CHRISTUS Coushatta Expands Telehealth Services

CHRISTUS Coushatta Health Care Center has drastically expanded telehealth services and online screening tools with secure video and telephone visits and an online COVID-19 screening tool.

Beginning now, telehealth services are available to offer secure, HIPAA-compliant video visits for clinic patients regarding routine visits with a Primary Care Provider. These video visits are available for Apple iPhone and Android users. These new telehealth services are in addition to the Primary Care services available at the clinics in Boyce and Ringgold. 

“CHRISTUS Coushatta is making both video or telephone visits available to our community,” said Brandon Hillman, RN, MBA, Administrator, CHRISTUS Coushatta Health Care Center. “They can both be used for simple things such as coughs and colds, or for more complicated things such as helping manage diabetes or heart disease at this time.”

If a patient begins a video visit and their primary care provider determines the need for an in-person evaluation, that will be arranged. If further testing such as blood work or consultations is necessary, a referral and instructions will be provided. Both video and telephone visits are covered by nearly all major medical insurances including Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. Depending on your plan, you may be billed a copay, just as though you were seeing your provider in a traditional office setting. There is no additional cost associated with a telemedicine visit.

“The new telehealth systems can be used to prevent overcrowding in clinics while preventing exposures, reducing risk and facilitating high-quality care,” said Hillman. “Due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the current COVID-19 pandemic, regulatory agencies have approved new patients to be seen via telemedicine visits.”

In addition to telehealth services, the new CHRISTUS COVID Chatbot is live at and accessible by the public. The goal is to alleviate stress on call centers and the clinic staffs by offering a dedicated tool to help patients self-screen for the virus and get direction on what steps they need to take next.

A chatbot is an artificial intelligence (AI) unit programmed into a website to perform basic, automated duties, such as replying to customers on a retail site or engaging with users on social media messenger services.

“Patients will interact with our chatbot through a text-chat interface on the website,” said Hillman. “The COVID Health Chatbot is available 24/7 and will provide a screening function for patients who are ill with fever or cough or shortness of breath and have had travel to any region that has known community spread of coronavirus or if you have any of the above symptoms and exposure to a person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.”

“As health care systems adapt their procedures and we all make changes to our daily lives and routines, it is important that CHRISTUS Coushatta Health Care Center does everything we can to ensure patients have access to the medical care they need,” said Hillman. “We are poised to do whatever it takes to continue bringing you the same seamless, compassionate care you have come to expect, while also doing everything we can to minimize the spread of infectious disease throughout the communities we serve.”

Residents Pray for First COVID-19 Victim in Red River

Late Wednesday night The Journal informed you that a lady in our parish had been diagnosed by her physician with the COVID-19 virus.  Her husband asked The Journal to pass along his plea to friends and fellow believers to pray for her.

You did it.  Response to our article was positive with folks from all over the area commenting that they were praying for Nancy Spears.

On Thursday Wayne Spears posted, “Report on Nancy Spears – I have been getting a lot of request on Nancy’s updated condition. I have tried to answer them on a personal level but there are too many for me to handle so I have resorted to Facebook. Nancy’s oxygen level is still low although she is on oxygen. Her cough is no better. It is a wait and see game at this point. Continue praying…”

Also on Thursday the Baptist Message posted a request for the church to pray:

Urgent prayers have been requested by the family of Nancy Spears, a member of Fairview Baptist Church in Fairview Alpha, who has tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Spears’ husband, Wayne Spears, is a former Louisiana Baptist pastor and serves as CEO of Abbie Lane Retreat Ministry in Coushatta, a non-denominational 80-acre retreat facility for ministers and their wives.

According to Wayne Spears, his wife fell ill 9-10 days ago. Her symptoms worsened over time and she was admitted to the emergency room at Highland Hospital in Shreveport on Sunday, March 22.

Wayne Spears has posted updates on his Facebook page, which has been flooded with posts from others offering prayers and encouragement for the family. The couple is quarantined for 14 days, beginning Tuesday, March 24. Nancy Spears is still at Highland Hospital while her husband is at their home.

