Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital first rural NC hospital to offer extended telepsychiatry services
Murphy, N.C. – Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH) is the first North Carolina facility to implement extended services of the North Carolina Statewide Telepsychiatry Program (NC-STeP). Regardless of their ability to pay, EWCH patients now have access to critical follow-up behavioral health care coordination after they are discharged from receiving telepsychiatric and teletherapy services in the emergency department.
East Carolina University (ECU) is home to NC-STeP, which is led by nationally-recognized telepsychiatry leader Dr. Sy Saeed. Since 2015, ECU and EWCH have been partners in offering telepsychiatry services to patients in the western North Carolina region. NC-STeP was recently awarded a $1.2 million federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to expand telehealth-based mental health services to rural North Carolina emergency departments, where patients who present with acute mental health crises often experience barriers to community resources and ongoing care coordination.
“ECU recognized the vital need for this program in our region and EWCH is thrilled to pilot it for our community,” said EWCH Director of Operations and Associate Chief Nursing Officer Teresa Bowleg, MSN, RN. “Because most people who visit any emergency department do so in a time of crisis, it can be a stressful time for our patients and their families. This service is especially helpful for those patients who suffer from anxiety, depression and situational stressors.”
This expansion project has allowed NC-STeP to provide telebehavioral counseling and care coordination in at least five rural hospital sites, including EWCH. Follow-up care coordination after discharge is critical to ensure that patients have access to additional treatment resources.
“NC-STeP is excited for EWCH to be our first site in the state of North Carolina to offer these new services for patients in need of mental health care,” said Dr. Kalyan Srinivas Muppavarapu, clinical assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Brody School of Medicine at ECU. “EWCH has been an outstanding partner as NC-STeP grows to provide mental health services to rural and underserved areas across the state. EWCH is always open and willing to explore potential solutions that will provide additional mental health resources to the people of western North Carolina. Our team looks forward to working with EWCH to bring these much-needed resources to the region.”
Seniors in Cherokee County looking to continue their education after high school may not realize there are many sources available to help pay for those expenses.
Cherokee County Schools, Cherokee Scout, Rotary Club of Murphy and WKRK wanted to work together to make finding scholarships a bit easier this year.
Below is a list of scholarships currently available. Students should see their Guidance Counselors for more information. Be advised, many deadlines are quickly approaching.
State’s trends continue to move in the right direction and key indicators used to inform decisions throughout the pandemic remain stable
As North Carolina’s trends continue to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases with 31.7% of North Carolinians over 18 having received at least one dose of vaccine, Governor Roy Cooper announced today that the state will continue to ease some COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order No. 204 will take effect March 26 at 5 pm is set to expire April 30 at 5 pm. The state’s general mask mandate remains in effect.
“Our fast and fair vaccine distribution and our sustained progress with the COVID-19 metrics tell us we can move forward with easing restrictions if we do it safely,” said Governor Cooper.
“We are in a promising place. With North Carolina’s COVID-19 key metrics improving and vaccinations increasing, we can responsibly use our dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions guided by science and data,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Executive Order No. 204 has three general categories of occupancy restrictions: up to 100 percent capacity, 75 percent capacity, and 50 percent capacity. All businesses must continue to maintain the 6 feet of distance requirement between patrons and implement other safety protocols as they expand their capacity.
Executive Order No. 204 will also increase mass gathering limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 25 to 50 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 50 to 100. This Order also fully lifts the restriction on the late-night sale and service of alcoholic beverages on bars, restaurants, and other establishments.
Indoors and Outdoors up to 100% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing
Indoors up to 75% and Outdoors up to 100% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing
Indoors and Outdoors up to 50% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing
*Movie theaters and gaming facilities may operate at up to 75% capacity outdoors.
Activities and settings are lower risk when they involve interacting with fewer people, being outside, keeping masks on the entire time, keeping interactions with people short (under 15 minutes), staying physically distant, and avoiding singing, yelling, and cheering, according to public health officials.
North Carolina is continuing to see fast and fair vaccine distribution. To date, the state has administered over 4.1 million doses. Over 31.7 percent of people 18 and up have received at least one dose, and 18.8 percent are fully vaccinated. Vaccine equity efforts remain a priority, with 18 percent of first doses administered to Black North Carolinians and 8 percent to members of the LatinX community last week.
DHHS also released updates to the K-12 guidance. Schools should return to in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols in the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit. This update aligns with Session Law 2021-4, which Governor Cooper and bipartisan legislative leadership worked on together. Plan A has already been widely adopted across the state as districts, educators and support staff have worked hard to get students back in the classroom. The updated Toolkit no longer requires schools to do daily temperature checks and symptom screenings. Safety protocols such as masks and cleaning of high traffic areas are still required. Schools are also highly encouraged to conduct free screening testing as recommended by the CDC. (Read the updated Toolkit)
State health officials are continuing to monitor the presence of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to have a mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.
