The Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association, located upstairs at 81 Main Street, is a nonprofit organization offering the community visiting nurse services, the Elementary School Dental Hygiene Program and financial assistance for dental and hearing aid patents. Originally established in 1897 as the District Nurse Association, the name was later changed to the Saranac Lake Society for the Control of Tuberculosis (known as the T. B. Society), subsequently changed to the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association and then finally renamed the Saranac Lake Health Association. For more than 30 years, SLVHA has provided a hygienist to the Saranac Lake Central School District.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 9, 2009

SLVHA expands its visiting nurse coverage, by Diane Chase

“Voluntary Health was first called The District Nursing Association in the late 1800s. Nurses ran most of the cure cottages in Saranac Lake,” Carol Jaquis, the registered nurse for the SLVHA, said. “We’ve had two name changes since then. We were the Society for the Control of Tuberculosis and now the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association. Voluntary Health is continuing on the path that was originally set in 1897. District Nursing started by providing nursing services to individual TB patients living in the private cure homes. VHA continues that work by providing visiting nursing services to allow people to remain in their homes.”

In 2009 the SLVHA expanded its Visiting Nurse coverage to include the entire Saranac Lake Central School District, which covers the largest geographic area of any school district in New York State.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 24, 1974

VHA expanding its interests

SARANAC LAKE - Dr. Richard Gould, president of the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association (VHA), announced today that the organization expects, during the coming year, to expand its patient-oriented interests to include participation in the General Hospital's newly-founded home health aid plan.

The VHA, successor to the Saranac Lake Tuberculosis Society, continues to operate the district nursing service established in 1899. At the request of the attending physician, Mrs. Lyman Lawrence, a registered nurse, visits patients in their homes to perform necessary nursing care. The service is funded by the VHA with cost-per-visit to the patient between $.25 and $1. In 1973-74 Mrs. Lawrence made approximately 3,000 nursing calls.

Also, on the request of a physician, home health aides will visit the homes of sick or recovering patients to give basic nursing care including baths; preparation of simple meals, supervision of medication and psychological support for the patient and his family where needed.

The first class of home health aides completed training under the direction of Mrs. Mary Wisner, discharge planning coordinator, at the Saranac Lake General Hospital in April. The VHA feels this new service, directed from the hospital, is a valuable expansion of much needed professional help in the sick person's home.

The visiting registered nurse is one of several active direct patient services rendered the community by the VHA.

The organization maintains offices at 64 Main Street, where the executive secretary, Miss Esther Mirick, is on duty from 9-5 Monday through Friday.

The sick-room loan closet, entirely free to the patient, is one of the services most heavily in demand. The loan of canes, crutches, wheel chairs, hospital beds, commodes and many other sick-room accessories, are delivered and picked up as required. The service mounting to 3,500 items loaned in the past year, the VHA board voted an addition $800 to increase the scope of equipment as suggested by the General Hospital.

A more limited, but continually active service to patients is the purchase of medications and supplies and occasional small financial loans to assist patients in the purchase of permanently needed sick-room equipment for the home. This service is available only on the request of the attending physician.

Miss Mirick is also kept busy with requests for medically related information. She assists individuals seeking information on medicaid, medicare, and social security benefits; has helped write letters to private medical insurance organizations; finds out-of-town hospital addresses and nursing home data, and directs many referrals for general medical information.

Decisions to support the Home Health Aid plan and enlarge the loan closet were among those made at the VHA's annual meeting this month. Other business included the approval of a $21,800 operating budget for 1974-1975, and the election of four new directors and the organization's officers.

Directors for five-year terms included Dr. J.J. Bourke and William A. Sweeney to succeed themselves and Dr. James Stover to succeed Dr. David Merkel. Allan Logie was elected to fill the unexpired term of Stevenson Waltien.

Dr. Gould was re-elected president of the VHA. Mr. Sweeney was named vice-president to succeed Dr. Bourke. Chester Beeman, treasurer, and Mrs. Warriner Woodruff, secretary, were also re-elected to succeed themselves. Other VHA directors include, Dr. Lawrence Early, Dr. Verne Hospelhorn, Mrs. Hugh M Kinghorn, Wilfred MacNeill, Mrs. Dwight Milne, Dr. Joseph Rosenstein, Mrs. Gray Twombly, and Mrs. Arthur Wareham.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 15, 1995

Patient roster nears maximum in District Nursing Program

SARANAC LAKE - The increased patient roster in the District Nursing Program is almost at its limit, officials said recently.

"During the past year the patient roster has increased almost to the limit of a single, part-time nurse's capabilities," District Nurse Shirley M. Walsh warned members of the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association at its annual meeting.

The District Nursing Program, administering to patients without charge, was founded in 1897. A decade later it was absorbed into the newly formed Saranac Lake Tuberculosis Society from which the present Voluntary Health Association evolved. On qualified recommendation the district nurse attends patients in their homes, monitoring their physical and mental well being and identifying health problems.

