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October 2, 2003

ULM Co-hosts Delta Regional Conference

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is co-hosting the Mississippi Delta Regional Issues Fall Conference in Little Rock, Ark. ULM President James Cofer along with President Les Wyatt of Arkansas State University, Little Rock City Mayor Jim Dailey and the Honorable Rodney E. Slater, former Secretary of Transportation in the Clinton Administration, plan to address economic development, health care, education, agriculture and other critical issues to the seven-state region.

The conference will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 3 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

"This conference is about understanding how several different constituencies such as universities, health care providers, and businesses fit into the economic development of the Delta Region," said President Cofer. "It is important that ULM be a part of the discussions as we move forward with a strategic plan for the region. The impetus for the location of the conference was the football game between ULM and Arkansas State. Events like this illustrate the point that we can combine athletics and academics in a positive way."

The conference is a product of a conversation between Slater, currently a lobbyist in Washington, and Cofer. When Cofer mentioned ULM's football team was to play Arkansas State, Slater, an Arkansas State alum, shared Cofer's enthusiasm about the Delta Region and they discussed an approach to get people together to address issues affecting the region. The result is the conference in Little Rock.

The conference will consist of a day of discussions about topics vital to the region. Three panels with a moderator and several other professionals have been assembled and will address different areas. The panelists will include speakers from throughout the region representing universities, nonprofit organizations, private businesses, grassroots community organizations and other major institutions of the region.

Talks begin at 9 a.m. with Panel I: "Emerging Models in Economic Development," Moderated by Dr. Don Cotten, Associate Vice- Chancellor for Research & Technology Transfer, Arkansas State University.

Beginning at 10:45 is Panel II: "Healthcare In The Delta Region: Creating Opportunities from Challenges". The Moderator is Dr. William M. Bourn, Dean, College of Health Sciences, the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Beginning at 2:15 p.m. is Panel III: "The Role of Regional Industries, Institutions, and Universities in Economic Development". Clyde Williams, William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, will moderate it.

The second panel session's focus, healthcare in the delta, is especially poignant for ULM. Moderator Bourn, Dean of the College of Health Sciences at ULM, will lay out the plan for Delta Health line, a health care outreach program to help the medically underserved population of northeast Louisiana find assistance. In an effort to meet the needs of this group, The College of Health Sciences at the University of Louisiana at Monroe is proposing a program to provide information and assistance through a toll-free hotline and local case managers in each of the fifteen parishes of Northeast Louisiana.

The toll-free hotline will be an extension of the existing Louisiana Drug and Poison Information Center and will employ information specialists to provide guidance to callers to assist in finding help. Case managers will be employed one day per week in each of the fifteen parishes at a well-advertised location in a school, hospital or other facility. Grassroots assistance will be sought to identify such facilities. Case managers will assist clients in completing forms and other paperwork required for applying for assistance such as the medication programs available from some of the pharmaceutical manufacturers and will help find other low-cost or free care.

Also, on a monthly basis, nursing, pharmacy and other faculty from the college, along with students, will travel to each of the parishes to provide screenings, clinics, and conduct "brown bag" mediation reviews for clients.

In an effort to meet the needs of the medically underserved population of Northwest Louisiana, the program will be expanded after one year to cover the Fourth Congressional District parishes of Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, De Soto, Red River, Bienville, Sabine, Natchitoches, Grant, Vernon and Beauregard ­ Allen Parish, a split parish under the current Congressional map, is included in the first year's coverage of the Healthline program.

Bourn said of the program, "We will focus on innovative solutions and best practices such as job creation initiatives and successful models for extending greater health care to underserved people in the region. As you know, the Delta holds great potential and has made substantial progress in many areas in recent years, but still faces serious problems in the quest to enable the people of the region to participate fully in America's opportunities in health care. We believe that the ideas and innovations highlighted at this conference will provide models that could be replicated in other areas throughout the delta."

Slater, who will be making closing remarks at 3:45, said, "This is the first conference of its kind and my hope is that it will serve as a model to spur further communication between leaders in the Delta region. Working together, we can all make a difference. This region is poised for growth and I cannot thank President Cofer, President Wyatt or Mayor Dailey enough for having the foresight to put something of this magnitude together in an effort to help not only their areas, but all in our region as well."

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