Rapides Primary Health Care to begin construction of new Women’s Pavilion

Patricia Lewis, chief executive officer of the Rapides Primary Health Care Center, explains the design of the Women's Pavilion to be constructed.

By Sherri L. Jackson
Everything Cenla

Construction on the Rapides Primary Health Care Center’s new Women’s Pavilion is set to begin on July 5.

For Patricia Lewis, the Center’s chief executive officer, board members and patients, that fact earmarks the beginning of the Center’s next phase of offering expanded medical services to the uninsured and underinsured population of Central Louisiana.

The first step toward that end was held Tuesday, June 29, as supporters gathered for the official groundbreaking ceremony.

“This has been a dream for several years, and it has finally come into being,” Lewis said of the new building that will house women services.

Those attending the ceremony included Victor Kirk, the Center’s former director; Mayor Jacques Roy; Charles F. Smith, former District 3 City Councilman; Israel B. Curtis, former District 26 representative in the state House of Representatives;  Rhonda Litt, executive director of the Louisiana Primary Care Association; and Oliver Overton of the Rapides Parish Police Jury.

The 8,329 square-feet Women’s Pavilion will offer health-care services to women. It will be built behind the existing facility located at 1217 Willow Glen River Road in Alexandria. The Administration Department, which is currently housed in the Health Care Center, will relocate to the Women’s Pavilion, allowing for the expansion of medical and dental services currently offered.

The total cost of the project is $1.3 million, Lewis said. The Center received $738,000 from a $41 million state grant that was distributed through the Louisiana Primary Care Association. Other funds came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lewis said the expansion will allow the Center to effectively work with patients who have chronic diseases and cancer.

“We’ve been doing these services all along, but we’ve reached our limit. The patient base has grown tremendously,” she said. “We’ve always had to refer women with chronic diseases. We can now bring OB/GYN. We wanted the services to be closer to the community.”

Meanwhile, Curtis, who was instrumental in bringing the Center to the community, said he was proud of the Center’s accomplishments and the fact that many of the board members have served since the Center’s inception.

“The pavilion has always been in the plans,” he said. “I’m grateful that the many of the original board members stuck it out with us.”

The Center’s board members include Willie Stewart, president; Varie Stallworth, vice president; Ben Bensley, treasurer; Beverly Brown, board member, Delores Perry, consumer representative; Margaret Wess, consumer representative; Erma Lyons, board member; the Rev. Stanley Mathis, board member; and Dr. Charles Norwood, medical advisor.

Oklahoma man arrested for online solicitation of a ‘girl’

Donny Ray Hall Jr., 32, of 1509 NW St., Lawton, Okla., was arrested Friday, June 25, on charges of computer-aided solicitation of a minor and indecent behavior with juveniles, according to Rapides Parish Sheriff Charles Wagner Jr.

Hall was arrested following an investigation into the online solicitation of minors. Hall allegedly made contact through a chat room with what he thought was a 14-yar-old girl from Pineville.

Authorities claim Hall identified himself as a 24-year-old man from Alexandria. He allegedly sent nude photos of himself to the “girl” and discussed how they could meet. During the online conversation, Hall’s words indicated he knew of Central Louisiana.

The investigation revealed Hall had friends and/or relatives that lived in Louisiana.

The “girl” Hall was chatting with was actually a trained member of the Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force officer who works with the sheriff’s office.

Assisting in the arrested were the Fort Sill military authorities, the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation and the Lawton Police Department.

Hall is in the process of extradition from Oklahoma to Louisiana to face the above charges.

Wagner said parents should monitor what their children are doing online.

HIV/AIDS testing touted Monday at Rapides Parish Health Unit

By Bill Sumrall

A celebrity activist assisted state and local public health workers promote HIV testing Monday at the Rapides Parish Health Unit.

“I’m real excited about participating in the event. I think it’s so important that we get the message out around HIV testing and how important it is to know your status,” said Sonya Renee.