The present patient roster averages 30, Walsh stated. The year saw 13 admissions and eight discharges. Referrals came from the Adirondack Medical Center discharge desk, Franklin County Nursing Service, the Adult Center and the community.

During the past year the Nursing Program helped two people obtain hearing aides. SLVHA also provides the nurse with a limited discretionary budget for patients unable to cope with housekeeping chores.

Karen Harewood, elementary school dental hygienist, reported that by year's end she will have completed 1,029 elementary student dental examinations. Additionally, she has seen 72 middle and high school students referred by school physician Dr. Virginia Weeks.

SLVHA initiated the Dental Health Program in the Saranac Lake Central elementary school system 15 years ago. Now serving all local elementary schools, Headstart and the Nursery School, it also has limited budget through which the hygienist can provide emergency dental care in cases of extreme need.

"Reviewing the overall picture of the dental program the following facts are evident." Harwood stated.

  • There is definite improvement in the incidence of dental caries in all grade levels since the inception of the program.
  • The percentage of children with dental caries is much higher in the lower elementary classes as compared to fourth- and fifth-grades reflecting participation (with written parental permission) in the school fluoride program, education and follow through making oral hygiene and proper nutrition more important and encouragement to received dental treatment through referrals and personal school contact
  • The availability of an area dentist accepting Medicaid.

Executive Secretary Constance Dennis reported that the SLVHA has seen fewer requests for the free loan of patient equipment the past year and introduced a new and more efficient filing system for the district nurse's patient records.

In other business, the membership elected Lynn Sarr to fill the late Dr. James Stover's unexpired directorship and re-elected Dr. Robert Allen, Catherine Kraft and Alice Wareham to the board.

At the board meeting immediately following, directors re-elected Robert E. White, president; Gail Bullock, vice president; Catherine Kraft, secretary; and Chester Beeman, treasurer.

The Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association, a private, nonprofit organization, launched its annual membership drive in May. Anyone wishing to support its free, medically-related programs is invited to join by sending a donation to the Association, 70 Main St., Saranac Lake, NY 12983.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 3, 2022

Celebrating 125 years of health care, by Peggy Wiltberger

On May 11, the Saranac Lake Health Association, which was formerly the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association, held its annual meeting and began celebrating its 125th anniversary of providing health related services to Saranac Lake residents. Since its inception, the SLHA has served thousands of local residents.

As one of the oldest institutions in Saranac Lake, SLHA began in 1897 as the District Nurse Association by providing home nursing for TB patients. In 1907, the first chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis was formed in Saranac Lake -- headed by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau -- and the District Nurse Association was absorbed into the new program. In addition to providing nurses, the TB society loaned items like fur coats and cure-chairs, and maintained a registry to coordinate patients, physicians and cure cottages.

The TB Society provided Saranac Lake's first ambulance in 1907, a horse-drawn vehicle purchased secondhand from the Bellevue Hospital. They continued to supply the village with ambulances until 1970. With the advent of antibiotic therapy for tuberculosis, the days of curing in the healing air of the Adirondacks faded. But the Saranac Lake TB Society remained active.

In 1972, the National TB Society was reorganizing and planned to merge all the chapters in northern New York. However, as funds has been bequeathed to the local TB Society to provide health care services to Saranac Lake residents, the decision was made to separate from the National TB Society and it changed its name to the Saranac Lake (Voluntary) Health Association.

Despite its 125 years of service, the SLHA remains an organization unfamiliar to many. So it is embarking on a rebranding effort with a simplified name, a new logo and signage. Going forward, the hope is to expand the outreach to those who need its services and to donors who can support this mission.

The SLHA is a life-changing resource for those who need it; providing free professional nursing, a school dental hygienist, and audiological and dental aid to those who would otherwise fall through the gaps in the health care system.

The home nursing program provides skilled nursing care for the elderly and chronically ill who otherwise are not eligible for care through another agency.

SLHA helps our neighbors remain in their community. Without the SLHA, many residents would be forced to move elsewhere to receive the professional health care services they need. Not only does this allow them to remain home, but it keeps them as part of a community that includes their family and friends.

As healthcare can be complicated, SLHA is the community's helping hand. As a state licensed home care service agency, SLHA works with health care providers and community resources to ensure the care received is that which is needed and makes the process of attaining care easier.

For the last 40 years, SLHA has provided the dental hygienist in the Saranac Lake School District, providing preventative dental care and dental education for our children. Additionally, SLHA can help to meet the cost of dental care and hearing aids. Affordability is often a primary reason that people neglect their dental health. SLHA understands that untreated dental problems can lead to systemic adverse health outcomes, and they extend their hand to help meet the cost for those who qualify.

This yea SLHA has decided to memorialize two of its longest serving board members by designating its scholarships in their names: Alice Wareham and William Sweeney. The scholarships are awarded to NCCC students in their RN or Radiologic Technician programs.

All SLHA services are provided free of charge. And the organization relies on the generous contributions of our neighbors to continue their mission. For more information please contact SLHA at [email protected].