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Evergreen Foundation Allocates $392,917 in Grant Funding

At their March meeting, the Evergreen Foundation board of directors voted to provide $392,917 in funding to support nine agencies that provide programs and services for individuals with Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Disabilities. The grants were awarded through a competitive grant process to agencies located throughout Western North Carolina. Fourth quarter grant recipients are:

-Full Spectrum Farms, Sylva, serving the 7 western counties: $16,370 to provide accessible restrooms, pathways and safety modifications which will provide full access to their facilities by all participants.
-30th Judicial District Domestic Violence-Sexual Assault Alliance, Waynesville, serving the 7 western counties: $7,778 to support phase 2, marketing and fund raising, for their animal assisted therapy project.
-The Arc of Haywood County, Waynesville, serving Haywood County: $52,000 to help purchase security cameras for their group homes and a wheelchair accessible van for their residential programs.
-Barium Springs Services for Children, Barium Springs, serving the 7 western counties: $65,000 to provide a challenge gift which will match dollar for dollar up to $65,000. This will provide funding needed to complete renovations for the Hawthorne Heights youth shelter in Bryson City.
-Pathways for the Future, Sylva, serving the 7 western counties: $4,157 to purchase materials and equipment for use in a new day enrichment program.
-Haywood Vocational Opportunities, Waynesville, serving Haywood County: $27,800 to purchase a 15 passenger van for use in their day program.
-Webster Enterprises, Webster, serving Jackson, Swain and Macon Counties: $8,955 to update their accounting software.
-Meridian Behavioral Health Services, Inc., Sylva, serving the 7 western counties: $204,357 for additional training to expand their Peer Support Services workforce; supplement their current funding for under-funded psychiatric services; and to purchase 2 vans and 3 all-wheel drive vehicles to transport individuals in their programs.
-Mountain Projects, Sylva, serving the 7 western counties: $6,500 to support two teen initiatives, Sticker Shock Underage Drinking Awareness and the Teen Institute Summer Conference.

Evergreen Foundation grants for fiscal year 2013-2014 have totaled $760,675. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and will be accepted until 5 p.m. on May 31 for the June grant cycle.

The mission of the Evergreen Foundation is to improve access to and public awareness of quality prevention, treatment, and support services by the provider community to individuals and families with intellectual/developmental disabilities, behavioral health, and/or substance abuse needs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. To learn more about the Evergreen Foundation visit www.evergreenfoundationnc.org.

Tick & Mosquito Concerns

Natural-mosquito3With summer fast approaching and people spending more time outdoors, it is important for everyone to take precautions against tick and mosquito bites. Tick and mosquito borne infections cause illnesses and deaths in North Carolina each year, with more than 800 cases reported in 2013. To encourage awareness of this issue, Governor McCrory recently proclaimed April 2014 as “Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month” in North Carolina. Tick borne diseases in North Carolina include Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. These diseases are diagnosed from all regions of the state and can be acquired at any time of year. However, the vast majority of infections occur in the months of June through September. The North Carolina Division of Public Health encourages using repellents, using air conditioning and keeping windows closed, and emptying free standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets and pool covers.

Jackson County is Healthier

stethescope_blueJackson is the 22nd healthiest of North Carolina’s 100 counties, according to findings released last week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The County Health Rankings list the overall health of counties nationwide, using a formula to measure people’s health and how long they live. Jackson County moved up four places this year; it was No. 26 the past two years. Researchers examined physical environment, social and economic factors, clinical care and health behaviors. They looked at high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, smoking, obesity and teen births. North Carolina’s healthiest counties are Wake, Watauga, Orange, Union and Camden, according to researchers. Counties with the poorest health were Columbus, Halifax, Scotland, Roberson and Vance. In Western North Carolina, Watauga, No. 2; Transylvania, No. 12; Henderson, No. 15; Buncombe, No. 18 and Macon, No. 19; ranked above Jackson County. The data, which includes a large error margin, shows 22 percent of Jackson County adults smoke; 33 percent are obese; 25 percent are physically inactive; and 15 percent drink too much. There were fewer alcohol-related deaths in the county, 21 percent, than the state, which had 33 percent. The teen birth rate was lower here, at 27 per 1,000, than the state rate of 44 per 1,000. Jackson County ranked 61st in the state for access to clinical care, with 26 percent of residents who are uninsured. There is a ratio of one primary care doctor per 1,033 residents; one dentist per 2,748 residents and one mental health provider per 254 residents.

