The Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award recognizes a Louisiana Legislator for outstanding leadership in promoting legislation to benefit access to quality care in rural communities. Factors taken into consideration include the wisdom and foresight in dealing with rural issues and the demonstrated leadership in addressing the healthcare needs of rural and under-served communities throughout Louisiana. The LRHA is honored to name Representative Malinda White (District 75) as the 2018 Rural Legislator of the Year.
During the legislative session, when rural hospital funding was threatened, Rep. White met with legislators and spoke boldly and openly on the House floor to save the Washington Parish rural hospitals. She stated, “the domino effect of cuts for access to rural hospitals will impact everyone. If you cut funding to the only hospitals in Washington Parish, people will essentially die. I will continue to fight for the hospitals that provide care for our community.”
This advocacy helped moved forward the continued funding for parish hospitals. Rene Ragas, Our Lady of Angels Hospital CEO, stated, “Rep. White is a tireless advocate for funding of safety net care in the rural community of Washington Parish.”
As is her nature, she has provided hands on advocacy in cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Health, Governor’s Office and Our Lady of Angels Hospital for opening the parish’s only drug detox and rehab center which is currently in the state contractual phase. She has been undaunting on drawing attention to the dire need for comprehensive substance abuse treatment for her district. She actively supports the Bogalusa Strong Healthy Community Movement that addresses barriers to good health (physical, environmental, behavioral) providing crucial input on community needs during meetings and serves as a member of the Bogalusa Mayor’s Wellness Council. Her leadership by example is evident through her active participation in events such as the Annual Mayor’s Walk, Teen Summit, and collaborations to increase physically activity and lower injuries through city infrastructure improvements like Complete Streets and a Master Bike and Pedestrian Plan.
Additionally, Rep. White actively advocated for physical activity/healthy living opportunities to combat the obesity epidemic by securing Capital Outlay Program funds for a new sports complex for the Washington Parish Recreation District and is currently working to secure building improvement funds for the Bogalusa YMCA to expand social, leadership and fitness opportunities. Resident Paul Farmer said it best, “Rep. White is a "doer" not just a "talker". She is heavily involved in community affairs and has done a great job for our district. I give her the "highest marks" for all endeavors.” Rep. White’s tireless support for the overall health and well-being for her rural district is truly making a difference.
Rural healthcare providers know that they can count of Rep. White to do what is right and to make the hard decisions that support access to healthcare in rural communities. In grateful appreciation and distinguished recognition of her hard work, devotion, and commitment to rural healthcare, the Louisiana Rural Health Association is honored to recognize Rep White as the 2018 Rural Legislator of the Year.