County commissioners approved a 90-day burn ban during their meeting Monday night.

Although the county’s Keetch Byram Drought Index is 439, below the 500-575 mark where a burn ban is typically enacted, commissioners approved the measure, with tall dry grass and windy conditions among the factors.

“I don’t think there’s any harm in exercising a little caution here,” County Judge Chad Adams said.

“To err on the side of caution is always a good thing,” said county fire marshal Jim Pharr, who initially recommended not putting in a ban due to the lower KBDI rating.

County honors

The commissioners took time during the meeting to present two resolutions honoring residents and their achievements.

The first honored was Doris Mitchell, owner of Uptown Café in Italy. Commissioner Pct. 3 Heath Sims read a resolution noting Texas Monthly magazine recognized Mitchell’s business as one of the top 40 best small town cafes in the state in its December issue.

Also recognized was Caroline’s Café in Midlothian, which received an honorable mention by the magazine.

“I think we’re very fortunate to have two eating establishments (recognized by Texas Monthly),” Sims said. “We’ve got two of the top ones in the state of Texas.”

Hope Clinic report

Hope Clinic executive director Mackie Owens introduced Alex Smith as the new executive director for North Texas Behavioral Health Authority. Smith, a Waxahachie resident and former board member for Hope Clinic, will oversee mental health services for a seven-county region, including Ellis County.

Smith, who has 30 years of experience in health care and management, noted several challenges and said he would work to ensure services.

Kelly Echard, a project coordinator for Hope Clinic, updated the commissioners on a comprehensive needs assessment under way in the county. The assessment is part of the clinic’s process of applying for status as a federally qualified health center.

Echard explained that Hope Clinic is a faith-based organization serving medically underserved Ellis County residents.

“We treat the whole person. We listen and we care. We want to give them hope in whatever area they need,” she said. “We see the need to grow and we believe it’s in our best interest to serve our patients.”

In looking to become an FQHC, Hope Clinical ready offers the prerequisite primary care and preventive health care and is offering additional services, including prenatal and dental are.

Services are offered on a sliding scale – it is not a free clinic, Echard said, noting the clinic now accepts Medicare and Medicaid and is applying to be a CHIP provider.

Thirty-six percent of all patients come from Waxahachie, with 24 percent from Ennis, 12 percent from Red Oak and 10 percent from Midlothian, with the remainder from the county’s small communities.

“We don’t just serve the indigent population,” Echard said. “We really serve the uninsured, those in transition or who are out of work.”

Twenty-four percent of the county’s 33,000 residents are uninsured, with the clinic seeing about 4,000 patients per year. About 25 percent of the residents fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is a family of four making less than 20,000 per year.

Eighty-five percent of Hope Clinic’s patients have a chronic disease and 286 are on a waiting list to see a dentist. The next new patient appointment available is in May. On a monthly basis, about 800 prescription assistance forms are completed for patients.

“We need more health care providers,” Echard said, noting additional needs include public transportation to help patients and more funding.

Echard asked for the commissioners’ support as the clinic moves toward FQHC status.

“I would love to come back and share with you my finds from the feasibility study,” she said.

County reports

In other business, the commissioners approved:

• Gerald Tyler as a new member to Ferris Emergency Services District No. 5. Jerry Smith, the nominee for Red Oak ESD No 4, was introduced to the commissioners, who will consider his appointment at a subsequent meeting.  

• Ray Brindle and Dave Wheeler as members of the Midway Airport Joint Zoning Board.

• several construction and bond-related agenda items relating to the Ennis sub-courthouse, the new courts and administration building and the jail addition. Much of the utility relocation and pier work has been done and

County engineer Joe White gave an update on the construction projects, noting 150 piers drilled for the new courts and administration building, with another 40 complete at the jail addition.

Overall, the project is on time, it was noted.

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