UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC

trains healthcare professionals for WNC

MAHEC in the News

Media articles from 2019

ARHS Discusses $90 Million Plans for Hospital Campus in Watuaga

ARHS President and CEO Chuck Mantooth discussed plans for the future of ARHS that have been made with the aging population in mind. Improvements include a new bed tower adjacent to the emergency department, surgery suites, and a new cardiovascular center.

Phase two would include a continuity clinic with a new family medicine primary care residency program that is set to launch in July 2020. The residency program would be run in partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, with four to six residents brought in each year for a three-year family medicine residency. [read full story].

Addicted NC: New Ways To Keep Teens from Addiction

Several mountain counties are now relying on students to spread the word about the dangers of opioids.

MAHEC School Health Program Manager April Baur, RN, and RHA Prevention Specialist Heather Daniels help lead the Partnership for Substance Free Youth in Buncombe County.

"We've learned scare tactics don't work, they don't respond well to those, so we really focus on education and then sort of action steps," Baur said. "They really want the facts, and they want it to be presented to them the same way they would any other topic and then from there they can make the decision. I think it's empowering for them to make the decision themselves," Baur said. [see full story]

Addicted NC: Lack of Local Resources for Teenagers

In North Carolina, more than 20 percent of high schoolers admit they've tried opioids. Experts said it's a dangerous statistic, since an addiction can begin after just a few days of prescription pills.

Dr. Blake Fagan said 90 percent of all adults struggling with addiction started using before they turned 18. "Because they have a younger brain, for some of these kids, they take pills for the first time and they are off to the races. Now they have an opioid use disorder," Fagan said.
[see full story]

Asheville and Buncombe County Seek Breastfeeding-Friendly Designation

In the run-up to World Breastfeeding Week, Thursday-Wednesday,
Aug. 1-7, local elected officials have proclaimed their intention that Asheville and Buncombe County should be a breastfeeding-friendly community. Lactation expert Georganna Cogburn imagines a truly breastfeeding-friendly community as a place where new moms are supported in all aspects of their lives. 

Cogburn works with MAHEC and provides lactation education for breastfeeding peer counselors and health department staff members involved with Women, Infants and Children nutrition programs throughout Western North Carolina. Realizing the breastfeeding-friendly vision, she says, will take broad support and participation throughout the community [read full story].

Addicted NC: WNC Program Helps Addicted Mothers, Mothers-to-Be

Untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy can have devastating consequences on an unborn baby. Here in the mountains, doctors continue to work closely with expecting mothers struggling with addiction.

"The numbers will make it look like we’re seeing more cases, but what we’re actually seeing is that we are getting better at identifying and then offering treatment," said Marie Gannon, of the Mountain Area Health Education Center, or MAHEC. She's the behavioral health director for Project CARA, a substance abuse treatment program for pregnant women, that tries to provide "respect, resilience and recovery for all. [see full story].

Addicted NC: Substance Use and Pregnancy

Wednesday in our series "Addicted North Carolina," we focused on women who are fighting addiction during pregnancy. Marie Gannon works at MAHEC where she is the co-director for Project CARA, which stands for 'Care that Advocates Respect/Reslience/Recovery for All.' CARA provides gender-specific, trauma-informed substance use treatment and perinatal care in one comprehensive program to ensure pregnant and parenting women can access the quality ob/gyn care and substance use treatment they deserve.

We talked with Marie about how common addiction is among is pregnant women, how addiction impacts a fetus or newborn, and most importantly, how these women can get help. [see full story].

MAHEC Hosts Health Career Summer Camp for Area Students

Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) hosted its first Project PROMISE Health Careers Summer Camp at the end of June. This free three-day camp was held at MAHEC and UNC Asheville, which housed 20 rural junior and senior high school students from McDowell, Madison, Mitchell, Yancey and Swain counties.

Over the three days, campers joined MAHEC’s Rural Health Initiative team for health career-focused activities led by health professionals and residents from MAHEC’s family medicine, ob/gyn, sports medicine, pharmacy, dental, and surgery programs.  Students were exposed to a variety of clinical settings and hands-on activities [read full story].

