Com­mu­nity dis­cus­sion ex­poses chal­lenges

A ‘10 per­cent’ so­lu­tion could help al­le­vi­ate prob­lems

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

A dis­cus­sion of Ru­ral Health­care: What’s Next? drew more than three dozen peo­ple from across the county to the Washington Fire House last Sun­day af­ter­noon, spurring ideas for find­ing so­lu­tions to a range of health­care is­sues ex­pe­ri­enced by lo­cal and regional res­i­dents.

The event was con­vened to dis­cuss and as­sess the find­ings of “A Trou­bling Di­ag­no­sis,” the re­cent three-part ex­plana­tory jour­nal­ism se­ries pub­lished in the Rap­pa­han­nock News. Na­tion­ally rec­og­nized re­searcher and re­porter Randy Rieland wrote the se­ries and keynoted the event.

Co-spon­sored by the Rap­pa­han­nock News, Foothills

Fo­rum, Rapp at Home, and Ag­ing To­gether, the event was at­tended by mem­bers of the county’s fire and res­cue or­ga­ni­za­tions, the free clinic, the county schools, area non­prof­its, and busi­nesses with an in­ter­est in health care, among oth­ers.

In her opening re­marks, dis­cus­sion mod­er­a­tor Bev­erly Jones said: “The fo­cus of the dis­cus­sion is very much lo­cal, but is within the frame­work of the se­ries. And a great chance to ex­pand a record, cor­rect a record, if there are other is­sues that weren’t raised in the se­ries but should be on the ta­ble.”

Rieland, who also wrote two pre­vi­ous se­ries for the Rap­pa­han­nock News — one on broad­band ac­ces­si­bil­ity, the other on the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan — told the crowd that while he was work­ing on the broad­band se­ries, the is­sue of health­care kept com­ing up.

“The chal­lenges that ex­ist in Rap­pa­han­nock County are re­ally univer­sal in the U.S.,” he said, in­clud­ing at­tract­ing doc­tors to ru­ral ar­eas, the lack of re­li­able trans­porta­tion, the avail­abil­ity of men­tal health re­sources, the ag­ing of vol­un­teer fire and res­cue per­son­nel, and a grow­ing drug abuse prob­lem.

Early on in the dis­cus­sion, Matthew Black, who vol­un­teers for the Sperryville Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, sug­gested that the mag­ni­tude of the com­bined chal­lenges is too over­whelm­ing to tackle. In­stead, he said: “If we could make a 10 per­cent shift in the num­ber of health­care events [in the county], it may not fix ev­ery­thing,” but it would make a dif­fer­ence.

Black’s “10 per­cent so­lu­tion” be­came the theme of the dis­cus­sion going for­ward.

Todd Sum­mers, a Sperryville vol­un­teer am­bu­lance driver, weighed in: “We need a plan for a plan to get to that 10 per­cent.”

But any plan has to be owned by the county, he pointed out, rather than re­ly­ing on out­side foun­da­tions and other or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Later, when Jones asked Sum­mers where in­ter­ested cit­i­zens could reach him to fur­ther dis­cuss the plan, he an­swered: “Call 911.”

Soon, how­ever, there could be an op­por­tu­nity for county lead­ers and the vol­un­teer fire and res­cue companies to dis­cuss if not pro­pose such a plan. A new agree­ment be­tween the Rap­pa­han­nock gov­ern­ment and the county’s vol­un­teer fire companies is to be dis­cussed to­day [Thursday] at a spe­cial meet­ing of the Rap­pa­han­nock County Board of Su­per­vi­sors, and a draft of the agree­ment spells out that the two will main­tain reg­u­lar di­a­logue on press­ing is­sues af­fect­ing the county’s res­i­dents.

BY LUKE CHRISTO­PHER

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