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Poison Prevention Week

0511_prescription-drugs-500x333The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently named poisoning as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. This week marks National Poison Prevention Week, which urges the public to check their homes for hidden poison dangers. Kate Carr– President of Safe Kids Worldwide– says there has been an increase in the number of grandparents living with their grandchildren full-time, which means kids may have easier access to medication. North Carolinians are encouraged to safely dispose of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs as part of the fifth annual Operation Medicine Drop.For more information visit www.ncdoj.gov It’s time to clean out those medicine cabinets! North Carolinians are encouraged to safely dispose of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs as part of the fifth annual Operation Medicine Drop. This is just one of the prescription drug take-back events being sponsored across the state during National Poison Prevention Week, which runs through Saturday. Kate Carr– President of Safe Kids Worldwide– says that older adults tend to take more medication than younger adults.  Approximately 52.8 million total doses of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs have been turned in since Operation Medicine Drop started in 2009.

March Is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month

1922156_10152314110539874_2068128171_nMarch is National Kidney Month, a time to raise awareness of the most common type of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which accounts for approximately 80 to 85% of cancerous kidney tumors. Dr. Janice Dutcher, a medical oncologist, runs through how many Americans are affected by the disease each year. “There are about 65,000 new cases in the United States annually, with about 14,000 deaths from kidney cancer annually.” She says kidney cancer has been associated with environmental toxins, certain occupations and cigarette smoke.

NC Senate Candidate Ron Robinson Speaks In Sylva

Jackson County businessman Ron Robinson brought his campaign home on Saturday morning with a campaign stop in Sylva. His talk was proceeded by four local supporters who addressed four key issues which will be key components of the campaign. Eric Hendrix spoke from a small local business person’s perspective. His contention is that legislation needs to better address the needs of the thousands of small businesses in the state. His contention is the corporate interests have fared better with tax breaks and incentives at the expense of local entrepreneurs. The Canary Coalition President, Sylva resident Avram Freeman addressed the needs of the environment and pointed out that much of the recent legislation coming out of Raleigh had resulted in more pollution and expressed concerns over the fracking legislation which passed the last state legislative session. Western Carolina University Doctor Craig Pointed out that North Carolina had previously operated a model Medicaid program which was rejected by the last legislation with what he felt was not a fair review of the service. “While some feel they are sticking it to Obama on health care they are really sticking it to the citizens of North Carolina.” He stated that many of the problems with the current insurance options is that the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner was legislatively barred from negotiating with other insurance companies who wanted to start offering their insurance services in North Carolina. Before Candidate Robinson spoke Johnny Dill who is a high school teacher in Macon County pointed out that while the claims are that charter schools are performing better that public schools that in fact the research does not support that claim. He expressed concerns that cuts to the public education program and the greater allocations to private schools is not good because both systems are not subjected to the same review process and fears that private schools will engage in a process of “cherry picking” students in order to embellish their test scores.

When candidate Ron Robinson addressed the group he contention was that the trend of legislation coming out of Raleigh was not going to change and addressed concerns that many of those who had been elected as state representatives had allowed themselves to become a patsy to those who had put the millions of dollars into the candidate’s campaign. He sited several cases of his speaking to the representative who pledged to do one things when in their district but a few days later voted against their promise because they would not break with their party voting block. He urged those present to become involved with voter registration and take the responsibility of getting voters to the polls.

