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HUD   >   State Information   >   Tennessee   >   Stories   >   2014-02-28
Increasing Access to Health Care and Wellness in Grundy County, TN

Emily Partin, Grundy County Commissioner addresses the issues of poverty

Most recently Ed Ellis, Field Office Director, Knoxville HUD, and Suzanne Wright, Field Policy & Management Division, participated in a healthcare and wellness meeting at the Grundy County Historical Society Building in Tracy City (Grundy County), Tennessee. The meeting was hosted by Emily Partin, Grundy County Commissioner, Grundy County Schools, Family Resource Center Director; Suzi Ruhl, Senior Attorney Advisor for the US EPA Office of Environmental Justice in Washington DC., and the South Cumberland Community Fund, established in 2012 under the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to serve the tri-county area of the South Cumberland Plateau in rural Tennessee. Jerrie Magruder, Field Office Director, Mississippi HUD, also participated via conference call.

Ed Ellis, Field Office Director of the Knoxville Office, "By working together, from the private and public sectors; as well as the Faith Base Community, Grundy County can start addressing the challenges facing the county as a result of the Brownsfield."

This isolated Appalachian region is situated between the metropolitan areas of Nashville and Chattanooga, and has some of the highest levels of poverty in the state, ranking 95th out of 95 counties in Tennessee. HUD's Sustainability Office and the local HUD Office were invited along with EPA representatives, in order to share expertise on dealing with Brownfields and Sustainability issues. The Community Fund Is initiating ways build on the strength of the area's people, communities and natural setting, enhance community capacity and collaboration, and support innovative ways to solve community problems. The document "Turning Brownfields into Healthy Fields" was distributed to prompt attendees to think about how the old Grundy High School and other places could benefit from this type of revitalization.

During the meeting, attended by various educational, federal, and nonprofit, environmental and community partners, the main topic of discussion focused on seeking  funds to renovate Grundy County High School that can be used as a hub for various youth, health and community programs and summer camps.

Local leaders participate in the discussion on addressing high poverty rate in the county

The group is seeking federal resources and assistance to renovate the neglected high school, so full use may be made of it. The residents are eager for healthy activities; recently 150 residents signed up for Zoomba classes that were held in a part of it, three nights per week. If the gym were renovated, they could use it for kids' activities that are currently being held in a church. The group is seeking money and motivation for healthy activities and programs.

Emily Partin said that each person who was in the room, or on the phone, played a role in the revitalization of a small county in Tennessee that is in desperate need of help and believes all are invested in what happens there on the Cumberland Plateau and it will take each of us working together to make a difference. Their goal is to become the "healthiest place to live" in Tennessee.

The group is also collaborating with the local housing authority and seeking to replicate the "MOMS" program of New Haven, Connecticut. Currently the MOMS Partnership provides interventions that reduce the amount of "toxic stress" experienced by low-income children and families. Over the next seven years the MOMS Partnership will create "MOMS ZONES" in the 12 neighborhoods of New Haven, to include a MOMS hub to deliver centralized mental health and economic success services, and a neighborhood workforce of Community Ambassadors trained to engage the hardest to reach families.

Committees were formed at the meeting to follow up on various initiatives that were discussed.