Grant funds telehealth studio for St. John the Baptist Parish Library System

Published 8:55 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

RESERVE — Patrons will be able to access telehealth services at the new Reserve Library thanks to a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana grant.

According to Assistant Director Amy Riche’, a one-button studio is one of the new features of the new Leroy D. Williams Memorial Library. Equipment will include monitors, computer equipment, and fast Internet access to patient networks.

“Many of our parish’s households cannot access robust or high-speed internet. Our remote communities, such as those on the West Bank, are such a distance from New Orleans or Baton Rouge that it significantly limits patients’ ability to attend in-person doctor appointments readily,” she said. “This valuable resource and the many others we provide remove some barriers to receiving beneficial and necessary health care. One of our Library’s goals is to help people live healthier by providing access to important information about health impacts, such as nutrition, sport and exercise, illness and disease, and mental health.”

St. John the Baptist Parish was among 11 library systems statewide selected to utilize $50,000 in grants from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation through the State Library of Louisiana. Last year, the Blue Cross Foundation worked with ConnectLA to increase telehealth adoption.

According to a press release from Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser’s Office, the agencies viewed the State Library as a “unique community anchor” to facilitate access to healthcare. Along with St. John Parish, library systems receiving equipment include Beauregard, Cameron, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Ouachita, Union, Vermillion, Washington and West Baton Rouge.

“These grants present an opportunity to serve our citizens in additional ways,” said Lieutenant Governor Nungesser. “This will break down barriers that many people face when it comes to their health. Time, location and money are major factors. These grants remove all of them.”

Interim State Librarian Meg Placke said it has been a long time since libraries functioned simply as a place to check out books.

“They are community hubs where people can access services they might not otherwise be able to afford, such as high-speed internet,” Placke said. “These grants are just the latest way our state’s libraries are serving their patrons, and there are few needs as important as access to healthcare.”

A drive to a more community-focused, 21st Century Library was at the heart of the planning process for the new Leroy D. Williams Library, which is currently under construction adjacent to St. John Theatre in Reserve. Construction is estimated to reach completion by the end of 2023, with the library opening to the public in 2024. The new branch will function as not only an innovative center of learning, but also a state-of-the-art community center and a cultural hub in the revitalization of Reserve with a makerspace, a podcasting room, a library-run café, and gathering spaces for tutoring, small meetings and large events.