Western Carolina University Celebrates their 125th Birthday With A Bold Vision

Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher and Melissa Wargo unveiled their long term and short term Comprehensive Master Plan Tuesday in a special presentation to the Jackson County Commissioners. Wargo explained how the process to develop a plan to serve as a blueprint for future campus access and building construction was developed. Nor only is the campus poised for growth, the area around the campus is on the verge of significant development as well with several residential and commercial on the drawing boards. Wargo and Belcher stressed the critical need for a significant upgrade to the mid campus area adjacent to the Natural Sciences Building, McKee, and Killian. The plan calls for the construction of a facility which would replace the Niggli Theater property and attach to the Natural Sciences Building which is now forty years old and in need of an upgrade. The road through that property would be closed in order to create a better pedestrian friendly center of campus. While Western Carolina University swelled to over ten thousand students this year Chancellor Belcher pointed out that the University’s future growth would be contingent upon the availability of additional classroom space especially in the sciences. The WCU  Millennium Campus is a large acreage tract of real estate about two thirds of that property is not suitable for development. The plans show how several smaller structures to accommodate the new Health Sciences building could fill out that campus. Also the need to connect the two campuses with pedestrian and shuttle service are in the plans. Two other significant projects were shown one if the eventual change of the main entrance to adjoin the Little Savannah Road intersection which would also connect in with a new road to connect the current road around Belk Building and the Bardo Center with the oldest part of the campus near the chancellors dwelling. The property now known as the camp building would be converted into a 1200 car parking deck. The University has a busy day planned for Thursday with the kickoff of the observance of the 125th anniversary celebration. Activities will take place at the University Center. Also the first 500 fans at the WCU and Davidson basketball game on Thursday will receive a WCU white T shirt to celebrate the anniversary celebration.

Flu Restrictions Implemented

Woman with tissue and hot drink Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have implemented temporary flu restrictions for their visitors. These changes are a precaution against the spread of the flu. There has been a significant rise in the number of cases in our communities. Visitors to the two hospitals need to be 12 years old or older. There is also a limitation of two visitors per patient at any one time. Visits to patients in isolation will also be limited to only those persons necessary for the patients emotional well being and care. Visitors should wash hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer before entering and exiting patient rooms. If visitors are experiencing any symptoms of respiratory illness, they’ll be asked to wear a mask. We are working with patients and their families to ensure the final stages of a patient’s life are treated with respect and sensitivity. We will help families make arrangements for a child 11 and under to visit a family member in the hospital for the last time. However, if a child has flu-like symptoms, we may need to make alternate accommodations (i.e. mask) to protect the health and safety of our patients and their families.Thank you for your cooperation and assistance in preventing the spread of flu to our patients, staff, and visitors. Please contact the WestCare Infection Prevention Department if you have any questions or concerns at (828) 586-7297.Hospital Flu Restrictions

The Sale Of The Harris Regional Hospital Property Has A County Property Tax Angle

The Jackson County Tax Collector has been called upon to report on the tax potential which could arise from the sale of the property now owned by Medwest should that property be sold as has been reported by the WRGC Radio News Department. The Jackson County Tax Department reported the property evaluation for the hospital and affiliated property and buildings to be $74 million. Should this property be sold to Lifepoint which is a for profit organization as reported, the property would then become taxable rather than continue to qualify for tax exempt status. Since the property is situated inside the city limits there would be both a city tax and a county tax assessment. The county tax assessment is estimated to be $207.000. The city tax would likely be that much or more. Also as a for profit business Lifepoint would also no longer be exempted from paying taxes on purchases. If the sale closes in 2014 as expected the taxes assessment would become applicable in 2015.

WestCare Names New Partner

 

WestCare Board of Trustees Names New Partner for Harris and Swain Hospitals 

The WestCare Board of Trustees has decided to pursue a relationship with a healthcare partner that will provide significant clinical, quality, operational, and financial resources and expertise to position Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital to realize their full potential, meeting and exceeding community expectations for high quality, local healthcare.

 

After a thoughtful and deliberate process that started in the summer of 2012, the WestCare Board has chosen to partner with Duke LifePoint Healthcare, a joint venture of Duke University Health System and LifePoint Hospitals.  Among the significant benefits offered by the relationship with Duke LifePoint, WestCare would have access to needed capital to fund strategic projects developed in collaboration with hospital leadership and physicians in Sylva and Bryson City.  This process was initiated by the MedWest Health System board with the support of both the WestCare and Haywood Regional Medical Center boards.

