Annual Family, School, Community Connections Symposium To Feature New Additions

Thad Turner discusses rescuing children from trafficking overseas at last year’s symposium. Submitted photo

BROCTON — The sixth annual Family, School, Community Connections Symposium is set to include mobile medical units and veteran programs this year.

Hosted by Brocton Central School and Southwestern Independent Living Center’s Judy Wroda, the annual symposium will welcome several medical providers and guest speakers to allow members of local rural communities to come learn about services provided.

The symposium is set for March 15 at Brocton Central School, 138 W. Main St. Doors open at 8 a.m. and are set to close somewhere around 3:30 p.m. Those who attend will be offered a free breakfast sponsored by Fidelis Care and Brocton Central School.

The symposium, at this time, will feature 69 programs and service providers in the gymnasium for the public to visit with to learn of services offered to individuals and families. Organizations involved with and supporting the event include, Allegheny Health Network, Westfield Memorial Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital, Highmark Health, UPMC Chautauqua, Media One Radio Group, and Fidelis Care.

The guest speakers for the day are Gina Klofft from the American Heart Association; Patricia Christianson founder of Therapy Dogs United; Johnathan Williams for Highmark Caring Place; County Executive PJ Wendel; Jeff Pirrone from NAMI; and Tiffany Erhard from New York State Wide Senior Action Council. The group will discuss Medicare issues and scams, while another special guest will share details of her life and how she survived and overcame physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child then trafficking by her spouse, and the ongoing issues and challenges she lives with and overcomes on a daily basis.

The audience at last year’s symposium during a lecture. Submitted photo

This year there will be the addition of mobile medical units from Roswell Cancer Center, the EDDY Van, The Chautauqua Center, Windsong, and the Vet Center mobile unit from Erie Veteran’s Administration. Other veteran services represented include, Buffalo Vet Outreach Center, Erie Vet Outreach Center, VA Caregivers of WNY, and Vets Suicide Prevention.

Wroda said the reason she started the symposium was to help people in rural communities have better access to care.

“I’ve seen a lack of access in rural communities,” she said. “I go into homes and people are not aware of some of the places out there that can help them. This is a way to get information out there at different churches and restaurants and other avenues.”

The event held at Brocton has grown over the past six years, beginning with 12 organizations represented and now hosting around 69. Wroda said people should be interested in attending the symposium to learn more about the different health care providers in the local area.

“You never know what is going to hit you,” Wroda said. “It could be a catastrophic illness or family with substance abuse or dementia and you might not know where to go. This event helps people get familiar with these services.”

Members of the Cassadaga Job Corps at last year’s symposium. Submitted photo

For Wroda, the event not only allows for people to get access and knowledge about different medical providers but it also helps those providers to learn what people in the rural areas might need. This may include things such as developing new programs along with helping people have better access to care. This year she also hopes to be able to reach the veteran community with the inclusion of veteran programs.

The event is also a part of Wroda’s new Rural Mobile Medical Unit Health and Wellness Initiative. As a part of this initiative Wroda is hoping to have more events such as the symposium or rural mobile medical unit fairs to continue to help people in need.

Wroda came up with the initiative when as a part of her job she would travel to homes in rural areas and help people there with different services and end-of-life paperwork.

“In September or October of last year I was helping someone in a rural area with their paperwork and they said they were going to give up on their medical appointments because it was too hard to get there,” Wroda said. “This was their dialysis appointment and they had many different transportation problems whether through medicaid transportation or a friend. They would be late to their dialysis appointment and if they were over 15 minutes late their appointment time would be given to someone else and they would have to wait four to six hours for transport home and have to reschedule.”

Wroda said her dream with this initiative is that people in the medical industry would realize that people need help and to develop a mobile medical unit for dialysis. She said this would go around to different rural locations and have people be able to get their dialysis right there, adding that she knew the technology needed was available.

For the symposium, her hope is that people come and learn.

“I hope people come and see what is out there,” Wroda said. “If they don’t find something for themselves, maybe they can bring information back for someone else. They can come and learn and if they come they will find something.”


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