The Health Planning Organization is also working on a military-wide problem: a shortage of mental health clinics to deal with PTSD and the effects of multiple deployments on families.  It has helped triple the number of mental health providers in the region.  But that is still barely keeping up. Retired soldier Jim Sheets is studying to be a social worker in a program brought here by the Health Planning Organization. He says half the students want to become mental health counselors. Bill Owens, a Democrat, will be the one defending the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization earmark in the next Congress.  He says it has helped this region try to buck that trend.

You could argue that all these changes around Fort Drum would have happened without the earmark.  Dr. Steven Lyndaker at Lewis County General Hospital disagrees.  He says someone needed to bring big institutions like hospitals and the Army together. "We wouldn't be talking about this, quite honestly, if Denise Young didn't write a grant proposal," he says. Across the country, rural areas suffer from a shortage of doctors, especially specialists.  Rep.

"You're going to have 20 people ... right back in this area providing services," Sheets says. The Health Planning Organization also has grants to digitize medical records, recruit doctors, and run fiber patch cord cable between the region's five hospitals. Director Denise Young says a $400,000 per year earmark has leveraged $100 million in projects. "The earmark is the catalyst to bring all of these resources to bear in this region to improve the health care system," Young says.