Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

October 23, 2012

Proposed center to help uninsured

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

-- — During a recent Indiana Association of Local Boards of Health teleconference, "the national movement for public health departments to collaborate with primary care or community health centers on free clinics to care for those who can't afford it" was discussed, Ripley County Health Department President Harley Robinson, D.V.M., told other members Oct. 2.

Ripley County will follow that trend. Board member Dr. Michael Parker presented an update on the proposed Southeast Indiana Health Center for the uninsured living in Ripley and Franklin counties. The board of directors (Parker, RCHD board member Dr. Steve Stein, President Gerilyn Litzinger, Roger Dean, Connie DeBurger, Dr. Steve Glaser, Pete Mack, Linda Tuttle and Bev Metze) is now soliciting money and hunting for a location in the Batesville area because it is centrally located.

The goal is to accrue $350,000 in an operating fund and $300,000 in a building fund, he said.

Volunteers with perhaps a paid part-time clinic director will address preventive care, women's health, minor emergencies, sexually transmitted diseases and make referrals to specialists. Margaret Mary Community Hospital will provide a certain amount of charitable radiological and laboratory services.

"We're going to start out slow and try to grow it,” Parker reported. A three-year plan estimated 3,000 visits in the first year, with the clinic open maybe five hours each week. "In the second year, we'd like to add dental. We've identified that has a huge need in the area.” By the third year, there could be 38,000 visits with the facility open 25 hours weekly.

Stein called the clinic "a great idea ... It was a surprise ... (to learn) the uninsured have nowhere to go.”

According to Parker, the center will need "all kinds" of volunteers, from physicians and nurses to clerks and drivers. Medical providers who would like to help may call Glaser at 934-5011. Other volunteers should contact Litzinger at 933-5145.

There were two rabies deaths in Indiana in the last five to seven years. A Ripley County boy was severely mauled by a dog in February. Environmental health specialist Holley Meador attended an Indiana State Department of Health District 9 animal bite workshop in February and customized the information for this county. She will distribute packets at an early November meeting involving  law enforcement, the dog warden, commissioners, hospital personnel and urgent care physicians.

Health officer Dr. David Welsh wondered if RCHD had been involved with any raw milk issues. Meador said workers have received state guidance, but no calls.

Board member Jim Hollis, D.V.M., said the Indiana Board of Animal Health will get information to legislators by Dec. 1. "There are comments from a very vocal pro-raw milk group online. The dairy industry has been involved. If they decide they want to allow raw milk sales, how will that be worded?”

He explained that now, "if you own a cow, you can use (its products) for your own family, but you can't sell it or distribute it. That's illegal. It can be packaged and sold as pet food, but it has to be labeled as such.”

Raw milk sales are legal in some other states, according to Robinson.

Meador, the county's Medical Reserve Corps  unit leader, said volunteers are practicing how to handle crises by assisting at three massive monthly food distributions to the disadvantaged at the county fairgrounds and also a recent Holton tornado recovery celebration.

"They get more organized as they go.” The volunteers help 300 persons per hour at the food distributions. At the first event, a diabetic passed out and at the second one, county nurse Vicky Powell took blood pressures while Meador worked on crowd control. During hot summer giveaways, "we were checking on people in cars, giving them water,” Powell said.

Twelve new volunteers were gained when MRC had a booth at the Ripley County fair. New member training takes place at a dinner this fall. Persons would would like to volunteer may call Meadow at 812-689-5751. She noted, "After the Holton tornado, we realized the county needs a good assessment team.” She applied for a $9,000 grant for equipment and will learn in December if those dollars will be arriving.