Renee is an AIDS activist, spoken word artist and National Poetry SLAM winner as well as author of a collection of poems titled “A Little Truth on Your Shirt” and is an HBO Def Poet.

“There was definitely a time when HIV was a death sentence and people were afraid to know but that is not the case anymore. To know your status is to stay healthier and live longer, both ways, whether you turn out positive or your test comes out negative,” Renee said.

“So, it’s so important for people to get the word out and I am excited to lend whatever energy I can to that effort,” Renee said.

Renee performed several poems during the “Test 1 Million Louisiana Celebrity Tour” stop-over June 28 in Alexandria. Members of the Sigma Alpha Tau step team from Lafayette, also performed.

Seven informational booths urged HIV testing. One was an exhibit titled “Crowns of Glory,” displaying hats honoring women who died or are living with HIV/AIDS.

Also, Kay Michiels, the city of Alexandria’s chief operating officer, read aloud a proclamation signed by Mayor Jacques Roy in recognition of the 16th annual National HIV Testing Day held Sunday, June 27.

Mayor Roy later put in an appearance himself during the tour’s stop at the health unit. “It’s very important that we continue to be vigilant about recognizing these problems,” the mayor said.

“They exist in every community but we have our fair share here and we have to remain prepared to deal with those issues as they arise,” Roy said, who also thanked Central Louisiana AIDS Support Services (CLASS) executive director Ann Lowrey for her group’s service.

CLASS set up one of the seven informational booths Monday at the parish health unit and, according to Lowrey, had tested close to 60 people Friday, June 25, to mark the 16th annual National HIV Testing Day.

“We tested a lot of people who really needed to be tested, so it was a big success,” Lowrey said.

Testing is free, confidential and easy, as two state Office of Public Health workers demonstrated by gathering saliva by swabbing the inside of the mouth for one test and drawing a blood sample by pricking a finger for another test.

“That’s the thing about early detection of HIV. If you know early, there are treatments available that will help you live a long and normal, healthy life, and so it’s a good idea to know,” Lowrey said.

“Sticking your head in the sand is not the best option when it comes to HIV, so I would encourage people to get tested,” Lowrey said.

Charlie Baran, director of programs for the Los Angeles, Calif.-based Black AIDS Institute, said this is the first year they’ve tried the concept of the tour, which the state Office of Public Health helped co-sponsor.

“In April, we did a tour in Ohio and went to five cities there,” Baran said.

After Alexandria, the tour’s next stop is Lake Charles, then on to Opelousas, Baton Rouge and, finally, New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival on July 2 to July 4.

“They’ll be doing free testing at the Convention Center for anybody who is there for the Essence Music Festival,” said Jack Carrel.

Carrel is prevention program manager for the Office of Public Health’s HIV/AIDS program in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

“Alexandria at this point is fairly low,” Carrel said, referring to the number of HIV/AIDS cases in this area compared to other areas in the state.

“I think the important message for this area is, because rates are low here, this is the time to get tested, learn how to protect yourself, so that the rates stay low here,” Carrel said.

“There are 800 people who are living with HIV in this area and so it’s still a big issue here in Alexandria, and the state as a whole,” Carrel said.

As of Dec. 31, 2008, the Office of Public Health reports a cumulative total of 28,676 persons have been diagnosed with HIV infection in Louisiana, including 312 cases in children under the age of 13.

The emphasis of the tour was on getting black males tested.

In all regions of Louisiana, the percentage of persons living with HIV/AIDS who are black is significantly higher than the percentage of the general population that is black, according to information provided by Office of Public Health personnel.

In Louisiana, the HIV case rate for blacks is almost seven times higher than the HIV case rate for whites.

Dr. David J. Holcombe, regional administrator/medical director of Region VI of the state Office of Public Health, Region VI, said Louisiana used to place fifth in the nation in the rates of HIV/AIDS cases but has moved up to fourth place.