 

“This is a game-changing step forward for the WestCare hospitals,” said Bunny Johns, chair of the WestCare Board. “This relationship provides us the opportunity to focus on our hospitals and medical community serving Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties in a way that makes sense for local patients, their families, and physicians.  WestCare will be operated independent of Haywood Regional Medical Center.” Johns further indicated that Duke LifePoint and WestCare would work closely together to develop a local strategic plan executed by WestCare management and supported by the local board of trustees and medical staff of WestCare.

 

“We intend to continue to ensure that our patients have access to the full continuum of quality healthcare services as we develop new services to meet local needs while preserving our long-standing clinical relationship with Mission Health,” Johns said.

 

WestCare and Duke LifePoint will enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which is non-binding and signifies the intent of both parties to execute the partnership. Upon completion of a due diligence period, Duke LifePoint will purchase Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital and their respective outpatient facilities, committing significant capital resources with the goal of maximizing WestCare’s ability to serve patients at its hospitals in Sylva and Bryson City.

 

“This model provides WestCare with a strong focus on meeting the local healthcare needs in our service area and represents a new, completely different strategic approach to that implemented under MedWest Health System, ” said Dr. John Buenting, a WestCare Board member. “In addition to operational, clinical and quality resources, Duke LifePoint brings to the table a financial commitment to our community in the form of dollars that will not only fund projects and contribute to economic stability, but also ensure a viable future for our hospitals as healthcare delivery changes. It is exciting to embark upon vigorously empowering WestCare to best serve our communities even as we deal with changes brought about by health care reform,” he said.

 

WestCare Health System was formed through a partnership of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital in 1997 and serves Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties with primary and subspecialty care, outpatient facilities and urgent care.

 

 

Jackson County Commissioners Sign Resolution On Mental Health Services

The Jackson County Commissioners heard a report from County Attorney Jay Coward concerning major changes in the way mental health care services are going to be handled in North Carolina. Coward reported to the commissioners that for over a century counties have had a statutory obligation to prove services for the mental incompetent. For many years those services meant institutionalization, but the past fifty years the move has been toward less institutionalization and more community based services. The last legislature made significant regulatory changes which will dictate changes to this system. Coward expressed the concerns that many of other county officials across the state had expressed that the input and governance of a county representative on the Mental Health Board would soon be a thing of the past. With Smoky Mountain Mental Health in Sylva expanding at a whirlwind rate, recently adding seven counties, and likely to add seven more counties to their service region which would likely reach from Winston Salem to Murphy. With only 21 seats available on the board many counties are concerned they will not have a place at the table even though they are still mandated to fund the Mental Health Center at the same rate as before even though their is no standard or benchmarking for the amount of required funding nor any requirement for the Mental Health Center to report to the counties as to how those funds are spent.  The County Commissioners agreed to sign the resolution to show their concerns for the restructuring of the system and the lack of board representation.

Jackson County Commissioners Deal With Financial and Unemployment Issues.

The Jackson County Commissioners addressed numerous significant issues at their Monday October 7th meeting at the Jackson County Justice Center. Concerns with the impact of the Federal government soon surfaced at the meeting with both positive and negative reports being heard.  It was included in County Manager Chuck Wooten’s report that the County receives $160,000 in federal funding for several services provided through the Department of Social Services. One of the largest of these services is the $129,000 for child care which allows parents to work or go to school. These programs are still operating in Jackson County because of reserve funds at the federal level, however if the federal government shut down continues it would become a county decision whether the county would continue with those services in expectation of getting a federal reimbursement later. No one has any assurances this will take place so several counties in the state have already put the providers on a ten day notice the services will be provided. County manager Wooten informed the Commissioners this is a topic that would need county consideration. Even though a ten day notice is not required by statute, counties are giving the notice so parents and providers can prepare. Wooten also stressed the domino affect of parents missing work, losing paydays, and employers handicapped due to their workers absence.