Read Executive Order No. 204.
Read Frequently Asked Questions.
View the slides from today’s briefing.
Beginning today (March 17), people in Group 4 who have a medical condition that puts them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness and those who live in certain congregate settings will be eligible for vaccination. You can find a COVID-19 vaccination site near you at MySpot.nc.gov.
North Carolina follows the recommendations of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as to who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. That includes adults of any age with conditions, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, sickle cell disease, obesity, or smoking.
In addition, those who are eligible starting March 17 includes anyone who is living in higher risk congregate or close group living settings who is not already vaccinated.
Learn more about who is eligible in Group 4.
The rest of Group 4, which includes other essential workers, will become eligible April 7. Previously eligible groups – health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, people 65 and older, and frontline essential workers – will continue to be prioritized.
Some vaccine providers may not be ready to open to people with a medical condition on March 17 if they are still experiencing high demand for vaccines in Groups 1, 2 and 3.
Visit YourShotYourSpot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish) for more information about the vaccines, including answers to frequently asked questions..
Not sure what vaccine group you’re in? Visit FindMyGroup.nc.gov. You can also contact the COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center toll-free at 1-888-675-4567.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced the launch of statewide open enrollment for NC Medicaid Managed Care. Beneficiaries can enroll online, by calling the NC Medicaid Managed Care Call Center at 833-870-5500 (TTY: 833-870-5588) or through the free NC Medicaid Managed Care mobile app available on Google Play or the App Store. They can also use the mail-in forms sent to them in the enrollment packet.“
With the start of NC Medicaid Managed Care open enrollment, families now have the chance to make important decisions about their health care to prepare for managed care launch in July,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “There are many resources available to help families select the health plans and providers that best meet their specific needs.”
The NC Medicaid Managed Care website offers a wide variety of tools and information to assist beneficiaries in choosing a primary care provider (PCP) and a health plan for their families’ care. Tools include frequently asked questions, a chat function, the Medicaid and NC Health Choice Provider and Health Plan Lookup Tool with four categories of search capabilities, advanced search based on specialty and the ability to view all providers within an organization/location and by practice name.
Most people who receive Medicaid can choose from five health plans as part of the state’s transition to managed care. Some people will not need to choose a health plan because of the type of health services they need. All health plans are required to have the same Medicaid services, such as office visits, blood tests and X-rays. Health plans each have their own network of qualified doctors and health care professionals. Health plans also have added services such as educational assistance and programs to have a healthy pregnancy. People can choose a PCP from their health plan’s network to deliver their families’ Medicaid services.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Tribal Option is an additional managed care option, and the first Indian Managed Care Entity in the nation that is available for federally recognized Tribal members and individuals eligible to receive services through the Indian Health Service.
Open enrollment ends May 14, 2021. Beneficiaries who enroll with a health plan during open enrollment will have the opportunity to select a PCP from a list of contracted providers. If they do not choose a health plan before May 14, one will be assigned to them by NC Medicaid. In the first 90 days after their coverage effective date, beneficiaries can change health plans for any reason. After that, unless there is a special reason, beneficiaries cannot change health plans until the next Medicaid recertification date.
For more information, beneficiaries can reference the enrollment packets that were mailed to them, visit the NC Medicaid Managed Care website or call the NC Medicaid Managed Care Call Center at 833-870-5500 (TTY: 833-870-5588).
CMS Relaxes Guidance for Visitation in Long-Term Care Facilities; NCDHHS Rescinds LTCF Visitation Secretarial Order
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is updating its visitation guidance for long-term care facilities to allow for in-person, indoor or outdoor, visitation in most circumstances. The change aligns with new guidance released this week from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reflects rapidly improving trends in long-term care facilities.
“This action shows that our vaccination efforts are already having benefits,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “I am grateful to all who have worked so hard to protect our most vulnerable residents and am so thankful that families and loved ones can be physically reunited.”
In addition to updating its guidance, the department is rescinding Secretarial Order 6: Visitation for Long-term Care Facilities.
While outdoor visitation is best when possible, indoor visitation is now allowed for all residents, regardless of vaccination status, except for a few circumstances when visitation should be limited due to a high risk of COVID-19 transmission in a particular facility. It is recommended that unvaccinated residents who wish to become vaccinated should not start indoor visitation until they have been fully vaccinated.
Additionally, new long-term care residents will not be required to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and have not had close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the previous 14 days. Fully vaccinated and non-immunocompromised health care providers with higher risk exposures who are asymptomatic also do not need to be restricted from work.
In order to mitigate the risk of relaxing restrictions, vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care facilities and continued adherence to prevention measures, including the 3 Ws – wear, wait, wash – are still the safest approach to reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Expanding visitation has substantial benefits to residents and their visitors. In order to keep everyone safe, visitors and residents should continue to adhere to the 3 Ws, and visitors should still be screened and restricted from visiting if they have signs or symptoms of infection or have been in prolonged close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the prior 14 days.
