Davis, Riley talk health

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Presiding over a crowd of more than 400 people inside the Judson College auditorium on Tuesday night, Gov. Bob Riley promised the people of the Black Belt they would see results from his Black Belt Action Commission within a year.

“We can’t come back a year from now and say ‘we decided to do this’,” Riley said. “We want to say ‘this is what we decided, this is what we accomplished, and this is the result’.”

Riley’s remarks came after an hour-long discussion on the Health Committee of the Black Belt Action Commission that included an overview of the progress the committee has made since its creation 10 months ago.

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Riley and U.S Congressman Artur Davis, chairman of the Health Committee, sponsored the town hall meeting that drew a large crowd to Marion despite the rainy weather.

Representatives from three organizations that have benefited from the Health Committee, the Black Belt Eye Care Consortium, Kid One Transport System, and the Community Care Network, were on hand to share their success stories since partnering with the committee.

Dr. Leon Davis, of the Community Care Network, said after becoming a part of the Health Committee, his organization has been expanded to provide health care fairs in all 12 Black Belt counties by the end of 2005.

“We’ve had health fairs in five Black Belt counties so far, and they have all been extremely successful,” Davis said. “Some people who came to these fairs had not been to a physician in a long time.”

Holly Lollar, of Kid One Transport System, spoke of how the organization worked with the Health Committee to expand its services into the Black Belt region to provide free transportation to a doctor for expectant mothers and children under the age of 19.

“There are so many people in this region who do not own a car,” Lollar said. “Through the Health Committee, we are able help these people get the medical treatment they need.”

The Black Belt Eye Care Consortium was created after the Health Committee combined the services of several organizations to provide eye screenings, referrals, and treatment to Black Belt residents.

During the meeting, Davis praised Gov. Riley for his willingness to improve the Black Belt, an area he said has often been ignored by the state’s previous governors.

“The governor took a look at this wonderful place we call the Black Belt and decided to make the whole state better,” Davis said. “Rather than go to where the votes were, he went to where the needs were. His (Black Belt Action Commission) has drawn hundreds of people together.”

Since Riley signed the executive order creating the Black Belt Action Commission on Aug. 11,2004, the Health Commission has created an Black Belt Medical Reserve Corp, conducted grant writing workshops, and created a list of incentives to practice rural medicine.

Over 160 people are involved in the Health Committee, including doctors, nurses, professors, government officials, church leaders and average citizens.

The second half of the town hall meeting was dedicated to a question and answer session that allowed area residents to ask questions to a panel that consisted of Riley, Davis, Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson, State Medicaid Commissioner Carol Herrmann, and Health Committee member Frances Ford.

The panel answered questions ranging from changes in Medicare to the challenges of creating hospitals in rural communities.