The people's voice of reason

Governor Ivey applauds Legislature for establishing the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences in Demopolis

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) is expected to sign legislation to build a healthcare worker school in Demopolis. This was a priority item for the Governor. Ivey commended the Legislature for approval of the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences in Demopolis.

"The Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is coming to Demopolis!" said Ivey. "Students from all over Alabama will soon benefit from an education at this specialty high school and then go on to bolster our healthcare workforce. The Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is yet another way our state is leading the nation in innovative education solutions."

The school will be a state-run boarding school for high school students who are looking to enter a healthcare related field.

"I commend Sen. Bobby Singleton, Rep. Cynthia Almond, Sen. Gerald Allen, Rep. A.J. McCampbell, Pro Tem Greg Reed, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and members of the Legislature who supported this important project," Ivey continued. "I also greatly appreciate the community support from Demopolis and for the support of healthcare systems and hospitals across our state. Investing in the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is an investment in education, our healthcare workforce and the future of Alabama."

House Bill 163 (HB163) was sponsored by State Representative Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa) and was carried in the Senate by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro).

"This is a new item that was in the budget, the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences," said Sen. Singleton. "The School of Healthcare Science is just another beacon that the state of Alabama would be able to brag on around the world and show that there is a pattern by which we can take rural areas and develop them to meet the needs of our public here in the state of Alabama. We have gone through a little thing called COVID. We saw in rural Alabama where we did not have specialists to help save people's lives. I know in my particular County of Hale; we had a hospital and we had respirators; but we did not have a respiratory therapist to be able to run that respirator, therefore people had to be transferred out to other area hospitals. Fast forward to today, when we came up with this concept and this idea of the Alabama School of Health Sciences in Demopolis, Alabama we partnered with the local hospital which is a subsidiary of UAB. UAB faculty and staff along with the administrator Mr. Doug Brewer all came together with the County Commission, the Mayor, City Council came together to form an organization around this particular high school, ready to receive it, ready to embrace it, ready to endorse it; because we know that West Alabama and Demopolis is a place to where people would be proud. If you ever go there and visit, we sit right on the Tombigbee River. It is a safe community. It is a community of growth in the Black Belt. So we believe that where we are along with the hospital which has grown and been a trauma level kind of hospital in the rural areas. We are doing robotics surgery there. UAB is sending doctors that are coming through doing surgery at this particular hospital. We thought this was the best place to be home. I know that there are cities lined up like Pell City over in Shelby County. You had Dothan and even Selma and other areas in the state. The study was done, and it came back that Demopolis was the number one and would be the best area for this school in the state. I am not here trying to convince you what this school is. What you need to understand is that it has been awarded to the City of Demopolis and I say to the state of Alabama that we will make you proud."

Senator Lance Bell (R-Pell City) spoke in opposition to the school being located in Demopolis instead of Pell City.

"We paid $500,000 for this study," said Bell. "When we met with this team that did this study we told them that we knew that no matter what we did it is going to come back with Demopolis."

Bell said that Pell City has less violent crime than Demopolis, more internet access, better healthcare outcomes, has more growth, better health rankings, polls higher with prospective parents, and has a much higher population within a 75-mile radius.

"I am knocking this report that we paid half a million dollars for," said Bell. ""Demopolis is the one that started this. Give them some credit for that."

"I am going to vote for it, and I hope it is very successful," said Bell. "I think we need more dual enrollment. I don't care if it is tech programs, health sciences, but we need to get more money to a local level and maybe break up the money into twelve locations across the state and get it into the high schools, the junior colleges, and four-year colleges.

Bell expressed concern about doing this as a boarding school.

"The cyber is the same way," Bell said. "I would love for more children to be involved in that and not have to move to Huntsville to do that."

"Only so many people are going to let their kids leave home and move to Pell City and stay there to do this," said Bell. "Only a very small segment of the state is going to let their kids do that."

"I would have a hard time letting my sixteen-year-old move," said Bell. "At sixteen I am still trying to mold them, I am still trying to discipline them, and I still have a belt if they don't do what daddy tells them."

"I am not 100% convinced," said Sen. April Weaver (R-Briarfield). "Not every child is going to be able to go to Demopolis. Some children want to be able to stay in their home communities and play football or cheer."

"I think there is a lot of hurdles that you have to jump through to get where you want to go," said Weaver. "I am not 100% convinced that this is the best way to grow our healthcare."

"In no way am I against Demopolis and having a program there," said Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield). "They are going to have a high school diploma and a certificate to do what?"

Singleton said that he hoped to have 200 kids enrolled in the school with a goal to get to 400.

"We are going to be recruiting around the state," Singleton said. "We will interview them and make sure that we have the best kids to come to Demopolis."

Singleton expected that it would be two years before the students are on site in Demopolis.

"Nothing against Demopolis, nothing against your enthusiasm, but this money would be better spent on career tech programs around the state. We are going to reach a lot more students putting the money into career tech programs."

The bill passed the Senate and now goes to the Governor for her consideration.

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