Lowndes County Commission appoints attorney, discusses healthcare authority plan

Published 6:38 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Lowndes County Commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Dallas County attorney Prince Chesnutt to the position of Lowndes County Attorney during a meeting held Monday.

Chestnutt will replace former attorney Ashley Smith, who was relieved of the position in November.

“I have represented multiple counties over the years,” Chestnutt said. “I’ve been an attorney for 21 years and have been representing counties for 20 of those years. Lowndes County was one of the first I represented early in my career. It’s a homecoming of sorts for me.”

Commissioners also heard from Mitchell Monsour, President of Mercator Health Advisors, who discussed gaps in healthcare within the county and offered a plan to develop a healthcare authority for bridging those gaps.

‘Healthcare is local,” Monsour said. “Your plan starts with an analysis of what’s going on in the county, the needs and different angles, then you begin to start building on following the money to address the need and build a sustainable financial model.”

Monsour told the commissioners of his involvement over the past year in a University of Alabama Birmingham study funded by Community Health Access and Rural Transformation Grant dollars from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

Findings from the study, Monsour said, indicate the state of Lowndes County and its citizens. According to Monsour, the county’s population declined nearly 13% in recent years. The nearly 75% African-American residents are prone to higher incidence and prevalence of chronic disease,yet 46% have no access to broadband.

At least 21% of people in Lowndes County under 65 have some kind of disability but no local health care, Monsour said.

“The social determinants of health deal with socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood, physical environment, employment, social services networks, and access to health care,” Monsour said. “When you don’t have those first five, it affects 50% of the outcomes in whatever kind of health delivery that you’ve got.”

Monsour requested the commission consider forming a healthcare authority which could establish a rural health clinic. Commissioner Robert Harris questioned Monsour about the sustainability of that type of effort.

“In order to be sustainable, we have to have the amount of people who are willing to be a part of the organization we bring in,” Harris said. “What I’m trying to get in mind is how do we get people to stay here [for treatment?]”

Chairman Charlie King requested Commissioners Joseph Barganier and Harris discuss the issue further with Monsour.

In other business, the Commission:

  • Viewed a presentation of the new County website;
  • Heard citizen concerns from John Simpson regarding funding and timing of repairs on Mushatt Road;
  • Learned of needed repairs to the county’s weather sirens;
  • Discussed a leak in the courtroom,
  • Approved maintenance personnel position advertising;
  • Approved the signing of the Alabama Local Government Opioid Memorandum of Understanding related to the statewide settlements with pharmaceutical distributors McKesson and Janssen and outlining the county will receive $43,511.06 from McKesson paid out over 10 years;
  • Approved September, October, and November minutes;
  • Resolved to renew participation in the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Liability Self-Insurance Fund;
  • Agreed to renew supportive and nutrition services at the Hayneville Senior Center with South Central Alabama Development Commission;
  • Authorized Chairman Charlie King to sign a loan application with Liberty Bank to resurface Julian Town and Collirene Cutoff roads;
  • Granted December 23 as a Christmas holiday for County employees;
  • Resolved to repair the front steps leading into the Charles Smith Courthouse Annex;
  • Voted to allow South Central Alabama Broadband Cooperative District free office space in the Charles Smith Courthouse Annex;
  • Signed the letter of support for the Eastern Alabama Railway and Meridian and Bigbee Railroad grant request for improvements.