The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 25, 2013

Manchin to again push for rural health clinic in Marsh Fork area

BECKLEY — Now that the new Marsh Fork Elementary School has opened its doors to welcome students, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says the area is an ideal place to launch a health clinic to serve the rural pocket of Raleigh County.

Back when he was governor, Manchin said he suggested the idea as part of his healthy lifestyles agenda and assumed the mission was carried out.

As matters developed, however, that was not the case.

While it was in the original architect’s plan for the new school, funding became an issue and the idea was abandoned, although the building was constructed so that a clinic could be annexed at a later time.

“It needs to be done,” Manchin, D-W.Va., said Thursday in a telephone news conference with West Virginia reporters.

“We think it is a very needed opportunity for us to be able to get to the root of our health care.”

Manchin said he thought the idea was part of the plans in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch coal mine that left 29 workers dead. The blast occurred near the old Marsh Fork Elementary School.

“If you can get the children in a healthy atmosphere, the families of those children in a healthy atmosphere, you’re going to be much better off,” the senator said.

“That’s where it starts — right in the school system.”

When he attended the dedication of the new school, Manchin said he learned that cost overruns led officials to scratch, at least temporarily, the plan for a health clinic on the grounds.

“They have the space, I’m told, so they can put it in and use the existing space,” he said.

“If that’s the case, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we have a rural clinic working out of the school.”

Manchin said health care delivery systems in rural pockets need additional attention since they are so far from more populous areas, noting that Marsh Fork lies at the far reaches of both Raleigh and Boone counties.

“We’re doing everything we can,” he said.

“That would be perfect for the Department of Health and Human Resources here in Washington to look at, how rural health care can be delivered in the school system to where we handle obesity because of Type II diabetes, nutrition and changing menus.”

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