Shelby Awarded Alabama Rural Health Award

May 22, 2023

Former U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama was recently awarded the Alabama Rural Health Association’s ‘Legislator of the Year’ award at the 2023 annual conference in Hoover.

“Senator Shelby and his staff were always receptive to our advocacy for issues around rural health and other issues that impact rural Alabama,” said Farrell Turner, president of the Alabama Rural Health Association (ARHA).

ARHA is the state’s leader in supporting and promoting rural healthcare. With a membership of more than 1,000 healthcare professionals statewide, the association is one of the largest in the nation and advocates for legislation and policy beneficial to rural providers and facilities. In addition, the association supplies education and training to healthcare providers in rural communities statewide.

Former Senator Shelby received this award due to his career of supporting rural health legislation. Such legislation included the Save Rural Hospitals Acts of 2020 and 2021, Fair Medicare Payments Model Act of 2017, and multiple bills supporting telehealth, broadband, and other elements supporting rural health.

“Former Senator Shelby is an exemplary leader in policy and public service,” said David L. Albright, PhD, president-elect of the ARHA. “We are grateful to him for a career supporting legislation building and sustaining communities across rural Alabama.”

For more information about the Alabama Rural Health Association and its awards recipients, visit

Photo taken by Matthew Wood.

Delta Region Community Health Systems Development Program Applications Opening

The next cohort for the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development (DRCHSD) Program is forming now. They are accepting applications from interested facilities now to begin programming in Winter 2023.

To learn more about the program and application process, you are invited to attend an informational webinars for hospitals and FQHCs on Tuesday, June 6th from 11am-12pm CST and for RHCs and small clinics on Thursday, June 29th from 11am-12pm CST.

The DRCHSD program is a collaboration between FORHP, DRA and the National Rural Health Resource Center and has served 54 health care organizations and communities since 2017. The program is open to Critical Access Hospitals, small rural hospitals, Rural Health Clinics, and other rural health care organizations and offers nearly $250,000 per year in technical assistance around quality improvement, financial and operational improvement, telehealth, community care coordination, workforce/leadership development, emergency medical services, and population health. In addition to TA, the program also provides financial support to facilities for the development and implementation of telehealth services, which includes funding for equipment, hardware, software, and training. 

Eligible counties in the State of Alabama are included below.

DRA designated counties in Alabama:


ARHA Welcomes Two New Board Members

The Alabama Rural Health Association is pleased to welcome two new board members who were inducted at the 2023 Annual Conference in Hoover last month.  These two board members are Dawna Nelson, Ph.D., and Melanie Baucom, DNP, CRNP.

Dawna Nelson is an alumna of and current faculty member at Alabama State University. She is a research fellow for the Alabama Commission of Higher Education (ACHE) focused on rural healthcare workforce development. She facilitated our Rural Road show in Montgomery this past year. She brings lived experience as a member of the Black community as well as her professional experience working alongside historically marginalized communities to address health equity, which aligns with ARHA’s commitment to reduce healthcare disparities in our rural communities.

Melanie Baucom, DNP, CRNP is a family nurse practitioner who has provided primary care to rural and medically underserved patients for over ten years. She is a faculty member and leads an initiative at the UAB School of Nursing mentoring nurse practitioner students dedicated to working in rural communities, which has graduated over 100 primary care nurse practitioners prepared to provide care to rural communities across the state. She is interested in serving on the board of directors for the ARHA in order to foster partnerships and assist the organization in meeting its mission of advocating for rural health issues in Alabama.These two members replaced expired terms of longstanding board members and volunteers Amelia de los Reyes of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and Susan Campbell of Rush Health Systems in Livingston.

Dale Quinney Receives NRHA President’s Award in 2022

Dale Quinney, former ARHA Executive Director, won the National Rural Health Association’s President’s Award in 2022. Below is the announcement from NRHA in recognition of Dale’s achievements:


As the Executive Director of the Alabama Rural Health Association for 16 years, Dale Quinney has made a difference by using data to deliver powerful messages promoting rural health. His special talent is knowing how to present data to generate the reaction that is needed to enact change.


In 2009 and again in 2013, Dale produced the Selected Health Status Indicator Reports for each of Alabama’s 67 counties. These reports presented measures on more than 90 health status indicators, comparing the county to the state and the nation on each indicator. These reports were used to identify local health issues and obtain additional information for writing more competitive grant applications. He shared the report with local papers, elected officials, and other stakeholders to showcase healthcare as an economic factor.

Dale served as the leader of a team of data specialists to develop the first Community Health Assessment for Alabama, working with the Alabama Department of Public Health and over 300 other organizations. The team determined the ten leading health issues through large surveys, and compiled them into a detailed report which had special emphasis on Alabama’s rural areas.

Dale leveraged data to save the Wedowee Hospital. Randolph County had already lost its largest hospital and the hospital in Wedowee was old and in bad condition. A large medical center in Georgia agreed to staff and furnish a new hospital in Wedowee if the county could provide 20 million to build the facility.

Dale was contacted by a member of the county commission and asked to speak at a public forum which promised to be heated. Polls indicated that the people were not going to pass a 1 cent sales tax to build the hospital since they were already paying a property tax for healthcare. At the public forum, Dale pointed out that Randolph County had the 2nd highest motor vehicle accident death rate, the 3rd highest accidental firearm death rate, and the 2nd highest stroke death rate among all 67 Alabama counties. He noted that these were situations where the victims needed to get to a hospital emergency department as soon as possible.

His remarks, along with additional information he provided to the local newspaper, were given credit for changing public opinion on the proposed tax. It was approved, receiving 84% of the vote.

