Grant could provide free medical care

Published 12:08 am Friday, July 22, 2011

FERRIDAY — While the federal government has been working to improve health care across America, Concordia Parish officials have been hard at work trying to improve health care for residents in the area.

Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District Executive Director Heather Malone said the parish recently submitted an application for an Innovative Readiness Training Grant that would provide free medical service to parish residents for a two-week period.

The IRT Grant allows governing bodies to apply to have military personnel come in and train in local areas while providing free services to the public.

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Through the program, Malone said Concordia Parish residents would be able to receive the services of optometrists, dentists and general practice physicians free of charge during the medical personnel’s two-week stay.

“The military has to train these people every year,” she said. “And since they do, they decided they might as well train them, and use their services in rural areas that need some help.”

Malone said there is even a possibility that the military will also provide prescriptions free of charge to area residents.

Malone said the program also offers training in engineering and transportation along with health care.

“We decided to not use their engineering training because the timeline on our projects in the town are so far out, it would be too hard,” she said. “We want to eventually try and utilize more of these programs, but this first application is more of a pilot.”

Malone said the military provides all of the equipment, supplies and doctors, and the parish is only responsible for providing the location.

If the grant is awarded, Malone said the group will set up shop at Ferriday City Hall.

“That is what we have offered for them to use when they are here,” she said. “(Mayor Glen McGlothin) also said they could use any municipal buildings that are available when they are here.”

Ferriday was chosen as the best spot in the parish to house the military personnel because of it’s location, Malone said.

“It’s more of a central location so this way people from, Tensas Parish, Catahoula Parish and Adams County can also utilize the services,” she said. “There are a lot of poverty stricken people in these areas, and they need any help they can get.”

Malone said the military is taking applications for the grant through October, and even if the parish is awarded the grant, the program is still two years away from coming to the area.

“If they do come in, it won’t be until 2013,” she said. “We requested them to come in anywhere from April to October because that is when we have the most favorable weather.”

Malone said these services are very valuable, and if the parish receives them everyone should take advantage.

“We need to utilize these free services, because they not only help us out, they also help the doctors train,” she said. “It’s a win-win opportunity, and it is something we could start applying for every year.”