“Her physical condition was so weak going into this, for her to make it will be the result of prayer and God’s grace,” Spears told the Baptist Message. “I am probably positive because I have been with her constantly.  However, I cannot be tested until I have symptoms, coughing and fever.”

Wayne Spears noted that the family has received encouragement from those who developed relationships with them at Abbie Lane Retreat Ministry and during the time he served as a pastor for more than 40 years. Previously he served as pastor of Verda Baptist Church, Morningside Baptist Church, Shreveport, and Fairmont Park Baptist in La Porte, Texas.

“I am praying that these prayers and God’s grace will once again show the world that God is God and He is in charge, even in times such as these,” he said.

Their pastor, Matt Endris, said his members have reached out to offer prayers and support for the family.

“Wayne and Nancy need your support through prayer,” Endris said. “They truly are faithful servants in the family of God and to the family of God. A great way to pray for Nancy is that God will use this time to bring glory to Himself.

“We need to pray for her health to be restored and for many lost people to come to faith in Christ as they see God’s great grace and power revealed in Nancy’s life,” he continues. “We need to pray for Wayne to remain healthy and that God will give him opportunity to share his faith in Christ through this time. Let’s love the Spears’ through our prayers for them.”

You may post your prayers and send messages via Wayne Spears Facebook page.

Feeding Program Launched

Will of God Ministries has begun a daily feeding program in Coushatta.  Their pastor, Dr. Johnny Cox said the purpose is to feed children and to deliver hot meals to their homes.

The first shipment of hot meals arrived about 11:30 am on Wednesday, March 25th.  It was delivered to Coushatta by Simple Church of Shreveport-Bossier.  Bryan Reed and Bill McConathy from the church brought a pickup loaded with hot and cold food containers.  McConathy said they are delivering the food that is prepared by the Northwest Louisiana Food Bank.

Dr. Cox told The Journal, “Church volunteers are assembling the meals.  We are delivering them to neighborhoods.  Initially the meals will be delivered every day.  Later we will arrange for meal pick-up.”

Cox said people from Will of God Ministries are volunteering right now.  He said, “Anyone who would like to help, call the church at 932-3177.  We need additional people to lend a hand.”

On this first day of distributing the meals, Cox added, “We are in the infant stage and we’re figuring it out as we go.”

Registrar of Voters Closes Due To Virus

The Red River Registrar of Voters Office has closed due to the COVID-19 virus.  This is the second courthouse office to close in recent days.

Registrar Debra Jones said the closure was due to the Governor’s Stay Home order.  Most services of the Registrar are available online.  With the postponement of the April 4th election to June 20th, early voting did not take place.

Details of the closure announcement are listed below.

Thursday School Update

March 26, 2020

Good Afternoon:

As we end our second week of school closure, I want to say how much all of us at Red River Schools miss our students and parents.  We hope that all of you are healthy and safe. We appreciate all of the prayers and good thoughts from you in the past two weeks.  

I want to say a huge Thank You to our cafeteria staff, bus drivers, principals, school staff, and our Department of Food and Nutrition for all of their hard work and compassion as they worked tirelessly in our food distribution program.   A newly formed program authorized by Mayor Dr. Johnny Cox and Will of God Ministries will begin. Will of God Ministries Food Pantry is dropping off 200-400 hot lunches provided by Northwest Food Bank of LA for children throughout the city limits of Coushatta on a daily basis at 12 pm. For families who do not reside inside city limits, you are invited by Will of God Ministries to stop by the Old Grade School from 11 AM-12 PM, to pick up lunch.

Soon we will mail to potential seniors a packet of information.  We are including up to date information about grades, testing, and LOFSA.  We know that this is a difficult time for all of you and that our Senior students are being affected in many ways.  We will inform all of you as to when you can expect those packets will arrive at your mailbox. 

