Healthcare additions, downtown revitalization coming to Clay County

'One Clay County' hopes to spur economic development in the area

MANCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ) – In 2014, the New York Times called Clay County, Kentucky the worst place to live in the country. Monday, Governor Andy Beshear saying Clay County is beginning a new chapter that includes the start of a two-year nursing program at Eastern Kentucky University’s Manchester campus in partnership with Somerset Community College.

“We’ve seen the need for nurses grow exponentially across the state,” says EKU’s President David McFaddin.

With the population in Clay County getting older, combined with younger people leaving to find work, it’s led to a health crisis. Something Dr. Aaron Thompson with the Kentucky council of higher education has seen firsthand.

“I’m a product of this community. I’m a product of not just the education system but I’m a product of a community that when I was growing up did not have great healthcare,” says Thompson.

EKU and Somerset Community College hope to change that, starting next spring when students will be able to stay in the region to earn their associate’s degree in nursing.

“If we are able to educate people locally, they will stay locally,” says Thompson. “Because you know, the healthcare agencies, not just the hospitals but all those that are providing healthcare are in great need now.”

McFaddin says this nursing program has been in the works since before the pandemic, but plans had to be put on hold. Next spring, 25 students will be among the first admitted into the program.

“Just to see the impact on the local community to make sure that those healthcare providers here in this community have got a steady stream of workforce to come in and support the needs,” says McFaddin. “But really, the quality of life in this community, to make sure as people go to healthcare services that there’s someone there to treat them who’s had a great educational opportunity.”

Another initiative called ‘One Clay County’ was announced by the governor and other state and local leaders Monday to spur economic development in the area. The initiative hopes to bring 150 new jobs to the area and will help revitalize the downtown district.

More than $2-million dollars is earmarked for projects like the addition of a pedestrian bridge, a farmer’s marketplace, and streetscaping and landscaping in downtown Manchester — just to name a few.

Volunteers of America has also been awarded a $1.5 million dollar federal grant to move southeastern Kentucky people in recovery from substance use disorder into the workforce.

“I’ve seen you at your low-point, when we had the Oxycontin bomb that exploded right here in Manchester,” says U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers. “But you pulled together and you pooled together, and we pulled finances from every nook and cranny that we could find. You renamed your city, the City of Hope.”

The state also announcing more than $29,000 dollars for the city of Manchester to fix a broken shoulder on a heavily traveled road in the area known as ‘Lovers Leap’.

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