The University of Mississippi Medical Center's new Belzoni after-hours care clinic is getting a funding boost of almost $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Medical Center's Moving Our Delta's Health Forward initiative will receive a grant of up to $999,077 from the Agriculture Department's 2016 Delta Health Care Services Grant Program. It will primarily fund capital expenses at the clinic, including classroom space for educational programs and a fitness room for use by local residents.
A ribbon cutting and dedication for the clinic, to be staffed by a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse, is set for 10 a.m. August 29. The clinic will open to the public in late summer or early fall. After-hours care will be provided from 3-11 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
UMMC is the lead grant applicant for a consortium that's bringing additional health care to the Delta. Other members are the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the State Department of Health and Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead.
“UMMC is the state's only academic health and research institute, and a major goal is the elimination of differences in health status of Mississippians based on race, geography, income or social status,” said Dr. Tonya Moore, administrator for community health services for the Center for Telehealth at UMMC.
The consortium's initiative “will leverage the intellectual, technical and human capacity of four organizations to provide residents of Humphreys County with the development of health care services and the expansion of health education programs,” she said. “In addition to caring for known illnesses and disease states, the consortium is positioned to focus on preventive care and healthy living and the establishment of health care job training programs.”
The walk-in clinic, located in the Humphreys County Sherrill Building, 16463 U.S. 49 North, is critically needed because Belzoni's small hospital shut its doors a few years ago. It won't offer primary care, because there are two primary care clinics in Belzoni, Moore said.
The hospital's closure created “a real challenge for the residents of that community accessing care,” said Kevin Cook, University Health System chief executive officer. “UMMC is stepping in to ensure the folks living in Belzoni have access to care after normal business hours and on weekends. We have worked with the local community leadership and local providers to design a solution that is sustainable for that community.”
“This grant will make a direct, and significant, impact on the lives and overall health of residents in Belzoni, Louise, Silver City, and Isola, all rural cities,” Moore said.
The clinic will offer services for acute illness and injury that aren't life-threatening and don't require an emergency room visit. Patients also will be treated for routine illnesses that include acute or short-term pain, headaches, cough, fever and rashes, Moore said. “The goal is to stabilize the patient and refer them to their primary care provider, or stabilize and recommend the next higher level of care,” she said.
A key partner in the initiative is the Humphreys County Board of Supervisors. Many of the board's 9,000 constituents are poor, aging or lack adequate transportation. The Sherrill Building is being renovated to accommodate the clinic and other tenants, including MSU's Extension Service, a current tenant.
Other important clinic components being funded by the grant are telehealth and remote patient monitoring equipment, including diabetes prevention care, Moore said.
Future plans for the classroom space call for use as a distance-learning education site focusing on community health education and workforce training of health care professionals and pre-professional students.