We have updated our Frequently Asked Questions on our website and encourage all of you to review this information.  We will also have a link on the website for a new parental fact sheet from Texthelp with Google Read&Write. This information will help you make accommodations for students as they access reading material on the internet.

Next week we will begin having calls and press releases on an as-needed basis.  If you have any questions or need access to anyone at the Central office, you may call and leave a message on their office extension.  If you need to leave a message for a principal, please call 318-932-4081 option 6. Leave your name, phone number, and a brief message.  We will get the information to your principal.  

We want to assure you that we are in constant contact with the State Department of Education and other school districts to get information to you as quickly as possible.  Through all of this, please know that you are in our prayers.  

Thank you,

Alison Hughes

Blessed….or Lucky?

By Reba Phelps

“As luck would have it”, is a phrase that I have mindlessly used many times. Or sometimes, if I am being dramatic I will say, “As fate would have it.” But, either of the two phrases that I choose to use at the given time are not being true to my deep spiritual roots. 

The formal definition of luck is; the success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions. Force that brings good fortune or adversity. This, to me, sounds too random to be a good thing. 

The key word in that definition that caused me to raise an eyebrow was the word, “apparently”. That word itself gives no guarantee. 

With the events that have occurred in my own life, have always had me leaning towards the belief in divine intervention. Divine intervention and luck are horses of two different colors. 

I truly believe that Google said it best. “Being blessed means there are people who care about you. Being lucky means you are controlled not cared for. Being blessed means handwork through out the life. Being lucky means you don’t know how to work hard to achieve things”.

Blessings and luck will be always be debated depending upon where your faith lies. I always find it humorous when people post on Facebook about being “lucky”… it takes three milli-seconds for a well-meaning but sassy Christian to come back with a spiritual correction. You are, “blessed”, and not “lucky”.

The more time I spend studying the Bible and growing spiritually I realize that for me, there is no such thing as luck. Luck is the most random thing that can happen to you. You didn’t earn it, you are not favored and pure luck can happen to anyone. In my eyes it is almost admitting that God is not in charge of our daily lives and does not have his hand on every single event that may or may not befall us. 

There is no way that luck brought me two of the most healthy and amazing daughters that someone could ask for. There is no way luck would bring me a career that has been completely fulfilling. Then, place me in a position where I can comfortably take care of my daughters as a single mom. Luck doesn’t favor me so deeply that I am still able to give of my time, talent and occasionally, money to the less fortunate or charity. 

Luck did not grant my family twenty additional years with my mom after her health took a sharp turn for the worse. Luck didn’t save and redeem my father when he was headed for a life of crime and poverty. Luck didn’t place my dad in a rural church with a small congregation that would support him and his family for 30 years. 

Luck doesn’t care that much. Luck is not that invested in you. No ones luck can be that consistent day in and day out. 

But….my God is that consistent. 

Whether you choose to feel blessed or you choose to feel lucky, you will always get back what you put into this world. If you sow seeds of generosity, joy, peace and happiness you, and your children, will surely receive that back. If you choose to sow seeds of greed, sadness, despair and discontentment then you, and your children, will surely receive that right back, multiplied.

But, as for me and my house we will always choose to be blessed over being lucky. 

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”

Jeremiah 17:7

Need to Boil Water

A Boil Advisory is in effect for drinking water from the Halfway Carroll Water System.  It is in place until further notice.

System President Brent Cormier issued the “Drinking Water Warning” following  Escherichia coli bacteria was found I the water supply on March 23rd.  The warning said, “These bacteria can make you sick, and are a particular concern for people with weakened immune systems.”

Cormier said, “Do not drink the water without boiling it first.  Bring the water to a boil for one minute and let it cool before using it.”  An alternative is to use bottled water.

Answer the Census Questionnaire

By Shawn Beard

The questionnaire from the US Census is in the mail.  Many have already been received by parish residents.  The deadline to respond is April first.

