On Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm, the Tri County Rural Health Network, Inc. will be celebrating 10 years of service at its new office at 107 Professional Plaza.
On Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm, the Tri County Rural Health Network, Inc. will be celebrating 10 years of service at its new office at 107 Professional Plaza. The KIPP Drum Line, Blues vocalist James Morgan and guest soloists will be on hand to add music to the special recognition of a few of the many people who have been instrumental in the organization's growth. "When we grew we simply had to have more space for our home office. So we moved our administrative offices to the building that had been Dr. Traylor's office, near The Bailey Family Practice. The celebration is more than a time to look back – it is a time to take a tour of the new offices and look to the future," founding Executive Director Naomi Cottoms explained. "We still have our original office at 419 Cherry Street for public meetings and deliberative democracy forums. Increasingly it will be a space where grassroots citizens come together to address issues that affect them disproportionately,” she added. Board President Clifton Collier, executive director of the Lee County Cooperative Clinic, added, "The public is invited to join us in celebrating our birthday on Saturday. We hope the community will come out." Tri County staff connects citizens to health services in 16 counties, with offices in each county. Its newest program, the in-person assisters, began Tuesday working with citizens as they explore options and enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. All Tri County initiatives connect citizens to health and health-related services. The largest program is known nationally for connecting Medicaid-eligible senior and adult-disabled citizens to home and community-based services as an alternative to institutionalized living in 15 counties. The 16th county being served is Pulaski County where Tri County is working with nonprofits in the area to increase access to health care in the "12th Street Corridor." In Jefferson County, a subcontract with the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences (UAMS) focuses on increasing access to health care and research opportunities to reduce racial health disparities. Other initiatives include senior Medicare fraud patrol efforts to reduce misuse of funds and prescription assistance in partnership with Mid Delta Community Consortium and its AmeriCorps program, and Tri County was formed in response to a request from the Arkansas Rural Development Network, headed by Anna Huff Davis, to find locally initiated processes to increase access to health care. Deliberative democracy forums, using the Kettering Foundation's issue book, "The Public's Prescription for Health," showed grassroots citizens were not using available resources for a variety of reasons, including the need to prioritize food, clothing and shelter and financial constraints. Citizens expressed hope that there would be people they trusted from within their own community to help them access health care. Out of these grassroots voices in Phillips, Lee, and Monroe Counties, the community connector program was born. It was evaluated by a UAMS College of Public Health Team headed by doctors Glen Mays, Mary Kate Stewart and Holly Felix to show that it saved Medicaid about three dollars for every dollar spent on the program. It soon grew to serving 15 counties in the Delta. A documentary produced for public television and other media venues, "Health Care in Rural America," begins with a segment on the Community Connector Program. It also features the Pillow Clinic, Bailey Family Practice and UAMS East. This documentary, produced by filmmaker Rick Falco, will be available for viewing throughout Saturday's celebration. Articles have also been published highlighting the community connector program as one of the "best practices" in accessing health care for grassroots citizens. "Everything we do grows out of the voice of grassroots citizens – the persons most affected by health disparities in Phillips County and across the country," Cottoms explained. "We are a predominantly minority-operated non-profit that listens to the grassroots, hires from the grassroots and celebrates the successes of grassroots residents of the Delta Region. We believe the people most impacted by health disparities are the ones who have the answers to how to reduce the gaps and increase health statistics." For more information, call the Tri County office at 870-338-8900.