Raising Awareness, Saving Lives: Sheriff Patten’s Call to Action for Live Well Mississippi on April 13, 2024

No one has to remind Travis Patten, sheriff, Adams County, Mississippi, of the torrential downpour that tried to derail Mary Bird Perkins’ signature community health event, Live Well Mississippi, in April 2023. Not long after residents of southwest Mississippi and surrounding communities began arriving for the free cancer screening appointments, the sky opened up and sent everyone running for cover. But Sheriff Patten, Cancer Center team members and volunteers managed to quickly change their game plan – managing participants, health vendors and screening operations to the indoors.

Live Well MississippiHowever, when Patten looks back, it isn’t the huge storm that stands out for him, but rather the huge success the inaugural event turned out to be. Despite the wet conditions, 106 total cancer screenings were completed.

Patten, who helped spread the word for his residents to take advantage of the screening opportunity, has agreed to serve as honorary event chairperson for this year’s event on April 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Natchez Middle School. While appointments are encouraged, walk-in screenings will be available. To make a screening appointment, call (601) 202-5056 or visit MARYBIRD.ORG/LIVEWELLMS. More information on other cancer screening opportunities are available at marybird.org/get-screened.

“Attending the Live Well event was a unique experience for me. Having been involved in promoting healthy living and cancer awareness for the past eight years, this event stood out,” Patten explained. “Live Well provided on-site screening and other essential early detection resources at no cost to participants. It was the first time I witnessed such comprehensive healthcare initiatives directly benefiting our community.”

This focus on enhancing cancer care in Natchez has been Mary Bird Perkins’ goal since opening its location in the city in 2019. In this largely rural area of Mississippi and neighboring communities in Louisiana, preventative healthcare resources are often hard to come by. When they are available, residents can be required to travel long distances, made even more difficult by work schedules and barriers to transportation. The struggle to access cancer support and services is something Patten sees every day across his county.

“Health disparities, especially in terms of availability, are a significant concern,” he said. “Live Well’s introduction to this community, through the use of Mary Bird’s mobile medical units was a game-changer. This addressed a crucial need in underserved areas where residents lacked access to essential services. Having physicians and nurses on-site during the event was groundbreaking for our community, bringing healthcare services closer to those who needed them most.”

He also added that, “The most effective approach is undoubtedly a ground-level effort. Collaborating with community organizations and going door-to-door helps reach those who lack communication devices. The Cancer Center’s diligence has made a significant impact, 

Screening Bus

ensuring that even those without the means to stay connected are reached with vital healthcare information and services.”

Of the 59 screening participants, nearly 44 percent reported never having been screened for any type of cancer before the April 15 event last year. Another 25 percent hadn’t been screened in more than three years. Many calling southwest Mississippi and north Louisiana home is also often underinsured or uninsured altogether. Last year, out of the 106 screenings done, 53% of the participants were uninsured and 27% reported having no primary care provider.

“I’ve witnessed the transformative impact of initiatives like Live Well firsthand. Bringing healthcare resources directly to underserved areas, especially here in Mississippi where such efforts are critically needed, isn’t just about bridging gaps; it’s about empowering communities and changing lives. Together, through ground-level efforts, we’re making a real difference in people’s health and well-being,” says Renea Duffin, VP Cancer Support and Outreach.

Patten, who again is taking to social media to urge participation, is speaking out in support of Mary Bird Perkins’ screening efforts in the area for a reason close to his heart.

“My message is rooted in a personal experience. When my mom passed away in 2016, just eight months after I took office, it was a heartbreaking experience,” said Patten. “She had been misdiagnosed, received treatment for the wrong cancer, and suffered unnecessarily. Mary Bird Perkins’ work in this community and its emphasis on early detection are crucial. Even if you feel healthy, annual screenings are essential. Having Live Well Mississippi here locally makes doing that easier than ever.”

Live Well Mississippi

Patten is looking forward to participating in this year’s Live Well Mississippi, although he’s hoping for a better weather forecast. More than that, though, he’s hoping his residents will take advantage of the state-of-the-art cancer detection opportunity once again, making it an annual priority.

“I envision our community being recognized for healthcare services rather than criticized. Mary Bird Perkins’ investment in our community is a positive step forward, and I hope it encourages other healthcare providers to follow suit. We need comprehensive healthcare solutions that address various needs within our community.”