FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OCTOBER 28, 1997

CONTACT: BRENDA HODGE

PUBLIC INFORMATION PHONE: 504-342-9737



STATE LAWMAKERS TO GET FIRST HAND LOOK

AT HEALTH CARE PROGRAMS

IN RAPIDES AND AVOYELLES PARISHES


SPECIAL COMMUNITY MEETINGS PLANNED FOR AREA



State Senators and Representatives who serve on the Joint Committee on Healthand Welfare are headed to central Louisiana the first week of November for a first handlook at health care programs in Rapides and Avoyelles Parishes. The state lawmakers wantto see how the programs work and to hear from the citizens who depend on the health careservices.

Tuesday, November 4th and Wednesday, November 5th, the lawmakers will examinea wide variety of state supported health care services in the two parish area. In RapidesParish, committee members will visit programs providing both institutional and grouphome care for the developmentally disabled as well as a school-based health clinic servingstudents in the area. In Avoyelles Parish, the committee will focus on rural health careissues with visits to two different rural hospitals and hold a special public hearing inMarksville to get suggestions from concerned citizens.

As State Senator Don Hines (D-Bunkie), chairman of the Senate Committee onHealth and Welfare explains, "This is an excellent opportunity for those of us in the statelegislature who oversee the funding and development of health care programs in Louisianato get a better understanding of what is really happening with health care services in ourcommunities, to get input from citizens who use the programs and to look at importantdevelopments in the health care field like telemedicine."

State Representative Charles Riddle III (D-Marksville) serves as vice-chairman ofthe House Committee on Health and Welfare and he hopes citizens in the area will takeadvantage of the special community visits to let lawmakers know what they are thinking.

"We're excited about the medical providers in the area being able to show us whatthey provide to citizens in our communities. I hope that people will come out to themeetings and special tours to give us input into the direction we should go in providinghealth care to our citizens, including what health care needs we have not met,"Representative Riddle said.

The special community meetings in the Rapides and Avoyelles Parish areas are partof a continuing, cooperative effort between the House and the Senate to involve citizensaround the state in the operations and decisions of state government. Under the LegislativeOutreach Initiative, a program designed by House Speaker Hunt Downer to allow greatercitizens access to state government, legislative committees hold some interim meetings incommunities across the state, allowing legislators to come into contact with citizens ofdifferent areas and allowing citizens who might not otherwise be able to come to BatonRouge to be a part of the legislative process.

State Representative Randy Wiggins (R-Pineville) has already seen the benefits ofthe Legislative Outreach Initiative when legislators explored health care services inNortheast Louisiana earlier this fall and is looking forward to the special meetings inCentral Louisiana.

"It is very important for committee members to be traveling around the statevisiting various facilities and seeing what services they provide," Representative Wiggins, amember of the House Health and Welfare Committee, said. "The past couple of yearswe've tried to develop and determine a budget for the health care dollars we have to spendin the state. We feel like we have a pretty good idea of what that budget should be, now weare in the process of determining where the priorities are. So, it's certainly important thelegislators from around the state see first hand what is being done here in CentralLouisiana."

State Senator B. G. Dyess (D-Alexandria) agrees, "With all of the changes occurringin state supported health care services across Louisiana, it is very important thatcommittee members understand the important role the health care institutions in our areaplay in the community."

The Joint Health and Welfare Committee begins it special meetings Tuesday,November 4th in Rapides Parish with visits to St. Mary's Training School, a school-basedhealth clinic in Lena and a group home program in Alexandria. The following day,Wednesday, November 5th, state lawmakers travel to Avoyelles Parish to visit BunkieGeneral Hospital and Avoyelles Hospital in Marksville. A special public hearing isscheduled Wednesday afternoon in Marksville.

Citizens throughout the area are urged to come and visit with lawmakers and sharetheir thoughts and concerns about health care services in Louisiana.



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(A COMPLETE SCHEDULE OF EVENTS IS ATTACHED. ANY ADVANCE NOTICETO CITIZENS IN THE AREA REGARDING THESE SPECIAL MEETINGS ISAPPRECIATED.)









JOINT HEALTH AND WELFARE COMMITTEE

OUTREACH MEETINGS


TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1997

10:00 AM Alexandria
Tour - St. Mary's Residential Training School
7615 Highway 1 North

1:30 PM Lena
Tour - Northwood School-Based Health Center
8830 Highway 1 North

3:30 PM Alexandria
Tour - Greco Group Home
347 Browns Bend Road

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1997

9:45 AM Bunkie
Tour - Bunkie General Hospital
427 Evergreen Highway

2:00 PM Marksville
Tour - Avoyelles Hospital
4231 Highway 1192 North

4:00 PM Marksville
Public Hearing - Avoyelles Hospital
4231 Highway 1192 North



CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO VISIT WITH LAWMAKERS DURING THETOURS AND THE PUBLIC HEARING.


Public Information Office
Louisiana State Senate
websen@legis.state.la.us
Baton Rouge, LA