Representatives from local, county and federal government and area health service agencies gathered for the inaugural meeting of the Mohave Health Coalition on Thursday at Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse in Bullhead City.

BULLHEAD CITY — The Mohave Health Coalition meeting Thursday at the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse was an informative and productive meeting that resulted in the creation of four committees that will research their prospective topics and give a presentation in three months.

It also included a plan to form an official nonprofit to represent the various stakeholders in health services in the Tri-state.

Those in attendance were representatives from the cities of Bullhead City, Kingman and Lake Havasu City, the township of Laughlin, Western Arizona Regional Medical Center, Valley View Medical Center, Talas

Harbor-Bullhead City, Havasu Regional Medical Center, Kingman Regional Medical Center, Mohave Community College, the offices of Sens. Krysten Sinema and Martha McSally and Rep. Paul Gosar and Mohave County.

Dr. Waheed H. Zehri, the chief of staff at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center who spearheaded the coalition, said that he brought everybody together to see what they can do to provide better help to the Mohave County community and the surrounding communities. 

Throughout the presentation, Zehri went over various topics such as mental health, rural health services and more.

The Wednesday edition of the Mohave Valley Daily News carried an interview with Zehri talking about how the idea of having a coalition came up and what he hopes that the coalition will accomplish.

After the presentation, everybody was given a chance to talk about the different topics that were presented.

“I think the idea that this group coming together could be a case study because every single rural community is struggling with the same problems,” said Ann Marie Ward, a candidate for Congress. “So if at this table you all as experts can come together and find solutions, then those can champion the rest of our state.”

“As we start looking at education across the community, one of the things that would be vital especially for the young folks looking too better themselves,” said Feliciano Jiron, CEO of VVMC, “is pulling all the resources that are out there and bringing all the financial and scholarship opportunities to the table and keeping them in a resource or database. I think that will allow the local kids to want to be able to explore their education opportunities. That way we spend local and keep the kids local.”

“One of the things that I learned is that there are lots of these different health agencies and that we are all so busy dealing with our issues that I think we feel separated,” said Chaz Martinez, director of marketing and business development for Talas Harbor. “What I learned through Talas Harbor was when I went out to all of these agencies and asked for help, you guys stepped right up and tried to help us. What I’m learning from tonight’s forum is that we are sitting around with people who can help each other; we’ve just got to pick up the phone and have that one-on-one communication.”

“On the Laughlin side, we have a heavier demographic of seniors,” said Brian Paulson, Laughlin town manager. “So maybe we can see more concentration of senior care for those of us on the other side of the river.”

Mohave County District 2 Sup. Hildy Angius said that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has committed a lot of resources and top priority to rural areas for education and health care.

“Everything that you have mentioned, everyone is talking about in the rural areas,” said Angius. “There are so many programs around the county that are working and I go by the philosophy of why reinvent the wheel. In regards, Mohave County is going to be adopting the Yavapai County’s outreach program. That is a team of stakeholders that cross over multiple systems which include mental health, substance abuse, law enforcement and more. The idea is to screen them for mental health, for substance abuse, when you first have them. It’s going to involve all the behavioral and mental health providers, so I believe that we will be able to get providers here through this program. I think this idea (the coalition) is a great thing but the important thing is to make sure that you’re talking to the right people.”

It was decided to take the top four topics and assign a committee to each.

The committees that were agreed upon were hospital services, led by Mike Patterson, CEO of Havasu Regional Medical Center; mental health, led by Martinez; education, led by MCC President Dr. Stacey Klippenstien; and VA, led by Dr. Deborah Bennet, from Kingman Regional Medical Center.

“We are giving you one month. In one month whoever is in charge needs to make sure that they have a mission and the goal of what the committee wants to do,” said Zehri. “And in three months we are going to meet again and you are going to present your report here and then we will go from there.”

After the committees were assigned, Zehri said that it would be a good idea to start an official organization.

“I agree that we need to have a formal organization to accomplish all the goals that we want,” said Jen Miles, mayor of Kingman. “This group forming as a nonprofit, I think, will give us some credibility and a bigger voice.”

It was agreed that Zehri be the president and CEO of the nonprofit, to be called the Mohave Health Coalition. Miles will serve as the vice president and Hilda Perez as secretary.

The next meeting for the Mohave Health Coalition was set for April 16.

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