News 13 Investigates: Overcoming Pregnancy-Related Mental Health Disorders

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, a condition that some experts say affects about 20 percent of mothers, includes a number of different types of mental health issues. Women can experience symptoms during pregnancy or up to a year after birth. 

Bali Mitchell is a local mother who battled postpartum depression with each of her pregnancies. It started when her first son was born. She then got pregnant with twins, and the feelings only got worse. She finally got the help that saved her. Mitchell was emotional talking about that difficult time in her life and her gratitude for the team at MAHEC who treated her. [see full story]

Insurance Coverage Gap Impacts Children's Health

New data from NC Child, a Raleigh-based children’s health research group, shows that although 85% of Buncombe County mothers received prenatal care in 2017, the percentages of Buncombe babies born pre-term or with low birth weight remain comparable to those across NC.

Dr. Daniel Frayne, practicing family physician and president of Mountain Area Health Education Center, says that children’s health begins even before conception. This is important, Frayne says, because about 30% of birth outcomes are related to a woman’s health before conception.

“Mom’s health affects the child’s health. But even if we’re doing the best in prenatal care, if we’re not addressing mom’s health before pregnancy, we’re not going to get the outcomes in children and the next generation that we want” [read full story].

Report on Women's Health Unveiled in Asheville

“Buncombe County is doing really well compared to other counties in North Carolina overall,” said Elyse Shaw, a researcher with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the co-author of a new statewide report about women’s health.

The state, however, didn’t get a great report card: Shaw’s organization gave North Carolina a D in women’s health, down from a D+ in 2013.

N.C. Secretaries Machelle Sanders of the Department of Administration and Dr. Mandy Cohen of the Department of Health and Human Services had been scheduled to appear at the unveiling, held at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, but both were detained in Raleigh [read full story].

Women's Health Report: NC Gets 'D' Grade

North Carolina has a lot of work to do when it comes to addressing women’s health and wellness. That's the finding of a state commissioned report released in Asheville this week at Mountain Area Health Education Center. 

The 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness report conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows overall NC has made some progress but the state still ranks among the highest in the country in a number of areas, including stroke and infant mortality rates, says Institute study director Elyse Shaw. [listen to full story]

Dental Assisting Program at ICC Being Offered

The new Dental Assisting program is made possible thanks to a partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville, which is opening a dental clinic on the site of the old hospice facility on the campus of St. Luke’s Hospital. 

“There is a shortage of dental and primary healthcare providers across Western North Carolina,” said Dr. Jeff Heck, CEO of MAHEC.

“Too many families are using hospital emergency departments for their dental care, which is costly and does not improve oral health outcomes. We want to make dental and primary healthcare more accessible across our region. This new collaborative partnership will help us do that.” [read full story]

Healthcare Providers, Mental Health Advocates, Elected Officials Gather in Asheville

The Mountain Area Health Education Center was full Tuesday as the N.C. Council for Women and Youth Involvement launched the 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness Report. The report is the second in a series of four highlighting key issues affecting the lives of women in North Carolina in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The report revealed high infant mortality rates in our part of the state. It also revealed ongoing problems with domestic violence and mental health.

But, it showed improvement on the breast cancer mortality rate and—for some demographics—fatal heart disease. [see full story]

Governor Announces Release of 2019 Status of Women in NC Health & Wellness Report

Governor Cooper today announced the completion of the 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness Report, released by the NC Department of Administration’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement. The report was unveiled at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville and is the second in a series of four highlighting key issues affecting the lives of women in North Carolina in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Senior Early Childhood Policy Advisor Rebecca Planchard joined Council Director Mary Williams-Stover and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) Study Director Elyse Shaw at MAHEC to provide a review of data and policy recommendations from the 2019 Health and Wellness report. [read full story]

News 13 Investigates: Teen Vaping Dangers 

Years of progress combating teen tobacco use are being threatened by an e-cigarette, vaping epidemic. The small devices are a big problem in mountain schools, and, as summer breaks, schools are warning parents. 

