As confirmed by Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell on June 11, the health system’s legal representatives have chosen not to file an objection regarding how a pre-election hearing was conducted. The National Labor Relations Board will now consider testimony to determine what nurses would be represented by the union, when the vote will take place and how employees will be allowed to cast ballots.
“You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know that when you take away people’s routines and jobs, it’s difficult for them, especially if they have a mental illness,” says Brian Ingraham, CEO of Vaya Health. New federal funding will help two Western North Carolina agencies expand mental health services, some directly related to the pandemic and the rest addressing overall behavioral health issues.
Local medical experts weigh in on the effects of screen time on toddlers and children.
Dr. Jeff Heck, CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center, shared his take on threats to health in this area, remarking, “Ironically, what makes Western North Carolina so desirable — the beauty of our predominantly rural region — also makes us vulnerable to a variety of challenges that are part of a national rural health crisis.”
From 2010 to 2018, “Our black infant mortality rate has increased from 11.7 to 15.1 deaths for every 1,000 babies born,” Hannah Legerton told Buncombe County commissioners on Dec. 3. That means that black babies in Buncombe County are four times as likely to die before their first birthday as white babies. And since infant mortality is a leading indicator of population health, health officials say, those numbers bode poorly for the wellbeing of African American county residents. Collaborative efforts are seeking to address the underlying issues driving inequities in health outcomes.
Over 100 members of the community attended Let’s Talk Opioids, described as a “community update and conversation on opioid crisis response in Buncombe County.” The standing room-only crowd listened as in-the-trenches experts presented information, including the Mountain Area Health Education Center, Vaya Health, Asheville Fire Department, Buncombe County Health and Human Services and the N.C. Department of Justice.
“Often we can reach folks better through technology than we can face to face,” says Shane Lunsford of the Center for Psychiatry and Mental Wellness. As telehealth service offerings and technological capabilities expand, providers around the region are excited about the possibilities of new models of seeing patients and providing care.
Local elected officials say they want Asheville and Buncombe County to be considered a breastfeeding-friendly community to boost lifelong health for residents, but does that intention line up with today’s reality for nursing moms?
A new statewide report on women’s health was unveiled June 25 in Asheville. Mercy Urgent Care is now an in-network service provider for eligible veterans using Veterans Administration benefits. The Asheville Yoga Festival will be held Thursday-Sunday, July 25-28, and one-day passes and a discount for Buncombe County residents are now available.
A new play for children, It’s Just a Pill, premiered at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium on March 8. The 55-minute musical confronts the opioid epidemic from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl. The production will now travel around North Carolina to reach over 4,000 young people.
By reaching out to African-American residents in rural parts of WNC through surveys, conversations and community meetings, a new three-year, $350,000 fellowship aims to raise awareness and reduce racism in the region’s nonurban health care delivery system.
MAHEC CEO Dr. Jeff Heck says exercise is the best medicine.
North Carolina allows two types of immunization exemptions. Medical exemptions, which must be documented by a physician licensed in the state, are rare. Most of those granted in Buncombe County last year were based on religious beliefs.
Harm-reduction efforts and addiction treatment are two of the main strategies public health agencies are using to address the crisis. Buncombe County, Haywood County and the Mountain Area Health Education Center are deploying over $660,000 in federal funds as part of that effort.
Major grants to Western North Carolina health care institutions and nonprofits offer promise of health benefits for vulnerable populations, while the Mountain Area Health Education Center reaches out to local government leaders to propose a collaborative effort to boost community health.
“Poor dental care leads to poor health and poor dental care is also a social poverty stigma that makes it hard for people to get jobs,” says Dr. Jeff Heck, Mountain Area Health Education Center’s CEO. In line with MAHEC’s mission of increasing access to primary and preventive health care services to people in rural areas, the organization will partner with St. Luke’s Hospital and Isothermal Community College to open a new dental and primary care center in Columbus next spring.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on a new pay plan during its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The body will also consider a set of policies that would increase oversight of county contracts and purchases.
The Project CARA program housed at MAHEC Ob/Gyn Specialists came into being to decrease barriers and the stigma that prevents pregnant women with substance-use disorders from getting quality obstetrical care as well as access to substance-use treatment. Last year, Project CARA supported 230 women with substance-use disorders and their families from 16 WNC counties.
A town hall meeting on Jan. 30 at A-B Tech sought to describe the scope of the opioid epidemic. In 2016, 17 million painkillers were prescribed in Buncombe County, which amounts to about 68 pills for every person in the county.
“Beyond Slippery Elm and Buzzard Grease: A Guide to Folk Medicine of Appalachia,” a half-day conference at MAHEC on June 24, will highlight Appalachian folk medicine traditions and practices.
The sometimes challenging road to health care in rural Western North Carolina extends beyond the curves of country back roads. Whether it’s dealing with the current physician shortage that affects all but Madison in the 16-county region or wrestling with social and economic barriers, local providers and patients share their challenges and plans to address rural health-care needs. (Cover by Emily Busey. Photo by Max Cooper.)