WCN 05292019 diabetes.JPG

Jim Wallace and Susan Yates, members of Meadowview First Inc., said the Merrihue Diabetic Education and Prevention Center of Southwest Virginia will operate in the Meadowview Health Clinic in the town square.

MEADOWVIEW, Va. — A generous gift from a retired Washington County educator is making it possible to open a specialized clinic in the Meadowview town square, targeting one of the fastest growing diseases in the country.

Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS), which operates the Meadowview Health Clinic, has proposed the establishment of the Merrihue Diabetic Education and Prevention Center of Southwest Virginia, named after Thomas Merrihue, who served the community as a teacher and principal at Meadowview Elementary.

Merrihue, who died in 2017 at the age of 80, designated 20% of his estate to exclusively benefit the Meadowview Health Clinic, providing funds for patient care and the purchase of needed equipment.

As stewards of the health clinic, Meadowview First Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, received the money and oversees how it is spent. The organization is comprised of citizens committed to working toward the long-term, sustainable economic and development of Meadowview.

Board members also have designated a portion of the funds to help low-income patients purchase medications.

“Being friends and fellow community members, I think Thomas trusted our nonprofit organization to follow his wishes,” said Susan Yates, a board member of Meadowview First.

“We’re honored that Tommy thought enough of us — that he entrusted us — to work with Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems to establish a program that is very much needed in this area,” said Jim Wallace, chairman of Meadowview First.

Funds will be used as seed money to start up the operation, purchase equipment and hire staff and a director of the facility. Efforts are underway to locate staff members for the facility.

Two offices in the Meadowview Health Clinic have been designated for the specialty center, where patients also will have access to care from two medical doctors, a family nurse practitioner and behavioral health staff members.

The center will be unique to the region, offering sliding-scale fees to qualifying patients, some of whom may not have insurance.

“Meadowview Health Clinic is not a free clinic, but patients are not required to have insurance. We offer sliding-scale fees, allowing many of the patients to pay as little as $20 per visit,” said Yates.

“Also, anyone can receive medical treatment at the Meadowview Health Clinic. You don’t have to be low-income, and you don’t have to be a Virginia resident.”

According to Brian Haynes, chief executive officer of SVCHS, the closest diabetes prevention programs recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are located in Wise, Virginia, and Boone, North Carolina.

Haynes said the center will offer a wide variety of services for diabetics, including diabetes education classes, nutrition and weigh management services, medical treatment for diabetic-related illnesses and testing to monitor the condition.

According to him, diabetes is the most common diagnosis among the 14,000 patients the health systems serves, affecting more than 1,700 patients. An additional 720 patients are considered prediabetic, and 206 are morbidly obese.

“Diabetes is the most prevalent diagnosis among our patients. One of the barriers among these patients is the availability of transportation to receive diabetic services and education,” said Haynes.

“It’s our main objective to offer these services locally.”

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at features@bristolnews.com.

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