For Immediate Release
July 15, 2015     

CONTACT: Susan Lamontagne at 631.899.3825 or


Asthma, Injuries, and Suicide Risk: Tackling the Causes of Pediatric ER Visits

 Hudson Headwaters Health Network Receives $150,000 to Improve Pediatric Care in Upstate New York

NEW YORK, NY—While caring for more than 73,000 patients in rural upstate New York last year, the staff of Hudson Headwaters Health Network (Hudson Headwaters) discovered a pattern. Most pediatric emergency room (ER) visits resulted from of one of three problems: asthma or other respiratory ailments, injury, or behavioral health, including depression and suicide risk. And two-thirds of these visits were preventable.

To help tackle the root causes of these visits, the RCHN Community Health Foundation awarded $150,000 to Hudson Headwaters to prevent episodic, crisis-based ER care, improve appropriate interventions, and enhance pediatric care management and primary-care based delivery.

“There are lots of initiatives to reduce hospital admissions among adults, but nothing in our area addressed the needs of children,” said Cyndi Nassivera-Reynolds, Hudson Headwater’s vice president of transformation and clinical quality. “And when it comes to children, the approach to care must consider the family and environmental factors that might underlie or exacerbate certain health conditions.”

For example, for the youngest children – newborn to 9 – most ER visits were due to asthma, croup, or other respiratory ailments. Hudson Headwaters will now offer an in-house allergist to determine the root causes of respiratory difficulties and utilize a patient educator to work with families to better understand the importance of medication maintenance to prevent asthma attacks. For children ages 10 to 13, most ER visits were the result of injuries that could have been handled in primary care or urgent care centers. Hudson Headwaters will educate families about alternatives to the ER for non-critical injuries. For teenagers, the vast majority of ER visits was due to depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.

“The leading cause of hospital admissions among teenagers in our area is suicide risk,” said Hudson Headwater’s CEO John Rugge, MD. “And a large portion of emergency department visits by teenagers – nearly one quarter – are made by six percent of these teens for reasons related to depression or behavioral health. We need to do a better job of reaching them.”

With the support of RCHN CHF’s grant, Hudson Headwaters is hiring a new pediatrician, an expert in technology and data analysis, who will work with other key staff to develop a pediatric care management system. The new system will facilitate the integration of behavioral health and primary pediatric care to better reach and support high-risk teens, essentially a pediatric health home model. The timing could not be better. Surveys of teenagers by county health departments are showing growing rates of depression and suicide ideation.

“A critical part of improving our nation’s health is to more effectively reach and care for those who are most vulnerable, and children and high risk teens are at the top of that list,” said Feygele Jacobs, president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation (RCHN CHF). “Our foundation is pleased to support innovative projects to improve the health of vulnerable populations and share lessons learned on how to deliver health care that works better for children, families, and our communities.”

Hudson Headwaters will partner with Glen Falls Hospital and the Adirondack Health Institute on the initiative, which is formally called, “Improving Regional Pediatric Care Management to Reduce ER Utilization.”

Hudson Headwaters is one of six grantees in five states that will receive $150,000 each to develop and launch a population health focused program. Other projects include initiatives to reduce smoking among Asian Americans by Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, New York, NY; reduce diabetes-related emergencies by ACCESS Family Care, Neosho, MO; improve colon cancer screening rates by Adelante Healthcare, Phoenix, AZ; improve cervical cancer screening rates in health center communities by Colorado Community Health Network, Denver, CO; and establish a medical home for the homeless by Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, Santa Rosa, CA.

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Hudson Headwaters Health Network is a not-for-profit, community-based network of 16 health centers serving the Lake George/Adirondack and Glens Falls Region since 1981.  Its services include comprehensive primary care, obstetrics and gynecology, behavioral health, dentistry, lab and imaging.

The RCHN Community Health Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation established to support community health centers through strategic investment, outreach, education, and cutting-edge health policy research. The only foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to community health centers, RCHN CHF builds on a long-standing commitment to providing accessible, high-quality, community-based healthcare services for underserved and medically vulnerable populations. For more information, visit