New clinic opens at Jefferson Hospital
By Ben Roberts
Just eight months after breaking ground, Jefferson Hospital officials unveiled the facility's new 10,000-square foot addition to the public last week.
Hospital administrator, Rita Culvern, said the $1.6 million addition - which includes a new and expanded clinic, lobby, gift shop and administrative wing - was another step forward in the hospital's continued mission of providing quality healthcare to the surrounding area.
"Primary care is our focus, preventive medicine and primary care," Culvern said. "Our rural health clinic is the basis for providing that care and this addition allows us to showcase that focus."
Culvern explained the clinic, Physician's Health Group, houses four providers - including family medicine, an internist, a physician's assistant and a nurse practitioner.
The clinic is also home to the hospital's Patient Assistance Pharmacy Program, which works with medically indigent persons to see that they get the medicines they need.
Culvern said the program is in such demand it employs three full-time positions for its operation. In recent years, she says it has dispensed an average of $3 million worth of drugs each year.
The program is conducted by the hospital through pharmaceutical companies, something that can be done by individuals themselves. But Culvern says that's a difficult prospect for many to undertake. While the program is costly, she firmly believes it to be part of the enhanced benefits Jefferson Hospital can offer to the community.
"On average, our patients in the drug program receive about $700 in Social Security each month and their prescriptions cost $340. For some, it comes down to taking their medicines or eating," she explained.
Culvern said that among the hospital's three clinics in Louisville, Wrens and Wadley, they have over 33,000 face-to-face encounters a year.
"That's pretty good in a county of 17,000 people," she says proudly.
Culvern credits the hospital's success - at a time when rural hospitals struggle nationwide - with its caring and knowledgeable staff - from doctors and surgeons to house-keeping and maintenance.
Jefferson Hospital Authority Chairman Ray Davis agrees.
"Our continued mission is to do the best we can to stay ahead of the ever-changing face of rural healthcare," he said. "As beautiful as (this facility) is, if we don't have doctors and nurses and technical support, all the way down to housekeeping, to provide the care in this facility, then the building is worth nothing."
Culvern is quick to point out the new addition came in on time, as well as close to $5,000 under budget.
About half the funds for the project came through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, administered through Georgia's Rural Electric Membership Cooperative. Culvern said Jefferson EMC was instrumental in helping to secure the $740,000 interest-free loan, which is payable over the next ten years.
And Culvern, a member of the Development Authority of Jefferson County, sees the hospital as an economic force for Jefferson County.
"This is economic development. We've created positions when the business is there. We've kept our eye on expenses, but we've added the tools - both people and technology - needed to carry on that business," she said.
Combined with the hospital's new emergency room, which opened last spring, this most recent addition means over 19,000 square feet have been added in 2005 alone.
And Culvern's not done. In January, renovations of the old ER space will begin to transform the 976-square foot space into an out-patient surgical unit.
"When we get through, we'll have a new hospital from front to back," Culvern says proudly.
Future use of property uncertain
• Rumors abound concerning future of Forstmann plant
By Ben Roberts
With the apparent death of a proposed industry that had expressed interest in the former Forstmann property outside Louisville, rumors have now begun to circulate that other industries could have their eye on the property as well.
If those rumors - which have included lechate waste-water treatment and commercial grease recycling - are correct, the question remains as to whether or not this is the type of industry the people of Jefferson County would want.
Jefferson County Economic Developer Tom Jordan says that he has not heard from Project Aqua-Tech representatives in a month and that during their last conversation, those representatives said they were looking into another method of financing.
The Development Authority of Jefferson County (DAJC) had been actively working with Aqua-Tech officials in hopes of bringing a marine-aquaculture facility to the site. That facility would have concentrated on raising high-quality commercial catfish.
Since that project's failure, Jordan says he has heard the same rumors, but that he has not received any direct information regarding the possibility of new prospects at the site.
Citing a possible liability for the DAJC by speculating on rumors without any official information, Jordan declined to comment.
"We have to deal in facts and, right now, we don't have any direct information," he said.
Jordan did point out that neither the county nor the DAJC had any control over the Forstmann property.
County administrator Paul Bryan said he has heard the same rumors and promises the county is doing all it can to gather facts about the situation.
"The county is always looking for industry to move into the county; although some industries are not as desirable because of their lack of economic viability or possible environmental concerns. It is our top priority to protect the citizens of this county. We will continue to monitor the situation," he said.
As of press time, The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter was unable to reach the current owners of the Forstmann property, Flint Logistics Management LLC, for comment.
SHIPS grant results revealed to collaborative
By Jennifer Flowers
Everyone involved with Jefferson County Community SHIPS for YOUTH, Inc. knows the value of teamwork, a principle that has had a tremendous impact on a community.
"The more we work together, the better our community will be," asserted Carolyn Swint, director of the organization.
Many of its successful initiatives came about as a result of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, a three-year grant that provided nearly three million dollars for community initiatives, which was implemented Oct.1, 2002.