As schools educate students on the dangers in health classes, MAHEC is working with Buncombe County schools to include vaping awareness in next years' health and wellness program.“What I'll say is no chemicals—whether it's THC, whether it's nicotine, whether its alcohol—none of those things are healthy for people whose brains are not fully formed,” said MAHEC's Dr. Lisa Reed. [see full story]

Healthcare Trends, Healthcare Needs

You may not give much thought to the medical field in Western North Carolina unless you or a loved one are sick. But the local medical industry should not be taken for granted—it has a large financial impact throughout the region.

The Western North Carolina region is following many national trends in healthcare employment. Jeffery E. Heck, MD, CEO of MAHEC, shares that the biggest trends in healthcare practice are toward specialization and urbanization. "Unfortunately, what we need here in Western North Carolina are more general practitioners, like those trained in family medicine, who can provide a full spectrum of primary care for the people in their communities." [read full story]

Moms-to-Be Teach Each Other in Monthly Group Prenatal Visits

In a big room full of moms-to-be, pregnant women check each other’s blood pressure and weight, a nurse-midwife measures their growing bellies, and they all join a seated circle for two hours of candid talk about what to expect when you’re expecting. But in a more relaxed group setting, women open up and conversation flows beyond vital signs, weight gain and due dates.

Pregnant women at the clinic can opt to join a group session for their monthly checkups instead of the traditional one-on-one office visits with their doctor that are usually recommended. Kailee Morel Alvarez had never heard of group prenatal visits when she learned she was pregnant last summer. But the 21-year-old and her husband were sold after their first visit to Mountain Area Health Education Center’s OB-GYN clinic. [read full story]

Nursing Students Test Virtual Reality Simulation Technology at MAHEC

Students in Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing tested a new virtual reality simulation technology Tuesday, April 9, at the Mountain Area Health Education Center’s Biltmore Campus.

WCU developed the innovative training program in partnership with Learning Lab 360 and the Mountain Area Health Education Center as part of a $2.7 million federal grant designed to support community-based primary care clinical experiences for nurses. 

“Using virtual reality in clinical education allows learners to be involved in real-life experiences without real-life consequences,” said Elaine Alexander, MAHEC simulation center director. [read full story]

'Sistas' Aim to Reduce Disparities in the Delivery Room

Rates of maternal and infant mortality during childbirth are disproportionately higher among African American women in Buncombe County and nationwide. That stark reality is what prompted a group of women in Asheville to organize and start a doula service for women of color and for women without the financial means.

“The fact that racism plays a role in that set everybody on fire in wanting to address specifically the disparity in infant mortality,” said Amanda Brickhouse-Murphy, a nurse midwife at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

With the assistance of a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, MAHEC and the organization Mothering Asheville helped launch Sistas Caring 4 Sistas. Six women completed their doula training in 2016. The nonprofit primarily serves patients on Medicaid. [listen to full story]

Buncombe County Students Learn About Opioid Crisis in Creative Way

Health officials found a unique way to deliver a strong message to students about the dangers of opioids. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, from 2010-2016, 10.4 percent of unintentional opioid-related deaths in North Carolina were people 24 years old and younger.

In order to educate about this crisis, the Mountain Area Health Education Center, or MAHEC, launched the play, 'It's Just a Pill,' earlier this month. It takes a creative approach in educating kids and teachers about the risks associated with opioids.

"It's better to talk about it at a younger age because our minds are more moldable at this age," said Shanzay Bashir, a sixth grader. [see full story]

Children’s Musical Explores Opioid Epidemic

Melody Hays understands pain. As she struggled with myasthenia gravis and rheumatoid arthritis, unable to leave her bed for 10 years, she pondered how she could make a difference in the world and help others.

Hays eventually regained mobility and, after seeing a presentation by Dr. Blake Fagan of the Mountain Area Health Education Center, she dreamed that she asked him, “what are we doing for children?” The next morning, she woke up inspired to write a children’s musical. Hays is now a healthcare education planner at MAHEC.