The full guidance from CMS and the CDC can be found at:
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — The Board of Directors of Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) announced in Tuesday night’s Board Meeting that Allan Glidewell has been selected as general manager. Glidewell brings more than twenty-three years of experience in the utility industry working primarily in electric cooperatives.
“Glidewell’s knowledge, experience, longevity and leadership within the electric cooperative caught the attention of our Board,” said Ray Cook, president of BRMEMC’s Board of Directors. “Our Board and legal counsel spent several weeks interviewing and vetting the candidates, and we feel we have an excellent choice as our general manager who will lead the Co-op successfully into the future. We look forward to having Mr. Glidewell as a part of the BRMEMC family. On behalf of the Board, we want to especially thank Interim General Manager Erik Brinke for his leadership during the search for our new general manager.”
Glidewell currently serves as branch manager for Fisher & Arnold, Inc.; a multi-discipline architecture and engineering firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is responsible for planting and growing the private organization’s venture into the Chattanooga and Birmingham markets.
During his tenure as vice president of operations and engineering at Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, he managed daily operations of the 50,000 meter co-op including safety, engineering, operations, information technology, maintenance and member services. He oversaw the deployment of a state-of-the-art AMI, outage management and SCADA system as well as the construction of a fiber network to connect co-op facilities, substations and commercial accounts. Glidewell accepted a couple of positions within the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) working as manager of applied line services and then as transmission system manager.
“I believe in service to others and electric cooperatives present unique opportunities to serve. Electric cooperatives were built on the idea of service, and they function best when service is at the heart of each decision, action and policy. Employees and the members they serve are a co-op’s greatest asset,” said Incoming General Manager Glidewell. “An electric cooperative has to be flexible and nimble; ensuring that we meet folks where their needs are. This includes both employees and members. We’re in an industry that is essential and ever changing, but we can’t forget about service to one another.”
Glidewell grew up in west Tennessee. He holds a bachelor of science in engineering from the University of Tennessee and a master of business administration degree from Union University. He is a widower and the father of three grown children with his first grandchild on the way. Glidewell also enjoys playing bluegrass music.
Glidewell will begin as general manager Monday, March 22. “I offer my sincere gratitude to the Board of Directors for the opportunity to serve Blue Ridge Mountain EMC as the next general manager,” said Glidewell.
Visit brmemc.com for more information.
About Blue Ridge Mountain EMC
Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is a member-owned electric cooperative headquartered in Young Harris, Georgia, serving nearly 47,000 members in Cherokee and Clay Counties in Western North Carolina, and Towns, Union and Fannin Counties in Northeast Georgia. Organized locally in 1937, BRMEMC has invested well over $280 million in physical infrastructure in its mission to provide reliable electric and broadband services to its members where those services would not otherwise have been available. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.
Prescribed burns planned on the Cheoah and Tusquitee Ranger Districts to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health
Murphy, NC - The U.S. Forest Service is planning five prescribed burns on the Cheoah and Tusquitee Ranger Districts in Clay, Cherokee, and Graham counties in the coming month to reduce the risk of wildfires. The low- to medium-intensity burns also create healthier, more diverse, and more resilient forests that can better support wildlife.
Below are the controlled burn locations planned for this spring on the Cheoah and Tusquitee Ranger Districts:
County - Location - Size (acres)
Cherokee - Hanging Dog Campground and Boat Ramp - 1,000
Clay - Fires Creek - 8,100
Clay - Buck Creek - 350
Graham - Meeting House Area - 2,100
Graham - Shell Stand/Cook Branch Area - 1,100
Graham - Cheoah Ranger District Office - 20
The dates for the burns and the actual number of units burned will depend upon weather conditions. Burning days are changeable because the proper conditions are needed-wind and relative humidity are key factors in fire behavior, safety and smoke control. Prescribed burning will only occur when environmental conditions permit. During the burns, proper personnel and equipment will be on site and some roads and trails may be closed to ensure safety.
All prescribed burns are thoroughly planned and analyzed by a team of specialists to ensure that wildlife, fisheries, rare plants and historic sites are not harmed. Habitat for a variety of wildlife species can be improved through carefully planned and executed prescribed burns. Regular burns promote the growth of plants that provide food for wildlife including important game animals such as deer and wild turkey.
Prescribed burning is an important and versatile forest management tool that can mimic natural fire disturbances and reduce underbrush and flammable vegetation, which is key to limiting wildfire risk.
For prescribed burn updates follow the National Forests in North Carolina on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nfsnc or Twitter at twitter.com/NFsNCarolina.
Updates will be posted on our website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nfsnc/alerts-notices.
