Editors note: The Courier mistakenly ran this piece as Coastal Health District spokeswoman Linda Ratcliff’s Health advice column on Wednesday. It is actually by the Diversity Health Center’s staff.
Residents of Long County will soon have access to a new primary care health center as a result of a grant announced recently by U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, (R-Ga. First) and U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss (both R-Ga.)
Funding for the Diversity Health Center of Long County, to be located in Ludowici, will come from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources.
A three-year project grant has been awarded to Diversity Health Center, Inc., with first year funding of $599,004, to establish a health center in Long County that will be accessible to all area residents. Diversity has operated a primary care center in Hinesville since last December, and has served many Long County residents since that time. Diversity’s operations are supervised by a board of directors comprised of members from Liberty and Long counties.
“This is a great day for the people of Long County, and a great step forward for health care in this area of the state,” said Long County Commissioner Mike McGowan, who has actively supported funding of the new primary care center.
He said, “I am very happy to have a center that will work with the county transit system, the health department, the schools and city of Ludowici to ensure health care is available to all Long County citizens, irrespective of their insurance status.”
Isakson, in announcing the grant award, said, “The Diversity Health Center in Long County will serve an area where many of the residents lack adequate access to health care, and this funding will help ensure that these folks receive the preventive care they need to avoid a lifetime of illness.”
Russ Toal, Diversity’s CEO, said the new primary care center will provide needed services to a population of more than 11,000 people, many of whom have had to leave their home county for the most basic health care.
The federal grant for the Long County facility calls for a staff of one full-time family practice physician, a part-time internist, a nurse practitioner, RN, licensed social worker, nutritionist as well as a case worker to coordinate outreach. In addition, the center will be able to make arrangements for dental, mental health, pharmacy and well care services. The center also will have a contract with the county’s transit system to ensure residents have access to the center. Backup and specialty services will be provided by Liberty Regional Medical Center, that also operates EMS services for Long County.
Long County Diversity Board member Pastor Steve Stokes said, “For years our citizens have been forced to frequent the emergency room at hospitals in adjacent counties for routine medical care. This new center will provide more appropriate and efficient health care in a much more convenient setting. I am especially pleased the Diversity Board has made a commitment to making care available outside the normal work day hours.”
Toal pointed out nearly 700 Long County families are connected to Fort Stewart, which occupies 15 percent of the land mass of Long County. The center will make a special effort to provide outreach to these families, to veterans residing in Long County, to the Hispanic community and the almost 50 percent of Long County residents who have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Diversity Board Chairwoman Connie Thrift said, “Without the special assistance of Sens. Isakson and Chambliss, Congressman Kingston and the many others who wrote letters of support, made phone calls and otherwise lent their time and endorsement, this center would not be a reality. We are deeply indebted to the many folks of our service area who pulled together as a community to ensure the success of this effort.”
The Diversity Health Center in Hinesville, in the County Services Building with the Liberty County Health Department, sees people in need of primary care Monday through Friday. The center was funded with a $500,000 State Office of Rural Health Services grant last year. An application for federal funding is pending.
For more information, call Toal at (912) 656-0626.
Ratcliffe works with the Coastal District Health Department. Her office is in Hinesville. For more information, call her at 876-2173.