Press release from SEARCH (Sustaining Essential and Rural Community Healthcare):
About 40 people from across Mitchell and Yancey counties came together recently at Trinity Episcopal Church in Spruce Pine for dinner and to learn what SEARCH has planned for the future. In existence since June of 2017 when Blue Ridge Regional Hospital decided to close Labor and Delivery, SEARCH (Sustaining Essential and Rural Community Healthcare) announced its top three priorities. One is to seek nonprofit status, which would allow it to broaden its scope by raising funds, primarily through grants. Another is to make the 100+ pages of material collected at 15 Listening Sessions in both counties accessible by topic on the SEARCH website for local agencies and nonprofits to use. And the third immediate priority is to research access to care, in particular charity care, for uninsured and low-income residents and to share the results broadly.
As a healthcare advocate SEARCH is also focused on the specific needs of our rural area. Lately that has included watching local issues such as the future of the Mitchell County Health Department and ambulance service in Mitchell and Yancey counties, whose HCA contracts expire in June of 2020. SEARCH expects to adopt a new working model which combines two concepts. SEARCH will continue to function as a backbone organization to collect, hold and utilize knowledge while also being an incubator for health projects, responding to healthcare related issues and needs.
In order to achieve these goals, SEARCH will need to identify people and resources within the region and beyond. To date the work has been accomplished almost exclusively by a committed but small group of volunteers, who are seeking others to join them. Attendees generated names of friends and neighbors who might be interested in getting involved with SEARCH. After viewing a list of tasks and skills needed, some also volunteered themselves. That list of ways people can get involved and skills needed is posted on the website, www.searchwnc.org
At the November meeting a topic many people wanted to hear more about was philanthropy. SEARCH leaders were able to share some very positive impressions from the meeting they had the day before in Burnsville with Antony Chiang, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust. Knowing that the group wanted to hear more about the new foundations and how to access them, SEARCH Leaders said they’d explore devoting the next meeting early in 2020 to the topic of philanthropy. The date and details will be announced on the SEARCH website and in the local media.
Attendees also reflected table by table on the issues they see as critical to the health of their own communities. The list was long, beginning with the need for jobs. Education in farming was promoted by the Tipton Hill table as a way to increase jobs.
Having meaningful activities for young and old alike was a need expressed at one table. Participants said all children, adults, senior citizens all need greater access to exercise. Elderly apartment dwellers got specific attention, too, as they are often lacking in organized activities. All ages were included when another table focused on food insecurity as an issue.
A thread running throughout the reports was the toll that drug abuse and addiction are taking on individuals, businesses, and families. Schell McCall of PATH discussed the day-long training (M-Y Community Cares) recently conducted on the topic which attracted a cross section of the community to learn what addiction is and how to deal with it. A related topic was the effects of childhood trauma which educators are recognizing as a significant challenge to learning for children. Britt Kaufmann spoke of the resiliency training which is becoming available to teachers and the public.
Pam Snyder of the Intermountain Agency for Children praised the work of the Mitchell County Health Department, which provides immunizations and preventive health measures for the children of Head Start. She also requested the questions SEARCH uses in Listening Sessions with a view of conducting some through the Agency.
Having accomplished a full agenda and eaten a well-balanced, delicious meal, much of it provided by the attendees, the meeting was adjourned.