Lawmakers Discuss Health Care Access

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

Thirty-four counties in Mississippi don't have pediatricians' offices. And no doctors currently practice medicine in Issaquena County in the Delta.

So more and more, health care for Mississippians is not a black and white issue, but one of accessibility and economic status.

"They need to look for depression. They need to look for some of these things. They don't," said Dr. Grayson Norquist, psychiatry chair at the University Medical Center in Jackson.

Norquist said he knows right now many Mississippians are living with untreated mental illness because they don't have access to a doctor and they can't pay for it if they did.

"The differential access that's there because of insurance coverage," Norquist said.

He spoke before the Select Committee on Health Disparities to hopefully generate more resources statewide.

"And understanding putting resources in communities, instead of into institution systems or a combination of those is likely to lead to success," said Norquist.

But that's the hard part for legislators. The need is great and the resources aren't. So where do you begin? Chairwoman state Rep. Omeria Scott believes nursing is the answer.

"We're in a crisis for health care professionals here in this state," said Scott.

Scott sees making more scholarships available and dedicating more resources to nursing programs. But once again, more money is something in very short supply for the state.

"It all has to be held up to the framework of our budgetary situation, which everyone knows is a dramatically tough situation right now," said state Rep. Greg Snowden of Meridian.

But all agree this is at least a start. One idea that won't take much money is emphasizing medical careers in our middle schools and high schools.

Rep. Omeria Scott said from these 3-day hearings, you will see a big push toward careers in nursing, and definitely towards staying in the state of Mississippi to help.

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