Residents signing up for free health care services

Published 12:09 am Saturday, July 20, 2013

FERRIDAY — Health care typically costs a pretty penny, but in August Miss-Lou residents can receive medical, dental and optical care for free.

U.S. Army and Navy personnel will set up at Central Louisiana Technical Community College in Ferriday to provide free medical, veterinary, dental and optical services for two weeks — Aug. 8-16 — as a part of the Innovative Readiness Training.

Though the services will benefit the community, the program is intended to provide real-world training for approximately 60 military personnel.

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“The goal is not just to provide care and walk out the door,” Army Maj. James Compliment said. “We hope to take the information that we gather and pass it on to providers in the area. It provides real-world training for service members to prepare for wartime missions.”

The services will include basic medical care. Medical services include blood pressure, heart health and diabetes testing. Veterinary services will include dental exams, fluoride application and sealants. Optical services include color screening and glasses repair. Patients will also be able to receive a free pair of prescription glasses.

Compliment said emergency medical services may be available for severe problems. Complex problems will be referred to area doctors.

Those interested in signing up can call Ferriday Town Hall to schedule an appointment, though walk-ins will also be accepted.

“We don’t want a large group of people to come and for everything to come to a screeching halt,” Compliment said.

Participating soldiers hail from various areas around the United States, but are mostly reservists or national guardsmen from the East Coast.

The Miss-Lou wasn’t chosen on a whim.

“Concordia Parish is 59 out of 64 parishes in health outcomes,” Department of Health and Hospitals Region 6 Medical Director David Holcombe said. “Overall, Louisiana is 49 out of the 50 states.

“If you are at the bottom of the barrel in Louisiana, then you are really at the bottom of the barrel.”

The poverty rate near Ferriday is also high, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Concordia Parish has a 31-percent poverty rate, and Catahoula Parish has a 30-percent poverty rate.

“This is a great program for people that cannot afford to go to a real doctor,” Compliment said.

The training will be in Tallulah, La., next year.