Dr. Reggie Ross: Greenfield Louisiana is the treatment St. John Parish needs

Published 12:06 am Saturday, December 11, 2021

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The past couple of years have been rough on Edgard. Our community is suffering complications brought on most recently by COVID-19 and followed by Hurricane Ida.

The Washington Post reported at the start of the pandemic in April, that St. John had more COVID-19 deaths per capita than any other county in the nation. As a doctor treating the community, I personally saw both the health effects and the other societal implications. Adding on to the devastation that COVID-19 already brought, we then suffered a harsh recovery from Hurricane Ida that hit in September.

These crises brought to light systemic problems sickening the region for years. While the area is resilient, we need to consider treatment options that get at the root causes facing the community—economic, environmental, and health challenges—that surface even stronger when faced with adversity like a pandemic and hurricane.

As a doctor, my primary focus is to keep patients healthy rather than just treating their symptoms once they become ill: one private sector approach to help our community heal and recover is the development of a new state of the art export grain facility on the west bank of St. John the Baptist Parish in Wallace, LA.

Greenfield will build the resilience that we need in the community by strengthening schools and bringing jobs and tax revenue to the community. An increase in 500 jobs to the community will bring greater economic stability to make us stronger. Partnerships with local businesses from food, landscaping, janitorial and security services will bring additional economic boons. St. John has a strong unemployment rate of 17.5%, compared to 5.5% nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. This would help solve that problem. Our kids will not have to move to places like Houston, Dallas, or Atlanta to find employment and can stay right here in Edgard/Wallace or on the West Bank. When people are working and contributing to society, they make better and happier and healthier citizens.

The company also believes in building community by supporting schools—from a scholarship program to help further their education to building future leaders by partnering with West St. John schools to bolster its curriculums. They will train students from 10th-12th grade, so that when they graduate from high school, they can begin working for Greenfield. Greenfield will provide support with community programs to help local sports teams and serve community members in need while honoring the community pride Edgard/Wallace has always had and building on it to make it better.

Building a strong economy, schools and community programs is the basis for a healthy community that determines how well we can weather crises like the pandemic and Hurricane Ida,.However, when crisis strikes Greenfield will be here to help, too. For example, during Hurricane Ida, they were here to mobilize 20,000 gallons of free gasoline and 4,000 hot meals to residents in need. They were here for Hurricane Ida and no doubt they will be here for the next storm or any other crises affecting our community.

As a physician treating many of you, I do a risk/benefit analysis when considering your treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other malady. No treatment is perfect. They all come with some risk.

I hear those of you in the community who have expressed environmental, health, and safety concerns. As a doctor from this community, I can assure the risk here is far outweighed by the benefits. Greenfield has gone above and beyond to meet environmental and safety industry standards, outperforming the most stringent guidelines, to ensure worker and community safety. And I pledge to hold their feet to the fire if necessary to keep safety a top priority.

We have an opportunity to make the West Bank of St. John Parish the home of one of the cleanest facilities in North America while creating a sustainable approach to treating the ills our community faces. The safety risks that are discussed regarding grain facilities pertain to older facilities, but the Greenfield facility will be brand new with state-of-the-art equipment. I have already received briefings from top officials in their organization on safety measures taken and I will continue to monitor this project throughout construction and the operational phases. The facility will help the local environment and health and not harm it.

Many of you have trusted me with your lives before and continue until today, now I am asking you to help me help our community of Edgard/Wallace by supporting this project. As the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources has offered a public comment period, I recommend that we rally around supporting this option to build a healthy and thriving community that we can all be proud of.

Edgard native Dr. Reggie Ross specializes in internal medicine with JenCare.