Rural Healthcare Gets ARC Boost

Russell Medical, one of Tallapoosa County’s largest employers, will open a clinic in New Site as part of its plan to better serve its coverage area.

A small Tallapoosa County town has received a grant that will help improve health care for its citizens.

New Site, with an estimated population of about 800, has received an Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $200,000 to establish the New Site Medical Complex, a 3,120-square-foot building housing a primary care clinic and private pharmacy. Tenants will include outlets of Alexander City-based Russell Medical Center and Jackson Drugs.

In addition to the ARC funds, the town of New Site will provide $288,725 in local matching funds, bringing the total of the project to $488,725.

The application for the grant had been in the works for some time. Russell Medical CEO Jim Peace said that Russell Medical had started looking at rural healthcare extensions in three areas two or three years ago — with one of those areas being New Site. However, regulations hampered their abilities to establish a clinic.

Peace told citizens at the New Site Senior Center in March, “It has taken us literally two years to get the state to declare this a professional shortage area. We were able to get that done. It is called a HPSA (Health Professional Shortage Area) shortage.” With that designation in place, Russell Medical could proceed with its plans for a clinic.

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In addition, Alabama Senator Doug Jones, back in 2018, had sent a letter of support to the ARC urging the commission’s consideration of the project. He and his staff worked with New Site leaders to help rewrite their application in an effort to make the city more competitive for the grant money. Currently the closest source of medical care for New Site residents is 15 miles away in Alexander City.

“Health care facilities are the lifeblood of our rural communities. Not only do they provide much-needed access to care, but they are powerful economic drivers as well,” said Jones. “I’m proud that my team and I were able to partner with the community to put them in the best position possible to secure this funding. This grant is great news for the people of New Site and Tallapoosa County.”

New Site Mayor Phil Blasingame said, “The project will really improve our rural healthcare for our citizens. Senator Jones was instrumental in getting the grant application in the correct order for approval and he has been a big supporter for rural health care initiatives.”

The building will be owned by the Town of New Site and leased to the medical providers. In addition to the specialists that Russell Medical has on staff, residents could have access to other specialists in cities far away through telemedicine.

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