“In times like these, we need more strong advocates than ever and TRHA provides a forum where a wide variety of rural health providers and stakeholders can speak with one unified voice.”
Don McBeath, Former TRHA President and Government Relations Consultant
Brian Bethel, Abilene Reporter- NewsPublished 7:17 p.m. CT April 19, 2018
When the Texas Rural Health Association decided to move from Austin to a more rural location to better reach out to the sorts of communities it serves, its relocation to Abilene seemed an excellent choice.
“Although everything tends to be in Austin when it comes to policy and all of that, by moving the association out to Abilene it gives us more of a rural Texas presence,” said Kelly Cheek, president of the group’s board.
TRHA has an estimated 125 active organizations throughout the state, Cheek said. Its first upcoming conference, in Abilene next week, had 105 registered as of Tuesday afternoon, a good turnout, he said.
Now, with TRHA here, “we have a statewide agency based in Abilene that’s going to hopefully attract people to come (here) for seminars and conferences,” Cheek said, while allowing the organization itself to do more outreach.
And by housing it in the same location as the local Area Health Education Center, “it gives us a chance to work on issues together,” he said.
TRHA’s stated goals are to promote rural health as a major concern in Texas by:
Cheek is also center director of the West Texas Area Health Education Center Program’s Big Country Region, a coordinated effort between the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, health care providers, communities and counties across West Texas.
That collaborative program, located in the offices of the West Central Texas Council of Governments, focuses on developing health care providers of the future as well as supporting current health professionals in West Texas, addressing the health care provider shortage and improving health care access in the area through education and development of the healthcare workforce.
“The whole purpose of the TRHA is to be a sounding board for hospitals, rural counties, even higher education when it comes to clinical placements,” he said.
TRHA works with programs like AHEC's, university programs such as those at Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas, and rural hospitals and smaller hospitals, Cheek said.
“From an AHEC standpoint we’re always working with our rural communities on workforce shortages when it comes to healthcare providers,” he said. “We try to get students to come out and do their clinical rotations to get exposed to working in a rural setting. We do community needs assessments for hospitals.”
And for hospitals “in the middle of West Texas, being part of TRHA “gives me a chance to learn about changing healthcare rules that can impact me, networking, and gives me an opportunity to collaborate with other rural hospitals and rural communities,” Cheek said.
TRHA is also heavily involved at the national rural health association level, he said, providing an opportunity to bring that level of information back to the region.
The Texas Rural Health Association was established in 1984 through the efforts of a steering committee representing a variety of West Texas entities, including county governments, public health departments, and educational/healthcare institutions.
The steering committee was encouraged and supported by Texas Tech University Regional Academic Health Center in Odessa, which also provided a base of operations in its initial stages.
The workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday should be of benefit to physicians in rural communities, hospital administrators, nurses, and those in higher education.
“The agenda is set to where you’re going to learn about changing legislative issues,” Cheek said. “You’re going to hear presentations from Texas Tech University, Hardin-Simmons’ PA school and some I guess what you call vendors that provide services to these hospitals that maybe can help them generate revenue and utilize their facilities much better.”
Registration for the conference will be open through Friday on the organization’s website.
“I’d like to see us have an increase in membership and TRHA having more collaboration with other agencies such as TORCH and the Texas Hospital Association,” Cheek said. “Anybody that has their hands on rural healthcare. So we’re going to do more increase in membership, be kind of a hub.”
Texas Rural Health Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
(c) 2018 TRHA
Office: (325) 672-0495
3702 Loop 322
Abilene, Texas 79602