Column/Staying healthy in Selma

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2007

If you’re worried about the state of health for Dallas County residents, there’s good reason to be.

According to a report from MSNBC, Alabama had the highest rate of increase in obesity rates of any state. And Dallas County has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the state as well. But, that’s the bad news. The good news is there are facilities in Selma prepared to handle most any health-related issue.

As a member of Class XIII Leadership Selma-Dallas County, I got a tour of several of these facilities Thursday.

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We started out at the YMCA, which has increased its membership by about six times since opening its new facility.

The Selma-Dallas County YMCA offers an array of activities for families, individuals, children and senior adults.

The YMCA has teen programs, a workout room, gymnasium, swimming pools, a daycare, aerobics and more – basically everything you’d need to stay in shape.

And, right now, there is no enrollment fee.

The next stop was Park Place Nursing Home, a facility for those going through rehabilitation, as well as those who need long term care.

Park Place has an Alzheimer’s unit as well, and during our visit, residents were taking part in various activities throughout the building.

Our tour of Vaughan Regional Medical Center was interesting as well.

We spent time with new CEO Barry Keel, along with other members of the administrative staff.

This four-member team is taking on what may seem like a Herculean effort – to change local residents’ mindset about Vaughan.

They acknowledge the public’s negative perception of the hospital, but are working hard to turn things around.

Keel said the staff is top-notch, and they put an emphasis on the care of their patients.

The facility itself has been painted from top to bottom, floors waxed to a high shine, and the overall impression of the facility is one of cleanliness – including the emergency room.

The hospital is currently constructing an outpatient surgery facility, which should be opened by May. There are also plans to enlarge the emergency room, making the waiting room area about three times its current size.

We then moved on to the Cahaba Center for Mental Health, just down the road on Medical Center Parkway.

Approximately 4,000 consumers are served by this center, which covers Dallas, Perry and Wilcox counties.

Consumers include those with mental illness, mental retardation and substance abuse issues.

There are several facilities right here in Selma, including Cahaba Cares, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

While some of the consumers live in the Cahaba Center’s group homes, most are involved in day programs and live at home.

You may not know it, but you’ve seen some of the work of Cahaba’s consumers around town – they have five greenhouses in which they grow plants that can be purchased by the public or are used in their landscape projects in downtown Selma, Camden and at Peoples Bank.

The last stop was at the Dallas County Department of Public Health.

All in all, there’s a myriad of health programs available for local residents. The real trick is educating ourselves about what’s out there.

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.