An innovative health clinic in West Virginia’s coal country has received a major financial boost from the Affordable Care Act. The Williamson Health and Wellness Center will be able to expand services with its more than $800,000 awarded in November. We first told you about the clinic in 2011, when a collaborative of local medical professionals and community organizers turned downtown Williamson office space into a fledgling medical clinic.
Obesity, poor health and poverty are high in this area of West Virginia where coal is still king. The clinic started with a local physician and nurses simply volunteering their time. JOBS Project organizer Eric Mathis told us the clinic served as an incubator for improving the health of the entire community. This latest grant will enable medical services, some preventative, for thousands of people either uninsured or underinsured in poverty-stricken Mingo County.
“Improving the health and lives of rural Americans should be our mission not just on Rural Health Day but every day,” declared Senator Jay Rockefeller when he helped announce the grant along with similar support in the community of Rock Cave, West Virginia.
The Williamson community has been focused on public-private partnerships to help improve health while boosting the economy. Related wellness projects include those by the Mingo County Diabetes Coalition, which promotes healthy foods and fitness. Coalition director Jenny Hudson says 2014 will include more outreach into public housing areas with messages about “healthy eating, active living. In addition to that we’ll be doing screenings, get people signed up for Medicaid expansion and raise awareness of the clinic.”
Community successes have included new gardens and a farmers’ market, healthier foods on local restaurant menus, and new businesses. A solar array atop the medical clinic provides part of the clinic’s electricity, and local support is growing for diverse clean energy projects.