His colleagues at other state rural health associations have wonderful comments about his work:

Ryan Kelly from Mississippi says, “From the first time that I met Dale Quinney, I could instantly tell that his passion for improving rural health was deeper than just a career. He lived in rural Alabama, dedicated his free time toward improving rural healthcare, and he sincerely wanted the best for all people. It is determination and dedication like this that makes a true difference in the lives and hearts of others. He has inspired me through my journey in rural health, and no doubt has done the same with so many others.”

Tina Elliot from Indiana remarked, “I’ve enjoyed meeting Dale at various National Rural Health Association events, and learn about how he is meeting the needs of rural communities through Operation Save Rural Alabama, an organization he founded. Dale speaks about materials produced in rural areas that are critical to the survival of rural communities that produce economic impacts for everyone. He shares about the lack of healthy population growth and how to meet the healthcare needs in rural Alabama. Dale talks about his involvement with establishing an Area Health Education Center program in Alabama to expand the healthcare workforce and to create opportunities for interprofessional education.”

Beth O’Connor, who as 2022 NRHA President selected Dale, added, “Concerning the state I represent, Virginia, Dale impressed on me the need to convey information to our elected officials regarding everything rural communities do to support the United States as a whole. He helped me understand how rural communities need to stop begging for resources that came from our land and start communicating how rural supports urban.”

Dale has received many accolades for his work, including the D.G. Gill Award for making an exceptional contribution to public health in Alabama, and the Ira Myers Award. This is the most prestigious public health award in Alabama and is presented to those making a significant impact on public health in Alabama. Dale is one of only two non-physicians to ever receive the Ira Myers Award.

Dale insists that his most important recognition is his family. He and his wife, Susan, have been married for 46 years. Their children Brent and Leigh, along with their spouses, are carrying on Dale’s legacy by making their own contributions to healthcare in Alabama. Dale and Susan have six grandchildren, including two sets of twins.

Addressing the rural crisis in many states and local communities requires leadership, commitment, and coordination, and Dale Quinney has offered those to rural Alabama, and rural America.2

Results from the Alabama Rural Health Roadshow

The Alabama Rural Health Association, in effort to learn more about the needs of its members, conducted a four-part information gathering roadshow during the month of November, 2022.  Traveling to four locations, Montgomery, Hartselle, Atmore, and Livingston, more than 150 rural constituents and stakeholders participated in a series of listening sessions. 

During these sessions, they were presented with data regarding rural health in Alabama, and then broke into four groups to discuss what their experiences have been and what improvements could be made to policies and strategy to rural health.  Each group wrote their desired policy improvements on tear-away white pages and then all attendees marked their top 10 preferred improvements with a sticky dot.  The results of each roadshow were tabulated by the association and amalgamated into a single tabulation, with similar categories combined for each of viewing.

The results are as follows:

Policy NeedsResults
Medicaid expansion41
Mental health access34
Workforce Improvement (recruitment, retention, compliance, scope of practice)29
Rural transportation29
Healthy literacy / health education issues27
Increase in telehealth utilization, coordination and support20
Social determinants of health (food insecurity, poverty, housing)15
Broadband access11
Increase provider rates with Medicaid9
Coordination of services especially transportation9
NPs/CNM increased scope8
Food insecurities / food deserts8
Standardized credentialing7
Increase provider rates with Medicare7
Expose students to health professions6
Comprehensive sex education in k-126
Not having enough doctors6
Taking tools and skills away from rural/primary physicians (sending everything to specialists)6
Rural residency training6
Apprenticeships w/in health prof- tech schools, shadowing5
Price gouging5
Pharmaceutical cost5
Family Support5
Elder/Disabled services5
Too many people without insurance5
Utilization of community health advocates5
Increase state funding for ARMSA4
Relationship building4
Focus on multidisciplinary approach to PT care4
Hospital vulnerability4
EMS service availability4
Physician fee schedule issues3
High administration cost3
Standardized claims filing3
Safety in Schools3
Community transportation3
Knowing the community that’s being worked in3
Awareness of resources3
Health equity3
Maintain Sources of income (post covid)3
Not having docs in the correction locations in the state (incentive issues)3
Delay in seeking services cost3
Encourage physicians to recruit local2
More cohesion w/ reg. agencies2
Substance Abuse (opioid, ETOH)2

One week after the conclusion of the roadshow, the Alabama Rural Health Association board of directors met at a special in-person session in Clanton to discuss these results and the strategy for the association moving forward.  After significant discussion, the following action items will be taken.

  1. The Alabama Rural Health Association will continue its advocacy toward Medicaid expansion, with the most immediate action being a letter sent to Governor Ivey corresponding with National Rural Health Day declaring the need for this expanded coverage for the state’s working poor.
  2. The Alabama Rural Health Association will have a renewed focus on mental and behavioral health services, with a more direct need to providing collaboration with these services and primary care in the state.  This may consist of increased educational sessions, connection for direct partnerships, or grant opportunities.
  3. The Alabama Rural Health Association will establish a new effort to recruit rural constituents into its contact lists in order to directly assist with health literacy and education efforts.  Establishing a list of constituents will provide the association with an outlet to educate the public.  The education may consist of each-to-view flyers, video, and other materials that help the public to navigate the healthcare system and understand the complexities of the system.  The association may pursue grant-funding to produce these videos and other marketing efforts.

The Association is appreciative to its constituents for providing this direct feedback and helping to guide policy in 2023 and beyond.  We know that these efforts to continue to improve rural health will take time, but the end result will be worth the effort.