“We’re even worse than that in syphilis and gonorrhea and so this is a big problem, and unfortunately it’s disproportionally a problem in the minority community,” Holcombe said.

“So this is something that needs to be discussed at every dinner table, every school and every church,” Holcombe said.

“It’s not a gay, white disease — most people who are infected now are black heterosexual women. That’s our biggest number of increase in new cases,” Holcombe said.

“Everyone needs to be tested. Ignorance is not bliss and silence is not golden. This is an epidemic and we need to work on it aggressively,” Holcombe said.

More information is available online at http://www.HIV411.org or by calling toll-free 1-800-99-AIDS-9 (1-800-992-4379). Another on-line resource can be found at http://www.greaterthan.org.

Alexandria man accused of fighting his wife

Curtis Williams

By EverythingCenla staff

Curtis Williams, 25, of 828 Bush Ave., Alexandria was arrested Sunday night and accused of strangling his wife, according to Alexandria Police

According to the written report, the following allegedly occurred:

Officers arrived to the couple’s home about 11:52 p.m. and talked to the wife who told them Williams attached her while she was in the bed listening to music.

Williams allegedly came into the bedroom and jerked the headphones out of her ears. He grabbed her by the arms causing the wife to scream and scratch him while trying to get away. Williams used his forearm to press on his wife’s neck in a choking manner.

Once Williams released pressure from his wife’s neck, he allegedly kicked her off of the bed onto the floor. When she tried to leave the bedroom and make it to the hallway, Williams regained control and laid on top of her keeping her from leaving the home to ask for help.

The woman told police she tried several times to leave the bedroom, but Williams refused to let her leave. He repeatedly pulled her back in the bedroom for about 40 minutes before she was able to break free and leave the residence.

The wife went one block from her home and called 911 for help.

When officers arrived, Williams allegedly admitted to grabbing his wife’s forearm and stopping her for leaving the home.

Williams accused his wife of hitting and scratching him for no reason and that he grabbed her in self defense. Officers noticed multiple scratches on Williams’ head, face, neck and chest.

Williams was arrested and booked into the Rapides Parish Jail. He was booked on charges of  domestic abuse battery by strangulation and false imprisonment.

Deville man accused of fighting woman

Jarrod Guin

Jarrod L. Guin, 33, of 63 Nation Road, Deville, was arrested Saturday, June 25, in connection with a battery on a woman and other criminal activities, according to Sheriff Charles F. Wagner Jr.

Guin is accused of fighting the woman, leaving the residence and running into the woods. The woman didn’t need any medical attention. Authorities found him in the woods and made the arrest without any problems.

Guin was charged with entry into an inhabited dwelling, domestic battery, resisting arrest by flight and possession of CDS IV.  In a separate incident detectives had been investigating, Guin was charged with simple burglary, theft and firearm possession by a felon.

He was booked into the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Mitzi Gibson to seek the District 2 seat on the Alexandria City Council

Mitzi Gibson will formally announce her intentions to seek the District 2 seat on the Alexandria City Council at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Alexander Fulton Hotel.

In a press release, Gibson said her goal is to continue to invest her talents and efforts to help her district as well as the city as a whole towards continued growth.

Councilman Everett Hobbs currently represents District 2.

Gibson is a graduate of Grambling State University receiving her Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing with a minor in both Broadcasting and Journalism.

Mitzi and her husband Jerry have been married 13 years and have four children. They are members of The Word Christian Center.

Mitzi is currently employed at Home Health Care 2000 as an Account Executive.

Alexandria Council President Roosevelt Johnson to seek high city seat

Alexandria City Council President Roosevelt Johnson wants a higher position in the city. He wants the mayor’s seat.
In addition to Johnson’s wife, Johnson’s supporters included Martha Raster, the Rev. Michael Howard, and Leonard Jackson.
Xtreme Praise Ministries performed following Johnson’s announcement.
More of this story to come.