On March 8, It’s Just a Pill premiered at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium. The 55-minute musical confronts the opioid epidemic from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl. Following the premiere, the play will go on tour and will be seen by at least 4,000 students. [read full story]

Want To Find A Key To Unlocking Good Health? Look To Communities

There are many rewarding aspects of my job. One that is particularly gratifying is that I have the privilege of serving as chairman of the independent Blue Cross NC Foundation...In this role, I have the opportunity to gain even more insight into the health challenges facing our state, as well as the efforts on the ground to tackle these challenges head-on. In Asheville, a group of women – who themselves were marginalized by a health care system that didn’t reflect them or their experiences – have trained to become doulas to support the women of their neighborhood and to face racial disparities in infant mortality head-on. These doulas are now employed by a local OB/GYN practice and their influence is shaping not only the birth experience for women whose babies are at risk for higher mortality, but also the policies and practices in the health care system overall. [read full story]

Local Leaders Tackle Health Impacts of Structural Racism

“Racism has an impact on health, and we want to look at the bigger picture,” says Ameena Batada, associate professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville. To accomplish this, Batada has joined forces with Je’Wana Grier-McEachin, executive director of the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement, and Jill Fromewick, a research scientist at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

Armed with a three-year Interdisciplinary Research Leaders fellowship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the team aims to connect directly with rural African-Americans in Western North Carolina in order to deconstruct and combat the ways that racism has contributed to the myriad health challenges they face. Structural racism, notes Fromewick, can discourage people from seeking medical care — and hamper the effective delivery of that care. It’s essential, she maintains, for providers to understand the health beliefs, cultural practices and needs in the communities they serve. [read full story]

Let’s Join Forces to Create a Truly Healthy Community

Guest commentary by Dr. Daniel Frayne. There’s a shift underway that’s causing health care providers to move beyond the walls of their clinics and hospitals and into the community to better support their patients’ well-being.

For a century, our health care system focused on treating disease. More recently, we’ve started emphasizing preventive care and access to primary care. In 2017, the U.S. spent $3.5 trillion on health care — far more than any other developed country. Yet our overall life expectancy as well as infant mortality, maternal mortality, disease and disability rates are far worse. Why?

Four words: social determinants of health. [read full story]

Rise in Immunization Exemptions Threatens Community Health, Doctors Say

When Dr. Jennifer Mullendore told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners last October that immunization exemptions for local kindergartners had jumped again, she didn’t know that at least one local child was already sick with chickenpox. 

By the end of that month, 28 children had contracted the illness. The eventual total of 37 students (all of them unimmunized) and three community members diagnosed with the virus constituted the most in the state since the varicella vaccine became available in 1995.

According to Alice Elio, school health program manager at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers five or more related cases of chickenpox to constitute an outbreak. [read full story]

Local Nonprofits Tackle Social Determinants of Health

Stopping to talk with friends, volunteers and clients, Ali Casparian gradually makes her way toward a table in a corner of the room as a small crowd starts to gather for tonight’s cooking demonstration. Casparian is the founder of Bounty & Soul, a Black Mountain-based nonprofit that provides a range of services to at-risk and food-insecure community members. 

A planned partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center and Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, slated to launch very soon, will enable Bounty & Soul to expand its approach to food insecurity to include the many social factors that also influence health. ABCCM’s crisis ministry in Candler will host one of Bounty & Soul’s food markets, and MAHEC will offer community members free health counseling and other services there. [read full story]

Emergency CDC Funding Beefs up WNC Response to Opioid Crisis

Over $660,000 — a portion of $155 million in emergency funding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is flowing into Western North Carolina to fund health programs that aim to ease the strain of opioid addiction and overdose.

In 2017, 1,884 people died of accidental opioid overdoses in North Carolina, while over 4,000 overdoses were reversed through the community use of naloxone kits in the state.

Cracking down on drug users isn’t a viable solution to the problem, experts say. That leaves harm-reduction efforts and addiction treatment as two of the main strategies public health agencies are using to address the crisis. Buncombe County, Haywood County and the Mountain Area Health Education Center are deploying federal funds as part of that effort. [read full story]

Local Doctors Help Spread Medication-Assisted Opioid Treatment in North Carolina

New federal funding is giving more mountain doctors special training to help opioid-addicted patients.The grant money allows them to treat those patients with medication.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm,” Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer at MAHEC, said. Fagan is enthusiastic about helping patients suffering from opioid addiction.

