Herkimer County is unique. It’s the tallest county in the State. You can’t reach the northern end of the county from the southern and vice versa, without leaving the county. And the majority of the systems that impact the lives of its residents are located outside of the county; either to the west in Utica or Syracuse, to the south in Cooperstown, or the east in Albany.
Twenty-five years ago agencies, providers, and stakeholders in Herkimer County decided to come together because decisions being made by those system were directly impacting the health and well-being of Herkimer County residents.
This was the beginning of Herkimer County HealthNet. Originally conceived as the “Herkimer County Healthcare Planning Consortium”, it was an informal coalition of concerned stakeholders who met to discuss the threats to Herkimer County’s health and human services system; specifically the closure and consolidation of county hospitals. HCHN’s purpose and goal was to be an organization that improved Herkimer County by providing services and being a leader in coordinating efforts to provide the community with information pertaining to what services are available to them and where.
Funding from the New York State Department of Health became available and those involved with the organization decided from a strategic standpoint that it would benefit the organization if it broke out from under the County’s umbrella to become its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This enabled HealthNet to take advantage of other funding opportunities that a governmental entity would normally not be able to.
It was at this point that grants began to be applied for and then subcontracts offered to providers to deliver goods/services to meet the needs of the residents of the County. Herkimer County Rural Health Network, as it was now called, shifted from being a quasi-governmental department to an independent corporation with an established mission and vision. The “Network" became the center of health/human service needs assessment and planning for the County. It was an axis that brought local leaders and community members together to discuss identified needs and to plan for emerging needs. This is the same basic formula that the organization follows to this day; though it changed its name to Herkimer County HealthNet in 2004.
Today, its Vision Statement is, “Herkimer County HealthNet will be a leader in collaboration, working with its stakeholders to identify and address health and human service needs and support and coordinate solutions.” HCHN’s Mission and Vision are realized by working collaboratively with government, health and human service organizations, and non-profits in the Central New York region. HCHN’s Board of Directors has broad representation of organizations serving Herkimer County residents, and its workplan is implemented by its three full-time employees and sub-contracted agencies and contractors.