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Rural Health Networks Announces Rural Health Champions

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. Charge Nurse Crystal Arnold, RN, CASAC, with Farnham Family Services, and Nicole Kolmsee, director of Community Services with the Oswego County Division of Mental Hygiene 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 Coordinator of Community Health for Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Leanna Cleveland at separate presentations honoring the award winners.

Kolmsee has served as the Director of Community Services for the Oswego County Division of Mental Hygiene since 2006 and was recognized for her dedication to the Department of Social Services and her willingness to support community providers in the development of programming. “Nicole excels in working with agencies and providing them with flexibility they need to maintain their success,” said Cathy Li Voti-Rice. “She works closely with community providers in developing and promoting programming that benefits individuals and families that we provide service to. Nicole is also involved in a number of community committees and works diligently to keep providers and the community informed on service development and access, and promoting local and regional initiatives.”

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kolmsee proved to be a valuable asset to the county and the community.

“Nicole jumped right into action, releasing and continually updating COVID-19 information and obtaining updates from agencies on the effects of COVID-19 on programming,” said Li Voti-Rice. “Her ‘what can we do to assist’ attitude is reassuring as we move forth in uncertainty with budgets withholds and potential cuts. Nicole searches for opportunities to maintain the current level of service in Oswego County as well as opportunities for continued growth.”

In this photo, pictured with Arnold, are Cleveland and Farnham Family Services Executive Director Eric Bresee.

Crystal Arnold

Born and raised in Oswego County, Crystal Arnold felt compelled to make a difference in her community. A wife and mother of three children, Arnold was working full time and raising her three children when she decided to change careers and help others by becoming a part of the medical profession. She attended nursing school and earned her Registered Nurse Licensure in 2014. In 2017 she joined the staff at Farnham Family Services.

As a charge nurse Arnold holds a formal leadership role with Farnham. She assists the agency in developing, opening and operating the county’s first Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) to help combat the opioid/heroin epidemic, reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths, and provide treatment that can improve the quality of life for those in the community with, and affected by, Opioid Use Disorder.

“One of Crystal’s stated motivations at the time of her initial interview was to work towards making a positive difference in the lives of the people of Oswego County,” said Clinical Services Director Mary Jo Proietta-Halpern. “She has been instrumental in developing program policies and procedures; providing patient centered care; assisting with program development; and providing staff training, such as CPR, and more. Crystal’s contributions have been invaluable to the program’s growth and provision of high-quality Medication Assisted Treatment.

“Crystal brings with her a unique blend of personal and professional qualities that are supportive, competent, and patient centered without compromising patient safety and accountability,” continued Proietta-Halpern. “Crystal works exceptionally well with the multidisciplinary treatment team and was an informal leader from the beginning. Her personal and professional commitment to Farnham, our patients, and our team has been tremendous. Farnham is fortunate and grateful to have her as a valued team member.”

“This accomplishment is not something I could have done alone; many others deserve to share this award with me,” said Arnold. “I thank Farnham Family Services for providing me the opportunity to share my compassion, the need to help my community, and providing me the support I need to succeed.”  

The Rural Health Champion Awards were part of the Rural Health Network of Oswego County’s observation of National Rural Health Day, which was celebrated on November 19th. 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 Nicole and Crystal 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,

Scenes from OCO's Annual Meeting April 9, 2019

Circles of Security changed our lives
Circles of Security is topic of Annual Meeting guest speakers
Congratulations to Whelahan Award winner
Diane Cooper-Currier and Ron Darrow
Finance Director recognized for service
Howard Wilcox Volunteer of the Year Award presented to John Zanewych
New Board Members welcomed
OCO Ex Dir Diane Cooper-Currier and retiring Board of Directors Treasurer Ron Darrow