So, now Fagan is seeing that primary care doctors in residency — all over North Carolina — are qualified to help treat opioid addiction with medicine. Doctors are required by federal law to take a training course before getting a license to prescribe Suboxone. [see full story]

ABCCM, Bounty & Soul, and MAHEC Create New Collaboration for Community Health

Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, Bounty & Soul, and the Mountain Area Health Education Center are collaborating on a new program to address food insecurity and related health risks by bringing Bounty & Soul’s mobile food markets and educational programming to ABCCM sites in 2019. The first of these weekly markets will launch in January at ABCCM’s Hominy Valley Crisis Center, which is co-located with the MAHEC Family Health Center at Enka/Candler in Candler, NC.

“Here in Western North Carolina, we struggle with higher rates of poverty, hunger, and chronic diseases such as diabetes,” shares MAHEC’s CEO Jeff Heck, MD. “We’re excited to partner with ABCCM and Bounty & Soul to help more families access nutritious food and health education to prevent and even reverse these diseases.” [read full story]

DHHS, Mountain Area Health Education Center to Train Next Generation of NC Doctors to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

NC DHHS is partnering with the MAHEC to increase the number of doctors who graduate from North Carolina residency programs with the training necessary to provide medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorder through a CDC grant awarded to the state. "We need to fight the opioid crisis on every possible front," said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. "This training will be an important addition to the extensive work already being done across the state, but there are still far too many North Carolinians who don’t have access to the opioid treatment they need."
Last year, 1,884 people in North Carolina died of an unintentional opioid overdose, and 5,848 North Carolinians were taken to emergency departments for opioid overdoses. CDC grant funds will provide critical training to physicians to increase the number of doctors who can treat individuals within their practice. [read full story]

Opioid Town Hall in North Carolina: Stopping the Growth of the Addiction Crisis

Sinclair Broadcast Group and WLOS hosted the third installment in the ongoing national series of town halls to raise awareness of the country's most deadly drug epidemic. Eric Bolling moderated the event as part of the "Our Voice, Our Future" series.

The panel of guests featured North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, State Senator Jim Davis, Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed and Melinda Ramage, the co-founder of Project CARA, a program that helps pregnant women access treatment for substance abuse.

Guests focused on what is being done in North Carolina and nationally to combat the crisis through public education and prevention programs, improved medical and addiction treatment and new tools for the law enforcement community. [see full story]

NC AHEC Trainings Help Put Recovery Within Reach

In 2017, North Carolina’s drug overdose death rate rose higher than any other state except for Indiana, primarily due to opioids. To address this public health crisis, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both recommend prescribing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for patients with opioid use disorders “given the strong evidence of effectiveness for such treatments.” Despite its proven efficacy, less than 10 percent of physicians in the U.S. have waivers to prescribe buprenorphine.

To address this critical need, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has contracted with MAHEC to provide MAT waiver training to medical residency programs across the state through August 31, 2019. This work is being funded through NC DHHS’s award from the CDC. [read full story]

City Council Members Meet with MAHEC

The Mountain Area Health Education Center says it hopes to enhance its partnership with local governments to foster a unified, collaborative approach to improve health in Western North Carolina.

On Dec. 11, while parts of the ground remained obscured after a major snowstorm that ended the day before, MAHEC representatives met with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and Asheville City Council members Julie Mayfield and Vijay Kapoor. 

The collaboration would include local businesses, nonprofits and government institutions and would foster women’s health to promote healthy pregnancies, leading to healthy children and families and, ultimately, success in school. [read full story]

Free Seminars Offered to Rising Juniors, Seniors in McDowell

Rising juniors and seniors in McDowell, Mitchell, Yancey, Madison, and Swain counties are encouraged to apply for a free summer camp focusing on paths to successful health careers. This residential camp will be held June 23-26 in Asheville with students housed at UNCA. There will be daily workshops, networking opportunities, and presentations at UNCA and MAHEC centered on healthcare careers.

Students will experience MAHEC’s new state-of-the-art Simulation Center and deliver a baby, practice CPR and intubation, administer medications, monitor “real” patients, and more. They will shadow in MAHEC family medicine, ob/gyn, and sports medicine. They will see real patients, work with real physicians, and dissect a heart with an experienced cardiac care practitioner.
[read full story]