Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 11, 2014

Programs available to address McDowell County health issues

GARY — McDowell County often ranks on the bottom when West Virginia’s counties are measured for health care problems among their residents and other factors, but agencies in the county are working to address these issues.

The community is making efforts to address issues of everyday living with the goal of achieve a better and more productive life, said Tim Crofton, CEO of the Tug River Health Association, a non-profit federally qualified health center.

“Progress is McDowell County starts with creating a socio-economic environment attractive to persons who may be looking for opportunities to practice their given trades and professions,” Crofton said. “With that in mind, the Reconnecting McDowell organization has focused efforts upon upgrading the school system and providing housing alternatives. Reconnecting McDowell, for example, has already provided laptop computers to all middle school students in the county. It has enabled the construction of several homes and is facilitating plans for new apartments in Welch, the county seat.”

In health care, steps are being taken to address the prescription drug abuse problem seen in McDowell County and other parts of southern West Virginia.

“We’ve learned the hard way that sometimes you prescribe medication and the patient doesn’t take it,” Crofton said. “They might take some of it and sell some of it. We track that very carefully.”

There are physicians who no longer write prescriptions for pain medications, and area pharmacies are keeping better track of prescriptions. Crofton said his organization is engaged in a Suboxone program to address addiction.

“It’s not methadone. It’s another substance that’s a way of dealing with addiction problems. We have a rigid protocol with regular drug screens and a contract.”

Another area of health care is being addressed with a portable dental unit that provides dental examinations, cleanings and sealants at elementary schools, Crofton said.

“In the short time we have been conducting this program, over 50 percent of the children that have been seen have dental caries which will require follow-up dental services. And this is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

The Tug River clinic has worked with Wal-Mart to offer services such as blood pressure checks and flu shots at the store in Kimball on Saturdays, Crofton said.

The core problem McDowell County faces is centered on economic development, he added.

“We must build upon the assets of our communities, which includes our residents, many of whom are patriotic, God-fearing and are proud of our heritage. The mountains are an asset, as well as the railroad system that prevails in McDowell County,” Crofton said.

“One idea that has been envisioned for several years is to attract the military and/or homeland security to consider locating a training facility in the county; perhaps modeled after the Carlyle, Penn. facility,” he said. “We have both mountains and flat lands, as well as the railroad, which would provide the transportation needs of both personnel and supplies. Another idea that comes to mind and which is also modest compared to the overall need is that our hills and curvy roads would be a natural for sports car rallies. Or reenactors could present the Hatfield and McCoy Courthouse shooting.”

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