City of LaFayette kicks-off Equitable Neighborhood Initiative

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2022

LaFAYETTE — LaFayette is one of only 15 communities in Alabama selected for participation in a bold initiative to address health care issues revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a $4 million program being spearheaded by the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and is known as the Equitable Neighborhood Initiative (ENI). Its goal is to improve health care equity by helping underserved communities in the state be more resilient to health disparities, many of which were exposed during the pandemic.

LaFayette’s participation was officially launched in an 11 a.m. CDT kickoff meeting on Tuesday at the ALFA Building on the city’s east side.

ENI is made possible by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alabama Department of Public Health. It targets communities whose populations experienced Covid-19 health disparities, tend to be of high-risk, underserved and in rural areas with large numbers of racial or ethnic minorities.

Speaking at the kickoff meeting were Mayor Kenneth Vines; Dr. Arturo Menefee, director of leadership development for the UA Center for Economic Development, and motivational speaker Dr. Earl Suttle of Leadership Success  International.

Vines welcomed a crowd of community leaders and said that he was very excited for the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative to be coming to LaFayette.

“We thank you for allowing LaFayette to be one of the 15 sites to take part in this program,” he said. “All of us who live here know full well that Chambers County and LaFayette was one of the first places in the state to be impacted by Covid, and it’s still with us. I lost a cousin this week to Covid.”

Vines added that a program like ENI is welcome in LaFayette with open arms.

“Covid has impacted us all,” said Dr. Menefee, who said that being in LaFayette was a homecoming for him. “My mother grew up in LaFayette, and I have aunts, uncles and cousins who still live here,” he said. “I’m related to the Huguleys and have attended services at Mount Lebanon Methodist Church.”

ENI, he said, is designed to help communities that were hit hard by Covid.

“Underlying issues that were present when Covid hit made things worse,” he said. “We want to better address those issues and to improve the overall health care of LaFayette and Chambers County.”

Plans are to form a community advisory group to work in local schools and to establish a health equity plan.

“We will identify partners and resources to help you address it,” Menefee said. “We can hire a liaison to work with us and help coordinate it. We can establish a healing zone in a park or nearby neighborhood. We are super excited about what we are doing. We will provide the tools you will need to make it successful. We are asking everyone to engage in this initiative.”

Menefee thanked Vines, City Manager Louis Davidson, and Fire Chief James Doody in being helpful in getting ENI to LaFayette.

“We wouldn’t be here without their help,” he said.

Dr. Suttle is an engaging, colorful sort of speaker who sought to get local people fired up about helping ENI be successful in LaFayette and Chambers County.

He said that 80 percent of success takes place just by showing up. It goes to 85 percent when one shows up and takes notes and to 90 percent when one shows up, takes notes and applies it.

“If you want to be the best person, you can be you have to serve more,” he said. “When you do that, you become more valuable. There’s no higher calling than to be of service to others. When you go to workshops, you will continue to grow as a person. Always have the attitude that you always want to learn and grow. Don’t just go through life, grow through life.”

Suttle added that it’s better to go in the right direction alone than to follow the crowd that’s heading in the wrong direction.

An Atlanta resident, Suttle has spoken to many corporate CEOs and professional athletes over the years.

Menefee wrapped up the presentation by saying ENI would be in LaFayette for the next two years. The goal is to build a health equity plan that will help build the capacity of LaFayette while making a healthier community.

ENI equips neighbors and community partners to address the pandemic-related issues of today while building capacity to deal with the health and quality of life challenges of tomorrow.

ENI is for people who are most in need. The initiative works with people who have experienced Covid-19 health disparities and are high-risk and underserved.