Group 4 vaccinations to begin March 24 for people who have a medical condition that puts them at higher risk or who live in certain congregate settings
Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. announced that additional frontline essential workers in Group 3 will be eligible for vaccinations beginning tomorrow, March 3. The expedited timeline follows the approval of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine and an expected increase in vaccine supply to North Carolina.
“The state and our providers continue to work extremely hard to get people vaccinated in a way that’s fast and fair,” said Gov. Cooper. “The third vaccine and improving vaccine supply will help us get more people vaccinated more quickly. Our essential frontline workers have remained on the job throughout this pandemic and I am grateful for their work.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes as the federal government has also increased vaccine in North Carolina beyond the state’s allocation. A new federally-supported site will open in Greensboro next week, and Walgreens is providing vaccine through the federal pharmacy program. While there is still not enough vaccine for everyone, the improved supply has contributed to providers reporting readiness to expand access to additional Group 3 essential workers. Under the timeline outlined today, providers may move to vaccinating these individuals on March 3. Sec. Cohen also unveiled a Public Service Announcement encouraging vaccine use among Group 3 essential workers. (See Deeper Dive for additional detail)
State officials continue to encourage providers to exhaust each week’s vaccine shipment before the following week’s shipment arrives. Some vaccine providers may not be ready to open to frontline essential workers on March 3 if they are still experiencing high demand for vaccines in Groups 1, 2, and 3.
Gov. Cooper also outlined an expected timeline for beginning Group 4 vaccinations. Beginning on March 24, people at higher risk from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions will become eligible to receive a vaccine, as well as people in certain congregate-living settings. (See Deeper Dive for additional detail)
“This is a really exciting moment,” said Secretary Cohen. "A third COVID-19 vaccine means North Carolina can get more people vaccinated sooner and keep people out of the hospital and prevent deaths from this pandemic.”
NCDHHS also shared clarifications for Groups 1 and 4. The definition of long-term care in Group 1 has been updated for people with intellectual and developmental disability. Higher-risk medical conditions for Group 4 include intellectual and developmental disabilities including Down Syndrome, and neurologic conditions, such as dementia.
Gov. Cooper will continue to advocate to increase vaccine supply in North Carolina. Since January 20, the amount of vaccine received by the state has increased by 135%.
This week, the federal government authorized the distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen) one-shot vaccine and more than 80,000 doses are expected to arrive in the state beginning on Wednesday.
On March 10, a federally-supported community vaccination center will open in Greensboro. This site – one of just 18 sites nationally - will help the state continue its effort to reach more marginalized and underserved communities. The federal government will provide the center’s vaccine supply, which will be in addition to North Carolina’s weekly allotment from the Centers for Disease Control. It will operate seven days a week with the capacity to provide up to 3,000 vaccinations per day, with options for drive-thru service in the parking lot and walk-in service.
State officials continue to prioritize speed and equity in vaccine distribution as eligibility prioritization expands. On February 26, the Kaiser Family Foundation ranked North Carolina as first in the nation for vaccinating the largest share of its 65 and older population.
Detailed information about each vaccine group is online at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish).
Watch the DHHS Group 3 Vaccine PSA Here.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the February 26, 2021 arrest of 53 year old Terry Leon Simmons of Andrews, North Carolina, 43 year old Tina Jane Hill of Marble, North Carolina and 39 year old Keith Ryan Noles also of Marble, North Carolina for conspiring to possess crystal methamphetamine.
In October 2020, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search of 444 Lower Vengeance Creek Road, Marble North Carolina, the residence of Hill and Noles. In the search a trafficking amount of methamphetamine and several firearms were seized. From that search, Hill and Noles were charged for trafficking in methamphetamine and felon in possession of firearm. Hill and Noles subsequently were released on secure bonds.
During the last week of February 2021, with the assistance of agents with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, North Carolina ALE and Detectives of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office a joint investigation resulted in the seizure of a large quantity of crystal methamphetamine and additional firearms and other suspected illegally possessed controlled substances destined for Cherokee County North Carolina.
Keith Ryan Noles, and Tina Jane Hill were arrested and are currently incarcerated in the Cherokee County Detention Center for Conspiracy to Traffic Methamphetamine in excess of 400 grams. Both are under a $300,000.00 secure bond.
Terry Leon Simmons was arrested and is also charged with Conspiracy to Traffic Methamphetamine in excess of 400 grams. Simmons at the time of arrest had an additional amount of methamphetamine and paraphernalia on his person. Simmons is currently incarcerated in the Cherokee County Detention Center under a $350,000.00 secure bond.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated “This has been a total team effort by our office working in cooperation with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. This is a large seizure and as we continue our investigation we anticipate additional arrests in the future. Further, as you can see these individuals continue their criminal activities even after arrest. We appreciate and are glad for the cooperation of our federal, state and local partners in these endeavors.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at email@example.com.