Rural health initiative delivers hope for healthcare

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Lowndes County Commission recently learned about an initiative which brings hope for delivery of rural health options to meet the needs of area residents.

During the commission’s May 13 meeting, Dr. Hollie Cost, Auburn University assistant vice president for university outreach and public services, addressed commissioners and delivered news about a partnering for a rural health initiative. The Auburn University Rural Health Initiative, a partnership with communities to increase access to high-quality and affordable health and wellness care throughout Alabama, is already working in Chambers County and promises to bridge the gap between communities and the healthcare they need.

“I want to know what your priorities are for health care,” Cost said. “When we look at all the data, the most challenging issues that we face in areas [like Lowndes County] are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, those are some of the biggest issues. We have a rural health model, and we use telehealth technologies.”

Email newsletter signup

Cost described a booth which residents can enter to receive a medical assessment, then talk to a clinician who can prescribe medication for pickup at a local pharmacy. The model is working well in Wilcox and Greene counties and the university aims to install them in communities with deep needs across the Black Belt region.

“The service is at no cost to the patient,” Cost explained. “We are partnering with other universities to have health care through our nursing and pharmacy students as well as mental health, speech and hearing. We’re looking to see if there is a community partner that might be interested too. We just want to be good neighbors and good partners.”

The commissioners considered the proposal, asked the audience to complete a survey of health care needs and agree to further discussion of the opportunity.

Commissioners also discussed progress toward addressing homes found by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be in violation of the Alabama River flood plain. County Engineer David Butts said the county had engaged an engineering firm which was evaluating each structure’s history to determine next steps for bringing the home into compliance.

Also on the table was a discussion around state requirements for installing septic systems. Commissioner Charlie King questioned Butts about proper procedures and certification requirements.

“That’s actually on the state level,” Butts explained. “That information doesn’t come into my office.”

Administrator Jacquelyn Thomas requested approval of April, board minutes, but according to Harris, his comments from the April 22 meeting were not recorded. He objected to approval of the minutes and the commission voted 3-1 to approve the minutes as written.

Thomas said minutes must include action items voted on by commissioners. Questions and comments are not required for records, but she does include them when commissioners request that she do so during the meeting.

Harris did not agree.

“When I ask a specific question, that question and the response should be in the minutes,” Harris said. “Selectively putting in minutes what we want to put in could be dangerous.”

In other business, the commission:

* Approved a contract with the Alabama Department of Human Resources;

* Rescheduled the May 27 meeting for May 28 due to the Memorial Day holiday;

* Considered a citizen’s complaint from Janice Patterson regarding garbage service on Lowndes County Road 2;

* Receive tokens of appreciation from Laura James-Hunter with Head Start; and 

* Appropriated $2,500 for a Hayneville Middle School choir field trip.

The next regular meeting of the Lowndes County Commission is scheduled for May 28 at 10 a.m.