Briana Heaney Published

Rural Health Care Advocates Stress Needs At Capitol

A blue sign pointing toward a hospital is seen on a rural road.Courtesy Kentucky Hospital Association

Health care providers and health advocacy organizations were at the Capitol Thursday to discuss challenges and advocate for possible solutions in rural health care. 

Transportation is one major challenge, especially for elderly residents. Karyn O’Dell, communication and leadership strategist for Southern West Virginia Health System, said lack of access to public transportation and preventative care contribute to worse health outcomes in rural areas. 

“If you are an individual who is single, living by themselves, and does not have a family member or maybe a neighbor who can assist,” O’Dell said. “Then when you go to have a specialist procedure that requires somebody to drive you, you may not seek that specialist care.” 

She said this is especially important for life saving screenings like colonoscopies or cancer screenings.

O’Dell said she believes that it’s important for rural communities to have access to primary and specialty care from health care providers in the community. 

“It’s super important to have people in local and rural communities, where patients feel that they can trust that individual,” O’Dell said. 

Rhiannon Wiseman, customer service representative for the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute, said rural health care is key to combating the opioid epidemic in the state. 

“They deal with the smaller things, and that’s the most important thing — is the smaller things. Those are the things that lead to big things,” Wiseman said. “So when in recovery, anything, anything that anybody can provide, I mean, from just support to, you know, like dental plans or drug prevention or recovery.”

She said having access to opioid reversal agents, like naloxone, is especially needed for rural communities where wait times for ambulances are longer.