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Clayton health officials win award for partnership

Clayton County District Health Director Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan (l) delivers an acceptance speech for the health department, Clayton County Archway Partnership and Southern Regional Medical Center after they received the Georgia Public Health Association's Al Dohany Award for Community Service. Looking on are Southern Regional President Jim Crissey (c) and Archway professional Gail Webb.

Clayton County District Health Director Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan (l) delivers an acceptance speech for the health department, Clayton County Archway Partnership and Southern Regional Medical Center after they received the Georgia Public Health Association's Al Dohany Award for Community Service. Looking on are Southern Regional President Jim Crissey (c) and Archway professional Gail Webb.

— Clayton County health officials are doing right by their residents, according to a statewide health group.

The Georgia Public Health Association recently awarded its Al Dohany Award for Community Service to the Clayton County Archway Partnership. The award was presented for the partnership’s work to get the county designated as a “health professional shortage area” and to establish a federally-qualified health center, also known as a FQHC.

The effort, which became a reality last fall, was a partnership with the Clayton County Board of Health and Southern Regional Medical Center. Officials from each group accepted the award April 23 during the Georgia Public Health Association’s 84th annual conference in Atlanta.

“The award sends a strong message that the leaders and citizens of Clayton County can work together in a nonpartisan way to positively affect public health issues in their community,” said Archway Partnership professional Gail Webb in a joint statement with board of health and Southern Regional officials.

The award is given to groups that improve the health of their communities through partnerships between leaders in the community, said board of health spokesman Joel Hall.

Hall said the county received “health professional shortage area” status last summer. It is designed to increase the number of health professionals in the county by offering federal aid and incentives for medical professionals who work in the county to reduce the shortage.

Officials continued to work on their efforts to address health concerns in the county and a few months after receiving the health professional shortage area status, they opened the Lovejoy Medical Center.

Southern Regional President Jim Crissey said the clinic provides health care to underprivileged residents, including the uninsured and underinsured. The hospital provides free health care worth $82 million a year to residents.

“Having an alternative venue for the community to receive care, even if on a sliding fee scale, is critical as it relieves the pressure on an emergency room seeing over 80,000 visits per year,” said Crissey.

Dental services are expected to be added at the center in the future.

Clayton County Health District Director Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan cheered the award, explaining that officials are “ecstatic” about receiving it.

“It took enormous dedication and tenacity to achieve a HPSA designation and establish a federally qualified health care center,” Bryan said. “We know it is desperately needed in the county since many people avoid medical treatment or put stress on local emergency rooms due to lack of health insurance and the fear of being turned away at a primary care facility.

“The presence of a federally-qualified health center will allow us to break down barriers to preventive and primary care,” continued Bryan.