More than $8M allocated to expand health care, grow jobs in Boyd, Pike counties

Funding announced at annual SOAR Summit

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Two new projects in Pike and Boyd counties have been selected for more than $8 million in funding through the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot grant program, Gov. Andy Beshear and U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) announced Thursday during the 2020 Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) virtual summit.

Pikeville Medical Center, if approved by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), will receive $4.27 million to expand and equip the Pikeville Medical Center’s Leonard Lawson Cancer Center. With the expansion, the Pike County cancer center will increase the chemotherapy treatment area by 7,000 s.f.

The King’s Daughters Health System expansion project will receive $4 million, if approved by OSMRE, for the purchase of health care equipment. This is expected to result in the creation of 250 full-time jobs and mitigate job losses and concerns about availability of care in the region after the closure of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

“These grants will bring real improvements to the lives of our people in Eastern Kentucky. My administration knows that health care is a basic human right, and it has never been more important than now, as we battle this global health pandemic,” Beshear said. “We are committed to working with our federal partners to help deliver the best possible care for all of our citizens. It’s how we build a stronger Eastern Kentucky and a better Kentucky for everyone.”

Rogers, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has championed $540 million in federal funding for the AML Pilot program since 2016, of which $130 million has been awarded to Kentucky.

Donovan Blackburn, Pikeville Medical Center CEO and vice president of the board of directors, thanked Beshear and Rogers for their continued support to improve the quality of health care in Kentucky and East Kentucky.

“Their ongoing commitment to bolster and improve the economy of Eastern Kentucky by creating jobs while developing a healthier workforce is crucial for our region,” Blackburn said. “Many cancer patients have no choice but to travel outside of our region and, many times, out of our state for treatment. This funding will change that. With this funding, these patients will receive advanced treatment close to home, which will support our mountain families and our local economy. We are grateful for the leadership and this much-needed investment to expand our workforce and enhance our fight on cancer.”

Kristie Whitlatch, president and CEO of King’s Daughters said, “We are honored to receive this grant from the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands. Our community has seen a significant loss in jobs due to the decline in coal and steel and recently experienced another loss with the closure of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital. These funds will help mitigate these economic impacts while also ensuring our community has access to world-class health care.”

King’s Daughters committed an additional $1 million to the expansion project.

The two projects were the first of the 2020 AML Pilot applications to be selected for funding by Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman. More than 70 applications were received by the cabinet’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands seeking funding through this year’s AML Pilot program to revitalize the coalfields in Kentucky’s Appalachian region through economic development. Since 2016, 43 projects in 21 counties have been selected for funding through the program.

During the summit, Beshear also announced that the section of US 460 from the intersection with KY 80 at Beaver, near Elkhorn City, to the Virginia state line is set to officially open to traffic Nov. 16.

Beshear and Rogers also announced Colby Hall as the new executive director of SOAR. Hall, a native of Somerset and a University of Kentucky graduate, will guide the agency, which is focused on moving the Appalachian region forward through entrepreneurship and innovation.