As of Wednesday, Fort Drum had 18,116 soldiers stationed to the post, with about 700 soldiers deployed. About 1,500 soldiers from the post’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team are expected to leave for a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan within the next few months.

The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization will use its grant funding to strengthen health care for soldiers and their families. That includes the establishment of a virtual life electronic record, which will streamline the military health record and community health record of soldiers and their family members.

“This will reach the total population of soldiers,” said Denise K. Young, the planning organization’s executive director. “It’s really in the infant stages across the country. We’re excited to begin work on this here. We recognize it’s the best health-care system to take care of soldiers and families.”

Mrs. Young said the agency will work toward implementation of the virtual life electronic record throughout the coming year.

Grant money will also be used to continue work the organization already has in progress, such as recruitment and retention of physicians.

“That allows us to bring all of those providers together to focus on the needs of our military,” Mrs. Young said. “We continue also to build and strengthen behavioral health and specialties.”

There will also be an increased effort to bring additional telemedicine, particularly telepsychiatry, services to the north country.

“We’ll be working to establish those in clinics in our area that specifically serve our soldiers and families,” Mrs. Young said. “We have several now and will be expanding.”

She said she is thankful for the governor’s support and that he “recognizes the importance of health care to our nation’s heroes.”

According to the governor’s released statement, the state’s military bases account for more than 10,000 jobs with wages of $688 million and $1.9 billion in overall economic impact.

“New York’s military installations are a major driver of local economies, and we will fight to keep these bases strong and secure, right here in our state,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Other entities receiving financial support include Suffolk County Economic Development, CenterState CEO, Niagara County Center for Economic Development, Niagara Military Affairs Council, Central New York Defense Alliance, Griffiss Institute, Griffiss Local Development Corp., Mohawk Valley EDGE, Schenectady Military Affairs Council and Arsenal Business and Technology Partnership.

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