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Press Release – June 17, 2002

Physicians, hospitals and other health care providers in Arkansas have received more than $8.8 million in loans to improve access to health care in rural, medically underserved areas of Arkansas through the Arkansas Rural Health Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).

Because of the success and significant impact of the RLF, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has committed another $500,000 grant to the loan fund. The RLF was established in October 1999 with a $500,000 grant from the Southern Rural Access Program of the RWJF. The RLF has provided funding to fourteen rural health care providers.

The RLF is managed by Southern Financial Partners, a not-for-profit organization that specializes in lending to small businesses in economically distressed areas of rural Arkansas and Mississippi.

“The RLF is an excellent example of how teamwork and collaboration can leverage a $500,000 grant into more than $7.8 million to improve health care in rural communities,” explains Deborah Slayton, vice president of Southern Financial Partners.

Rural communities in Arkansas suffer disproportionately from poor health status and limited access to health care services. Many communities are in danger of losing their local hospitals and struggle with physician shortages. The RLF offers access to affordable capital that is essential to health care providers who must upgrade aging equipment and improve services in order to serve their patients.

Through the RLF, community health centers, rural clinics, hospitals, physicians, pharmacists and dentists can get financing to enhance their practices to better serve rural Arkansans. Loan funds can be used for establishing new practices, constructing new facilities, renovating or expanding facilities, equipment, practice management services, or computerized information systems.

“The availability and sources of financing to rural health care providers is limited,” says Slayton. “The RLF provides an source of capital that is critical to adequately serve rural communities. “A stable health care infrastructure can positively impact community and economic development much the same way education, transportation and housing does,” says Slayton. “Initiatives that support improved health care services can lay the foundation for stabilizing and growing communities.”

The RLF was developed through a partnership between Southern Financial Partners and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, with funding from the Southern Rural Access Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Other partners providing leverage capital for the loan fund include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Small Business Administration, Arkansas Capital Corporation, Arkansas Department of Economic Development, Arkansas Development Finance Authority, and the Arkansas Department of Health’s Rural Health Services Revolving Loan and Grant Fund.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant making in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost; to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse-tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Southern Financial Partners has provided more than $30 million in development loans and financial assistance to small businesses in Arkansas, creating or saving more than 6,000 jobs. They have offices in Arkadelphia, Helena, Marianna and Stuttgart, Ark. Southern Financial Partners is a non-profit affiliate of Southern Development Bancorporation.

Southern Development Bancorporation is a $350 million development banking organization that offers a full line of financial products and economic development services to residents in rural Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta. Southern Development has offices in Arkadelphia, Clarendon, Helena, Marianna, Pine Bluff and Stuttgart, Arkansas and Drew, Friars Point, Lambert, Lula, Ruleville and Sledge, Mississippi.