July 5, 2016

Military/civilian partnership tends to health of Delta residents

A month-long wellness clinic in June held in West Memphis as part a joint effort of the U.S. Dept. of Defense and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) had a profound effect on the health of thousands of Mid-Southerners and provided a reassuring picture of the nation’s tax dollars at work.

The Greyhound IRT mission, held at Lehr Arena from June 8-25, provided screenings and procedures to thousands of residents of surrounding communities, saving those communities an estimated $1.5 million in Medicaid/Medicare costs.

About 200 reservists—medical personnel with private practices back home, plus logistics, food and transportation teams—spent the better part of three weeks at the arena tending to everything from dental cleanings and extractions to eye exams and blood pressure screenings—all free of charge. Most days, there were lines at the front door before the 8 a.m. opening time.

The mission reported 5,784 provider visits (the number of times a person met with a doctor or provider) and issued 2,492 pairs of single prescription eyeglasses, fabricated by active duty Navy personnel from Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training (NOSTRA). But the mission also provided hundreds of medical assessments and several hundred behavioral health referrals.

Brittney Lindberg, IRT Program manager with the DRA and a navy reservist with a nursing background, said the IRT (Innovative Readiness Training) program started in 2003 and the DRA came on as a partner in 2009. The program leverages tax dollars already allocated to training military reservists and reinvests it into underserved communities.

“One of the greatest non-monetary benefits this has,” Linderg said,” is the facilitation and fostering of military/civilian and interagency collaboration to address one of the nation’s ever-growing problems.”

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives thru strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across 8 states. Lindberg said she first learned of the DRA while undergoing her annual reservist training for the Navy and she fell in love with it. She offered to volunteer and wound up being asked to take over managing the partnership for the DRA.

“Reservists spend their time, whether at drill or annual training exercises staying ready to deploy and providing support to other service members,” Lindberg said. “These trainings are unique opportunities for a reservist to spend their time giving back to communities here at home, serving their neighbors and fellow Americans.”

West Memphis was chosen as a location because of its proximity to a number of Delta areas in need. The Greyhound mission (which takes its name from the Southland Gaming and Racing Connection) was the first of three missions in the Delta this summer. The other two are in Paducah, Ky. and Natchez, Miss.

“Teaming up with the U.S. Military, which already provides so much to our country, is one of the most impactful partnerships that the DRA has been able to bring to Delta communities,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the DRA. “The IRT medical missions are a win-win—they train our men and women in uniform to be skilled professionals and ready to protect our country and citizens at a moment’s notice. And they provide crucial services to Americans in communities that are in the most need and highly underserved.”