FULTON - In celebration of National Rural Health Day, the Rural Health Network (RHN) of Oswego County recognized two community members for their exceptional leadership and their work as advocates for Oswego County health providers and residents.

Duane Tull, MD, FACS, Chief Medical Officer at Oswego Health and Executive Director of Farnham Family Services Eric Bresee were honored with the Rural Health Network’s Rural Health Champion Award for their dedication to improving services within the county. The awards were presented by Community Health Advocate for the RHN/Community Health programs Virginia Bough at separate presentations honoring the award winners.

Eric Bresee

Eric Bresee, who was named executive director of Farnham Family Services in 2015, had spent the previous 15 years at Oswego County Opportunities and brought with him a wealth of knowledge about the human services field and a passion for helping others.

“Under Eric’s guidance Farnham’s impact on fighting the rise in addictions of both opioids and heroin in Oswego County has increased significantly,” said Farnham Board of Directors President Mike Dehm. “Eric has a strong knack for envisioning how we can better serve our clients and the community. Under his leadership we have secured numerous grants to maintain our commitment to help those in need of our services. He also has the ability to bring out the best in his co-workers so that those we serve fully reap the benefits of our talented staff.”

During Bresee’s tenure Farnham Family Services has grown incrementally. Fueled by the increasing opioid epidemic Bresee worked to meet community need by adding and expanding many of Farnham’s prevention, home and community based programs.

One of the most notable additions is Farnham’s new Opioid Treatment Program. The program provides Farnham with the ability to administer suboxone and offer medication assisted recovery services to individuals with opioid substance use disorder. It provides residents of Oswego and neighboring counties a potentially life-saving opportunity.

Additionally, Bresee has overseen the expansion of Farnham’s Open Access Services and Peer Services and was instrumental in bringing the County of Oswego Council of Alcoholism and Addictions (COCOAA) under the umbrella of Farnham Family Services and expanding the agency’s reach in Oswego County with the acquisition of the former Harbor Lights Chemical Dependency site in Mexico. These additions led to Farnham increasing its staff from 28 to 90 employees. Since taking the helm as executive director, Bresee has seen Farnham’s annual revenue increase from $1.8M in 2015 to a projected revenue of $8.8M in 2022.

“Eric, along with his staff, developed relationships with other community providers that have allowed for much needed collaboration between providers and community partners to better serve our community,” said Community Services Coordinator for the Oswego County Division of Mental Hygiene Cathy Li Voti-Rice. “With the ever-changing needs of those with substance use disorders, Farnham, with Eric at its helm, adapts to those needs and strives to provide the best possible service.”

“Eric is very deserving of being recognized as a Rural Health Champion, added Dehm. “Under his leadership Farnham Family Services is better able to service individuals throughout the County of Oswego.”

For Bresee, seeing the positive impact that Farnham Family Services has on the community is a very rewarding experience.

“It’s inspiring to hear people say how the services they received from Farnham changed their life,” said Bresee. “We help people improve their health and relationships in order to meet their individual goals. Moving forward, our staff and I will work to insure that Farnham not only maintains, but continues to improve services to help individuals and families struggling with alcohol and chemical dependence.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive the Rural Health Network’s Rural Health Champion Award and to be recognized alongside distinguished health professionals such as Dr. Duane Tull and past health champions,” added Bresee.

Duane Tull MD, FACS

The job of a Chief Medical Officer in a healthcare organization is to manage the organization’s physicians and clinical operations. However, for the past 18 months the job of Oswego Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Duane Tull MD, FACS, has expanded beyond the walls of Oswego Health’s facilities.

On Jan. 30, 2020, The World Health Organization announced a global health emergency, and the very next day, Dr. Tull gathered the emergency response team at Oswego Health and immediately began implementing measures to address and prepare for the challenges that would soon be faced.

“Dr. Tull stepped up to lead not only our clinical providers but all community providers as we navigate through unknown territory, all with the same purpose of protecting Oswego County residents,” said Oswego Health Senior Director of Communications Jamie Leszczynski.

Dr. Tull continues to lead community discussions with the Oswego County Department of Health and elected officials and has been called upon for expert clinical opinions. He has coordinated community provider meetings, meetings with EMS and educators to help streamline resources and communications.

“His dedication to caring is not only felt by his leadership at Oswego Health but he genuinely cares about our community and the wellbeing of all community providers and healthcare workers,” added Leszczynski. “Dr. Tull is committed to this community as we continue to advance care locally and I am fortunate to work alongside him daily and witness his contributions as we continue to fight COVID-19.”

“Though I am honored to receive this prestigious award, this recognition extends to the entire team at Oswego Health,” shared Duane F. Tull, MD, FACS, Chief Medical Officer. “While the past 19 months have been marked by tragedy, sickness, and setbacks, all of our employees have stepped up; showing determination, preparation and commitment in providing access to care in this community. I am thankful and proud to be a part of this team.”

The Rural Health Champion Awards are part of the Rural Health Network of Oswego County’s observation of National Rural Health Day, which is celebrated on Nov. 18. Recipients of this award must live or work in Oswego County and have demonstrated leadership in improving the availability and delivery of services in Oswego County.

Established by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, National Rural Health Day recognizes that rural communities are wonderful places to live and work and have unique healthcare needs. National Rural Health Day celebrates the “Power of Rural”, bringing to light the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face and showcasing the efforts of rural healthcare providers, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural stakeholders to address those challenges. It’s also an opportunity to honor the selfless, community-minded, “can do” spirit that prevails in rural America.

“We are proud to be able to salute Eric and Dr. Tull for everything they do for our communities,” said Cleveland. “They truly make a difference and are worthy recipients of the Rural Health Champion Award.”

Operating under the auspices of Oswego County Opportunities, the Rural Health Network is a consortium of health care providers and human service providers in Oswego County. Working together the members take a collaborative approach to addressing major health issues that exist in Oswego County. For more information on the Rural Health Network of Oswego visit the Rural Health Network (RHN) pages on the OCO website, www.oco.org.

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