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Rural Hospital, Childcare Center To Get State Long-term Recovery Aid

Hurricane Michael severely damaged the roof of Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown.
Calhoun Liberty Hospital - Facebook Page
Hurricane Michael severely damaged the roof of Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown.

Gov. DeSantis visited the Panhandle ahead of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael to announce that a rural hospital and an early learning center would get $15 million in state long-term recovery funds.

At his Blountstown stop, DeSantis announced Calhoun Liberty Hospital is getting $10 million to rebuild its facility, which was severely damaged after the storm. The hospital lost 80% of its roof and 15 of its 25 beds, he said. “The hospital - like many homes and like many businesses in Northwest Florida - was nearly destroyed.”

The medical center primarily serves low-and moderate-income residents in rural Calhoun, Liberty, Jackson and Gulf Counties. “When this hospital does not have beds, surrounding residents are forced to travel fifty or sixty miles to receive emergency care,” DeSantis said.

“We have a responsibility to help the hospital. The community needs it,” he said. “We need it back at full operation.”

Fifty new health care jobs will open after the hospital’s reconstruction is complete, DeSantis said. “The hospital also provides economic support for the area with good jobs in the medical field that would otherwise be unavailable.”

Before arriving in Calhoun County, DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis visited Panama City, where they announced the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida will get $5.2 million for recovery.

First Lady DeSantis says the funds can be used for things like playground equipment and mental health services for children.

“We understood there was a need in this area for mental health services,” she said. “Even driving through here today, you see a lot of places that are still, still rebuilding.”

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Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.