Why do I have to answer the census?  It is required by Federal law and is mandated by the US Constitution.  The census is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which states: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States… according to their respective Numbers.”  The actual census count shall be made every ten years.  The first census was taken in 1790 and the most recent was in 2010.

A report by CBS News on December 31, 2019 said:

“Population data collected from the 2020 census could lead to dramatic changes in how congressional seats and Electoral College votes are apportioned in several states. Ten states, including several in the Northeast and Midwest, are set to lose congressional districts, although seven in the West and South could gain seats, according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data.

“The results of the census will be used to determine how 435 seats in the House seats are apportioned for the next 10 years. This impacts a state’s political power in Congress and importance in presidential elections, as Electoral College votes are determined by the size of a state’s congressional delegation. The reapportionment is expected in December 2020, resulting in the lengthy process of each state redrawing congressional maps for the 2022 midterm elections.”

Louisiana was not projected to gain or lose a Congressional seat as a result of the 2020 Census.

It is important that each individual living in Red River Parish be counted.  On the parish level, police jury and school board districts are drawn based upon population.  Each year there are federal funds allocated based upon the population.  So it is important that our population be recorded accurately. 

The population count determines the shape of our state Senate and House districts, the Public Service Commission, and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education districts.  These districts, and others are redrawn after each census.  The accuracy of the census directly effects every citizen in Red River Parish.

The census figures are important for programs that benefit citizens of the parish.  Government assistance funds are allocated based upon population.  Roads, recreation, programs that feed people, and programs that benefit us all have a connection back to the population of Red River Parish.

If you have received your form, please fill it out and return it.  A postage free envelope was included.  Or you may go online and complete the census.  If you did not receive a census form, or not filled it out, a census worker will be calling to follow up and help you fill out the census.

Capitol Briefing

By Representative Gabe Firment

Much has changed in the world since the last edition of the Capitol Briefing ran on March 11, 2020. The first case of the Coronavirus in Louisiana was reported in New Orleans on March 9th, and by March 24th that number had risen to 1,388 confirmed cases with 46 deaths and officials warning that we should expect the virus to continue to spread throughout the state with the possibility that our healthcare system could be stretched to the breaking point by this unprecedented viral outbreak. In response to the rapid growth of the virus Gov. Edwards has issued multiple emergency proclamations, including a “Stay at Home” Order on March 22nd effectively requiring all citizens to shelter in place at home and closing or restricting all non-essential businesses.

As I began contemplating how to cram all of the relevant facts, figures, dates, projections, and potential  impacts of the Coronavirus into this short little article, I was struck with my first case of “writer’s block” and was momentarily overwhelmed by the apparent immensity of the crisis we are facing. In my frustration I backed away from the keyboard and looked out my office window to see the morning sun peaking above the treetops and its soft rays beginning to burn through the fog that had drifted in during the dark of night.

The radiance of the sunlight piercing the morning fog also served to burn away the haze that I had allowed to temporarily cloud my mind, and I immediately recalled that there are certain absolute truths that guide us throughout life’s ups and downs. The rising of the sun reminded me of a beautiful passage of scripture from Isaiah 45:6-7, “The words of the prophet Isaiah –  that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.

These are uncertain and anxious times we are living in, but we can take comfort in knowing that God is on His throne, and that for those who love God all things work together for good. I have been encouraged and inspired to see how our communities have come together to help one another over the past couple of weeks, and it is my hope and prayer that this spirit of unity will continue once the virus abates and life returns to normal.  Please join me in doing what we can to minister to the needs of those most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, and together we can emerge from this momentary crisis stronger and more united than ever before.

My office located at 181 Barron Road in Pollock is still open, although we have temporarily decreased our hours to comply with the governor’s recommendations. If you need assistance or have questions about the Coronavirus crisis or any other issue please call the office at (318)765-9606 or call/text my personal cell at (318)201-6769. I am providing COVID-19 updates multiple times per day on my Facebook page @GabeFirment22, and there is a great deal of information available from the state at Thank you and God Bless!