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Grant funds to aid services in Delta region

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

NEW MADRID - Southeast Missouri residents and health

care officials could soon be sharing their views on

the medical needs for the area.

Southeast Missouri Health Network Inc., which is

headquartered in New Madrid, is one of eight

recipients sharing $5.28 million in grants designed to

improve access to primary care services in the Delta

region. The local health program was allotted

$708,861.

"This initiative will bring more primary health care

services to more people in the Delta, which has some

of the nation's highest rates of preventable disease,

disability and death," said Health and Human Services

Secretary Tommy G. Thompson in a news release

announcing the funding.

Missouri is one of eight states in the Delta Region

and has 29 counties included in the project. The

region, which also includes counties in Alabama,

Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi

and Tennessee, is characterized by high poverty and

unemployment, racial disparities in health and too few

resources to meet current health needs, according to

HHS.

Jack Clingan, executive director for the Southeast

Missouri Health Network, said the funds will be used

to strengthen access to primary health care in the

Missouri region. He explained the process will begin

with the hiring of a director, who will strive to

develop an outreach network among the 29 designated

Missouri counties.

"We want to begin with better communication between

small hospitals, county health departments and the

public," said Clingan.

Clingan emphasized the grant program will seek to work

with the public and the medical communities. While the

program is still in its early stages - he is meeting

Wednesday with the Missouri Primary Care Association

to explain the program and get their input - he

suggested there will be town hall meetings and

gatherings with organizations to get input.

"We want to exchange ideas, see what we can do to

help," said Clingan. "We want to improve healthcare to

the medically underserved, low-income people."

The improvements, he said, can come in a variety of

ways ranging from facilitating transportation to

healthcare sites to better access to dental programs

to cost-saving ideas for medical providers. Other

possibilities would include the development of

community approaches to specific health problems or

the strengthening of emergency medical services.

Funds were awarded through competitive grants; the

amount of each award is based on the number of rural

Delta counties in each state. Clingan described it as

a honor for the Southeast Missouri Health Network to

be selected as a grant recipient.

"Our reputation has grown because of the care we are

able to provide the people of the Bootheel," he said.

The Southeast Missouri Health Network provides medical

and dental care in Scott, New Madrid, Stoddard,

Pemiscot, Mississippi and Dunklin counties through

clinics in New Madrid, Sikeston, Kennett, Bernie,

Portageville and Lilbourn.

In addition to the grant monies, the HHS initiative

includes $1 million to help small rural hospitals

improve their operations and financial performance.

According to HHS, in the Delta region, half of all

small rural hospitals are losing money with about 80

small rural hospitals in the eight-state region

eligible for assistance.