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Lack of transportation leads to health issues in Appalachia

The Brown County Health Department says the lack of transportation is a crisis.
The Brown County Health Department says the lack of transportation is a crisis.(WXIX)
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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BROWN COUNTY, OHIO and ROBERTSON COUNTY, Ky. (WXIX) - There are many healthcare issues in the Appalachian region and one of the biggest contributing factors is the lack of emergency and public transportation.

Many people who live in these rural areas don’t have a way to get to a doctor or even a grocery store, which Brown County Nursing Director Pamela Williams says leads to even more issues.

Paula Williams, Brown County Nursing Director
Paula Williams, Brown County Nursing Director(WXIX)

“According to our community health assessment, obesity, cancer, opioid abuse, those were all subjects that were identified as being the biggest concerns in our county but linked to all of those is transportation,” Williams said. “We can link problems with obesity to transportation because of only having one major retail food store in our county, which would be Kroger.”

Williams says no access to Kroger means settling for food at Dollar General which tends to be unhealthier and this leads to high obesity and diabetes rates in the county.

This Dollar General store is the only place many Brown County residents have to shop.
This Dollar General store is the only place many Brown County residents have to shop.(WXIX)

“And then we have no public transportation here at all. So people have trouble getting access to the doctors’ offices and we have no local hospital here,” Williams said.

She says there’s only one taxi in Brown County if people need to get somewhere and don’t have their own transportation. Otherwise, they have to walk or rely on someone with a vehicle. If there is an emergency, there is a life squad that can take them to the nearest emergency room which is 30 minutes away.

“In Mount Orab, Mercy has a small little ER, that can handle minor stuff,” Williams said. “For the most part, any life squad that gets called, whether you’re in the northern or southern part of our county, that would be the first probably that would be the first place that they would take you, and then you would be transported from there depending on what the situation was. Clermont County is our closest hospital and it’s probably about 35 minutes away, I would say. Well, 35 to an hour depending on where you are in the county.”

Robertson County, Kentucky does not have an ambulance service.
Robertson County, Kentucky does not have an ambulance service.(WXIX)

This is also an issue across the river in Robertson County, Kentucky. The county has no public transportation and the closest physician is 30 minutes away. If you need to go to the doctor, you must travel even farther according to Robertson County resident Kelvin Gay.

Robertson County resident Kelvin Gay says he has to travel 30 miles to get to the doctor
Robertson County resident Kelvin Gay says he has to travel 30 miles to get to the doctor(WXIX)

“No doctor here. Oh no. No doctor, no dentist,” Gay said. “You know you have to travel 30 miles to get to the doctor.”

Allison Alexander, registered nurse
Allison Alexander, registered nurse(WXIX)

The county has one registered nurse, Allison Alexander, and she is the closest the county has to a doctor on site. If there is an emergency and someone needs to get to a hospital, that’s an even bigger issue.

“We don’t even have an ambulance service in the county to take them. We contract with Nicholas County for an ambulance service,” Alexander said.

She says the ambulances typically take 30 to 45 minutes to arrive and they will take a patient to either Lexington or Cincinnati, which is another hour or more. Back in Brown County, Williams thinks better transportation options would make a difference in people’s lives.

“Whether we would immediately see drops in obesity rates or, you know, cardiac heart issues or whatever, I don’t know, because I’m not sure what they would utilize those transportation systems for, but I do think overall long term it would have to have an impact for sure for the better,” Williams said.

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