An event aimed at improving health care and expanding Medicaid in Mississippi is making its way to Jackson Thursday.  

Together for Hope, a nonprofit working with the poorest counties in America, teamed up with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Alabama and Mississippi this year to host “Better Health Summits” throughout the two states — two of only 10 states that have not expanded Medicaid. 

“Health is one of our priorities of hope,” said Dr. Debbie Pierce, assistant to Together for Hope’s president.

In Mississippi, the organizations have hosted summits over the past six weeks in Aberdeen, Meridian and Cleveland, targeting community leaders, health care workers, social workers and anyone interested in health care in Mississippi “and how together we can work to make a change,” Pierce said.

Medicaid expansion has emerged as one of the headline issues of this year’s upcoming gubernatorial election.

Despite the support of the majority of Mississippians, Gov. Tate Reeves has remained stalwart in his opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would bring more than $1 billion a year to the state. One report shows nearly half of rural hospitals are at risk of closure in Mississippi, one of the sickest states in the country.

Conversely, Reeves’ Democratic opponent, Brandon Presley, has vowed to change the policy on day one in office. 

READ MORE: Brandon Presley again vows to expand Medicaid as Gov. Tate Reeves reiterates opposition

So far, speakers at the summits have included State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney and other notable doctors, faith leaders and advocates. Dr. Dan Jones — the former president of the American Heart Association and former chancellor of the University of Mississippi and dean and professor emeritus at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine — is scheduled to speak at tomorrow’s event at Duling Hall, along with other representatives from state medical organizations. 

“Each of these speakers come with different experiences that lead them to a deep conviction that all should have access to good health care,” Pierce said. “There is compelling and data driven proof that expanding Medicaid could be one way to begin this process.”

Through panels and presentations, summit attendees will learn about and discuss the availability of community health care resources, health policy issues, the state of hospitals, navigating our current health care system and social determinants of health.

The free event will kick off at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 2 p.m. after a call to action. Registration for the event is free. 

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Devna Bose, a Neshoba County native, covers community health. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied print journalism and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Devna reported on education at Chalkbeat Newark and at the Post and Courier’s Education Lab, and on race and social justice at the Charlotte Observer. Her work has appeared in the Hechinger Report, the Star-Ledger and the Associated Press, and she has appeared on WNYC to discuss her reporting. Devna has been awarded for her coverage of K-12 education in the Carolinas.