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The results of the years of work performed by SHIPS for YOUTH and its collaborative partners were presented to the public in the form of an evaluation report developed by Norris Consulting Group, an independent evaluator, at the annual collaborative appreciation held on Dec. 1.
A lot was accomplished.
For starters, an estimated 2,483 students and their families were served by programs implemented with help from the funding. Those students account for 73 percent or nearly three out of every four students enrolled in the Jefferson County School System.
Seventy-one percent of all middle school students and 63 percent of all high school students enrolled in the county school system are participating in one or more of the programs funded by the grant.
One area in which the students benefited was academic performance. During the 2004-2005 school year, more than half of the students improved or maintained their grades in academic courses. There were also 767 instances in which a student improved his or her grade by at least a letter grade.
Out of the 279 students who had been failing one or more subjects when entering the program, 174 were able to improve their grade to passing.
During the three years of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, the percentage of participating students who graduated or were promoted to the next grade level increased from 85 percent to 95 percent.
Attendance rates were also on the rise. Eight out of every ten students were absent less than ten days during the 2004-2005 school year, and the average number of days missed was only five.
Disciplinary incidents saw a decline. Seventy-one percent of participating students had no disciplinary incidents at school during the 2004-2005 school year.
In addition, the grant made it possible for three mental health/substance abuse counselors to provide ongoing intensive case management/counseling services for 311 students, or 1 out of every 11 students, enrolled in the Jefferson County School System.
Assessments of students' mental health were done at the beginning of the services and at the end of the school year. Results showed drastic changes in students' level of mental health.
The number of students with thoughts of self-injury went from 35 to 2. The number of students with plans for self-injury went from 13 to zero, and the number of students with a suicide plan went from 9 to zero.
The number of students with a history of assaultive behavior went from 51 to 48, and the number with a history of frequent assaultive behavior went from 16 to 10. While the court was involved in dealing with related issues for six children at the beginning, it was dealing with none at the time of the post-assessment.
School bullying also saw a decline. The number of students bullying other students went from 66 to 38. The number of students bullying teachers went from 36 to 13. While a whopping 110 students were bullied by their peers at the beginning, only 58 had such experiences at the end. Court involvement in bully-related cases declined from 15 to 8.
Other school issues, such as sleeping in class, disciplinary problems, problems with peers and teachers, in-school suspension and out-of-school suspension, saw a marked improvement. Substance abuse problems in both children and parents declined.
Mental health counselors made a total of 1,936 student case management/counseling contacts and 1,041 parenting contacts during the 2004-2005 school year.
The grant also provided for a family literacy initiative that served 39 single-parent families with a total of 42 children during year three. Twenty-eight of the families were still enrolled on September 30, 2005, when the grant's span was over.
Ninety-five percent of the families were African American. Fifty-nine percent of the mothers were 19 years of age or younger. The fathers tended to be older; 92 percent of the identified fathers were at least 18 years of age.
Upon enrolling in the program, 68% of the mothers and 48% of the identified fathers had not yet received their high school diploma or GED.
The majority of the families were supported by grandparents, extended family and friends. The others were supported by the female head of household or were TANF recipients.
Only one of the fathers involved lived with the mother and child(ren). Sixty-three percent were regularly involved with the child, but lived elsewhere, while 33 percent had little or no involvement with their child.
The children ranged in age from prenatal to 4 years of age. During year two, the Jefferson County Family Literacy Initiative provided a variety of services that brought about a total of 5,969 contacts, not including those made as a result of regular high school attendance.
Through various programs and initiatives, SHIPS for YOUTH, Inc. was able to use the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant to make a positive impact on the lives of children and their family members.
The grant acted as a catalyst for systems change within the county. As a result, local families now have access to services that never would have been possible had it not been for the grant's support.
"Although this grant will be going away, we encourage the community to support and assure these services never leave this community," said Swint. "Dollars should not determine whether we continue to look out for our community."
Members of the organization persist in working tirelessly to gain more support to keep programs going.
SHIPS for YOUTH Collaborative Board works with a number of organizations to provide services to the community. Its partners include Sandersville Technical College, the Jefferson County School System, Vessels of Service, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, the local sheriff's office and Judge Murphy.
Swint would like to express her gratitude to this community and all the partners who have contributed to SHIPS for YOUTH and worked to make a difference. She stresses that it is the collaboration of various community members and organizations within the county that has made it possible for such programs to receive funding and wishes to convey the need for continued support.
"One thing about the leadership of this community - they come together and they work," said Dr. John Alberty, founder of Alberty Community Lighthouse. "People truly care and are willing to put the resources forth."
Anyone who has a resource that could benefit the community and would like to be a partner of SHIPS for YOUTH should call Dr. Dennis Thompson, SHIPS for YOUTH Collaborative Board Chair, at (478) 625-9849, or Carolyn Swint, director of SHIPS for YOUTH, at (478) 625-9895.