Knox Health Coalition near death?

Group halts meetings, seeking leader

By Jay Nolan


“Until further notice, we will not be having the Knox County Health Coalition meetings.”

With that sentence, Robin Jones, FRYSC director, ended her e-mail notice to 128 different individuals associated with the local group.

Does this mean the end of the entire Knox County Health Coalition?

“I hate this,” said Brenda Graham, Director of Nursing for Knox County Hospital. “The health coalition has done a lot.” She mentioned the bicycle and walking track on Manchester Street, and the exercise equipment installed at Thompson Park as examples.

While health care remains a top concern of all Knox County residents, according to recent surveys, finding a qualified leader for the health care coalition has been tough. Jones opened her message to the media and coalition members by saying: “We are postponing coalition meetings for lack of a leader… When asked at the last meeting if anyone was willing to take on the Chairperson role, we had no one to do it.”

Belinda Prichard from the health department resigned as chair of the coalition late in 2014. Coalition Vice-chairman Josh Callahan, head of the Barbourville Utility Commission, has been acting as temporary chair at the meetings. However, he told the members he felt the chair of the health coalition should be a health care professional. Also, the retirement of an engineer added more time to his duties at the Utility Commission. All this, combined with his recent appointment to the health department board, “keep him from conducting the meetings.” Jones reported.

Several local groups came together years ago and founded the Knox County Health Care Coalition. Susan Liford, recently retired as Director of the Health Department, was instrumental in bringing the group to life. But, according to Jones’ message, the new Health Department Director has been approached and she does not have any plans to put someone in that position at this time.

This Knox County Health Coalition has been going strong for many years and has made a lot of improvements in our community for everyone wanting to improve their chances of living a longer and healthier life,” said Jones. “Belinda Prichard had great vision of a healthy community, and she inspired a lot of people to get involved. That was evidenced by the large number of people who attended our meetings on a regular monthly basis.

“Besides having a chairperson with the time and energy to promote so many initiatives, we will need a fiscal agent if we are to continue getting grants to provide increased resources in our community. Two key members were selected to approach the new director of the Health Department, (which they did), but we still have no solution except to suspend the coalition until these issues can be resolved.”