Community meetings happening before health systems' merger

Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System have started holding a series of meetings for community input, to solve some of the region's most challenging health issues. It's another step as part of their proposed merger.

News 5 WCYB is at the first meeting happening Thursday night at Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Elizabethton.

It's being facilitated by East Tennessee State University's College of Public Health and features a "world café" style discussion. Participants will circulate through a series of small group tables, to exchange thoughts and ideas. ETSU staff will record the information presented and compile findings into a comprehensive report that'll be used by the proposed new health system.

The next meeting will take place Thursday, August 20, from 5:30 to 7:30pm, at Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, in Abingdon.

Community members who want to go should RSVP by clicking here. Also, more meetings will be scheduled and information on them will appear at the same link.

The health systems had announced a work groups initiative to focus on four key areas: Mental Health & Addiction; Healthy Children & Families; Population Health & Healthy Communities; and Research & Academics.

Eight community leaders are serving as chairpersons:

  • Mental Health & Addiction: Dr. Teresa Kidd, president and CEO of Frontier Health, and Eric Greene, senior vice president of Virginia services for Frontier Health;
  • Healthy Children & Families: Dr. David Wood, chair of the department of pediatrics at East Tennessee State University and chief medical officer of Niswonger Children's Hospital, and Travis Staton, CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia;
  • Population Health & Healthy Communities: Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of ETSU's College of Public Health, and Lori Hamilton, RN, director of healthy initiatives for K-VA-T Food City;
  • Research & Academics: Dr. Wilsie Bishop, vice president for health affairs and chief operating officer of East Tennessee State University, and Jake Schrum, president of Emory & Henry.

"Here in our region, there is a cycle of poor health that we see being passed from one generation to the next," said Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the ETSU College of Public Health. "Our goal is to gather information that will allow the proposed new health improvement organization to use its resources to help break that intergenerational cycle of poor health. The proposed merger between Mountain States and Wellmont affords our region the opportunity to impact health in ways that weren't possible in the past, so this is a very exciting opportunity from a public health perspective."

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