Auburn University Rural Health Initiative: Partnering with communities to increase access to high quality and affordable health and wellness care throughout rural Alabama.

Auburn University’s Rural Health Initiative employs a community-based approach to serve local healthcare needs through the innovative technology of the OnMed® Telehealth Station coupled with hands-on wellness care provided by University faculty and students.


Background

University Outreach Alabama Cooperative Extension System are addressing significant health disparities across rural Alabama in partnership with the Colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing, Human Sciences, the Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences program and with full engagement of the communities involved. Based on the strength of the leadership and the significance of community needs, we launched this initiative in our neighboring community, LaFayette, Alabama. The Auburn University team members have worked closely with city leaders and the Chambers County Commission to develop a health services delivery that meets their unique needs.

Based on grants secured through Alabama Department of Finance and the United States Department of Agriculture, sites are being developed in 14 additional locations throughout the Black Belt and East Alabama. Each site will provide healthcare through telehealth technologies as well as health and wellness services provided by university students and faculty from multiple disciplines.

Chambers County as well as four Black Belt locations will receive telehealth through OnMed®, an accessible and innovative healthcare option. The telehealth station provides users with an affordable, private, and efficient experience by facilitating a real-time patient encounter with an Alabama licensed clinician in a virtual setting using diagnostic tools available for practitioner-guided self-use.

Residents in ten East Alabama locations will receive care in the areas of mental health (through Auburn University), substance use disorder treatment (through UAB-Beacon) and primary health (through East Alabama Health) care through telehealth carts in addition to the support of faculty and students in health-related disciplines.

In the News

Timeline

Discussions and regional convenings to focus upon solutions to address rural health disparities with campus and community-based partners began in October 2020. The team formalized their commitment to launch the rural health project in Chambers County through a Memorandum of Understanding in August of 2021. Other key junctures in the project are noted by interacting with the timeline below.

 

 

 

October 2020
Introductory meetings and program proposal discussions.
October 2020 - Present
Conceptualizing and planning meetings with AU faculty.

November 2020
Site visits.

December 2020 - June 2021
Budgeting, Securing Funding

July 2021 - January 2024
Continued Community Engagement

August 2021 - December 2021
Secure MOU, Licensing Agreement, ADECA Grant

March 2022 - January 2023
Outreach Activities

November 2022 - January 2023
Site Preparation

February 2023
Soft Launch of Center, Demonstrations Begin

February 2023 - April 2023
Health and Wellness Programming, OnMed Demonstrations

April 2023
Grand Opening Event

August 2023
Secured funding to install 4 care stations in the Black Belt

September 2023
Secured funding to install telehealth equiptment in 10 locations across East Alabama to provide primary care, Substance Use Disorder treatment and Mental Health treatment

Rural Health Fellows

The Rural Health Fellows program goal is to educate and develop a network of diverse rural health leaders to serve in key positions in the healthcare arena with health equity as a focus. Fellow participants are enrolled undergraduate or graduate students in health or health-related disciplines with an interest in rural health. Learn more!

Leadership

As a community based-and collaboratively led initiative, Auburn University campus and community partners work to ensure that community health and wellness remain at the forefront. For this reason, each partner plays a key role in all planning and decision-making. Auburn University is honored to spearhead the rural health project in Chambers County and work alongside stellar community leaders in Chambers County and the City of LaFayette as equal partners. Key project leaders are listed and updated regularly as the project evolves.

  • Auburn University
    • Project Leadership
      • Royrickers Cook, Vice President for University Outreach and Associate Provost
      • Paul Brown, Associate Director, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
      • Hollie Cost, Assistant Vice President for University Outreach and Public Service
      • Linda Gibson-Young, Professor of Nursing and Nursing Outreach Coordinator
      • Jennifer Kerpelman, Associate Vice President for Research
      • Tim Moore, Interim Dean for the Harrison College of Pharmacy
      • Rachel Snoddy, Chambers County Extension Coordinator
      • Chippewa Thomas, Director, Faculty Outreach and Engagement
      • Laura Downey, Assistant Director, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
      • Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs and Outreach, Harrison College of Pharmacy
      • Laura Plexico, College of Liberal Arts, Associate Dean of Engagement and Graduate Studies
  • Chambers County
    • Sam Bradford, Chambers County Commissioner
    • Chris Busby, Deputy Director, Chambers County Economic Development
    • Debra Riley, Chambers County Commissioner
  • City of LaFayette
    • Louis Davidson, City Clerk
    • Jim Doody, Fire Chief
    • Kenneth Vines, Mayor

Funders

In the true spirit of collaboration, the Chambers County Community Health and Wellness center is supported through grants and monetary contributions by The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), the Alfa Corporation, Auburn University, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Chambers County Commission, and The City of LaFayette.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

State of Alabama highlighted in blue - ADECA - Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs

ALFA Companies

Auburn University

Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Alabama

Chambers County - Strength Woven In

City of LaFayette - Strength Woven In

Chambers County Location

Exterior image of the Center includes glass windows with visual of lit telehealth station

The Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center is located at 404 9th Avenue, LaFayette, AL, 36862, conveniently within walking distance of the Department of Human Resources as well as grocery, dining and other establishments. Housed in a vacated medical clinic, the building provides space for expansion as well as full accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

We are currently open

  • Monday –Friday, 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday & Sunday, 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Center phone number: (334) 459-0188

Services

In addition to medical diagnostic and treatment provided through telehealth, Auburn University faculty and student provide health and wellness screenings and education in these areas and others as prioritized by communities.

FAQs

Auburn University Outreach began exploring options to expand healthcare access, particularly in rural regions adversely impacted by COVID-19. By partnering with university leaders in Pharmacy, Nursing, Human Sciences and Alabama Cooperative Extension System the team vetted telehealth and service delivery options. The collaborative team developed a model that integrated telehealth, outreach, public/private partnerships with a patient-centric focus.

The Rural Health Initiative partners with communities to increase access to high quality and affordable health and wellness care throughout rural Alabama. In addition, it offers a growing network of educational programming addressing physical, mental, and relational health needs.

The Center is the physical location in LaFayette where the services developed by the Rural Health Initiative team are delivered and where the telehealth station is located. Project leadership aim to develop similar programming throughout rural Alabama.

We are currently open Weekdays 7:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. and weekends from 1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. based on community input.

The OnMed® telehealth station features the most advanced technology available in telehealth. This standalone unit enables patients to have a life-size, private, real-time virtual experience with a licensed medical professional using self-guided diagnostic tools. Upon exit, patients receive prescriptions for any necessary medication, or the unit dispenses the medication instantly.

The project is supported through in-kind and financial contributions by all key partners as well as corporate grants. Partners and funders include the City of LaFayette, Auburn University, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Chambers County, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alfa Corporation and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

There are no costs associated with attending events or participating in health and wellness education at the Center. For an initial time period, telehealth station visits are free of charge. After the introductory period, there will be a minimal cost for a telehealth station visit.

Contact

For more information, email AURuralhealthproject@auburn.edu or call the center at (334) 459-0188.

Interested in joining our team? Tell us more about yourself by selecting the 'Join Our Team' button below.

Join Our Team

Last Updated: February 29, 2024