On a positive note the Commissioners heard the Jackson County unemployment rate at the end of August 2013 had dropped to 7.2% this is a further reduction from July when the rate of unemployment was 8% and 8.3 percent in July 2012. It was also reported the Jackson County Board of Education had been able to stretch their funds to avoid the loss of any teachers aids and assistants this year. School Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray was quoted as saying that next year might be a different story but at least this year they have been able to keep the employees in place.

September is Childhood Obesity Month

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The topic of children and unhealthy eating habits has become a recurring topic on TV and in the halls of congress. Many changes have been proposed in order to fight this epidemic, including changing menus in school cafeterias. Laura Cabe, the Jackson County Director for Child Nutrition had the following to say about our area, “The program we operate here at Jackson County Schools is a federal program, we operate the national schools breakfast and lunch program as well as after school snack program and we have specific guidelines that we have to follow. Last year was the first year we implemented the new guidelines, basically we have increased whole grains, we don’t have any trans-fats in any of our products unless it’s naturally incurring as in meat products. We don’t have any fryers. We serve only skim or 1% milk. We have more fresh fruits and vegetables, children are required to take at least a half a cup of fruit or vegetables in order to have a reimbursable meal. We’re starting up a salad bar in Cullowhee valley in a few weeks. We promote education on what the students see on our menu. The menus have really changed in the past year to year and a half due to the new meal patterns we follow.” Laura Cabe states that while the early indicators are promising regarding health and students lunch and breakfast menu, it is going to take some time to see significant positive change. For more information about the federal school nutrition program or on childhood nutritional health, you can contact Laura Cabe at 586-2311.

SCC Health Fair on Jackson Campus

Southwestern Community College will be hosting a health fair this Thursday from 9 am till 2 pm. The health far will be held in the Balsam Lobby and Myers Auditorium on the Jackson Campus. Many SCC Student Programs, community organizations and business related to health issues will be present on location and will be providing information to the community. Many Groups in attendance will be offering low-cost or free services to the public, including: Cholesterol Checkups, Chair Massages, HIV and Hepatitis C testing. There will be valuable health information and demonstrations for the public. For more information contact SCC at 339-4000.

Medwest Announces Service Awards

MedWest-Harris honors employees for years of service

(07/22/13) Sylva, N.C. – MedWest-Harris held a lunch and ceremony to honor 23 employees for their years of service on the Harris, Swain and Franklin campuses. The
employees were recognized for milestones ranging from five to 30 years. Each
employee’s manager shared brief words of praise for the staff member before
awarding a framed certificate.
Tammy Bryson, RN (Labor and Delivery) was recognized for 30 years of
service; Pam Middleton (Home Health) and Sherri Milner (Laboratory) for 25
years; Noelene Allen (Patient Registration), Cindy Henson, RN (3 East), Kim
Saunooke (Laboratory) and Haidee Wilson (Labor and Delivery) for 20 years;
Wanda Belcher (EMS), Joy Freeman (Accounting), Connie Jenkins (Laboratory)
and Peggy Luker (ED Registration) for 15 years; Deborah Palmer (Billing),
Kim Wheatley, RN (Outpatient Services), Eric Wolak (Cardiopulmonary) and
Christy Young (Nursing Administration) for 10 years; and Kristi Blanton, RN
(Outpatient Services), Leanne Justice (Billing), Jessica Kirby, RN (3 East),
Brooke Owen (Surgical Services), Angela Phillips (Billing), Candy Ramsey
(Medical Records), Zach Stutts (EMS) and Karen Swain (Patient Access
Outreach) for five years.
“These staff members represent 300 years of service to our hospitals and
most importantly our patients. Their longstanding dedication in reaching
these milestones makes each of us proud as we support each other in
delivering a world class patient and family experience,” said Steve
Heatherly, President and CEO of MedWest-Harris/Swain/Franklin.
Service awards luncheons are held quarterly at MedWest-Harris.